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Harry potter and the Chamber of Secrets

by J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter #2
352 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Kristi

Morally relative but entertaining story, with some interesting food for thought.

Plot

Harry Potter, a young wizard, is looking forward to his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Before the summer is even over, however, he is visited by a strange creature intent on warning him against going back to school. Once back at Hogwarts, terrible things start happening as students are attacked by the unknown Heir of Slytherin, who has opened the mysterious Chamber of Secrets. Will Harry and his friends be able to find and stop the perpetrator, or will Hogwarts close forever?

Morality

This book introduces a new adult character, the lovable Arthur Weasley, the father of Harry's best friend Ron. He acts as something of a surrogate father to Harry throughout the series, but in reality isn't a very good parent or husband. He lies to his wife about a car he has enchanted. He abuses his position in the government to write laws that leave loopholes that he can abuse. And when he learns that three of his sons have "borrowed" (stolen) the aforementioned car and flown it during the night, his instinct is not to back up his wife's discipline of the boys, but to ask them how the trip went. While Arthur is later fined a considerable amount of money and publicly embarrassed for some of his behavior, later books in the series show that he is still enchanting items illegally, as well as being an inconsistent authority figure in contrast to his wife, whose temper is rather overblown.

The trio lies to a teacher to convince him to sign a note so they can check out a book they want from the restricted section. Hermione justifies theft and "breaking about fifty school rules" by declaring that "threatening Muggle-borns" (people with non-magical parents) is much worse than what they're about to do.

Dumbledore, the school headmaster, tells a couple of students "I seem to remember telling you both that I would have to expel you if you broke any more school rules...which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words...You will both receive Special Awards for Services to the School and - let me see - yes, I think two hundred points apiece for Gryffindor." While some of his leniency is understandable under the circumstances, the outright rewarding of the students presents an inconsistent message.

Spiritual Content

A ghoul lives in the Weasley's house, and they seem to have no problem sharing their house with this spirit. Once at school, the students have regular communication with spirits in the forms of ghosts (one of whom is the history teacher) and a malevolent poltergeist. In a crucial plot element, an individual becomes possessed by an evil spirit. As in the rest of the series, the practice and study of magic are key elements.

Violence

After another wizard insults his family, Arthur Weasley gets into a fistfight with the man in a public bookstore in front of his wife and most of his children.

Someone or something has been strangling the school roosters.

A ghost named Moaning Myrtle haunts the girls' bathroom, and the author makes light of suicide by saying that one time she got so depressed she tried to kill herself, before remembering she was already dead. Later, when wondering what a student did to earn a special award, Ron says, "Maybe he murdered Myrtle. That would have done everyone a favor."

A number of people and a cat in the story are petrified, frozen solid, by an unknown monster.

There is some mention of blood. A creature has its eyes pecked out: "[Harry] could see the vast, bloody eye sockets." There is a battle with a monster toward the end.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Hagrid, the Hogwarts groundkeeper is seen "drinking deeply from his goblet" while sitting at the staff table. Since Hagrid has been drunk before and will become drunk again in a subsequent volume, we can assume the beverage is alcoholic, despite his promise of the past year that he won't drink again. No other alcohol is consumed.

Sexual Content

In Herbology class, the students take care of a type of plant called a mandrake, which is shaped like a human. The students are informed that these will be ready for harvesting when they start trying to move into each other's pots.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Hermione uses the expression "have a pee", and a dog urinates on a tree. A ghost haunts the u-bend of a toilet. Ron is cursed, causing him to burp up slugs.

Conclusion

Of all the Harry Potter books, Chamber of Secrets alone contains elements that could possibly be read as a cautionary tale. For example, Ron's attempt to curse someone else rebounds upon him, causing him to be ill. Most importantly, we are shown the perils of opening one's mind and soul to a dangerous book or individual.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: 11-12

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