Lets get this out of the way early: rereading Chamber of Secrets this week, no longer the innocent youth I was at first exposure to the Potterverse, was quite a chore. It’s easily the dullest of the books, childishly appealing to young readers but full of dreadfully overwrought exposition and ridiculously unrealistic moments that make adult eyes roll. Yes, I’m calling bullshit on select moments within a fantasy novel set in a magic world.
I suspect the over-reliance on coincidence is the worst offender here. Draco Malfoy, a spoiled rich kid, happens to stay at Hogwarts over the Christmas break this year. Because… reasons? Dobby, an abused and entrenched House Elf serving the family of a dark wizard his entire life, happens to be a fan of the Great Harry Potter’s triumph over He Who Must Not Be Named and decides to appoint himself Harry’s guardian against said dark wizard’s plot to release an ancient evil within Hogwarts… Why? Dobby risks everything to escape periodically from his bondage to launch one hare-brained, ill-thought-out scheme followed by another, thinking that Harry’s physical absence from school would be the only way to save him from the evil plans afoot.
But why?? one must ask oneself. We can allow for Dobby resisting his brainwashing enough to wish for freedom from his enslavement, but how would he have ever heard of Harry Potter in a positive enough light to have become so Potter-mad? Who is he getting his information from, to see Harry Potter as anything but a thorn in the side of the cause he would hear so much about? Anything but an annoying-teacher’s-pet-twat, if the last twelve months of mutterings from Draco can be imagined. It seems as though Dobby only exists to create the moments that ultimately lead to chapter titles: “The Whomping Willow,” “The Rogue Bludger,” “Dobby’s Warning”/”Reward.”
Also a coincidence… Presuming that Lucius Malfoy knows that if the Riddle diary is dropped into the hands of a pre-adolescent girl she will use it to full, 1990s Dear Diary effect and it will drain her of spirit and allow Riddle to reanimate himself–how can he be so certain this plan could possibly work, down to the first step of encountering the prerequisite young lass in a bookshop where he can tussle with her father and surreptitiously slip the diary into her existing pile of books awaiting purchase and oh my god how much more are we supposed to assume is a deliberate plan for Dobby to have overheard to begin his own counter-planning… GAH!
So… no. Sorry, Chamber of Secrets. I’ve read you this last time as an adult and shall now permanently file you away in my “don’t even bother” drawer. Giant spiders in the wizarding world, I can take. Fraudulent celebrities creating an empire off zero talent, I can take. One night in the hospital wing to regrow an arm worth of bones, but “several weeks” to reverse a partial cat-transformation from Polyjuice potion gone wrong, I can take. But I shall draw the line at a twelve-year-old able to adequately drive his father’s invisible flying car on the first try. It’s just too much.
O.W.L Report Card
Moments when Muggle technology could’ve saved the day:
Harry and Ron missing the school train might have been cleared up with a quick phone call, although this is the early 90s world before cell phones, so maybe not. How about Harry’s isolation and loneliness at the start of the story? Has he really not exchanged telephone numbers with (at least!) Hermione and Ron at this stage?
Moments Hermione was the real hero in this saga:
Penelope Clearwater lived to see the end of the book thanks to the sheer luck of being the next person Hermione saw after she had cracked the mystery of the creature inside the chamber. Am I the only person who took a moment to cheer Hermione for quickly and selflessly saving another life, albeit that the timing was yet another coincidence in the story?
Moments the movie did better:
Slugs and spiders!! The extreme gross-out factor of one, and scare factor of the other, are shining examples of bringing book pages to life on the big screen.
Final Grade: P (for Poor in the O.W.Ls)