Thursday, July 2, 2009

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

"You are blinded," said Dumbledore, his voice rising now, the aura of power around him palpable, his eyes blazing once more, "by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius! You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow up to be!"


With this book, the story of Harry Potter really takes off. The whole series up to this point has been introducing the reader to concepts that have to be understood and characters that we have grown to love, and now the evil that has always been hinted at and barely glimpsed will boil over into a full fledged war. However, it takes nearly 200,000 words and a complex mixture of mysterious plots to get there. By the end of the book we know what the stakes are. Evil in Rowling’s universe is real, the characters are in danger, and there are tough times ahead.

The mystery of this book is well crafted. There are genuine clues from the very start of the story, but in a way the mystery itself is a red-herring. If anyone did figure out what was really going on in the first reading; that would be surprising. Subsequent readings, however, do show that the signs and clues were there.

There are some side plots and themes that are revealed in this book that are worth exploring and will resurface as the series progresses:

House Elves play a large role in this book. Some find it annoying, but there is a reason they are here and why Hermione’s campaign is a part of the story. One of Rowling’s big themes across the whole series is the idea of accepting people who are different and treating all people equally and with respect. The interesting idea here in Goblet is that that does not always mean treating them the way you would like to be treated.

All too often the politically correct approach to diversity is to be open-minded and na├»ve at the same time. We campaign for the rights of those different from us, but don’t stop to ask what they want or need. Here, Hermione is determined to bring Elves a freedom that humans would wish with out realizing that it would be torture for most Elves. There are other role models in the books (like Dumbledore) who show the Elves just as much respect as Hermione, but with a level of understanding that she lacks.

This is an important truth that can be applied in “real life.” Just because our culture may want and can handle a certain form of Government does not mean that it is the best or even the right form of government for the whole world.

Another topic that is very well presented in this novel is the Media and public opinion. Rowling does a great job of showing how despicable and dangerous the media can be in its efforts to gain readership and power. Ideally the media exists to disseminate truth, but in reality it is used to control the public and destroy its enemies.

We just get a hint of the theme of politics and power in this book, through the character of Barty Crouch, but also in the excellent chapter “The Parting of the Ways.” It is a theme that will pour over into the rest of the series and play an important role in the next book.

Finally, death, the true theme of the whole series, makes its way into the story directly for the first time. Up until now it has always been seen in the past, but from now on it will threaten every character and as the series continues no one is safe.

2 comments:

  1. Good analysis, as always. Goblet was my favorite in the series until Order came out, and I've lost count on how many times I've read it. It was the first (and not the last) time she made me weep.

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  2. I never found Goblet to be an emotional impact. That really started for me with the next book when Mr. Weasley almost dies. I think I read later that she had intended for him to actually die in that instance. It is a very difficult chapter to read.

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