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MatthewHunter

MatthewHunter

Currently reading

MirrorMask (children's edition)
Neil Gaiman
The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories, Volume One: Where on Earth
Ursula K. Le Guin
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown
Maud Hart Lovelace
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde, Camille Cauti
Riders of the Purple Sage
Zane Grey
Vampires, Zombies, & Wanton Souls
Marge Simon
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré Two books into the Harry Potter series, I've become a bit of a Rowling fanboy. She mixes boundless imagination--flying cars, mandrake-babies, floo powder, ornery garden gnomes, a whomping willow, Deathday celebrations, etc.--with social commentary primarily on racism, classism, and purism. No doubt, Rowling wants readers of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to know that: 1) the Malfoy clan is a horrible bunch of racists and classists; and 2) J.K. Rowling isn't a big fan of racists and classists. She puts these words in the mouth of Draco Malfoy:

"Father says to keep my head down and let the Heir of Slytherin get on with it. He says the school needs ridding of all the Mudblood filth, but not to get mixed up in it."


Change the context away from wizards and muggles and you have a vile slur--"Mudblood filth"--usable against any person one perceives as racially or culturally impure. Can't you hear Hitler or Jim Crow South fave Bull Connor throwing the term "Mudblood" around in impolite conversation? Rowling rejects such bigotry, preferring judgment based on merit or on the contents of individual characters. The materially poor Weasley clan, the orphan Harry, and the "half blood" Hermione are much preferred to the "pure blooded", privileged and arrogant Draco.

Dumbledore's closing moral lesson--"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."--solidifies Rowlings argument that character trumps privilege any day. And Harry spends the entire story revealing the truth of Dumbledore's words. While Draco rejects "mudbloods" like Hermione, Harry befriends them. While Draco distances himself from poor people like Ron Weasley, Harry prefers to live among them. While Lucius Malfoy enslaves "lesser" beings like Dobby the house-elf, Harry frees them. Harry possesses a character strong enough to choose the good; Draco shows weak (Calvinist?) character by subordinating his individual will to his family's preordained Slytherin-ness.

Harry and Draco, yin and yang. Rowling leaves very little for me to like about Draco. I've taken the bait and despise him, his father, and his minions Crabbe and Goyle. It'll be interesting to see if Rowling plays with her characters' hate-ability in future installments in the series. Mixing grayness in with black-and-white treatments of good and evil always makes for an interesting and more true-to-life story. Just guessing, but I suspect Draco will have moments of likeability in the future.

I could get into Tom Riddle's diary and Rowling's warning against believing everything we read. I could also analyze Rowling's apparent ambivalence toward institutions and their leaders. But I won't because I'm tired and, quite frankly, bored with hearing myself opine right now. So I'll close. Really, I can't give such an imaginative, thought-provoking work of fiction anything other than five stars. Rowling's good. I'll read further.