Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Honestly, this was my least favorite novel of the group, but that more than likely has to do with my fear of anything that can slither and the giant snake that the book centers around. However, I did enjoy it, as I do all of the Harry Potter books.
In regards to psychology, the most prevalent aspect in this book is the idea of discrimination and prejudice. Throughout the novel, we see certain characters who condemn and mistreat those termed Mudbloods, which refers to a witch or wizard whose parents lack magical abilities. Hermione Granger, for example, was considered a Mudblood.
In chapter 7, we see an encounter between the Quiddich teams of Slytherin and Gryffindor. There has been a dispute over who has rights to the field for practice. As Oliver Wood, the captain of the Gryffindor team, attempts to get the field back, we find out that the Slytherin team has a new Seeker, none other than Draco Malfoy. We then see the following exchange:
“At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in,” said Hermione sharply. “They got in on pure talent.”
The smug look on Malfoy’s face flickered.
“No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood,” he spat.
Harry knew at once that Malfoy had said something really bad because there was an instant uproar at his words. Flint had to dive in front of Malfoy to stop Fred and George jumping on him, Alicia shrieked, “How dare you!”, and Ron plunged his hand into his robes, pulled out his wand, yelling, “You’ll pay for that one, Malfoy!” and pointed it furiously under Flint’s arm at Malfoy’s face.
We can clearly see that Harry has never heard the term before and is confused by the reaction, though he realizes immediately that it was something awful. I think we can attribute this to his childhood and environment. While everyone else on the field was born to wizarding families with a knowledge of magic from the start, Harry was completely out of the loop until Hagrid entered his life on his 11th birthday and told him everything the Dursleys had been keeping from him.
Harry hadn’t even heard the word wizard, much less a derogatory term for wizards with so-called “filthy” background. Alicia, Ron, Malfoy, etc., had all grown up in a culture where they heard the terminology for wizards and witches and they had all experienced discrimination within their community. If they didn’t fit the role of either bully or bullied, they were still sure to hear about or observe such prejudice.
We see this idea even more a few pages later when Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to Hagrid’s hut to get help after Ron inadvertently casts a spell on himself.
“Malfoy called Hermione something — it must’ve been really bad, because everyone went wild.”
“It was bad,” said Ron hoarsely, emerging over the tabletop looking pale and sweaty. “Malfoy called her ‘Mudblood,’ Hagrid —” Ron dived out of sight again as a fresh wave of slugs made their appearance. Hagrid looked outraged.
“He didn’!” he growled at Hermione.
“He did,” she said. “But I don’t know what it means. I could tell it was really rude, of course —”
“It’s about the most insulting thing he could think of,” gasped Ron, coming back up. “Mudblood’s a really foul name for someone who is Muggle-born — you know, non-magic parents. There are some wizards — like Malfoy’s family — who think they’re better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure-blood.” He gave a small burp, and a single slug fell into his outstretched hand. He threw it into the basin and continued, “I mean, the rest of us know it doesn’t make any difference at all. Look at Neville Longbottom — he’s pure-blood and he can hardly stand a cauldron the right way up.”
“An’ they haven’t invented a spell our Hermione can’ do,” said Hagrid proudly, making Hermione go a brilliant shade of magenta.
“It’s a disgusting thing to call someone,” said Ron, wiping his sweaty brow with a shaking hand. “Dirty blood, see. Common blood. It’s ridiculous. Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway. If we hadn’t married Muggles we’d’ve died out.”
As shown above, Hermione also was not aware of the term Mudblood and what it meant. Our theory of culture influencing beliefs is proven yet again since Hermione also grew up in a home without wizardry for the most part. Her parents were Muggles, so they couldn’t share the culture of the wizarding world with Hermione. She simply had to figure it out on her own once she came to Hogwarts.
Going back to the book in general, the premise is that something sinister is happening at Hogwarts. People are becoming petrified and no one knows why. Harry and his friends get involved once people begin to get hurt. They start investigating and trying to find answers as more questions appear and more lives are at stake, including Ron’s younger sister, Ginny. We see the personalities of Harry, Ron, and Hermione really start to shine through as we watch them make sacrifices to save Ginny, Hagrid, and Hogwarts.
For example, it was already a well-known fact that Hermione is extremely intelligent. However, we get to see her solve a mystery with little to no information, not to mention put herself in danger to tell her friends what she found. She allows herself to get petrified so that Ron and Harry can have the information they need.
Another character that really expands his role is Hagrid. He gains much more depth and characterization, showing that he is much more than simply an animal-loving half-giant. He has a rich backstory that truly shows his caring nature and morality. He is unwilling to accept anyone placing the blame on innocent creatures, especially when he sees them as his friends, like Aragog.
All in all, this novel truly showed some depth and psychological ideals. I really enjoyed rereading it and it gave me a new outlook on why people do not see prejudice and discrimination the same way.