|Julie Baroh, Brownie, source|
Our discussions surrounding Dobby these past weeks have been feisty and good-natured. The existence of Dobby's race proves problematic for Masha. Jenna counters, with others, that we don't know the history of the house elves--or their proper place in the story's cosmological order--and so cannot cry error per se.
The situation in Chapter 2 makes me uncomfortable. This might be personal taste. Many people I know adore Meet the Parents and movies, shows, and stories like it--"mean relational comedy," Jenna calls it--but I can't stand that kind of painful humor at others' expense.
"Can't anyone help you? Can't I?"
Almost at once, Harry wished he hadn't spoken. Dobby dissolved again into wails of gratitude.
"Please," Harry whispered frantically, "please be quiet. If the Dursleys hear anything, if they know you're here--"
"Harry Potter asks if he can help Dobby . . . Dobby has heard of your greatness, sir, but of your goodness, Dobby never knew. . . ."
I've various thoughts and feelings when reading this passage, so I'll list them below. (In full disclosure, I saw the film long before reading The Chamber of Secrets, so perhaps my impressions would have been different had they been via written form rather than visual.)
- Has no one ever before asked Dobby if he or she could help him?
- What kind of society is the wizarding world, that this has never occurred?
- Do they accept (actively or passively) this kind of cruelty toward a living thing, or are we to assume undisclosed back-story?
- If so--if wizards don't accept it, have tried to change it, and have not been successful--is it in the very nature of the house elves to behave this way?
- Did Rowling intentionally create a race of rational slaves?
- Did she do so for the sake of plot and storytelling without thought to the moral and ethical problems that might arise? (I doubt it, personally.)
- What does that say about Rowling's world view and the virtue in and in reading her novels? And does it matter?
- Harry's reaction isn't really extraordinarily good, but basically human (in the healthy formed conscience).
- Which leads me, again, to wonder why Dobby has never encountered even the slightest of human compassion.
I'm told by veteran readers the answers to some of these questions will unfold throughout the series.
Now for Mr. Weasley's fascination with muggle artifacts . . . in true keeping with Harry Potter protocol thus far, Arthur Weasley disregards and dismisses the rules. This is a unique luxury/privilege for him, considering he is the guardian and enforcer of said rules. Fred says plainly, "If he raided our house, he'd have to put himself under arrest." It resembles the special allowances among police officers and other government workers, so not a situation entirely original to Harry Potter.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's marital bickering is certainly not original to Potter. I like the portrayal of the Weasleys as normal, faulted, but generally wholesome and loving people. Rowling's set them up to be allies for Harry but made them three-dimensional, enough to necessitate growth. And, with nine people to a family, the potential relationship combinations create dimension for the story's backdrop. Ginny's shyness annoys me a little, but then I was never one for teen idols as an adolescent.
De-gnoming the garden fleshes out Rowling's world-building. As with the house elves, she caricatures a traditional folk being to better fit Potter's tone. I admire her author's creativity in parting ways with tradition and making them her own, but I prefer gnomes of the garden variety (and I don't mean ceramic ones!).
I don't know what is unrelated distractions and what is the book itself, but so far The Chamber of Secrets has failed to immerse me. I remember being satisfied after my first reading of The Sorcerer's Stone (and again after my recent second reading) but feeling no strong desire to pick up the second book.
"There is a plot, Harry Potter," says Dobby. "A plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year." Indeed, I don't doubt it. That's rather my thinking right now! But I assume interest will pick up as read on.
Follow-up post for Chapters 4-5 coming within the week. In the meantime, join the discussion here or feel free to contribute your own post reflecting on the past weeks' readings!