|But you do, don't you? c;|
Imagining the cold air of early morning in the Quidditch field is one of the pleasures of reading Harry Potter. In a larger sense, it's a characteristic that is probably invisible to a significant portion of its English-speaking readers. I mean it's Englishness. Historical castles, shepherd's pies, crisp new school uniforms, and even the slightly dark air of aristocracy and social class give it a flavor subtle yet distinct from an American novel.
Another example is treacle, a food I'd never know about if not from reading English novels. Hagrid's treacle tarts sound pretty tasty, jaw-cementing or not, so I scrounged up some recipes for them and hope to be making some in the future: here and here. If you've found and/or perfected a recipe, do share.
Of chapters six and seven, Masha said, "this book is doing a great job so far of bringing us back to Hogwarts without making us feel we're repeating anything," which sums my feeling up quite nicely. Gilderoy Lockhart continues to be an affliction for Harry. Poor boy just can't attend school in peace with his friends like a normal student wizard. Though anyone worth his wand is going to figure that the two words "normal" and "wizard" together aren't too promising to begin with.
I can't make up my mind about whether I do or don't like Hermione's girlish crush on Lockhart. On the one hand, it seems out of character for the level-headed bookworm with more sense than Ron and Harry put together. You'd think she'd recognize Lockhart's insincerity right away, especially after the pixie incident. On the other hand, the soft hidden romanticism of the sensible girl is a fiction element I've seen before, not without good results, though it usually happens much later on in the character development. So . . . I guess in this instance, I have to concede full knowledge of character to the author. She of all people would know best whether or not Hermione would have this little lapse in judgement due to adolescent "feels"! And it does add a dimension of humor to the Lockhart caricature a la, "What? Not you too, Hermione!"
Chapter 7 brought some discomfort for readers and characters alike. Ron's curse is nothing to sniff at. Retching is The Worst without having to throw slugs into the
In a related instance, Jenna mentioned some readers' dislike of Rowling's Mandrakes. It didn't grab my attention personally, though encountering a real, infant-like screaming creature at the end of a green stalk buried in mud would probably get me all sorts of upset. But fairy tales have always been violent, unapologetically so. Harry Potter, as fantasy, is heir to fairy tales. Is there a difference in exposing children to a fleshed out, detailed novel with some violent, feather-ruffling imagery and plot? I don't know; but I almost always err on the side of non-censorship, and that doesn't waver a bit when it comes to HP.
The other discomfort in this chapter is caused by the racial slur against Hermione. Though we're in the positions of her and Harry about the severity of the insult, we readers, like them, pick up immediately that it is something loathsome. The movie played out the ensuing scene in Hagrid's house differently. In the film, Hermione offers a weak, teary smile as Hagrid comforts her. I found that much more powerful than her book reaction, though not necessarily more realistic.
It raises a question in Harry Potter, not for the first time, of the meaningfulness of words. Perhaps I should say meaning-ness. How much does a word mean itself? If the hearer of the word is ignorant of its meaning, is it still offensive? Is meaning inherent? Or does it depend on the intention of the speaker? Mudblood, since it is a made up racial slur, is ideal to study when asking these questions, as we have none of the cultural or chronological biases. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, now and going forward in our reading. (And by no means is it a topic limited to HP.)
As promised, The Chamber of Secrets takes a sharp turn for the darker at the end of Chapter 7. Perhaps it's symbolic that the mystery antagonist--at this point as yet only a disembodied voice--does not make itself known from the outside, but from inside Harry's own head.