These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community.
We are thankful of their contributions and encourage you to make your own.
Written by Sonia Chen
Choices and Free Will vs Fate
The most important theme of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the idea of Fate versus Free Will. While fate is already decided, each day we have choices to make and these choices have the ability to impact our future.
Going back to the first book, when Harry was being sorted, Harry asks the Sorting Hat to put him in Gryffindor rather than in Slytherin. In this second book, Harry is doubting if he should not have been placed into Gryffindor, especially with all the Slytherin-like traits he possesses.
At the end of this book, Harry seems to have resolved his first fate vs free will conflict with the help of Dumbledore. After having pulled out the sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat, Harry genuinely questions whether he was put in the right house or not. Dumbledore reassures Harry’s doubts by telling him that “it is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” (Ch. 18).
Due to their differences in choices, Harry and Voldemort, so similar in their childhood experiences, are drastically different. Both lost their parents at a very young age, both were sent to live with Muggle family, both found their friends and place at Hogwarts. However, Voldemort chose to live in constant fear of death and wanted to live forever. On the other hand, Harry lives with love and compassion and wants to help others more than himself. While many things are out of our circle of control, our choices inside of it are far more important than fate.
Rowling’s emphasis on the contrasting choices and striking similarities of the protagonist and antagonist of the series translates into a deeper understanding of how our character is formed and how free will is the biggest determinant of one’s character.
Fear is a universal emotion. Whether one is scared of things or people or ideologies or abilities, fear is a constant dark force in the world -- especially in the magical world. Many times, fear is instigated by the foreignness of something or the inability to control or anticipate something.
Muggles are scared of the people who have the ability to perform magic. Because it is so foreign to them, magic is a mystery and thereby induces fear. The Dursleys are so fearful of magic and the apparent dangers of it that they ban the use of the word “magic” simply because it is associated with such negative and scary feelings.
At Hogwarts, the year starts off with an interestingly vain professor and more house competition.
However, the halls of Hogwarts become increasingly filled with fear as a basilisk starts terrorizing students and staff everywhere. From the first attack on a cat to Ginny being taken into the Chamber itself, fear creates divisions and conflicts everywhere. The attacks seem to be avoiding all who are in the Slytherin House, which causes fear and suspicion in the Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff Houses. Because of the inability of the students and the staff to stop the attacks, fear runs rampant with the increasing frequency of attacks.
Students also start to fear Harry and avoid him because he happens to be able to speak Parseltongue, the language of snakes, which is a sign of the ability to perform dark magic. The unfortunate turn of events that causes all the panic to be coming from Harry makes him less fearful of the terrorist, the basilisk and strengthens his courage.
Fear often does more than the actual instigator can. As long as one can stir up fear and disagreements, the terrorist has succeeded. Fear turns good against good, which weakens the very force that should be battling the bad.
Since the first book, Harry, Ron, and Hermione have been almost inseparable. Even though Harry gets locked in his room by the Dursleys, and Dobby the house-elf has been stopping letters from Ron and Hermione, Harry eventually gets reunited with his friends.
Ron breaks family and magical rules by flying a magical car with Fred and George to retrieve Harry from his prison. Their friendship breaks through walls of lack of communication and imprisonment. This force is one of Harry’s most important supporting forces throughout the series.
In this book, tensions between social classes and Hogwarts Houses increase as attacks from a mysterious creature also occur. Harry gets accused but his friends remain loyal to him. Ron and Hermione want to help Harry and defend him from all of the attacks because of their strong friendship. The trio’s bond is one of the main emotional pillars Harry depends on to stay strong and rational.
There is also a bond between the teachers of Hogwarts, though it can’t exactly be called a friendship. It is a bond of comradeship and shared responsibility, and it also excludes the new and extravagant teacher, Lockhart. When all the teachers are getting stricter and more stressed about the increasing attacks by the basilisk, Lockhart is still boastful of his abilities and ignores all the warnings and rules. When Ginny gets taken into the Chamber, the teachers all kick out Lockhart by sending him to get Ginny from the Chamber. Then, the other teachers try to work together to fix what they can.
Friendship is a powerful tool that can solve problems and unite groups of people. Even though Snape is usually judged by the other teachers, they all come together to fight the basilisk. Even though Harry is ostracized by the other students, Ron and Hermione remain loyal and loving, serving as his support pillars throughout this book.
Update this section!
You can help us out by revising, improving and updating