Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Imagery

Olfactory Imagery

Smells represent belonging or disgust, being part of an in-group or out-group, and so life or death. The Dursleys treat Harry as if he smells gross. They clearly do not love him: “...he was back with the Dursleys for the summer, back to being treated like a dog that had rolled in something smelly” (p. 5). When Ron and Harry crash the car into the Whomping Willow, they get in trouble and are lead away from the welcoming smell of the feast: “A delicious smell of food was wafting from the Great Hall, but Snape led them away from the warmth and light, down a narrow stone staircase that led into the dungeons.” In Hogwarts classes, Harry enjoys the smells of the greenhouse: “Harry caught a whiff of damp earth and fertilizer mingling with the heavy perfume of some giant, umbrella-sized flowers dangling from the ceiling” (p. 90), while Ron’s struggles with his wand and his studies are stinky: “...every time Ron tried to transfigure his beetle it engulfed him in thick gray smoke that smelled of rotten eggs” (p. 95). In Filch’s office, his fishiness is represented literally: “A faint smell of fried fish lingered about the place” (p. 125). As Harry, Ron, and Hermione try to enjoy the deathday party, they realize it's not quite for them when they discover the table of rotting food: “they approached it eagerly but next moment had stopped in their tracks, horrified. The smell was quite disgusting” (p. 133). When Harry hears the basilisk for the first time, he is horrified that the snake is talking about smelling its human prey: “I smell blood. . . . I SMELL BLOOD!” (P. 138). The dramatic and bizarre petrification of Colin is intensified by the smell of his burnt camera: “Harry, three beds away, caught the acrid smell of burnt plastic” (p. 180). In the resulting panic, students try to ward off danger with talismans, including one smelly one: “Neville Longbottom bought a large, evil-smelling green onion” (p. 185). In the climactic battle in the Chamber of Secrets, Tom Riddle tries to manipulate the basilisk even after Fawkes has blinded it by reminding it of its sense of smell: “YOU CAN STILL SMELL HIM! KILL HIM!” (p. 319) and “KILL THE BOY! LEAVE THE BIRD! THE BOY IS BEHIND YOU! SNIFF — SMELL HIM!” (p. 320). In the end, Harry’s disgusting stinky sock repulses Lucious Malfoy so much that he discards it immediately, inadvertently setting Dobby free. Harry uses his olfactory reaction against him: “...he forced the smelly sock into Lucius Malfoy’s hand” (p. 337).

Gustatory Imagery

When Harry arrives at the Burrow, he is immediately fed well. Even though Mrs. Weasley yells at her sons, she also feeds them. Food represents the love that the Weasleys have for each other and share with Harry. In Mrs. Weasley's kitchen, cooking is a form of magic.

This scene at the Burrow also provides a direct contrast with the breakfast scene which opens the book at the Dursleys, where Petunia tries to hit Harry with a frying pan, and with his subsequent imprisonment in his room with cold soup.

Gustatory imagery is used to convey a contrast in status between characters. The Dursleys overfeed Dudley and underfeed Harry Potter. They also reserve their most elaborate delicious food for the Masons. Harry's hunger represents his neglect. When Harry reaches London, and is able to access his wizard wealth at Gringotts, he buys his friends and himself large ice creams. Harry's higher status in the wizarding world is represented by his ability to buy sweet treats. His generous nature is reflected in wanting to share this happiness with his friends.

Food presented to others represents kindness and hospitality throughout the book.

The bits of Crabbe and Goyle that Ron and Harry are required to consume in the Polyjuice potion represent the discomfort of empathy. Ron is deeply disgusted with having to become his enemy in order to learn the truth.

Feasts at Hogwarts bring the community together in ritual and to mark the Sorting Ceremony and holidays such as Halloween and Christmas. Missing a feast means being out of step with the community. Harry and Ron miss the initial feast when they must take alternative transportation to Hogwarts. The toffees that Harry and Ron enjoy in the car represent the luxurious freedom of independence they find in the flying car. When they grow thirsty, this represents the consequence of detachment from the community on the train. Snape is suspicious when they find a petrified student during the Halloween feast. And it is a sign that the crisis at the school has passed when Dumbledore calls for a feast after Harry has rescued Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets and defeated Tom Riddle.

Auditory Imagery

Sounds at times represent social transgression, as when Hedwig screeches, disturbing Uncle Vernon's sleep, and when Dobby makes noise that disrupts the Dursleys' dinner party with the Masons. Both demonstrate Harry's precarious, powerless position in the household. When the Weasleys' car removes the bars from Harry's window, it does so with a loud crunch, representing the ultimate transgression: freedom. Harry and Ron run into the Whomping Willow with a loud crash that gets them into trouble with Hogwarts professors, and makes them heroes among the students.

Tactile Imagery

Tactile imagery in this book often represents the unexpected—whether horrifying, gratifying, or merely awkward. When characters feel something touch their bodies, this sensation reveals something about their relationship with their environment that they were too preoccupied or unaware to notice before. Sometimes this is benign, like Ginny putting her elbow in the butter dish; sometimes it is awful, like being seized by a giant spider; and sometimes it is wonderful, like the feeling of Fawkes and the Sorting Hat brushing Harry's face as they help him in the Chamber. A few examples:

“She nodded, blushing to the roots of her flaming hair, and put her elbow in the butter dish” (p. 44).

“Then, with a thrill of horror, he realized that someone was sponging his forehead in the dark” (p. 176)

“Harry blundered up the corridor, barely noticing where he was going, he was in such a fury. The result was that he walked into something very large and solid, which knocked him backward onto the floor.‘Oh, hello, Hagrid,’ Harry said, looking up” (p. 201).

“Something wet touched Harry’s hand and he jumped backward, crushing Ron’s foot, but it was only Fang’s nose” (p. 273).