Friday, August 14

12x12: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
by J.K. Rowling

To be completely honest, this has not been my favorite Harry Potter book in the past. It's always been solidly in the middle. However, re-reading it this time around, I was (sorry) spellbound. It was thrilling, sweet, emotionally-vulnerable, perfectly climatic, and just so, so good!

What I Loved:

  • This is a LONG book. We're talking 700-something pages, but it's long enough that you can really get sucked into this world! I've been emotional re-reading the Harry Potter books this year, but this book hit me hard. It felt like I was coming home in a way that I just didn't have the time to experience in the prior books.
  • This particular book is all about international magical cooperation, and J.K. Rowling really throws the reader into it with the Quidditch World Cup! It was the first time I had ever thought about schools in the U.S., and I was even more excited reading it this time to realize Salem, MA isn't that far away from me now! ;)
  • While there is a pretty obvious theme in the other books about prejudice and racism, I think it's especially prevalent in this book. One of the big things the fourth movie leaves out (more on that later) is house elf rights and Hermione's club, S.P.E.W. The entire book, people keep telling Hermione that house elves want to be enslaved and that they like working for wizards... which is true. Dobby is the only house elf who seems to have the slightest interest in freedom or wages, and even those topics have limits for him. The rest of them do seem happier working. For me, it really made me think about how we thought about slavery in America for so long. People generally thought slaves were better off enslaved, and that they even liked it better than having freedom. I think it's interesting that in the wizarding world, house elves certainly don't like being mistreated, they actually do seem to like being enslaved - they want to work without pay. I don't know how to reconcile that, because I, like Hermione, find the concept of slavery to be reprehensible. Hogwarts even "employs" hundreds of house elves, and I suppose you could argue it's better to be enslaved there than somewhere they'll be mistreated... but isn't that still perpetuating a fundamentally unfair and unjust system - even if the house elves want it that way?
  • This book contains a lot of firsts around Harry, Ron, and Hermione's relationship. It's the first book where Ron deals with jealousy about Harry's status and wealth, and it's the first one which makes it obvious that Ron and Hermione have feelings for each other. It's the first one where Ron really shows his sulky nature when he's upset - Ron doesn't talk to Harry from the time his names comes out of the Goblet to until the first task has ended, and Ron explodes on Hermione when she goes with Victor Krum to the ball. Their friendships are all getting more complex and "teenager-y," which I think it perfect given that they're all fourteen!
  • This is also the first book where we're introduced to Neville's history and the Unforgivable Curses. I feel like the Curses are treated so fearfully in this book while they're kind of thrown around willy-nilly in later books, and I'm not sure if that's because we're hearing about them from the perspective of fourteen-year olds who are terrified by them or because it's our own introduction to them. We're told that the use of any one of them is punishable by time in the wizard prison, but, like I said, I feel like some of the "good guys" use them a few times in later books... not a lot, but more than I would like them to. Even though it's really an issue that comes up later, I think it brings up a question of (1) what doing "bad" acts does to otherwise good people, and (2) whether it's worth doing those bad acts even if it's ultimately for a good cause.
  • While I love the movie, it leaves out so much! Granted, it's an almost 800-page book, and if they made it all into a movie, it would probably be give or six hours long. I get it - but leaving out Ludo Bagman, Fred & George's bet with Ludo (and their desire to own a joke shop in this book), Winky, the sphinx in the maze, and S.P.E.W were unfortunate. All of those aspects add so much to the story and to these complex points about international cooperation, racism, prejudice, and how we treat those we consider "lesser" than us.
  • Obviously I can't forget about the big event with Harry and Voldemort in the graveyard. It's such a good, well-written scene, and I love seeing Voldemort interact with all the remaining Death Eaters! It also adds momentum to the similarities and connections between Harry and Voldemort. Although, I did find a mistake in the book: We know that Voldemort killed Lily after she killed James, but when the "echos" start coming out of Voldemort's wand, James comes out before Lily. We're later told that they came out in reverse order, and all the other echos do come out in reverse order... just those two are mixed up.
What I Wasn't Crazy About:
  • Nothing. Go away.
Would I Recommend This Book?
  • Of course! I think I've really underestimated how good this book was - I wasn't dreading reading it or anything, but since The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince tend to be my favorite books in the series, I was really excited to get this one over with. That was a mistake - this one is amazing on it's own, and it's worth giving respect to!

Which is your favorite Harry Potter book? What makes it your favorite? What are your thoughts on the enslavement of house elves?

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