The second novel in J.K. Rowling's
series of seven, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
continues a coming of age epic that will enchant readers with its honest portrayal of humanity. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(Book 1), Harry arrived at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry knowing little of his past and the events for which he was famous. With the help of his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, Harry chose to continue his destiny and once again defeat the powerful wizard known as Lord Voldemort.
In the second book, Harry returns to Hogwarts only to discover a new machination in the making. Someone has opened the legendary Chamber of Secrets and let loose a monster. This creature literally petrifies anyone that comes into contact with it and Harry has reason to believe that the monster is capable of murder. Can Harry stop the monster before Hogwarts is forced to close?
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry was challenged with defining himself in a world that thinks it already knows him. This same theme continues in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but is more generalized. How is one defined? What makes someone who they are? The magical world labels a person based on their abilities and lineage, but what defines who someone really is?
This theme is best played out through the monster that terrorizes Harry's school. It was locked in the chamber by one of Hogwarts' founders, Salazaar Slytherin, a wizard who believed that the only ones worthy of learning magic were those of "pure-blood" ancestry. The hidden chamber was to be locked until Slytherin's true heir arrived to unleash the monster. The motive of releasing the beast was to rid the school of those born to non-magical parents. The civilized word for such children is muggle-born. To those that follow Slytherin's ideology they are known as "mudbloods".
The derogatory term "mudblood" literally means dirty blood, or blood that has been tainted. The label implies that those with pure-wizard-blood are superior to those without. Yet Hermione Granger, one of Harry's best friends, is not only a muggle-born, but also the most brilliant student at Hogwarts. In contrast, Draco Malfoy is a pureblood and neither bright nor kind.
Harry's Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher adds depth to the identity theme. Professor Gilderoy Lockhart spends the entire book pretending to be something he is not. While society labels him as a great and famous wizard, he is nothing more than a charming smile and a liar. He lacks any real identity.
Harry's quest to discover his own identity is complicated when he discovers that one of his gifts, the ability to speak to snakes, is a talent usually reserved for the darkest wizards. In fact, Salazaar Slytherin was himself able to converse with the serpents. Suspicion follows Harry throughout the books as his peers begin to wonder if Harry Potter is Slytherin's heir. Even Harry begins to wonder if his peers are right.
The identity problems that Harry must face lead him to make some bad choices. When he first hears voices that no one else can hear, he is afraid to tell anyone for fear of being labeled crazy. He even holds himself back from telling Albus Dumbledore, Hogwart's headmaster and Harry's mentor. Dumbledore continues to give Harry chances to come forward, but Harry does not. Instead, Harry tries to solve everything with only Ron and Hermione's help.