The book starts out with promise. Rowling, for the second time in the series, steps away from Harry's character just long enough to show us what the story's main villain, Lord Voldemort, has been up to for the past year. Once again, Rowling presents her readers with a dreary image of a wasted away man, consumed by his own lust for power. This time, the man has an assistant and a snake that are slowly nursing him back to health. Next on this man's list? To reclaim his title as the Dark Lord and destroy the one boy that had defeated him thirteen years before. Voldemort is again plotting to kill Harry Potter.
That is the last we hear of that plot for most of the book. Rowling uses the majority of 734 pages to further develop Harry and the magical world. The book lies before the reader as a masterful painting, where each paint stroke reveals much more than one can find in a glance. Harry is now a full fledged adolescence, complete with insecurity around girls, and the need to continually prove himself. His thoughts are growing in complexity as his view of the world expands.
As Harry's view grows, so does the reader's. Rowling takes Harry to the Quidditch World Cup where Harry discovers wizarding cultures from different nations. It is also here that Harry discovers the fear and panic that comes in the wake of the dark, hateful followers of Lord Voldemort.
So why the change in focus? Rowling moves from starting the reader with Lord Voldemort to forgetting that plot and entering a new one. The plots are obviously connected, but how can one writer get away with promising a book with the villain, and then keeping that same villain out of view? There is a simple answer, Voldemort never really left the book.
Voldemort is the antithesis to truth and justice. He was created out of a lack of love. His spite turned him into a venomous creature synonymous with a snake. While Voldemort himself may leave the middle of the story, what he represents certainly does not. As Harry's world view expands to include different cultures and ways of thinking, Harry's notice of injustice and intolerance grows as well.
It is through these themes that Rowling uses a brilliant novel to discuss social justice issues. The reader, when faced with such horrific tales, must look back into their own culture and recognize the falsehoods and injusices that lie beneath it. As Dickens did in the 19th Century, Rowling uses her work as a call to compassion and change.