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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter 4)

by J.K. Rowling

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
If you skip the middle 400 pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, you won't miss much of the plot. However, you will miss everything else. J.K. Rowling's fourth installment to the Harry Potter series includes dynamic character development, intense drama, and sly politics. These elements are dispersed throughout the book, making the middle section interesting only through our love of the characters and the world, and not our love of the overarching story line.

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.
Enter yawn here. Someone has always been out to try and kill Harry since book one. This plot point has been used throughout the books as a good thought degraded into a tiresome cliché. However, Rowling is a masterful story teller, and the reader will still follow each line quickly, anxious to find out what will happen next. Will Voldemort rise this time? How close will Harry come to death?

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.
Rowling moves the book along to where Harry returns to Hogwarts for his fourth school year. Only now a new plot is introduced where Harry must play champion in a deadly school game.

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.
For instance, House-Elfs, small servant creatures introduced in the second book, are treated as slaves. For all the care they give to wizards, they receive no pay and rarely any gratitude. The reporter, Rita Skeeter, is out for herself and not the readers of the newspaper for which she works. She weaves lies between the thin lines of the truth, manipulating the public to take whatever stance she wants them to take. And worst of all, Harry sees Death Eaters, Voldemort's old followers, play spiteful games with non-magical folk. Led by their prejudice, a Death Eater finds happiness in hurting others and instilling terror into the rest.

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.
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