Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
In Chamber of Secrets, Professor Dumbledore presents the all-important message of the Harry Potter series: "it is our choices [...] that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" (18.61). Starting in this novel, we being to realize that though Harry and Voldemort have a lot of life circumstances in common, it is their choices that define them and make them truly different. J.K. Rowling has stated that even the all-important prophecy revealed in Book 5 would not matter if both Harry and Voldemort chose to turn away from each other and not fight. Choice is vital to determining a person's character.
Yet, while we admire this theme, we also realize that there are lots of limitations on people's choices that they can't control. For example, Harry can't choose not to face Voldemort because Voldemort won't let him. Even when Harry isn't looking for Voldemort at Hogwarts, he still encounters him by chance thanks to a cursed diary in Ginny Weasley's hands. So the question of choice versus fate is a bit more ambiguous than Professor Dumbledore's idealistic statement might make it seem.
Questions About Choices
- Professor Dumbledore offers Harry the opportunity to speak to him several times about any concerns Harry may be having during his second school year. Harry never does. Why doesn't Harry tell Professor Dumbledore about his fears of being a Slytherin or the voice he's hearing in the walls? What does Harry's choice say about his relationship with Professor Dumbledore?
- Both Ginny and Professor Dumbledore decide not to share all the information they know about the Chamber of Secrets. Why not? How are Ginny's motivations different from Professor Dumbledore's?
- The Sorting Hat offers to put Harry in Slytherin, but Harry chooses Gryffindor. Does this mean the Sorting Hat misread Harry's character? What role does the Sorting Hat play in determining a future for each Hogwarts student?
- Think about all of the ways in which Harry and Tom Riddle are alike. In what ways are they different? How are their differences about the choices they've made? Are some of their differences not based on choices?