Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by J.K. Rowling
Isolation Quotes in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
All Harry's spellbooks, his wand, robes, cauldron, and top-of-the-line Nimbus Two Thousand broomstick had been locked in a cupboard under the stairs by Uncle Vernon the instant Harry had come home. What did the Dursleys care if Harry lost his place on the House Quidditch team because he hadn't practiced all summer? What was it to the Dursleys if Harry went back to school without any of his homework done? The Dursleys were what wizards called Muggles (not a drop of magical blood in their veins), and as far as they were concerned, having a wizard in the family was a matter of deepest shame. Uncle Vernon had even padlocked Harry's owl, Hedwig, inside her cage, to stop her from carrying messages to anyone in the Wizarding world. (1.27)
One of the things that strikes us about the early chapters of Book 2 is that, because it is very early in the series, the Harry Potter books have yet to become a true sensation. So J.K. Rowling can't assume that everyone who picks up Chamber of Secrets will be completely familiar with the world of Harry Potter. She has to define "Muggle" quickly here. In the later Harry Potter novels, though, she can be more confident that everyone in the world knows what she means when she says "Muggle." Second, J.K. Rowling lays out very clearly (a) how much Harry feels excluded at the Dursleys' house, and (b) how much he idolizes Hogwarts and the wizarding world. He misses the wizarding world hugely – little realizing, at this point, how much anguish he's going to encounter there.
"I'll be in my bedroom, making no noise and pretending I'm not there," said Harry tonelessly. (1.43-44)
Before the Masons come over for their dinner party, Uncle Vernon makes Harry repeat that he will stay in his room making no noise and pretending he's not there three times. The repetition emphasizes how little Harry is wanted in the Dursley home. While the later novels give us a reason why Professor Dumbledore leaves Harry in the Dursley household even though they are not nice to him, what effects do you think it's having on Harry to be stuck with the Dursleys over summer holidays? How would you respond to this kind of treatment?
[Uncle Vernon] was bearing down on Harry like a great bulldog, all his teeth bared. "Well, I've got news for you, boy... I'm locking you up...You're never going back to that school...never...and if you try and magic yourself out – they'll expel you!"
And laughing like a maniac, he dragged Harry back upstairs.
Uncle Vernon was as bad as his word. The following morning, he paid a man to fit bars on Harry's window. He himself fitted a cat-flap in the bedroom door, so that small amounts of food could be pushed inside three times a day. They let Harry out to use the bathroom morning and evening. Otherwise, he was locked in his room around the clock. (2.110-112)
Aside from being ridiculously inappropriate behavior, Uncle Vernon's punishment of Harry makes no sense. If he hates Harry's guts so much, why does he decide to lock him in his room – in other words, to keep him around at all? What do you think Uncle Vernon is trying to achieve with this horribly cruel punishment? What are the Dursleys trying to get out of this?