Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Perseverance

By J.K. Rowling

Perseverance

"Petunia" roared Uncle Vernon. "He's getting away! HE'S GETTING AWAY!"

But the Weasleys gave a gigantic tug and Harry's leg slid out of Uncle Vernon's grasp – Harry was in the car – he'd slammed the door shut – (3.40-41)

Perseverance – the ability to follow through on something even when it gets difficult – is a virtue. Arguably, Uncle Vernon has perseverance in his efforts to (a) make Harry's life miserable, and (b) squash the magic out of Harry. Of course, much though we may admire the idea of dedication, Uncle Vernon's goals are obviously insane. Why do you think he's so mad that Harry is getting away? Why does Uncle Vernon want to keep Harry at home when he hates him so much?

"Dunno how Mum and Dad are going to afford all our school stuff this year," said George after a while. "Five sets of Lockhart books! And Ginny needs robes and a wand and everything..."

Harry said nothing. He felt a bit awkward. Stored in an underground vault at Gringotts in London was a small fortune that his parents had left him. (4.28-29)

The Weasleys are poor and Harry is rich, which creates some tension between Harry and Ron (tension that really explodes around Book 4). Despite their poverty, the Weasleys accept Harry into their home with open arms, never making him feel like a burden (unlike the Dursleys). They make do with what they have. Yet their poverty is also important as an illustration of one of the rules of Harry Potter's world. You can't just conjure stuff out of nothing. Even though magic can make your life a lot easier, it can't make problems like poverty go away. The Weasleys may be accomplished wizards, but they can't just create gold – magic doesn't work like that in this series. So social problems like poverty persist.

Mr. Malfoy's lip curled.

"I have not been visited yet. The name Malfoy still commands a certain respect, yet the Ministry grows ever more meddlesome. There are rumors about a new Muggle Protection Act – no doubt that flea-bitten, Muggle-loving fool Arthur Weasley is behind it —" (4.76-77)

Perhaps this quote is an example of persistence rather than the more positive virtue of perseverance. We're going to include it here anyway because this category is about things that go on, negative or positive. Lucius Malfoy's conversation with Mr. Borgin in Knockturn Alley indicates how little respect he has for Arthur Weasley. We find it interesting that Lucius's hatred for Arthur carries over to the next generation. Obviously, Draco despises Ron. The Harry Potter series often focuses on how the past continues to influence the present. Here is our first inkling that the resentments of prior generations are influencing events happening right now in the novels. For a clearer example of this kind of persistence, check out Professor Snape's relation to Sirius Black in Book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Fascinated, Harry thumbed through the rest of the envelope's contents. Why on earth did Filch want a Kwikspell course? Did this mean he wasn't a proper wizard? Harry was just reading "Lesson One: Holding Your Wand (Some Useful Tips)" when shuffling footsteps outside told him Filch was coming back. Stuffing the parchment back into the envelope, Harry threw it back onto the desk just as the door opened. (8.35)

It's nice to know that wizards get junk mail the same way we do – this Kwikspell ad that Filch receives seems about on the level of the "get out of debt free!" and "lose weight now!" emails that fill our inboxes. The course promises "an all-new, fail-safe, quick-result, easy-learn course" (8.34) in magic for people who are dissatisfied with their own magical power. It's got plenty of buzzwords, but we doubt there's much in the way of results. This ad plays on Filch's insecurities as a man living in the wizarding world without magic – and it also gives us some insight into why Filch loathes the students of Hogwarts so much. No wonder he hates a bunch of twelve-year olds who are learning things that he is trying to master through a correspondence course in secret. It doesn't excuse his horrible behavior, but we can't imagine the bitterness of Filch struggling on his own to become a wizard while surrounded by kids who make it look easy to master magic.

Harry watched, amazed, as a portly ghost approached the table, crouched low, and walked through it, his mouth held wide so that it passed through one of the stinking salmon.

"Can you taste it if you walk through it?" Harry asked him.

"Almost," said the ghost sadly, and he drifted away.

"I expect they've let it rot to give it a stronger flavor," said Hermione knowledgeably, pinching her nose and leaning closer to look at the putrid haggis. (8.93-96)

One of the most notable things about the ghosts in Book 2 is how human they choose to be. Nick is hurt and angry that Sir Patrick won't let him join the Headless Hunt, and here we have this fat ghost who misses food so much that he tries to taste salmon by drifting through an empty plate of it. So it comes down to sports and food. These ghosts may have died, but they still want to play and eat the way they did when they were alive. If you were a ghost, would you try to continue your human life? Would you do something else?

As [the Gryffindor Quidditch team] walked out onto the pitch, a roar of noise greeted them; mainly cheers, because Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were anxious to see Slytherin beaten, but the Slytherins in the crowd made their boos and hisses heard, too. (10.48)

The entire school hates Slytherin. All three of the other houses are cheering Gryffindor over Slytherin because they hate Slytherin house. Now, we're not saying that there aren't plenty of bad people in Slytherin, because there are (obviously). Still, we do feel kind of sorry for the house as a whole, since everybody hates them. They're not really being given much of an option except to turn bad. It's not exactly a joyous life, being a Slytherin, which seems a bit unfair – it is a Hogwarts House, after all, in the same way that Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and even Gryffindor are. Or does this logic not get very far with you? What do you think of the Slytherins? Are they all like Draco? What do you think the primary traits of Slytherin House are? Who are the good Slytherins in the Harry Potter novels? How do they differ from the bad ones?

Harry couldn't take anymore. Clearing his throat loudly, he stepped out from behind the bookshelves. If he hadn't been feeling so angry, he would have found the sight that greeted him funny: Every one of the Hufflepuffs looked as though they had been Petrified by the sight of him, and the color was draining out of Ernie's face.

"Hello," said harry. "I'm looking for Justin Finch-Fletchley."

The Hufflepuffs' worst fears had clearly been confirmed. They all looked fearfully at Ernie. (11.143-145)

Harry overhears the Hufflepuff second years accusing him of trying to kill Justin Finch-Fletchley with a snake. They even think that he is rising to be the next Dark Lord. Instead of continuing to hide or sneaking off, though, Harry chooses to confront the Hufflepuffs openly about their assumptions. He's a Gryffindor, and their main quality is supposed to be courage; we imagine it would take a lot of bravery to go and talk normally to a bunch of people who think you're a crazed killer on the loose.

"My friendly, card-carrying cupids!" beamed Lockhart. "They will be roving around the school today delivering your valentines! And the fun doesn't stop here! I'm sure my colleagues will want to enter into the spirit of the occasion! Why not ask Professor Snape to show you how to whip up a Love Potion! And while you're at it, Professor Flitwick knows more about Entrancing Enchantments than any wizard I've ever met, the sly old dog!"

Professor Flitwick buried his face in his hands. Snape was looking as though the first person to ask him for a Love Potion would be force-fed poison. (13.87-88)

As with the Dueling Club, we have to be impressed at Professor Lockhart's complete and utter lack of self-consciousness. He really does not seem to notice (or care) that he is making the other professors loathe him with his horrible behavior. Why does Professor Lockhart persist in these stunts? Does he think it will win him popularity at the school? Is he really just that stupid, that he doesn't realize most of Hogwarts thinks he's a laughing stock? Or could it be more sinister? Maybe Professor Lockhart is trying to use these ridiculous stunts to distract people from wondering too much about the truth of his books. What do you think Professor Lockhart's motivations are?

Harry couldn't explain, even to himself, why he didn't just throw Tom Riddle's diary away. The fact was that even though he knew the diary was blank, he kept absentmindedly picking it up and turning the pages, as though it were a story he wanted to finish. And while Harry was sure he had never heard the name T.M. Riddle before, it still seemed to mean something to him, almost as though Riddle was a friend he'd had when he was very small, and had half-forgotten. But this was absurd. He'd never had friends before Hogwarts, Dudley had made sure of that. (13.69)

While the diary still appears blank to Harry, he keeps flipping through it as though it means something to him. What do you think is prompting this curiosity? Is the diary beginning to work its possessing magic? Is Harry working on his own personal instincts (which have led him to battle Voldemort successfully before)? How lucky is Harry that he was in the right place to find this diary in the first place? In some way, Harry seems to be fated to be in the right place at the right time to find the diary and discover Tom Riddle. What if someone else had picked up Riddle's diary in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom?

"The diary," said Riddle. "My diary. Little Ginny's been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes – how her brothers tease her, how she had to come to school with secondhand robes and books, how" – Riddle's eyes glinted – "how she didn't think famous, good, great Harry Potter would ever like her."

All the time he spoke, Riddle's eyes never left Harry's face. There was an almost hungry look in them.

"It's very boring, having to listen to the silly little troubles of an eleven-year-old girl," he went on. "But I was patient. I wrote back. I was sympathetic. I was kind. Ginny simply loved me. No one's ever understood me like you, TomI'm so glad I've got this diary to confide in…It's like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket…"

Riddle laughed, a high, cold, laugh that didn't suit him. It made the hairs stand up on the back of Harry's neck.

"If I say so myself, Harry, I've always been able to charm the people I needed. So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted…I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets." (17.41-45)

This is a terrible violation, as Tom Riddle exposes Ginny's deepest secrets to Harry. Tom Riddle's strategy for Ginny's possession involves lies and deceit, so we could certainly put this quote under that theme. Still, we also have to remark on how long it takes for Tom Riddle to gain greater control over Ginny's soul. We have very little sense of who Ginny is at this point of the series – she doesn't really begin to come into her own until Book 5 and later. Yet the fact that she could resist the complete domination of Voldemort for such a long time speaks to the strength of her character. We know Ginny is going to be important to Harry, not just because she's a Weasley or Ron's little sister, but because she shows the same kind of resilience that Harry did when he was eleven and facing down Voldemort. She may make bad choices – she really should have told someone about the diary earlier, and she doesn't actually succeed in throwing off Riddle's influence – but she perseveres as best she can against his powers. As well, she does try to protect Harry from Riddle's diary. We don't think we were so tough at eleven. So we're pretty impressed with Ginny Weasley.