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.
In Chamber of Secrets, we find a number of examples of people fearing others who are different from them. The Dursleys fear Harry's magical abilities, so they lock him in a room by himself to keep him hidden from the rest of their neighborhood. The rest of Hogwarts fears Harry because he can do things they can't: he can speak Parseltongue, a Dark gift… and he seems to have a real talent for finding trouble.
We also see fear rising out of acts of what is essentially terrorism. The basilisk's attacks on Hogwarts students create a panic which causes divisions. Ravenclaws, Gryffindors, and Hufflepuffs all fear and/or hate Slytherin House, because nearly all Dark wizards come from Slytherin. And most students fear Harry because they think he is the Heir of Slytherin. Once the panic is started, there appears to be little or nothing that anyone can do to stop it. That's the core of Voldemort's power: he's a terrorist, in the literal sense that he spreads terror. His manipulations are successful enough that he doesn't even have to be there (or alive) to turn decent wizards and witches against each other. Voldemort's terrorism is present in Chamber of Secrets, but it really comes out in Book 6 and 7.
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The friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione provides an emotional core to balance out what would otherwise be a really fast-paced and intense series of novels (after all, wars against evil do not make light reading). In Chamber of Secrets, these friendships are what keep Harry going as the rest of Hogwarts begins to suspect him of being the Heir of Slytherin. It's only in the later books (e.g., Ron's feud with Harry in Book 4 and Hermione's annoyance with Harry's bad temper in Book 5) that J.K. Rowling starts exploring the pressures in Harry's life that arise when his friendships aren't there to support him.
Isolation works on two levels in Chamber of Secrets: first, there is the isolation of the wizarding world. Because wizards spend so much time avoiding Muggles, many of them have developed strongly negative emotions about non-magical people. That's where the anti-Muggle-born prejudice of people like Lucius Malfoy comes in. Still, there is also the isolation of Harry's home at Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling has discussed the emotional good sides of boarding schools:
"There is something liberating, too, about being transported into the kind of surrogate family which boarding school represents, where the relationships are less intense and the boundaries more clearly defined." (source)
Yet, while isolation may bring a sense of family, it also has a downside: claustrophobia. In a small, closed social setting, there is nowhere to go when public opinion turns against you. Rumors fly quickly. Harry's isolation from the Muggle world at Hogwarts in Book 1 seems like a blessing when all he wants to do is escape the Dursleys. By Book 2, though, some of the more negative sides of his small community and fame leave him feeling lonely and resentful.
Chamber of Secrets contains some pretty obvious examples of deceit. Lucius Malfoy tricks Ginny into taking Tom Riddle's diary. Harry tricks Lucius Malfoy into freeing his house-elf, Dobby, in turn. Riddle tricks both Ginny and Harry into thinking that he's an honest, upright student – the biggest lie of all. There are also more subtle examples of withholding information, though, much of which stems from feeling of fear and insecurity. For example, Ginny decides not to tell anyone about her suspicions of Riddle's diary until near the end of the book. Also, when Professor Dumbledore asks Harry point-blank if Harry has anything he needs to tell Professor Dumbledore, Harry says no, even though he's been hearing a murderous voice in the walls. In fact, the whole plot of Chamber of Secrets depends on different degrees of manipulation, lies by omission, and outright fibs. Without all of this misinformation, Book 2 wouldn't have the atmosphere of mutual fear and suspicion that distinguishes it from the lighter-hearted Book 1.
By going down into the Chamber of Secrets, Harry proves that his principles include loyalty to his friends and courage in the face of terrible odds. By contrast, Lucius Malfoy, the book's most prominent pureblood, slips an eleven-year-old girl, Ginny Weasley, an enchanted diary with a piece of Voldemort's soul in it. He wants Ginny to become possessed and start killing Muggle-borns. That would discredit all of Mr. Weasley's efforts to pass the Muggle Protection Act. So Lucius Malfoy talks a good game about not "being a disgrace to the name of wizard" (4.176), but he's willing to stoop to attacking the daughter of a political rival to get his way. Where's the honor in that?
Hogwarts is a magical boarding school. The boarding school is a classic setting for British kid's fiction, but that's not the only reason why it's a good setting for the Harry Potter novels. As J.K. Rowling points out, "Of course it's been done before [... but] Hogwarts HAS to be a boarding school – half the important stuff happens at night! Then there's the security. Having a child of my own reinforces my belief that children above all want security, and that's what Hogwarts offers Harry" (source). Hogwarts is a magical setting that gives Harry comfort, but that also provides an interesting and potentially dangerous backdrop for his adventures. At the same time, it's a school. It's supposed to be a place where Harry is learning new things – not just book knowledge, but also personal discipline and wizarding culture. What kind of an education is Hogwarts providing Harry? How does his education differ from or resemble a Muggle school's?
Perseverance is a good thing: the ability to keep going when things seems difficult or even impossible. In Chamber of Secrets, Ginny's long-time resistance to Voldemort and Harry's willingness to keep living his life at Hogwarts, even though everyone suspects him of being Heir of Slytherin, both show perseverance. But we're not just using perseverance in the proper, positive sense. There are plenty of people in the Harry Potter novels who willingly endure hardship to achieve Dark, evil goals. For example, what are Tom Riddle's months of patiently gaining control over Ginny Weasley but proof of his perseverance? How about the twelve years that the Dursleys spend trying to repress the magic right out of Harry? They keep trying, even though it's not going to work. We're often told to keep trying, keep working hard and we'll succeed. We also need to consider, though, whether the goals we're working towards are worth our perseverance.