Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Analysis

  • The Triwizard Cup

    The Triwizard Cup kind of represents the whole tournament itself: it could be a good thing that symbolizes and encourages "magical cooperation," but instead it turns out to be deadly.

    What does that mean? Well, when Cedric and Harry are finally at the very end of the third and final task, and the Cup is in sight. Harry and Cedric, being good and honorable guys, do the whole "No, you take it…no, you take it!" dance until Harry concludes that they should both take it:

    CEDRIC: Go on, take it. You saved me, take it!

    HARRY: Together. 

    Unfortunately, it turns out the Cup is actually a Portkey, and it takes them straight (do not pass go, do not collect $200) to Voldemort. Who then kills Cedric.

    So, there you have it: both the tournament itself and the trophy that was its prize both turned out to be deadly, awful, and no good at all. But hey: it sure is shiny.

  • The Maze

    The maze definitely strikes us as strangely familiar. In it, teen contestants are forced to confront dark forces and unexpected dangers that even a battle-hardened adult would shrink from. As a result of that whole sitch, we really get to see what they're made of: their bravery, strength, abilities, etc.

    Huh. Isn't that basically like Harry's life for the last four years? And his friends' lives?

    They've been dealing with heavy issues, and so they've had to be wise and courageous in ways that are pretty unusual for most adults…not to mention teens. Just as in the maze, how they respond to these challenges tells us a lot about what kind of people they are.

    The maze definitely tests the participants' morals and mettle. For example, it briefly warps Harry's sense of right and wrong, to the point where he almost doesn't help Cedric out when he's captured:

    CEDRIC: You know, for a moment there, I thought you were going to let it get me.

    HARRY: For a moment, so did I.

    The fact that Harry and Cedric can shake off the maze's influence really speaks volumes about their strength and character. Bottom line: the maze really encapsulates a lot of the challenges Harry and others have been facing, and draws out their exceptional qualities.

  • The Dark Mark/Death Eaters

    The death eaters are really not subtle, as far as metaphors go. They are all about emphasizing the importance of having "pure blood" (wizarding, that is), and they march around with masks on. Even the most casual scholars of U.S. history can recognize a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, wethinks. (And not for nothing, the Klan actually calls some members wizards.)

    And then, of course, there's the Dark Mark. We think Igor Karkaroff says it best when he's talking to Snape:

    KARKAROFF: It's a sign, Severus. You know what it means as well as I.

    He's talking about the Dark Mark tattoo on his arm flaring up, but the sentiment goes for us as well: we know very well what the Dark Mark is meant to represent. It's a branding that indicates allegiance to Voldemort's ideas about wizardly blood purity. You know, like a swastika.

    Again, not super subtle, if we know our history. The Death Eaters and their symbols are definitely callbacks to some of the most horrific examples of racism we've seen in human history.

    Let's hope wizards are better at solving those problems than humans have been, right?

  • Hero's Journey

    Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

    About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

    Ordinary World

    Well, we're not sure Harry's been in the "ordinary world" since he first learned that he was a secret wizard, but let's leave that aside. When the movie begins, he's clearly been spending his summer holidays with the Weasleys, which seems peaceful enough.

    Call To Adventure

    However, Harry has also been having nightmares featuring arch nemesis Voldemort, Wormtail (that's the dude who helped Voldemort find and kill his parents), and some other guy he doesn't recognize. He can't tell if the dream is somehow real or, you know, just a dream.

    And to pile on to all that: when they attend the Quidditch World Cup, Harry and his friends run into some Death Eaters (i.e., Voldemort's followers), and someone sends up the Dark Mark. What's that? Basically a sign of solidarity with the Dark Lord and his kind. So, not a good thing.

    Oh, and then on top of all that: Harry's name gets entered in a super dangerous tournament intended only for older students. He's not old enough to compete, so he didn't enter his name for consideration…but someone else (someone who really knows their magic) got around the magically imposed age restriction and made sure he was selected to play.

    Refusal Of The Call

    Harry's dumbfounded when he is selected to compete in the Triwizard Tournament. Hermione basically has to force him to snap out of his initial shock, stand up, and join the other competitors at the front of the room, when Dumbledore announces who has been chosen.

    Meeting The Mentor

    A few people help Harry out in the course of the Triwizard Tournament, including Hagrid (who lets Harry know he'll be fighting dragons in the first task), Cedric (who tips Harry off on how to solve the clue to the second task), and Neville (who points him toward Gillyweed to help him survive the second task).

    He probably gets the most actually mentoring from Professor Moody, though, who tries to give him a leg up here and there.

    Of course, Moody is behind a lot more of Harry's successes in the tournament, but we (and Harry) don't find that out until much later…let's not get ahead of ourselves.

    Crossing The Threshold

    Even though no one is really that happy that Harry's competing (including Harry), the rules are apparently set in stone: the magic selector cup (a.k.a. the Goblet of Fire) picked him, and so he has to go ahead with it. So, Harry resigns himself to the fact that he'll be battling older wizards with lots more skills. Groan.

    Tests, Allies, Enemies

    You're probably getting the picture that the odds were kind of stacked against Harry from the get go, but don't worry: he actually does pretty well. Extremely well, actually.

    He manages to defeat the most difficult dragon in the first task, and then is so brave in the second that he ends up being awarded second place despite technically finishing last. Not bad for the youngest/least skilled wizard in the bunch, eh?

    Approach To The Inmost Cave

    Because he's been such a whiz in the previous tasks, Harry gets to start the third and final challenge (a scary maze) first along with Cedric. One competitor gets eliminated pretty quickly, and another gets bewitched (the maze likes to "change" people, you see). So, Harry and Cedric are the only ones left at the end, with the Triwizard Cup in sight…


    Harry and Cedric start going for the cup, but Cedric gets caught up in some of the maze's aggressive greenery. Like, it's so aggressive that it seems like it might kill Cedric. Despite the fact that Harry is about the nicest and most honest guy in the world, the maze is working its magic on him, and he considers just leaving Cedric there.

    He snaps out of it pretty quickly, though, and frees Cedric.

    Reward (Seizing The Sword)

    When he and Cedric reach the cup, Cedric's going to let Harry have the victory alone, but Harry won't hear if it (since Cedric prevented one of the other competitors from hurting Harry earlier). So, they grab the cup at the same time. Victory!

    The Road Back

    Well, er, not so fast. When Cedric and Harry grab the cup, it transports them into a spooky graveyard where Wormtail and the semi-disembodied Lord Voldemort are waiting. Yeah—our hero is in some serious trouble.

    Lord V. wants to be made whole again, and apparently that involves stealing some of Harry's blood and mixing it with a few other ingredients to abracadabra a body back.

    To that end, Lord Voldemort has Wormtail immobilize Harry and cut a huge gash in his warm. Cedric is of no use to Voldemort, though, so he orders Wormtail to kill the boy immediately. Unfortunately, Wormtail is extremely obedient. #RIPCedric

    We don't get much time to mourn Cedric, though, because Voldemort's little science project works. And you now what that means: he's baaack.


    Well, Voldemort has just been resurrected, but this is supposed to be about Harry…and he is in some serious trouble once Voldemort gets his body back.

    Voldemort intends to kill Harry, but he wants to do it in a duel. Harry manages to fight off the killing curse Voldemort aims at him and barely escapes. On his way out of the graveyard, he grabs Cedric's body to bring back to Hogwarts.

    Return With The Elixir

    Well, "elixir" isn't exactly the word we'd use, but he does come back with the very useful knowledge that Voldemort is back in business. Sure, it's not exactly welcome news, but it's important that everyone recognize this fact. Whether they do or not…well, you'll have to wait and see in the next film.

  • Setting

    Hogwarts (Of Course)

    Hogwarts is a place where you feel like pretty much anything can happen…because, well, it probably can. To offer just a few examples, you might find:

    • Ghosts roaming the halls (that's, like, in every HP installment), including one who just frequents the bathrooms (that would be Moaning Myrtle)
    • A magical goblet that spits out the names of the students who have been selected to compete in the Triwizard Tournament
    • A face in the fireplace (that's how Sirius appears to Harry so they can "meet" about strange happenings at Hogwarts)
    • A magical staircase that leads to the headmaster's office
    • A magical dish called a "Pensieve" that can hold your old thoughts/memories

    And seriously, that's just a sample. This is a story of witches and wizards, so we're not totally surprised at how many kooky things are about in Hogwarts but…yeah, maybe the bathroom ghost was a little unexpected.

    In any case, bottom line: Hogwarts is where all the "magic" happens. Like, literally.

  • Point of View

    Objective…But Not Totally Omniscient

    All these movies are called Harry Potter and [Insert something weird or mysterious], so it's only right that we stick primarily with Harry's perspective. Most of what we know or see, we get by following him around—and we don't usually know more than he does.

    There are exceptions, of course: such as when we see the face of the guy who sends up the Dark Mark at the Quidditch World Cup (whereas Harry and his friends don't), and we also see Karkaroff sneak into the room with the Goblet of Fire unbeknownst to, well, everyone else. Mostly, though, we're limited to the world according to Harry, which definitely helps keep the mystery and suspense factors high.

  • Genre

    Fantasy, Adventure

    Let's see: we've got wizards, objects that can teleport people to various locations when held, a bowl that can hold memories and thoughts, tents that look like regular tents from the outside but are palatial on the inside, merpeople…yeah, that sounds like the stuff of fantasy and adventure to us.

    Of course, there is a dose of drama in there, what with all the dying and danger and all, but really, this is mostly a fantasy/adventure kind of joint.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Well, Harry Potter is the main character, and the Goblet of Fire selects him to compete in the Triwizard Tournament (after some wizardly tampering). So, we don't need magic (or Hermione's help) to figure out the title.

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    Here's the good news: Harry, Hermione, and Ron end the movie with their friendships stronger than ever and looking forward to summer.

    And for the bad news? Well, Hermione says it best in the film's final moments:

    HERMIONE: Everything's going to change now, isn't it?

    Yes, Hermione, it is. Cedric's dead, Voldemort's back, and these "kids" are suddenly right in the middle of some seriously adult and very scary problems. The end kind of tries to be upbeat, but we know there are some tough times ahead.

  • Shock Rating


    The Harry Potter franchise had gotten by with a PG rating up to this point, but no more—we're in firmly PG-13 territory now, friends.

    Apparently, when kids start dying, that seriously ups the scare factor (and, as a result, your MPAA rating). Also, there's a decent amount of focus on sadism, evil, and sociopaths (Exhibit A: Voldemort, Exhibit B: Barty Crouch…you get the picture).

    So, definitely prepare yourself for a more adult Harry Potter experience, and give your five-year old cousin a few years more of Frozen before jumping into to The Goblet of Fire.