Harry Potter Re-read: Goblet of Fire

When I first read Goblet of Fire, I had to stop and read the graveyard part twice.  You see, I’d read the first three books about a month before GoF was released, and they’d all followed a nice formula where things were wrapped up and people were never really in mortal peril.  The basilisk in Chamber of Secrets was exciting, sure, but I wasn’t ever terribly worried that Harry wasn’t going to walk away from it.  But Goblet…Goblet changed everything.

It’s very interesting, really.  The beginning reads like the first three, very much still a children’s book, but by the end, it’s started to transform into a much darker series.  While Harry wins the tournament, it is not really his achievement.  It brings no joy.  And the reader is left with a sense of despair and disbelief.

Goblet is the first place where a lot of the darker elements that are staples of the later books make their appearance.  We learn about the Dark Mark and the Death Eaters.  We learn some of the horrors that went down during Voldemort’s first reign of terror.  We see the Unforgivable Curses in action – both in the classroom and outside of it.  (Poor Harry will experience – and live through – all three before we’re done here.)  We learn that Snape was, definitively, on Voldemort’s side and we begin to wonder, truly, why it is that Dumbledore trusted him.

Goblet is the second time in the series where the first chapter is in someone other than Harry’s point of view.  (The first being the beginning of Sorcerer’s Stone on Privet Drive.  We won’t see it again until Half-Blood Prince.)  The books are written in limited third, meaning that, while we are not in Harry’s head as much as we would be in first person, the thoughts are his thoughts and the actions are all his actions.  We don’t know what anyone else is thinking.  We don’t know what Harry doesn’t know (in most cases).  Very effective, really.

And her use of Promises for foreshadowing is fantastic.  In the first Quidditch World Cup scene, Harry and the Weasleys (new wizard rock band?) use a portkey to arrive.  The portkey’s promise is fulfilled within the scene, yet it’s foreshadowing for later in the book.  They stay in a wizard tent; promise fulfilled by the time they leave, yet it sets the basis for the camping they will later do in Deathly Hallows.

And I would argue that when the Dark Mark is summoned, it is the first truly frightening scene in the entire series.  You see the fear that Voldemort inspired, you see the cruelty of the Death Eaters.  It’s not something as basic as someone trying to kill you, but it’s more primal, more subtly evil and wrong.

Goblet lays the foundation for the remainder of the series.  It introduces the pensieve and hints at why Harry must return to the Dursleys each summer.  It teaches us that we can’t wrap everything up in a single book, that there are things to fear, and that we are going to lose people – possibly people we care about.  Cedric was only the first.

(A couple of things that I found interesting – just more examples of JK Rowling’s excellent foreshadowing ability: Harry forgets to use a bezoar in his antidote in Potions class.  Dumbledore hints at the existence of the Room of Requirement in a conversation with Karkaroff.  And Fleur looks at Bill in an appraising manner.)

Questions:

1. Hermoine spends most of the book trying to convince everyone for the need for House-Elf rights.  Is it wrong to try and force freedom on the House Elves?

2. The main goal of the Triwizard Tournament is to build bridges between the different wizarding schools.  Do you think it succeeded in this goal?

3. Hagrid tries to resign after it is revealed that he’s half-giant.  How does this tie into the larger theme of prejudice and “blood” in the series?

4. Harry feels a lot of guilt for Cedric’s death.  Do you think he is justified in this?

5. The end of Goblet is really the start of something bigger.  Dumbledore warns that they will need to be united, yet there are divisions in his own school.  What could he have done differently?

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