Friday, August 16, 2013

Collected Chamber of Secrets Thoughts

O Harry..harry, harry, harry, Harry.. What were you thinking, Harry? Just because Ron is trying to imitate Fred and George doesn't mean you should go along..don't you know yet that Ron is Always Wrong??

I'm with Jenna on the car trip to Hogwarts. It doesn't really impress me. But in all fairness, I'm pretty sure I was full of dumb ideas myself when I was 12, weren't we all? And when things didn't go As They Should, I know my mind also tended to leap over all the practical, expedient options to the wildest, most dramatic solution. Still..not exactly a great start to the school year for Harry & Co. 

This year's missed sorting is a frustrating reminder that Rowling's house system is not at all a division based on personality and talent, but on virtue. The Good Guys go to good houses, the bad kids all end up in Slytherin.  Families don't all end up with the same temperament and abilities, obviously, so the fact that Gryffindor is welcoming it's 1 millionth Weasley seems like more of an easy way to drive it home to the reader that the Weasleys are Good People, Magically Competent. Not Evil. If I were the sorting hat...this is how the Weasley's would really break down:
Mr. Weasley would be in Hufflepuff, because, well, he doesn't have much backbone
Mrs. Weasley leans toward Slytherin, because she's obviously a talented manipulator, well meaning, but determined to get her way with other people.
Bill is sort of a wild card, I can see him anywhere, but I'm leaning toward Ravenclaw (he's the smart Weasley) or Slytherin, because anyone working everyday with Goblins has to have some serious cunning. And, he's the hot Weasley: hot = dangerous, and dangerous = Slytherin, right!
Charlie is pure Gryffindor. Brave, daring, not a lot of sense.. adrenaline junkie..
Percy is an easy Slytherin, didn't you see what he was reading at the bookstore?
Fred & George really are kind of interchangeable, aren't they? And both of them fit Gryffindor perfectly.
Ron could go Hufflepuff or Slytherin. He striving enough for Slytherin, but also sort of lacking in distinction. But sometimes he's Hufflepuff?
Ginny leans toward Gryffindor (willful and disobedient) or Slytherin (wait 'til you see her dating)

..but J.K. Rowling didn't consult me, obviously, and her books probably wouldn't have sold as well if I'd gotten my hands on them.

But all that sort of goes along with Hagrid's comment about the Malfoy's having 'bad blood'. Poor Draco never had a chance in the eyes of the world..though, you do sort of get a sense that Rowling gave him a bit of one (not so much Crabbe and Goyle), which is nice to see. And Hagrid's attitude doesn't bother me as much coming from the gamekeeper than it does coming from the sorting hat, the Weasley's, and the 'good' wizards in general.

I found myself liking the Weasleys as a family more this time around, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley as a couple less. They make me uncomfortable with the whole screaming, pushy, intrusive, over-bearing wife and mother with her mild, hen-pecked husband, who's always in trouble for something. In my mind, I always imagine Mr. Weasley at the office, head in hands: "If I'd known, Perkins! If I'd only known 30 years ago, I've have run off with that pretty secretary down the hall! She, at least, was calm!" and maybe he wouldn't mean it, but Perkins would always think less of Molly anyway.


  1. Wow, your assessment of the Weasleys is WAY different from mine.

    First of all, I always found the car episode entirely believeable; two high-strung 12-year-olds get in a difficulty, which suddenly turns from "inexplicable problem" to "excuse to do something cool that we'd otherwise never be allowed to do!" The book itself acknowledges that, yes, it was really stupid and they had all sorts of other options.

    I don't think you're being fair to Ron; he's not always wrong, he's just impulsive. Sometimes it's drives him to do the right thing (defending Hermione from Malfoy's slur, though it backfires, was a gallant gesture), sometimes...not. Personally, I love Ron and think he gets a raw deal from most fans.

    Likewise, I don't agree with your portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley; I love them as a couple. I think you'll find that Mr. Weasley only really gets 'hen-pecked' when it comes to his (semi-illegal) hobby. When it comes to serious matters, he and Molly are much closer to being equals, or even leaning towards his having the final word (note their argument early in Book 3). Mrs. Weasley is certainly a forceful character (as anyone who raises six boys would have to be), but I don't think she's overbearing or manipulative. And, especially in later books, she clearly loves and is proud of her husband, despite her exasperation with his hobbies.

    1. I didn't say it wasn't 'believable' .. just not so impressive..but I'm 30, you know, and not male, so you can't really expect me to get all excited about fast driving and stolen cars..even when they fly.

      Ron is Always Wrong in the sense that Rowling uses him as the typical side-kick. The dumb one who's good ideas backfire and who's primary purpose in the books is to back up Harry, fall short of Harry, and generally make Harry look good. He gets a raw deal from his creator, it's not his fault..

      The Weasley's marriage is one that would make me miserable. Look at their interactions, his tendency to hide his decisions when they'll displease her, their entire relationship reminds me of the guys I used to work with in PA..the one's who asked me why I wasn't around 20 years ago..before they married their wives, who sighed long, mournful sighs when the compared the disappointments of married life, and who compared their own half-hidden hobbies and the ear-full of complaints they always got from 'the old ball and chain' about them.

    2. I don't think the car ride is supposed to impress; I think it's just meant as a semi-comedic hijink by a pair of thoughtless twelve-year olds which get their school-year off to a bad start. Like I say, the book notes in crushing detail just how stupid the whole idea was.

      I think the Ron picture is a little more complex than you make out, especially as the series goes on. Yeah, he's often wrong or falls short, but I think he's repeated failures are an integral part of his character; that he's the kind of person whom everything seems to go wrong for, and this leads to increased frustration as time goes on. I don't think he really is meant to make Harry look good by comparrison, since most of the time Harry's just as bad as he is (or worse); neither one of them paused to think the car thing through, for instance, and both constantly get out-matured by Hermione.

      Maybe I cut Ron a little more slack than most, but I like him and I sympathize with him. I'll try to point out the bits of superior Ronness as we go along to show you what I mean.

  2. Regarding the Sorting: I don't think 'virtue' is really fair here, where 'good people' go to Gryfindor and 'bad/unsatisfactory people' go to the other houses. Yes, Slytherin has a disproportionate number of bad guys, and that's a problem, but Hufflepuff gets at least a couple perfectly decent characters, and Raveclaw has one of the sweetest and most delightful characters in the whole series.

    I do agree that sometimes it feels much more like Rowling sorted people more because she wanted them in a particular house rather than that they really exemplified those traits, but I don't think it's as bad as you make out. Yeah, Percy, but I'm willing to suppose that his overwhelming ambition may have developed later, and besides SPOILER SPOILER when SPOILER, so SPOILER (those who read the whole series know what I'm talking about).

  3. Haha!!! I love your re-Sorting of the Weasleys! Except... I really don't see Molly as a Slytherin. I don't see her as a talented manipulator; she's more bull-headed, prone to shouting to get her way, and her husband and sons--however much they might hate undergoing the full brunt of her fury--all cheerily defy her the moment her back is turned. I'd put her in Gryffindor. Tough, talented, forceful, protective, but not strikingly cunning or clever or ambitious.

    But Bill? Could totally be anything. (The "smart" Weasley AND the "hot/dangerous" one? HAHAHA. It's funny, but it's true.) And Percy definitely should've been in Slytherin, and Mr. Weasley would've made a great Hufflepuff, and Ginny could've gone either way between Slytherin and Gryffindor, and... yeah. Nicely done. :)

    I think Rowling TRIED, in the latter, less caricature-and-archetype-based half of her series, to show that the Bad/Good Slytherin/Gryffindor matchup wasn't as clear-cut as all that. Zacharias Smith was a Hufflepuff, and I think Marietta Edgecomb is presumed to be Ravenclaw. True, theirs is sort of ordinary nastiness. But Hagrid was certainly wrong to say that there wasn't a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin, since SPOILER SPOILER was a Gryffindor in direct, if slavish, Voldemort service. But I admit that's not anything like a reasonably equal division of virtue and vice between Houses.

    Your last paragraph packs a lot of punch. It's imaginable. I don't like to imagine it; casual comments or jokes that suggest a desire for infidelity or slander a spouse are so horrifying... but it is imaginable. I couldn't handle a relationship so full of conflict, myself. I don't take Molly and Arthur too seriously--I've known a few couples for whom quarreling seemed to be just part of the happily ever after--but I suppose the danger is that someone will.

    1. I'll also admit that there was no good character-based reason whatsoever for SPOILER SPOILER to be in Gryffindor. Hufflepuff, maybe. But the only reason I can think of for the Sorting Hat putting him with the lions is to make it make some degree of sense for him to be friends with SPOILER, SPOILER, and SPOILER. Not that there was a lot of sense in that, either. Rowling should've at least made him talented. But we can talk about all that in book 3....

    2. You're so right about Molly..she is sort of bullish and not so Gryffindor it is..

      I'm so glad you liked it, I had a great time working it out! Bill is my favorite Weasley, can you tell ;)

      I feel bad for Mr. Weasley..he reminds me of men I used to know (see reply to BTanaka)..I've know couples as conflict-ridden, but I've never known them to not see it as a problem themselves too, whether or not they're willing to deal with it, and I guess since the Weasleys are supposed to be sort of the happy family of the series...

      I'll also admit that there was no good character-based reason whatsoever for SPOILER SPOILER to be in Gryffindor. Hufflepuff, maybe. But the only reason I can think of for the Sorting Hat putting him with the lions is to make it make some degree of sense for him to be friends with SPOILER, SPOILER, and SPOILER. Not that there was a lot of sense in that, either. Rowling should've at least made him talented. But we can talk about all that in book 3....

      !!!! No good reason at all!! don't see why they were friends, and how a talentless loser like Spoiler could ever manage to SPOIL at all..even with friends like the SPOILERS..Book 3 will be fun!

    3. He COULD have been in one of the other houses if Rowling made any attempt to make inter-House friendships the norm. But they're not, so into the lion's den he goes.

      I can actually genuinely buy at least a heavily headcanon-bolstered account of SPOILER's relationship with the SPOILERERS, given what we learn about their personalities and preferred activities, but that's a tale for another time, I guess -- and there was never any call for our little buddy to be in Gryffindor in the first place, I completely agree (except in the sense that Everyone Important Is In Gryffindor, of course).

  4. I think the thing about the Sorting is that it looks for qualities - latent or explicit - that the kids have at the moment, not necessarily the ones that will be most prominent later on. SPOILER may have had latent Gryffindorish qualities which he chose not to cultivate, thus becoming what he was. Likewise, SPOILER apparently had Slytherinish qualities, but he later evinced much more Gryffindorish ones, prompting the comment that they "sort too early."

    And remember that choice plays a role, so possibly SPOILER really, really wanted to be a Gryffindor and the Hat decided that was good enough.

  5. I'm almost 32 and I love the car. *shrug* It's SUPER EXCITING and then COLD and BORING and then WHY DIDN'T WE BRING ANY WATER and then OW. I mean, sure, they should have waited for Arthur and Molly to get back from the platform and then owled Dumbledore or something, but whatever. CARS CAN FLY.

    My feelings about the Weasleys are becoming more complicated by the day. Today I'm inclined to defend them. On the writing level, they're a cliche, but they're successful enough as characters that my first instinct is to step in front of you, M., and try to hold off your judgement with my hands, because You Don't Know Their Life. I don't like the Screamy/Meek cliche (though, like Jenna, I dislike casual-spouse-hating-as-comedy a lot more, and it occurs to me that Rowling could have had Arthur go down this road and didn't, and I'm REALLY GLAD she didn't, thought that is kind of a low bar) but I like the Weasleys anyway, enough that the particular cliches they are made of don't seem to me to define them (even though, as characters in a book, they don't actually exist outside of the words in the book).

    So I can wish that Arthur and Molly were less of a sitcom, while also wanting to defend Arthur and Molly against unwarranted speculation by outsiders on the state of their marriage. If that makes sense.

    I really like the idea of Ginny as a Slytherin, though. It makes her instantly 200% more interesting than she is in the actual text.