Tuesday, September 1, 2015

harry potter book club: the goblet of fire


Every year when September 1st rolls around, I feel a bit of a twinge that I am actually not magical in any way, shape or form. I am not on my way to Hogwarts. It's a tough thing to deal with every year.

Despite that, my Hufflepuff pride is strong and I'm ready to discuss The Goblet of Fire with you fine folks. So without any further ado, let's get started!'

Disclaimer: Goblet of Fire is the worst movie. It's awful. Truly. Especially Dumbledore. Please read this book. 

An Expanding World
Obviously, this book is much larger than the previous 3. I think the size of these later books can sometimes contribute to the hesitancy that some people feel when deciding whether or not to read the HP series. In my opinion, the more pages the better. I want the story to keep going and going. But I also think that in this book's case, the extra length almost serves as a line being drawn in the sand. Suddenly this becomes a more grown-up fiction. Larger page count, darker content, a war on the horizon. What did you think of the jump in page-length? Was it satisfying, or could some of the story have been trimmed down?

Goblet of Fire sets itself apart from the very beginning. Where the first three began in the home of the Dursleys, the silly selfish pigheaded home of the Dursleys, this one begins in the darkness of Tom Riddle Sr.'s parents' home. It's not in Harry's viewpoint, so it's immediately in sharp contrast to the often lighthearted summertime beginnings of previous books. It's incredibly unnerving and very confusing, since you don't quite understand its significance until much later. It features a very creepy Voldemort, a very pathetic Wormtail, and a poor murdered groundskeeper. It's a very dark segment. Especially when milking Nagini is mentioned. Blech.

Overall, Rowling is expanding her world, just as Harry's world is expanding in the story itself. He is becoming more aware of the international wizarding community, the Ministry of Magic, and the adult wizarding world as a whole. He's even meeting more Weasleys! New terms are introduced to Harry in this book, such as Death Eater and Auror, that have great significance to him moving forward. He's no longer a new wizard; he's in the thick of it, and he belongs there.

LOL this gets me every time.

Trusting in What You Know
Honestly, the adolescent bickering of the trio in books 4 and 5 has always really annoyed me. I just want to shake them. Snap out of it! This time around I tried to just allow myself to chuckle at it. Especially the dynamic between Ron and Harry. It's actually a fairly accurate depiction of friendship. Despite knowing someone incredibly well, we can still be waylaid by jealousy, or hurt feelings, or some other vulnerability. Harry's name coming out of the Goblet of Fire starts a whole new slew of drama for everyone.

If Ron had honestly sat down to think about it, he would have taken Harry at his word, as Hermione had. But this isn't the first time we've seen Ron sulk and/or use the silent treatment when he's angry with someone. In the last book, he was shutting Hermione out. We see him struggling with his identity in this book in a very real way. He hates being overshadowed by everyone in his life, and he hates being poor. His reaction to Harry being in the spotlight again was rooted in his own insecurities.

If Harry had taken Ron's bad attitude with a better perspective and listened to Hermione's counsel about why Ron was behaving that way, he could have responded with understanding and resolved it in a jiffy. But pride, jealousy, selfishness, etc. etc. Moral of the story, always listen to Hermione. Unless she's talking about S.P.E.W. again.

Who the Deuce is Dumbledore
This is very important, oh you Harry Potter movie-watchers. Dumbledore is not an angry man. In fact, when Harry's name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore is mostly silent. Unreadable. In the room where the champions gather afterwards, he calmly asks Harry if he put his name in. Does he shove Harry against a wall, spittle flying as he screams at him like a maniac? No. NO. He allows the rest of the room to argue, discuss, bicker. His voice is barely present as things are resolved and decided. This one scene is really indicative of his role in the entire book. We see him taking a step back from the plot. He's a thinking man. A twinkling-eyes man. Even in his encounters with wretches like Rita Skeeter, he is polite, smiling, bowing. He offers night caps and smooths things over like a good pair of Spanx.

Overall, Dumbledore seems to be much more perplexed and burdened in this book than ever before. For once, I'm doubting my theory that he always knows everything. It seems like he's truly hoodwinked here. Near the end we discover that he's been trying to figure things out, pondering over his Pensieve and piecing things together. He's definitely still been keeping watch over Harry, staying in contact with Sirius and biding his time, trying to solve the mysteries. But he was fooled by Mad-Eye, and was too late to stop the graveyard events. He knew the storm was coming, but didn't know how to act against it.

Even still, it's a great Dumbledore book. He unveils small hints about his theory on the connection between Harry and Voldemort - what does the connection between them, and the pain in Harry's scar, really mean? He also demonstrates a ferocity and power that we haven't yet seen from him.

At that moment, Harry fully understood for the first time why people said Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort had ever feared. The look upon Dumbledore's face as he stared down at the unconscious form of Mad-Eye Moody was more terrible than Harry could have ever imagined. 
There was no benign smile upon Dumbledore's face, no twinkle in the eyes behind the spectacles. There was cold fury in every line of the ancient face; a sense of power radiated from Dumbledore as though he were giving off burning heat.

I wanted to jump out of my chair and cheer for him, both here and later when he confronts Cornelius Fudge for being the biggest imbecile the wizarding world has ever seen. There is so much about Dumbledore's role in the events of this series that we can only guess at, but one of the most incredible bits that Rowling includes toward the end of this book is the "gleam of triumph" that Harry spots in Dumbledore's eyes once Harry reveals that Voldemort used his blood to resurrect himself. The answer to that bizarre, possibly imagined gleam of triumph isn't given until the very end of book 7. That's incredible.

I've had to stop looking at this because it makes me laugh SO HARD.

The Wonderful Weasleys
I think one of the tragedies of only watching the movies (other than DID YAH PUT YAH NAME IN DA GOBLET OF FIYAH?!) is that you miss out on some of the most wonderful characters of the series. The Weasley family is known and loved by anyone who has ever seen or read this story, but only the book-lovers truly know them. The movies cut out Charlie entirely (for shame), and so much of the Weasley character nuances are completely lost in the films. There are 7 Weasley children, so even the books can't quite spend enough time on each of them. But everything that's there is fantastic.

The Burrow is a brilliant place to be at the beginning of this book, when the entire Weasley family is together for the first time with Harry. I've always loved Bill. And can we just talk about the part where the champions are able to gather with their families before the final task, and Harry doesn't even bother going into the room because he has no family, and Cedric calls him in and says "they're waiting for you!" and Bill and Mrs. Weasley are standing there waiting for him? All of the feels.

I think Harry has always kind of wanted to help the Weasleys financially. He's always felt pangs of guilt and awkwardness when money issues are brought up, because he has so much and they have so little. While he has never quite known how to repay them for everything they've done for him, monetarily or otherwise, his decision to give the twins his winnings to start their joke shop is the best.

I also think it's the best that Dumbledore knows he can count on the Weasleys in the turbulent days ahead.

The Madness of Mad-Eye
Mad-Eye's betrayal has always been a very confusing twist for me, because I feel like I know Mad-Eye. I liked and respected him throughout the book, despite his quirks. He's this gritty, smart, attentive presence throughout the book, and when you discover that you never actually met the real Mad-Eye, it's very disorienting. His kindness to Neville, his ferret trick on Malfoy, his overall involvement in Harry's well-being. It's all tainted. I have no idea how I feel about the real Mad-Eye, because I don't know that guy. It's weird, feeling like I actually miss a psycho Death Eater.

Even knowing about his betrayal ahead of time, I still wasn't struck by much foreshadowing for it. When did you first suspect there might be something off-kilter about Mad-Eye? Or did you suspect him at all? I thought he was an incredibly well-disguised villain. His true accomplishment was the fact that he was able to hide his identity from Dumbledore himself. Dumbledore confided in him, called on him, and never seemed to guess that anything was amiss with the ex-Auror. That's somewhat comforting, because it suggests that the Moody impostor did his homework, and that his impersonation wasn't so far-off from the real thing - so perhaps we know the real Mad-Eye after all, in a roundabout way.

This kind of deception really permeates deeply. We see magical things that were previously used for simple mischief, such as the Invisibility Cloak and the Marauder's Map, used for murder and treachery. So many of Harry's well-intentioned actions turn around to devastate him. He's going to need a lot of therapy.

Hufflepuff Glory
Guys, I was really overwhelmed by the death of Cedric, and by pretty much the entire ending of the book. It just hit me really hard. I don't remember if I cried the first time I read it, but I was especially attentive to Cedric's character and to the small things about him that I maybe hadn't ever noticed before. One of the things that stood out to me this time around was when they were in the maze together, and Cedric decides he's going to give the victory to Harry. Harry is pretty shocked (and annoyed) by this. "He was walking away from the sort of glory Hufflepuff House hadn't had in centuries." But that's kind of what sets Hufflepuff apart, isn't it? It's not about the glory. It's about the loyalty.

Both Cedric and Harry hesitated and refused to take the Triwizard Cup alone, both urging the other to take it. They both recognized that their victory was only possible because of the help they had given each other, so they decided to take it together - as a team. Cedric's loyalty and fairness, and Harry's heart for others, is what ultimately led Cedric directly to his death...which I think is the saddest thing of all.

Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.

The Overlooked
Neville Longbottom. I can't help but take a second to fully appreciate dear Neville. I adore the fact that Ginny goes to the ball with Neville, even though we all know she would have died to go with Harry. Neville is constantly under-appreciated and overlooked. He's the one that had the answer to gillyweed the entire time, but no one had bothered to ask him. His parents were tortured to the point of insanity by Death Eaters, but none of his friends had ever even thought to ask about them or why he was raised by his grandmother.

Like Harry, he has a past of similar horror and sorrow - arguably even worse - but it's something he has always silently lived with.

Things I Love
Percy is a total git, but I really enjoy the glimpse of humanity we see in him when he rushes out into the water, pale and panicked, to help Ron after the second task. He's not all bad, despite his best efforts to be obnoxious.

Fleur was totally checking out Bill across the room. She digs the long hair.

Everything about Sirius. I love he and Harry's relationship. We see Sirius taking on a much more authoritative, albeit restless and unorthodox, role in Harry's life. My favorite scene is when Harry is telling Dumbledore and Sirius what happened in the graveyard - when Harry tells them about the echoes of his parents coming out of Voldemort's wand, he looks around and sees that Sirius has his face buried in his hands.

Ron and Hermione! Oh, the tension. Harry didn't say anything. He liked being back on speaking terms with Ron too much to speak his mind right now -- but he somehow thought that Hermione had gotten the point much better than Ron had. 

The phoenix feather in Harry's wand is from Fawkes! I love that bird.

Mrs. Weasley set the potion down on the bedside cabinet, bent down, and put her arms around Harry. He had no memory of ever being hugged like this, as though by a mother. The full weight of everything he had seen that night seemed to fall in upon him as Mrs. Weasley held him to her. 


Extra Questions:

  1. Why do you think the Death Eaters chose the World Cup to come out of hiding for a bit of muggle torture? Why would they risk such a public display, when the Dark Mark still terrifies them so much?
  2. Harry has been labeled a "great wizard" from the time he was a baby...does he deserve that title? Is he acting of his own free will or is his destiny pretty much set out for him, and manipulated around him, by others? Is he actually becoming a great wizard, or is he just lucky?
  3. We see again and again that Harry is attentive and empathetic to others (he makes sure the other hostages are safe in the lake, he tells Cedric about the dragons, etc.) - what do you think about his ignorance of Neville's past, and his failure to ask Neville to help him in any of his tasks?
  4. Does anyone else think that Snape owes Harry an apology for threatening him and accusing him of stealing from his office? Because he DEFINITELY owes one to Hermione for saying "I see no difference" after Draco hexes her teeth. Jerk.

I find it incredibly fitting that the ending chapter for this book is called The Beginning. It's the beginning of a lot of things. The characters are teenagers now. There are passions building, relationships complexifying. There has been murder, dark magic, the rise of an old evil. Of course, Harry has already dealt with sorrow and pain and danger - but witnessing Cedric's death is a real horror for him in a way that the death of his parents never was. It changes him.

"The Beginning" serves as a giant cliffhanger. We know now why Harry has to be sent to the Dursleys every summer - there's some kind of ancient magic invoked there by Dumbledore that protects him as long as he's there. But everything else (Hagrid's summer assignment with Madame Maxime, Snape's mysterious task, why Dumbledore trusts Snape so much, Hermione's decision to kidnap Rita Skeeter in a jar, how the Ministry will react/ignore Voldemort's rise to power, etc.) is left in the air. There's a hovering anticipation that will lead us directly into The Order of the Phoenix. 

THANK YOU for reading along! Share your thoughts below, but be careful of spoilers if it's your first time reading through this series, because there are bound to be a few. If you have read them/seen them before, please try to only respond regarding plot points from this book and avoid series-wide spoilers. Thanks!

Come back here on October 30th to celebrate Molly Weasley's birthday, and to discuss Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix! Go forth and read, my friends. And good luck - it's my least favorite book.

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