Much as I try, I don’t remember how I heard of Harry Potter series. What I do remember is that once I heard, I did a bit of research to begin at the start and got “Philosopher’s Stone”. Once I finished that, it took me no more than 2 days to go and myself all 3 later parts (this was way before “Order of the Phoenix” was released).
And then, I dived headlong into Harry Potter run, with “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”.
Harry Potter, back on summer holidays from Hogwarts, is very unhappy with his worst-muggles-ever relatives, since he got a glimpse of the magical world. Fortunately, they don’t know that Harry (being underage, less than 17 years) is not supposed to do magic outside school, and their ignorance makes Harry’s life much better, since the are afraid he might turn them into toads or something.
All this changes when a house-elf named Dobby drops in on Harry to “warn” him not to go back to Hogwarts as bad things are going to happen there. When Harry does not listen to him, he messes with the dessert a bit, causing Harry to get a warning from Ministry of Magic for performing magic. Locked in his room by his uncle and aunt, Harry is rescued by Ron, Fred and George Weasleys in a flying car, and spends rest of summer happily in their home. But, while going to Hogwarts, he finds that he and Ron cannot get onto platform to get to school train, and use the flying car to land in Hogwarts.
The school soon turns chaotic, when the caretaker’s cat is found “petrified” with a message mentioning “Chamber of Secrets is opened”. And that starts a spate of petrifications in the school. A misadventure with a snake leads everybody to believe that Harry is the “heir of Slytherin” who is doing all this, while the trio’s suspicions lie on Draco Malfoy. A Polyjuice Potion cures them of the mistake, while a diary of former head boy Tom Riddle tells Harry that he caught Hagrid releasing some kind of monster during his school days (which led to Hagrid’s expulsion from school).
Everybody else believes this too, and Hagrid is taken to prison till the problem clears and Dumbledore is sacked by the school governors. This leaves only Harry and Ron to clear the name of Hagrid (Hermione is petrified too, but provides important help even then) by making a sortie to the forbidden forest, and when Ron’s little sister Ginny is taken to the Chamber by the monster, they have to contend with the inept Defense against Dark Arts teacher and save them. This leads to a climax where Harry faces a powerful wizard, and beats him again.
Apart from being a “whodunit”, the book does address some important issues. One of the most important ones is apartheid and discrimination. The founder of Slytherin house believed that muugle-born children with magical powers should not be allowed in the school, a thought even subscribed to by many wizards in this time, mainly Lord Voldemort and his followers, including Draco Malfoy and his father. This makes them treat muggleborns like Hermione very badly, and Weasleys who like muggles are treated even worse. But the message at the end of the book is that what you are born as does not limit your abilities.
And similarly, other message of the book is, to paraphrase Dumbledore, it is your choices, not your abilities which make you. We learn that when Lord Voldemort tried and failed to kill Harry, he transferred some part of him (or at least some of his powers) to Harry. This makes him a lot like Lord Voldemort, like his power, his urge to break rules, and his ability to speak parseltongue (in short, he can talk to snakes, and they listen). This marks him to be in Slytherin house, but he choses to be in Gryffindor (or rather, he chooses not to use his powers for his personal gain, or essentially, does not go the Lord Voldemort way).
Harry also gets a taste of his celebrity status in wizarding world. A new student is his die-hard fan, following him everywhere, while Ginny has a huge crush on him. But he does not let this go to his head (in fact, it is hindrance for him) like the celebrity DADA teacher Gildroy Lockhart. One of the most obnoxious characters in the series, Lockhart rides on the wave of his celebrity status, which makes his downfall even harder at the end.
And then, there’s loyalty to your friends. Harry and Ron try to clear Hagrid’s name by following his clue and going in forbidden forest by following spiders, even though Ron is almost mortally afraid of spiders. And in the last battle, it is Harry’s loyalty to Dumbledore which provides him with help at critical time, which helps him in saving Ginny, and indeed saving the whole school.
Quote of The Day:
It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
– Albus Dumbledore