The Dursleys’ treatment of Harry never really registered with me as a child. Or, at least, it didn’t until the end of the series. I do not really remember how much it bothered me, or if I noticed it, before my re-read this week of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
For now, I am only going to focus on what the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets brought to light. In the Philosopher’s Stone, we notice that Harry spent 10 years sleeping in the cupboard beneath the stairs. We see that the Dursleys force him to always do things like make breakfast “Bring me my coffee, boy!”, and that they punish him with no food or being shut in his cupboard for even the tiniest things that go wrong.
In the Chamber of Secrets, Vernon pays to have bars installed on Harry’s bedroom window. Let me say that again: he had bars put on Harry’s window. He fitted Harry’s bedroom door with a cat flap so they could push in a small amount of food to him. They only let him use the bathroom once in the morning, and once in the evening. Otherwise? The Dursleys locked this young boy in his room around the clock.
As I said, this never really registered with me as a child. Now, however, I can see it as clear as day. The Dursleys were abusive to young Harry. The reasons why they do this, the fact that Harry is a wizard and that Dumbledore placed him with the family (technically, forcing them to keep him), are completely unfounded. They are prejudiced against wizards…scared frankly, and jealous in Petunia’s case, no matter how deep-rooted. The fact that Harry is a wizard is not something that he can help as it is in his blood. Besides, being a wizard in this story really is not something to be ashamed of in the first place. Furthermore, the fact that Dumbledore dropped him off at the Dursleys is not something that he could control. Not only was he a year old and had no say in the decision, but the fact that his parents died wasn’t his fault anyways, no matter what the prophecy might say (but getting into that is another story altogether).
I know the reason why Dumbledore decided that Harry would stay with the Dursleys. I do not, however, think that it justifies keeping him there after it is clear the Dursleys are abusing him. I know that there was protection involved as long as he stayed there, but what he had to go through…it is astounding to me, when I think about it now.
Moving on, there is one other thing that I would like to address in this post. I suppose you could say it is on a slightly lighter note than what I just wrote about. I remember when I was younger I would constantly re-read these book—I frequently told people that I read the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets over 50 times each. Thinking about it, that specific number is probably an exaggeration, but my point that I want to make will still stand. Each time that I re-read these books, regardless of which one, I would find something new in it. Sometimes, when it was later in the series and I would re-read earlier novels, I would put together “foreshadowing” moments. More often, however, I found some meaning in the books based on a new experience that I either had had recently, or was currently going through.
In the case of this particular reading of the Chamber of Secrets, I found something to relate to early on in the books. It came in the first chapter, actually:
“Harry left through the back door. It was a brilliant, sunny day. He crossed the lawn, slumped down on the garden bench and sang under his breath, ‘Happy birthday to me … happy birthday to me …’ No cards, no presents, and he would be spending the evening pretending not to exist. He gazed miserably into the hedge. He had never felt so lonely. More than anything else at Hogwarts, more than even playing Quidditch, Harry missed his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They, however, didn’t seem to be missing him at all. Neither of them had written to him all summer, even though Ron had said he was going to ask Harry to come and stay.”
A few of you may recall that I moved to a new city a few months ago where I do not know anyone. Well, I know the people at my job and I have met some when I play board games on some Sundays, but none of my friends live here and my only regular forms of communication with them are either Facebook, or text messaging. Phone calls generally do not happen, though I wish they would. Actually, that is another thing. Why do people mostly text nowadays, rather than call? It might be a chain reaction, since I know that I text because that is what everyone else tends to do. But I would love it if someone called so I could actually hear their voice.
Anyways, my point here is that it kind of feels like I am Harry after he goes back to the Dursleys for the summer. For the most part, I am fine with being the person who texts first—it is a habit at this point, but as long as it doesn’t feel like I am annoying or putting in all the effort it is perfectly okay. There are, however, people that I have not spoken to in months. Not for any particular reason on my part…I would like to believe that Dobby is stopping the letters from coming to me, but he is not real, is he?
Though I have only read two books so far, I can clearly see that there are things that I can still get out of reading Harry Potter as an adult. One element in the Chamber of Secrets connects back to a thought I wrote about in my previous post. I am still trying to figure out which house I’d belong in—as you know, I have been sorted into all four of them, which makes it hard to know for sure where I truly belong. However, at the end of this book, Dumbledore says to Harry “It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Knowing that, I can consider the Sorting Hat’s recommendation, but that my choice is the deciding factor. I do not know yet, of course, but I want to see this one through by the end of this project.