February brings Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to the 2011 Harry Potter challenge sponsored by both Daemon’s Books and Daemon’s Movies. Once again, I opted not to write a review or summary about the story; those abound already. My children were all set to tell me their favorite parts after last month, but that didn’t hold any real appeal to me either (not that I didn’t want to hear from them, I just didn’t want to write about that this month). Then, as we revisited our old friend Harry Potter, it fell into place. We’ve recently discussed bravery and its true meaning. What greater thing to talk about concerning The Chamber of Secrets that what it means to be brave – to be a Gyffindor?
Chamber of Secrets is filled with fear. In fact, the first time I read the book, I was reluctant to read a large section to my then three year old. I thought he was a bit young to deal with the concept of prejudice. Prejudice is merely fear which has been covered up and turned into anger. I was wrong. Three year olds are perfectly capable of dealing with prejudice. They already do.
Our society is terribly prejudiced against children. It’s amazing the amount of prejudice many parents display against their own children. A fictional book gives a perfect way to help children work through some of that in way which the parents, frightened of not having control, of not having things go their way, of learning a new way of communication, etc. find non-threatening; it’s just a children’s book, after all.
Time and again the characters of the book are asked to examine their fears. The bogart exercise is a prime example. Students were asked to face their fears, examine what aspect of their greatest fears actually terrified them, and look at the fear in a new light. The unknown is often a source of fear. When we learn more about something, we often find that it isn’t nearly as scary as we once thought.
In the story, Harry questions what it means to be in Gryffindor and whether he actually belongs. Gryffindor house, one of the four houses at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, values courage, bravery, loyalty, nerve and chivalry. In the end, Dumbledore points out to Harry that he was a true Gryffindor by pulling the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat. The sword is merely a symbol. His true acts of courage, including that of putting a sock in Tom Riddle’s diary, deem him to be a member of Gryffindor house.
Being brave does not mean that you aren’t afraid. In fact, in my opinion, fear is a definitive, necessitated factor in bravery. Bravery means acting or doing something in spite of one’s fear.