[DWJ] Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

slwones at gmail.com slwones at gmail.com
Wed Jul 18 09:35:09 EDT 2007


For me, Goblet of Fire is the weakest book in the series.  It irritated me
for three reasons. One, the whole house elves situation which has been well
discussed on this list. Two, the falling out between Harry and Ron, mostly
because it felt too much like the falling out between Ron and Hermione in
book 3. But the most irritating thing for me was the enormous plot hole - I
cannot buy the use of the Triwizard Cup as a portkey to get Harry to
Voldemort. It's just such a stupid scheme for this genius dark wizard to
have come up with. It would have been very easy for one of the other
competitors to win, Cedric essentially did and could easily have just taken
the cup on his own. Why not just have Crouch in Mad-eye disguise hand Harry
a portkey disguised as a tea cup sometime when he's in his office alone? I
never felt like that was adequately explained/justified. Oh, I also felt it
was unfair for the rest of the students not to have any Quidditch just for
three tirwizard events that only two Hogwarts students got to participate
in.  I can understand Rowling being sick of writing about Quidditch at that
point (and I was a bit sick of reading about Q. too), but I couldn't help
feeling that as a student of Hogwarts I would have been ticked off.

That said, I did enjoy the movie version, the action worked very well on
film. Especially the dragons!

Suzanne

On 7/17/07, Melissa Proffitt <Melissa at proffitt.com> wrote:
>
> (All page references come from the first Scholastic trade paperback
> printing, September 2002.)
>
> I've just shipped my oldest off to camp for four days and am relishing the
> freedom this gives me, as I don't have to nag her into finishing her
> coursework.  The other children are entertaining themselves with Guitar
> Hero
> in the front room; that's right, I'm the kind of mother who pacifies her
> children with the electronic babysitter.  Someday they'll no doubt need
> therapy to stop them calling the television "Mommy."
>
> It does leave me with plenty of time to read and avoid housework, my two
> main occupations, but even so I ended up finishing _Harry Potter and the
> Goblet of Fire_ around midnight last night.  That's the way it goes
> sometimes.  I wanted to figure out if 734 pages was too long or just
> right,
> but all I learned is that I'm not a good judge of such things.  I stayed
> interested the whole time, which for me is enough evidence that it wasn't
> too long, but I'm pretty sure it could have been a more streamlined book
> and
> still been interesting.  Either way, it's a non-answer.
>
> Strangely, I took a lot fewer notes and marked fewer passages than with
> the
> previous books.  That's partly because the same complaints and praises I
> had
> for the first three books continue into the fourth, but it's also due to
> the
> changing nature of the series.  At this point, the series story arc has
> taken center stage, and even the Goblet of Fire story, which appears to be
> about Harry, is really part of the manipulations going on behind the
> scenes
> with regard to Voldemort's return--which happens in this book.  Knowing
> that
> this is a seven-book series, I'm tempted to break it down into three books
> of "preparing for Voldemort's return" and three books of "dealing with
> Voldemort's return," with _Goblet of Fire_ bridging the two.  Based on
> subject material, age of protagonist, and increasing plot complexity (not
> to
> mention swear words and that hilarious wizard who likes a nice breeze
> around
> his privates), I'm also going to say that this is the book where J.K.
> Rowling leaves behind the juvenile novel for the young adult.  Or should,
> anyway.  Her writing style still isn't as complex as I'd want for a YA
> novel, and I noticed several places where she either over-explained things
> or told the reader what conclusions to draw--something that would work for
> a
> juvenile audience.  I wish I had a better sense of what she's actually
> capable of--whether she's deliberately trying to dumb her intrinsic style
> down, or if she's just not very good.
>
> Except--okay, my very first "note," which was more of a mental comment,
> was
> in the first chapter, and it was "Holy freaking crap, who did she get to
> write THIS part?!?"  Because that first chapter, "The Riddle House," is
> stylistically very nice, very evocative, and sounds nothing like the rest
> of
> the novel.  It's closer in style to that first chapter of _Philosopher's
> Stone_, which was an excellent absurdist piece for all its
> inappropriateness
> in the book.  So I wonder if Rowling has what it takes to be a novelist
> after all.  Maybe that bland, nothing-special style I've been commenting
> on
> is the mark of someone who wasn't actually meant to write for children.
> I'll
> have to think about this.
>
> I'm very fond of the Triwizard Tournament, though I have my
> doubts--again--about who exactly thinks this is such a spiffy idea for
> kids
> to take part in, especially since several of the adult wizards seem to
> take
> its dangers very seriously, even more so where Harry is involved.  The
> attraction is very like that of interhouse competition, or Quidditch,
> which
> is also potentially deadly; though I can easily picture real-world teens
> doing these things without fear and without brains, I wonder why the
> adults
> are encouraging it.  (In this case, there's Dark wizardry manipulating
> everything, which explains a lot, but since you don't know that until the
> end, the question still arises.)  Anyway.  There's just something about a
> competition of skill that grabs my interest, and for some reason I was
> particularly tense about the dragons this time around.  Even though I knew
> how it all turned out.  :)
>
> But what I was most interested in was the question of the house-elves.  In
> _Chamber of Secrets_, Dobby is the first and only house-elf we encounter,
> and therefore his situation appears to be the norm; his free will is
> subordinated to his master's orders, and he clearly wants out.  But in
> _Goblet of Fire_ things are very different, and suddenly there are two
> different perspectives on the house-elf situation.  According to almost
> everyone, house-elves are made to be bound to a master, they enjoy
> serving,
> and they're miserable when they're free; Dobby is actually said to be
> abnormal (more specifically, a "weirdo").  From Hermione's perspective,
> Dobby is the normal one, and the house-elves only enjoy serving because
> they
> don't know anything else.  Since this setup is uncomfortably like black
> slavery, I think the reader's instinct is to side with Hermione.  But no
> one
> else does. She's told over and over again that she's wrong about the
> house-elves, and Hagrid in particular makes his point clear:  "'It'd be
> doin' 'em an unkindness, Hermione....It's in their nature ter look after
> humans, that's what they like, see?  Yeh'd be makin' 'em unhappy ter take
> away their work, an' insultin' 'em if yeh tried ter pay 'em'" (p. 265).
>
> So the question is, who's right--Hermione or Hagrid?  To us, it's
> Hermione,
> because we're all familiar with the arguments used to justify slavery, and
> most of them are the same: they're suited to slavery, they couldn't cope
> with freedom, it's how they're made.
>
> But this isn't our world.  Unfortunately for us, it's Hagrid who's right.
>
> We've already seen a number of magical creatures throughout the series,
> some
> of them more or less mindless, others as sapient or (like centaurs) more
> sapient than humans.  And the one thing most of them have in common is a
> magical nature that cannot be changed and for which they can't be blamed.
> Veela captivate men; dementors suck souls; that's just what they do.  The
> idea that house-elves might truly need to be in service doesn't have to be
> a
> human justification, and based on the actions of every house-elf but
> Dobby,
> it seems to be true.  It also fits with the lore about brownies, who serve
> the same purpose, have very strict rules governing their
> behavior--remember
> how in "The Elves and the Shoemaker" the little guys left for good when
> they
> were given clothes?--and seem to have no other existence outside their
> interaction with humans.  What *is* a false human justification is when
> their masters mistreat them on the grounds that the elves "belong" to
> them,
> and Sirius Black confirms this when he tells Harry, Ron, and Hermione that
> Bartemius Crouch's mistreatment of his house-elf Winky says a great deal
> about him: "'If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at
> how
> he treats his inferiors, not his equals'" (p. 525).  Even so, Black, who
> is
> certainly one of the more open-minded characters in this series, would, I
> think, be quick to champion the house-elves if they were in slavery.
> Instead, he identifies Winky not only as being in a subordinate position,
> but as being that way by nature.
>
> However, these points are all obscured by the way in which they are
> presented.  Experienced readers know how to pick up on hints that a stated
> reality is at odds with the truth, and this pushes all the wrong buttons.
> For starters, you have the establishment (the entire wizarding world)
> defending the status quo against a single person who is an outsider and
> therefore has a fresh perspective (which in literature usually translates
> to
> "correct perspective").  Second and more damning are the comments cited
> above about how elves *like* serving others and aren't fit for anything
> else.  Few modern readers fail to see in this a parallel to past rhetoric
> justifying slavery--rhetoric we're predisposed to react negatively to,
> even
> though in this case it's probably true.  Despite my feeling that Rowling
> was
> simply adapting faerie lore for her own world, I can't say she handled it
> terribly well.  The situation is just too biased against the new meaning
> she
> tried to impose.
>
> Finally, I have to applaud my favorite (not really) character, Cornelius
> Fudge, for continuing to be a self-righteous pig-headed smarmy twerp.  One
> of my favorite plot tensions is when you have the Good, the Bad, and the
>
> Nominally-Good-But-Might-As-Well-Be-Bad-Because-They-Interfere-With-The-Good
> characters or character groups.  The potential for interesting conflict
> increases greatly when the good guys have to fight on two fronts.  Of
> course, as long as Fudge is part of the third group, I will continue to
> have
> the intense desire to smack the crap out of him, but that could be a
> feature
> rather than a bug.
>
> I've left out so much--there's the disadvantage of doing what's
> essentially
> a survey of an extremely long book.  The whole dancing around (ha ha) of
> Hermione and Ron at the Yule Ball.  The stuff I wish I could have, like
> the
> wizard tents or a Foe Glass, assuming I could tune it to display the
> approach of children wanting to bug me about something.  The stuff I have
> questions about, like the Pensieve--does Dumbledore *forget* the stuff he
> puts in there, or is he just copy-and-pasting?  Oh, and of course the
> question about how Barty Crouch Jr. could keep up his disguise if it takes
> a
> month to brew and has to be drunk every hour?  Which I figured out:
>
> 1.  The basic potion has to brew for a month, but you don't add the
> ingredient specific to the person you want to change to until the end.  So
> Crouch could have prepared the potion before they even knew who they were
> going to kidnap.
>
> 2.  When Hermione did it in _Chamber of Secrets_, she dipped up three
> separate cupfuls for Harry, Ron, and herself.  Therefore, a single brewing
> makes more than an hour's worth of potion.  The actual amount isn't said,
> but it can be assumed from _Goblet of Fire_ that it's enough to cover at
> least the month you'd need to make more.  Also, there's nothing to
> indicate
> that the recipe can't be doubled or tripled as necessary, nor how much
> Crouch made in the first place.
>
> 3.  Mad-Eye/Crouch drank the potion more frequently than every hour; he
> was
> always swigging at his flask.
>
> 4.  He had the real Mad-Eye locked up near at hand for a constant supply
> of
> his hair for the potion.  I'd assumed you could treat an entire brewing
> with
> only a little bit of the person's, um, essence, but either way, he was
> covered.
>
> 5.  Given that nobody really wanted to spend time in Mad-Eye's room,
> Crouch
> had plenty of privacy to brew potions all day long if he wanted.
>
> Anyway, there you go.
>
> Next up:  _Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix_.  So many people
> have
> complained about how very "dark" this book is; is this really true, or is
> it
> a function of people's expectations not keeping pace with the
> transformation
> into a YA series?  Or, as is more likely, are most of the people I talk to
> prone to interpret books with any negative content as "dark"?  (And I'm
> not
> even seeing the movie until Friday.  Bah.)
>
> Melissa Proffitt
>
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