Goblet of Fire, Chapters 20-21: I Will Take What is Mine with Firebolts and Angst

Growing up, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was easily my favorite book of the series (until the release of the seventh), and for a while, quite possibly my favorite book of all time.  I must have read and reread the thing at least ten times so far, not including this read-through, so it most definitely has a very, very special place in my heart.

But, honestly, I couldn’t begin to tell you why I liked it so much then, and continue to prefer it over most of the others to this day.  What was it about this book in particular that struck such a chord with my young imagination?  Hell if I know.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my best friend at the time gave me a copy of it for Christmas the year it came out (2000; we were in sixth grade and completely obsessed to the point where we had Harry Potter code names for all our friends and our classes), or perhaps it’s something altogether different.  But most of my memories of middle school involve me sitting off in some corner reading Goblet of Fire if I wasn’t supposed to be reading something else for school.

It’s interesting picking it up now, especially since I haven’t touched it in several years, but considering I easily managed to polish off over 300 pages in one sitting last night, it’s clear to me that my attachment to this book hasn’t really waned over time.  Reading this book right now is akin to sitting down to lunch with an old friend you haven’t seen in years, and picking up right where you left off.  I’m a little amazed at how comforting it is; in contrast to the first three, which felt like I was rediscovering them, sometimes even reading them through for the first time, Goblet of Fire truly feels like coming home.  Which is so cheesy, I know, but I just moved across the country and have been feeling a little homesick, so this has honestly been a great help.

Ahem.  Anyway.

CHAPTER 20: THE FIRST TASK

First of all, poor Harry.  Poor kid.

Throughout this read-through I’ve been trying really hard to remember just how old these guys are, regardless of how much older they tend to act in certain situations.  And Harry and his friends are fourteen. Fourteen!  Holy shit!  Thinking back to when I was fourteen, probably the most difficult thing I had to deal with was an emotionally abusive homelife, and my crush being horribly confusing so I wasn’t ever sure if he liked me because we were too busy being snarky at each other before class.  You know, standard fourteen year old stuff.  (Though now that I think about it, he was probably kinda into me.  Whatever.)

Harry’s got a lot of that, sure, only he’s got to get past a fucking dragon as well, and half of his support system’s completely ditched him.

I love the way Rowling writes teenagers.  Harry’s growing up, he’s dealing with a lot, he’s got hormones and emotions and drama and school and a madman trying to murder him besides.  And a lot of that comes out in the way Rowling writes him, in the way he thinks, how he reacts to things.  Kid’s got a temper on him, he’s a little bit spiteful, he’s confused, he’s stubborn.  He’s noticing girls more.  It’s glorious, really, because all of these little things really speak to the fact that, yeah, he’s really only fourteen and just starting to figure stuff out.  He really feels less like a character out of a book and more like my little brother, which isn’t really much of a help to my homesickness issue, but I digress.

It comes out in the others as well, what with Ron’s sudden interest in pretty girls (mainly Fleur) and his jealousy of Harry’s unwanted fame, and Hermione’s seemingly heightened emotional state and some small self-consciousness over her appearance.  Bottom line is they all feel real, and the poor things are just so stressed out over so much, I just want to give them all a hug and tell them it’ll be all right.

I also really like the way they all feel… fallible.  Harry isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and we get a reminder of that through his difficulty with Summoning Charms, and the way he acts when it comes to Ron, particularly in the past few chapters.

Honestly, I think my favorite moment in this chapter is when Ron and Harry finally man up and make up and Hermione just bursts into tears and calls them stupid before running off.  Because they are, they’re so dumb.  Of course they need each other, of course they miss each other, but they’re both too stubborn to admit it, and it literally takes Harry taking on a dragon for Ron to admit that he was wrong.  I love that, because it’s so delightfully in character for the both of them to be so completely fucking idiotic about their emotions.  And it’s so true to life.  People are complex, they have reasons (no matter how stupid) for acting and reacting the way they do, they take time to sort through how they’re feeling and why and to finally come to terms with that and apologize if they were in the wrong.  It’s a delicate balance, and yeah, the fact that Ron and Harry aren’t speaking to each other for weeks is really painful even to read about, but that’s because their relationship and this particular falling out between them is just so convincing and good, especially considering it’s really their first big fight, which in and of itself is a big milestone for any relationship, but ultimately they come out smarter and stronger for it.

I really feel for Hermione here, too, because she’s caught in the crossfire of all of this dumb boy drama, and coming from someone who’s just recently been stuck in the middle of two warring friends, it sucks horribly.  This moment makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, though, because they make amends and everything is okay.  Honestly if I just had to witness my best friend get past a dragon and then make up with my other best friend, I’d break down into tears too.  (Which almost happened this past Friday, only instead of a dragon it was a punch to the face in the middle of the street.  Nothing a bit of violence can’t solve, right?)

On top of all that emotional/real life relevancy stuff, I really enjoy this chapter because, well, dragons.  Enough said.  Dragons are awesome, and I love that we get to see some real adult ones in contrast to the bitty baby we got a chance to encounter along with Harry in Sorcerer’s Stone.  Everybody loves them some dragons, and if you don’t agree, well then you obviously don’t like fun.

I was just in the middle of typing something about how the one thing I missed about this book was the Quidditch aspect, but then I realized I was a silly fool because we got an awesome chapter about the Quidditch World Cup, as we’ve already covered.  So, I’m dumb.  But I do miss Harry flying, and this chapter pretty much satisfies that for me, which is nice.  But instead of flying against another team, it’s a fucking dragon!  Hell yeah!  I love that Harry draws this comparison during the task, it’s so like him, isn’t it.

I’m so impressed with how far Rowling has come in writing action and the way she conveys suspense and such.  I can feel Harry’s tension mounting throughout this chapter, the way time seemingly speeds up with no regard to Harry’s mental or emotional preparedness, the long wait to finally come face to face with his first task as Champion.  It’s all very well-done, and when I look back to that first Quidditch chapter in Sorcerer’s Stone, I’m astounded.  That’s growth, ladies and gents.  And I love that we can see Rowling grow as a writer alongside watching Harry grow as a person.  It’s lovely.  Absolutely lovely.  It might just be one of my favorite things about this series.  But then again, that’s a rather long list, cuz most things about Harry Potter are my favorite.

CHAPTER 21: THE HOUSE-ELF LIBERATION FRONT

I really like this chapter?

It’s a nice little interlude, and it’s just…. It’s nice.  Not a lot happens, but not a lot needs to happen, especially considering the action packed chapter that precedes it.  It’s a quiet little moment where the status quo has been re-established, and I really enjoy these sorts of quiet little moment chapters, because we get to revel in it, even if it’s only for a little while.  It feeds into that whole comfort thing I was talking about earlier.  And these kids deserve a break, anyway.

But I also like that this doesn’t feel like filler at all.  Because of the reintroduction of Dobby and Winky, it gives us some things to think about, as well as offering up a reminder that Hermione is a kick-ass human being for getting involved in all this social justice shit and sticking to her guns about it.

This goes back to what I was talking about earlier concerning convincing teenage protagonists, but I love that Hermione gets into the fair treatment of House Elves.  And she’s genuinely so passionate about it, and it’s… such a teenage thing.  She’s growing up, she’s learning, she’s coming from a completely different background than most of her peers, she’s challenging and questioning tradition and demanding equality and fair treatment for these creatures she’s only just recently been exposed to, and I just adore it.  No one takes her seriously, but does she care?  Of course not, she’s Hermione, and she’ll get shit done and fuck shit up her own way, regardless of what others might think or say.  It’s quite wonderful, really.  (Obviously, my crush on Hermione Granger, Strong Female Character has not and most likely never will diminish even a little bit.)

I also really love the return of Dobby.  Here he is in the Hogwarts kitchens, holding court, living the life of a free elf, and nothing can stop him, nothing can bring him down.  It’s wonderful, and incredibly reminiscent of Hermione’s attitude towards the issue as well, which I like, because I enjoy parallels in fiction.  Aside from that, though, it draws attention to the fact that Rowling is so good at weaving in and reintroducing characters from previous books, slowly expanding on her universe and making everything that much more cohesive and connected as time goes on, as will only become more apparent in the books to come.  It’s great.

I also like all the intrigue in this book as a whole, as the hints from Winky about Bagman’s questionable character in this chapter remind me.  I think that’s one of the reasons why I like this book so much?  There’s so much happening under the surface, and it’s slow, but it’s deliberate, and it’s subtle, and there’s so much intrigue and whispers and rumors and no one is quite sure of the truth, and gosh oh gosh I just love it so much.  It’s much more mature than any of the other books thus far; although each one steadily gets darker, it’s not just the content, but also the sheer quantity of things you have to keep track of.  If there’s one thing I love about these books, it’s that they don’t treat you like you’re stupid; you have to juggle so much, really, but the way Rowling weaves her narrative and tells her story, it seems almost effortless.  And I think this book especially speaks to that, and she only gets more adept at it as the series goes on.

I’m just gonna stop this here before it gets completely masturbatory and I start repeating myself.

GOSH, I JUST REALLY LOVE THIS BOOK A LOT OKAY, IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.

(Also, I’m terribly proud of the title for this post. Sue me.)

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6 thoughts on “Goblet of Fire, Chapters 20-21: I Will Take What is Mine with Firebolts and Angst

  1. Kevin O'Shea says:

    One of my favorite parts of these books is how clearly fallible Harry is. He’s not the magically awesome protagonist, he’s a flawed teenager who isn’t really ready for everything he’s thrown into. And he’s still heroic because of it, because that’s just who he is.

    Is he petty? Hell yeah. Does he have trouble learning things when he’s distracted? Definitely. Does he acknowledge that other people are way better at this than he is? Damn straight he does, and it comes even more to the forefront during the DA next book – he wants Hermione to teach because he knows she’s better than him, but the point is that he’s the one that’s actually DONE it. And that’s the point here, too; Hermione can do a perfect Summoning Charm, but she’s not the one up against the dragon.

    The jealousy and infighting and everything, this is exactly how three teenage friends -are-, and I love it.

    • Ashley says:

      This this this. Which is why it makes me RAGEY RAGE ANGRY when people call him a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu). But then again, nobody ever uses that term right anyway.

  2. Ashley says:

    Will probably have more thoughts later, but for now, I just want to leave this here because, clearly, it’s Dobby’s theme song:

  3. Gretchen Alice says:

    I love these chapters, for all of the reasons you listed, but I’ve gotta be honest. It’s not my favorite version of the dragon task. My FAVORITE version of the dragon task is the one from A Very Potter Musical for “Hey Dragon.” To me, the song perfectly sums up all of Harry’s feelings from the book, how he didn’t ask for any of this. (“I’m really not that special–the boy who lived is only flesh and bone.” .. “I’m living out the glory of a stupid children’s story that I had nothing to do with.”) Gah. So good.

  4. Gretchen Alice says:

    Oh my gosh, I did not realize until this re-read that Hagrid was trying to say “Bonsoir” when he says “Bong-sewer” to Mme. Maxine. I always thought that was the weirdest thing for him to say, like maybe it was a weird British-ism I didn’t get? I feel so much better now.

  5. Jennie says:

    This book has always been one of my favorites, too, and I’m also not really sure why. Just…so much happens and the trio is growing and the stakes are raised and, I don’t know, it’s like the last book where they can pretend things aren’t horribly fucked up because no one has died. Yet.

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