My new year started off with a bang - not unlike the ones heard during a game of Exploding Snap in the Gryffindor common room - when I decided to make it one of my 2018 resolutions to reread every book in the Harry Potter series. Since then, I've not only had traveled back in time through Harry's first three years, but have also celebrated a Potter Party movie marathon of the first two... and now, with another reread of the fourth novel, it was time for another!
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published on July 8th, 2000, and the movie was released on November 18, 2005. In terms of how I reacted to these occurrences in real time, I was growing conscious of not on how much I enjoyed the books and movies, but also, how significant the publications and premieres of these books and movies were to wider pop culture. I began to recognize that it wasn't just me loving them and thinking they were cool, and others in my peer group agreeing with me, but instead, huge release parties held in bookstores that were shown on the news, and repeatedly finding Emma Watson's face on the magazines my friends eagerly read.
I think this might be a bit of an unpopular opinion, but the fourth installment in the series was never really my favorite. I liked Harry's regular school schedule, I liked the action that revolved around his friends and classes and school activities... but between the World Cup and the Triwizard Tournament and the rather shocking ending, it just felt like an aberration.
I wasn't really looking forward to reading this one again... which might explain why, out of all of the books so far, this one took the longest. But while others took weeks, this one required quite a bit more forceful reading, with the end of it necessitating set deadlines and daily page counts in order to get the book completed.
Over two months later, I finally finished it!
Almost all of the Harry Potter books so far have resulted in some kind of personal perspective shift while reading it, whether it was having greater consideration for how well it lays out the plots of further novels, or how it allowed its characters to develop and grow up in a realistic way. For Goblet of Fire, I didn't have many moments of epiphany or sudden enthrallment like I did in those other rereads.
I think that was primarily a result of the issues I already outlined - the interruption in the regularly scheduled programming - but also that the book itself is a turning point in the series: [spoiler alert] by the end of the novel, Voldemort, the Darkest Wizard of the Age, a being so utterly reviled and feared that people didn't dare speak his name for over a decade after he'd vanished, whose destruction of both wizarding and muggle lives plays directly into the foundation of the tragic legacy of Harry Potter himself, has returned from the edge of oblivion, regained his past power and form, as well as a large mass of dedicated and murderous followers, all ready to do more damage.
Needless to say, it gets real dark from here on out.
Maybe it's the news these days, maybe it's the fact I already know where the story goes from here, and it goes real heavy, but it's like I couldn't read the novel slow enough, as if it would somehow prevent the rise of Voldemort himself.
I could have used that advice from Hagrid: "What's coming will come, and we'll meet it when it does." I couldn't put off the end of this book, more than I could give up on this resolution.
Some other thoughts I had:
- Rita Skeeter. How - how? - was this woman allowed near children? Obviously she eventually gets banned from the Hogwarts grounds, but why was she permitted in the first place? The Daily Prophet is set up as the one viable, objective wizarding newspaper, but she's not only running puff pieces, but they're not even true. Like, I have issues with the NYT Opinion section sometimes, but this is on another level.
- This book really did me wrong with the fractured friendships of Harry and Ron, then Hermione and Ron. One of the linchpins to the enduring legacy of the series is the solidity of the Golden Trio, and how I'm pretty sure we all wish we had friends like that growing up. And yet, a lot of this book's plot engages negative emotions between the three!
- I had significant issues with the crying/ overly emotionally responsive nature of both Mrs. Weasley and Hermione in this one, and I do mean specifically. Hermione grows overwhelmed when the boys make up after their fight, walking off in a teary huff, and Mrs. Weasley is so worked up by what she reads from Skeeter, that it results in deliberate unkindness towards Hermione (which Harry has to intervene in, in order to quell). Both of these female characters have otherwise been held up as pinnacles of objective rationality for one, and unrestrained caring for the other, and yet it feels like those attributes were somewhat abandoned at points, in favor of stereotypes.
- For the first time, I really recognized the hypocrisy in the incorporation of inter-species wizarding relations: the house-elves are seen as weak and to be pitied, while giants are obviously to be feared (as is evidenced by the uproar surrounding Hagrid's employment at the school as a half-giant), and even Voldemort's ties to the dementors are established as inherently negative (which also begs the question, why are they in charge of patrolling Azkaban?). All of these conflicting relationships and classifications grow especially frustrating when it comes to considering Fleur as being part veela, as well. And what differentiates those kinds of creatures, from things like the mermaids in the Lake, or the leprechauns that repped for Ireland at the Cup?
- Just further emphasis that literally none of these teachers should be employed by this school... or any school, for that matter. This is especially in reference, like I've mentioned before, to Severus Snape, who warranted severe reprimand - if not termination - at numerous places in this novel. (But also, see: Filch, who possesses no traits that would make him an effective caretaker, and he can't even get the ghosts to listen to him; Binns, who is not only dead, but also a demonstratedly bad teacher, as he can't get anyone to concentrate in class; Trelawney, who repeatedly upsets students and essentially accepts all of Harry and Ron's fabricated homework as acceptible).
- This was the first book so far to actually make me cry. Believe it or not, I thought it would have come sooner, as a result of nostalgia, but in actuality, [spoiler alert] the loss of Cedric, and the acquaintance of Harry with the fractured remains of his parents, made me weepy.
“Don't talk to me."
"Because I want to fix that in my memory for ever. Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret...”
“Time will not slow down when something unpleasant lies ahead.”
“Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.”
the party! (part two)
As you might remember from my second send-up to the iconic movie franchise, my brother and I threw a "Potter Party" for two, so that we could enjoy rewatching Sorceror's Stone and Chamber of Secrets complete with a feast fit for the Great Hall.
Well, we did that again for our second Potter Party, complete with herb-roasted chicken and potatoes, buttered peas and maple carrots, and, naturally, Flying Cauldron Butterbeer. For dessert, we had a chocolate frog - leftover from our excursion to Universal Studios this time last year - as well as chocolate-dipped pretzel wands, and a homemade treacle tart (because it's Harry's favorite!).
Rewatching the movies was a lengthy task to undertake - both movies are approximately two and a half hours long - so we had to block out the whole afternoon to watch them both.
(Also... I don't know where else to add this comment in this post, but it is required: the weird separation of genders into the aggressively homogenous Beauxbatons and Durmstrang schools is not at all reflective of the qualities either school has in the novels. There are boys in Beauxbatons, there are girls in Durmstrang. Even if the movie had kept their strange classifications of one being flighty, sighing and shiny, and the other having all the social niceties of the Wildlings in Game of Thrones, they could still have bridged those rather appalling imbalances of gender reflection with appropriate casting. I would have loved to see a flaxen-haired, sharp cheekboned Beauxbaton boy in those incredibly stupid blue hats, as much as I would have loved a hulking girl thunking that massive Durmstrang staff on the ground.)
However, we had definitely turned a corner in the series, and things only get darker from here. I'm trying to finish Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince by around mid-October, so I can have another Potter Party during Halloween season, but it's honestly difficult to invest in that kind of gloomy storytelling when it's so bright and hot outside, like it is right now.
What do you think of my second Potter Party? When was the last time you reread Goblet of Fire? Are you a mood reader? Let me know, in the comments below!