BOOK REVIEW: HARRY POTTER AND PRISONER OF AZKABAN

Harry has spent yet another miserable summer at home with the Dursleys.  He can’t wait to get back to school at Hogwarts, and he’s especially anticipating the third-year privilege of visiting the all-magical village of Hogsmeade near the school. The only problem is that he has to get Uncle Vernon to sign his permission slip to do so. Harry’s bargain with his uncle over the form backfires when Harry gets angry and accidentally “inflates” Aunt Marge.

Rather than being punished by the Ministry of Magic, Harry soon finds that he is being protected. A much-feared prisoner named Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban, the wizard prison, and Harry is believed to be the target of his next kill. Soon, Black has found his way into Hogwarts, so Harry isn’t even safe in his own dormitory.

Once again, Harry, Ron and Hermione must solve the mystery—what were the circumstances of Black’s original crime, and how is he related to Harry’s parents and their death? Who is the traitor who informed on Harry’s parents to Voldemort? In working out this puzzle, Harry finds both his father’s best friends and his own godfather. 

Positive Element:

Harry practices self-control in not spending extravagantly, even though he desperately wants a new flying broom, he is on his own and he has plenty of money. New Professor Lupin teaches the students that laughter fights what one fears the most. Selfless loyalty to one’s friends is upheld as a high virtue: ” ‘If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us too!’ [Ron] said fiercely.”

Harry’s loyalty is clearly to his birth family, and he responds angrily in their defense when Uncle Vernon lies to make Harry’s father look bad. Again, Harry finds a family at Hogwarts, where the dormitories take on a family feeling and the students look out for others in their Houses.

Hatred And Anger:

As Harry and his friends grow into their teenage years, hatred and anger become more prominent themes:

“A reckless rage had come over Harry. He kicked his trunk open, pulled out his wand, and pointed it at Uncle Vernon.”

“Even Harry, who hated Snape, was startled at the expression twisting his thin, sallow face. It was beyond anger: it was loathing. Harry knew that expression only too well; it was the look Snape wore every time he set eyes on Harry.”

Adolescent Love:

The maturation process that J.K. Rowling has promised as the series continues is just barely evident in Book III: “Wood looked as though he could have kissed her.”

In a restaurant in Hogsmeade, Ron is clearly attracted to the beautiful waitress: “A curvy sort of woman with a pretty face was serving a bunch of rowdy warlocks up at the bar. ‘That’s Madam Rosmerta,’ said Ron. ‘I’ll get the drinks, shall I?’ he added, going slightly red.”

Spiritual Elements:

New magical creatures are introduced in Book III: Dementors. “Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk the earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself … soulless and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”

Conclusion:

Dark Magic is still seen here as a great evil to be combated by good witches and wizards. And Dark-Side wizards are often portrayed as selfish and of bad character: “When a wizard goes over to the Dark Side, there’s nothing and no one that matters to him any more.” But that merely underscores Rowling’s intimations that there can be good and bad witches. Such is not the case. The underlying danger of Rowling’s books is the fact that, though witches and wizards aren’t portrayed realistically, they (at least the “good” ones) are portrayed positively.

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