51 pages 1 hour read

J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1998

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Summary and Study Guide


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a 1998 young adult fantasy novel by J.K. Rowling, the second in the Harry Potter series. The story follows Harry’s tumultuous second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, including an encounter with Voldemort, the wizard who killed Harry’s parents. Against this fantastic backdrop, Rowling examines such themes as death, fame, friendship, choice, and prejudice. Upon release, the novel became a worldwide bestseller and won several awards, including Children’s Book of the Year at the British Book Awards and the Nestlé Smarties Book Award; it was subsequently adapted into a 2002 film directed by Chris Columbus. Citations in this guide correspond with the 2018 Scholastic Inc. edition.

Plot Summary

In the summer of 1992, 12-year-old wizard Harry Potter lives with his non-magical relatives, the Dursleys, following his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Just over a decade earlier, Harry’s parents were killed by an evil wizard named Voldemort, who mysteriously failed to kill baby Harry, then went into hiding. The Dursleys detest magic and become furious when Harry’s visit from a magical elf named Dobby, who warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts, ruins their dinner party with some of Mr. Dursley’s customers. They lock Harry in his room.

A few days later, Harry’s friends Ron, Fred, and George Weasley rescue Harry from the Dursleys in a flying car, which is a pet project of their father. Harry spends the rest of the summer with the Weasleys. Near the end of the summer, Harry and the Weasleys go shopping for books and supplies. Harry overhears Lucius Malfoy, the father of Draco Malfoy, Harry’s rival at Hogwarts, pawning dark magical artifacts. Later, the Weasleys and the Malfoys get into a heated argument in a bookstore.

On the day they are supposed to return to Hogwarts, Harry and Ron find themselves unable to pass through the magical barrier to the train platform. They decide to fly the car instead. Arriving at Hogwarts, they crash-land in a magical tree whose branches attack them and the car; Ron’s wand breaks, and they receive a detention.

Term begins. Harry, Ron, and their friend Hermione Granger attend Herbology, Transfiguration, Potions, and Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. The latter is taught by newcomer Gilderoy Lockhart, a handsome but incompetent celebrity author. Harry also practices and plays Quidditch, a sport played on flying broomsticks. During one match, one of the balls malfunctions, injuring Harry. Dobby revisits Harry that night and reveals that he blocked Harry from catching the train and caused the Quidditch injury in the hopes of keeping Harry away from an unspecified danger at Hogwarts.

One day, Harry hears a disembodied voice threatening to kill someone; no one else seems able to hear the voice. A few days later, on Halloween, he hears the voice again. Following it, he finds the caretaker’s cat stiff and lifeless near a message announcing that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. According to legend, Salazar Slytherin, one of the school’s founders, hid a chamber in the school containing a monster that would rid the school of students born to non-magical parents, against whom Slytherin and his followers, including the Malfoys, are deeply prejudiced.

Several similar attacks occur over the next few months, leaving victims motionless but not dead. Harry, Ron, and Hermione carry out a plan to find out whether Draco is behind the attacks; he is not. Many students come to suspect Harry after learning that he can talk to snakes, a rare ability associated with Slytherin. Their suspicions die down after Hermione is attacked.

One day, Harry finds a diary that belonged to someone named Tom Riddle in an out-of-order women’s bathroom. The diary preserves Riddle’s living memory. Riddle attended Hogwarts 50 years earlier when the Chamber of Secrets was also opened. At that time, Hagrid, Harry’s friend and now Hogwarts’s gamekeeper, was arrested following a tip from Riddle. Hagrid is again arrested, but as he leaves, he directs Ron and Harry to follow spiders into the Forbidden Forest near Hogwarts Castle. In the forest, they learn that the giant spider Hagrid raised in the castle 50 years ago and now living in the forest was not responsible for the attacks.

Riddle’s diary is stolen from Harry, and another message appears, indicating that Ginny, Ron’s sister, was taken into the Chamber of Secrets. Piecing together clues, Harry and Ron find their way to the Chamber of Secrets via the bathroom where they found the diary, dragging Lockhart, now revealed as a fraud, with them. When Lockhart tries to wipe Harry and Ron’s memories, the spell backfires, leaving Lockhart helpless, and part of the underground tunnel collapses, separating Harry from Ron and Lockhart. Moving forward, Harry finds Riddle draining Ginny’s life, allowing him to exist outside of the diary. Harry learns that Riddle opened the Chamber of Secrets and later became Voldemort. Throughout the year, he controlled Ginny, using her to coordinate the attacks, which were performed by a giant snake called a basilisk, which can kill with a stare. However, no one died because they only saw the basilisk indirectly through lenses, reflections, or even ghosts. With help from a magical bird and the Sorting Hat, a sentient hat that sorts students into houses, Harry defeats Riddle and the basilisk.

Afterward, he learns that Lucius Malfoy planted the diary in Ginny’s belongings during the argument at the book shop and that Dobby belongs to the Malfoys. He helps free Dobby, then celebrates as Hermione and the other victims are cured. Dumbledore, the headmaster, offers special awards to Harry and Ron. As the term ends, Harry catches the train back to London.

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