Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’: Chapter 1

In the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we’re reintroduced to the theme of child abuse as entertainment. The Dursleys–our favorite literary characters of all time–treat Harry like a leper during the summer before his second year at Hogwarts. It’s slightly depressing, but possibly endearing? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to start reading the second Harry Potter book.


Sorry for the PAINFULLY LONG ABSENCE but I was off RIDING MY BIKE A RIDICULOUS DISTANCE FOR A GOOD CAUSE. Thanks to all the new followers on Twitter and for the messages of support! I saw them each day I pulled up Twitter and it means a lot.

I was totally blown away by the overwhelming response to the Mark Watches Harry Potter. 44,000+ views? Over 2,100 comments? YOU GUYS TREAT ME SO WELL.

I wanted to bring Harry Potter with me on the road while I was on the AIDS/Lifecycle, but I’ve found my reviews are better if I don’t read ahead. (YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD THIS IS FOR ME.) And, without much ado, let’s begin!


The hatred the Dursleys have for Harry Potter is slightly inconceivable to me, especially since it’s hard for me to believe that child abuse passes for plot. (Is there a Dursley backstory that I am missing? OH WAIT DON’T TELL ME.) In fact, the first chapter of Chamber of Secrets really isn’t that good until the end, and for two reasons.

1) Rowling summarizes the last book multiple times during the narrative.

I’m treading thin ice here, and I know it. I’m torn between accepting this is a children’s book and that having small summaries of the last book is just something I’ll have to deal with AND wanting this to be a book that appreciates the readers’ intelligence as, ostensibly, an adult.

And that’s the weird line I’m forced to walk while reading this series. I’ve heard it becomes less “child-like” as the series goes on, but I was bothered by the constant reminders of plot points from the past book. Did I really need to be reminded of the battle between Voldemort and Harry? Or that Harry was an orphan? Or that Draco and Snape are GROSS EVIL PEOPLE? Also, Harry doesn’t mention Hagrid and this makes my heart sad. 🙁 🙁 🙁

It’s not that bad, but it was slightly irritating. Perhaps I’m just being impatient because I actually don’t want to spend any time with the Durselys and I just want Harry to go back to Hogwarts and BE AWESOME.

Which brings me to my second point.

2) The Dursleys are child abusers.

And this whole subplot involving them (including what happened in the last book) is seriously disturbing me. I’d like to think that Rowling made Harry’s adoptive family this way to highlight some important themes, mainly feelings of otherness, being bullied, and feeling estranged from people that are supposed to love you. These are all good things that should be discussed.

But I think Rowling went too far:

  • “Pass the frying pan.”

    “You’ve forgotten the magic word,” said Harry irritably.

    The effect of this simple sentence on the rest of the family was incredible: Dudley gasped and fell off his chair with a crash that shook the whole kitchen; Mrs. Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth; Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.

    “I meant ‘please’!” said Harry quickly. “I didn’t mean–“

    “WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU,” thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, “ABOUT SAYING THE ‘M’ WORD IN OUR HOUSE?”

    “But I–“

    “HOW DARE YOU THREATEN DUDLEY!” roared Uncle Vernon, pounding the table with his fist.

    “I just–“


    Harry stared from his purple-faced uncle to his pale aunt, who was trying to heave Dudley to his feet.

  • Ever since Harry had come home for the summer holidays, Uncle Vernon had been treating him like a bomb that might go off at any moment, because Harry Potter wasn’t a normal boy.
  • “And you, boy?”

    Harry fought to keep his face straight as he emerged.

    “I’ll be in my room, making no noise and pretending I’m not there,” he said.

    “Too right, you will,” said Uncle Vernon forcefully. “The Masons don’t know anything about you and it’s going to stay that way.”

  • “Today’s your birthday,” sneered Dudley. “How come you haven’t got any cards? Haven’t you even got friends at that freak place?”
  • Harry paid dearly for his moment of fun. As neither Dudley nor the hedge was in any way hurt, Aunt Petunia knew he hadn’t really done magic, but he still had to duck as she aimed a heavy blow to his head with the soapy frying pan. Then she gave him work to do, with the promise he wouldn’t eat again until he’d finished.


Let’s also discuss something else: how deeply depressing J.K. Rowling can be. BUST OUT YOUR BOXES OF TISSUE.

  • He missed Hogwarts so much it was like having a constant stomachache. He missed the castle, with its secret passageways and ghosts, his classes (though perhaps not Snape, the Potions master), the mail arriving by owl, eating banquets in the Great Hall, sleeping in his four-poster bed in the tower dormitory, visiting the gamekeeper, Hagrid, in his cabin next to the Forbidden Forest in the grounds…

omg Hagrid <3 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  • No cards, no presents, and he would be spending the evening pretending not to exist. He gazed miserably into the hedge. He had never felt so lonely. More than anything else at Hogwarts, more even than playing Quidditch, Harry missed his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They, however, didn’t seem to be missing him at all. Neither of them had written to him all summer, even though Ron had said he was going to ask Harry to come and stay.

I should commit ritual suicide y/y

  • But the long silence from Ron and Hermione had made Harry feel so cut off from the magical world that even taunting Dudley had lost its appeal–and now Ron and Hermione had forgotten his birthday.

possibly the most tragic sentence to ever to be typed in the English language

  • Harry knew he shouldn’t have risen to Dudley’s bait, but Dudley had said the very thing Harry had been thinking himself…maybe he didn’t have any friends at Hogwarts….

jesus fucking christ J.K. ROWLING KNOWS MY PAIN what is happening to me

  • As he passed the door to the living room, Harry caught a glimpse of Uncle Vernon and Dudley in bow ties and dinner jackets. he had only just reached the upstairs landing when the doorbell rang and Uncle Vernon’s furious face appeared at the foot of the stairs.

    “Remember, boy–one sound–“

    Harry crossed to his bedroom on tiptoe, slipped inside, closed the door, and turned to collapse on his bed.

    The trouble was, there was already someone sitting on it.