Themes and Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 881

As the characters mature throughout J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, they become more savvy and more aware of the very complex and political nature of their world. This savvy awareness, as we might expect, results in a development and complication of theme. Thus, Book 1, Harry Potter and the...

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As the characters mature throughout J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, they become more savvy and more aware of the very complex and political nature of their world. This savvy awareness, as we might expect, results in a development and complication of theme. Thus, Book 1, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, we move between the two fixed points of Privet Drive in the Muggle world and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the magic world. The parallel and doubling becomes more demonstrative of the Muggle world and more descriptive of the magic world in Book 2, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and is ultimately expanded to the many levels of intrigue and circumstance in Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As a result, though Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is very much a novel about loyalty, the idea of loyalty is necessarily complicated. Loyalties, and likewise allegiances, while desired, are slippery, suspect, and unsure in this novel.

Most of the magic world, it seems, is divided into two groups: the good (generally, but not technically, lead by Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts) and the evil (under the control and influence of Lord Voldemort). For those readers familiar with the Harry Potter books, this is old territory, and it furthermore involves a longtime grudge between Voldemort and his child-nemesis, Harry Potter. Loyal readers of the series have witnessed the escalation of this grudge, but its history—even that predating the Harry Potter books—is thoughtfully outlined towards the beginning of each novel.

The story goes: Lord Voldemort's once healthy regime brutalized the magic world and victimized many innocents (magic and Muggle alike). Voldemort personally murdered Harry's parents, leaving Harry an orphan, but he was unable to kill Harry—even as an infant. The first three Harry Potter books describe Lord Voldemort's continuing return to power and Harry's uncanny ability to thwart his evil. At the end of Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, however, Voldemort's return to power is unfortunately realized. Lord Voldemort's "subjects" return to Lord Voldemort's service once they see the Dark Mark, which is released at the Quidditch World Cup and appears on their forearms. There is a great disturbance as the Ministry of Magic is thwarted with back talk and befuddlement—no one knows whose allegiance lies where and every action is a threat (for every action might indicate a return to, and strengthening of, Lord Voldemort's evil regime). Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is very much a novel about good, evil, and loyalty, and we are given to understand that, however black-hearted, abused, or bewitched, evil, too, has its loyal members. Some of Voldemort's loyal supporters are not a surprise such as Wormtail and Lucius Malfoy, but most of Voldemort's supporters are characters new to the series: Igor Karkaroff, the Headmaster of Durmstrang; Ludovic "Ludo" Bagman, the Ministry's Head of Magical Games and Sports; and Bartemious Crouch, Jr., the presumed-dead son of the Head of the Department of International Magic Cooperation.

Loyal, too, are those who have fought with Professor Dumbledore against the evil Lord Voldemort: Inerva McGonagle, a faculty member at Hogwarts, and Sirius Black, Harry's godfather (currently on the run due to Wormtail's escape in Book 3). But most realistically unsettling are those characters whose loyalties are not readily apparent (like Severus Snape, the Potions master who is believed to have switched allegiances from evil to good, and Mad-Eye Moody, who helps Harry throughout the Triwizard Tournament) as well as those characters who, though not evil, have questionable agendas that create serious obstacles for good (Rita Skeeter, the gossip columnist for The Daily Prophet, and Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic who functions in an abject state of denial).

Our protagonist, Harry Potter, and his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, are asked to negotiate this increasingly complicated sociopolitical world and, likewise, to establish their own parallel loyalties. Suffering from jealousy over Harry's fame and recognition, Ron stops speaking to him. Relentlessly, Hermione encourages Harry and Ron to make up, though her encouragement does not effect change. It is only when Harry faces the dangers of the first task in the Triwizard Tournament (stealing from a dragon's nest) that Ron becomes convinced that Harry needs—and deserves—his friendship. Other tests of loyalty, allegiance, and friendship are less dire but still significant: Hermione, tired of not being recognized and appreciated as a young woman, accepts Viktor Krum's invitation to the Hogwarts formal ball despite mutual romantic feelings between her and Ron. Harry holds a grudge against the other Hogwarts champion, Cedric Diggory, when Cedric successfully woos Harry's love interest, Cho Chang.

To their credit, however, and in keeping with the spirited wisdom of J.K. Rowling's books, these young characters are quick to put aside petty conflicts in an ongoing effort to support that which is good—whether in the interest of friendship (as do Harry and Ron and Ron and Hermione) or to benefit their beloved Hogwarts (as do Harry and Cedric). And it should be noted that putting aside his own glory for that of Hogwarts is Cedric's last living act, which makes it all the more significant, appropriate, and profound.

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