Setting

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1674

Before readers of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire return to the familiar setting of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they are first given a glimpse of the gray areas to which the fourth Harry Potter book expands: the boundary worlds that span the nonmagic...

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Before readers of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire return to the familiar setting of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they are first given a glimpse of the gray areas to which the fourth Harry Potter book expands: the boundary worlds that span the nonmagic Muggle world and the magic world. True to her talent for providing examples and provoking comparative thinking by describing the parallels between the Muggle and the magic, Rowling shows us both of these boundary worlds in the first ten chapters (158 pages) of her mammoth 37-chapter (734-page) novel.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire opens in the village of Little Hangleton—a conservative Muggle town in rural England. We learn that the infamous villain of the Harry Potter books, Lord Voldemort ("He Who Shall Not Be Named"), is hiding out, regaining strength, and planning his return to power. Rowling distances her readers from this active threat by describing it as a dream: "Harry lay flat on his back, breathing hard as though he had been running. He had awoken from a vivid dream with his hands pressed over his face. The old scar on his forehead, which was shaped like a bolt of lightning, was burning beneath his fingers as though someone had just pressed a white hot wire to his skin." But readers well acquainted with Rowling's series know that Harry Potter's burning scar is no dreamy matter—it hurts when Voldemort is nearby or feeling particularly hateful towards Harry. The threat is real and the distance between our hero and the villain is not so great as we would like to believe. In the meantime, the reader must expect that Voldemort's appearance in the Muggle world is a matter of much concern. The well-intentioned witches and wizards (primarily those working in the various departments at the Ministry of Magic) are devoted to making sure that the magic world does not intrude upon, or interfere with, the Muggle world. Rowling describes this from Harry's Muggle-raised, but magic-informed, perspective in the opening chapters of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: the Ministry covers up the (seemingly foolish) claims of inappropriate and dangerous goings-on in the village of Little Hangleton. Here, Rowling's penchant for parallel and oppositional description is exercised. The Ministry cover-up is told from the perspective of Harry, the young initiate, and from the vantage point of a new setting, the Quidditch World Cup, in chapters 2-9 of Rowling's text.

Chapters 2-9 showcase J. K. Rowling's gift for ingenious, imaginative detail, allowing her to describe once again the magic world that delights both her youngest and her oldest readers. Harry and his good friend Hermione Granger (Muggle-born and -raised), and their magic-born friend Ron Weasley (along with the Weasley family), use a portkey to travel to the Quidditch World Cup—an amusing parallel to World Cup Soccer. The Cup matches are held on a deserted moor ("it's very difficult for a large number of wizards to congregate without attracting Muggle attention"). Their portkey ("unobtrusive things . . . [that] Muggles . . . just think is litter," and one of "two hundred portkeys placed at strategic points around Britain") is a "moldy looking old boot" located at the top of Stoatshead Hill. While on Stoatshead Hill, Harry and his friends meet Amos Diggory and his son Cedric, a Hogwarts schoolmate. Once transported to the moor, they are in greater company, and only some of that company is familiar (Ministry friends and colleagues, school chums, famous figures in the magic world).

Able to slip comfortably past the campsite director ("Mr. Roberts's eyes slid out of focus, his brows unknitted, and a look of dreamy unconcern fell over his face. Harry recognized the symptoms of one who had just had his memory modified"), Harry, Hermione, and the Weasley family set up camp. Their camping accommodations look rather cramped and apparently substandard, but are appropriate because they do not call attention to the party. However, in the world as Rowling describes it, things are not always as they initially appear: "Harry bent down, ducked under the tent flap, and felt his jaw drop. He had walked into what looked like an old-fashioned, three-room flat, complete with bathroom and kitchen." Other wizards shun the need for a low profile so close to Muggle territory and travel to the Quidditch World Cup with ostentation—and sometimes with a misinformed sense of style:

[Right] behind a pair of men . . . were having a heated argument. One of them was a very old wizard who was wearing a long flowery nightgown. The other was clearly a Ministry wizard; he was holding out a pair of pinstriped trousers and almost crying with exasperation . . . .

"You can't walk around like that, the Muggle at the gate's already getting suspicious—"

"I bought this in a Muggle shop, said the old wizard stubbornly. Muggles wear them."

"Muggle women wear them, Archie, not the men, they wear these. . . . "

"I'm not putting them on, said old Archie in indignation. I like a nice healthy breeze 'round my privates, thanks."

While the beauties of Rowling's setting lie in a landscape of rich and thorough imagination, their literary effectiveness is the result of Rowling's ability to translate the setting via characterization—particularly via such characters as Harry and Hermione. Rather than "discovering" the world (as the characters of Lewis Carroll's and C. S. Lewis' fantasies often do—which then involves most of the plot), or having to explain and describe the fantastic setting for us (as is often the case in the novels of J. R. R. Tolkien), Harry's and Hermione's translations allow the reader to see the magic world as fresh and new, and as quickly and effectively as possible. Like the novels of T. H. White, Rowling's works invite the reader into a fantastic landscape that refuses to compromise the intricacies of the plot—and this natural and charming development and inclusion of sophisticated matter is always a boon in young adult literature.

This translative characterization is a facet of the Harry Potter books from the first (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), in which it is used to fully describe Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But here, in Book 4, Hogwarts remains the primary setting and is the familiar landscape to which we return following the Quidditch World Cup and the disturbing events that take place there. The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a traditional English boarding school located in the fairy green countryside well beyond London. The meddlesome caretaker, Mr. Filch, and his cat, Mrs. Norris, carefully monitor the building, and the grounds are kept well by the beloved Keeper of Keys and Grounds (and Hogwarts dropout) Rubeus Hagrid. During the long-standing tradition of the Sorting Ceremony, first-year Hogwarts students are separated into four houses (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin), each with its own proud history, alumni, and secret traditions. The faculty, respected scholars and authority figures, are removed from the emotional and interpersonal experiences of their students; the curriculum is carefully structured and deliberately traditional; classes are taken by year and with students from other houses. Residents of each house have points given and taken away for academic achievement, behavior and deportation, and athletic competition, and the points accumulate toward the goal of winning the much-coveted house cup at the end-of-year feast.

Hogwarts is a world all its own; a non- Muggle world. Students arrive by a train taken from platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross Station. During the journey they snack on candies and amuse themselves by trading cards of famous witches and wizards from packages of Chocolate Frogs. The campus is located inside a moat and the building is a castle. The house dormitories are in the four round towers located at the corners of the building and accessed by secret passwords that open portrait holes. The Sorting Ceremony stars a Sorting Cap that reads the new students' minds before assigning them to the appropriate house. The access portraits to the houses have a frustrating tendency to visit other paintings in the castle, thereby foiling the stealthy return of many an erring student, who also find that Filch and Mrs. Norris are not the only "caretakers" to avoid. Peeves the Poltergeist will insist on reporting students out of bed after hours, and the other ghosts (Nearly Headless Nick and the Bloody Baron among them) have loyalties to certain houses. The faculty members also have allegiances—as well as curious (possible threatening) involvement with the adult, magic world. Coursework is difficult and requires much study. The sport of choice is Quidditch, a fast-paced game loosely resembling polo, played on flying brooms.

The setting of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Porter books is a setting at once comfortingly traditional and offbeat. Rowling also masterfully uses duality in her descriptions of the apprentice magic world of the Hogwarts students as compared to the adult magic world for which they are preparing, or the whole of the magic world as compared to the Muggle world. To the reader, things seem to be somewhat familiar, but given a brilliant twist that makes them totally different from the norm. Accepted Hogwarts students walk through a wall in order to reach platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross Station. Tapping a brick behind the Leaky Cauldron pub three times with your magic wand will open it to Diagon Alley, the shopping center of the magic world. Diagon Alley is also the only place "in" London where prospective students can get everything they need—from the uniform to course books and other equipment. The Ministry of Magic works to ensure that Muggles remain ignorant of the actuality of the magic world. And the commonplace systems of the Muggle world amaze and confound witches and wizards. The layering of experiences and perspectives in Rowling's text work to keep the reader both grounded and aware. As such, the reader enjoys a setting that has been wonderfully and completely imagined, described, and realized by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter books.

Literary Qualities

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 537

There are seven (planned) books in the Harry Potter series, and this allows us to consider the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as a halfway point—a benchmark in the series. As such, it is compelling that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire closes with a chapter entitled "The Beginning." Since the novel describes the evil Lord Voldemort's return to human form, his regaining of full magical powers, and his reentry into the magic world as a "rebirth," the reader is left to assume that—now that good and evil seem unfortunately well balanced—the real action of the series is about to start. Once again, Rowling draws parallels: now that evil has the strength of good, the battle may begin. Thus, the end chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the series' halfway point. It marks the start of the battle between good and evil that characterizes fantastic fiction and signals the beginning of the hero's coming-of-age that classifies young adult literature. But the use of traditional themes refuses to undermine the innovation with which we credit J. K. Rowling. Book 4 defines itself in accordance with, and in opposition to, classic British fantasy for the young adult (Lewis Carroll's Alice books, C. S. Lewis' Narnia chroncicles, J. R. R. Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, T. H. White's The Once and Future King).

If closing her fourth book with "The Beginning" allows J. K. Rowling to distance herself and her art from the pressures of canonical fantasy as literary precedent, it also enables her to describe the first three Harry Potter books as precedent for the fourth. Therefore, we may evaluate classic young adult fantasy (especially British fantasy) as the precedent for Book 1, but we must evaluate Books 1,2 and 3 as the precedent for Book 4. The first half of Rowling's series is the precedent for the second half of the series.

The familiar motifs of a railway journey, a reflective device, games of logic, and an academic setting with familiar fantastic characterization in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone draws on such masters as Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and T. H. White. These very categories are then broadened and individualized in the subsequent Harry Potter books (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the railway journey to and from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has become a standard motif in fantastic literature as well as in Rowling's series; the reflective device has been expanded to ghost images and the reflexive opportunities they provide; the games of logic have been multiplied—and given greater mythic roots—as characters battle dragons, fight off sea creatures, and run a maze in the Triwizard Tournament.

If we are to understand the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as "The Beginning" of the rest of the series, we might predict that the Harry Potter books will feature increasingly more sophisticated struggles between good and evil, and that they will draw on the motifs of classical (and not just classic) literature—both traditionally seen as appropriate for young adults.

Social Sensitivity

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 728

In the past, such eminent critics as Jack Zipes have criticized J.K. Rowling for a perceived lack of political correctness (which is often inappropriately confused with social sensitivity). The argument stands that quality art should not be judged according to its perceived level of political correctness—not even when the literary art has been created for a young adult audience. This consideration is complicated by the defense that Rowling's use of both tradition and innovation is within the "safe" remove of a fantasy setting. But that argument must necessarily be placed alongside the critical notion that young adults form opinions and expectations of their world based, in part, on their reading material and that, therefore, they do not gain the positive socialization from fantastic literature that they do from realism. It must be noted, however, that in fantasy—as in Rowling's Harry Potter books—it is the parallels that inform the reader, and the parallels are no less powerful than the bald truths that realism offers. Indeed, for many readers, and especially for nonlinear thinkers, fantastic parallels can provide a more accurate reflection of how they process their world.

It is a phenomenon of popularity that writers exposed to such arguments and defenses on their behalf might betray the strain of that exposure in their art, and J. K. Rowling seems no more impervious to this phenomenon than any writer. To her credit, however, Rowling shares her strain with us in her usual, tongue-in-cheek and self-aware manner. Within the pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Rowling pokes some fun at her critics on behalf of her supporters—thereby raising her above exposure to the debates regarding her art that threaten to undermine the quality of that art. While discussing Hermione's attempt to release the tea cozy-wearing house elves from bondage and to ensure their equal rights and payment, the young protagonists sympathize with Dobby the house elf and discover that (contrary to Ron's brother Percy) they would rather work for an honest person with a sense of humor than an earnest person without one:

"I'd still rather work for him than old Crouch", said Ron. "At least Bagman's got a sense of humor."

"Don't let Percy hear you saying that," Hermione said, smiling slightly.

"Yeah, well, Percy wouldn't want to work for anyone with a sense of humor, would he? . . . . Percy wouldn't recognize a joke if it danced naked in front of him wearing Dobby's tea cozy."

While it is clear that J. K. Rowling has a sense of humor (specifically here, a sense of humor about the criticism leveled at her work), it is also clear that she is listening to her critics. This has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. For example, Hermione raises a consciousness regarding the treatment of lower and indentured economic classes (especially those categorized by race), and Rowling does an impressive job of describing the complicated psychology of the abused subordinate. But the discerning reader will note that the liberation of house elves is dropped from the plot of the novel once it is no longer useful in classifying the good characters from the evil. As a result, its potential social effect is significantly weakened.

Likewise, the same may be said of other race-related prejudices in the novel, such as Harry's interracial romantic feelings for his classmate Cho Chang (which is lighthearted, unstated, but also unrequited). In a similar vein, Hagrid and Madam Maxim attempt to hide their interracial parentage but, although ogres are feared, despised and ostracized by the magic world, Hagrid and Maxim only suffer mere—and fleeting—ribbing from the gossip columnist Rita Skeeter. Thus, though Rowling's treatment of more socially sensitive aspects of the (parallel) magic world describes her politics, responds to her critics, and amuses her supporters, the textual dismissal of these aspects calls into question whether that treatment is a political gesture or a literary commitment. But neither the political gesture nor the literary commitment is a requirement for quality art and Rowling herself has a magic for parallelism and doubling. So, it seems our consideration of social sensitivity in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire must be satisfied by the introduction of these aspects and the assumption that they will continue to shape, and to take shape in, subsequent Harry Potter books. Let it be a lesson in Transfiguration.

For Further Reference

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 485

Del Negro, Janice M. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (October 1999): 68. This review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban summarizes the novel's plot and recommends the book because "Rowling's characterizations are succinctly evocative and often slyly funny, ensuring that readers develop a fondness for her players, care what happens to them, and come back for more."

Hainer, Cathy. "Third Time's Another Charmer for 'Harry Potter." USA Today, (September 8,1999): 1-D. Positive review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which "scores another home run." Provides hints about plot twists.

Maughan, Shannon. "The Harry Potter Halo." Publishers Weekly July 19, 1999): 92-94. Comments on how the Harry Potter novels have encouraged young readers to purchase other hardback editions of children's literature and increased library patronage. Discusses the cultural phenomena of Harry Potter and the saga's impact on literacy and bookselling prior to the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the United States. Lists recommended novels similar to the Harry Potter books.

Mitnick, Eva. School Library Journal (October 1999): 128. This review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban praises the novel, stating "Isn't it reassuring that some things just get better and better? Harry is back and in fine form in the third installment of his adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." This reviewer admires the complexities of Rowling's plot and "nonstop" pacing and "stunning climax," concluding that "This is a fabulously entertaining read that will have Harry Potter fans cheering for more."

Parravano, Martha V. Horn Book (November- December 1999): 744-745. Recommends Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban because "all the elements that make the formula work are heightened." Notes the cultural impact of the Harry Potter saga, suggesting that "All current reviews of Harry Potter books should probably be addressed to some future audience for whom Harry is book rather than phenomenon; at the moment, reviews seem superfluous." Parravano also states "For the record, then, O future reader, this latest installment in Harry's saga is quite a good book."

Publishers Weekly (July 19, 1999): 195. This review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban asserts "Rowling proves that she has plenty of tricks left up her sleeve in this third Harry Potter adventure" because of the "genius of Rowling's plotting. Seemingly minor details established in Books 1 and 2 unfold to take on unforeseen significance, and the finale, while not airtight in its internal logic, is utterly thrilling." Concludes that "Rowling's wit never flags" and the "Potter spell is holding strong."

Schafer, Elizabeth D. Beacham's Sourcebooks for Teaching Young Adult Fiction: Exploring Harry Potter. Osprey: Beacham Publishing, 2000. A comprehensive, interdisciplinary analysis of the Harry Potter books which elaborates about literary components of the series. Includes a detailed chapter development analysis and discussion questions and suggested activities and projects for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Provides citations for diverse resources, including reviews and websites, about Rowling and the Harry Potter series.

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