J. K. Rowling: Critical Analysis of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling tells us the story of Harry Potter’s sixsixth year at Hogwarts, the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry returns to Hogwarts for another year after a long summer in London with his muggle uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley. As the prophecy says he is the “Chosen One” who will kill Lord Voldemort. Therefore, Dumbledore has Harry taking private lessons with him to learn more about Voldemort’s past in order to fight and hopefully soon finish him for good. Throughout the first term of the year, Harry uses a copy of Advanced Potion-Making which belonged to an individual named The Half-Blood Prince, this unusual old book barely had a page which additional notes had not been taken. However, these notes sometimes helped him in such things as potions class, but in other times it caused him trouble. Towards the end of the novel, a horrible and shocking disclosure affects the future of Hogwarts. This event really surprised me and changed my thoughts towards some of the characters.
The story mainly takes place in the Potions Room, Dumbledore’s office, Gryffindor’s Common Room, and the Astronomy Tower, which are all located at Hogwarts, the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Potions Room has a wide variety of cauldrons full of potions which have their own unique smells, this room has large table groups for students to work in, large windows, and its walls are lined with pickled animals in glass jars. Also, the Potions Room is located in the dungeons and usually very cold. Dumbledore’s office is a large and beautiful circular room located at the headmaster’s tower with many bookshelves and portraits of the school’s previous headmasters and headmistresses who talk on their own. The office has a compartment full of memories which Harry and Dumbledore use to travel back in time and learn about Lord Voldemort’s past. It’s entrance is guarded by a statue gargoyle that moves aside with a password and it is located on the seventh floor. Also inside the office, Dumbledore has his one and only Phenix called Fawkes. Gryffindor’s Common Room has its entrance hidden by the portrait of the Fat Lady which requires a password to enter. This is a very cosy room with a fireplace and many armchairs for Gryffindor’s students to relax. It is decorated with shades of red and gold referring to the house colors and it has staircases which lead to the boys and girls dormitories. Last but not least, the Astronomy Tower is the tallest tower at Hogwarts Castle. It is where students had Astronomy lessons, but it is where Harry witnessed Dumbledore’s death by a Killing Curse cast by Severus Snape. The setting has a huge influence on the plot and characters because all events are related to magic in a world of wizardry, all the students of Hogwarts are pure-blood and muggle-born who are all wizards and attend the school to learn and control all sorts of magic. Hogwarts castle is a significant setting because many of the characters have spent most of their lives there and consider Hogwarts as their only or second home. Therefore, the setting does not change since it takes places place inside the world of wizardry.
Harry Potter is a skinny sixteen year old that has his father black hair, his mother’s green eyes, a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead, and he wears round glasses. One of Harry’s personality traits is loyalty towards his friends and headmaster, Dumbledore. According to chapter 29, it states, “ ‘Harry,’ she said, ‘I would like to know what you and Professor Dumbledore were doing this evening when you left the school.’ ‘I can’t tell you that, Professor,’ said Harry… ‘Professor Dumbledore never told me told me to stop following his orders if he died.’ ”(Rowling, pg 626). This quote shows Harry’s loyalty towards Dumbledore’s because he would not tell the new headmistress, Professor McGonagall, what Dumbledore told him to keep as a secret. Even Though, Dumbledore had recently died. Another personality trait of Harry Potter is his courage to take on any challenge that comes his way. As the text states in Chapter 25, “… Dumbledore drew himself up to his full height. ‘I take you with me on one condition: that you obey any command I might give you at once, and without question.’… ‘If I tell you to hide, will you do so?’… ‘If I tell you to leave me and save yourself, will you do as I tell you?’ ”(Rowling, pg 550, 551). This quote explains Harry’s courage because he is willing to take any of Dumbledore’s orders even at the worst circumstances. This is because Dumbledore and Harry are going inside a cave in order to retrieve one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. A third personality trait of Potter is being very driven about certain topics that stick in his mind, such as finding out what Malfoy has been up to. According to Chapter 15, it states, “It was easy, once out of the party, to pull his Invisibility Cloak out of his pocket and throw it over himself, for the corridor was quite deserted. What was more difficult was finding Snape and Malfoy.” (Rowling, pg 322). This quote shows us that once Malfoy was caught sneaking in Slughorn’s party by Snape, Harry preferred to leave the party in order to have a chance to hear about Malfoy’s trouble, which he fortunately did. This suspicion about Malfoy has been in Harry’s mind throughout most of the novel, so that is an example of why Harry can be very driven sometimes. Draco Malfoy is a dominant antagonist in this novel, he is also a sixteen year old with white-blond hair, pale skin, cold grey eyes, and sharp pointed features. Malfoy is known for his mean and spoiled behavior, but this novel shows that he isn’t capable of doing evil. According to Chapter 24 it states, “Draco Malfoy was standing with his back to the door, his hands clutching either side of the sink, his white-blond head bowed… ‘No one can help me,’ said Malfoy. His whole body was shaking. ‘I can’t do it…. I can’t…. It won’t work… and unless I do it soon… he says he’ll kill me….’ ” (Rowling, pg 521, 522). This quote shows that Malfoy is telling himself in the bathroom that he can’t do something, he is referring to Lord Voldemort telling him to kill Dumbledore and if he doesn’t, Voldemort will kill him. That shows Malfoy can be a mean person but he isn’t evil. This affects Harry because he is constantly searching about Malfoy’s doings which sometimes draws Harry away from other important things.
The theme of the novel is identifying and discovering the Good vs. Evil. An example of this is when Dumbledore has Harry taking private lessons with him throughout the semester so Harry can learn more about Voldemort in order to kill him in the near future. During these lessons, Dumbledore shows Harry memories of Voldemort’s past to understand how he became one of the most feared wizards. A very important and tragic second example is stated in Chapter 27, “… the door to the ramparts burst open once more and there stood Snape, his wand clutched in his hand as his eyes swept the scene… Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore. ‘Avada Kedavra!’ A jet of green light from the end of Snape’s wand and hit Dumbledore squarely in the chest.” (Rowling, pg 595, 596). This quote shows the discovery of Snape who was very trusted, turning out to be a side with Voldemort and murdering Dumbledore. The theme has significance in my life because there are times where I have to decide what is the right path to follow and which people I should and shouldn’t be around.
One important symbol in the book is the copy of Advanced Potion-Making which Harry found in the Potions Room and began to use. According to Chapter 9, it states “… Harry bent low over his book again. It was really irritating, having to try and decipher the directions under all the stupid scribbles of the previous owner…” (Rowling, pg 189). This quote shows that Harry’s lended book had many extra notes and scribbles on it with the secret owner’s identity of The Half-Blood Prince which in the end turned out to be Snape. This much meaning to the story because overtime, Harry had great success in Potions due to these notations and learning a lot, including good and bad things. Another important symbol is the memories safely stored in a compartment inside Dumbledore’s office. According to Chapter 10, it states, “When Dumbledore straightened up, he was holding a familiar shallow stone basin etched with odd markings around its rim. He placed the Pensieve on the desk in front of Harry… His previous experiences with the odd device that stored and revealed thoughts and memories, though highly instructive, had also been uncomfortable.” (Rowling, pg 198). The Pensieve full of memories gave lots of meaning to the story because it showed Harry the beginning of Voldemort’s path to Dark Magic, murder, and greed.
In conclusion, the writing was very effective because of its well elaboration and organization. The writing was motivating as well as disturbing at times. For example, “Malfoy gasped and gulped and then, with a great shudder, looked up into the cracked mirror and saw Harry staring at him over his shoulder. Malfoy wheeled around, drawing his wand… Harry slipped as Malfoy, his face contorted, cried, ‘Cruci―’ ‘SECTUMSEMPRA!’ bellowed Harry from the floor, waving his wand wildly. Blood spurted from Malfoy’s face and chest as though he had been slashed with an invisible sword. He staggered backward and collapsed onto the waterlogged from with a great splash, his wand falling from his limp right hand. Harry got to his feet and plunged toward Malfoy, whose face was now shining scarlet, his white hands scrabbling at his blood-soaked chest.” (Rowling, pg 522, 523). From my point of view, the author’s style of writing is rich in detail which allowed me to clearly understand and imagine certain scenes, objects, and characters. An example of this is stated in Chapter 10, “The circular office looked just as it always did; the delicate silver instruments stood on spindle-legged tables, puffing smoke and whirring; portraits of previous headmasters and headmistresses dozed in their frames, and Dumbledore’s magnificent phoenix, Fawkes, stood on his perch behind the door, watching Harry with bright interest.” (Rowling, pg 196, 197). Personally, I did not find any weaknesses and I understood this novel very well, neither did I feel like the author left me wanting to know more about something, except by having to read the next book in order to know the continuation of the story. This story has confirmed my thinking that not everything that seems good is actually good and how bad influences or lack of positive influences can lead you to the wrong path. My overall evaluation of this novel is that its very well written, interesting, full of surprises, and it passes messages that relate to our daily lives even though the story takes place in a world of fantasy. Yes, I would certainly recommend it to others because of its details and events, and in my opinion it is the best book o