Time for my first post on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I’ve read about the first 100 pages of. I’ve been really looking forward to this one, as at least three people have told me it’s their favorite book of the series.
We start off with more Dursleys. I don’t want to be too repetitive about my distaste for them, and I’m learning to accept that I might have to start every book with some eye-rolling as Rowling gives us a couple chapters of the most exaggeratedly awful family ever. In the future, I might try not to comment on them at all, but for possibly my last take on the Dursleys, just let me say that the way Harry left would have been a perfect way to put that family aside for the rest of the series: he finally gets fed up with the abuse, delivers a magical comeuppance, and storms off angrily saying he’s done. I just wish that had been true, and he really was. That’s the way he should have left the Dursleys forever.
Harry’s encounter with the ominous black dog gives a nice sense of foreboding very early on, especially when reinforced in coming chapters by the book at Flourish and Botts and the first Divination class as a harbinger of death. Between the dog and the Weasley parents’ discussion of Sirius Black, this is the earliest that Rowling has substantially developed the main conflict of the book.
Speaking of the Weasleys, they’re perpetually broke, yet when they get a substantial amount of gold, they use it on a family trip to see the eldest son, who lives far away. Other than Ron’s new wand (badly needed), they spend the money on family over new possessions. Have I mentioned that I love this family?
The Dementors add to the foreboding, though I’ve never been able to get past the fact that they seem like cruel and unusual punishment for the Azkaban prisoners. Something I’ve never been clear on: is that the only Wizard prison? Are there minimum security institutions with no Dementors, or is a wizard who just stole a new broom subjected to Dementors just like murderous Death Eaters? Because they seem really awful for those with lesser offenses to have to face. You would at least think the wizarding community would have a low crime rate.
I remember really liking Professor Lupin in the films. Looking forward to more of him.
I’m curious about the Divination class, especially after Professor McGonagall’s derisive comments about Professor Trelawney. Really all I remember about that class from the film was Emma Thompson’s glasses. At a minimum, it should be good for Hermione to not be good at something. I was hoping Ron would be the naturally good one. So far, he’s only really been superior in wizard’s chess; I want him to find more niches.
Finally, there’s Hagrid. A thought occurred to me in reading Chamber of Secrets that hadn’t when watching the movies: Harry and the gang have cleared Hagrid’s name of the offense that got him kicked out of Hogwarts, so shouldn’t he be allowed to practice magic now? My wife pointed out that he still never graduated, so he would probably have to go through classes again or something. The idea of Hagrid going back to school amused me, but what Rowling actually did was better and more practical: making him a teacher. With no more mark on his record, Hagrid gets to become a teacher, and for the perfect class: Care of Magical Creatures. Good for him.
Of course, Malfoy happens, because Malfoy always happens. First he shakes Hagrid’s confidence, then he gets injured through his own fault, plays up the injury and blames Hagrid for it. What a douche. Hagrid reacts by getting drunk and sad, but I hope before the book ends, we see him come into his own as a professor. And I hope we see him unleash a little bit of his inner Snape.
I’m not entirely sure Hagrid even has any inner Snape, and therein lies some of his charm. But if he’s going to be a professor, I’d like to see him assert himself a little more and give Draco the comeuppance he badly needs. Not paying attention in class? Detention. Not following directions? 10 points from Slytherin. Not giving the magical creatures the respect they deserve? I’ll feed you to my giant spider friend. Find an authoritarian side, Hagrid, and knock that blond jerk down to size.