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Thoughts on The Goblet of Fire

I'm still ill, and having one more day off work before I return to the fray tomorrow. The last few days have been pretty rotten overall, but I have at least had plenty of time to read. Hence, I have now finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

I actually finished the previous book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire about a fortnight ago, and have been meaning to post with my impressions of it ever since. But what with one thing and another I haven't really had the spare time or energy to do so. Now, however, with the opportunity to do a little typing when I feel OK, and a little sleeping in between when I don't, I can finally get on to recording my thoughts about both books.

This post, which I wrote yesterday in Word, is about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: with luck by the end of today I shall have rattled something out about The Order of the Phoenix, too.

I was sorry to say that Goblet of Fire definitely counted as a trough between two peaks for me. It was exciting at the beginning, when you learnt a little of Voldemort's back story. And I don't deny that there was plenty of stuff in it that needed to be got through to carry the overall plot of the series forwards – e.g. the use of Harry's blood in Voldemort's resurrection creating a new kind of bond between them; the revelations about how the Death Eaters function; the discovery that Hagrid is half-giant; or Cedric's death vividly illustrating the true nature of Voldemort and meaning Harry can see the Thestrals in the next book. But overall, it had a feeling of marking time between books three and five for me: it just didn't sparkle or glitter in its own right, and I'm afraid I didn't even find the Triwizard tasks very exciting.

In a comment to an earlier post I made, kantii commented that she found Goblet of Fire to have some seriously glaring plot-holes, especially in relation to Voldemort making Harry go through a long and elaborate contest just so that he will touch the Triwizard Cup and get transported to his hideout. On the one hand I can really see her point; on the other, I guess this could be excused on the basis that the point is that part of Voldemort wants Harry to be a Worthy Foe – i.e. he doesn't want Harry to make it through to his hide-out and provide blood for his resurrection unless Harry can prove his mettle first. That only takes us so far, though, because it's also clear in this book and others that the main thing Voldemort really wants is Harry dead – so why does he care so much about him being a Worthy Foe? And for that matter, why didn't he just order Wormtail to slit Harry's throat, rather than cut his arm, in order to obtain his blood for his resurrection: thus killing two birds with one stone?

Reactions to Harry being nominated as a Champion
Personally, my own biggest obstacle to swallowing the plot was the way the selection of the Triwizard champions was handled. OK, I realise that there had to be rules set for the selection of champions which would exclude Harry from entering, so that when his name pops out of the cup anyway, it's clear from the start that foul play is at work. But the insertion of those rules felt very contrived. And worse to me were the reactions in chapter 17 ('The Four Champions') when Harry's name had emerged from the cup – especially Harry's and Dumbledore's. Surely Harry, when called up to the teachers' table, would instantly and vehemently deny that he'd put his name in the cup – not mention this to his friends only, and then not even speak for several pages while everyone else argues about whether he should be allowed to compete or not? Wouldn't he realise himself that something pretty fishy must be going on, and thus be afraid, and want the adults around him to realise this? Certainly, only 10 pages after his name has emerged, and for the first time when he is alone after it’s finally been decided that he will be allowed to compete, we find him wondering whether Voldemort has somehow contrived this to kill him - this tells us that he is afraid, so why didn't he mention it before? Basically so that JKR could build up a whole rather teetering scenario in which everyone resents Harry for being chosen - great, but it doesn't work for me if it comes at the cost of unconvincing behaviour from Harry in the first place.

And surely Dumbledore would be prompted to take some significant action, or at least enter a state of high alert, once this has happened, since he above all people must know Harry didn't put his name in the cup (Dumbledore set the spells which would mean he couldn't, and also had ample chance to use legilimency to check whether Harry was lying or not when he said he hadn't entered, looking straight into Dumbledore's eyes as he did so). But rather, although he must know something very dodgy is going on, he seems reasonably happy to allow Harry to compete, mainly on the grounds that it's an unbreakable magical contract now his name has come out of the goblet. I could accept this if there was more of a show of concern or reluctance from Dumbledore, or if we heard more about what the consequences would be if any of the competitors broke their contract and didn't compete. If Dumbledore's line was 'I really don't like this, and don't want Harry to compete, but we have no choice - he'll die a horrible death if he doesn't', I mean. But that smooth sugar-coating is absent, and this plot point has a lot of awkward sharp edges that make it difficult to swallow without.

The Death Eater mystery
The one interesting issue which does arise in Goblet of Fire is the little mystery about which Death Eaters are and aren't present in the graveyard at Voldemort's resurrection, and exactly which three he is referring to when he says:

Ch. 33, p. 565 - "One too cowardly to return... he will pay. One, who I believe has left me forever... he will be killed, of course... and one, who remains my most faithful servant, and who has already re-entered my service."

Of these, it's generally agreed that Karkaroff is the one too cowardly to return, and Crouch the most faithful servant. But much has been written about whether Snape is or isn't the one whom Voldemort believes has left him forever. I can't quite decide where I stand on this. The simple line to follow is that this actually does refer to Snape, and that the mission which Dumbledore entrusts to him at the end of the book, and which makes him look 'slightly paler than usual' (ch. 37, p. 619), is to go and correct this impression. But the other possibility is that Snape was already present at this first meeting, with Voldemort merely passing over him in silence as one of the unremarked members of the circle, and that this third 'missing' Death Eater is actually someone else. There's all sorts of theories on this, including the interesting suggestion that it could instead have been Cornelius Fudge – but I will merely link, and let you decide for yourselves. MuggleNet – The North Tower Editorial 15, 'The Missing Death Eater', MuggleNet – The North Tower Editorial 16, 'Snape vs. Time', and
Red Hen – 'Double-00 [sic] Sevie' (scroll to about half way down the article for arguments as to how Snape could have been there).

The only trouble with any of those is that if Snape had already shown himself loyal by attending Voldemort's resurrection, what was the task that made him so pale at the end of the book? To tell Voldemort that Barty Crouch Jr., his most faithful servant, had been 'unmasked', perhaps? It's about the only thing I can think of that's plausible, but I'm still not sure that would really make Voldemort angry enough (does he honestly care about the personal fate of even his best Death Eaters?) for Snape to turn so pale at the prospect of it.

The film
All the above said, though, I am really looking forward to the film. I think this may be a case in which the film is able to improve significantly on the book, by cutting away some of the unnecessary material, rendering the Triwizard tasks more epic and thrilling and generally helping with the suspension of disbelief by being visually convincing. Some fine-looking pictures from it have started to appear, for anyone who hasn't seen them yet, and it is also supposed to have been allocated the biggest budget so far for any of the Potter films (not necessarily a sign of quality, I know, but in this context, it should mean slicker-than-ever effects inserted into an already winning formula). Plus I am looking forward to seeing the Yule Ball in full visual splendour, and the struggle between Harry and Voldemort in the graveyard at the end.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 7th, 2005 12:16 pm (UTC)
Get well soon.
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:33 pm (UTC)
What did you think of the line (almost throwaway really) in which Dumbledore looks "triumphant" that Voldemort is now able to touch Harry? It would tie into a theory that Dumbledore could be the servant who has re-entered Voldemort's service, and thus confirming the fact that Snape is in that circle of Deatheaters. It also suggests a reason why Dumbledore does nothing about Harry's name being selected for the tournament - he knows what Voldemort is planning, so instead of wisely deciding that Harry should pull out, he puts him forward, knowing that it could lead to his death. Of course that's a bit of a mad theory, but still possible.

Looking forward to your thoughts on Order of the Phoenix!! And hope you're feeling much better.
Mar. 7th, 2005 08:52 pm (UTC)
I am really looking forward to the film,

I am too, but with a little dread. I thought the PoA was not as good as it could have been. I am not sure why, but I thought the fun of the two films before were totally lost. It is the meanest of the three. I am hoping the new director, Mike Newell, can recapture that.

I am hoping they film OoP in two parts. It is a complicated story line and I think so much will be lost if they don't. Heck they did LOTR that way.
Mar. 7th, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC)
Ooh, hello!

Prisoner of Azkaban was definitely different from the previous two films, but I thought the change was good, in that it matched a change in tone in the books as the subject matter got heavier. Obviously there were things which were changed: the one which really stood out for me was Snape being conscious after the Shrieking Shack scene, and thus being able to stand between werewolf-Lupin and the kids. But overall I thought it was very good.

I'm not sure where I stand on the two-film idea - the same thing was suggested for Goblet of Fire, but in the end I think one film was probably best, since, as I've said above, I didn't think the book was that amazing.

By contrast, I really enjoyed Order, and would like to see ful justice done to it. But then again, one film per book is just neater. I just don't know!
Mar. 7th, 2005 09:19 pm (UTC)
This is slightly off-topic, but I was checking the Internet Movie Database site and they have announced the director for OOtP:


Interesting choice, particularly as he directed some rather 'dark' material (particularly "Sex Traffic" which deeply upset me - though it was supposed to be disturbing). So I think, given the atmosphere of OOtP, he'd really be able to capture that, particularly the final scene in the Ministry of Magic.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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