Welcome to Muggles and Mocha!
We’re at Hogwarts, guys! After Harry and Ron’s catastrophic trip to the school, they’re starting classes, and excitement is in the air. But first, it’s time for the moment we’ve been waiting for…
At long last, we get to rag on Gilderoy Lockhart!
Don’t worry, I’m sure this won’t be the only time this topic is mentioned—we’ll complain about him a lot more before this book is done.
On a side note, I also promise we won’t become consumed by the negative characters in this journey. I work to focus on both the positives and negatives within the book series, so we won’t give the baddies more time than they deserve. Except for Voldemort and Snape, of course! They’re too interesting for me to resist.
In our video today, I take a look at the significance of each Lockhart scene in this chapter and its purpose within the book. Guys, it was a SUPER fun video to make. There are a lot of rants about Lockhart, and on top of that, we get to take a deep dive into what all of his actions mean for him as a character.
But now, this chapter… Honestly, was it hard for you guys to read without chucking the book down? I became so frustrated reading about Lockhart’s antics! More than once, I had to stop for a moment to regain my composure.
Have I mentioned I’m dramatic, especially when it comes to all things Harry Potter?
But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. In this chapter, we see the gang starting their second year of classes. I’ve mentioned this before, but some of my favorite parts of the books are when we get to see the ins and outs of Hogwarts, following Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they go to their different classes and learning a bit about their coursework. Honestly, as much as Harry and Ron poke fun at Hermione, I’ve always wanted to know what an Arithmancy class is like.
Anyway, before too long, the focus of this chapter quickly shifts to Lockhart. Right from the beginning, J.K. Rowling works to show us just who this man is and what drives him. Here are a couple of the… interesting… events we get to witness in this chapter: He coaches Professor Sprout on her job, he pulls Harry aside and “takes the blame” for Harry’s flying car stunt, he scolds Harry for giving out pictures because he “isn’t there yet,” then there’s the abysmal Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson…
Goodness. We have a lot of ground to cover.
While this article, too, will delve into Lockhart’s personality, I want to focus on someone else as well—Albus Dumbledore. That’s right! Our favorite eccentric headmaster is the one who hired this guy, and I did some research into why. Why would one of the greatest wizards who ever lived hire someone like Gilderoy Lockhart to teach and mold young minds? You may be surprised at the answer…
But first, we’re going to break down Lockhart’s character. To start, let’s go back in time to when he was at Hogwarts as a student.
As with some of the other topics we’ve discussed in the past, J.K. Rowling has written an article about this character. Let me tell you… it’s rough. Apparently, Lockhart was similar to what we see in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets even as a young boy. Born to a Muggle father and a witch mother, he was the only one of his siblings with magical abilities and was definitely favored by his mother because of this. By the time he reached Hogwarts, he was already certain he would be the best wizard—or person, even—who ever lived. In the article, Rowling describes him this way:
“…the realisation that he was a wizard caused his vanity to blossom like a particularly pernicious weed.”
So, there you go. And we know that weed didn’t stop there.
When he reached Hogwarts, he discovered the other students had magical abilities also; he was in the same boat as the other first years, which was a disappointment to him. While he was pretty bright and accomplished when it came to his studies, he was obsessed with being the best. Even though his teachers did appreciate he was intelligent and had good magical abilities, he could never be satisfied—something we see in Chamber of Secrets as well. As a student, to compensate for not being the absolute best at everything, he tried to get attention in any way possible. These attempts are… well… I was speechless. Here are a couple J.K. mentions:
“He received a week’s worth of detentions for magically carving his signature in twenty-foot-long letters into the Quidditch pitch. He managed to create a massive, illuminated projection of his own face, which he would send skywards in imitation of the Dark Mark. He sent himself eight hundred Valentine’s cards one year, which caused such a pile-up of owls in the Great Hall that breakfast had to be abandoned (far too many feathers and droppings in the porridge).”
From here, we know the rest of the story. When he left Hogwarts, his hunger for success, attention, and fame grew dangerous. Honestly, I believe if Lockhart would have let this obsession with fame go, he could have done some amazing things! But unfortunately, he chose to steal other people’s accomplishments, robbing them of their successes and triumphs. Ultimately, he stole a piece of who these people were through his actions. Despicable. This is another topic I discuss in further detail in our video for this week.
Now that we have a little more background on Lockhart, we can understand him a bit better, though I do think Rowling does an excellent job bringing him to life for us in this second book.
Today, though, I don’t want to simply discuss Lockhart’s actions once he reaches Hogwarts as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. I want to talk about one of the only—if not THE only—decisions Dumbledore made that I utterly disagree with: the decision to hire Gilderoy Lockhart.
Let me explain. Dumbledore does make other decisions throughout the books that I probably wouldn’t have, but almost every time, these decisions are backed in logic or reasons I can understand and relate to. EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE. We’ve already talked about who Lockhart is, even before he comes to Hogwarts. So why did Dumbledore hire him?
First, we do know it was difficult to find someone to fill the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. However, I don’t believe Gilderoy Lockhart would have been the only person Dumbledore could find. Based on the article by J.K. about Lockhart, there’s a little more to it than that. Dumbledore knew two of the wizards from whom Lockhart had stolen achievements, and he believed he knew what Lockhart was doing. However, instead of exposing him (which there may have been reasons for not doing this that I’m unaware of), he concocted a plan to reveal who this man truly was:
“Dumbledore was convinced that Lockhart needed only to be put back into an ordinary school setting to be revealed as a charlatan and a fraud. Professor McGonagall, who had never liked Lockhart, asked Dumbledore what he thought students would learn from such a vain, celebrity-hungry man. Dumbledore replied that ‘there is plenty to be learned even from a bad teacher: what not to do, how not to be.’”
WHAT? Maybe it’s just me… but I wasn’t satisfied with this response at all. Let’s break it down.
First, surely there was another way to expose him, right? Albus Dumbledore is Albus Dumbledore. I’m sure if Dumbledore had made an accusation, it would have been met with serious consideration. Of course, you have Lockhart’s books to contend with, which “document” his different adventures. But I believe in Dumbledore—I’m pretty sure he could have found a way to prove this man was a fraud besides hiring him as a teacher.
Second is the main issue I have with Dumbledore’s decision—his students suffered a year of pointless Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons for this man’s actions to be exposed. These kids already have a different teacher every year, which brings with it different teaching styles and curricula—now they’re presented with an incompetent teacher on PURPOSE?
My last thought about this has to do with Dumbledore’s response to McGonagall. He says you can learn how not to do things, how not to be… but this isn’t just a class on how to be a good leader or authority figure. They’re supposed to be learning Defense Against the Dark Arts, which as we know, is an extremely important class for these specific students with Voldemort’s return on the horizon. Even though they may not realize it yet, right now, learning defensive magic is a must for them. Plus, these are kids we’re talking about. If you put someone in a position of authority, the kids he’s teaching will automatically assume this is someone they’re supposed to respect and learn from until they find out otherwise. Thankfully, most of them seem to realize this pretty quickly, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re stuck with him for the rest of the year. Just because they know he’s a bad teacher doesn’t make him go away—he’s still their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Unfortunately, many of the students, especially the younger ones, probably don’t have the tools or skills to compensate for this lack of instruction.
Honestly, I don’t like going against Dumbledore because he’s one of the wisest characters in the series. Seriously, as I’ve mentioned before, his conversations with Harry and the ends of the books are just fantastic, and they’re some of my favorite scenes to revisit. But this is a moment I had to honestly analyze what I think about this hire, and man… I disagree.
To bring some positivity into this conversation, at least Lockhart’s good at memory charms. Even if he does use them maliciously. On a serious note, I think Lockhart’s character serves his purpose well—he’s someone Rowling wanted us to love to hate, and we definitely do. He also serves as a bit of a foil to Harry in this book, as Harry is constantly faced with more and more attention as the story continues. However, instead of reacting as Lockhart does and seeking it out, Harry keeps his head with both the good and bad criticism.
Of course, my thoughts are completely my opinion, and I’d love to hear yours as well in the comments below! Do you think Lockhart has some redeemable qualities? I try to be pretty open-minded, so I’d enjoy hearing what you have to say. In next week’s video, we may include a little breakdown of your thoughts on this subject!
I do hate that Lockhart became the man we see in this book. From what we’ve learned of him and what you can read in the Wizarding World article (really, check it out!), he was coddled and brought to believe he was the best and that he must always be the best from a young age—no matter the cost.
Next week, we’re on to more interesting topics in chapter seven, “Mudbloods and Murmurs.” It’s a pretty intriguing title… you don’t want to miss it!
Thanks for tuning in today! If you have any questions, please reach out through the button below. Again, feel free to check out the video to learn even more about our goofy Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year. I’ll see you next time!
Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.
11 Replies to “Gilderoy Lockhart is the WORST – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 6”
Madison, I love your theory on the purpose to hire Gilderoy Lockhart. Was it because there was no one else? Possibly, considering the next teacher was a werewolf. Or was it to expose him as a fraud?
My thought was this: how much pressure do you think Dumbledore was receiving from the wizarding community to hire him? “Why don’t you try Lockhart? He is brave and knows a lot about the dark arts. I bet he would love the challenge of that cursed position!” Lockhart was very highly respected in the community for his bravery (which we know was a show and totally fake) and a lot of people were too afraid to take the position believing it to be cursed (which we find out later actually was). To anyone in the wizarding community, the hiring of Lockhart would be a no-brainer.
I completely agree that Dumbledore would have seen through all of Lockhart’s lies. Dumbledore probably knew Lockhart in school and could probably see right through him just like he did Tom Riddle.
It would completely make sense that Dumbledore would want to expose Lockhart for the good of the wizard community and hiring him as a teacher would be the best way to keep a close eye on him and ensure that he wouldn’t be stealing other wizard’s heroic actions while Dumbledore waited for the proof and opportune moment to expose him.
Meanwhile, the group of kids who needed excellent defense against the dark arts skills, were most definitely taught what not to do, and not really anything of substance.
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This is a great point! I find it very easy to believe that there could have been some outside pressure to hire Lockhart, especially in a position dealing in what is supposed to be his specialty. I also can’t imagine that Dumbledore possessed complete hiring power – perhaps there was additional pressure by the board of governors in an attempt to “overcompensate” for the previously horrible (and embarrassing) hiring of Quirrell?
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Hmm, the thought of additional hiring personnel is an interesting idea!
Hi Jessica! Thanks for your comment!
These are excellent points. I do agree the hire was most likely a mixture of different reasons. We know there weren’t many people willing to take the job, and J.K. has admitted that exposing him as a fraud was a huge factor as well. However, I didn’t consider the pressure from the wizarding community. I’m sure there were many who were also pushing Dumbledore to do this, especially with Lockhart being in his heyday. I believe this probably also went into this decision.
I’m sure there were pros that came out of the decision to hire Lockhart, with the benefits to the wizarding community after he’s exposed being one of them. But at what cost? I agree the kids who truly needed this class unfortunately didn’t get it. Think of the older students, especially those studying for O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s. There are also the lasting effects on Gilderoy’s mental state that occur as a result of all this, too. Even though I really don’t like Lockhart, I do hate what happens to him at the end of the book, even if it’s self-inflicted. The whole situation just didn’t go too well, with his exposure as a fraud being the main result. It truly was a complex decision!
Thanks again for the comment! 🙂
Oh man. BUCKLE IN.
First off, YES to EVERYTHING in that video. I. Can’t. Stand. Gilderoy. Lockhart. He’s sleazy, slimy, and makes me want to shower every time I have to read about him. He has no regard for anything or anyone other than himself, to a most dangerous degree. He’s completely oblivious to reality, and obviously has his priorities so out of order that I’m pretty sure he’d see someone he loved destroyed before he’d see damage to his reputation. I completely understand your recalcitrance in regards to the explanation of why he was hired, and was pretty much of the same mind, but I’ve been cooled off just slightly after reading Jessica’s reply above (and also for the point I mention below about what he’s inadvertently done for Harry). I left another comment there on my thoughts, and I’d be interested to see what you think of it as well. Oh, and I’m not sure I’d classify him as a villain, but I would classify him as dangerous, and also as a criminal. This is intellectual theft! Memory alteration is a dangerous and especially cruel thing to do, so I’m pretty glad that this eventually (literally) backfires on him.
That being said, I think he’s an important character, and he actually serves a handful of purposes for Rowling. I really feel like he is a great illustration of a couple things: 1) the unhealthy feeding of a child’s ego coupled with unrealistic expectations will REALLY mess a kid up 2) “star power” is a potent drug that can often hide corruption, deceit, and unhappiness
Another important thing that I think Lockhart does quite effectively is to actually fulfill what Dumbledore thought he would and give Harry a perfect vision into what fame can do to someone if gone unchecked. He shows Harry through his own awful decisions how not to be. We can see in this chapter that every one of Harry’s interactions with Lockhart cause him great discomfort, and from then on we can be assured that Harry will never allow his “fame” to run his life.
You’ve already done a nearly perfect job of berating Lockhart so I won’t rehash that here. Just know that I match your strong opinions point-for-point… It’s also funny that you mention Rowling giving us characters we love to hate, as I actually did a “multi-genre research project” on this EXACT topic for one of my high school Lit classes! And not to build suspense, but I currently have said project sitting on my end table. We seriously couldn’t be more on the same page about this. I actually chose Umbridge as my primary example (surprise surprise) so I’ll save that for later on, but I couldn’t resist mentioning this lol
What a comment. As you know… I agree with your critiques of Lockhart! I do like the thought of Harry actually learning from Lockhart. You’re right, he does see in action how awful giving in to your ego can be.
Tyler, I have to see this research project. Of course it’s on your end table, as it should be! Seriously, we have to talk about it.
As I was thinking about Dumbledore’s decision to hire Lockhart, I thought perhaps he was right in exposing him in this way. Lockhart was definitely, a celebrity especially among the ladies. Some people will not believe truth because they don’t want to feel duped. This was a way to bring about self discovery of who Lockhart was, by the students but probably also, by their parents. It seems the class, throughout the books, seems to have a backwards way of ultimately teaching the subject, even with the worst of teachers.
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Self-discovery is definitely a good point. With Lockhart at the school, people were finally able to see his incompetence in action with no memory charms involved. Well, except for on himself, that is.
Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article! It’s the little changes that will make the largest changes. Many thanks for sharing!
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