Chapter 6 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Gilderoy Lockhart
The next day begins less appealingly. Errol, the Weasleys' decrepit owl, delivers a Howler for Ron during breakfast in the Great Hall. Neville urges Ron to open it, warning that ignoring it is worse. Ron opens it, and Mrs. Weasley's amplified voice scolds him for taking the car and jeopardizing his father's job, leaving Ron utterly humiliated as his bemused classmates look on.
Professor McGonagall hands out timetables; first class is double Herbology with the Hufflepuffs. Hermione, apparently no longer annoyed by Harry and Ron's antics, accompanies them to class. Professor Sprout arrives late. She was tending the Whomping Willow, "assisted" by Professor Lockhart who gave "valuable pointers."
As a disgruntled Professor Sprout directs the class to Greenhouse Three, which contains the more interesting and dangerous plants, Professor Lockhart draws Harry aside. He says he understands why he and Ron took the flying car—for fame and recognition. Lockhart blames himself for giving Harry a taste of fame at Flourish & Blotts and ignores Harry's protest that he and Ron only wanted to get to school.
The class prepares to transplant Mandrake seedlings. Mature Mandrakes have restorative properties, but their cry is fatal without ear protection. The Trio is joined by Justin Finch-Fletchley, a Hufflepuff, who casually mentions that he is Muggle-born and was headed for Eton before getting his Hogwarts letter.
Next class is Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall. Harry seems to have forgotten all he learned last year and is unable to Transfigure his beetle into a coat button. Ron is having problems with his wand. Although he repaired it with magical tape, it is producing grey smokey clouds and strange noises.
After lunch, Harry is cornered by little Colin Creevey, who wants to take Harry's picture to show his parents that he has actually met "Harry Potter." Overhearing this, Draco badgers Harry about signing photos. Lockhart comes over and forces Harry to pose for a photo, then hauls him away for some "fatherly advice" on handling fame. They enter Defence Against the Dark Arts class together, although Harry hides in the back.
Lockhart sets a test to see how much the students know about him. Predictably, Hermione, who apparently thinks Lockhart is wonderful, gets a perfect score. Next, Lockhart releases Cornish Pixies into the classroom, but he is unable to control them. At the bell, he flees, leaving it to Harry, Ron, and Hermione to get the remaining Pixies back into their cage. Ron and Harry are now suspicious about how truthful Lockhart's books really are, though Hermione still seems to suffer from hero worship.
Harry's disdain for fame is reinforced here, and it is a stark contrast to Lockhart, who can never have enough. As in Flourish & Blotts, Harry is uncomfortable with his celebrity, particularly as expressed by Colin Creevey, a rabid fan. Creevey, in his enthusiasm at meeting Harry, is oblivious that Harry may prefer to avoid being photographed, or that he dislikes fame. Of course, others take it out of context: Draco Malfoy makes noise, in his usual way, about Harry signing autographs, while Lockhart, plainly believing Harry is as fame-mongering as he, lectures Harry on going too fast with his career as a celebrity. The self-centered Lockhart assumes no one would deliberately shun the limelight, and so disregards Harry's preference to avoid being photographed. Lockhart has blatantly overstepped his bounds when he insists Harry be photographed with him, exploiting a chance meeting solely to garner even more publicity for himself.
Also, back at Hogwarts, Ron and Harry are having doubts about their Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. If Gilderoy Lockhart has accomplished so many incredible things, why was he unable to handle something as simple as the Cornish Pixies? One wonders how he was able to even catch them for the demonstration. Hermione, who may have developed a crush, defends Lockhart, claiming he has accomplished many things. Ron shows insight here when he astutely remarks that Lockhart never offers any real proof about anything apart from his word. One must wonder why Hermione is so blind to Lockhart's deficiencies, even at this early stage. Readers can see for themselves that Lockhart's charm and charisma are coupled with his arrogant and condescending behavior to the other faculty, blatantly offering advice to those more expert than he. We suspect that the faculty are fast becoming annoyed and are certainly wondering just how competent he actually is.
Readers should perhaps take notice that Professor Sprout is able to tend the Whomping Willow's injuries in, apparently, complete safety. This certainly indicates that the tree's violent behavior can be managed when needed. This begs the question that if the tree can be controlled in this way, then why is it allowed to attack anything that comes within close proximity to it?
- Does the spell Professor Lockhart uses to control the Pixies work? If not, why? Is there anything strange about it?
- Why is Professor Sprout so annoyed?
- Why does Ron receive a Howler? Who sent it?
- How was Professor Sprout able to "bandage" the damaged Whomping Willow without being injured herself?
- Is Gilderoy Lockhart's teaching likely to be useful to Harry, Ron and Hermione? Explain.
- What does Ron have to say about Lockhart's claims in his books? Is there evidence to suggest that he may be right?
- Why would Lockhart give a test that only has questions about himself?
- Why does Hermione seem to believe everything Lockhart claims about himself in his books, despite emerging evidence to the contrary?
Hermione's trust in Lockhart's abilities continues unabated throughout much of the book, despite significant evidence he is a sham. He will never again demonstrate Defensive magic, while the Dueling Club he starts proves to be a travesty, and his attempt to heal Harry's broken arm results in it being de-boned, among other less-than-stellar accomplishments. Why then, does Hermione persist in believing in his abilities? The author provides us few clues, but Ron, who is often an astute observer, speculates in later years that Lockhart's good looks enthralled Hermione (as well as many other females), and that certainly seems what is happening here. Also, Hermione has a subconscious trust in books, and a belief that if something is documented in writing, it must be true. In this chapter, she does comment, "Look at all the things he's done!" Ron, more skeptical, seems to doubt that what is printed in the books must be accurate. We will see this blind faith in published works again as late as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where Hermione stubbornly sticks to the text in her Advanced Potion-Making textbook, despite the hand-written marginal notes in Harry's copy that produce far better results.