Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by

J. K. Rowling

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Chapter Eight: Snape Victorious Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Feeling blood run down his face, Harry lies on the floor and wonders if and when someone will find him. As time goes by and the train begins to lurch into movement, he feels more and more hopeless; but suddenly the Cloak flies off him and he sees Tonks’s friendly face above him. Tonks fixes his nose before sending her Patronus, a furry four-legged animal, up to the school with a message. Stationed in Hogsmeade for the school’s protection, she noticed that Harry didn’t get off the train and came looking for him.
Harry has been following Draco on his own initiative – in fact, adults like Mr. Weasley have encouraged him to drop this line of investigation. However, he also sometimes relies on the adults in his life to protect him when things go wrong. In this sense, he’s toggling between his dueling identities as a dependent child and independent adult.
Themes
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As they walk up to the school, Harry looks curiously at Tonks. Last year, she’d been smiling and full of jokes most of the time, but now she’s withdrawn, not even wanting to know how Harry broke his nose. He wonders if she really does blame herself for Sirius’s death, which is surely not her fault.
Such interest in the interior thoughts of other people is unusual for Harry and shows the extent to which, whether or not he’s aware of it, he’s working to mature emotionally.
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When they reach Hogwarts, Harry tries to open the gates with magic, but Tonks flatly points out that the school has been enchanted to resist spells like these. Slowly, a lantern descends down to the gate; with loathing, Harry sees that it’s none other than Professor Snape who’s come to fetch him. He taunts Tonks that her new Patronus looks “weak,” eliciting a look of shock and anger.
One of Snape’s most odious personal characteristics is his ability to identify other people’s weaknesses and shamelessly exploiting them. Whether or not he is loyal to Dumbledore, this is a malicious trait worthy of judgment in itself.
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As Harry walks up the hill with Snape, it seems that his body is “generating waves of hatred.” He feels that Snape’s taunting of Sirius the previous year had caused his godfather to rush to the Ministry the night he died. Adding to his anger, Snape takes away fifty points from Gryffindor for Harry’s lateness. Harry refuses to respond to Snape’s smug tone. As he walks into the Great Hall, Harry is again embarrassed by people’s stares. Scolding him for scaring everyone, Hermione charms the blood of his face.
As the novel progresses, Harry will claim to distrust Snape due to various pieces of evidence he collects. However, it’s also important to note how much of his animosity towards the professor is due to past grievances – namely, his feelings that Snape contributed to his parents’ and Sirius’s deaths.
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From the head table, Harry sees Hagrid waving at him, next to a disapproving Professor McGonagall and an oblivious Professor Trelawney. It’s hard to believe that this is the woman whose prophecy determined the entire course of Harry’s life. As Ron and Hermione begin to question Harry about Slughorn’s lunch, Dumbledore gets up to give his annual speech. Hermione gasps with shock to see the state of his hand.
Dumbledore’s opening speech has always represented the strength and dignity of Hogwarts’ traditions. The headmaster’s physical injury creates a new sense of weakness that emphasizes the extent to which those traditions are now endangered.
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After some logistical announcements, Dumbledore reveals that Professor Slughorn has been hired to teach Potions, while Professor Snape will take over Defense Against the Dark Arts. Shocked that his nemesis is getting the powerful role he’s always wanted, Harry shouts aloud in surprise. Turning to the others, he “savagely” remarks that no Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher has lasted more than a year, and voices his hope that Snape will die on the job.
Many times, Harry’s keen sense of justice drives him to stand up for others and do good deeds. However, it also causes him to make extremely harsh judgments – like this pronouncement wishing for Snape’s death, although it’s not clear whether the professor has done anything to deserve such a fate.
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More gravely, Dumbledore reminds the students that with Voldemort’s rise they are all in danger; all the students should take security measures seriously, no matter how inconvenient they might seem, and report any suspicious occurrences. With that, he cheerfully sends them off to bed.
Unlike the government, Dumbledore is able to balance grave warnings with a reassuring attitude, encouraging people to watch out for their safety without fostering unnecessary fear.
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As they walk out of the Great Hall, Harry tells Ron what he overheard Malfoy say. However, Ron insists that Draco was just showing off for his friends – he refuses to believe that Malfoy is actually a Death Eater. The two are joined by Hagrid, who says how excited he is to see them tomorrow in his Care of Magical Creatures class. When he leaves, Harry and Ron look at each other with a sinking feeling – neither they nor Hermione are taking the class, and they know the friendly giant will feel slighted.
In the past, many of Draco’s more dramatic pronouncements really were just calls for attention or respect from his friends. Again, Ron’s insistence on viewing Draco in terms of his old childlike role, instead of acknowledging his capacity to act as an adult, causes him to underestimate Draco.
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Coming of Age Theme Icon