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SCARPnotes for the book
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Table of Contents

   I. Key Facts Portus
  II. Plot Overview Portus
 III. Context- with commentary by Portus
  IV. Summary and Analysis of Chapters Portus
   V. Character List and Analysis of Characters Portus
  VI. Themes, Motifs and Symbols Portus
 VII. Important Quotations Portus
VIII. Study Questions and Essay Topics Portus
  IX. Review and Resources Portus
   X. Quiz Portus

Key Facts

Full title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author: Joanna Kathleen (J. K.) Rowling
Type of Work: Part six of a seven part Novel, containing 168,923 words in 30 chapters.
Genre: Fantasy, Children's
Language: English
Time and Place Written: Late 1990's to 2005
First Publication Date: 16 July 2005
Publisher: Great Britain: Bloomsbury Children's books; US: Arthur A. Levine Books an imprint of Scholastic inc.
Narrator: A detached third person close, but not in, the action
Point of View: The narrator, who is omniscient, first takes the view of the Muggle Prime Minister; then Narcissa Black; and, finally Harry Potter where it remains throughout the book.
Tone: Being a children's book, it is straight-forward and matter-of-fact in tone. It is of necessity a bit more complex than the early Potter books and quite a bit more "dark" and fearful for children. The death of a very major character may be quite disturbing - to younger children; and, the fact that it appeared so "meaningless" - to those older.
Tense: Past
Settings (time): Although, in the beginning, the books never actually gave an exact date for the school years, the large fan base extensively researched internal clues and, through deductive reasoning, calculated Harry's birth date. Most likely to shut off the large amount of speculation, the author (JKR) gave a tangential reference to a "real" date which then gave credence to the calculations. Some of the specific's remain "magical" however as the author's references still do not always coincide with a normal calendar; for example, the school year always begins on September 1st, and it's always a Monday, of every school year. Using the calculated dates, this book takes place from June 1995 to June 1996. (Following the release of the 7th book - JKR gave Dumbledore's actual death year as 1996, the end of Harry's 6th year).
Setting (place): Surrey and London England including Privet Drive and the office of the British Prime Minister, Spinner's End the home of Severous Snape; Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and its surrounds.
Protagonists: Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore
Antagonists: Severous Snape, Draco Malfoy and by inference Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters
Major conflict: Like in previous books, the conflict proceeds on two levels: Harry being absolutely convinced that Draco Malfoy has replaced his father as a Death Eater, therefore deserves following (and stopping), because he is "up to something"; and, Dumbledore's quest to find and destroy all of Voldemort's Horcruxes which will enable him, finally, to be killed.
Rising Action: Dumbledore's personal, and early, retrieval of Harry from the Dursley's this year, marked the beginning of a significant change in their relationship. As USUAL, no one, including Ron and Hermione, believed Harry's intuition that Draco Malfoy was attempting to follow in his father's footsteps as a Death Eater; nor, understood his obsession with what Draco was secretly attempting to do. But, UNUSUALLY, Dumbledore began "private lessons" to tell Harry "the whole story," especially about Voldemort's greatest secret: that he had made vessels to contain split off portions of his soul (Horcruxes), in order to obtain "immortality." So, in reality, he actually could be killed if they were first destroyed! Using collected memories in his Pensieve, Dumbledore revealed: Tom Riddles parentage; orphan years of bullying; obsession with immortality; robbing, murder and deceit; and, reason why he wasn't killed himself during his failed attempt to kill Harry.
Climax: Harry discovered that Snape had been a spy for Voldemort, that he was trying to help Draco accomplish a mission for Voldemort, and even that the Room of Requirement was where Malfoy was "working on it." Dumbledore, however, found the location of a third Horcrux so they went to retrieve it before capturing Malfoy. Voldemort had made the barriers nearly impossible to penetrate, and necessitated Harry reluctantly, and distastefully, forcing Dumbledore's acceptance of pain and harm. They were attacked by Inferi (reanimated corpses), but finally suceeded in escaping with the locket. Just as they thought their task was completed, the action rose again when they arrived back at the castle and found it had been penetrated by Death Eaters. Draco's assignment from Voldemort was finally revealed: to kill Dumbledore.
Falling Action: Dumbledore used his usual kindness and logic to dissuade Draco from his task, only to have Snape burst on the scene and finish it himself, while Harry, unseen and immobilized, looked on. Harry's attempt at retaliation on Snape, merely revealed that he was inadequate to the task. The students were allowed to attend Dumbledore's funeral, and entombment on Hogwarts grounds, before they were sent home. New minister, Scrimgeour, followed in his predecessors foot-steps by being only concerned with "perception and politics"; so, Harry knew that it was now solely up to him, to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes then face Voldemort.
Themes: Discovering Oneself (Finding out 'Who I Am')
The evils of being a bigot
The value (and irony) of Love
Motifs: Wizardry
Literary Devices: Amortensia Potion
Forshadowing: Harry's future ability to confront Voldemort

Plot Overview

The book's beginning involves three chapters which apparently cover the same foggy night in Britain; but, with three different sets of people. First, the muggle Prime Minister of England worked late in his office - worrying about many unexplained tragedies - and received an increasingly frequent visitor with bad news - Cornelius Fudge. The wizard told him of the destruction that Lord Voldemort had caused, informed him that he had been "fired" and introduced him to the new "minister of magic," Rufus Scrimgeour. Second, Narcissa Black Malfoy, over the objections of her sister, Bellatrix Black LeStrange, went to visit Severus Snape at his personal house on Spinners End. She begged his intervention with Lord Voldemort who had vindictively assigned her son, Draco, to try and complete something that "even he couldn't do" - probably in the hopes that he would be killed in the attempt. Bellatrix contemptuously demanded answers to her questions; and Snape, just at hatefully, responded that he had been Voldemort's spy against Dumbledore all along. To prove his fidelity to the dark lord, he was willing to make the "unbreakable vow" to help Draco with his task, and even perform it himself if Draco was appearing to fail. Third, Harry and the Dursley's received a visit from Dumbledore! After chastising the Dursley's for their past treatment of Harry, he told them that Harry would be back to their house only one more summer. After that, he would be "of age" and the protective "love spell," enabled by his mother's death, would cease to function. Dumbledore took Harry, under side-along apparition, to help "recruit" Horace Slughorn to return to his old professorship position at Hogwarts. Before leaving Harry at the Weasley's, Dumbledore said that he would be giving him "private lessons" this year.

The wizarding world had clearly changed: it was at war with Voldemort. Karkarof and Amelia Bones had been killed and Ollivander had disappeared. While visiting Diagon Alley, and Fred and George's new joke shop, they followed Draco into Nocturne Alley and eavesdropped on his threatening conversation with Borgin about something he had bought and information he needed to fix something. Malfoy had something on his left arm, which frightened Borgin, and the boy threatened a "visit from family friend Fenrir Greyback" to threaten Borgin. The others wouldn't believe Harry that Malfoy had become a Death Eater, replacing his father. Harry's world was also changing. Bill Weasley was engaged to Fleur DeLacour, the papers were now calling him "the chosen one," he was appointed Quidditch captain, Tonks appeared depressed and lost her metamorph abilities, Dumbledore's wand hand was dead and withered and Slughorn (who was a 'collector of important people' for friends) began inviting him to parties in order to pump him for information. Some things didn't change: Snape was just as aggressive and hateful to him, he still relied heavily on Hermione for help in school, and Hagrid was about their only friend and confidant.

Of the many things that happened in school, there were four or five which proved most pivotal. Snape taught DADA, and Slughorn, who was teaching potions, loaned Harry a used book which was heavily annotated with potions and spells from it's previous owner: the Half-Blood Prince. Hagrid's brother had been moved to a mountain home created by Dumbledore; and, his childhood "pet," Aragog was old and dying. Malfoy became suspiciously different and deserved following. And, Dumbledore began using vials of collected memories in the pensieve, in order to teach Harry about Voldemort's life and "something" that would be critical to their upcoming confrontation. The first vial showed Voldemort's grandfather, Marvolo Gaunt, in his run down home near Little Hangleton, with his children: dim-witted Morfin and near squib Merope. They were pure-blood descendants of Salazar Slytherin (with his ape-like appearance) and had a ring and locket which had belonged to him. An altercation, with the law enforcement squad, put Marvolo and Morfin in Azkaban. This left Merope alone, where she was able to act on her emphatuation with a muggle boy, Tom Riddle, and bewitch him into marriage. When the spell wore off, she was pregnant, in London, and Riddle left her.

Next, Dumbledore showed Harry that Tom Riddle's mother had pawned her locket for a mere pittance before she had died, giving birth to Tom in an orphanage. When he was 11, Dumbledore retrieved him to attend school, and found that he was already a loner who collected stolen items from the children he bullied, and "made hurt," with his magic. He found his last living Riddle relatives and killed them, blaming it on his last living Gaunt relative, Morfin, and stealing his ring. He ran across the Horcrux spell and manipulated information about it from Potions professor Slughorn. After graduation, he worked as a "collector" for Borgin and Burke's and, running across the Slytherin ring and Hufflepuff's cup, stole them after killing their owner and blaming it on a house elf. He eventually returned to Hogwarts and requested the DADA position but was turned down by headmaster Dumbledore. Harry was able to obtain an "honest" memory from Slughorn revealing that even in school, Riddle had discussed making Horcruxes to "split his soul" seven ways.

Having found and destroyed the Diary and ring, to the cost of his withered hand; Dumbledore continued looking and eventually found a secret cave, protected by enchantments, which contained a third Horcrux. Harry accompanied him, and helped him complete the retrieval; but, had to be saved from "inferi" about to drown him in a lake. Upon returning in a weakened state, they found the "Dark Mark" hovering over the castle and flew back to the school. A battle between Death Eaters and members of the Order was ensuing inside; but, Draco disarmed Dumbledore while the later was busy petrifying Harry (invisible) to keep him out of the battle. In talking, he found that Malfoy had repaired the vanishing cabinet in the room of requirement and brought his fellow Death Eaters, including the vicious werewolf Fenrir Greyback, into the school. Eventually Dumbledore talked Malfoy out of killing him (the task from Voldemort) and promised to hide him; but, other death eaters came, eventually joined by Snape who killed Dumbledore. He and Draco escaped; but not before he was confronted by Harry, and admitted that he had been the "Half-Blood Prince."

McGonagall assumed leadership and arranged for a funeral, where Dumbledore was "buried" inside a white marble crypt on the Hogwarts grounds. Scrimgeour, who had tried the whole year to get Harry to publicly support him for political reasons, tried again with a promise of auror protection, but was refused. Harry's new found relationship with Ginny was abandoned as Harry announced that it was "just him now" who needed to go after Voldemort. Ron and Hermione demanded that they were going with Harry next year, instead of attending their seventh year at Hogwarts... but not before attending Bill Weasley's planned wedding to Fleur DeLacour.