A thoroughly entertaining but increasingly violent continuation of the popular series.
When Harry returns to 'Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry' for his fourth year of magical instruction, he finds that his name has inexplicably been drawn from the Goblet of Fire, entering him into a dangerous magical contest - the Triwizard Tournament. Now competing against three other, more advanced students, Harry finds himself forced to participate in increasingly dangerous trials. At the same time, he finds that most of the school has turned against him, accusing him of entering his name despite the rules that contenders must be 17. To make matters worse, even his friend Ron has deserted him. And then there's the stinging sensation in his scar, and the strange visions of the evil Lord Voldemort that seem to accompany it.
This book is as full of moral relativism as its predecessors.
Early in the book, we learn that Harry has lied by omission: "[The attitude of Harry's difficult relatives] had changed since they had found out that Harry had a dangerous murderer for a godfather, for Harry had conveniently forgotten to tell them that Sirius was innocent." As in the previous volume, we see Harry's talent for manipulation where his non-magical family is concerned.
Two pranksters play a trick on Harry's cousin, resulting in the engorgement of his tongue and necessitating magical intervention for a boy who is already justly fearful of magic (Dudley was given a pig's tail in Book One.).
Mr. Weasley gets tickets to the popular Quidditch World Cup in exchange for getting someone's brother out of legal trouble. Once again, the genial head of the Weasley clan seems to be abusing his position.
George Weasley lies to his mother at least once.
After ineffectively trying to stop his twin sons from wagering at a sporting event, Arthur Weasley says, "Don't tell your mother you've been gambling." Not only can he not control his own sons, he directs them to lie about their behavior to his wife.
All the contestants in the Triwizard Tournament, including Harry, cheat to get ahead. One of the teachers even tells Harry, "Cheating is a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament. Always has been." In fact a judge tries to help Harry cheat throughout the event.
Partway through the book, Harry notices a light shining from a cabinet in the headmaster's office. Unwisely and intrusively, he decides to investigate it (Come now, do you go through people's cupboards uninvited while they're out of the room?). When Dumbledore returns, he excuses Harry's inexcusable behavior.
Like the rest of the series, the book centers around witchcraft and sorcery. While this is often handled in a lighthearted manner (and perhaps more dangerous because of the careless way in which the occult is portrayed?), this volume begins to take us in a darker direction, as we see the sorts of spells being cast by the darkest villains of the series.
At one point in the story, Harry sees manifestations of several murdered people.
Goblet of Fire is definitely the turning point for violence in the story. For the first time we are shown the level of evil the villains of this series are capable of, and in this reader's opinion this is the point in the series where one must wonder if the violence level has really crossed the line in terms of its suitability for young readers.
At the beginning of the story we are given a retrospective view of the murder of a family which took place fifty years earlier. Soon after a giant snake kills an old man.
A pub mentioned at the start of the story is called "The Hanged Man".
We are told that a character must milk a large serpent in order to sustain the subhuman Lord Voldemort. One character gets a bloody nose. A family with two small children is tortured, as mentioned in the Sexual Content box. We are also told about an incident from several years earlier when a character's parents were tortured into insanity.
A teacher turns a student into an animal and starts bouncing him up and down as a punishment. Later on, Hagrid threatens to do the same thing if that student is defiant.
Finally, in the most violent scene of the series to date, a character performs a grisly occult ritual, taking some of Harry's blood and willingly cutting off his own arm in order to return his master to a human body.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Percy Weasley drinks elderflower wine. Firewhiskey is mentioned. We are told that Madame Maxime's enormous flying palominos only drink single malt whiskey.
In a disturbing scene early in the book, a group of evil wizards torment a family of non-wizards by levitating them high in the air. They flip the mother upside down to reveal voluminous drawers and she tries to cover herself.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
A character uses binoculars to watch someone repeatedly pick their nose. Ron demonstrates a rude hand gesture that he saw Draco Malfoy using. Later, Ron makes a rude suggestion to Draco, though we are not told what it is.
The words "h**l", "d**n it", "d**n" all appear, some more than once.
The children work with rather disgusting plants in Herbology, having to squeeze the
"pus" out of them.
In Divination, when Lavendar Brown sees the planet Uranus on her star chart, Ron says, "Can I have a look at Uranus Lavender?"
There is mention of a ghost who haunts a bathroom being flushed down the drain with the contents of a toilet.
A female ghost has a conversation with Harry while he's taking a bath, and indicates that she has watched boys take baths in there before.
Goblet of Fire, in addition to being one of the most interesting books in Rowling's series, is also far more violent than its predecessors. The turning point of the series plotwise, it also marks a definite darkening of the series.
This reviewer would like to comment on an element in Rowling's writing which, while not fitting into any of the above categories for discussion, is still troubling. This is her treatment of characters who are overweight or obese, in particular, Harry's irritating and bullying cousin Dudley. We are told that, "Dudley had reached roughly the size and weight of a young killer whale." Later, when Harry's uncle calls Ron's mother "dumpy", Harry thinks,
"it was a bit rich of Uncle Vernon to call anyone 'dumpy' when his own son Dudley had finally achieved what he'd been threatening to do since the age of three and become wider than he was tall." Are these comments really necessary?
While one kind and motherly character, Molly Weasley, is portrayed as being overweight, the derision with which Rowling portrays Dudley is troubling, especially in light of the fact that the students of Hogwarts, mostly depicted as thin, tend to stuff their faces with copious amounts of food at every opportunity. In point of fact, Ms. Rowling's descriptions of wizarding food and treats are one of the most enchanting aspects of her books...but it does seem a tad unfair that these children, apparently no less greedy than Dudley, never have any trouble maintaining a healthy weight.
Another disturbing aspect of the Potter books is evidenced again in this volume, the expectation that there are people whom one will hate. Harry hates oppressive Professor Snape, he hates fellow student Draco Malfoy. Since Snape and Malfoy have treated Harry badly, this seems to be Rowling's natural response. Nowhere is the admonition made to love your enemies.
Finally, the moral relativism present in the series continues in this volume, with Harry breaking rules with near impunity. Almost the only person to comment on this fact is Professor Snape, one of the more loathsome teachers in the series, when he makes the sadly apt observation that Harry is, "a nasty little boy who thinks rules are beneath him." Since Snape is the one to say this, it only serves to further endear Harry to readers. The trouble is...Snape is right. With the shifting morality and the increasing violence, readers should take care when deciding to take this volume in hand.