Voldemort’s Return in “The Goblet of Fire” by Rowling
Unlike all the other novels in the Harry Potter series, The Prisoner of Azkaban does not directly feature the presence of Voldemort as a primary antagonist. Although there are key events which end up impacting future novels, Voldemort’s absence in any form is mysteriously overlooked. However, in The Goblet of Fire, it becomes unclear until the very end what role Voldemort is yet to play, resulting in a tremendous expositional shock when the novel reaches its climax with Voldemort’s return, both as a character and literal attainment of a flesh physical body once more, after previously only existing as a parasite or spirit. Rowling uses a variety of literally elements such as foreshadowing, imagery, and symbolism to create the rising tension building up to the dreaded moment.
The first chapter of The Goblet of Fire immediately identifies that Voldemort is potentially returning. It describes an old muggle gardener to the former Riddle estate, witnessing a conversation between Voldemort, Wormtail, and a yet unknown wizard, at which point he is murdered. Although it is revealed that it was potentially a dream in Harry’s mind, this exposition serves to create an eerie dread that something horrific will happen. Within the discussion between Voldemort and his servants, it becomes that murder was committed and that they are planning something of great magnitude. It is revealed that Voldemort currently possesses some terrifying inhuman form, but his return seems inevitable (Rowling 11). It should be noted that this occurs prior to the development of a plot line, that Harry’s and Voldemort’s mind are synced. Harry wakes up, not clearly remembering, just as if it was a dream, creating a sense of dreaded mystery for the reader, whether it was reality or simply imagination.
Quidditch World Cup
Prior to returning to Hogwarts, Harry attends the Quidditch World Cup with his friends under the supervision of the Weasleys. However, in the aftermath of the game, the fan grounds are attacked by a mysterious group which are destroying everything. This turned out to be Death Eaters, or former followers of Voldemort, which in itself is horrifying as people were hurt in the attack. Throughout the series, there are references to the dark days when Voldemort was terrifying the nation, with his followers conducting similar attacks and killings, especially on those who did not support the Dark Lord. Therefore, the attack at the World Cup seemed to be a sign of darker things to come. At one point, someone launched the Dark Mark into the sky, Voldemort’s symbol of terror. Mr. Weasley describes it as “The terror it inspired … Just picture coming home, and finding the Dark Mark hovering over your house, and knowing what you’re about to find inside” (Rowling 93). However, the Dark Mark actually resulted in the Death Eaters to flee. This added to the further mystery as to why Voldemort’s own followers would be scared of the mark, one that has not been used for over a decade since the dark wizard’s disappearance, potentially emphasizing their own fear at his return. All these events create a highly tense and dark atmosphere, surrounding what was supposed to be a happy moment for the wizarding world, and foreshadowing that perhaps the next competition of the Tri Wizard Tournament would be based in dark controversy itself.
As the Tri-Wizard Tournament begins, Harry’s name is mysteriously entered, and the goblet is manipulated to give his name out as the “fourth” wizard. It becomes clear that someone is acting behind the scenes, and they really want Harry to participate in the competition. It is revealed that only a really powerful wizard can potentially bypass the goblet’s defenses. Further, during the tournament, it becomes evident that someone wants Harry’s success. At first, this seems like the goodwill of his friends and mentors, but as later confirmed, and with subtle suspicions, it is Barty Crouch Jr. posing as Mad-Eye Moody, manipulating Potter to reach the end of the tournament where the trophy is a portkey taking Harry directly into Voldemort’s trap. Rowling presents this masterfully, making Harry’s triumph at the tournament, albeit manipulated, to be the very element which leads to the tragic downfall and rise of Voldemort into power.
Even as Harry teleports to the graveyard, it is not yet clear what is happening. However, at this point, the terror and dread are maximized. The moment Harry sees Riddle inscribed on the gravestone, he realizes that his dream is potentially a reality, and he is about to face Voldemort. The symbolism of Voldemort’s return is catastrophic and traumatic, representing the embodiment of all evil in the Harry Potter universe and all that he stands against.
The sudden return of Voldemort at the end of The Goblet of Fire strongly shocked many fans of the series. Although many hints were given, many likely expected a similar approach as in the first two novels where Harry and good wizards are able to prevail. The Goblet of Fire took a sharp turn into a very dark and morbid element of the wizarding world, not just with the murder of Cedric Diggory, but the symbolic resurrection of Voldemort and Harry’s near-death experience. However, examining the literary elements, it is evident that Rowling was masterfully building the tension and dread to this climatic moment through the use of foreshadowing, imagery, symbolism, and other concepts.
Rowling, Joanne K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000.