"It is my job to arm you against the foulest creatures known to wizardkind!"
- Gilderoy Lockhart
Ron receives a Howler, they learn about mandrakes in Herbology, Colin Creevey asks for an autographed photo, Lockhart is the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, and they learn about Cornish pixies.
Calendar and Dates
The entire action of this chapter takes place on the first day of classes of the 1992 - 1993 [Y12 - Y13] school year. The date is September 2. Typically, in Harry Potter's world, September 2 is a Monday. There is nothing to indicate that for this book, however.
Interesting facts and notes
Unlike many of the chapters named after individual characters (e.g., C14, C15, OP10), this chapter isn't the first in which Harry (or the readers) encounter the character face-to-face. Instead, the most spectacular incident of the chapter involves Lockhart's first lesson in Defence Against the Dark Arts.
This chapter introduces Howlers and mandrakes. It also contrasts Harry's attitude toward fame and adoration (as reflect in his dealings with Colin Creevey) with Lockhart's attitude.
"Just been showing Professor Sprout the right way to doctor a Whomping Willow! ... I just happen to have met several of these exotic plants on my travels..."
Doubtful he was showing her anything, considering the fact that she's battered and bruised and dirty and he's immaculate. More likely he was talking while she did the work. From Lockhart's comment, it appears that the Whomping Willow is not a unique plant, though certainly rare.
About twenty pairs of different-colored ear muffs
The class consists of Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors, and there are twenty pairs of earmuffs. When Rowling was planning the background of her books, she invented exactly forty students for Harry's year, ten for each house. Note that the film shows all the first years in this class, including the Slytherins, but that's a film invention.
The Mandrake forms an essential part of most antidotes.
We see an example here of the close connection between herbology and potions. A similar connection exists between potions and Care of Magical Creatures, but we can assume that herbology is more closely connected to common potion magic, as it's taught to all students while Care of Magical Creatures is an elective and not offered until third year. Presumably it is much more likely that the average witch or wizard would be growing magical plants in the front garden than raising magical creatures.
Harry snapped the earmuffs over his ears. They shut out sound completely.
In other words, they're magical earmuffs.
"...be careful of the Venomous Tentacula, it's teething."
She gave a sharp slap to a spiky, dark red plant as she spoke, making it draw in the long feelers that had been inching sneakily over her shoulder.
This is another of Rowling's lovely visual gags.
He was supposed to be turning a beetle into a button
Presumably this sort of transformation is made easier because a beetle and a button are visually similar and becuase the words beetle and button both start with the letter 'b' and have the letter 't' in the middle.
"Eat slugs, Malfoy," said Ron angrily.
This is where the idea gets into Ron's head which translates later into the Slug Curse.
"they'll be starting a Harry Potter fan club"
Rowling wrote this book in 1997. The next year, after this book was published, the first Harry Potter Fan Club was formed by Bloomsbury, Rowling's UK publisher. The club offered as one of it's perks a series of Daily Prophet newsletters, written by Jo herself.
"And a few of you need to read Wanderings with Werewolves more carefully - I clearly state in chapter twelve that my ideal birthday gift would be harmony between all magic and non-magic peoples..."
See essay on the number twelve.
Two of them seized Neville by the ears and lifted him into the air.
This is obviously some kind of magical power of the pixies. No one's ears could actually support their weight.
Unlike a real spell, this phrase comes not from Latin but from English. It would seem that Lockhart is saying English words, but trying to make them sound impressive. The words are "pesky pixie, pester no me." It's not unlike someone trying to sound like they can speak another language when all their doing is talking with a fake accent.
one of the pixies seized his wand and threw it out of the window
Ron does the same thing to Lockhart's wand before forcing him to accompany him and Harry into the Chamber of Secrets.
Exceptional character moments
Hermione, in a situation where her reliance on and trust of books has led her to believe Lockhart's reputation against all direct evidence to the contrary. Because she read about it, she believes it must be true.
Lockhart, lecturing Sprout (the real expert) on how to do her job, all the while making her late for class - then implying that he is the more expert herbologist in front of the entire class of Gryffindor second-years.
"Awfully brave chap. Have you read his books? I'd have died of fear if I'd been cornered in a telephone box by a werewolf, but he stayed cool and zap - just fantastic." [Justin Finch-Fletchley on Lockhart]