Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
In a way, it’s true that there is no single central plot in Prisoner of Azkaban, because one candidate (Quidditch) lacks gravitas and another (Sirius v. Harry) proves to be an illusion. But in terms of what plotline drives the book, I would say it’s the latter. We “know” from very early on that Sirius Black is trying to kill Harry, and we know there will be a confrontation at the end–and there is. The only reason that we look back and say “that wasn’t the main storyline” is that there’s a twist. And that’s why the story doesn’t wrap up in the Shrieking Shack, even though that scene seems like it’s going to be the climax.
Beyond that, there is another focal point: the whole backstory of MWPP (and S). One of the many things I love about the book is that while Harry is going about his life–lighter things like wanting to go to Hogsmeade and playing Quidditch, heavier things like hearing his parents and coping with Dementors–there is another drama mostly invisible to him (and to us, until the second reading): that of Lupin, Black, Snape, and, if you think about it, Pettigrew.
We think the story is about Black trying to kill Harry, so the plot seems focused on that; but that’s not what the story is about. It’s about Sirius in a whole different way, and it’s as much about Pettigrew, and right on out of the pages of this volume to Voldemort.
Everything balances. The storylines that seem trivial either turn out to be central (Crookshanks v. Scabbers) or serve to bring in storylines that are essential (Quidditch, e.g., brings in Sirius-as-godfather, and the Dementors/J&L issue). The real character dramas are largely below the surface (interactions