A Critical Review of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone
The Harry Potter franchise is a global phenomenon. With millions of fans worldwide, the books, the movies, and the shared media franchise transcend all societal boundaries as it garners widespread acclaim & vehement fan following across different demographics.
From teenagers to young adults, the books and the media they have spawned enjoy religious fanaticism from the fans of the franchise.
More than 500 million books have been sold worldwide and the numbers keep on rising.
There are numerous reasons behind the immense popularity of the Harry Potter universe, starting from the context of the stories, the symbolism within, the characters, the ideas, etc.
In this article, we take a closer look at the reasons why the Harry Potter franchise touches a chord with so many, through a quick review of the key elements of the Potterverse and a chapter-wise critical analysis of the first book on the series, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone.
The Potter Universe & Its Premise
The universe in which the events of Harry Potter take place is a fantastical world, where magic, witches, wizardry, wands, spells, dragons are real.
These entities live in a separate, parallel world hidden from the normal, non-magical world of ordinary humans or “muggles” as wizards call them.
- Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is the primary setting in every story. The magical institution, its professors, its secrets & winding passages, magical artifacts, students & the four houses, etc. are key aspects of Potterverse, and symbolize everything positive in that universe.
Hogwarts Source: www.pinterest.com
Dark wizards, known as Death Eaters, symbolize the evil and the darkness who aim to usurp all power and spread chaos.
Several other magical & some non-magical settings and characters, sub-plots, powerful character & relationship dynamics and the writer’s imaginative forte make the stories a treat to read and play a crucial role in their success.
- Just like most stories in fiction, Harry Potter’s overall premise involves the struggle of good versus evil, greed vs benevolence and order vs chaos.
Harry Potterà A young wizard who is the epitome of innocence, love and benevolence and the primary
Voldemort or Thomas Marvolo Riddle à A powerful dark wizard who exemplifies greed, hatred and the lust for power
- Besides the perpetual struggle between good and evil, the stories are a showcase of virtues such as deep bonds of friendship & camaraderie, courage, kindness, and love.
The titular character is a bespectacled, orphaned boy, who lives with his abusive aunt, uncle & cousin since the death of his wizarding parents ten years prior.
Harry’s aunt Petunia, uncle Vernon and cousin Dudley Dursley treat him like dirt and symbolize childhood abuse & neglect. Harry’s parents James & Lily Potter died protecting one year old Harry from Lord Voldemort, who intended to kill him on the basis of a prophecy.
Harry’s closest friends are a freckled, red-haired & tall boy known as Ronald Weasley, and a brown haired, intelligent girl named Hermione Granger.
The Three Young Wizards
Ron Weasley is the Harry’s ultimate best friend whose always there for him, just like Hermione Granger, who is the most level-headed of them all and the brains of the group. Together, they symbolize the best virtues in the Potterverse, that is, love, friendship, courage, intelligence, kindness and intelligence.
Good vs. Evil
The Harry Potter stories combine different genres such as fantasy, boarding school & young adult stories to craft a compelling tale on the age-old battle between good against evil.
With magic as the ultimate catalyst but rooted in reality, J.K. Rowling’s stories are able to forge instant connection with their readers and enjoy overwhelming popularity worldwide.
It merges magical fantasy with elements of reality perfectly and looks at the aspects of love, friendship, greed, hatred, divisiveness, rebellion, kindness, etc. through the perspective of magic realism.
Now that we have discussed the overall premise of the Harry Potter universe, let us now cast a deep & critical glance at the introductory book of the series, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone (or the Philosopher’s Stone, as known in the UK)
Chapter Wide Analysis of Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone
Chapter 1 The Boy Who Lived
- The chapter mentions several supernatural incidents like a cat reading a map and the shocked disbelief of Vernon Dursley to symbolize the difference between the magical & non-magical or Muggle world. It also drops the name of Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black through a flying motorcycle in which Hagrid arrives with little Harry.
- All in all, the first chapter introduces several major characters and uses several magical & mysterious incidences to set things up & intrigue the audience. It informs us about the deadly incident that Harry survived and tells the readers that there is something special about the boy who lived.
Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass
- The chapter highlights the problems of childhood abuse and neglect, a dark reality of our society. Harry’s misery and suffering at the hands of his won aunt & her family, along with his orphaned status, tug at the readers heart and are sure to make one sympathize with his plight.
- The snobbery of the Dursley’s is in stark contrast with the simple nature of our eleven-year-old protagonist. The chapter also shines light upon a mysterious ability of Harry, and successfully foreshadows something mysterious & somewhat sinister about the boy. Harry’s gradual realization of his magical abilities is a crucial aspect that’s highlighted in this chapter too.
Chapter 3: Letters From No One
- Harry’s importance is now undeniable. The Dursley’s evert attempt to ignore and keep Harry away from meeting his destiny fails big time.
- The Dursley’s island retreat, the singular shack, the remote nature of the place and the climactic thumping at the stroke of midnight are elements of Gothic literature. J.K. Rowling uses them perfectly to showcase the magical undertones of the story and the futility of the Dursley’s in the face of it all.
Chapter 4: The Keeper of The Keys
- The Dursley’s denial of Harry’s wizarding potential is quite symbolic, in the sense that many normal people tend to ignore uncomfortable facts and live in denial to make their lives seem normal.
- Harry’s final departure from the Dursley’s and Hagrid overpowering Vernon easily elate & satisfy the audience, who eagerly wait for the events to follow.
Chapter 5: Diagon Alley
- We get to witness the parallels between the wizarding world and the Muggle world. The introduction of the snobbish Draco Malfoy is an indication of the challenges ahead for Harry. It shows that his new life will not be some trouble-free heaven but somewhat parallel to what he would have experience in the real world. The necessity of money is the same in both worlds, and vain snobs exist in both.
- Harry’s power & status has increased exponentially, and we find out that he & his family enjoy a startling reputation across the wizarding world. His wand selection and famous nature foreshadow the central role in the upcoming events.
Chapter 6: The Journey From Platform Nine & Three-Quarters
- We are introduced to the populous & friendly Weasley family. They are the complete opposite of the Dursley family. We also meet with Harry’s closest friends, Ron and Hermione and get to learn about Harry’s near legendary status.
- These chapters emphasize upon Harry’s immense and yet untapped potential by showcasing his hero status.
Chapter 7: The Sorting Hat & Chapter 8: The Potions Master
- The Sorting Hat incidence ups the mystery surrounding Harry and is indicative of some intricate relationship between Harry & the sinister aspects of the wizarding world.
- The Hat tells the audience quite a lot about Harry’s nature. Also, references to Pure Bloods and Muggle Born students hint at the existence of societal differences in the wizarding world, but which are of no meaning at Hogwarts.
- Despite hinting at his immense potential, Rowling shows us that he is just like the other new students and needs to work to achieve his true potential.
Chapter 9: The Midnight Duel
- The discovery of the trap door shows that there is mor going on in Hogwarts than just education.
- Harry’s transgression is sign of a rebellious nature and increase the complexity of his character. Children of his age generally harbor an inherent inquisitiveness. The same is seen when, despite being forbidden, he chases Draco on his broom to retrieve Neville’s property and displays his flying talents.
The novel’s moral dimension becomes quite evident through these excerpts.
Chapter 10: Halloween
- The presence of the troll and the alarm it creates indicates that the denizens of Hogwarts are wary of the damage which magical beast can wrought. They are not invincible and all-knowing. Professor Quirrell’s flustered behavior is of note given the fact that he is a teacher of a prominent subject.
- Harry’s defeat of the troll is a notable feat. At the same time, we witness Hermione shed her goody-two-shoes personality and lie in support of her rescuers.
Chapter 11: Quidditch
- The distinctions between the good and the wicked sides at Hogwarts become quite evident in this chapter.
- Harry’s success and the contributions of his friends & well-wishers showcase the vitality & essentiality of teamwork & camaraderie in the story.
- The hostility between Slytherin & Gryffindor is palpable and so is Snape’s devious nature. As the forces of good and evil in the story draw closer to a conflict, the audience gets more & more intrigued by the underlying motivations & eventual consequences.
Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised & Chapter 13: Nicholas Flamel
- The discovery of the mirror room, Harry’s exploration using the Cloak of Invisibility and the reflections he sees are all symbolic and highly indicative. Harry rebellious & adventurous nature and his simple yearning for his dead parents showcase him as an apt protagonist.
- The Mirror Room is also the first time Harry and Dumbledore have the first of their many close conversations. The relationship between Harry and Dumbledore are of crucial importance in the stories and shows that the principal cares about this boy.
- The chapter shows that Dumbledore understands Harry, his emotional needs & behavior and is closer to being a father figure for the child than anyone else.
Chapter 14: Norbert The Norwegian Ridgeback
- Hagrid’s naivety and gentle nature are evident in this chapter. A gentle half-giant, he looks at the good in all things and does not believe in any sinister plot unfolding. His wish to pet a dragon, a dangerous beast, and an illegal act, showcases his callousness. This proves detrimental for the trio later on.
- Harry’s and Hagrid’s naivety are in parallel though Harry is more aware of the shady & evil characters at play than Hagrid.
Chapter 15: The Forbidden Forest
- The chapter is quite dark, bordering on horror. The gloom and mystery of the Forbidden Forest, the terror of the hooded figure drinking blood and the death of an elegant creature such as a unicorn make for a terrifying read.
- Death has been introduced quite abruptly in this chapter, enough to take the audience aback.
- The spectacle of Voldemort drinking the lifeblood of another creature to sustain itself is witnessed only by Harry and symbolizes another instance of unjust death caused by Voldemort & witnessed by him.
Chapter 16: Through the Trapdoor
- Harry’s wisdom and inherent goodness is clearly obvious when he dismisses Hermione’s worry about breaking rules & losing points. We witness his common sense and understanding of the bigger picture at such a young age.
- The importance of teamwork, the skills of each individual, their bond and immense bravery are beautifully portrayed through the challenges in the chapter, namely, The Devil’s Snare, The Flying Keys and The Magical Chess Game.
Chapter 17: The Man with Two Faces
- The conflict of morality versus the lust for power is the primary theme of this chapter and of the whole series in that sense. Voldemort’s comment about the desire to seek power is reminiscent of the words of the great philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli, who stated in one of his work, that rulers should seek to expand their power without worrying about thoughts of morality.
Rowling rejects the notions of self-indulgence & power over morality and emphasizes on the vital aspects of responsibility.
- One of the key lessons in this story is that love is paramount to everything else. Voldemort’s only desire was a lust for more power and a yearning for eternal life. He lives for his own desires, kills and steals to sustain his unending greed, and does not understand the meaning of pure love. That is the reason, he was almost destroyed due to Lily Potter’s undying love for her child and Quirrell got burnt alive after touching Harry.
The greatest lesson learnt in this story is that true love is much more pure and powerful than lust, desire, greed & self-indulgence.
And, that finally wraps up this comprehensive review of Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone. Let’s hope it helped you understand the story just a little bit better.
Ema Lee is a professor of literary studies from a prominent university in Texas, the USA. A prolific writer, obsessive blogger, and compulsive writer, she is also a part-time academic essay writer at MyAssignmenthelp.com, a leading study help service in the USA.