Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: Chapters 1-3

Rather than write a review of a book everyone’s already read and reviewed a hundred times over… Here’s just about everything that entered my head as I reread Philosopher’s Stone last month!

Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived

  1. This is one of my favourite opening chapters of any book, ever.
  2. Opening with the Dursleys was an excellent storytelling choice: we see the real, ordinary world in all its shades of beige and magnolia, and the depths of the Dursleys’ desperation not to be associated with anything magical, which gives us a reason why—though of course there’s never an excuse for it—they treat Harry the way they do. I genuinely think characterisation is J.K. Rowling’s strongest suit, and this is a prime example.
  3. Cat McGonagall pure staring Vernon out is fantastic. Even as a cat she’s got that BDE.
  4. First moment to tug at the heartstrings: Hagrid being the one to bring Harry into the story, and crying at having to leave him with the Dursleys. Hagrid’s one of my top five Potter characters, and this is a big reason why.
  5. Not so keen on Dumbledore, though. I find that each time I reread as an adult, I like him less (as I mentioned in my Beedle the Bard post). He’s eating sherbet lemons while McGonagall’s asking serious questions, he delegates picking up an injured baby from a ruined building to someone with no real magical ability, and then he leaves said baby on the doorstep of relatives neither of them have ever met. Slippery, tricksy, problematic man.
  6. Brilliant character, though.
  7. But I see no reason why he couldn’t wait until morning and hand Harry to Petunia over her morning Cornflakes.
  8. Unless he was so convinced Petunia wouldn’t take Harry unless he was literally left there. In which case, he was well aware of who Petunia was, and what she was like, before he left a child with her—and that makes him despicable.
  9. Also, why does he say he ‘expects’ to see McGonagall soon? It’s October. They both work and live at Hogwarts, where it was term time. They had to LEAVE Hogwarts to go to Privet Drive. Of course he’ll see her soon.
  10. Unless they weren’t at Hogwarts then? Was the war that bad? Did Hogwarts close? Why don’t we know more about this?
  11. That’s another reason I desperately want a Marauder-era story.
  12. Though not if it’s gonna be anything remotely like Crimes of Grindelwald.
  13. Dumbledore wishing Harry luck before abandoning him to the Muggle world is actually pretty effing chilling.
  14. This chapter reads like a dream and feels like coming home.

Chapter Two: The Vanishing Glass

  1. The Dursleys are garbage.
  2. Locking a kid in a cupboard is really Roald Dahl-ish; the sort of thing you can only get away with in children’s fiction.
  3. But why the hell hasn’t anyone ever noticed, or commented on, or intervened with their treatment of Harry?? He’s wearing old, over-sized clothes, and his glasses are Sellotaped together! He’s not being treated well! Someone do something!
  4. Seriously—even Mrs Figg, Dumbledore’s spy, said nothing? Or she did, and Dumbledore in turn did nothing? Seriously!
  5. And why aren’t the Dursleys more bothered about how their treatment of Harry shows? They’re obsessively house-proud, obsessive about having the best of everything, obsessed with Harry’s scruffy hair—but they don’t care about his shabby glasses or ill-fitting clothes? Wouldn’t it have been more frightening—and more convincing that they got away with it—if they’d made sure his appearance was spotless, while his actual life was hell?
  6. I guess we got that externally nice, internally toxic waste thing from Umbridge much later, when the series wasn’t children’s fiction anymore and could more thoroughly explore the nuances of abuse like that. But still.
  7. (Sellotape aside, how much fun would it have been if Harry’s glasses became a trend at Hogwarts? Especially in the later part of Goblet, where they’re all simpering over the Hogwarts champion? Or in Prince, when he’s the Chosen One? Crowds of students enchanting glasses have clear glass; I saw Harry Potter wearing glasses, so I started wearing glasses. You can’t just ask someone why they wear glasses, Romilda; God, you’re so stupid!)
  8. It isn’t lost on me that Harry’s first decent, lengthy conversation in the book is with a snake. And it makes my heart ache.
  9. About as much as Harry dreaming that unknown strangers would come and whisk him away from the Dursleys. Eleven-year-old Harry having long accepted the abuse is gutting enough; thinking about baby Harry, toddler Harry, young child Harry growing up so neglected, being treated with so much disdain, when all any kid of that age wants is acceptance and love… Just, ow. I can’t.

Chapter Three: The Letters from No One

  1. Harry is so damn sassy. That comment about the school toilets, and straight up going Tekken on Dudley to get a Hogwarts letter… Especially considering the abuse he’s lived with, the fact that they can’t break his spirit is a balm to my heart.
  2. The show of magic is so good here, too. The avalanche of letters—able to impact every single aspect of Muggle life, from the chimney flute to the eggs they eat—is fun, and lets us see crucial things about each character by their reaction. Spoilt Dudley is outraged he can’t have a letter; poor Harry is so desperate for someone outside the house to be interested in him, he doesn’t even question the magic; Vernon is so petrified he’d risk the neighbours thinking he’s gone mad by nailing his letterbox closed. And Petunia: triggered as she must have been, she still doesn’t try to lock the magic out, but instead suggests an appeal to her childhood pen pal Dumbledore. It’s a great way of hinting at her real, curious feelings towards magic—and I might feel sorry for her, if she wasn’t a vile abusive enabler.
  3. The Dursleys giving Harry a bedroom because they think the wizarding world is watching is so distressing. How differently would they have treated him, all those years, if someone, anyone, had so much as checked in?
  4. (Sirius would have. I’m just saying. And woe betide the Dursleys if he’d seen that treatment. He would’ve gone to Azkaban for murder he actually committed.)
  5. Another reason this chapter is a masterpiece: the way it ends with such suspense, in a dark, cold, storm-broken hut, with Harry counting down the seconds until midnight, and Hagrid booming the door down.
  6. Impeccable timing on Hagrid’s part.
  7. And hilarious of Dumbledore, exposing the magic-fearing Dursleys to the most visually-magic person he knew.
  8. But if he knew he was doing that, he knew what they were like—so why not intervene sooner, or by himself?
  9. I will never not be questioning this.
  10. Final thing I love about this chapter: it gave us one of the best, most cult moments of the movie. No post on Sundays!
  11. I queued this post on Sunday, on purpose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: