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MonkeyNotes-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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Themes

Normality

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

The book shows the reader that although the Dursleys are definitively normal, that doesn’t make them good. So even though abnormality is feared or despised, it is not a bad thing in itself. One should not be quick to make judgments about that which is different.

Death

“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

As Harry grows older he realizes that death is a part of life. His parents’ death, Ron’s self- sacrifice on the giant chessboard, and Quirrell’s grisly demise force him to realize this. Rowling admits that coming deaths will be characters that she and her readers have grown to love: "there's worse coming."

Appearances are Deceiving

“Yes, Severus does seem the type, doesn’t he? So useful to have him swooping around like an overgrown bat. Next to him, who would suspect p-p-poor, st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?”

Harry trusts the timid Quirrell and suspects slimy Snape, but in the end he realizes he has it all wrong. Fang and Hagrid are also examples of deceiving appearances.

Intolerance and Racism

“I really don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you? They’re just not they same, they’ve never been brought up to know our ways.” Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they get the letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families. What’s your surname, anyway?”

The Dursleys hate wizards almost as much as Voldemort and Draco hate Muggles. Rowling has said that bigotry is one of the things she detests most, and it is spotlighted in the HP series: “This world of wizards and witches, they're already ostracized, and then within themselves, they've formed a loathsome pecking order.” The Dursleys hate wizards almost as much as Voldemort and Draco hate Muggles. Draco’s comment about mud blood touches on racial/socio-economic slurs and inter-racial/inter-class relationships.


Greed

“You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all--the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”

Vernon Dursley is obsessed with money and status, Voldemort and all those who seek the Sorcerer’s Stone are obsessed with riches and immortality. Dumbledore makes it clear at the book’s end that these things that people want most are those things which people need the least. Notice that Harry is very generous with his newfound riches, especially the instance of him buying Ron candy on the Hogwarts Express. Dudley and Vernon’s bulk represents their greed.

Humble Beginnings and Spoiled Children

“Then I’m going to drag them off to look at racing brooms. I don’t see why first years can’t have their own. I think I’ll bully father into getting me one and I’ll smuggle it in somehow.”

Harry comes up from a difficult childhood; he was no spoiled brat like Dudley or Draco.

Nature vs. Nurture

“We swore when we took him in we’d put a stop to that rubbish...swore we’d stamp it out of him!”

Harry has wizards’ blood but he was raised in a Muggle world. Still, the Dursleys are unable to stomp out the Wizarding influence in him.

Morality

“There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

Voldemort and Quirrell hold this view; Dumbledore and Harry see things differently.

Coming of age

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr. Neville Longbottom.”

In this book, and in the series at large, Harry gradually comes of age and gains experience at the price of losing innocence. “Harry's horizons are literally and metaphorically widening as he grows older.” Rowling has also said that Goblet of Fire (Book Four) represents “the end of an era in the context of the whole series of books. For Harry, his innocence is gone.” Ron, Hermione, and Neville also mature through the course of the book.

The Letter of the Law vs. the Spirit of the Law

Harry often breaks school rules, especially by roaming around at night when he’s not supposed to, but he usually has good intentions.

Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Against Popular Opinion

The crowds of students at Hogwarts are fickle and Harry occasionally has to stand alone for what he believes in.

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