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Similes and metaphors are used to describe McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Hagrid. Rowling describes McGonagall and Dumbledore and their actions by likening them to images the reader would understand or be able to imagine. This is necessary because the wizards’ supernatural appearances are difficult to describe to readers so accustomed to the mundane. With lines like “[Dumbledore] appeared so suddenly and silently you’d have thought he’d just popped out of the ground” and “his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice” Rowling forces readers to use their imaginations.
Rowling uses color frequently in her descriptions: Dumbledore has silver hair and a purple cloak, McGonagall has black hair and an emerald cloak, and Harry tends to be associated with his black hair and his (mother’s) green eyes. Later in the book, each of the four schools at Hogwarts will have colors associated with it: Gryffindor is scarlet and gold, Ravenclaw is blue and bronze, Hufflepuff is yellow and black, and Slytherin is green and silver.
The Madam Pomfrey whom Dumbledore mentions in passing is the Hogwarts school nurse.
Hagrid is a comical gentle giant. He has hands the size of trashcan lids and boots like baby dolphins, yet he insists on giving baby Harry a goodbye-kiss and bawls afterwards.
Hagrid says Harry “fell asleep as we as flyin’ over Bristol.” In Conversations, Rowling tells us that she was born and raised around Bristol: “Until I was about nine we lived in and around Bristol.”
Warning: spoiler information ahead: The Sirius Black who gave Hagrid the motorcycle will reappear as a leading character in both The Prisoner of Azkaban (book three) and The Goblet of Fire (book four). He is Harry’s godfather and is one of the most prominent characters of book three.
The wizards leave Harry with the Dursleys because the Dursleys are his only living relatives and because Dumbledore thinks it would be for the best if Harry didn’t grow up famous. Rowling shows that fame can spoil people by having her wise character Dumbledore think that Harry would be better off growing up without knowing of his celebrity status. Dumbledore seems strikingly perceptive of human nature: consider how spoiled Dudley is, a celebrity in his own home, and how it is reflected in his selfish personality.
The chapter’s action takes place on All Saints Day, which means Voldemort attacked Harry and his parents on Halloween. The chapter can be dated as taking place in 1981 (see Setting for more details).