Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Rowling introduces the Dursleys as definitively normal. Mrs. Dursley’s sister, however, is extremely odd: she’s a witch.
The story begins on a particularly unusual All Saints Day, though the thickheaded Mr. Dursley is slow to pick up on how odd the day is. He drives to his job (he sells drills) and notices peculiarities such as a cat down the street reading a map, folks dressed in brilliant cloaks, and strangers talking about his wife’s sister’s family (those odd Potters). By the end of his workday, Mr. Dursley is still clueless as to what’s going on. Leaving his office, he bumps into an old man who calls him a Muggle, and at home he is met by TV reports of numerous owls sightings and shooting stars. Weirdness is afoot, and the Dursleys can’t stand it.
As the Dursleys fall asleep, the narrator’s focus shifts to the cat outside their house, the one who had previously been reading a map. A tall, cloaked old man by the name of Albus Dumbledore approaches the cat outside the Dursleys’ house. The cat, realizing it has been found out, transforms back into Professor McGonagall. McGonagall has been awaiting Dumbledore’s arrival in order to verify the rumors she heard: was the dark lord Voldemort really defeated by the infant Harry Potter? Dumbledore verifies and expands upon what she’s heard: after killing Harry’s parents, Voldemort tried to kill the infant boy but failed and broke his power in the attempt.
McGonagall and Dumbledore are interrupted by the arrival of the newly orphaned boy, who is being escorted by Hagrid on a flying motorcycle. The three wizards leave baby Harry on the Dursleys’ doorstep because the Dursleys are Harry’s only living relatives. They depart to join the many wizards celebrating Voldemort’s defeat at the hands of Harry, the boy who lived.
Over breakfast Mr. and Mrs. Dursley break it to their son that Harry is going to have to come with them on their birthday excursion to the zoo because the woman who usually baby- sits Harry while the family goes on fun trips has a broken leg. Dudley throws a tantrum, but the Dursley have no choice but to take Harry. Harry is very excited about the zoo, his first real trip anywhere.
The trip to the zoo culminates at the reptile cage. Mr. Dursley pounds on the glass cage of the large sleeping boa constrictor so it will look alive for the increasingly impatient Dudley. Harry sympathizes with the poor reptile who, deprived of freedom, is now being denied rest and privacy. Suddenly the snake winks at Harry and begins to communicate with him. Harry is dumbfounded when the glass front of the boa’s tank suddenly disappears. The snake escapes and Dudley gets scared witless.
Back at home, Dudley accuses Harry of talking with the snake and a suspicious Mr. Dursley sends Harry to his room under the stairs. Alone in his room, Harry reflects upon the oddities of his life. He constantly dreams of a blinding crash of green light and a burning pain on his forehead, which he assumes was the car crash in which his parents died. He also finds it odd that the occasional stranger on the street seems to know him and acts very friendly to him. But at school Harry has no friends because Dudley’s gang hates him, and no one wants to cross Dudley’s gang.
The book has jumped a few months ahead to summer, a few days before Harry’s July 31 st birthday. Harry has been grounded ever since the snake incident that took place on Dudley’s birthday in the last chapter.
Harry and Dudley are both going into the sixth grade at the end of the summer. Harry will be going to Stonewall, the local public secondary school. Dudley will be going to Smeltings, a private secondary school and his father’s alma mater. After Aunt Petunia buys Dudley a brand new Smeltings uniform, complete with orange knickerbockers and a cane to hit other students with, she prepares Harry’s school uniform by dyeing Dudley’s old clothes gray.