Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
“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.” Draco’s comment about mud- bloods (in book two) touches on racial/socio-economic slurs and inter-racial/inter-class relationships.
The Dursleys, who proclaim themselves the epitome of normal, are intolerant above all. Mrs. Dursley gossips about what her neighbors do and Mr. Dursley can’t stand it when people dress funny or when strangers hug him. The Dursleys are close-minded, the opposite of the imaginative Harry who thinks about flying motorcycles and sympathizes with zoo animals. The Dursleys represent the worst aspects of the Muggle world, the kind of intolerance that forces wizards to stay secret.
“Sometimes I get asked ‘What would be your recipe for a happier life?’ And I've always said ‘A bit more tolerance from all of us.”
“One way to learn tolerance is to take the time to really understand other people's motives. Yes, you're right. Harry is often given an erroneous first impression of someone and he has to learn to look beneath the surface. When you look beneath the surface he has sometimes found that he is being fooled by people. And on other occasions he has found very nice surprises.”
“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 inherited riches, especially the instance of him buying Ron candy on the Hogwarts Express. Dudley and Vernon’s bulk represents their greed.
Dudley’s demand for more presents reflects his growing up to be the perfect businessman, at least in Mr. Dursley’s eyes. Perhaps this is a commentary by Rowling on how greed is rewarded in today’s capitalist world.
The Smeltings knobbly stick is also important. Rowling’s cynical statement that the Smeltings students hitting each other with their knobbly sticks is supposed to be good training for later in life is a social commentary on the competitiveness and dog-eat-dog attitude of the world.
Mr. Dursley’s materialistic focus and callousness is evident when he objects to Aunt Petunia’s proposition that Harry be brought to the zoo and left in the car: “That car’s new, he’s not sitting in it alone.” The reader expects Vernon to object with something concerning Harry’s safety, but he’s actually more worried about a material possession than his nephew.
Despite their poverty, the Weasleys are some of the kindest characters in the book. Being rich does not make one a good person, so one’s utmost goal in life should be self- improvement, not getting money.