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MonkeyNotes-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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Humble Beginnings

“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.

Harry’s asking about his scar and the Durlseys' lying to him reflect the “prince raised as pauper” theme. Harry is destined to be a hero among his kind, but he does not know it and is brought up by poor means. Parallel characters include Luke of Star Wars and young Arthur of the King Arthur legends.

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. Harry cannot avoid his fate no matter how hard the Dursleys try to make him “normal.” This ties into the nature vs. nurture debate: how much of one’s personality comes from genetics and how much comes from the way one is raised?

Racism

“But they were our kind, weren’t they? ...I really don’t think they should let the other sort in... ”

Malfoy and the Slytherin house think that Muggles (“mud- bloods”) are inferior by birth. Dumbledore’s statement counters Malfoy’s racist views: “It’s our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”


Morality

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

Mr. Ollivander’s passing comment about Voldemort (“After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things--terrible, yes, but great.”) highlights the book’s theme about good and evil. At the book’s end, Quirrel tells Harry that, “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it. ” Needless to say, Harry, Dumbledore, and Rowling hold the opposite opinion.

At the Quidditch match, Slytherin captain Marcus Flint took advantage of Harry’s fighting for dear life on his cursed broom by scoring five times while everyone is distracted. This reflects on Slytherin’s attitude of getting ahead at any cost.

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 people. 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.

Rowling’s description of the Dursleys is a criticism of what society considers normal. What is normal? Why do the Dursleys consider themselves to be normal? 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.

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.

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