Experiencing the Magic Again: An Analysis of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ – Part Two

Jun 25, 2017

Posted by: Lainey Ruffner

Art, Books, Fan Art, Fans, Fun, Harry Potter and the Philosophers / Sorcerers Stone, J.K. Rowling, News, Opinion, Pottermore

We’re picking up our re-reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone from where we left off last time at the end of Chapter 6, where the first years have just seen Hogwarts castle for the first time. Part two will cover everything from sorting ceremony on Harry’s first day at Hogwarts up until Harry’s discovery of the Mirror of Erised at Christmas time. Enjoy!

CHAPTER 7: The Sorting Hat

Image by Kiri Leonard kirileonard.com

FAVORITE QUOTE: “Not Slytherin, eh? Are you sure? You could be great you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that – no? Well, if you’re sure – better be GRYFFINDOR!”

FAVORITE MOMENT: The Sorting Hat song.

FUNNIEST MOMENT: The Hogwarts school song and Fred and George singing it to the tune of a funeral march.

FORESHADOWING WE MISSED THE FIRST TIME: When Harry first sees Snape he gets a jolt of pain through his scar, but we might have missed that this moment occurs right as Snape is talking to Quirrell. This is also the first mention of Quirrell wearing his infamous purple turban, suggesting that Voldemort was not yet with him when Harry met him in the Leaky Cauldron, but probably is now.

Harry’s dream where he is wearing Quirrell’s turban that slowly tightening and becoming heavier the more he tries to tell it he doesn’t want to be in Slytherin. Harry’s dream definitely suggests that there is something ominous about Quirrell and his turban that is threatening to Harry’s subconscious, unfortunately he forgets all about it when he wakes up.

CHAPTER ANALYSIS: One of my favorite parts of Harry Potter is comparing Harry’s reaction to his first days at Hogwarts against Ron’s, who has had many brothers attend the school before him. Especially brothers like Fred and George who get enjoyment from messing with him. Both Harry and Ron go into the sorting ceremony fearing what awaits them, Ron because his brothers have told him it involves something daunting and painful, like wrestling a troll, and because he has a family tradition to uphold since his whole family has been in Gryffindor before him. Harry is nervous because he still fears that this is too good to be true and he is there by mistake and will be sent home when they discover he has no magical abilities. Either way it seems appropriate to be scared of the possibilities because, let’s be honest, it is basically everyone’s worst school nightmare to be embarrassed in some form in front of the entire student body.

I think getting sorted in houses would be one of the best parts of attending Hogwarts. You get matched up with people who share your own values, have your own house colors and common room, compete with the other houses in classes, and even have your own sports team to either play on or root for. Plus we all know that the Hogwarts houses are one of the most fun parts about being a fan also, because when we first heard that sorting hat song we automatically felt drawn towards a certain house. These feelings were only solidified throughout the series as we learned more information about the houses’ history and values. We then found our closets gradually filling up with clothing dedicated to our houses just as the characters’ did.

The sorting ceremony is especially significant for Harry because it is the first acknowledgment of the skills and qualities he possesses. The Sorting Hat takes note of his courage, his mind and his talent with a thirst to prove himself. The Sorting Hat also mentions how great he is destined to become. Harry’s request not to be placed into Slytherin is a key moment in the books because it supports the idea that a person is not inherently born good or evil, but can chose which path they want to take. The books would have been very different if Harry had not asserted his opinions and asked the hat not to place him in Slytherin. This moment is Harry’s first small triumph on the path of his ultimate battle of good vs. evil and gives us a huge insight into the nature of his character.

The final key moment in this chapter is Harry’s brief but foreboding first encounter with Snape, who we know, and Harry will shortly learn, will try his best to make Harry’s next few years at school a miserably unfair experience.

CHAPTER 8: The Potions Master

Severus Snape by HitoFanart

Image by HitoFanart hitofanart.deviantart.com

FAVORITE QUOTE: “Harry Potter. Our new — celebrity.”

FAVORITE MOMENT: Harry’s first potions class where Snape repeatedly humiliates him in front of the class and then blames him for Neville’s mistake. (This is a moment we hate to love, but Snape is such a perfect villain you can’t help but appreciate his character.)

FUNNIEST MOMENT: When Snape is questioning Harry unsuccessfully and so he comes up the snarky and witty response, “I don’t know.  I think Hermione does, though, why don’t you try her?”

CHAPTER ANALYSIS: Harry’s first few weeks at school can only really best be described as magical. From the great hall feasts (I can’t read these books without craving every food they mention) with the enchanted ceiling and thousands of floating candles looming above, to the classes that always sounded so much more interesting than math, English, and science, and even the cozy common room and dormitory that make me want to curl up on one of the plush armchairs by the fire and read or study. I almost think I could enjoy homework if I could do it in the Gryffindor common room surrounded by friends!

Unfortunately with the magic also comes the downside. First there is the fact that the castle is so confusing, with staircases that change, suits of armor that can walk around, paintings that can move freely into other nearby frames, trick stairs, and a mischievous poltergeist, it is very easy to get lost or be late for classes. Then there are the classes themselves with extremely tricky subject matter that Harry has never even heard of, but to Harry’s relief, everyone except Hermione seems to struggle here so he doesn’t feel too behind.

Harry has a particularly more challenging time than the other students in Potions when he discovers that Snape is determined to humiliate and demoralize him. You can’t help but hate Snape so much during these books for making school so ridiculously unfair for Harry, especially before he has any idea why. J.K Rowling does an incredible job painting him as the villain in this novel which, we now know, leads to one of the biggest plot twists of the story. Knowing that it was clearly Rowling’s plan all along for us to suspect Snape, it’s no shock that she fooled us all.

Who would suspect that the greasy haired, hook nosed, evil teacher who lives in the dungeons could possibly not be the bad guy. Harry is certainly convinced from early on and you can’t blame him at all for suspecting Snape considering how cruel he is to him in class. Convincing himself that Snape is just pure evil is probably the best excuse Harry can come up with for his behavior towards him.

Another bit of foreshadowing is slipped in here when we learn that the vault Harry visited with Hagrid was broken into the same day they were there. This is where we start to see the plot brewing behind all this magical scenery.

CHAPTER 9: The Midnight Duel

Image by Sadie Brown sadiethebrown.blogspot.com

FAVORITE QUOTE: “I hope you’re pleased with yourselves. We could have been killed – or worse, expelled. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.”

FAVORITE MOMENT: Harry standing up to Malfoy, catching Neville’s rememberall and being made Gryffindor seeker when McGonagall happens to witness the whole event.

FUNNIEST MOMENT: McGonagall asks Flitwick to borrow “Wood” for a moment, and Harry, suspecting he is about to be punished, first thinks that “wood” is a cane McGonagall is planning to beat him with.

CHAPTER ANALYSIS: The flying lesson is Harry’s first big triumph over Malfoy. Not only does he stand up to Malfoy in an attempt to show him that he won’t always get away with his bullying, but he actually ends up getting rewarded for breaking rules. I love that McGonagall, who is usually pretty stone faced and doesn’t show favoritism towards her house, let’s Harry off the hook, when he should have been punished, in hopes to have a winning house Quidditch team this year. This encounter with McGonagall concludes with the quote, “Your father would have been proud. He was an excellent Quidditch player himself.”  This is some of the first information that Harry gets about his parents and their time at school. It must have been very encouraging for him to hear that he takes after his father and that he would be proud from someone that knew his father well.

The next part of this chapter is a huge step in plot development as Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville stumble upon a massive three-headed dog stationed in the forbidden corridor while running from Filch. Thankfully for Hermione’s keen observational skills, she notices that the dog is guarding something. Naturally this sparks Harry’s curiosity as to whether that trapdoor might possibly be the new home for the object from vault 713.

This is one of the books most iconic Hermione moments when she finds it necessary to reprimand the boys for not noticing a trapdoor while under attack by a three-headed dog. When she concludes the whole scene with her iconic line about being expelled she essentially solidifies Harry and Ron’s suspicions that she is not just irrational, but likely completely crazy. Though you have to give it to Hermione – it would be particularly awful to get expelled from Hogwarts!

CHAPTER 10: Halloween

Hallowe'en, © Keith Johnson

Image from The Harry Potter Lexicon www.hp-lexicon.org

FAVORITE QUOTE: “A Nimbus Two Thousand, sir. And it’s really thanks to Malfoy here that I’ve got it.”

FAVORITE MOMENT: The start of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s friendship after knocking out the troll.

FUNNIEST MOMENT: When Malfoy tries to get Harry in trouble for having a broomstick and instead Harry throws it back in his face for being the reason he was given a place on the team.

CHAPTER ANALYSIS: Like the last chapter this one is broken into two main story parts, Harry getting his broomstick and learning about Quidditch and Halloween day and the troll incident.

Oliver Wood is one of my favorite characters so I particularly enjoy the scene where Harry is first introduced to the rules of Quidditch. For Harry, who has grown up outside the Wizarding World, to find that he has a natural talent at something involving magic and could possibly even help his team win the championship is just another thing that confirms he truly belongs at Hogwarts.

One of the main reasons the first book continues to stand out from the others is because of the innocence of the characters. The way that Harry, Ron and Hermione become friends is cute and endearing and very befitting of a group of 11 year old kids.

When the troll gets in and they realize it’s basically Ron’s fault that Hermione’s in danger they can’t help but rush off to try and save her, showing the genuine good-hearted nature of their characters. This part of the book is full of adorable grade school messages as the boys learn sometimes it’s more important to put stubbornness aside in order to help a fellow student. Then it all comes full circle when her advice, and the reason they made fun of her in the first place, becomes the means by which they end up saving her and themselves.

Hermione expresses her gratitude toward them saving her in a completely unexpected turn of events by lying about why she was in there with the troll. By taking on the blame she saves the boys from being punished. This is the very moment that Harry and Ron learn she isn’t just a perfect little know-it-all, but that she is human after all and actually has their best interests at heart.

They find out the hard way that sometimes the smart, nerdy know-it-all kids are the most valuable asset you could have – and that’s a refreshing message of acceptance and friendship. Hermione of course doesn’t disappoint by saving Harry and Ron on multiple occasions and practically doing half of their homework. Let’s face it, she’s essentially the reason they pass school in the later years, so they’re lucky they were able to make the best of this situation and come out of it with an incredible friendship.

With all the commotion of this chapter we only get a little bit of plot development thrown in when Harry spots Snape sneaking off towards the forbidden corridor while everyone is distracted by the troll. Surprisingly observant Harry is actually on the right track here, but unfortunately (although we’re not supposed to know at this point) he’s got the wrong subject. Aside from already suspecting Snape just because Harry’s convinced he hates him and is evil, this moment supports Harry’s suspicions enough that from here on out he starts to focus in on Snape’s shady actions. It’s possible that Harry’s concentration on figuring out what Snape is up to blinds him to any evidence suggesting that there may be another source of evil within the castle walls, but since we see the story as Harry sees it we will never know.

CHAPTER 11: Quidditch

Quidditch rivals by Linnpuzzle

Image by Linnpuzzle linnpuzzle.deviantart.com

FAVORITE QUOTE: “You forget that dog, an’ you forget what it’s guardin’, that’s between Professor Dumbledore an’ Nicolas Flamel –”

FAVORITE MOMENT: When Harry catches his first Snitch in his mouth.

FUNNIEST MOMENT: Fred and George reciting Oliver Wood’s pregame speech and Lee Jordan’s commentary.

CHAPTER ANALYSIS: Harry’s suspicion about Snape worsens when he tries to get Quidditch Through the Ages book back and instead overhears Snape talking to Filch about the three-headed dog and sees that’s Snape’s been bitten in the leg. It’s clear now that Harry’s been correct all along and that Snape definitely tried to get past Fluffy on Halloween, but luckily his attempt was thwarted, which means the object is still safe.

Things don’t improve at all for Harry as he enters into his first Quidditch match. As if Harry isn’t nervous enough, his broomstick is cursed during that match and tries to buck him off. Thankfully Ron and Hermione notice Snape acting suspicious and Hermione being the malicious 11 year old that she is decides that she’ll fix the problem by setting his robes on fire. I can’t help but find this scene hilarious because it just seems almost accidentally cruel. It never says whether the flames can actually burn people, but it still seems a bit harsh that the only means of distraction she came up with was to set him on fire.

In general I love the Quidditch scenes (especially in the movies!), but I will admit that I always thought the concept of Quidditch was a little odd since one team could completely dominate the game but still lose if the other team’s seeker catches the Snitch first. Other than that I find the whole sport an incredibly creative part of the story by Rowling. I think it would be exceptionally fun to have an inner school rivalry over a sport that is so important that all the students get decked out in their house colors and go to the stadium to cheer on their team.

I did, however, always feel bad for the kids who weren’t great Quidditch players but wanted to play sports because there weren’t any other options for them (unless you count wizards chess or gobstones, which both sound incredibly nerdy and more mental than physical). Plus with only 7 players on a team you could actually be pretty good at Quidditch and still never make the team if there was someone better than you in your house. Luckily for Harry he gets the position without even having to try out.

The chapter concludes with Harry relaying his concerns about Snape to Hagrid who adamantly continues to defend him. When the trio admits they know about Fluffy he tries to discourage them from getting involved however he only makes them more curious when he lets slip that the item involves a man named Nicholas Flamel.

CHAPTER 12: The Mirror of Erised

The mirror  of Erised by Zaerteltier

Image by Zaerteltier zaerteltier.deviantart.com

FAVORITE QUOTE: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”

FAVORITE MOMENT: When Harry sees his parents in the Mirror of Erised.

FUNNIEST MOMENT: The twins bewitching snowballs to bounce of Quirrell’s turban and the Weasley sweaters.

CHAPTER ANALYSIS: If I could ever go to Hogwarts I would want to go around Christmas time. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays and if anything in the real world can make you feel like magic is real it’s the giving spirit, festive lights, and togetherness of the holiday season. Unlike Harry I was blessed with an incredible, large, loving, and giving family and was always surrounded by love and family and gifts on Christmas morning. I think every child should get to experience this in some capacity (or an equivalent of it for those who don’t celebrate Christmas) so it fills my heart with joy for Harry to wake up on Christmas day to presents and friends with which to spend the holiday.

Of course the most mysterious gift he receives is from an unknown source, an invisibility cloak that once belonged to his father. I always find it so endearing that Harry uses a cloak of invisibility in one of the most innocent ways a young boy possibly could, to sneak into the restricted section of the library. I’m sure most of us spent time thinking about much more selfish and conniving uses for such an incredible magical item.

The scenes with Harry and the Mirror of Erised were always heartbreaking to me, because not only is Harry seeing his family for the first time since he was a baby, but he gets so excited to share the moment with Ron only to discover that Ron cannot see them and instead sees something that seems so trivial to Harry.

This part of the book contains one of my favorite Dumbledore quotes that imparts a beautiful life lesson to Harry and readers alike. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”  Harry, who has spent night after night toiling away in front of the mirror doting on something that he cannot have, needs to be reminded by Dumbledore that great men have wasted away doing the exact same thing. The one thing I always wished Rowling would have told us later was what Dumbledore saw in the mirror, and in a Deathly Hallows webchat waaaay back in 2007 she gave us the answer, which – of course – many of us would now be able to guess:

“He saw his family alive, whole and happy – Ariana, Percival and Kendra all returned to him, and Aberforth reconciled to him.”

J.K. Rowling crafted some beautiful plots that began way back during Philosopher’s Stone, and 20 years on it’s still moving to think of the characters many have grown up with. What a wonderful thing, though, to be able to delve more into Dumbledore’s story through Fantastic Beasts!

Thanks for re-reading Harry Potter with us. Make sure to keep checking back for Part 3 tomorrow – the 20th anniversary of Philosopher’s Stone – where we will conclude the book, and find part 1 here!

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.