Book Roulette: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by JK Rowling. Arthur A. Irvine: 1997. 309 pp.
As luck would have it, the first seven weeks of 2014 will be spent with everyone’s favorite wizard. I have to admit–shamefully–that I’ve only read the first six books, and I’ve never read them in order. This year, that will change.
There’s not much to say about JK Rowling’s blockbuster series that hasn’t already been said. There are some fantastic articles out there that dissect the books on every level imaginable. I don’t want to repeat what others have written, and so I’ll try my best not to.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the series, is the book I’ve read most often. In the height of my Hogwarts days, I would read all the books before the newest was released. Every time a new movie was released, I’d go through and watch the previous movies first. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to reading this book again because I knew the story already. There was nothing lurking in the corners, nothing that would surprise me.
But, in true literary fashion, I did notice some things I hadn’t before. Or, maybe I’d just forgotten them. The first is this: I had forgotten that Harry was just a boy. We always think of him as this great and powerful, if not underage wizard, right? It’s strange to put yourself in his shoes: your entire life swings completely on its axis, right around your eleventh birthday. The Dursleys are horrible people, and it’s terrible to think that people like them might exist in real life. But it’s not hard to think so, because the Dursleys are completely normal.
There was a quote that struck me, from Chapter 5. Hagrid has just rescued Harry from his aunt and uncle, and taken him to Diagon Alley to shop for school supplies:
“Everyone thinks I’m special,” he said at last. “All those people in the Leaky Cauldron, Professor Quirrell, Mr. Ollivander … but I don’t know anything about magic at all. How can they expect great things? I’m famous and I can’t even remember what I’m famous for. I don’t know what happened when Vol–, sorry–I mean, the night my parents died.”
There’s something extremely human and vulnerable in this quote that I hadn’t really understood from the times I’d read the books or watched the movies before.
The second thing I had forgotten, or not truly realized, was that Hermione was not friends with Ron and Harry for much of the first book. Not until Chapter 10–out of 17 chapters–when she finds herself face-to-face with the troll in the girls’ bathroom and Ron and Harry go in to rescue her.
This book says a lot of great things about friendship, but no more than this: friendship requires action. Both in literature and in life, friendship requires you to do something. Harry and Ron became friends beginning on the train, when Harry shared his treats with Ron and they bonded over chocolate frogs and every-flavor jelly beans. Later, Ron shares his family with Harry, which cements their friendship even further. But Hermione isn’t included in their little posse until the moment with the troll, because neither one of them has reached out in any way to allow her in. She’s just another character, just another witch at Hogwarts.
In literature, the reasoning is obvious. How boring would it be to read a story about a pair of friends who do nothing but sit in a room and talk, or watch movies, or play video games? The characters need to do something, they need to show the reader why they deserve to be liked, and why they deserve to be liked as a pair.
In life, it’s similar. Yes, you can be pretty good friends with someone who you watch movies or play video games with, but that’s as far as your friendship goes. The really great friends, the ones on Ron, Harry, and Hermione’s level, they do things together. They create memories with each other. They follow trolls into bathrooms for girls they barely know, and use that memory as the foundation for an amazing adventure.