Book title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre/Audience: Fantasy, fiction, novel; this book is intended for children (those later in the series, not so much)
Worth the read?: Suit up and dive right in, for this book is a classic
The first four books that I read in 2018 were in the Harry Potter series, and I knew it would be tough making it through the whole year without reading them again. Clearly, I have failed.
I first read the Harry Potter series my senior year of high school, although in third grade I took it upon myself to start the series…at book three. I have always loved Harry Potter—well, the movies when I was younger—but the sad truth is that I hated reading until my senior year. I had always planned to read the books, and pretty much as soon as I discovered a love for reading, I took the plunge and picked up my mom’s worn paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
This is my third time through the series, and now I’m reading more critically than before. This is happening for two reasons. The first, of course, being that the third time through means I’m noticing plenty of things I missed the first two times. The second reason is that, for the past few months, I have been obsessively watching Harry Potter theory videos by the SuperCarlinBrothers on YouTube. After learning so much from their in-depth research into the HP world, I can’t help but see things a little differently.
The first thing that bothered me is how goopy the dialogue is at the beginning of the book. Rowling does seem to hit a stride somewhere in the middle, once most of the exposition has been done, but it’s a little rough-going at the start. Dialogue between Harry and Hagrid is where I felt the turbulence most clearly.
“I’d like to see a great Muggle like you stop him,” he said.
“A what?” said Harry, interested.
“A Muggle,” said Hagrid, “it’s what we call nonmagic folk like them…”
The problem with this exchange is that Harry really doesn’t know anything about the wizarding world or his past. And, somehow, he has to learn. I’m not sure what a non-dialogue solution could be, especially considering that Hagrid’s introduction also serves as the building of a really important paternal relationship for Harry. But as a reader on her third go-round, I was overwhelmed by the lack of “show, don’t tell” in the first half of the book. Luckily, by the end, when Dumbledore and Harry are discussing the Stone, the dialogue has drastically improved.
Something that has always bothered me is the ease with which Harry, Ron and Hermione make it through the enchantments in the dungeons. Literally every single enchantment, with the exception of one, is beaten with relative ease by the first-years. I’m even tempted to count the troll, because we see earlier in the book that the trio can, in fact, overcome one. This section reads purely as convenient plot that all of the challenges just so happen to fit into the skill sets of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Couldn’t there have been more of a struggle? FIRST YEAR STUDENTS SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO OVERCOME THESE ENCHANTMENTS, PROFESSORS!!! (I’m speaking seriously hard @ Flitwick, because flying keys?!?!)
Although my anger over this plot convenience remains, there is still one enchantment that I can’t overlook—Dumbledore’s.
Only a person who wishes to find the stone, but not to use it, can discover where it is using the Mirror of Erised. And you know what that means? That means that literally every single one of the previous enchantments were merely meant to waste time, to deter those who aren’t seriously invested in discovering what lies beneath the trapdoor, and to capture anyone who so dared to travel that far into the dungeons.
Dumbledore knew that anyone posing a threat to the Stone would have wanted to use it, and thus he created this enchantment, assuring that the Stone was never in any danger. Good ole Voldy couldn’t have ever, ever, ever taken it! Ha, this is wonderful! Dumbledore is seriously too good. (Of course, his clever plan also almost killed Harry. This may be the first time for that, but it sure isn’t the last.)
This book, at the end of the day, is a children’s book (that’s three kids books in a row for me). J.K. Rowling introduced us to a whole new world, a world that none of us realized was so deeply known, understood, and planned. Even with some “eh” dialogue and the plot devices, this book is a classic. As the story goes deeper, the intended audience changes, and with that, the books only grow better.
(Also, more illustrations!!!!!)
See you next time with book two! (Check out my review of Chamber of Secrets here.)