Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - Reread Review (Myriam)

It is very interesting to reread the first book of a series after having finished the last. You read with an entirely different perspective. You are more keenly aware of minute details that, at first seem unimportant, but take on an entirely different scope when seen in a new light. I believe this is why I am enjoying the reread so much, it’s because I have a whole new outlook on it all. It’s an entirely new discovery process, we have come full circle. You know how sometimes it’s nice to eat dessert before dinner? I feel that way about rereading the series once you know how it ends. It’s a real treat!

In the first chapter of the book, on the night Harry is dropped on the Dursley’s door step, we know exactly what led up to that event, what went down in Godrick’s Hollow. It feels like you are privileged to certain information that the characters in the book are not. We surely recognize Sirius’ motorcycle right away and understand the symbolism of Harry’s godfather being present in his life when he has just lost both his parents. The fact that Hagrid was riding the motorcycle represents the “parental” role he will one day play in Harry’s life. Basically, Hagrid arriving on Sirius’ motorcycle foreshadows that Hagrid and Sirius will somewhat become surrogate parents to Harry.

You also understand from the get-go that Dumbledore and McGonagall will also be prominent and influential people in Harry’s life. Dumbledore is the key to most of the mystery solving throughout the series. He is Harry’s guiding light, pointing him in the right direction and giving him the tools and information needed. But he was always conscious and wise in deciding what information, how and when it was appropriate to tell Harry. I feel like his character represents the voice of reason and also that information is power. Knowing how to use the information one gathers is just as important as knowing it in the first place. I see Dumbledore as being Harry’s mentor. He knows that this is a battle only Harry can fight and is humble enough to understand it is not his place to fight this battle, although one would think that with his status and power he would attempt to be the hero. This is why he is a good influence on Harry. Becoming known from a young age and propelled to fame, Harry needs to remain grounded and humble. Dumbledore is the perfect person to teach him these values. He knows far too well how quickly a good apple can go bad. Tom Riddle seemed to be as good a student as they come, yet became the most notorious dark magic wizard that world has known. Dumbledore seems to want to protect Harry from going down that same path, especially since Harry and Voldemort were to meet one day.

Also, I want to touch on the colour of Albus Dumbledore’s robes. They are purple, a colour commonly associated with royalty. I think this is a subtle way of pointing out his status in the Wizarding World. Dumbledore is one of the best wizards of his time. Having rejected the post of Minister of Magic, he shows that he is not on a quest to ultimate power, yet he is still seen as some sort of king. He is noble, humble, intelligent and wise. All great qualities found in a ruler. The difference is, he sees everyone as equals and would never place himself above others. This shows us his level of integrity, he does what he thinks is right, regardless of the way he is perceived. Therefore, that is why I think he is portrayed as a leader because he is perceived by the wizarding community as being their “king”. They feel safe as long as he is around.  

Now, on to McGonagall. She is the only teacher who showed up on Privet Drive on that dreadful day. She seems to have a particular interest in Harry’s fate. I think she too understood the magnitude of what had happened when Voldemort tried to kill Harry. She might not have all the details of the situation, but she is aware that this is as unusual as they come. To me, McGonagall represent the structure and discipline in Harry’s life. She is very strict and always punished him when it was deserved. She also contributed to keeping Harry down to earth. It must have been hard to not show favouritism towards Harry, especially since he was in Gryffindor, her house. She also hand-picked him for the Quidditch team, which, like any other sport, develops discipline, endurance and strength; all qualities that will benefit Harry in the end. It might not seem like she did that much, but she definitely laid the ground work to help mould Harry’s work ethic. Together, Dumbledore and McGonagall take a keen interest in the way Harry is trained, both physically and mentally. They made sure he would be prepared for everything, in a subtle matter of course.

One of my ah-ha moments while rereading was to rediscover how Harry and Ron became friends with Hermione. I had completely forgotten that they weren’t all instantly friends. Of course Harry and Ron hit it off on the train, but they couldn’t stand Hermione at first (even though Harry had thought she would be an asset in helping them find the Philosopher’s stone.) That bond only developed once they save her from the troll attack on Halloween. They had noticed her “potential usefulness” but could not connect on a personal level. It seems it took a near-death experience to bring them together. Little did they know there were many more of those experiences to come!

I also noticed something that I had always overlooked in my previous reads. It is mentioned in the very first book that Harry has a dream/nightmare with a flashing green light and mean laughter in the background. It is also the first time that his scar stings. Of course, we now know that his dreams became more vivid seeing as he was in the presence of Voldemort (Quirrel) during his entire first year at Hogwarts. This is our very first sign that Harry is a Horcrux. I know it’s a little farfetched, but I do think this is major foreshadowing!

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