Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Essay by tennis_luver3010Junior High, 9th gradeA, March 2008

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Harry Potter is an unfortunate boy living with his unpleasant aunt and uncle and his spoilt fat cousin, who have him sleep in the cupboard under the stairs and treat him with contempt. Much to his surprise, on his eleventh birthday, a message is brought to him from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by a giant of a man called Hagrid. It seems Harry's dead parents were actually practitioners of magic, and Harry is a wizard as well.

Hagrid helps Harry prepare for school, and soon he is away, catching the Hogwarts Express with the other students of his new school. There Harry discovers that an evil wizard called Voldemort killed his parents, and who also tried to kill him. He soon meets Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who will become firm friends with him. However, Harry finds that he has more to deal with than just the challenges of learning to perform acts of magic and play Quidditch.

The evil Voldemort is back and this time he is going to find Harry Potter on his way.

MAIN CHARACTERSHarry Potter: Harry Potter is the famous eleven year old child of Lily and James Potter and is the only known wizard to have survived any attack from the evil Voldemort. "'A letter?' repeated Professor McGonagall faintly, sitting back down on the wall.' Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter? These people will never understand him! He'll be famous - a legend - I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in future - there will be books written about Harry - every child in our world will know his name!'" A weak boy with glasses and brown messy hair, Harry has lived with his mean aunt and uncle Dursley at Number 4 Privet Drive since his parents were killed at age one. "Perhaps it had something to do with living in a dark cupboard, but Harry had always been small and skinny for his age. HE looked even smaller and skinner than he really was because all he had to wear were old clothes of Dudley's and Dudley was about four times bigger than he was. Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair and bright green eyes. He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Sellotape because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose. The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead which was shaped like a bolt of lightning.' When he turns eleven, he starts his schooling at Hogwarts, school of witchcraft and wizardry, where he learns to fly, becomes friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and saves the school from Voldemort's evil schemes of stealing the Philosopher's Stone. Although he returns to live with the Dursleys when school is out for summer, he is now aware he can become a powerful and skilled wizard and looks forward to learning more magic and meeting his friends again when he returns the following year.

Rubeus Hagrid: Hagrid is the gamekeeper of Hogwarts and one of Harry's friends. He rescues Harry from the Dursleys, introduces him to the wizards' world, Diagon Alley, and brings him to Hogwarts. A simpleminded, clumsy giant, Hagrid was once thrown out of Hogwarts and often blurts out secrets that should be kept silent. "A giant of a man was standing in the doorway. His face was almost completely hidden by a long, shaggy mane of hair and a wild, tangled beard, but you could make out his eyes, glinting like black beetles under all the hair."Voldemort: Voldemort is the evil villain in the novel, the murderer of Harry's parents, and the creature who plans to take over the wizardry world and kill Harry in the process. His name is rarely uttered by wizards and causes fear among all who think of him. He was once a good wizard, however, his ideas and powers went to the dark side, and now he lives his life in different hosts, such as Professor Quirrell, which enables him to keep alive while he tries to steal the Philosopher's Stone and achieve immortality. "'See what I have become?' the face said. 'Mere shadow and vapour...I have form only when I can share another's body...but there have always been those willing to let me into their hearts and minds...Unicorn blood has strengthened me, these past weeks...you saw faithful Quirrell drinking it for me in the forest...and once I have the Elixir of Life, I will be able to create a body of my own...Now...why don't you give me that Stone in your pocket?"'Ron Weasley: Ron Weasley is the youngest son of the enormous Weasley family, has red hair and freckles, and one of Harry Potter's friends. His family has little money, but still manage to send Ron to Hogwarts and give Harry Christmas presents. Ron is an expert at Wizard's Chess and initially abhors Hermione. As the three uncover the truth behind the Philosopher's Stone, Ron is the key in getting past the chess chamber, sacrificing his own power for Harry.

Hermione Granger: Hermione Granger is a proud, intelligent, bookish girl who follows every rule to the tee. Although she initially keeps her nose in the air around everyone and reads too many books, she eventually becomes friends with Ron and Harry, and is implemental in their plot to save Hogwarts and the Philosopher's Stone from Voldemort. Her wizard skills in Herbology are key in passing through one the 'Devil's Snare' chamber. She is also one of the few wizards who come from a regular Muggle family.

Professor Quirrell: Professor Quirrell is one of the teachers at Hogwarts and a shy man who also stutters. Although he seems to be blackmailed and controlled by Snape, Quirrell is actually the evil one, as he is a host to his master Voldemort and helps Voldemort try to kill Harry. He wears a turban at all times, which covers the head of Voldemort living underneath. "'He is with me wherever I go,' said Quirrell quietly. 'I met him when I travelled around the world. A foolish young man I was then, full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it...Since then, I have served him faithfully, although I have let him down many times. He has had to be very hard on me.' Quirrell shivered suddenly. 'He does not forgive mistakes easily. When I failed to steal the stone from Gringotts, he was most displeased. He punished me ... decided he would have to keep a closer watch on me.'"Professor Snape: Professor Snape is the menacing Potions professor at Hogwarts who heads the Slytherin house and seems to abhor Harry Potter. Although Harry and his friends initially think that Snape is the evil professor following Voldemort, he is the man who attempts to protect Harry from Quirrell and the evil spirit. Snape does, in fact, hate Harry, but only because he and Harry's father, James Potter were rivals at Hogwarts a generation earlier.

Albus Dumbledore: Albus Dumbledore is the old, wise, and revered headmaster of Hogwarts and single best wizard currently alive. "Albus Dumbledore, currently Headmaster of Hogwarts. Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern Times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for hisDefeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's Blood and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys Chamber music and tenpin bowling." He is kind and generous. He watches over Harry Potter from his birth to his revelation to his heroic deeds, and ultimately awards Gryffindor the House Cup at the conclusion of the novel. "Nothing like this man had ever been seen in Privet Drive. He was tall, thin and very old, judging by the silver of his hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt. He was wearing long robes, a purple cloak which swept the ground and high-heeled, bucked boots. His blue eyes were light, bright and sparkling behind half-mooned spectacles and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice. This man's name was Albus Dumbledore."Draco Malfoy: Draco Malfoy is the arch nemesis of Harry Potter and a boy with whom Harry must contend throughout the novel. Draco comes from a long line of spoiled wizards, and some who have followed Voldemort in the past. He is constantly teasing and taunting Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville, and often tricks them into finding trouble.

TECHNIQUESFear of AbandonmentA source of anxiety for many children is a fear of abandonment. In Harry's story we can identify this same fear. The novel enhances the readers' experience of Harry's feelings of abandonment.

Some examples of this are the threatening remarks from his uncle and aunt, Harry's conversation with the snake, and when he meets his parents in the mirror of Eristed. "They just looked at him, smiling. And slowly, Harry looked into the faces of the other people in the mirror and saw other pairs of green eyes like his, other noses like his, even a little old man who looked as though he had Harry's knobbly knees - Harry was looking at his family, for the first time in his life...The Potters smiled and waved at Harry and he stared hungrily back at them, his hands pressed flat against the glass as though he was hoping to fall right through it and reach them. He had a powerful kind of ache inside him, half joy, and half terrible sadness."The Archetypal Story PatternHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone follows an archetypal story pattern, or a pattern that has been repeated through many ages and cultures. In most archetypal hero stories, the hero starts a journey after being an outcast, or misfit, at home. The journey often begins with a crisis or a dream which leads the hero through a secret or ominous passage, often termed a 'night-sea journey' because it is dark and dangerous. Early in the journey, the hero may find or receive a 'talisman,' which is a magical object that gives the hero special powers. During the journey, the hero meets people who challenge him or her. After the challenge has been met, these characters often help the hero to become more heroic. Often, the hero is accompanied on the journey by a 'familiar,' an animal who uses its animal sensitivity to warn or guide the hero. There is also an elder guide, or mentor, who offers useful advice at important moments. Toward the end of the journey, the hero meets someone powerful who demands a test of the hero's worthiness. After passing the test, which often involves defeating or tricking a powerful villain, the hero gets the approval and help of the powerful figure. Most often, the hero returns home with new-found wisdom and is greeted with celebration.

This story pattern is a close match to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Examining the archetypal story pattern, people can find one or more close or exact matches to the novel's story. If people think about other stories, they will find equally good matches. This is because all these stories are examples of archetypal hero journeys.

Good and evilVoldemort tells Harry, 'There is no good and evil: there is only power.' There are many events or statements in the movie that confirm and deny this statement. Harry destroys Quirrell/Voldemort, but some people believe he is an agent of another power. The story gives many clues to confirm which the right answer is. This novel also provides lessons for the reader on power.

Magical Items to keep interestThere are many items connected to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Such items are the brooms, remembralls, wands etc. These products enhance someone's enjoyment of Harry Potter's experiences.

HumourIn most stories, humour is used to break the tension and to give more life into the story. This novel also uses this technique. An example is the character Ron Weasley and his brothers Fred and George, who are constantly cracking jokes to make the reader smile.