500WoL Reviews: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or Don’t Be A Dursley, or a Review for Literary Snobs
- 500WoL Reviews: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or Don’t Be A Dursley, or a Review for Literary Snobs
- 500 Words or Less Reviews: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- 500 Words or Less Reviews: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- 500 Words or Less Reviews: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
- 500WoL: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- 500 Words or Less Reviews: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- 500 + 63 Words or Less Reviews: The Deathly Hallows
There is a deep, dark part of me that is a bit of a literary snob. That is the part of me that so often resists reading something that is wildly popular because I assume it is only popular because it is popular. When that wildly popular thing turns out to deserve its popularity, well, I’m somewhat surprised. This was the case for me with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I have been telling myself for the past 15 years or so that I was going to read this book series eventually. And I have many friends and family whose literary opinions I trust that have read it and loved it. Still, the dark literary snob inside held me back.
Let me be clear here. I have absolutely no problem with children’s novels. Some of the greatest novels of all time have been children’s novels. There are many, many great ones. My personal favorites: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Hobbit, The Magician’s Nephew, A Wrinkle In Time, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Although The Sorcerer’s Stone never quite attains the greatness of the five I mentioned—and probably many other children’s classics—I believe it will join their ranks as a children’s classic.
I award 1000 points to the house of J.K. Rowling for creating this world of pure imagination. Unless you live under a rock (which sounds excessively uncomfortable so I hope that’s not the case), you will probably know that this first book in the Harry Potter series introduces the very magical the orphaned Harry Potter son of two famed wizarding parents. The great wizard Dumbledore leaves the infant to be raised by the horrible Dursleys, the muggliest muggles in all muggledom. Literally the second (“Literally” isn’t a meaningless article here. This is literally literally) Harry turns 11 big old Hagrid whisks him off to join the wizard school Hogwarts to begin a magical journey that will extend for six more books. This first episodic adventure was highly enjoyable, wonderfully imaginative, and chock full of superbly crafted characters. But it is a children’s book so keep your adult logical thinking out of it. Such logic will make you question things like having a large school of kids who know how to cast spells on one another, guarding a very precious item with supposedly impenetrable charms that are so lame that even kids can get past them in a few minutes, or allowing students to participate in school-sponsored activities that could easily get them seriously injured or even killed.
But, fellow literary snobs of the world, recognizing these things shouldn’t impede your enjoyment of said story. I have been told by those who are already very familiar with the entire book series that it gets even better in further books. Can’t wait to continue the journey with Potter. So don’t be a Dursley, join the journey.
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12 thoughts on “500WoL Reviews: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or Don’t Be A Dursley, or a Review for Literary Snobs”
Ben, I’m glad you finally took the plunge. It’s one of my favorites.
I look forward to your thoughts on 2-7 as well. The “adult logic” things didn’t bother me so much, unless you count the fact that I thought it was a bit ridiculous to punish the kids by taking them to the Forbidden Forest. I think the last obstacle to getting the stone was the truly impenetrable one (the one put by Dumbledore, which worked) and so I don’t think Dumbledore cared all that much how good the others were.
The point about the mirror was something else I didn’t get. We saw earlier in the book that Fluffy was guarding the entrance to the stone. But then later on Harry finds the mirror in one of the upper rooms. So was it just Fluffy guarding it for a period of time? Why did they wait until later to make it “impenetrable”?
That’s a fair question and I don’t have a sufficient answer. The books raise all sorts of questions like these to be sure. I assume all of the obstacles were in place along with Fluffy from the very beginning of the Stone’s arrival except the Mirror which we can assume was put there after Christmas. I don’t know why Dumbledore waited to add it.
A safe answer is that Rowling wanted Harry to experience the mirror and also use it as a climax “Dumbledore is a genius'” plot device and just didn’t think about how it would have to mean there were 4 months or so of the stone not being guarded by this last defense. She definitely sacrifices air tight plot continuances for the sake of story telling.
Dumbledore wanted Harry to go after the stone the whole time. That is why he left the mirror out. He wanted Harry to go up against Voldemort because Voldemort didn’t know that he couldn’t kill Harry because he was protected by living with Lily’s blood. He left the Mirror out for Harry to find as a way of guiding him to his ultimate confrontation.
“He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don’t think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could….” – Harry Potter (Sorcerer’s Stone, chapter 17)
Still, 4 months is a long time to let the stone go guarded only by Fluffy and the things the professors came up with. I suppose you could say Dumbledore had his pulse on the situation the whole time, but the other books prove he often did not. Since Ben hasn’t read them all yet, I’ll say there is a HUGE one in Book 4. Dumbledore had to get lucky sometimes i guess…
You guys both make a very good point. How did the movie handle the issue of the mirror? It has been so long since the one time that I’ve seen it that its all pretty vague to me.
It’s about the same I think. Harry finds the mirror at Christmas, visits it serveral times and then Dumbledore comes and has an almost identical conversation with Harry from the book and then moves the mirror. Then it comes up at the end just like book. If there are differences I can’t remember them and they’re likely small.
I will say this: The logic is much tighter in the later books of the series. In the early books, she was not as concerned about the plot all fitting together perfectly for the adult readers.
Just started book four today. Loved 1-3.
I didn’t even think about the stone not being guarded by the mirror (good catch Ben). Is it possible no one even approached the stone during the time the mirror was training Harry?
That’s a great question. I assume Dumbledore knew that it would take Quirrell time to go for it; that he need to figure out how to get past Fluffy, etc. And he was willing to gamble that time to train Harry for the final test. Dumdledore’s plans don’t always work out so nicely but this begin the first books and more geared towards kids I think the nice little bow was more appropriate.
And again, I’m just guessing on some of this. I love discussing and hearing others’ thoughts.
Wow, speedy reader. I’m still on book 2.
As for the mirror thing, I agree with Gowdy’s theory about Dumbledore’s knowing that Quirrel had not yet learned how to get past Fluffy. I wonder if Dumbledore only made the final decision to move it after learning Hagrid had revealed Fluffy’s secret.