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Friday, February 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I.            Introduction

A.   Purpose

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone draws on a long tradition of English fantasy works that seem to be for children but are in fact deep allegories of the human condition. Rowling herself has stated that her book is really about imagination and that practicing wizardry is only a metaphor for developing one’s full potential. On one level, the story is a thriller with a criminal plot (the planned theft of the Sorcerer’s Stone) that is thwarted by a group of brave students, just as C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books—childhood favorites of Rowling’s—are about children who explore a strange land and perform heroic deeds. But on a deeper level, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, like the Narnia books, illustrates the challenges and adventures of growing up. Rowling’s book outlines every child’s ordeal of becoming an individual, winning respect from peers, learning about loyalty, discovering the difference between forgivable vices and unforgivable sins, and believing in something bigger than oneself. Harry’s transformation from a forgotten orphan living under the stairs into a publicly recognized individual (symbolized by the magical, adult-like letters addressed to him), and then finally into a renowned hero represents the successful entry into the public world wished for by every child. Harry’s escape from misery to a new place where he has friends, respect, and a useful role in the world is a projection of every child’s ideal life. Most important, Harry’s discovery that there is something uniquely valuable inside him represents the dream of innumerable people—children and adults alike—who enjoy indulging their imaginations.

B.   Basic questions to be answered

II.         Background of the study

A.   About the author
Joanne "Jo" Rowling, (born 31 July 1965),better known as J. K. Rowling  is a British author best known as the creator of the Harry Potter fantasy series, the idea for which was conceived whilst on a train trip from Manchester to London in 1990. The Potter books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, sold more than 400 million copies and been the basis for a popular series of films, in which Rowling had creative control serving as a producer in two of the seven installments.

Rowling is perhaps equally famous for her "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years. As of March 2010, when its latest world billionaires list was published, Forbes estimated Rowling's net worth to be $1 billion.  The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling's fortune at £560 million ($798 million), ranking her as the twelfth richest woman in Great Britain.  Forbes ranked Rowling as the forty-eighth most powerful celebrity of 2007, and Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fandom.  In October 2010, J. K. Rowling was named 'Most Influential Woman in Britain' by leading magazine editors.  She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, and the Children's High Level Group.

B.   Summary of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Mr. Dursley, a well-off Englishman, notices strange happenings on his way to work one day. That night, Albus Dumbledore, the head of a wizardry academy called Hogwarts, meets Professor McGonagall, who also teaches at Hogwarts, and a giant named Hagrid outside the Dursley home. Dumbledore tells McGonagall that someone named Voldemort has killed a Mr. and Mrs. Potter and tried unsuccessfully to kill their baby son, Harry. Dumbledore leaves Harry with an explanatory note in a basket in front of the Dursley home.

Ten years later, the Dursley household is dominated by the Dursleys’ son, Dudley, who torments and bullies Harry. Dudley is spoiled, while Harry is forced to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. At the zoo on Dudley’s birthday, the glass in front of a boa constrictor exhibit disappears, frightening everyone. Harry is later punished for this incident.

Mysterious letters begin arriving for Harry. They worry Mr. Dursley, who tries to keep them from Harry, but the letters keep arriving through every crack in the house. Finally, he flees with his family to a secluded island shack on the eve of Harry’s eleventh birthday. At midnight, they hear a large bang on the door and Hagrid enters. Hagrid hands Harry an admissions letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry learns that the Dursleys have tried to deny Harry’s wizardry all these years.

The next day, Hagrid takes Harry to London to shop for school supplies. First they go to the wizard bank, Gringotts, where Harry learns that his parents have left him a hefty supply of money. They shop on the wizards’ commercial street known as Diagon Alley, where Harry is fitted for his school uniform. Harry buys books, ingredients for potions, and, finally, a magic wand—the companion wand to the evil Voldemort’s.

A month later, Harry goes to the train station and catches his train to Hogwarts on track nine and three quarters. On the train, Harry befriends other first-year students like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, a Muggle girl chosen to attend Hogwarts. At school, the first-years take turns putting on the “Sorting Hat” to find out in which residential house they will live. Harry fears being assigned to the sinister Slytherin house, but he, Ron, and Hermione end up in the noble Gryffindor house.
As the school year gets underway, Harry discovers that his Potions professor, Snape, does not like him. Hagrid reassures Harry that Snape has no reason to dislike him. During their first flying lesson on broomsticks, the students are told to stay grounded while the teacher takes an injured boy named Neville to the hospital. Draco Malfoy, a Slytherin bully, snatches Neville’s prized toy and flies off with it to the top of a tree. Harry flies after him. Malfoy throws the ball in the air, and Harry speeds downward, making a spectacular catch. Professor McGonagall witnesses this incident. Instead of punishing Harry, she recommends that he play Quidditch, a much-loved game that resembles soccer played on broomsticks, for Gryffindor. Later that day, Malfoy challenges Harry to a wizard’s duel at midnight. Malfoy doesn’t show up at the appointed place, and Harry almost gets in trouble. While trying to hide, he accidentally discovers a fierce three-headed dog guarding a trapdoor in the forbidden third-floor corridor.

On Halloween, a troll is found in the building. The students are all escorted back to their dormitories, but Harry and Ron sneak off to find Hermione, who is alone and unaware of the troll. Unwittingly, they lock the troll in the girls’ bathroom along with Hermione. Together, they defeat the troll. Hermione tells a lie to protect Harry and Ron from being punished. During Harry’s first Quidditch match, his broom jerks out of control. Hermione notices Snape staring at Harry and muttering a curse. She concludes that he is jinxing Harry’s broom, and she sets Snape’s clothes on fire. Harry regains control of the broom and makes a spectacular play to win the Quidditch match.

For Christmas, Harry receives his father’s invisibility cloak, and he explores the school, unseen, late at night. He discovers the Mirror of Erised, which displays the deepest desire of whoever looks in it. Harry looks in it and sees his parents alive. After Christmas, Harry, Ron, and Hermione begin to unravel the mysterious connection between a break-in at Gringotts and the three-headed guard dog. They learn that the dog is guarding the Sorcerer’s Stone, which is capable of providing eternal life and unlimited wealth to its owner and belongs to Nicolas Flamel, Dumbledore’s old partner.

A few weeks later, Hagrid wins a dragon egg in a poker game. Because it is illegal to own dragons, Harry, Ron, and Hermione contact Ron’s older brother, who studies dragons. They arrange to get rid of the dragon but get caught. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are severely punished, and Gryffindor is docked 150 points. Furthermore, part of their punishment is to go into the enchanted forest with Hagrid to find out who has been killing unicorns recently. In the forest, Harry comes upon a hooded man drinking unicorn blood. The man tries to attack Harry, but Harry is rescued by a friendly centaur who tells him that his assailant was Voldemort. Harry also learns that it is Voldemort who has been trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Harry decides that he must find the stone before Voldemort does. He, Ron, and Hermione sneak off that night to the forbidden third-floor corridor. They get past the guard dog and perform many impressive feats as they get closer and closer to the stone. Harry ultimately finds himself face to face with Quirrell, who announces that Harry must die. Knowing that Harry desires to find the stone, Quirrell puts Harry in front of the Mirror of Erised and makes him state what he sees. Harry sees himself with the stone in his pocket, and at that same moment he actually feels it in his pocket. But he tells Quirrell that he sees something else. A voice tells Quirrell that the boy is lying and requests to speak to Harry face to face. Quirrell removes his turban and reveals Voldemort’s face on the back of his head. Voldemort, who is inhabiting Quirrell’s body, instructs Quirrell to kill Harry, but Quirrell is burned by contact with the boy. A struggle ensues and Harry passes out.

When Harry regains consciousness, he is in the hospital with Dumbledore. Dumbledore explains that he saved Harry from Quirrell just in time. He adds that he and Flamel have decided to destroy the stone. Harry heads down to the end-of-year banquet, where Slytherin is celebrating its seventh consecutive win of the house championship cup. Dumbledore gets up and awards many last-minute points to Gryffindor for the feats of Harry and his friends, winning the house cup for Gryffindor. Harry returns to London to spend the summer with the Dursleys.

C.   Why the title
Originally, the book was entitled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone but was changed into Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  This was a marketing decision made by author Rowling and Scholastic, the publishing house that released the novel in the United States. The decision to change Philosopher to Sorcerer was made because, in the U.S., a philosopher connotes a scholar of philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, logic, and other related fields. Philosopher does not typically connote an alchemist or magician, and magic is essential to the Harry Potter books. Consequently, the publisher suggested using another word with a more magical connotation, and Rowling suggested Sorcerer. Rowling gives this explanation: "Arthur Levine, my American editor, and I decided that words should be altered only where we felt they would be incomprehensible, even in context, to an American reader... The title change was Arthur's idea initially, because he felt that the British title gave a misleading idea of the subject matter. In England, we discussed several alternative titles and Sorcerer's Stone was my idea."

III.       An analysis of the main characters

A.   Analysis of a reader
To begin with, let us look into the so-called heroic quest of Harry. As the story unfolds, Harry goes through the classic and mythic stages of a hero's journey. First to these is a call to adventure. In the story, Harry receives the letters from Hogwarts. Second is a separation from the known world. This is seen in the part where Harry leaves for Hogwarts. Third is an initiation into the new world. This is evident in the Sorting ceremony, where Harry undergoes a placement-like ritual through the Sorting Hat. Next is the presence of threats which can be observed in Harry's rivalry with Malfoy and also his encounter with the Mirror of Erised - both of which tried Harry's character and desires. Another is the existence of a fellowship which can be justified by the characters of Ron and Hermione. The guidance of a mentor, through Hagrid and Dumbledore, the final confrontation with darkness - Harry versus Voldemort over the stone - Afterwhich, comes a rebirth or resurrection through Harry's victory over Voldemort and finally, the hero's return to the old world - Harry returns to his home, but this time he knows who he really is.

In terms of archetypal men, Dumbledore is what we call, The Chief. He is a leader of wizards, highly-respected and he looks over his subjects very well. The Bad Boy, no doubt, is Voldemort. And we can also say that Ron's character is fit to be the best friend archetype. In archetypal women, The Boss can be associated to Deputy Headmistress McGonagall due to first, her position in the school and next, her wise character. Hermione's character, on the other hand, can be classified as The Librarian archetype. She has answers for almost any question because she has read a great deal of books and she can also be fierce, once provoked.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is one great novel that captured the hearts of both young and old alike for its myths and archetypes that bind all the readers together all over the world.

B.   Comparison and contrast (about characters)
Harry Potter
Harry Potter is the hero of the story. Orphaned as a baby, he is brought up by his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, maltreated by them, and tormented by their obnoxious son, Dudley. Neglected and disdained, Harry grows up to be a timid boy unsure of his abilities. His sudden fame as a wizard at Hogwarts comes not just as a total contrast to his earlier forgotten misery, but as a fate that we feel is very much deserved after his youthful suffering. Yet even after he becomes famous, Harry never loses his modesty and humility. Even by the end of the story, when he has obtained the Sorcerer’s Stone and saved Hogwarts (and perhaps the whole world) from Voldemort, Harry does not revel in his success. He simply asks Dumbledore a few factual questions and is satisfied with the answers, never expecting any praise. Moreover, he does not wish to use his powers to fulfill grandiose wishes. Dumbledore wisely knows that, unlike Voldemort, Harry will desire only to get the magic stone, not to use it. He does not covet riches or power, or harbor any secret wild ambition; he just wants to make sure that the stone and its power do not fall into the wrong hands. The simplicity of his desire is part of what makes him a hero.

Harry’s capacity for loyal friendship is another of his attractive features. It is also one of the surest proofs that Harry is developing at Hogwarts, where he is a lonely individual at the story’s beginning but has a circle of loyal friends and admirers by the end. His faithful membership in Gryffindor is a symbol of his newly developing team spirit. He prefers maintaining good relations with his schoolmates to basking in individual glory. Similarly, rather than boast of his immense talent at Quidditch, he rejoices in the communal victory for his house and does not stop for applause even when he breaks Quidditch records. He is willing to put himself at risk for the sake of a friend, sometimes foolishly, as when he battles a troll to save Hermione and when he gets himself severely punished for helping Hagrid with his dragon. Harry’s success at forging true friendships and overcoming his early loneliness is almost as inspiring as his defeat of the evil and powerful Voldemort.

Draco Malfoy

The son of a long line of wizards, Malfoy is the opposite of Harry in his familiarity with the Hogwarts experience, his sense of entitlement, his snobbery, and his generally unpleasant character. Rowling includes Malfoy in the story partly as a foil to Harry’s character; in seeing how unlikable Malfoy is, we appreciate all the more Harry’s kindness and generosity of spirit. For example, right after Malfoy insults Ron’s poverty on the train ride to Hogwarts, Harry buys double the number of pastries that he needs and shares them with Ron. Malfoy’s snobbish insistence on only socializing with children of the best families, his selfishness, and his overwhelming aura of superiority all resemble similar characteristics in Dudley Dursley, Harry’s nemesis in the Muggle world. The similarity between Malfoy and Dudley is important in reminding us that Harry’s new life will not be an escape from his old problems. Malfoy’s presence throughout the preparatory stages of Harry’s educational adventure is a rude awakening to the realities of the wizards’ world, which includes detestable characters like Malfoy. At Hogwarts, Harry will not be surrounded simply by kindness, but will have to face unpleasantness as well, just as he has earlier in his life.

But Malfoy also plays a somewhat deeper role in the story, at least symbolically. He is mean-spirited and nasty, but there are hints that in time he may become far worse than nasty; he may blossom into a truly evil character like Voldemort. The Latin word draco means “dragon,” and the French words mal and foi mean “bad faith.” We sometimes suspect that Draco Malfoy may indeed be a “bad faith dragon,” a monster of ill will. Perhaps he is a dragon still being incubated, like Hagrid’s baby dragon that will soon grow into a destructive monster. Malfoy belongs to the darkly powerful house of Slytherin, as did Voldemort. His total lack of redeeming features makes him almost as flat a villain as Voldemort. Like Voldemort, Malfoy is not so much a realistic character as a caricature of badness. Of course, we do not know what Malfoy will become in the future. But his presence at Hogwarts reminds us that every generation will have its heroes and its villains, and that the struggle between right and wrong will always continue.

Hermione Granger

Hermione’s character develops significantly over the course of the story and sheds light on Harry’s character as well. At the outset, she is an annoying perfectionist, a goody-two-shoes who has read all the books for her classes in advance, has learned all about Hogwarts, and never breaks the rules. When she first speaks to Harry on the train ride to school, she is eager to impress him with her knowledge, whereas Harry only wants to make friends. Her intellectual talents are indeed worthy of pride, as we find out later when she scores 112 percent on her final exam. But we sense that her show-off side is a defense against her feelings of inferiority, because she comes from a Muggle family and, like Harry, is unfamiliar with the wizard world. In both Hermione and Harry we see that learning wizardry requires a great deal of social adjustment and self-confidence.

          Hermione’s development into a likable character and a friend begins in the troll episode, when Harry and Ron are reprimanded for trying to save her from the monster and she coolly delivers a bold-faced lie to the teacher. The little girl who has been abiding by all the school rules now dares to lie to her superiors, and a new friendship is born. Hermione’s decision to support her friends rather than obey the rules showcases what is perhaps truly valuable about Harry’s Hogwarts experience. The school teaches him not just facts from books and how to follow procedures, but also—and perhaps more important—loyalty, compassion for others, and solidarity.

C.   Existence in reality at present of  characters
          Nicolas Flamel (born c.1330 - d.1418?) was a medieval French alchemist reputed to have been successful at creating a philosopher's stone and to have become immortal - some claimed to have seen him at the opera in 1761. His wife Perenelle (b.1320d.1402) was widowed at a young age and remarried to Nicolas in 1350. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Nicolas is a friend of Professor Albus Dumbledore and uses the Elixir of Life created by the Philosopher's Stone to keep himself alive. At the end, however, he decides that it is time to destroy the Stone, and so it is done.

The Sorcerer's stone or what is also known as the Philosopher's stone is a traditional element from mythology that appears in Rowling's work. In the story, the stone was created by Nicolas Falmal, Dumbledore's partner, whose character is actually based on the history and legends surrounding the real French alchemist Nicolas Flamel. The stone, both in the novel and in the field of alchemy, is described as a small red ball that can turn metal into gold and can also create an elixir that can grant eternal life.

The character of Lord Voldemort clearly illustrates the power of fear throughout the novel. In fact, most wizards, except Dumbledore, dare not refer to him by name. Instead, he is referred to as, 'He Who must Not Be Named'. In this manner, Voldemort is taken as a metaphor for fear, which is a common element of mankind.

Most of the names of the characters in the novel have relevant meanings. One example is Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. His first name is derived from the Latin word alba which means 'white'. His last name is old English for 'bumblebee'. In symbolism, white stands for purity, so the headmaster's name suggests honor and a hard-working nature. Another example is Professor Severus Snape. Severus is the Latin word for 'severe' and 'strict' - adjectives that can truly be associated to the professor's character.

In Harry Potter, there are four Hogwarts houses. Gryffindor is the Hogwarts house to which Harry and his friends belong. Gryffindor is derived from Griffin, which means a fierce, legendary beast with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. And that is why this Hogwarts house uses a lion as its symbol. On the other hand, Slytherin, Gryffindor's rival house, is actually a variation of 'slithering' a method of travel for snakes, the very reason perhaps why its symbol is a serpent.

IV.        Finding and interpretation

The Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone

In medieval alchemy, as in this novel, the Philosopher's Stone (the name of the object was changed for the American edition of the book, as well as the U. S. film adaptation) was not only the key to transforming base metals into gold but also held the secret to eternal life. While it is, in both alchemy and Rowling's novel, a literal object, it is also a metaphor for an elusive and ultimately unattainable perfection. Even though Nicolas Flamel, in Rowling's book, creates the Stone, he must in the end destroy it. On some levels, it mirrors the forbidden fruit of Genesis 3 and represents knowledge humanity is not meant to possess. As Dumbledore explains to Harry, "the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all-the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them." Furthermore, the specific qualities associated with the Stone-wisdom, rejuvenation, healing, immortality, and so on-echo those associated with the Holy Grail of medieval legend. According to world mythology scholar Joseph Campbell, the Grail symbolizes "the fulfillment of the highest spiritual potentialities of the human consciousness". Likewise, the Stone, as a human technological achievement (even if the "technology" in this case is mystical alchemy) symbolizes the ultimate fulfillment of humanity's possibility. Unfortunately, the Stone as symbol warns us that humans are not to fulfill their potential through technology. Rather, it is qualities such as those embodied by Harry and his friends-courage, loyalty, and compassion, among others-which truly define the human being.

Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters

As do other locations in the novel (for example, the Forbidden Forest), this magical train platform serves as a metaphor for a crossroads (even the name of the train station at which the platform is located is-conveniently though perhaps not coincidentally-King's Cross station), an intersection of two "worlds" or realms. It is what literary scholars often refer to as a liminal location. The adjective "liminal" describes anyone or anything at an edge or on a threshold where normal boundaries (such as the barrier between Platforms Nine and Ten) fade away. New possibilities emerge in liminal situations. Rowling's ingenious creation of Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters suggests that, even in the most seemingly mundane circumstances, these new possibilities are open to us, if we will only abandon our "Muggle" preconceptions and see the world for the "enchanted" place that it truly is.

The Mirror of Erised

As Dumbledore tells Harry, the Mirror of Esired shows those who look into it what they most desire to be true, not necessarily what actually is true. As such, it can be either a dangerous trap (as Harry's repeated longings to look into it illustrate) or a helpful tool (as when Harry uses it to save the Stone from Quirrell, because it in a sense amplifies his true desire to defeat evil). Mirrors are often, in literature, a metaphor for our perception of the world and of ourselves (for example, the apostle Paul's mention of a mirror in 1 Corinthians 13:12, or the Mirror of Galadriel in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings). Mirrors reveal more about the one looking into them than they do about objective reality. Their reflections are not always trustworthy; indeed, as the name of the mirror in Rowling's novel implies, they can lead us to see ourselves and life completely backward. In short, mirrors as metaphors remind us that human perception is imperfect and incomplete, and must be mastered (as Harry does in the novel's climax), rather than being allowed to master us.

Harry's scar

On a literal level, Harry's lightning bolt-shaped scar is the constant reminder of his encounter with Lord Voldemort when an infant. So it is on the non-literal level as well. Harry has come face-to-face with a great (albeit evil) power, and he cannot remain the same. He is, literally and metaphorically, "scarred" by the experience. In our own lives, we bear "scars"-physical, emotional, mental, spiritual-of encounters with powers (good or evil) greater than ourselves. We may wish we did not have to live with these scars, but these scars can, in fact, prove redemptive-after all, the pain in Harry's scar alerts him to the proximity of Voldemort and prepares him to do battle with evil. This paradoxical metaphor of scars that heal or bring healing can be found throughout literature, such as the wound of the Fisher King in Grail legends, or the stripes and scars of Christ in the New Testament. Just as their wounds help define these characters, so does Harry's scar help define him. It is the proof that he is, as wizards refer to him, "the boy who lived"-the hero who can face evil and survives.


Summary. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 

About the Author. J.K. Rowling.

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