The Journey From Platform 9 and 3/4.
An introduction to character. Even for plot driven stories, character is important. A novel with no character is basically a collection of landscapes and ideas. Nothing can happen without an agent. Yet characters do more than inform the reader of what actions are taken. Characters weave a delicate narrative, often explaining mindset, culture, past events, and future predictions.
This chapter starts heavy in exposition. The reader is told about Harry’s trip to Kings Cross, what the train looks like, what type of candy is available for purchase, etc. But how long can one listen to Ron explain things to Harry? Probably not much longer than the couple of pages where it happens.
Where it gets interesting is in the characters and the motives of the characters. What drives them, what forces are at play. How do they inform the the reader of where they are and whonthey are dealing with.
That is not to reject the need for exposition. By informing the reader of these things, J.K. Rowling continues to put efforts into building her world. She lays down fundamental elements of the story that come up later as the chocolate frog cards and Hogwarts Houses. The exposition sets the framework while the character development builds in some muscle.
The Weasley’s are the first wizarding family Harry meets. It is interesting to consider what would have happened if Harry heard about the Weasley’s before he met them? Would he still think they were as great as he does if he spent his first day with Draco?
This chapter is our first introduction to Ron. (I would like to know where he goes between the time Fred and George say goodbye to their mum to when he shows up in Harry’s compartment. Does he go off on his own to look for a place away from his brothers only to have nowhere to go but the compartment they’re in? Why doesn’t he seem to be there when Fred, George, and Harry all watch Ginny wave goodbye?)
It is almost as if Ron purposefully makes himself scarce. He is too afraid to be unremarkable that he hides himself. It is clear that Ron is haunted by being the youngest boy. Five others have come before him, each one with their own skills and niche. His nagging question is where do I fit in. How do I differentiate myself from the others.
One way that Ron sets himself apart, at least initially is in his mentoring role to Harry. Ron knows everything about the wizarding world. He knows how the Chocolate Frog Cards work, what Bertie Botts jelly beans to avoid, what quidditch is. For once, Ron is an authority. He has done something before someone else. He gets to be the authority for the first time and arguably this makes him feel comfortable. This makes allows that initial connection, which grows and develops into a friendship.
The reader sees a lot of Fred and George throughout this chapter. It is interesting that we spend almost as much time with Fred and George as we do Ron. It’s subtle but amusing that the twins are off to see a giant tarantula when they know full well that Ron hates spiders.
Fred and George reinforce that universal awe which surrounds Harry. “Aren’t you?” They ask. Aren’t you Harry Potter. It’s through this interaction that perhaps Harry can truly get a feeling for what is to come. It isn’t just theory that everyone knows him All of his peers know him. His name is everywhere. This is furthered when Hermione arrives to tell him of the books he’s mentioned in. It is through these interactions that the reader is reminded that Harry is a legend. The question then must be whether Harry can live up to that legend.
What the twins add to the story is not just plot device, but added depth. They give credence to Ron’s fears of being boring. They bring a sense of humour to a world that we’ve learned can be just as grim as the muggle world. The Twins also further demonstrate what it means to be good people, what it means to be courteous and friendly to others.
What is most defining about the Weasley’s comes from their willingness to help, to inform others, to be fun, polite, and respectful.
Here we finally put a name to that boy in Madam Malkin’ s. It is beyond clear that Draco, and by extension, his family are very very far from the Weasley family.
Where Mrs. Weasley, Fred, and George all relay a friendly, helpful, and positive demeanour, Draco is cold, harsh, and snobbish.
It is clear to see the differences. One might not have noticed so much had the chapter jot started out with Ron, Fred, and George. Draco is certainly right, Some wizarding families are better than others, but which ones? What values determine good standing? Money and power or brave hearts and strong bonds?
Draco’ s involvement here is a clear play to the culture of the world. One must ask themselves what they believe. Is Draco right in the way that he presents his point. Harry takes a clear stance, but what does the reader say? In addition, this tension that Draco brings to the story makes it clear what type of society this is. We can see the tensions building, the conflict rising. While it is a minor obstacle, Harry must overcome it. He must see Draco’ s statement for what it is and define himself on how he would like to manage himself in this world. Draco forces Harry to make a choice, even if it is a subconscious one. It is this choice that helps define his character fully.
Our introduction to Hermione Granger is a whirlwind. She is there and then she’s not, and then she’s back. Hermione is outspoken, swotty, and intimidating. She is driven by her morality, just as the other characters are, but perhaps more brazen in her actions. Her do good attitude may match that of Draco’ s, if not on the other end of the spectrum. As she helps Neville find his lost toad, she is already gearing up to be a defender of those who cannot help themselves. She is already the leader of SPEW even if she doesn’t know it yet.
Hermione’s character screams insecurity, though perhaps the reader doesn’t know it. Her rapid fire talk and book knowledge acts almost like a protective barrier between her and a world she doesn’t know. Is it a wonder that she befriends the bumbling Neville first? Does she need to take care of things and be in control in order to feel good about herself?
It is easy to forget that Hermione, Harry, And Ron are not immediate friends. She pays little attention to them beyond their knowledge of where Neville’s toad is. She is on a mission and nothing will stop her.
As all of those characters develop and interact with each other, it will be interesting to follow how they develop, Which turns do they take and why. It is hard to give a brief overview of each character, especially based on the limited information provided in this chapter.
But that is what makes this chapter important. The foundation of the story is set: A boy finds out he is a wizard and goes off to a magic school. It is the character foundation that comes next. Who are these people. Why does the reader care? How do the characters inform the reader of the culture, history, and future society.