The door to the magical world has broken down. Literally. It is here that readers recognize that they have officially crossed the threshold into a new world. The information presented before was exposition. It set up and created an established world where we as readers felt comfortable. It defined the structures and the norms of the world. This is perhaps the first threshold that we pass through. It is a conceptual one, rather than a physical one.
As we listen to Hagrid, we gain more insight into what the wizarding world is. He confirms that there is a wizarding school, that these magical folk do actually exist, and we learn what truly happens to Harry’s parents. For me, J.K. Rowling is still allowing her readers to gain access into this world that she will drop us in later. She is paving the way, first by presenting the reader with ideas, which are later reinforced by the actual presence of Hogwarts castle.
While I don’t plan to study the movies at any length, I find it incredibly ridiculous that Hagrid can possibly mistake Dudley for Harry. It is here that we are first given those magic words: you look like your father, but you have your mother’s eyes. How in the world could Hagrid make such a mistake in the movie? But I digress.
What I find interesting here in the stylistic nature of J.K. Rowling’s writing is that there are so many perspectives that occur in Harry Potter. As a first time reader, we know nothing about the world. We are reliant on the characters and the narrative to guide us through. We immediately believe that it is credible. As anyone who is familiar with Harry Potter, we know that this is not the case. We can’t trust any one account over the next.
In a basic way, J.K. Rowling introduces that to us here. This is the first time that there really seem to be competing viewpoints. On first glance, everything comes from Hagrid. He has the story to tell. But what we get is a little more complicated than that. Hagrid is indeed the main focus of this chapter. It is called the Keeper of the Keys for a reason. He presents to the reader his viewpoint of what happened. James and Lily Potter were a pair of the greatest witches/wizards he’s ever known. Voldemort came to their house and killed them, presumably afraid of the power that they held against him. We are told that not only is Harry magical, but he’s special. It’s because of him the Dark Lord vanquished. All of this holds some semblance of truth, partially because Hagrid believes it, but also because by proximity to the wizarding world, he was a witness.
Petunia’s version of the story is quite different. According to Petunia, Lily was a freak. Their parents lavished attention and praise on unwarranted, abnormal traits and talents. Petunia describes Lily as running off to a freak school, marrying someone just as abnormal and freaky. “And then she went and got herself blown up.”
We know and can infer that Harry must have his own opinions of his parents. Surely he must have a vision of them which is different than what Hagrid and Petunia constructed. Harry remembers a flash of green light. He remembers his mother’s scream. He has manufactured some version of a car crash.
On a basic level, we recognize that this is how people respond and act. We all have our own view of what has happened and the stories we tell ourselves. J.K. Rowling uses to distract the reader, to lure the reader into a false sense of reality. We automatically want to believe that Hagrid is correct because as far as we have seen, he is the authority on this new magical world. What the tells us on the other hand, is potentially misleading. It also encourages Harry’s perspective of his parents, specifically his father. What Harry comes to believe about his father from Hagrid and from others who mention him in later books is skewed by these perspectives and viewpoints.
We must never take characters at their word. We must constantly look at what each character’s motives are and parse together the truth