Read With Me- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Quidditch

Quidditch

Who doesn’t love Quidditch?

This chapter is ridiculously fun. It’s action packed and exciting. It also creates a balance of showing vs telling. We get to watch Harry fly around on his broom. The bludgers soar past his head. Goals are scored and Gryffindor wins! But what adds to the chapter is the consistent commentary from Lee Jordan.

I can hear it now. Some says, but doesn’t Jordan tell us the game? Isn’t it better to just watch Harry fly around? Show don’t tell.

The reality is that sometimes, telling helps.

Here, I think J.K. Rowling does a decent job of doing both. Jordan’s commentary doesn’t just tell us what we already can see, but rather adds to the experience. It makes it feel real.

As muggles we are keenly aware that this game is different than anything we’ve experienced. There’s different rules, there’s different balls. We can see that they’re flying through the air, something that we don’t normally do, so, how do we relate?

As a writer, it is important to think about these things. How can it be conveyed in a way that others who have no experience can relate to this event because if the reader can’t relate, what’s the point to it?.

Using commentary in this situation helps ground the reader. While showing a bludger fly around or Katie Bell score a goal, it may not help the reader understand exactly what they are seeing. Did Katie put the ball in the right goal? Is Harry supposed to be flopping around on his broom? The commentary helps us understand these phenomena.

Indirectly, the commentary helps build our understanding of Jordan’s character. We know he is friends with the Weasley twins, so we assume he’s funny. The commentary here shows us that he is. To McGonagall’s chagrin, Jordan adds his own colour to the action he sees. We come to see Jordan not just as a stand in, but as a person.

Read With Me- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Halloween

Halloween

The Trinity

Arguably, ‘Halloween’ is one of the most important chapters in Philosopher’s Stone. It is the chapter in which the trio is formed, the trinity, a triad. While the Ron/Harry duo is fun, we don’t see much growth out of the characters  Harry and Ron roll through classes, and not a whole lot happens.

J.K. Rowling’s initial character development is weak. Harry and Ron are more cardboard cut outs than real people. Perhaps, the simplicity of the characters can be attributed to the “children’s book” cubby hole, but it seems almost in part, something that all of us novice and newer writers struggle with.

And then “Halloween” happens. It is an interesting scene. Up until this point, Harry and Ron are comfortable. They complement each other. Its a bit of simple living. We see that both Harry and Ron dislike Hermione. Its not hard tok see why. Hermione separates herself from others by putting herself above them. Shes smarter, better at memorising facts. She rolls her eyes at them, considers them useless.

And yet Harry feels the need to go looking for her when the Troll is announce. He must save her like any other good hero does. He pulls his sidekick friend along and they go battle the troll. Harry does stop the troll, Hermione is saved. What a great day for the quintessential boy hero. Obviously Hermione will now be in his debt forever. Their friendship will bloom because she will forever owe him her life.

Can the basic foundation of this gang be as simple as indebtedness? Is their relationship built from a construct in which a female is once again bound to her male counterparts because she owes them? Is it the other way around? Do Harry and Ron really owe Hermione? Must they pay Hermione for the tears they’ve caused her, for the names they’ve called her?

It is in this dynamic that we begin to see the trio jot merely as the sum of its whole, but the arms of its parts. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Maiden, Mother, and Crone, the Ra, Khepri, and Atum, not to mention the thousands of other trios both spiritual and literary which have come before these three. Each part gives the whole its shape. Each arm provides balance and depth to the whole so that neither truly rises above the other, but offers a helping and balancing hand.

And so does it feel strange that Hermione suddenly, with little forewarning from her character, takes the blame for the bad behaviour of two boys? Absolutely because she takes her agency back. It is no longer about two boys playing knight, risking their lives tok save the damsel in distress. The damsel has saved them. Hermione will continue to save them, over and over again she will demonstrate that she provides balance, that her branch in the trinity is equally as important as Ron or Harry’s.

So do Harry and Ron actually owe Hermione? Are they bound to her? Must they put up with a swotty know it all because she has saved them? Does Hermione forever get to lord over these two? The intuitive answer is no, but why? Is it because males  do jot have to demonstrate their own agency for readers to know it’s there? Do we automatically recognise them as autonomous beings merely because they are boys?

Read With Me: Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone – The Midnight Duel

The Midnight Duel

This is a chapter where Harry’s character begins to become more apparent. Until this point, Harry has been given roles. He is Dudley’s punching bag, Hogwart’s ‘newest celebrity’, and even a Gryffindor. As Harry begins his Hogwarts term, he is shy, plagued with the insecurities of any child walking into a new school. Will everyone be smarter than me, he asks. Will there be people who dislike me. Are classes going to be difficult?

Out at flying lessons, Harry finds something that he is good at. He finds something which he can own. No longer is he uncertain about whether or not he belongs at Hogwarts. He has his father’s legacy and his own talent to define him. Harry has carved a piace in this new world and at once, he gains an identity which stems from his own merit.

In the same chapter, the reader is also introdcued to the inner workings of Harry’s character. His personality slowly becomes more apparent. He stands up to Malfoy and accepts a duel, even without knowing exactly what that means. He is willing to bypass the rules to honor his commitments by sneaking out of dormitory after hours. The timid, uncertain boy, filled with worry and doubt begins to step beyond those boundaries.

But what about Ron? What about Hermione?

Ron displays immediate loyalty, offering himself up to be Harry’s second in the duel. He follows Harry out of Gryffindor tower past curfew not because it is his idea, but rather because he has pledged his allegiance to Harry. Ron is an interesting character here, even from these first few chapters. Does Ron need the attention and interest of a “celebrity” like Harry to feel validated and special? Does he follow Harry because he owes him or because he believes in the loyalty and helping a friend. Where does Ron’s courage come from?

Hermione is another interesting factor in this this journey. Why has she taken such interest in Harry and Ron’s actions. It can’t just be becuase they’re rule breakers. Surely there are other Gryffindors out there losing points for the house. She didn’t seem to attach herself to Fred and George. Why Harry and Ron? Hermione doesn’t have to follow Harry and Ron out of the tower. She can say what she has to and when they ignore her, turn around. But she doesn’t. It seems as if Hermione seeks the adventure. She doesn’t want to break the rules, but she wants something to excite her. She is a risk taker as much as she is a rule abider. The neverending curiosity and the desire to stand her moral ground outweighs the possibility of getting into trouble.

And so the Midnight duel is not even a duel. No wands are drawn, no spells are cast, no second is needed. Draco Malfoy is nowhere to be seen. Some might consider it trickery, others cowardice. Both scenarios are arguably true, but perhapbs even without a wand fight, there still is a duel. One that will take the next seven books to explore. This is step one in a long, drawn out game of chess. A game of rivals where the pieces shuffle across the board one by one. The midnight duel isn’t about two young boys challenging each other on the playground. It’s a dangerous game of light and dark, good and evil. Because surely, Harry could have turned out more like the Malfoys had his circumstances been differet and he’s more like Draco than he wants to believe.

Read With Me: Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone – The Potions Master

The Potions Master

In this chapter, JK Rowling does something interesting. It is a chapter of misdirection while at the same time providing foreshadowing clues to the future. Perhaps that is what makes this chapter work as misdirection. We as readers see what we want to see and when parts of it are proven correct in the future, we feel reassured. We are safe in the knowledge that our beliefs were correct, even if they’re not.

What do I mean by this?

Our previous chapters have set the stage for this one. Clues are given, hints are provided. When Harry stairs up at Professor Snape during the feast, his scar Burns. Ron tells us that Snape flavors Slytherin house and from our perceptions of Draco so far it can only mean trouble for Harry. So by the time Harr has Potions class, both Harry and the audience are primed to be wary. So when we see a chapter titiled The Potions Master, we automatically pay attention to the potions master. We are hyper aware of Snape’s disregard for Harry, how he takes points away from Gryffindor, how he makes Draco and his friends snicker. But is that the most important part of the chapter?

Arguably no. Upon our first read, we can’t know it yet, but it appears that Quirrel should be the main focus, shouldn’t he? [Spoiler Alert] We know who he is, who is with him.

Yet our focus is on Snape and so who cares why Quirrel wears that turbin and where it came from. Who cares what it smells like, what he smells like. I mean I would think Quirrel would want to keep his secret well… moisturised because no one wants to meet Voldemort with diaper rash, right?

Its an interesting and tricky thing isnt it? Quirrel is often referenced against Snape. They are seen together at the table, Harry goes to Defense Against the Dark Arts directly before potions class, we will hear Quirrel shout troll before we see Snape limping. As Harry’s distrust and grows for Snape, so does ours. We see what Harry sees and that makes us believe what he believes.

There is a lot of foreshadowing here, such as the beozar, the draught of living death, and wolfsbane, but to me these instances may have been rabdomly picked out by the author and expanded upon as time progressed. , Some even speculate about Harry’s mum Lily and Snape, however. Its this part that I find interesting. One blog post I found from 2010 highlights these point a pretty well and you can find it here at https://expatronum.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/asphodel-wormwood-bezoars-and-aconite/ The theory suggests that Snape’s question of “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?” is really a reference to him him and Lily since asphodel is a kind of lily and a symbol of death where wormwood often symbolises sorrow.

If it is the case that Snape is considering his relationship with Lily, does this change his interaction with Harry? The article suggests that perhaps Snape is disappointed in Harry’s lack of inherent knowlege and passion for potions, but I want to take it further than that.

We all can see that Harry looks so much like James and we know that Snape hated James. Unfortunately, this reminds Snape of everything he never was and everything he never had. It reminds him how unlike James was, how cruel he was to Lily and who it was who helped pick her back up. It reminds him that he could never do enough to save Lily.

And so, when he looks at Harry, he doesnt want to just know Harry like potions. He’s not just saying I loved your mother and I screwed up. Here, it almost seems like Snape is begging Harry. Please, please tell me youre not just a copy of James. Please tell me youre not just your mother’s eyes. Please, love potions, love them like your mother did, be her. I need you to be her.

But Harry isnt and so he keeps asking questions, begging, pleading (in that cold, detached, and desperate way Snape can). Its almost as if he is saying, “see me, please meet me half way, understand I need to see you as more than just James Potter”.

And Harry just can’t be. Harry isn’t his mother and every reminder of that fact doesn’t bring pure hatred, but the pain of grief, despair, and loss.

Read With Me: Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone – The Sorting Hat

The Sorting Hat

How does one define his or her identity? Does one just don a hat? Its almost a facetious question isnt it? Yet at age 11, this is what Harry does. He puts on a hat and it thinks for him. It tells him who he will be.

This chapter seems to be of utmost importance to the overarching theme of Harry Potter. The existential question shouts, Who am I? How do I come to define myself.

Hats as symbolism are often manifestations of authority, nobility, and reverence. Hats are what protect heads and keep thoughts in. That it is a hat which decides the fate of children seems all too fitting.

It is not hard to think back to Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot. Hats become important to the characters. All four of the main players have them. There is a scene in which Estragon and Vladimir exchange their hats for Lucky’s hat. In a mad swapping fit, the two rotate out the three hats, finally retuening to the comfort of their own.

And so the sorting hat. A raggedy old talking hat which tries to tell you who you are and who you will become. It is almost like society, that nagging voice that says, “do something to make money, be a dignified human being, never show weakness,” turns around and instead shouts Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Hufflepuff.

Harry’s hat stall, that is, the hat’s inability to decide where to put him, is interesting. Aren’t all people like Harry, torn between the practical and fantasy, between being self fulfilled and controlled by the whispers of society? It is a great source of hope that Harry is able to choose. Perhaps it is that self determination which gives him that Gryffindor courage.

J.K Rowling mentions that Hermione Granger was almost a true hat stall (read more about it on pottermore) but the book never gives that impression. Hermione Granger’s fate seems sealed almost as soon as she the hat on her head. But it seems to ask the most basic question.

How can one be placed into a group based on basic character traits? How does the complexity of a himan being fit into categories and what happens when they are forced into them?

At this point in the series, it is hard to fully understand where it goes, but as a reader it is one to watch. How do people evolve? Can they even be defined? Is Peter Pettigrew defined by his Gryffindor status and is Draco Malfoy determined by his Slytherin allegiance. Harry seems to believe that the latter is at least.

Read With Me: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone -The Journey From Platform 9 and 3/4.

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

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.

Draco Malfoy

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.

Hermione Granger

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.