Harry Potter was just an ordinary boy, or so he thought. The only thing even slightly different about him was the unusual lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. His parents had died before he was even capable of remembering them, and he was sent to live with his hateful Aunt and Uncle and their spoiled son. It was not until Harry’s eleventh birthday that his tedious life started to change for the better. Mysterious letters arrived for him by owl messenger, inviting him to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; of course Harry jumped at the chance. He was amazed to discover the truth about his parents, well-known and much-loved wizards of their time, and that he too was sure to become one. Once at Hogwarts Harry makes two best friends, Ron and Hermione, who stick by him through all his troubles. He also becomes an expert in Quidditch, an airborne sport played on broomsticks. But life at Hogwarts isn’t always fun, like when he discovers that the dark wizard Voldemort, who murdered his parents, is after him next! Harry becomes involved in a fight for survival with him, and comes very close to death.
Although originally ‘Harry Potter’ books were written for children, since their release millions of adults and children alike have adored them. There must be a certain way that J. K. Rowling writes that appeals to such a vast following. The basic plot of the story is a very common one used in the majority of children’s books, which is good against evil, Voldemort being evil and Harry being good. “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, however, is no ordinary book. J. K. Rowling has added every detail she could think of to the story to make it have that extra-special quality. The story is believable as it is not too far-fetched, but still seems a completely different world. The pupils just look like ordinary people until you discover that they have magical powers. The school seems like an ordinary school until you learn that the classes they run are not English and Math: they are defense against the dark arts and potions! The school was enormous: “The entrance hall was so big you could have fitted the whole of the Dursleys’ house in it. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches like the ones at Gringotts, the ceiling was too high to make out, and a magnificent marble staircase facing them led to the upper floors.” When reading this book I formed a picture in my head of what was happening, as it is very well written. Every miniscule detail is explained, from what they were wearing to what they were eating. Even simple delivery of letters has been thought out. Instead of a postman, they send their mail by owl! Before J. K. Rowling wrote this book, it seems obvious to me she had planned the story thoroughly and knew exactly what was going to happen and how.
Harry is a very lovable character, and women, when reading about all his troubles, will feel sorry for him and want to mother him. My opinion is that every adult has a child hidden in him or her just waiting to come out. ‘Harry Potter’ is a way of letting this child appear, without the book being too childish. The novel has a way of making the readers feel that they are really a part of the magical world, and could be a form of escapism for busy or stressed adults. I believe also that this book could be a missing link between parents and children: times have changed, and instead of reading books like ‘The Adventures of Narnia’, which is very classical and uses the same kind of characters (like dragons), children prefer to read more modern books with a bit of an edge which they can relate to.
While reading ‘Harry Potter’ I felt a series of emotions. The strongest was unhappiness, when Harry found the Mirror of Erised (Desire): “It was a magnificent mirror, as high as the ceiling, with an ornate gold frame, standing on two clawed feet.” This mirror plays a significant part in Harry’s understanding of his inner conflict. It is unlike any other mirror. When you look into it you see what you most desire in the world. In Harry’s case this was his parents. The engraving around it says, “I show not your face but your heart’s desire”. Dumbledore warns Harry about the mirror after catching him gazing in to the mirror for the second night running, saying it “will give neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen. Or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.” He concludes by saying “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”. The mirror plays an important part in Harry’s fight against Voldemort. Other emotions I experienced from this book were happiness, when Harry finally was taken from the control of the Dursleys, and anger, when Malfoy decided to pick on Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione at school.
The main point that stood out for me after reading the novel was the astounding imagination and thought put into it. Although some of it is written to appeal to children, adults also appreciate it. My favorite bit was near the beginning, when Harry was at King’s Cross Station and he was told to get on a train at platform nine and three quarters, which he attempted, only to discover there wasn’t such a thing. Mrs. Weasley, Ron’s mother, noticed that Harry was looking puzzled, and guessed he was a first year who didn’t know how to get on the train. She told him then that he had to run through the metal barrier dividing platforms nine and ten. He did so, and instead of banging into the barrier he ran straight through it, ending up on platform nine and three quarters, where he saw masses of pupils obviously going to the same place as him, Hogwarts.
Something else that I thought was amazing was the entrance to the House common rooms. Instead of having ordinary doors, it was just a picture frame on the wall. Picture frames in Hogwarts are, of course, not like ours. They have moving people and objects in them, and to get into the common room you have to tell them the password. They will then move and let you in. Also, when the whole school was sitting down about to have a meal, instead of waiters and waitresses coming over and serving the food, it suddenly appeared on the tables in front of them. I thought this was wonderful; I couldn’t help myself giggling at the imagination shown. The teachers, of course, were not ordinary. How could they be in the world of Harry Potter? They were animagus, meaning they could turn into animals or humans, whatever they felt like! A humorous bit was when Ron and Harry were late for class and, when relieved that Professor McGonagal wasn’t there before them, were startled to find out that she was, when the cat sitting in front of them suddenly turned into their teacher!
I liked the way that the novel started by describing Harry’s life at the Dursley house, leading a perfectly normal, if not dull, life as an ordinary boy. The fantasy starts as he begins his first day at Hogwarts, and gradually builds up to the peak of the magic at his meeting with Voldemort. This creates suspense, as the meeting is quite near the end of the book and the gradual build-up makes the book addictive. Putting the book down was a struggle, as once one of his extraordinary adventures had finished another was just beginning, especially at the end of chapters, where the author was very fond of adding in cliff-hangers. There was never a dull moment at Hogwarts! The last paragraph, with Harry back at the Dursley house after his first year at Hogwarts, reflects on how different his life had become. This dual setting, from real world to fantasy world, is very common in fantasy books and has also been used in a lot of other popular children’s novels such as “Peter Pan” and “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.” Although the magical world isn’t another world in Harry Potter, muggles (ordinary people with not even an ounce of magic in them) are unaware that it exists.
The book is very humorous, employing the kind of humor which appeals to all ages with its eccentric characters such as Nearly Headless Nick (the ghost of Gryffindor House who was not quite beheaded!), Peeves (the mischievous poltergeist who is always close when there is trouble) and Professor Snape (Harry’s potions teacher whom Harry dislikes very much, who goes out of his way to insult or embarrass Harry). Other points which makes Harry Potter books so comical are the plays on words and the amusing names J. K. Rowling gives people. Examples include Professor Sprout, the Herbology teacher: that is fairly obvious, but there are also a lot of hidden meanings in some of the names, which you have to dig a bit deeper to discover. Filch, the school janitor, is always confiscating prohibited objects from pupils, and the word ‘filch’ means to steal or pinch. Fluffy is the three-headed dog that guards the Philosopher’s Stone. The name Fluffy brings a picture into the reader’s head of a little dog who would not even hurt a fly, which is quite the opposite of the Fluffy described in the novel as “a monstrous dog, a dog which filled the whole space between the ceiling and the floor. It had three heads. Three pairs of rolling, mad eyes; three noses, twitching and quivering in their direction; three drooling mouths, saliva hanging in slippery ropes from yellowish fangs.”
In my opinion “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” is one of the best books I have ever read. Its mixture of unconventional characters, courageous heroes, devious villains, intensely creative ideas and breathtaking excitement is what makes “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” the enormously popular book it is today. It has encouraged many children who are not fond of reading to pick up a book instead of watching television. There are parts that are obviously written for children, but also parts with hidden meanings which only adults would be wise enough to understand, making it a book adored by all ages around the world. It has added a different edge to fairytales for the modern world.