There have been numerous polls conducted about which books in the Harry Potter series are readers' favorites. The Prisoner of Azkaban typically wins, usually closely followed by Goblet of Fire, Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. Few people seem to care for Chamber of Secrets or Order of the Phoenix. And Sorcerer's Stone... well, I've never heard anyone describe it as their favorite.
But I think Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is brilliant. Why? Because it lays out the whole series and sets the stage for everything that follows. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but there are a few important things to keep in mind when thinking about Book One.
- When Joanne Rowling started writing about Harry Potter in 1990, she was an unpublished writer. She had no agent, no publisher and no track record. There was absolutely no guarantee that anything she wrote would ever make it into print.
- It took six years from when she started writing in 1990 until the first book was accepted for publication in 1996. Since Book One contains clues for all the books in the series, this means that Rowling outlined all seven books before the first was even published.
I think Rowling's solid construction of Sorcerer's Stone is what makes the series so successful. It also forced her to think about future plot lines in advance. The structure of the book is wonderful because the author knows where she's going from the very first page. The rest of the series relies heavily on the foundation she built in the very beginning.
Now that Deathly Hallows has been published, readers can finally look at the series as a whole and examine the clues Rowling spread through the previous books. Nowhere are these clues more apparent or important than Book One. So, I've decided to post about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone chapter by chapter in order to point out characters and plot development that Rowling placed in the very first Harry Potter book.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first Harry Potter book I read and fell in love with.
(Spoiler ahead if you haven't read Book One.)
I'll never forget the moment when I found out that Quirrell was the one chasing the Sorcerer's Stone. Rowing had baited me so well... I was completely convinced that it was Snape, and then she pulled the rug out from under me. I couldn't wait to see what other tricks Rowling had in store. It also made me want to reread the book immediately, and I was impressed to find so many hidden clues and wonderful dialogue that could be interpreted several ways.
The other reason that I want to write about Book One is that it's the book I know the best and the one I've analyzed the most. And I think it's fascinating to re-examine it now that we finally know the ending of the saga. Also, of course, it's the shortest book, there are only 17 chapters... far easier than Book 7. =)
Here are the elements that I'm examining in Book One:
- Connections to other books in the series
- Characters and places introduced in the first book that aren’t important until later
- Observations about the chapter in general
- Things that are never explained in the books (that I wish were)
- Questions that I have
- Favorite quotes
Without further ado, here's my analysis of Chapter One.
Note: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was originally published in England as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but since I'll be referring to page numbers from the American edition, I'm also using the American title.
Additional note: My posts aren't chapter summaries. If you're looking for those, the best place to find them is at the Harry Potter Lexicon.