Friday, November 16, 2007

Harry Potter 1: Chapter One

Welcome to the Wizards Wireless chapter by chapter discussion of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. See this post for an explanation of why I'm talking about the 1st book when the 7th book has just been published.

Even though this post is about Book One, there are spoilers in it for all seven books.













Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived
(All quotes refer to the Scholastic hardcover edition).

Things that we learn in this chapter:

  • Professor McGonagall can transform from a cat to a human. This introduces the concept of animagi, which is very significant in Book 3.
  • The deluminator, which is important in Book 7 is mentioned here when Dumbledore extinguishes the streetlights in Privet Drive.
  • Dumbledore’s nose is described as crooked and broken. In the 7th book, we learn that Albus’ nose has in fact been broken by his brother Aberforth.
  • Dumbledore says that he wouldn’t remove Harry’s scar even if he could, because “scars can come in handy.” (Scholastic hardcover, page 15). Harry’s scar is important in every book and does come in extremely handy.
  • When Dumbledore leaves Privet Drive, he turns on his heel and vanishes with a swish of his cloak. This is exactly the way apparition is described in later books.

Characters and places introduced that aren’t important until later:

  • Dedalus Diggle. Professor McGonagall comments that Diggle is probably responsible for the display of shooting stars that appeared on the Muggle news. Diggle also appears in Book 5 but doesn’t have a real speaking part until Book 7.
  • Godric’s Hollow is mentioned as the place where the Potters were living. This is significant because it demonstrates that Rowling had already decided that the village would be named after Godric Gryffindor.
  • Sirius Black. This always amazes me. Here we are, on page 14 of the book, and a crucial character is mentioned in passing, although he doesn’t appear again until the 3rd book. Why is this so interesting? Three reasons:
Rowling has already named him Sirius Black, and his name essentially means “Black Dog.” This shows that she has already planned out a very important part of the plot of Book 3... before Book 1 was published.

Sirius’ motorbike is mentioned and doesn’t reappear until the seventh book when it factors into a crucial scene.

We get a glimpse of Sirius right before he’s framed for murder, and it sets the stage (and the time) of his battle in the street with Pettigrew.


I think that the first sentences of books are extremely important… and I have always been surprised by the first sentence of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” (Scholastic hardcover, page 1).

It’s a pretty bland descriptive sentence, wouldn’t you say? It doesn’t leap out and grab you (as first sentences should) and it doesn’t become more significant as you learn more about the characters. I've always found this odd.

Another observation:

Speaking of the opening of the book, I’ve recently noticed an enormous amount of repetition in the first few pages. The word Dursley appears over and over a surprising number of times. Obviously Mr. and Mrs. Dursley are being introduced and it’s important to give background information on them… but their last name is mentioned 14 times in the first four paragraphs. It feels a bit excessive. The word Dursley also is among the first words of nearly every sentence in the first part of the chapter. Take a look at the opening sentences of the first four paragraphs and you’ll see what I mean:

  • Paragraph One: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive…”
  • Paragraph Two: “Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings…”
  • Paragraph Three: “The Dursleys had everything they wanted…”
  • Paragraph Four: “When Mr. and Mrs. Dursley woke up on the dull, gray Tuesday…”

Maybe this is over analysis because I frequently listen to the audio book (where it is quite noticeable) but I wonder if this is a stylistic choice or accidental.


  • Dumbledore mentions that he must have passed a dozen feasts and parties on his way to Privet Drive. Then how did he get there? If he had apparated, he wouldn’t have been able to see anything other than his departure and destination points.

Things that are never explained (that I wish were):

  • How did Dumbledore acquire a scar above his left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground?

Favorite quote:

  • Professor McGonagall: “There will be books written about Harry- every child in our world will know his name!” (Scholastic hardcover, page 13).

I love this quote because J.K. Rowling, a fledgling author who was thrilled just to get her first book published, could never have known how prophetic this statement would be.


  1. That's a good point about Dumbledore and the parties. My guess is that he passed all the celebrations before he apparated.

  2. Good point, Lara. I never thought about it that way. Thanks!

  3. And a bloody education comes in handy again...

    So I am reading Susan's comments and all I am hearing is my religious studies/literature professor in my head saying "everything an author does is intentional" "the beginning and ends are significant", "look for the common threads and arguments".

    Nicely done Susan - I give you an A ;)

  4. Ringie- thanks for the A! I agree with your professor- the beginning and end are extremely important.

  5. very good analysis. I really hope you´ll do all the book, but Book one is my favorite :)

  6. N.E. Potter- Thanks so much for the compliment. I had a lot of fun writing the analysis- so I'm sure I'll continue though the rest of the chapters.
    I'm glad to hear Book One is for favorite.
    Your blog looks great so far, I can't wait to read more.

  7. I love looking at this kind of obsessive detail in good books. You rock on, Susan! :)

  8. Thanks Adrienne! You rock on yourself. =)
    I know the Harry Potter books so well that I always notice these kinds of details... it's great to be able to share them.

  9. It also amazes me that people get all snobby about these books (I'm looking at you, Mr. Harold Bloom) when they were so clearly written with a great deal of thought and care. Rowling's writing isn't perfect, but whose is? Some people act like HP is a sign of the downfall of modern civilization, which always strikes me as ignorant (kind of like the current debate raging over The Golden Compass, but I digress).

  10. Adrienne- I completely agree. I don't understand the snobbery. I have no problem with people who don't like Harry Potter... everyone is entitled to their own opinions of course; but I do get frustrated when the whole series is condemned as the downfall of civilization. And, I also think that Harry Potter is a series that needs to be re-read... I don't think it's possible to see all the subtleties the first time around.

  11. Yes, it's so true about needing to reread. I've always been so caught up in the plots the first time I've read them that I rush through and miss a lot of the details.