Mar 5, 2011

Harry Plotter: Book 1

As I wrote previously, I will be going through the Harry Potter series one book and movie at a time. First up: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, but I’m going to go with the American translation for continuity).  My quest in this is to better understand the books and their relations to the film, as well as exploring the omissions of certain facts and events in the films, both good and bad. Spoilers ahead.
The boy who lived and whatnot

It’s hard to take too critical a look at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because it has already joined the ranks of classic Children and Young Adult literature, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Chronicles of Narnia. Books that have been dubbed classics tend to be hard to break apart (though I would like to dig into the mediocrity that is C.S. Lewis), so I can only be so critical.

Vernon and Petunia, spying on their neighbors like it's totally normal
J.K. Rowling does an amazing job creating a world in which the existence of magic is not only a possibility, but a simple fact. She makes the magical world possible by completely setting it apart from the non-magical, Muggle world. It’s a little strange at times (seriously, no T.V. or electrical appliances of any kind - what do these kids do all day), but it works for the most part.

Seriously, a DOG is a bad guy in this book
Also, Harry Potter is a great character. If you tried, you could not make a more sympathetic person.  He’s orphaned due to an event that he had no control over but nonetheless inadvertently caused, he’s humble, he lives with really awful people, he’s not athletic and he has wonky knees, he’s somewhat disfigured, and he almost always does the right thing.  It’s a bit sickening, actually, how perfect he is. He even has a freaking white owl!
Wait, the villain is the guy in the turban? Seriously
In fact, in this book (and really the first few books) every character is a little cartoonish. It’s important when creating protagonists to have well-defined antagonists, but Rowling works overtime to make every bad person ridiculously evil and every good person a pious saint.  Harry’s enemies in the book are many in number: Lord Voldemort, Professor Quirrell, and to a lesser extent Vernon Dursley, Petunia Dursley, Dudley Dursley, Professor Snape, and Draco Malfoy.  And each of them is ridiculously evil. Petunia, even, is strangely unfeeling toward her sister.  At one point she basically scoffs at THE MENTION OF HER SISTER’S MURDER.  Real people don’t do that.  Thankfully, Rowling does a good job of creating shades of grey in her characters as the books move on.  Dumbledore stops being such a selfless do-gooder, and characters like Dudley, Draco, Petunia, and even Snape get a chance at redemption.  Perhaps it was her intention all along to create these one-dimensional characters and slowly give them more dimensions, but in this book everyone feels strangely one-note.
Eyes in back of one's head was never this creepy
There are other problems, like strange plotting (that plays even clunkier on screen), but for the most part it succeeds. It’s clearly a really great book.


Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher: Professor Quirrell
How he’s dispatched: Voldemort was living on the back of his head, and when he touched Harry he burns himself to death.

Villain: Professor Quirrell, loyal servant to Voldemort, who also hosts a chunk of Voldemort's soul on the back of his head.
Crimes: Killed various unicorns, set a troll loose in the school, tried to kill Harry, but generally pretty lackluster.

Important Facts Brought Up in Passing (and when those facts become important):
Harry’s Scar is a remnant of Voldemort’s curse (Books 2, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Sirius Black lent Hagrid his motorcycle (Book 3)
Voldemort doesn’t have enough human left in him to die (Book 6, 7, possibly others)
Harry can talk to Snakes (Book 2 and to a lesser extent the rest)
Voldemort can't touch Harry (Book 4)
Harry's and Voldemort's wand share the same magical core (Book 4)
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