Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Part 1

By Regal Doe

A tabby cat watched over the Dursleys’ home from sun up to sun down.  At night, when the streets of Privet Drive were sound asleep, a figure of a silver-bearded aged man appeared on to the scene.  He held his arm out and cleared the lights of the street with a peculiar looking apparatus, as the lights flashed onto his half-moon spectacles and then when into the contraption. It was the signal for the peculiar feline to approach and transform into a gray-haired witch, in emerald robes. This witch went by the name of Minerva McGonagall. McGonagall’s gaze was always sharp and fixed, and her mannerisms were prim. In the distance, coming from the starry night, a loud clanking and roaring noise landed into the streets bearing a large grizzly figure, Hagrid. This tall and robust man with untamed hair cradled a bundled-up baby in his arms. The party approached the Dursleys’ house on Number 4 Privet Drive and placed the baby gently at their doorstep, Dumbledore then attached a letter onto  the sleeping child, whose name is  Harry Potter.

10 years passed and Harry was to celebrate his eleventh birthday. Through the early chapters, Harry’s relationship with the Dursleys is not at all ideal, though at least he has a place to sleep in; even if it is the cupboard under the stairs. He would be bullied by his cousin Dudley, who got his way most of the time. This became a routine for Harry, something he became accustomed too. 

Things would turn out well for Harry after a chain of events occurred during Dudley’s birthday.  For instance:  the Dursley family went to the zoo along with Harry, who somehow made the glass panel of a boa constrictor’s exhibit disappear.  Followed by Dudley falling into the boa pit and the glass re-appearing trapping him inside. There was also the fact that owls were constantly appearing outside the house and would find a way to drop off letters directed to Harry. Vernon, Harry’s uncle, was infuriated. The letters would pile up to a certain point that he would burn them in the fireplace. On Harry’s birthday, Vernon had Petunia, Harry’s aunt, pack up the family and flee to a flimsy house on a small island, in the middle of the ocean.

Regardless of the raging waves crashing in on the rackety walls, the crackling thunder striking the ocean as the heavy rain came down, the family was sound asleep. All except Harry, who was waiting for his wristwatch to strike the minute he turned eleven.  At that moment,  the entrance door was pounded down by a soaked Hagrid as he entered the room. Harry was amazed, while the Dursleys were abruptly woken up. Hagrid congratulated Harry and handed him another letter addressed to him with a parsel. When he tore it open and read out loud his acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Vernon quickly objected. Petunia came forward and stated Harry’s mom, Lily, had been the pretty and favorite one of her parents, but to her she was a freak. Hagrid then gestured toward the box that Harry held, inside was a cake, but soon after, it was devoured by Dudley.  Disgusted by Dudley, Hagrid gave him a surprise in the form of a pig tail. After ridding off the troubling Dursleys with a diversion, Hagrid and Harry left the unstable atmosphere.

This would be the first of many firsts for Harry, as he traveled with Hagrid to London.  From there they made their way to the Leaky Cauldron, and through a passage, entered the hidden Diagon Alley. Bustling witches and wizards, in their robes, everywhere! All the stores were jam-packed with clothes, creatures, and all sorts of goods. Harry walked to the building at the end of the street, Gringotts Bank, to retrieve a portion of his only financial inheritance left by his parents. Hagrid also had some matters to attend there. Together they approached the goblin glowering from a podium, at the center of the room, and there Hagrid stated their purpose and revealed Harry’s vault key. They rode through a series of underground tunnels until they reached the vaults they requested. Having been told that his parents died in a car crash and that all he had left for a family were the Dursleys, Harry wouldn’t have imagined that his parents had left him much more than a pound. No, in this case he had plenty of gold Galleons, silver Sickles, and bronze Knuts. With those he went ahead to buy his school materials and his wand, an 11-inch holly and phoenix feather core, shared by none other than lord Voldemort, also known as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. This entity was responsible for the deaths of many witches and wizards including Harry’s Parents.

Throughout the early chapters Harry finds himself in frustrating situations, with the Dursleys, up until a certain point at the beginning of his birthday. It seems there's much more to his life than what he already knew while living with his aunt and uncle. The essence of magic and its mysteries is present from the first few lines of the opening paragraph to the series. Even the personality of the Dursleys is shown as a-matter-of-fact in the first sentence. They are shrewd and care about what people say; they want to be presentable and have a reputation with their neighbors. Yet, having Harry in their household is problematic. As he goes away they refuse to let him leave; you would think they'd be relieved, but that's not the case. It can be inferred they will not have other people inquire and speak ill about their nephew's disappearance because it degrades their reputation. Meanwhile Harry explores the wizarding world and meets many strange people and creatures he never thought could exist.

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