I think the strangest part about re-reading this is what I notice now as a 33-year-old. The things I notice now are vastly different from when I read it last in my twenties, almost exactly six years ago, and any time I read it prior to that.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read this book or this series. Low-balling it I know for a fact I’ve read this particular book at least 10 times. I read it each time a new book in the series was released and I’ve read it at least three times since I’ve lived in Boston. And one of those was in Spanish!
There were two things that really got me when I read the book this time. There was a third one that caught me off guard when I read it and may completely change my re-read of the series this time through the lens it brought into focus.
The first thing that got me this time was how young everyone was in this book. Harry, Ron and Hermione are only 11 or at most turn 12 during the school year. Harry, in particular, is being forced to make decisions and face challenges that many adults would struggle to comprehend and yet he faces them head on.
I think it’s great that Rowling started the books at this young of an age because we get to experience the youth, the naivety, and the wonder they get to experience coming into this new magical world. The moment when Harry and Hermione are at a loss for words when they see Ronan the centaur struck me as incredibly powerful this time. They of course knew what centaurs were and had maybe even studied them at Hogwarts up to this point, however seeing one in the flesh was a different experience all together.
The other thing that I wanted to know this time was what sort of schooling do wizard children get before they turn 11? I’m not sure if this has ever been discussed by Rowling and hopefully once I’m off the airplane I’m on writing this I’ll remember to look it up. They can’t all have been home schooled could they? That seems like a lot of effort on their parents part to teach them to read and write and even rudimentary basics of magic. Are there wizard elementary/primary schools? Do they go to schools with muggles? Can you imagine Draco Malfoy in a muggle school?
“Harry had never believed he would meet a boy he hated more than Dudley, but that was before he met Draco Malfoy.” (143)
And speaking of Draco, the second thing that REALLY struck me this read through was that Draco was the very first peer Harry met when he entered the wizarding world. He’d met Hagrid, he’d interacted ever-so-briefly with the individuals in the Leaky Cauldron, but this was the first person his own age with whom he interacted. I really wonder what Harry must’ve thought in those weeks before going to school after getting his stuff from London. There’s a brief mention of it when he and Ron talk about the Malfoy’s latter in the book, but it’s not really an in-depth discussion about Malfoy’s truly revolting rhetoric that was Harry’s introduction to the world.
The third one I mentioned was a throwaway quote by Voldemort,
“There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it…” (290)
I don’t know why it stood out to me this time more so than any other time I’ve read the book, but it did. This line doesn’t have ringing echoes of Foucault’s theories on power and knowledge, it’s basically beating you over the head with the essence of Foucalt’s theory. I know I struggled when I first read Foucault’s History of Sexuality, but this was one of the few things I remember. Check out this very brief overview on Wikipedia.
I’m not sure how much Rowling meant to write in about Foucault’s theory. Now that I’ve seen this, it will be very interesting to read the books through a queer theory perspective this time and see what stands out. She did put in so many hints and foreshadows that she’s clearly an incredibly talented writer and storyteller, so I’ll have to keep this in mind when I’m looking for other influences.
Recommendation: Obviously a must read! I’m looking forward to this new perspective as I read the novels, but even if I wasn’t I know I would enjoy the re-read. I can’t wait to get to the next few so hopefully using them as bait I’ll catch up on all my outstanding galleys and enter the last few months of the year galley free.
Opening Line: “Mr. and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal , thank you very much.”
Closing Line: “They don’t know we’re not allowed to use magic at home. I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudly this summer…” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
“Under a tuft of jet black hair over his forehead they could see a curiously shaped cut, like a bolt of lightning.” (15)
“Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept.” (19(
“The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead that was shaped like a bolt of lightning.” (20)
“He had no friends, no other relatives—he didn’t belong to the library, so he’d never even got rude notes asking for books back.” (34)
“The wand chooses the wizard, remember…I think we must must expect great things from you, Mr. Potter…After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things — terrible, yes, but great.” (85)
“I hope you’re pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killed—or worse, expelled. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.” (161)
“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knowing out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” (179)
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” (214)
“Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery and — oh Harry — be careful!” (287)
“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could ant! The two things most human beings would choose above all — the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.” (297)
“Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” (298)
“He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” (299)