Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and theSorcerer’s Stone by J K Rowling is one of my rereads.  Well, technically it’s a rerereread . . . not even sure how many times I’ve read it.  You see, once upon a time Rob bought me the fourth book in the series and I had to read the first three books before I would read the fourth.  Which I did. 

At the time, I thought HP1 was a good book but I didn’t really get the hype.  I even had to admit to myself that I’d have never read the other books (there were only four at the time) had I not been given the fourth one.  But I had been and so I read the next book and the next. By the third book I was hooked and as voracious a Harry Potter fan as the next person.  If not fanatic, I was eager for each new book.

When HP5 was released, I reread the first four books.  When the first movie came out, I reread the first book.  Before the seventh book came out, I reread the first six books.  And I think I reread the first book at least once or twice more.

So yeah . . . rerere . . . many times read.  Which brings me to my rereading the entire series in anticipation of my finally seeing the last two movies on dvd, even if it means borrowing them from the library. 

This time, my opinion about the first book has changed slightly.  I didn’t expect it to do so but now that I have read all of the books, there are things I know that I didn’t know before and I can better appreciate the nuances that I had too casually overlooked before.  I know that Rowling has claimed the inspiration for the entire series of novels came to her and she knew not only where it would begin but where it would be going.  But when Sirius Black is mentioned in the first chapter and a bezoar is referenced on page 137 is remarkable enough.  But there are so many more allusions that, with a closer reading are too easily overlooked the first time on reads the novels.  Everything from Harry feeling that Snape can read his mind (221) to the introduction of Firenze (260) to Harry Potter not being afraid of spiders because there were so many sharing the cabinet under the stairs with him (oops, forgot to mark the page) . . .

And this is why I began falling in love with the first book for the first time.  I don’t know how Rowling did it, infused the first book with so many bits and pieces of details that would take on greater importance in future novels.  Truly remarkable and commendable.  Yes, the novel embraces all of the traditional fantasy archetypes.  Harry, the orphan, is called to the quest and must face his inner demons as he tries to fulfill his destiny. 

One could try to analyze the ins and outs of why this series is so successful.  It’s hard not to think that it has something to do with Rowling’s back story—a mother on “the dole” has her manuscript rejected more than a few times before it is finally accepted and becomes a massive best-seller of unpredictable proportions.  But I can’t help thinking it has to do with the three main characters  because most young readers are likely to recognize themselves in either Harry or Hermione or Ron.  The outsider.  The book-loving nerd.  The poor kid who makes good.  One comes from an unloving home while two come from loving homes.  Two are only children while one comes from a larger family. 

All of the bases are covered because, on a superficial level, none of them is perfect and gradually grow into something greater. 

But the internal flaws of each character, besides making them better characters (not two-dimensional), makes each more relatable.  The insecurities, the need to belong, the feelings of isolation, all come together.  What child doesn’t imagine being something greater?  Or doesn’t feel like an outsider at some point?  Or isn’t embarrassed by their own inadequacies?  Or even their own strengths? 

All three of the main characters, and especially Harry himself, are unique and destined for greatness.  Only, they don’t know it.  Not even Harry himself fully believes he can do what he has been called to do.

Do any of us really believe we can? 

So here I am rerereading the series.  For some of the books, I’ll only be reading a second time but for most it will be more than the two times and I’m bound to see more than I have already.  I’m even eager to read them all from book one through book seven. 

I guess I’m gearing myself up for next year . . .    

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