Published in 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a 332 paged fantasy fiction novel written by J.K Rowling. The first in a series of seven books, its pages tell the story of a young boy named Harry Potter who is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is here that he learns what it is to be a Wizard, makes both friends and enemies alike and comes face-to-face with the greatest dark Wizard of his time.
The first chapter, or as I like to call it ‘The Hooking Chapter’, uses a 3rd person narrative much like the rest of the book, with the events which occur within the chapter being told from the perspective of Harry’s Uncle Vernon and then from the characters so named Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore’s point of view. As mentioned previously, I often call the first chapter of a book ‘The Hooking Chapter’, this is because when I read a book, my initial reaction of the book primarily depends upon the first chapter… If a book has an impressive first chapter which manages to capture both my attention and interest then I am most likely going to enjoy the rest of the story. The first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone entitled ‘The Boy Who Lived’ manages to do just that! The Chapter itself acts as a prologue of sorts and impressively creates a sense of mystery and magic as Vernon Dursleys normal life is shaken at the mention of the name Potter. One line which managed to create goosebumps is found in the first chapter and helps to alert the reader to the transition from the mundane to magical which is about to happen.
The Potters knew very well what he and Petunia thought about them and their kind … He couldn’t see how he and Petunia could get mixed up in anything that might be going on. He yawned and turned over. It couldn’t affect them …
How very wrong he was.
– Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling; Chapter 1, Page 8.
The anticipation that this one chapter created for what is about to unfold definitely makes the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone one that manages to draw the reader in and hook them effortlessly.
J.K Rowling continues to use the 3rd person narrative throughout the rest of the book and the second chapter shows a time jump from Harry being a one-year-old baby being left on his relatives doorstep to a young Harry who is soon to be eleven. The time jump is not the only factor of the story which changes either, the point of view whom we witness the rest of the events occur from chapter two and onward is Harry Potter’s. This cleverly allows us to journey with him as he learns about himself and the magical world from, quite frankly, a Muggle’s perspective in comparison to those characters who were aware of its existence already. This allows readers not only to take the journey along side Harry’s character but connect with him in a way. Furthermore, one of the reasons as to why this form of writing (and reading) is so interesting is because whilst we read from Harry Potter’s perspective and learn what he learns we are also almost subliminally prompted to hold the same biases. For example, Harry Potter’s distrust in those who are in the Slytherin house causes us, as readers, to form a similar distrust and suspicion toward them also. Furthermore, another aspect of J.K Rowling’s writing style which makes for such an easy and captivating read is that she is greatly descriptive of the locations, characters and even objects which feature within the story which makes it easy to build up an image of how it all should look within your mind whilst reading.
Another aspect of the story which makes the novel a highly enjoyable one is the plot. As simple as it may seem, at times the plot of a novel may present its events in a way which is difficult to follow. However, this is not a problem which arises within the pages of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The novel is set out in the typical three-staged fashion with a build up leading to the climax of the story and then the issues resolution, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone the story flows between these three stages effortlessly right until the very last page. If a plot filled with magical Witches and Wizards, creatures and a stone which has the power to grant eternal life is too far-fetched for you then you could find the book overall redeemed by the realistic and believable characters. In this book, J.K Rowling introduces a vast number of characters with various personalities which allows readers to find similarities with themselves in at least multiple characters if not a specific individual. From Harry Potter to his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, his rival Draco Malfoy and even the teachers such as Professor Dumbledore and Professor Severus Snape, J.K Rowling cleverly combines Harry’s opinion of each character with enough fact for the reader to make their own assumptions and to decide whether or not they believe the characters are likable and trustworthy.
Without spoiling the ending, it can be said that the points mentioned above influence the way in which the reader perceives the story and thus the ending of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone comes about in a way which makes it feel both as though the issue has been resolved but is also open for continuation. This was clearly intended by J.K Rowling as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is merely the first in the series of novels dictating Harry Potter’s journey both growing up through school and his adventures leading up to those which occur in the final book. In discussing the end of the book, it is impossible not to mention the feelings which come with doing so. The story is so easy to become enraptured in that the moment the enthralling tale ends and the book is closed, it takes almost a few minutes for the reality surrounding the reader to sink in. It’s somewhat disorientating and the spell which the story casts makes it almost impossible not to simply return to the first page and begin the novel all over again!
I am, admittedly, a massive fan of all of the Harry Potter books and movies alike and therefore, I do recognise that my opinion of this book and those to follow are bias. However, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a book which I would recommend not only the children who enjoy to read but to adults as well. In my personal, humble, opinion, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a novel which anyone of any age can both read and enjoy!
Here’s a few of my favourite parts:
Favourite Chapter: Chapter Nine – The Midnight Duel
Favourite Character: Harry Potter
Favourite Quote: He could not know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: ‘To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!’
– Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling; Chapter 1, Page 18.