The first book in a planned series of seven, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone in some countries) by English author J. K. Rowling published in June 1997, is one of the most popular of the books in recent history, selling an estimated 17 million copies in the US and almost 70 million worldwide. In her article entitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Tammy Nezol provides a brief summary of the events in the story and a short review regarding the same.
“Adults may find themselves frustrated,” as the Tammy Nezol says in her article, “at the contrived nature of the book.(1)” The author of the article claims that while the book makes perfectly great reading or a wonderful bedtime story there is the simple problem of Harry Potter always managing to be at the right place at the right time which makes the whole plot seem so contrived (Nezol 1). An example of this would be the scene in the Astronomy Tower where Harry forgets his invisibility cloak after sneaking around the school to help out his friend, Hagrid. Filch, the caretaker, discovers Harry and Hermione wandering the halls when the two friends thought they were invisible (Nezol 2). While it is unbelievable that a young teenager or in this case Harry Potter would forget the cloak that allowed them to wonder around undetected, the necessity of such a development in the story line is necessary to send Harry to the Forbidden Forest where he first faces true peril and thus creates a the first tense moment in this book. The events such as this which are simply too comfortably inserted in the plot make it too simple for more mature readers. This does not affect the younger readers however as the author is able to weave a mystical tale of magic and witches and wizards which appeals to younger children (Nezol 2).
Despite contrived feel that the book gives, adults and children will still enjoy the underlying messages embedded within the story (Nezol 2). The lessons that Harry learns such as the fact that there is more to life than fame by discovering the pleasures and responsibilities that come with friendship, bravery, love, hope, and life and how Harry becomes a hero through his own actions of being a good friend, persevering through adversity, and choosing what is right make the book a very good read (Nezol 2).
Perhaps the most commendable aspect of this book is the manner in which the author is able to craft a story that is seemingly so simple yet laden with underlying messages and lessons that still allow children and adults alike to easily relate to the ordinary side of Harry and dream of the extraordinary circumstances in which he finds himself. An example of this would be the portrayal of Harry as an ordinary 11 year old that loves candy and does not hesitate to spend his money on it. Every child and adult (they were children once) can also relate to the way Harry dreads exams and he loves sports (Nezol 2). This aspect of Harry Potter instantly makes him a very lovable character and one with whom the readers can easily relate to.
As with every best selling fiction piece, this book also capitalizes on the affinity of readers for seemingly ordinary characters that are able to experience something extraordinary. The parallel structure of the magical world to the muggle (non-magical) world makes the main character’s own sense of ordinary and extraordinary (Nezol 2). As Nezol puts it, “Where technology is ordinary, magic is extraordinary, but the opposite is true when one enters the wizarding world. For instance, the magic of Harry Potter’s world can be used to do dishes, but a dishwasher would puzzle wizards. Where the muggle world sees Harry as ordinary, the magical world sees him as extraordinary (2).” This parallel nature holds true for the main character as he is able to experience both these worlds.
There simply isn’t enough story and adventure in the first book to keep readers from wanting more. J.K Rowling gives the fans but a peek, a glimpse into the magical world of Harry Potter where magic and muggles co-exist. While it may not have the same heavy drama as anything from Tolkien, the Harry Potter series has its own appeal to readers young and old. Sometimes people just tire of being chased around by ogres and beasts and want to settle down in more peaceful and contemporary surroundings without giving up the magical fantasy world where we all retire to in our dreams.
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