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Harry Potter Prequel

I was apparently majorly behind on the happenings in the HP universe (thank you foreign study) and have discovered this amazing piece of charity work by JKR herself.
Something that I like about JKR's characterization of Harry in this chapter is the sarcastic, yet funny way he sees things.  Here, this 10-year old kid has been almost abused for his entire life, yet he comes out with these comments that are actually funny.  Even at a young age, Harry seems to be using humour to soften the reality that is his life.
For example, Harry walks into the kitchen and sees Petunia dying him a school uniform.  This happens the day after Dudley has been strutting around in his new Smelting uniform, and Harry, though aware of the blatant unfairness of the entire situation, does not let himself react.  Instead, we get:
"Harry looked into the bowl again.  'Oh,' he said, 'I didn't realize it had to be so wet.'" (p. 33)  This is hilarious coming from a 10-year old.  In fact, I'm not sure most child readers really get the humor of that comment.  Evidence that JKR has been writing for an older audience from the beginnng? ... I think so.
Dudley taunts Harry about his future public school: "'They stuff people's heads down the toilet the first day at Stonewall,' he told Harry.  'Want to come upstairs and practice?'  'No thanks,' said Harry.  'The poor toilet's never had anything as horrible as your head down it -- it might be sick.'"  Again, this kid cracks me up.  JKR doesn't let him be scared by his aunt and uncle, or by his bully of a cousin.  Prudent, yes, but not scared.

Mod Post: Oh Dear, Hiatus...

Well, well, it's almost been a year since Keebler Elf and I started this community, and sadly enough, we've been averaging only a posting every two months? It's a sad, but true fact. Unfortunately, both she and I are university students, with far too many things going on in our lives, and we never expected that modding for a community could be time-consuming. Not only that, Keebler Elf is currently out of the country on an exchange trip, so that will no doubt affect her posting as well.

Anyway, I just thought I'd apologize for the utter lack of activity going on around here. I promise that I'll try to pick up the pace, starting from within the next few days.

Chapter Three promises tons of new things to consider, so let's get our pens and highlighters out, and ready ourselves for a critical reading!

Ready, go!



Book 1, Chapter 2: "The Vanishing Glass"

Some thoughts while reading the chapter:

"Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept." (pg. 19, US edition)
Taken out of context, that quote stands out to me as ridiculously cruel, not to mention probably illegal. It's interesting how JKR seems to overexaggerate the Durseleys in the first few books, then gradually shifts into a more complex treatment of their characters.
And here we have the first mention of spiders. They seem to come up a lot, and interestingly enough, don't bother Harry. Contrast this with Ron's extreme fear of them...

Harry has "knobbly knees." (pg. 20) :D

"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." (pg. 20)
We're introduced to Harry when he still likes his scar, likes probably the fact that it is the only thing in his life that makes him special. This seems to be Harry's attraction to it; his physical appearance is not described as anything special, and the way the Dursleys treat him certainly doesn't make him so.
So is his relevance only truly because of his scar? Even once he gets to the wizarding world? To a lot of people, it obviously is, but I'd argue that in the end, it's not his scar that saves the wizarding world, but his heart.

When Harry visits the zoo and is standing outside of the snake cage, the snake seems to recognize that Harry is a parselmouth even before Harry speaks to it. I think so because while he ignores Dudley when he stands in front of the cage, the snake immediately reacts to Harry.
When Harry was talks to the snake and the snake responds by showing Harry the sign, is Harry then speaking Parseltongue?

Book 1, Chapter 1: "The Boy Who Lived"

"Overemphasis and Understatement"

     It seems that this chapter, more than any other in the entire series, plays up the Dursleys.  They go beyond the point of being cruel, misguided people to an irrational family representing everything unholy in mankind. Take each of the seven deadly sins, as they're called, and you can find them in this chapter.
          Pride -- their fear of their secret being revealed, their concern for the opinion of the community.
          Envy --  Petunia is a notorious gossip, perhaps from her desire to equal her neighbors.
          Anger -- the Potters.  Enough said.
          Greed -- Vernon throws himself into his work; is he really just money obsessed like most of the world?
          Gluttony -- Vernon is huge.  Eats doughnuts from the bakery for lunch.
          Extravagance -- Perhaps hardest to support as they seem perfectly middle class, but we get the sense that they take great pride in and put much value on material things.  This is more distinct in later books, however.
     So here we have this family set up as the epitome of all things perverse, yet as the series continues, JKR proceeds to "humanize them" in a way.  Their anger obtains a purpose, then fades slowly out, their prejudice becomes founded on rational facts and not theories, then eventually also fades as they obtain their final security.  What are we supposed to get from this?  Are people different than at first sight?  That tends to be a common theme, but in the other direction.  Do our perceptions change as we mature?  Or is she just drawing us into the story?

     Conversely, important themes and events that come up in this chapter are for the most part totally understated.  Dumbledore, when making passing reference to Harry's magical scar, compares it to his own of the London metro system, saying "scars can come in handy..." (pg. 15).  Also, this day is one of the most important in Wizarding history, certainly the most important in eleven years.  Yet this feeling of celebration becomes extremely muted when seen through the eyes of a disinterested third party.  To Vernon, these estatic Wizards are nothing more than weirdos (pg 3), and the even that they are celebration could not be important enough to affect him (pg. 8).  This sentiment is echoed in the final description of Harry in the chapter:
               "Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up... and he slept on, not knowing that he was special, not knowing he was famous... He couldn't know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret and all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: 'To Harry Potter -- the boy who lived!" (pg. 17)


A quick post -- my humanities professor used Harry Potter as a literary example of justice.
We were discussing the legend of the king Gyges who as a shepherd found a magic ring that made him invisible, and quickly overthrew the current king and slept with his wife.  Then the argument is made that the only cause of justice is the fear of getting caught.  Remove that fear and the just and unjust person will act the same.
Yet Harry Potter had the same power to become invisible, and over a 7-year span, he didn't let it corrupt him.
That seems to be one of the main themes of the series: the uncorruptedness of a pure human soul.  Harry is directly contrasted with Tom Riddle; they both experienced a very similar and trying childhood, yet their reactions to these hardships is vastly different.  In the end, Harry's purity of soul conquers the force of evil.

Obligatory Mod Post

Salutaions! Just a short little post from yours truly:

The community profile has been updated with some basic information, including rules and regulations. Please read the profile page before asking to join this community or posting on it.

Thanks in advance.




     Welcome all to a literary analysis of the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling.
     Your guides along the journey will be your two dear friends, Keebler Elf and Phoenix, and the Honorable Thomas C. Foster, author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor.
     We don't know where we're going.  Perhaps we shall end up with some meaningful conclusion about the nature of life and of human nature, or perhaps we won't.  We actually don't care.  We do, however, plan on making many insightful and meaningful observations along the journey, and hopefully have a great deal of fun.
     Please the join the bandwagon -- the more the merrier!
     Now, please fasten your seat belts, put on your thinking caps, and hold on tight.
     May the force be with us.

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     I'd like to make the point that the Harry Potter series is a woefully under-publicized work of literature.  Yes.  Under-publicized.  I know that it's one of the most popular children's books in the world, one of the most popular young adult novels in the world, and also a very popular work of adult fiction.  But is it a popular work of literature?  No.  This is most unfortunate.
   "Well", I hear you saying, "maybe Harry Potter isn't literature."
     I have one thing to say to you.  You are so wrong.
     Harry Potter is more than a well-imagined children's story, more than a creative fantasy novel.  Harry Potter presents an insight into the human world through the creation of a complex magical world drawn from literature, history, and tradition.  Ms. Rowling did more than sit at her desk (or cafe table) and think of some cool ideas about magic.  She has created a world out of parts of our culture; perhaps this is why her world resonates so loudly with us.  Within this magical, enthralling world, she has placed our own world, our own people, and our own conflicts.  Human nature is just as striking and just as vile and noble as we see it around us and within us.
     The Harry Potter series not only tells a story, but it speaks to us, about  mankind, about society, about life and love and laughter and sadness and all of the depth of human emotion.
     Is this not what defines true literature?