Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

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The main themes in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone are:

*Family*

Family is a very important theme throughout Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry misses the family he never knew, his parents, and he hates the ones he is stuck with, the Dursleys. However, Harry meets a new family at Hogwarts, his friends Ron, Hermione, Hagrid and Dumbledore. And they all care for him and show him great love and loyalty that he never knew before.

*Friendship*

Making friends is arguably one of the best things about going to Hogwarts. Harry Potter and some of the other characters who’ve been set apart by their magical abilities, making real friends is only possible at wizarding school. Harry meets a lot of great friends at Hogwarts and his friendship with Ron and Hermione is the most special, one that will last for the rest of his life.

Harry’s friendship with Ron and Hermione is also significant in the way that it further distinguishes Harry from Voldemort. Although Voldemort is far more powerful than Harry, he prefers to be isolated and independent from those around him. Even Professor Quirrell, who drinks unicorn blood for him, is nothing more than a servant to Voldemort. Because Voldemort lacks the ability to form lasting friendships, he is always alone and has only himself to rely on. Harry, on the other hand, is able to rely on himself while still drawing upon the support system and exceptional magical talents of his close friends.

*Love*

Love plays a crucial role in Harry Potter, as well as all of the remaining books in the series. In the very beginning of the book it already talks about Harry’s ability to survive Voldemort’s killing curse as a direct result of his mother’s love. By sacrificing her own life to save that of her son, Lily Potter gave Harry a magical form of protection that shielded him from Voldemort’s curse and nearly destroyed the dark wizard. As Professor Dumbledore says, Voldemort is incapable of understanding love, particularly in comparison to the strength of his own dark power, and so he was taken entirely by surprise when it came to Lily’s sacrifice.

Harry’s own ability to love and be loved are the key traits that distinguish him from Voldemort and ensure that Harry will never be seduced by the Dark Arts.

*Choice*

One of the most important themes in the book is the concept of choice and free will. From the start of the book, there are many similarities between Harry and Voldemort: their twin wands, their connection to snakes, even some aspects of their appearance. In some respects, Harry seems destined to follow in the footsteps of Voldemort, a destiny which is demonstrated in the Sorting Hat’s initial intention to sort Harry into Slytherin House. Yet, Harry refuses to take a passive role when it comes to his own future, particularly when it means following the path marked by the dark wizard who killed his parents. Thus, instead of accepting the Sorting Hat’s decision, Harry refuses to be placed in Slytherin House and is placed in Gryffindor House instead.

As Professor Dumbledore later explains to Harry, it is the choices made by an individual that determine what kind of person they are and what kind of person they will become. Nothing is cut in stone when it comes to an individual’s future, but, as Harry demonstrates, each individual has the opportunity to change the direction of their life through significant, as well as insignificant, choices.

*The Importance of Rebellion*

Over the course of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” Harry, Ron, and Hermione break many school rules in pursuing their adventures. Harry, in particular, is always willing to break a Hogwarts rule if it means taking action or doing something that he believes is right. He is able to think for himself and, depending on the situation, making judgment calls that have the potential to save lives. Moreover, Harry is perfectly willing to accept the consequences for his rebellion, just as long as he is able to take action when he can.

It is significant to note that Harry never breaks the rules simply for the sake of breaking them: he breaks rules only when he truly believes that his actions are necessary.

*Death*

Near the end of the book, Professor Dumbledore tells Harry, “Death is but the next great adventure.” and death isn’t described as something to be feared or dreaded, but rather a part of the natural cycle of life that should be embraced as part of an individual’s humanity. Death can also be viewed as something beautiful.

*Power*

The theme of power serves as another distinguishing trait between Harry and Voldemort. Voldemort’s primary goal during his reign of terror over Britain was to acheive absolute power in both the wizarding and Muggle community. Even after he is nearly destroyed by his backfiring killing curse, Voldemort’s objective is still to achieve absolute power, first by stealing the Philosopher’s Stone and using the elixir of life to construct another body and second, to reach the same height of power that he had enjoyed before his downfall. Harry, on the other hand, has no interest in acheiving absolute power. His modest and pure nature leads him to desire nothing more than the company of his lost parents, as well as a little less attention from those around him. In fact, it is because Harry does not desire power that he is able to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone from within the Mirror of Erised: Professor Quirrell and Voldemort both want to use the Stone to gain power.

*Humility*

One of the primary traits that differentiate Harry from the more evil characters in the book, such as Voldemort and Draco Malfoy, is his humility. Despite his reputation as the boy-who-lived and his skills in Quidditch, Harry maintains a modest persona throughout the novel. If anything, the extra attention that he receives because of his background makes him uncomfortable and insecure; he feels that he can never be extraordinary enough to be worthy of such an esteemed reputation. Harry’s humility is, in part, a direct result of his neglected childhood with the Dursleys. Because he was never treated as someone who was special, Harry grew up with the understanding that respect is not readily given and must be acheived. When Dumbledore left Harry with the Dursleys, he knew that Harry would be mistreated. Yet, he also realized that, by growing up away from the wizarding world that would put him on a pedestal, he ensured that Harry would grow up without being spoiled by pride and arrogance.

Harry’s humility becomes particularly significant as a theme of the book when he faces Voldemort in the dungeons of Hogwarts. Neither Voldemort nor Professor Quirrell is able to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone from the Mirror of Erised because they are both thinking of ways that the Stone will benefit themselves. Harry, on the other hand, thinks only of retrieving the Stone in order to save other people from Voldemort’s evil: with his humble nature, it would never occur to him to use the Sorcerer’s Stone for his own selfish purposes.

 

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Comments
  1. Dean says:

    I just love the theme of humilty, I remember Gcina Mhlophe also talking about staying humble and I think it’s so important to stay grounded and always remember where you came from. I also think the Maponya Mall reading programme was very humbling and a great opportunity to see what is really important in life and I loved seeing the children’s outlook on life!

  2. Tlana says:

    I can’t agree with you more Dean. The theme of choice hit home for me, the choice of free will most people reject and does not recognise as important. I believe without free will you limit yourself and others in achieving goals.

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