Shades Of Words

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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Watching the seventh movie, made me go back and read the books again. Although I have re-read almost all the books several times, it really amazes me that these are still as engaging as in 2000 when I first started with the series.

In this post I will attempt to analyze the first book and a bit of the series and why it works. After all, fantasy fiction genre has a lot of literature to its credit – what was so unique about Harry Potter that it “revived” the reading culture, spawned a multi-million dollar movie franchise, gave a new life to fantasy literature and basically created history. Yes, savvy marketing and media generated hype for sure – but there is surely more credit to be given.

Let’s take a look at book one specifically. The book starts with an unusually quiet scene in a non-descript suburban neighborhood with something extraordinary going on – a cat that can turn into a woman, a flying motorcycle, an orphaned child and old man who most definitely is a sorcerer. You have to know what comes next! So in the very first chapter an interesting premise has been established.

Then the theme of the series is established in the first few chapters – “underdog wins the day”. No matter how many books and movies use this theme, it always works. Even though Harry Potter is this really famous wizard and is a celebrity – he is still the underdog. Its remarkable how JK Rowling creates this dual persona for him – super famous wizard since 1 year old, but orphaned, abused as a child, love hungry, dying to be someone. He comes to Hogwarts with no advantage – right from the beginning your heart goes out to him and you want him to win.

The third thing that interest you are the characters – for me a book never works if I can’t somehow empathize with the characters. And it’s easier said than done. JK Rowling does that with not just creating one but several immensely pleasant characters. But mostly she creates three very likeable protagonists – again not easy.

Harry, by the age of eleven, has had a pretty miserable life. It’s high time he was happy.  As a person he is quite nice – he is witty, intelligent, a little rebellious, eager to learn and so desperate to be loved. He may not be the perfect role model like “Hermione” but he has his heart in the right place – he inherently wants to be good. He is a believable hero.

How can you heart not go out to Ron Weasley – the youngest of six brothers, always getting hand me downs , destined to be friends with the most famous wizard in school – always living in the shadows.  In spite of his disadvantages, he is friendly, kind and fiercely loyal.

And then there is Hermione, my absolute favorite  character of the book. She may be slightly bookish and very competitive but she is intensely loyal, earnest, generous and the most compassionate of the three. She has the most defined moral values and sees generally sees things in black and white unlike her two best friends. Without her brilliance and presence of mind, Harry and Ron just can’t get very far.

Hagrid and Dumbledore are also very important characters in the first book. I believe that these two characters sort of fill the “paternal void” in Harry’s life as they mentor him through his first year at Hogwarts. The fact that they knew his parents also ties them to Harry strongly

The other ingredient to the story is the magical world that JKR creates – Hogwarts is fascinating and your mind leaps and bounces as you try to create mental images of moving pictures, hidden staircases, dark dungeons and the great hall. Wouldn’t a place like Diagon Alley be fun and entertaining? The attention to detail in creating this other world makes you almost wish that it was real.

The last but not the least, and what I believe is the defining reason as to why everyone is hooked from Book 1 is that, at the end of the day the saga of Harry Potter is really a puzzle. Every chapter in the first book reveals little pieces of the puzzle, and as we will read ahead, every book is a huge chunk of the larger story, but the complete picture remains  elusive till the end. As you read book one, there are so many questions to be asked – Why did Harry survive Voldemort’s attack? What was stolen from the safe at Gringotts? Why does the sorting hat suggest Harry be in Slytherin? What is the significance of The Mirror of Erised? Why does Dumbeldore see socks in it? Why is it “curious” that the wand that has chosen Harry is the twin of the wand that left the scar on his forehead? Will Voldemort return? What is Snape’s agenda? What were Harry’s parents like? Why did Voldemort attack Harry? What is Harry’s destiny?

Some of the questions get answered in the first book and others later. And sometimes, there are people, incidents and conversations that seem irrelevant but make much more sense later on.

The Philosopher’s Stone’s main purpose is to basically lay down the main characters, relationships, plot and landmarks for the larger story to unfold. It’s a very good start to a very entertaining story.

If you are interested in the movies, do check out  my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part

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Author: Vipula

Before talking about who we are, we’d like to tell you a bit about how and why Shades of Words came into being. It all started with the idea of “A place where we could share with likeminded people about things we enjoy. From books to music to movies to travel; Shades of Words was to be a place about the best of our experiences” We thought about why should anyone read us? The answer was that whatever we review would be a mix of our experience of the thing along with interesting and useful information about it. So in case you are reading us regularly or even checking us out once in a while then we have succeeded in our efforts someway somewhere. Who are we? Known as Kapil Sood and Vipula Gupta, we thought of Shades of Words on one fine Sunday afternoon. Tired of writing interesting RFP’s and project documentation; we decided to give this a shot. Yes! We work in Indian IT industry. Cupid struck us while were innocently slogging together on the highly intricate job of formatting and beautifying documents! And since then, we have been working together to establish Shades of Words as a place that we can claim as ours. (Because buying a house is still years away!) What else? Kapil also writes some blogs which you can read here and here.

6 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

  1. I must say that the HP books are an interesting. I did not see the big picture when I read this one but am sure all 7 books are like pieces of a puzzle. Well written analysis of the book. It is really well written and JKR paints the characters sketches with ease and brilliance

  2. You won’t believe this but…my venture into the world of HP began with Book 3 :)…Book 3 bowled me over completely…its then I started searching for Books 1 & 2 and you know today..I’m a huge fan of HP Saga.

    For me the fascination stems not just from the fantasy world that JK created, its more from the fact..that a within reality exists a realistic magical world. It fires up the imagination with endless “what-ifs” like what if HP world truly existed and you happen to walk by Diagon Alley. I’m actually contemplating buying a boxed set of HP books here but…I already have them bck home

  3. @Kapil – With book 3 the whole series really begins to build up – though the connection between voldemort and harry has been established in book2 and will be very crucial going on – so you will see as you read along

    @Zoya – I also went through the “what if” phase – but somehow I think I outgrew that somewhere – I have been resisting buying a boxed set coz I also have most of the copies home and then its just a waste. I just finished reading book 3 ( which is my new favorite) and will now begin on book 4 after my vacation

  4. @writer(s)_of_this_blog – I love your blog. Though I have only started recently reading your posts, each of you has a unique style which I like.
    Do keep this up and I know that I will keep coming back for more! 🙂

    It’s good to see people from the IT industry doing something different altogether.

  5. Have you folks read the “Bartimaeus trilogy”? Even that is a work of fantasy. Not many people have I heard who have read or heard about it. Reason being I guess that it was not promoted well enough. You know how it is, we see one series because of the promotions but might just miss out on another since it was not promoted well and is not kept in front shelves.

    Some say that the art of writing is acquired over years of voracious reading and expressing oneself either verbally or through written modes of communication. What if, just what if, this were an innate quality which one knew nothing of and the former just happened to release one’s potential. I feel our habit of reading almost everything and anything is very important. Forgive me for having just gone on and on about almost nothing.
    Thank you.

    Joe Chakma

  6. @Joe – Thanks for the very generous comments..I have not read “Bartimaeus trilogy” but several people including yourself have recommended it.

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