Mark Re-Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’: Chapter 2

In the second chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it’s clear that the Dursleys are just evil, evil people and the knowledge of Petunia’s motivation doesn’t help much. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to re-read Harry Potter.

Seriously, I tried to combine multiple chapters into one review and I simply had too much to say. Deal with it.

As the point of view switches to Harry for the first time, I already notice how much more simple Rowling’s writing is. So I am going to partially excuse myself for my ridiculous response to these first three chapters of the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was definitely being flippant and silly for the sake of it, but chapter two is pretty over-the-top in its own way as well.

Knowing Petunia’s backstory, I don’t seem to be able to empathize with her even in the slightest; if anything, her actions in this chapter make me hate her more than before. I am indifferent to Vernon because he never seems to evolve beyond being an evil foil to Harry, and Dudley doesn’t bother me nearly as much.

Shall we?

The room held no sign at all that another boy lived in the house, too.

That might actually be the most damning detail of the entire chapter: the Dursley family actively pretends that Harry simply doesn’t exist. And sure, they definitely abuse him in other ways that are certainly more painful to Harry, but there’s something disturbing about this specific action. It just rubs me the wrong way.

He rolled onto his back and tried to remember the dream he had been having. It had been a good one. There had been a flying motorcycle in it. He had a funny feeling he’d had the same dream before.

Nah, that’s not a dream, Harry. That’s just the memory of the night your parents were murdered by Voldemort. I recall reading interviews with Rowling about this book and she said her mother’s death was all over the pages of Sorcerer’s Stone. She’s not lying. Hell, it’s all over the entire series, but I don’t know if I really appreciated how much this book centers around those deaths the first time I read it.

Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept.

Oh, my adorable attachment to the spiders. How could I have ever known they would later lead Harry and Ron to near annihiliation? Man, my cluelessness was kind of adorable, no?

The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead that was shaped like a bolt of lightening. He had had it as long as he could remember, and the first question he could ever remember asking his Aunt Petunia was how he had gotten it.

“In the car crash when your parents died,” she had said. “And don’t ask questions.”

It’s only apparent now just how much the Dursleys truly deprived Harry: of the truth about his parents, about the truth of himself, of the existence of magic, of the real reason he was in their house, and of the joy that comes with childhood. Maybe that last one hits me harder. I think most of us can pinpoint when we felt our childhood ended, or our innocence was taken, and sometimes I think about that moment for me and realize I didn’t even make it to twelve before I hit it.

But that’s a story for another time and another place. I can’t seem to forgive Aunt Petunia for what she and her husband did to Harry all those years he stayed with them. I now understand where it came from; rejection can do terrible things to people, as can feeling excluded. But to reverse that on a young child who has no idea about what made you the way you are? Ugh, it’s just deplorable.

(Completely unrelated: Do they ever explain why Harry’s hair is so strange and constantly grows disheveled? OMG YOU CAN ANSWER THAT THIS IS BEAUTIFUL)

Every year, Harry was left behind with Mrs. Figg, a mad old lady who lived two streets away. Harry hated it there. The whole house smelled of cabbage and Mrs. Figg made him look at photographs of all the cats she ever owned.

First of all, bless Mrs. Figg and her cats, but more importantly OMG DUMBLEDORE’S SPY. Set up on page 22. Amazing.

Once, Aunt Petunia, tired of Harry coming back from the barbers looking as though he hadn’t been at all, had taken a pair of kitchen scissors and cut his hair so short he was almost bald except for his bangs, which she left “to hide that horrible scar.” Dudley had laughed himself silly at Harry, who spent a sleepless night imagining school the next day, where he was already laughed at for his baggy clothes and taped glasses. Next morning, however, he had gotten up to find his hair exactly as it had been before Aunt Petunia sheared if off. He had been given a week in his cupboard for this, even though he had tried to explain that he couldn’t explain how it had grown back so quickly.

Well, at the very least, we have some context for this: Harry’s hair was a reminder to Aunt Petunia that she was not magical and the boy was, that he mostly likely had a life full of it ahead of him. She shames him for this by cutting his hair and leaving the bangs, though he doesn’t know why she does it in that specific manner. It’s also why she gives him a week in the cupboard: his hair growing back was yet another way for her to remember her sister and remember what she missed out on.

THAT BEING SAID jesus god in heaven you are fucking terrible. You locked him in a cupboard for a week? You contributed to him being bullied? DIE IN EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THE FIRES, PETUNIA.

Also, why is it the saddest thing ever when Harry is pretty happy just to get a lemon ice pop? Oh, right, because the Dursleys gave him virtually nothing. I suppose all of this is written with an eleven-year-old in mind, and the exaggerated acts fit well with children’s fiction. I think it’s actually commendable that, on the second read, none of this seems to contradict what comes later. If anything, Rowling just expands on why this happened. Still, this is child abuse and neglect and oh hey there eleven-year-old fans what’s up

Let’s get some foreshadowing on, ok?

Obviously, as I clamed jokingly back in May (THAT SEEMS A LIFETIME AGO), Rowling is not a dirty racist at all, but in my quest to make a joke, I didn’t realize what a huge moment the snake scene was for Harry. I’m curious to exactly how far in advance she planned this whole story, because this is quite early in the story to be planning out so much foreshadowing. (In this case, Parseltongue OMG OMG OMG).

So let’s make this the subject of the conversation in the comments, if you don’t mind, because I’d like to know what evidence and information Rowling gave us about this story. I mean…she had to know about Chamber of Secrets at this point, at least in terms of general plotting.

One more thing to close out this review though, which is my favorite passage from this chapter:

When he had been younger, Harry had dreamed and dreamed of some unknown relation coming to take him away, but it had never happened; the Dursleys were his only family. Yet sometimes he thought (or maybe hoped) that strangers in the street seemed to know him. Very strange strangers they were, too. A tiny man in a violet top hat had bowed to him once while out shopping with Aunt Petunia and Dudley. After asking Harry furiously if he knew the man, Aunt Petunia rushed them out of the shop without buying anything. A wild-looking woman dressed all in green had waved merrily at him once on a bus. A bald man in a very long purple coat had actually shaken his hand in the street the other day and then walked away without a word. The weirdest thing about all they people was the way they seemed to vanish the second Harry tried to get a closer look.

At school, Harry had no one. Everybody knew that Dudley’s gang hated that odd Harry Potter in his baggy old clothes and broken glasses, and nobody liked to disagree with Dudley’s gang.

Who is already drenched in tears at this point. Fuck, this is just so sad. Harry had the chance to not be lonely, but he had no idea. Fuck the Dursleys.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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386 Responses to Mark Re-Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’: Chapter 2

  1. Bree says:

    Pretty sure Harry makes it grow back with magic unconsciously, like how he made the glass in the window disappear just cos he felt like it.

  2. Laura says:

    Of course she had the whole thing planned! I argue with my boyfriend about this constantly. He maintains that she makes a lot of it up as she goes but as a writer I know how difficult that actually is. The fact that she uses real life, mythology, history, and folklore means that she had to do plenty of research, which leads to planning. I read in another novel that there are basic rules for being able to finish a novel properly. One of them is knowing, more or less, how you're going to end your story. Many writers start with a good idea but fizzle midway because they have no idea where the story is going. And J.K wans't just writing one book, she was writing 7! She had to plan ahead to be able to keep up with her own story.

  3. Nicole says:

    Apparently, J.K. Rowling spent years plotting out this entire story and getting every detail just right (and it shows). The woman even gave a lot of her characters names that meant things that related to the characters! That is a crapload of work, I say!

  4. Thistle says:

    Fanfics are good at filling in holes that the book doesn't. Wednesday by Northlight fleshes Petunia's motives and hatred out.

    Wednesday's child is full of woe.

    (Sorry if this is posting twice, I got an error the first time.)

  5. blessthechildren says:

    We need more Harry Potter, like a grindleylow needs water!

  6. albus says:

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  9. @Chiparoo says:

    Ah! I know this is an old post (but I've only just now discovered your tremendously entertaining blog.) And I haven't read the entirety of the comments, but I still wanted to chime in my theory on Harry's hair.

    Yes, Harry's hair was inherited from his father. That's a simple thing. But what I love about it is that Rowling used Harry and Jame's messy hair as a means to show how different they are. Throughout the entire series, Harry is constantly trying to smooth out his hair and get it to lie flat. Instead of fighting his hair as Harry does, James messes it up more, trying to make it appear windswept to impress Lily.

    Rowling does a really cool thing here, I think. Showing us this minor difference between Harry and his father during a passage (in the pensieve, iirc) in which it was important to Harry that he WAS different then his father.

    So, perhaps, that may not be the reason WHY Harry's hair is the way it is, but perhaps Rowling knew her characters enough to have planned this detail from the get-go.

  10. Jazzy says:

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  12. Lana says:

    Rowling planned everything out brilliantly, right from the beginning. And how do we know this?

    "I open at the close."

    Harry's first Snitch, caught when he nearly swallows it in his first game of Quidditch, which is a seemingly throw-away event in Philosopher's Stone and is never mentioned again, appears six books later in Deathly Hallows.

    And…I'm pretty sure that basically make JKR Master of the Universe Y/Y?

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  14. Mithol says:

    "The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead that was shaped like a bolt of lightening. He had had it as long as he could remember, and the first question he could ever remember asking his Aunt Petunia was how he had gotten it."

    I've re-read Harry Potter many times, but it only just occurred to me the irony of this statement, because of how much Harry comes to loathe his scar once he re-joins the Wizarding World.

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