Mark Re-Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’: Chapter 3

In the third chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the Dursleys are the worst people ever. Seriously. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to re-read Harry Potter.

No, really. Aside from Dudley, the Dursleys never get better at all. I recall reading this chapter and thinking Uncle Vernon comes completely and irrationally unhinged by the end. In my head, it was a great idea to write a review that was made up entirely of a fake set of notes written by Vernon’s imaginary therapist. What.

That being said, Vernon’s breakdown once the letters overload his life is really frightening to read. I mean…he took them to a shack on a rock in the ocean. WHERE WERE THEY GOING TO GO AFTER THAT. I mean…were they to just stay there forever? It’s clearly exaggerated for the humor of the situation, but once you actually stop and think about it…man, it’s really, really creepy.

This chapter solidifies my hatred for the Dursleys and somehow I hate them more than Voldemort. They play an active hand in giving Harry an awful, awful upbringing. It’s insinuated at the beginning of this chapter that they left him in the cupboard for WEEKS. Maybe months? I don’t know when Dudley’s birthday is, but still, it’s a really terrifying concept.

The hints towards the hatred of magic are here in this chapter, though at first it seems to come more form Vernon. But even this early on, I didn’t catch on to Petunia’s reaction to all this.

“Vernon,” Aunt Petunia was saying in a quivering voice, “look at the address—how could they possibly know where he sleeps? You don’t think they’re watching the house?”

Maybe I’m reading a bit too much into this, but it feels as if there’s a subtext of Petunia’s fear of Dumbledore here, especially the idea that she isn’t going to get away with what she’s done. I don’t know, the way she focuses on the surveillance aspect seems to me that she’s worried the magical world has seen what’s happened in the last ten years.

“Should we write back?” Tell them we don’t want—“

Petunia, you didn’t have such good luck the last time you did that.

I feel that this entire chapter’s theme is of denial: Vernon and Petunia are in denial that Harry is going to return from the world he came from and that magic is going to be in their house. Their prejudice against magical people binds everything, but they don’t have to ever truly face it. Until now.

This is a short review for a short chapter, and I think I’m comfortable posting a review for each chapter, even if they aren’t too long. It might take a long time to get through this book again, but we do have Deathly Hallows: Part II to look forward to. Maybe I’ll get done by then!

Next up: The introduction of my astral plane, leather daddy boyfriend Hagrid. Also known as the moment I started falling in love with the Harry Potter series.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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308 Responses to Mark Re-Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’: Chapter 3

  1. Silverilly says:

    . . .
    Leather Daddy Hagrid . . .
    The magic lives on.

  2. pennylane27 says:

    leather daddy boyfriend Hagrid
    I have no words.

    Ok, maybe I do have some words. The Dursleys are horrible horrible people, I think it's really clear. Vernon usually borders completely insane, but by the time I read PS I had already read CoS and PoA, so I was kind of used to their horribleness and insanity.

    Maybe I’m reading a bit too much into this, but it feels as if there’s a subtext of Petunia’s fear of Dumbledore here, especially the idea that she isn’t going to get away with what she’s done. I don’t know, the way she focuses on the surveillance aspect seems to me that she’s worried the magical world has seen what’s happened in the last ten years.
    I hadn't picked up on that, but it totally goes along with her reaction to the Howler in OotP and Dumbledore's scolding in HBP. MARK YOU ARE A GENIUS.

  3. corporatecake says:

    Dudley's birthday is implied to be in late June. So Harry was in that cupboard for like, three weeks. That is so messed up. In fact, the Dursleys are so messed up. Vernon in particular.

    I don't forgive Petunia for all of the abuse that she put Harry through during his life, but this chapter makes me feel like Vernon is the real arbitrator, and he encourages Petunia to be a cruel person where she might not have been on her own. She had all of this bitterness and resentment towards the magical world, and I can understand why, but I get the impression that Vernon reinforced all those ideas in her, and then showed her that the abuse was 'justified.' It makes me wonder how Petunia would have turned out if she had married a tolerant person.

    • pennylane27 says:

      I got that feeling too, it's Vernon who goes all maniac and I think that Petunia just couldn't stop him from doing all those crazy stuff like nailing the letter box or freaking take them to a freaking rock in the freaking sea.

      The only time that she could overrule him was after Dumbledore's Howler, when she let Harry stay in the house.

      • corporatecake says:

        Yeah, Petunia and Dudley even seem terrified by Vernon's behavior in this chapter. Because he's clearly gotten a couple of screws knocked loose.

        It's even sadder that you point out the only time that she overrules him in the entire series is after Dumbledore's Howler. And she wins the small point of letting him stay in the house. She can't (or doesn't try) to win him food (remember in CoS where Harry was getting fed a can of soup a day through a cat flap?) or decent clothes to wear or any of that. It's that they don't kick him out of the house.

    • andreah1234 says:

      I love that pointed this out. I mean I think Petunia was really wrong about how she treated Harry, but for some reason I always felt that is was Vernon who really abused him. I mean it was really Vernon who hit him, yell at him. locked him up and almost starved him, the worse Petunia ever did was ignore him. I'm not saying that's alright, but It always seem, to me at least, that Petunia was the lesser of two evils.

      • pennylane27 says:

        Hate to disagree, but I think that Petunia ignoring him is just as bad, if not worse. Harry grew up with LITERALLY no affection of any kind. No loving parents, no indulging relatives, not even friends. His life was so miserable that I love how he turned to be the utterly amazing, loving person that he is. And OMG Harry Potter is making me teary-eyed yet again.

        • andreah1234 says:

          This are too very valid point,my dear. But for my point of view, I think I would prefer to be ignore that to be bullied and to be literally treated like shit for my whole life. Of course it would have been better if he grew up with,oh I don't know, the Weasleys (who are the best family ever BTW), but given he couldn't have that, he should have at least someone who didn't fisically and mentally abused him, even if it was someone who ignore him/ talk to him only when nessesary,but then again growing up with the Dursleys was what made him the awesome dude he is, so that's that.Yes, I am totally talking as if this were real people. WUT

          And WHEN will Harry Potter NOT make us teary-eyed??? That's part of the charm, pun totally intended.

          • Openattheclose says:

            I don't know. I think it goes back to that old saying about apathy, not hate, being the opposite of love. Mostly I think they both just treated him horribly though and they are both to blame. The Weasleys are totally the best family ever though, especially Mrs. Weasley. She is just what Harry needed after growing up with Petunia.

    • Meltha says:

      I can't help thinking, though, that it's Petunia who made Vernon this prejudiced about magic. He couldn't possibly have been familiar with the idea of the magical world before he met her. His introduction to it is through Petunia. Sure, Vernon's prejudiced about just about everyone else on his own anyway, but he seems genuinely terrified of magic, and the one person in his life who could have done that (unless he'd had a run in with James and Co. before he married Petunia) is Petunia herself.

      • corporatecake says:

        I don't think you can blame Petunia, because Vernon's feelings towards magic are a logical extension about how he seems to feel about everything that is outside his white, upper middle class, suburban, male worldview. No matter who or how told him about magic, he was bound to hate it. He's an intolerant person. He saw the magical world as dark, dangerous, unregulated, as Other, and confirmed all of Petunia's feelings of shame and bitterness.

    • paulineparadise says:

      I read a really good fanfiction on what would have happened if Petunia married a professor of science. This would mean Harry grew up in a world where everything makes sense – and he is then thrown into a world where to every 'how' question the answer is 'magic'.

  4. Andrew (Chagrin) says:

    It’s clearly exaggerated for the humor of the situation, but once you actually stop and think about it…man, it’s really, really creepy.

    I've always thought that it's exaggerated for that reason: to somewhat mask just how awful it really is, so that it doesn't overrule the entire story* while also explaining why Harry is the way he is.

    *Especially at the very beginning: the books have angst, of course, but I can just imagine what a potential reader would assume if they happened to pick up the first book and it was all about how terrible this family is without the cartoonish lilt. The humour and the obvious way that it's being presented through the prism of a child's eyes help to establish the mood that will carry the first book – the air of whimsy – that will deteriorate as the series progresses.

    Also I love your love for Hagrid.

    • Kiryn says:

      I agree with you here. And it helps establish, for me, that despite everything they've done to him, Harry still has hope, and isn't going to let the Dursleys overshadow his entire life, if you know what I mean?

    • hassibah says:

      This is kind of a "yeah, duh" point but I think there's also something to be said for how totally absurd most terrible people are and how utterly ridiculous real life can feel a lot of the time. The whole experience is totally amplified for kids who are always completely powerless and for whom noone feels the need to apply logic when treating them the way they do. I think yeah it might be a mechanism to let the reader of a book marketed to 10 years olds handle heavy subjects, but I think the poking fun at the Dursleys also actually pretty accurately captures what that's like because the kind of self delusions and denial mode of people like them have ARE simultaneously depressing and funny.

  5. I Know this is technically a Mark Watches question, but since it has to do with harry potter, I wasn't sure where to ask it.

    What about A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel?!?!

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      THEY ARE COMING! Promise! I am still researching the logistics of it. Since they're in parts on YouTube, I was thinking of hosting multiple liveblog type parties for all of us. Maybe all of Act one day, then all of Act Two the next.

      • bell_erin_a says:

        Aha, I was going to ask how you were going to do this. I was thinking that was probably the best way to do it, since it's not like you can stop in the middle of the awesomeness of the acts that are AVPM/AVPS!

        OMG, you're going to love these! I get the urge to watch bits and pieces WAY more often than is necessary and/or productive just because they're that good!

      • Ruchira says:

        Also, don't forget JKR's 500 word prequel.

      • drippingmercury says:

        Hopefully I don't get a lot of backlash for saying this, but you should be aware that there are a few bits in both that are pretty cringe-worthy from a feminist perspective and were somewhat of a detractor (for me, at least). Voldemort using homophobic/gendered slurs I am OK with, I mean, he's EVIL, but Harry calling something "fruity" really bugs me since it's so antithetic to the message of the books.

        I still LOVE them, overall, but in some parts the humor seems to really rely on worn-out, negative tropes.

        • thirty2flavors says:

          I don't remember thinking too much was out of place in the first one, but I found the sequel far more cringeworthy than it was funny.

      • notemily says:

        Mark, I have another question which is just for your own enjoyment: now that you're incapable of being spoiled, did you read Cleolinda's parodies of the movies? They're so brilliant and hilarious. I think they start at Prisoner of Azkaban? She did the first one, but it was in her book, not on the website. Anyway. Don't mind me if I quote extensively from them when we get to book 3!

      • lupinismybitch says:

        Oh, thank the mighty lord. I swear, every single line is quotable~

  6. PaulineParadise says:

    <img src=""&gt;
    "11th Birthday" by carthasis

    <img src=""&gt;
    "The Letters From No One" by FrizzyHermione

    <img src=""&gt;
    "LettersFromNoone" by xxxDefyGravityxxx (when Petunia shreds Harry's letters)

    I feel the need to post at least one picture of fanart for every chapter. I hope that's okay.

    • jonni13 says:

      I love that fan art!! Harry looks like my 11 year old haha!

    • Peverell says:

      Great Fanart! Thanks!

    • Openattheclose says:

      "I feel the need to post at least one picture of fanart for every chapter. I hope that's okay."

      YES, YES IT IS! Please post as much as you can find. I don't think we had much fanart for the first couple of books during the first Mark Reads.

    • FishGuts says:

      What I want to know is why Harry jumps around in the air, trying to get at the letters, instead of just picking one off of the floor when nobody is looking and sliding it into his pocket to read later!

      That's totes what I would have done. Siriusly.

    • Openattheclose says:

      I have decided that the hut in that first picture looks like the TARDIS. Imagine the irony of Vernon fleeing the wizards only to end up with the… being that occupies the TARDIS (trying not to spoil other things here). I think Vernon would be begging for wizards within five minutes.

  7. monkeybutter says:

    It's redundant, but: "leather daddy boyfriend Hagrid." <3

    I guess it's a testament to Harry's inherent good nature that his magic abilities never manifested in a way to punish or seek revenge on the Dursleys, because they really are the most awful people ever.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      RIGHT. This is an excellent point.

    • DTDRC says:

      Ooh so true!
      Harry doesn't hurt the bullies that are chasing him, he just jumps on the roof to avoid them. A total contrast to Riddle who tells Dumbledore, "I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to."

      • Openattheclose says:

        *snuggles Harry* Even when he "blows up" Aunt Marge, it's not really harmful to her. Okay, so she has to be deflated, but I bet Riddle would have REALLY blown her up.

        • pennylane27 says:

          And Harry had put up with her crap for a week before he loses it, and what she was saying filled me with rage too. Maybe I should leave discussing Marge for when Mark gets to that, but given that it's going to take a while, I want to say that I really hate Marge, because she's horrible for the sake of being horrible, she doesn't even have the 'I hate magic' weak excuse. She's a racist pig and I'm getting worked up so i'll stop /end rant.

        • Meltha says:

          Plus the Aunt Marge situation is sort of a pun. He makes her literally "full of hot air."

      • Jenna says:

        This is why I love HBP so hard. In that one chapter at the orphanage, JKR just destroys me with the way she sets up the parallel between Harry and Voldemort. Same background, similar childhood, but look at the different choices they made. Becauuuuuse, as we know, IT IS OUR CHOICES, HARRY, THAT SHOW WHAT WE TRULY ARE, FAR MORE THAN OUR ABILITIES 😀

        • Kiryn says:

          This is why I love Harry so much, and why he is infinitely my favorite protagonist and main character of any series in any medium. Because he is willing to save and not hurt people like the Dursleys, and later Pettigrew, even if they don't deserve it.

          • Openattheclose says:

            THIS. This so much. I usually don't like the main characters as much as the peripheral characters, but Harry will always be my favorite. He chooses what is right over what is easy, and he doesn't really preach about it either.

            • Kiryn says:

              Lol, we are so alike. I also love that Harry doesn't preach either. And it's actually rare for me if the main character makes it anywhere near the top of my favorite characters list, but Harry ranks as my number 6 favorite Harry Potter character, after some of the peripherals. Most other main characters, they get boring, or angsty to the point that I stop caring about them altogether and kind of root for the bad guy to win. But Harry has always stuck out for me, because no matter how many times I read the books, I always very firmly remain ON HIS SIDE. I even still manage to love CAPSLOCK Harry, mostly because Harry's angst just fills me with the deepest sadness and aching sympathy. Line him up against any other main character, and Harry is my favorite hands down. Frodo? I wanted to push him off the cliff into Mount Doom. Not only because he annoyed me, but because I got so tired of him to the point I disliked him. Plus, Frodo's got nothing on Harry when it comes to being the best possible person ever.

              • Claretts says:

                Yes, exactly, though Harry is my favourite from the series or any other series. I feel a swelling in my heart when I read about him. He has his faults, yes, of course, but those faults only augment how three-dimensional a character he is. I loved him so much more as CAPSLOCK!Harry, truthfully, because I feel that it was a natural progression of his character, a vital point where he learns and grows up.

                Also, Frodo is D:

                • Kiryn says:

                  Exactly to you too. Harry may not be my very favorite in this series (Sorry my dear, but that spot belongs to Sirius), but he smooshes up really close to the other five or so characters I've placed in front of him. And I know some people don't agree, but I never ever got annoyed with Harry. Frodo's angst, like I said, made me want to punt him off the cliff, but Harry's just makes me want to hug him. He somehow possesses the gift that no other main character does: to not annoy me. I love Harry so much.

                  And not to turn this into a LOTR discussion, but Frodo…ugh, I was rooting for Shelob to eat you, and was only okay with you living because anything else would have upset Sam too much. And I have the biggest amount of respect for Sam, so…

              • Openattheclose says:

                Ha! I always felt like I should like Frodo, but his story really did nothing for me. My big dislike of a main character goes to Buffy in her later seasons though. Ugh. She got so unlikable. I think the only protagonist that comes close to me love for Harry is The Doctor (from Dr. Who), and sometimes I don't necessarily like the Doctor too much.

                I noticed CAPSLOCK Harry when I first read OotP, but it wasn't until I got online that I realized he annoyed a lot of people. To me, it was about time Harry stood up and said "I'm tired of this shit." I firmly believe that without CAPSLOCK Harry we wouldn't have gotten the wonderful character progression Harry has through most of Books 6 and 7. The only thing he really did in OotP that bugged me was when he was kind of happy about the cuts on Ron and Hermione's hands from Hedwig nipping at them, which he instructed her to do. That was not cool.

                • Kiryn says:

                  Hmm. I think the award my most despised main character, that I can think of at the moment, goes to Perrin from The Wheel of Time series. Technically, Perrin is not the main main character (although believe me, Rand is in possession of many douchebag moments), but really the spot is almost evenly divided between Perrin, Rand, and another character named Mat. Rand is just the savior character. Anyway, Perrin…good God, I wanted to smack you so hard. Because he gets this sort of power, and then he angsts about it, even though he gets the best deal out of the 3. Which, okay, I get your need to angst Perrin. Every character needs it at some point. But you got your power in Book 1, not that far into the story. We are on BOOK FUCKING THIRTEEN, AND YOU ARE STILL ANGSTING ABOUT IT. SHUT UP ALREADY PERRIN. For God's sake, even RAND has stopped most of his angsting at this point, and Rand has more of an excuse to angst than anybody. Get with the program already. Ahem. Sorry about that, but Perrin is really bugging me. And I agree with all that you said about Harry.

  8. bell_erin_a says:

    it feels as if there's a subtext of Petunia's fear of Dumbledore here, especially the idea that she isn't going to get away with what she's done.

    It's "remember my last" all over again. And the time when Dumbledore showed up on their doorstep and, as the most badass badass to ever badass, gave Petunia that dressing down. Apparently she saw it coming but did nothing to change her treatment of Harry. So, thanks, bitch.

    It's really odd. I'm rereading the series in Spanish (OMG it's fucking taking me forever. I've been on the first book for almost a year but you can't blame me because it was totally senior year and I was busy applying to college and shit!), and I found things that I didn't remember in this book since the last time I read it 2 years ago (yeah, I read these about once a year. DEAL WITH IT.), but somehow I didn't get the sense of desperation and crazy that happens in this chapter. Although that could be because it was like 5 months ago that I read it, oops.

    My two cents.

    • pennylane27 says:

      I think that the last time I read PS in Spanish (my native language BTW) was like 9 years ago (ever since I could understand English at a reasonable level I have only read them in English), and I don't know what edition you're reading, so I can't really judge, but I always thought that the translations sucked.

      And I read most of them every year too, no judging here.

      • bell_erin_a says:

        I think all of the books are Salamandra, but I only have the first two here with me at college, so that's a guess. And yeah, I don't think it's just me, especially since I read reviews on Amazon that said that there really weren't any good translations. I've read the series enough so that I remember certain sentences and I've already run across a few in the first 8 chapters where it's like, "really? That's not the same at all. It was so witty in the English version!"

        Although I really get a kick out of seeing how certain things are translated, like "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" (which is a lot less work to type out in Spanish!).

        • pennylane27 says:

          Oh, the Salamandra are the worst! I mean, in the Emecé ones, which did the first three, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was El-Que-No-Debe-Ser-Nombrado, I was so pissed when I found they had changed it to El Innombrable. How lame is that name?

          But I agree about them changing the meaning of the sentences. In fact and NERD ALERT, when I was like 12 or something, I was reading CoS and I found a sentence I didn't remember reading in the Spanish version (which I knew by heart by then), so I got the two books and read them page by page to find any other mistakes.

          And wait until you see what they call Snivellus. God they're awful.

          • bell_erin_a says:

            Hee, I'm guilty of checking translations just to be sure, too. Harry Potter nerds, unite!

            It's mostly been Quien-usted/tú-sabe(s), since there's not been much mention of Voldemort so far. Oh, no, not nicknames. I'm already ticked off that they're not capable of calling "Charles" Weasley Charlie, and we just got to the first Quidditch practice! Jeez.

          • Ruchira says:

            I've always read the books in English and have never really tried to find translations in either of the 2 Indian languages I know (I am from India, btw)- but yeah, I've watched some of the movies dubbed in Hindi and some of the name changes they make arepathetic!

          • Lolua says:

            After finding it at a secondhand bookstore a few years ago, I'm reading the Latin version (Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis) in honor of Mark's re-read. Well, skimming it rather than reading it because I only fully understand about every third word and I guess at the rest since I know the English version pretty well.

            It's really weird seeing "You-Know-Who" translated to one word, "Quidam," basically "a certain [someone]". Linguistically, it makes sense, but it loses some of its ridiculousness as a placeholder for the dreaded name.

            My favorite part so far: "Matertera Petunia dictitabat Dudleum habere faciem angeli infantis — Harrius dictitabat Dudleum similem esse suis capillamentum generis." "Aunt Petunia often said that Dudley looked like a baby angel — Harry often said that Dudley looked like a pig in a wig."

    • Tabbyclaw says:

      My senior year in high school, I was in a French reading comprehension class (I'm English-speaking American, just for reference) that was basically independent study because there were only five people in the entire school — all girl geeks and all friends of mine — who were taking all four years of French. The teacher used variations on the same lesson plan every year: First semester, read Le Petit Prince with worksheets and discussion questions, and second semester, read another assigned novel on your own and write a good, comprehensive book report as your final test. We had a fun teacher, and she considered us the fun class, so when it came time to decide what she was going to assign us for the second semester she suddenly got this huge grin and said, "Do you guys wanna read Harry Potter?"

      That is not a question that a class of girl geeks is going to say 'no' to.

    • Rimma says:

      Because of this thread, I am totes inspired to get through HP in Spanish, and, if I feel even bolder, in Russian. (I speak both fluently.)

      Thanks, guys!

    • paulineparadise says:

      You know, I have the same problem with the Dutch translations. The names are translated in the worst way possible. A few examples:

      English name -> Dutch name (literal English translation of Dutch name)
      Dumbledore -> Perkamentus (Parchmentus)
      McGonagall -> Anderling (Differenting)
      Weasley -> Wemel ('wemelen' means squirm, wriggle)
      Dursley -> Duffeling (Dull-ling)
      Crabbe -> Korzel (I don't even know what this might mean)
      Goyle -> Kwast (the thing you paint with – forgot the english word)
      Diagon Alley -> Wegisweg (Road-is-gone)
      Diggory -> Kannewasser (Jug-washer)
      Hogwarts -> Zweinstein (a bit like swine-*word that rhimes with 'zwein'*)

      And many, many more… 🙁

      • notemily says:

        Wemel should be Wormtail's name, not Weasley!

      • gizmo1 says:

        Ooo, that was a little too literal to my taste. :S

        I don't know about Anderling but I'm sure you just can't translate it like that! And about Wemel: that is a contraction of 'wemel' and 'wezel' (weasel) because the family have red hair. Which is a reference to the original name!
        You got me on Dursley, Crabbe and Goyle but well, I thought 'Wegisweg' for Diagonalley was pretty brilliant.
        'Kannewasser'… well, Buddingh' just had to come up with a name that was ridiculous enough. I mean, in the book every girl has a crush on that guy.
        And 'Zweinstein' for Hogwarts also has to get some credit!
        Plz DO NOT TRANSLATE LITERALLY. Then it hardly makes sense. Remember those are adaptations of the original names.

  9. Mudkips says:

    I think… …I think you need to post reviews as you write them, because then I could ravenously consume them.

    • Susan says:

      Agreed! I must refresh my page at least ten times a day. When a new review appears it’s one of the best kind of gifts!

  10. Ashley says:

    Wouldn't it be more fun for you to just read each book straight through and give us more general thoughts? It has to be so frustrating that you still have to read it chapter by chapter. You've never experienced a Harry Potter binge! Those are the best!

    • theanagrace says:

      Agreed! Even if only for one book. I read PoA for the first time in one shot, it took me about 9 hours and when I surfaced (literally, I was reading in the basement where I wouldn't be disturbed) my mom was like "Where have you been all day?"

    • hassibah says:

      Yes, thirded, these were meant to be read in one sitting!

  11. Hotaru-hime says:

    Sometimes I wish Harry would address the horribleness of the Dursleys- he expresses horror and hatred towards Voldemort and the Death Eaters, but takes the Dursleys' treatment of him as matter-of-fact.
    Also, what the fuck is wrong with the English school system that they didn't look at Harry's too large clothes and isolation in school and go "Hey, what is wrong with this picture?" How long do you think it took for the Dursleys to get Harry glasses?

    • corporatecake says:

      It probably wouldn't have taken the Dursleys long to get Harry glasses — a teacher would have noticed he needed them and the Dursleys didn't have anything to gain by denying them to Harry, in fact, doing so would have been a huge red flag.

      The sad fact of the matter is that kids sometimes fall through the cracks. Plus, the early books are full of the 'adults are useless/evil' trope that's not entirely accurate, but is an important part of creating Harry's character.

    • pennylane27 says:

      I have often wondered this, but only recently, when I was a kid all my mind could ask was 'why are these people so mean?' and feel sorry for Harry. Now however, being a teacher, I can say that these are very thought-provoking questions, which is why I love JKR so much. These books were intended for children (at least the first ones) but as you grow older you start delving much deeper and you come up with some really messed up stuff.

      And after all my thinking, I usually come up without answers. Sometimes I think that he's just so used to being abused and neglected by the Dursleys that he just doesn't register it anymore. The way he says how they forget his birthday, or how his glasses are taped together makes me think that he's just past bothering to notice it anymore. Which is really sad and makes me feel hopeless. I don't know much about this, but I think that these are realistic reactions to 10 years of abuse. Correct me if I'm wrong please.

      And the school, I really have no explanation. At the school where I work we look into any unusual situation or behaviour and have interviews with parents and everything, and we're a THIRD WORLD COUNTRY. One would think that in a country like England, even if it was the 80s, the school would have looked into Harry's situation. Or maybe the Dursleys managed to convince the teachers that everything was peachy. I don't know.

      I am surprised that the Dursleys ever got around to take him to a doctor and get him glasses.

      • Emily says:

        I always feel like the Dursleys care very much for keeping up appearances. Not enough to buy Harry new clothes, but enough to keep it secret that he stayed in the closet and tone down their neglect whenever others were around. They would definitely have gotten Harry glasses because not to do so would have called questions, while they probably managed to keep everything other than the hand-me-down clothes behind closed doors – and hand-me-down clothes do not constitute abuse all by themselves.

        I doubt anyone really knew how bad it was.

        I think the only reason Snape was allowed to exist at Hogwarts (even with Dumbledore's support) is that teacher's like McGonagall knew Snape was unfair, but had no idea how bad it really was down in the dungeon. I can't see the other Heads of House standing for it otherwise. And I think part of the reason why Dumbledore was always so hard on Snape is that he must have bitterly resented the necessity to allow this bullying git access to his students – I can just imagine how it would have grated on a man like Dumbledore. He must have hated Severus for putting him in that position.

        • Openattheclose says:

          I kind of love that McGonagall is so fair, and known for being so fair, that there is not one second's doubt in anyone's mind that she would have stood for some of the things Snape did. McGonagall is totally the BEST TEACHER EVER, amirite? I really would have loved to see what she would have done if Harry HAD gone to her about the blood quill in OOTP. I bet Slytherins in her classes didn't fear her like every other house probably feared Snape.

          I've never really thought about your points regarding Dumbledore resenting having to hire Snape. I mean, before Deathly Hallows, I believed DD didn't know the full extent of Snape's behavior. Now I am not so sure. Dumbledore is a "the end justifies the means" kind of guy, but he seemed to really hate Umbridge for the way she treated her students. I think if he really knew how bad Snape was to people who weren't Harry, like Neville and Hermione, he wouldn't have stood for it. I can sadly see him being fully aware of the way Snape treated Harry and turning a blind eye, but Snape had no reason to bully Neville. None at all.

          • Lesley says:

            Your comment about Snape bullying Neville made me think of this: I read an essay once (I may have mentioned it in a previous comment) that said it was likely that Neville was terrified of doing well at magic because he always associated magic with the terrible things that happened to his parents. His shortcomings at Hogwarts were not because he was bad at magic but because he was purposefully not trying to improve. Because maybe if he's bad enough, they won't make him do it anymore and he can just live a peaceful life.

            The same essay theorized that Snape bullied Neville because, in addition to just being a nasty git, Snape saw through what Neville was trying to do and completely lost patience with him. I think I remember once or twice McGonagall getting exasperated with Neville as well–and while she of course would never be cruel to him, it's likely that she was tempted to tell him to cut the crap.

            (And as much as I LOVE Hermione till the end of time, I can imagine a teacher wanting to snap at a know-it-all in class every once in a while.)

            This theory might give Snape a little more credit than he deserves, but it's interesting to think about nonetheless. 🙂

    • Openattheclose says:

      I have read fanfic that had Dumbledore aware of the abuse and using magic to cover it up to the school officials. he would rather have Harry "safe" with the Dusleys than happy. I'm not saying I believe that this happened, but it's a possibility. Given what we know of his childhood and what happened to Ariana though, I can't see Dumbledore doing that.

      • pennylane27 says:

        That's messed up. I can't see old Dumbles doing that either. But I have to admit, I have some issues with Dumbledore. I understand the necessity of Harry living there, but why didn't Dumbledore do something about the situation? And for that matter, why didn't he explain to him that he was a wizard and all that before? I think that Harry had very little time to digest everything before he was thrown in a world where everyone knows his name. If someone has an explanation for this I would appreciate it. (I'm not saying that I don't absolutely adore Dumbledore BTW)

        • booksinbulk says:

          I can absolutely see Dumbledore doing that. Arabella Figg was instructed to keep Harry UNhappy, so that he'd be able to stay with her. We've seen by the series' end that Dumbledore is all for using people and situations to best fit his needs. It's why Snape gets so mad, telling Dumbledore it sounds as though they've been raising Harry for slaughter. I wouldn't be surprised at all if JKR told us that Dumbledore intervened throughout Harry's life at many times so that he would be able to stay with the Dursley's as long as necessary. Imagine if the school HAD stepped in and Harry was placed in foster care? Protection gone just like that. Maybe to some that wouldn't seem like such a big deal because Voldypop wasn't powerful yet/looking for Harry for most of his childhood, but Dumbledore is obviously a guy who keeps himself covered.

        • booksinbulk says:

          Also regarding why Dumbledore didn't do a BIT more to prepare Harry, I am also at a loss and agree with you on that.


        • Emily says:

          I always thought it was because Dumbledore always thought it was better to be traumatized than spoiled. Look what happened to him, and he survived in tact! But he probably looked at Grindelwald the golden boy and Tom Riddle the handsome, brilliant orphan to whom things always came so easily once his wizarding was known, and decided that what Harry needed protection from most of all was the fame that he would attract in the wizarding world. No wonder he tried to keep Harry as long as possible from thinking that he was "special."

          What Dumbledore said in 6 about the "apalling damage" inflicted on Dudley makes me think that he saw what the Dursley's were doing to Harry as a lesser evil than what they were doing to their own son.

          • Kiryn says:

            I agree with you here, Emily. Dumbledore's position in the world and in Harry's life is a hard place to be in. Because the fact of the matter is that Dumbledore HAS to think about 'the greater good'. He can't just do what's best for Harry, he has to do what's best for the world as a whole. Harry needed to grow, and unfortunately Dumbledore couldn't give him the luxury of time to do it. It's harsh, but that's life. We all have only really learned in our lives by suffering, and so as messed up as it sounds, Dumbledore has to let and (if you are so inclined) make Harry suffer so that he could be ready, so that he could live for as long as possible while he looked for a way for Harry to ultimately survive. And there are many conflicting opinions on this subject. And the answer stems from whether or not you like Dumbledore, it's as simple as that. If you hate Dumbledore and think he's a huge bastard, then that's going to be reflected. I personally like Dumbles, and I think he did the best he could in the cruel situation that he was given.

    • Erin says:

      The school ignoring Harry's abuse isn't even the only instance of this; it seems clear that both Snape and Sirius Black also suffered familial abuse that was evident to Harry when he saw them in memories and through his personal contact with them. There's also the weird situation with Neville – he's constantly feeling inferior to his parents (and it seems his relationship with his grandmother was one of fear and tension until he became a badass in the final book and it seems that she suddenly is proud of him – conditional pride, I guess) but in addition to that we know that the first time he showed magic it was because his Uncle dropped him off a balcony. Somehow these issues are never addressed by the school or the wizard world at large, no matter how much information people get about what's going on, it seems very much to be a 'not my business' thing. But it's disturbing, that's true.

      • Ruchira says:

        Neville's uncle dropping me was certainly bullying, but as for his grandmother- well, I think Augusta is frustrated with Neville because she's looking to find her son in him- it's not just a question of conditional pride, if Neville is affected by what has happened to his parents, Augusta too is affected by what has happened to her son and daughter-in-law. And it's not solely a relation based on fear and tension either- she is a bit scary, definitely, but Neville does have normal interactions with her- he tells her about school and stuff- which is why she knows what exactly her grandson thinks about his various classmates like Harry and Hermione (Christmas in the Closed Ward, OotP). And I think Neville's turning badass from towards the end of OotP.

    • Meltha says:

      I think we may get a little glimpse into how the Dursleys would have handled any school inquiries in POA. When Marge starts asking about his school, they claim that Harry is out of his mind and horribly violent. If someone noticed bruises at school or most other signs of abuse, they'd probably just say poor, sweet Dudley was only defending himself from that awful, terrible boy, probably spreading around a load of rumors at the same time. If people hear a false story often enough, they start to believe it's true (as was the case with Harry and the Daily Prophet and Rita Skeeter).

  12. Openattheclose says:

    Another review today? I am super excite!

    <img src=>

    • jonni13 says:

      that'll be a good one for the Doctor Who party!!

    • Tasneemoo says:

      LOVE the gif.
      does anyone else think matt smith has an unnaturally large orehead?
      tbh though, it is kind of growing on me 🙂

      • ThreeBooks says:

        I know right? In the Eleventh Hour I was like "what the hell is up with his face" but by the end of the Time of Angels I was like "d'aawww his smile is so adorable <3<3<3"

        • Openattheclose says:

          I didn't think he was hideous or anything, but I don't think I really thought of him as attractive at all \until I saw The Lodger. Yum. I think it was the footie that did it. Or the towel scene.

          • Tasneemoo says:

            those scenes were epic 🙂 i think the footie scenes turned me too! that episode was a rare gem, unlike any other dr.who episode, i was pretty impressed!

  13. ladylarla says:

    I just always thought, hey Uncle Vernon's behaving as crazy as he thinks most people are, I did love the attempts he made to prevent Harry from seeing the letters, as crazy and disturbing as they were you have to admit the hilarity factor was massive.

    And yay Hagrid time… Mark you have to tell us if Hagrid from Chapter 4 continued to live up to your "dreams" through the series, now that you're back at the start!

    • pennylane27 says:

      Oh the image of Vernon tearing half his moustache off is always hilarious for me, and I think that after all this is a children's book, the fact that we can read so much into it either shows that JKR is a genius or that we are all deranged fans.

      • ladylarla says:

        “Oh, these peoples minds work in strange ways, Petunia, they’re not like you and me,” said Uncle Vernon, trying to knock in a nail with the piece of fruitcake Aunt Petunia had just brought him. and later humming "Tiptoe through the Tulips " was pretty much the clincher in hilarity for me. I absolutely love how this was a childrens book and yet you could read so much into it, and more and more as the series progressed.

        Im going to go with the lady is a genius and we are "devoted" fans 😉

  14. kajacana says:

    The rock-in-the-ocean thing comes across as just silly and ridiculous in the film, but yeah, now that you point it out, in the book it's downright creeptastic. WHO DOES THAT, SERIOUSLY?!?!
    I hate the Dursleys too. Not Dudley so much, because he's (at this point) just a child following after his parents and eventually gets some redemption. And I don't hate them as much as I hate Voldemort, because their cruelty comes from ignorance while Voldemort is just Pure Selfish Evil For Evil's Sake. Vernon is an ass, but the world is full of asses. (Um… you know what I mean.) Voldemort is a different breed altogether. And yes, I suppose you could make an argument that the former is in fact worse than the latter — that's where things like classism, racism, and all the -isms come in — but I feel like Vernon would have more of a chance of seeing the error of his ways than Voldemort would. Just my thoughts.

  15. blessthechildren says:

    I am reading a mix of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games right now, and I am going to have nightmares UNTIL THE END OF TIME. Inferi and Tracker Jackers – what the hell is next? Somehow I think Hagrid coming to us will make it all better. *wibble* :c

  16. Kate Monster says:

    “Should we write back?” Tell them we don’t want—“

    Petunia, you didn’t have such good luck the last time you did that.


    ilu mark, thanks for blowing my mind today.

  17. Lesley says:

    "'Vernon,' Aunt Petunia was saying in a quivering voice, 'look at the address—how could they possibly know where he sleeps? You don’t think they’re watching the house?'"

    I just feel like the Dursleys' driving force in this (and most) chapters is simple paranoia. I'm not sure I 100% agree that in the above quote, Petunia's scared that Dumbledore will find out she's mistreating Harry–at least, I don't think that's ALL she's scared of.

    I mean, the Dursleys know that they have Harry now because someone killed his parents. They (most likely) know that the same person tried to kill him. So in their minds, they're harboring a fugitive. And someone sending very-specifically-addressed letters could very well be an assassin that's staking out the house, planning to take them all out.

    And even if they do realize that letters with a Hogwarts seal are simply inviting Harry to come to wizard school, it's likely they're afraid that allowing a practicing wizard into their house will make them a lightning rod for evil magical-murder activities.

    It's fear, plain and simple.


    • rin says:

      I agree! Your comment reminded me of PoA when Sirius appears on the muggle news as an escaped prisoner. Straight away Petunia is scared and whips around to stare out the window or something.

      Thinking about it, her only experience with the wizarding world is through Lily. And all she really knows is that Lily went to be part of that world and was murdered, by a killer who would come after Harry if he wasn't kept safe at the Dursleys'. I'm sure the wizarding world seemed pretty magical to Petunia when she was a kid (before she felt rejected by it) but now it must seem awful and frightening.

      • Nibor says:

        Now I wonder if Petunia knew about Sirius. It seems logical that they may have met at James and Lily's wedding. I doubt that she'd pay attention to Wizard news and know about his murder charges.

        • pennylane27 says:

          I doubt that she went to the wedding at all. 😉

          • Lesley says:

            I have a feeling her RSVP card was in the "no" pile.

          • Nibor says:

            Well, Petunia was on ugly vase giving terms with her sister, and the Dursleys knew that Harry existed so they had some contact. I assume that Petunia had to know something about her sisters' life.

            • Kiryn says:

              True, but I don't know how much that would extend to bothering to remembering anything about James. And plus, Sirius was really unrecognizable in his wanted posters when compared to the younger him. And anyway, you can give people vases without having to see the person. I think she met James, but I don't see why she would have met Sirius.

              • Penquin47 says:

                She may not ever have met Sirius, but it's entirely probable that Lily sent something about Harry's birth (and christening/baptism, if they were religiously inclined) that could have mentioned his godfather. Or Lily could have talked about some stupid/brilliant prank pulled by the Marauders at dinner over the holidays. Or ranted about some fool tried to kill her best friend. I find it more likely than not that Petunia had at least heard of Sirius, but YMMV.

    • Hieronymus Graubart says:

      But Petunia should remember that no assassin (or dementor) could enter her home, because Harry was protected at this place. Dumbledore explained this in the letter he left with baby Harry, and refers to it in the howler he sends in OotP.

      At the end of OotP Dumbledore explaines to Harry that this magic only works because Petunia agreed to give Harry this protection (nonverbally, just by taking him in), so she must have known. At least this is what I seem to remember.

  18. FlameRaven says:

    You know… this brings up another point about questionable morality in the Wizarding world that came up when Book 6 came out. Love Potions are all over the place in Book 6, and even though they're obviously frowned upon, they're not illegal, I don't think. And yet they're basically equivalent to a date rape drug. I remember people questioning why that aspect wasn't taken more seriously.

    And now I'm wondering… did the protection Harry got by staying at the Dursley's house really justify sending him back there for the summers? The wizarding world seems to be unaware of Harry's treatment until he shows up at Hogwarts, but after that, at least some of the teachers (and definitely Dumbledore) seem to know what happened to him. Especially after what… book 2? Where he was imprisoned in his room and starved? Even though it gets slightly better as Harry ages… why didn't anyone question this? If a normal kid is being abused and neglected by his parents, they remove the kid from his abusers and hopefully jail the parents. Why does the wizarding world seem less bothered by this? Was it really necessary to send Harry back for such a long time? If he only needs to spend time there once a year, why not go home only for a weekend or week and then spend summers with someone else?

    I feel like as complex as the Wizarding world is supposed to be, it should think a little harder about these issues.

    • pennylane27 says:

      Now that I think about it, love potions are just as bad as the Imperius Curse, aren't they?

      You know, I was just saying something like that about Dumbledore and all that in one of the comments above. How come Dumbledore waited until HBP to give the Dursleys a piece of his brilliant mind? To be fair, after Harry finds out he's a wizard he does spend less time at Privet Drive, but why Dumbledore had to wait 10 years to let Harry learn the truth is beyond me. Did he assume that the Dursleys had told him the truth? Wasn't he checking on him through Arabella Figg? TOO MANY QUESTIONS!

      • FlameRaven says:

        Ms. Figg says that she was checking up on Harry and that's why she gave him a hard time; if the Dursleys knew she treated him okay they wouldn't have sent him to her. But I mean… Harry was apparently skin and bones, always wearing ratty clothes that were way too big for him, and it seems reasonable she might have noticed that none of the other local kids spent time with him. Did… did these signs not cause any concern? Figg seems to have some knowledge of what the Dursleys were like, since there seems to be a lot of gossip and the neighborhood seems to know what they're like. It would seem like she would get some idea that Harry was being treated really poorly. Why did the wizarding world decide not to intervene? Or failing that, even if they wanted to keep him from discovering his talents, why not have a teacher or other figure stop in once or twice a year? Pretend it's a friend of his parents or another relative? The Dursleys couldn't keep them out, it would have kept better tabs on how Harry was, and might have made his life less miserable. Why did anyone think it was a good idea to drop a kid on these magic-hating relatives and then cut all contact for ten years?

        • theanagrace says:

          "Why did anyone think it was a good idea to drop a kid on these magic-hating relatives and then cut all contact for ten years?"

          Part of the reasoning behind that may have been to protect Harry. It's mentioned in one of the books, not positive where, that after Voldemort was "defeated" by Harry the first time there was confusion as to exactly who had been under the Imperious curse and who had genuinely been a Death Eater. Lucius Malfoy was never convicted because he claimed he had been Imperioused.

          Anyways, long story short, they couldnt be sure how many of Voldemort's followers remained, and were still loyal enough to the cause to murder the small child responsible for destroying their leader. It could have been potentially dangerous for easily recognizable Hogwarts teachers visiting the home of a muggle family that has no apparent connection to magic. Petunia wouldn't have been well known in the wizarding world, she actively shunned it, pretending her sister didn't exist. I don't see Lily discussing something so personal and painful with the neighbors.

          Visiting Harry while he was growing up could have blown the small amount of camouflage he had gained by being raised a muggle.

          That's my theory, I don't see Minerva keeping her mouth shut about Harry's treatment all those years unless she genuinely thought it could endanger him. She saw from the very first day exactly how the Dursleys were.

          Make sense? I kinda derailed my own thought-train, so I'm not sure how coherent this is.

          • Kiryn says:

            Your thought-train is coherent, and it makes sense. That's one of the factors in what I think happened.

          • Openattheclose says:

            Not just the Death Eaters claiming Imperius. The Lestranges, Crouch, and Sirius (they had to have already thought he betrayed the Potters, even if Hagrid's comments in the first chapter are kind of confusing) hadn't been arrested yet when Dumbledore made this decision. If Bellatrix and Crouch hadn't gone after the Longbottoms, who do you think would have been next on their list? Actually, they probably went after the Longbottoms because they COULDN'T get to Harry, which just makes the whole thing even more sad.

            • Kiryn says:

              This entire series is filled with complete and utter tragedy in the lives of every single character. I mean, we are at a vantage point where we can see the whole web of their lives, think of the decisions that could have prevented this or that from happening…it makes me want to weep into my pillow forever. I mean, count how many peoples' lives have been ruined in only a few days, and will be ruined within the year: James, Lily, Harry, Sirius, Remus, Frank, Alice, Neville, Augusta Longbottom, Severus, the Dursleys even, and the list goes on. Thanks JKR, for illustrating to us just how thoroughly life can suck.

      • bookling says:

        I think it's implied that most love potions are pretty weak and will just make you act like a bit of an idiot for a short time, but you're right that a strong love potion would be pretty bad. It's like the way Merope made Tom Riddle fall in love with her, and she couldn't even live with herself afterwards, knowing that she'd forced him into it.

        • FlameRaven says:

          Well… drugs/alcohol make you act like an idiot for a short period of time, but that doesn't stop people from taking advantage of you during that time. Thus why the discussion I saw likened love potions to date rape drugs– if a person is hopelessly infatuated with you they're not going to resist you.

          I don't know, maybe in a world where you can casually hex or curse people and it's treated like a joke because it's fixable this is okay, but it still seems like a problem to me.

          • bookling says:

            True, true. But then, Harry also got Hagrid and Slughorn drunk in HBP in order to get the memory. It's not something that anyone in the book really seems concerned about. Except for maybe Hermione getting indignant about Harry slipping Ron Felix Felicis, but then as Harry points out, it's not like Hermione has never done anything similar. If anything, I think we're meant to question it.

          • Tabbyclaw says:

            I am going to out myself as a massive dork here (like there was any doubt), but this is actually a recurring problem that I had with Kim Possible. There were something like five incidences of mind control/emotional manipulation technology in the run of the show, and only one was treated like a bad thing no matter who messed with it (while the others were only bad because the villains had them, but when the heroes got hold of a couple that was just a punchline). Hell, the fandom's favorite episode is mostly about Kim and Shego being accientally manipulated into aggressive lust (and later just aggression) towards Ron and Drakken respectively, and there are no consequences for anyone.

      • Thompa says:

        I can't believe I'm just now realising that Merope genuinely raped Tom Riddle.

        That is just so wrong.

        • Kiryn says:

          Huh. I never really thought about it in those terms either. But I think that's because I know that she suffers the consequences of her actions, and she's suffered so much else, that I can't really be mad at her or think about it in harsher terms. Like with so much else, this whole thing doesn't make me angry, just infinitely sad.

    • feanna says:

      One interpretation of why Dumbledore (because it was ultimately up to him) left Harry with the Dursleys for so long, is that he knew what the abuse would do to Harry and that this effect fit into his plans. This doesn't really cast Dumbledore in a good light, but then he turns out to be a difficult person in book 7 and his own childhood might warp his views on what Harry could be expected to endure. Also, the entire Wizarding world doesn't really seem to have a good handle on mental health. So maybe Harry was left there because besides it keeping him alive it would make him more attached to his "rescuers" and more likely to be the kind of person to lay down his life in the end. Because I still think his motivations for that are not the ones of a mentally healthy person, entirely, it obviously works out, and Dumbledore's plan means they win, but Dumbledore's plan never seemed to me to be based on what's best for Harry personally. That Dumbledore became attached to Harry happened long after the plan was put in motion.

      • notemily says:

        Also, the entire Wizarding world doesn't really seem to have a good handle on mental health.

        This cracked me up. The Wizarding world: it be crazy.

        But yeah, Dumbles knew who the Dursleys were. When McGonagall protests, saying they're the worst kind of Muggle or whatever, Dumbledore says he wants Harry to grow up not being a celebrity. I think Dumbledore knows already that Harry will have to endure hardship in order to face the challenges he's going to have to face. It's kind of an asshole thing to do, but Dumbledore was kind of a manipulative bastard. (And also awesome, depending on the circumstance.)

  19. curiousGirl says:

    although it does make me wonder how Petunia "explained" to Vernon about her "freakish" sister. When they were dating? When they were married? Or did Vernon always come to visit and just saw for himself.. hmmmm..

  20. bookling says:

    Is anyone else reminded of Matilda when they read SS? Poor Harry, being abused by his aunt and uncle for being special. Just like Matilda, who was abused by her parents for actually wanting to read books and for being special. (Matilda was one of my childhood heroes, by the way.) And Harry's cupboard always makes me think of that closet Miss Trunchbull would put the bad children in. *shudder* Vernon and Aunt Marge also remind me of Miss Trunchbull.

    • pennylane27 says:

      I'm giving you major points for posting this.

      Also Marge and Miss Trunchbull are played BY THE SAME ACTRESS! I just googled this, because they seemed like the same person! Her name is Pam Ferris, poor woman always has horrible characters.

      • bookling says:


        Poor woman, yes, but she's a great actress because she really makes me HATE her characters!

      • andreah1234 says:


        Don't you love searching random facts on google?!?!? LOL <3

    • andreah1234 says:


    • corporatecake says:

      Matilda was my favorite book as a kid so I definitely see the resemblance! It definitely shows up in other works, too. The sucky grown ups is a well-used trope.

      • bookling says:

        Yes, but I feel like Rowling's writing style is actually very similar to Dahl's. They both do dark childrens' books that really have a lot of violence but also a lot of humor. A lot of JKR's "bad guys" are kind of exaggerated and cartoonish — Uncle Vernon, Aunt Marge, Gilderoy Lockhart, Rita Skeeter. Even Draco Malfoy is, in the first book, a little bit Veruca Salt. I don't feel like you see these kinds of characters very many places.

        • notemily says:

          The trope of horrible parents (or caretakers, teachers etc.) is especially present in Dahl's works, I agree. And they always have something horrible happen to them in the end. Like the giant peach rolling over James's two horrible aunts. In Rowling, she often does this too–Umbridge and the centaurs, Lockhart and the memory charm that backfired.

          Adults in Dahl's works are all either terrible or saintly, like Miss Honey or the dad in Danny the Champion of the World. JKR has more complex characters, but she still draws on some of Dahl's character types, I think. Which is great!

        • notemily says:

          Oh, and they're also both EXCELLENT character namers. Miss Trunchbull!

    • Joanie says:

      For sure. The similarities are there but with some humour in it. I loved reading Matilda and other Dahl books growing up.

    • theanagrace says:

      Ugh! The chokie! That was the most terrifying thing ever.
      But the chocolate cake scene from the movie upset me more, for some reason.

      • hazelwillow says:

        I agree. The chocolate cake was infinitely more disturbing than the chokie. And I think I'm just remembering the book.

    • Lesley says:

      Matilda was the first chapter book I ever read. I think every book I've read since has been measured against it.

      Oh, you Brits, with your whimsical tales of precocious children and institutionalized abuse.

    • hassibah says:

      Or the aunts in James and the Giant Peach, or the Twits. Roald Dahl disliked a lot of adults!
      Yes I totes agree on Rowling and Dahl having tons of similarities, in the early books at least. Gradually, and after GoF esp she turned their more catoonish aspects down and pretty much everything got pretty serious business and she started trying to make us understand all these people I was totes happy to just hate and throw off a cliff.

      • bookling says:

        Yes! I actually never read The Twits, but I read James and the Giant Peach and agree about that one. Even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is pretty dark! Matilda will always be my favorite Dahl book, though. The scene where she goes off to the library with her little wagon and signs up for her own library card and then brings home a wagonful of books was MY FAVORITE THING EVER.

        • hassibah says:

          I don't even think I have a favourite, I also like Danny, Champion of the World which isn't really related thematically but it wasn't mentioned yet so I might as well! Matilda has a special place in my heart though because she just destroys everybody by outsmarting them, uh not that they'd ever publish a children's book where she used her powers to bludgeon bullies to death anyways but you know what I mean! But yeah I always thought Dahl was pretty subversive for the way he always doled out some pretty nasty retribution to shitty people, not to mention it's pretty satisfying even if it's way more realistic that people like the Malfoys would just manage to bribe and bully their way into never having to deal with any consequences for their doucheyness.

          Re: darkness this is OT but the original drawings in Charlie and the Chocolate factory used to creep me the hell out when I was little.

        • notemily says:

          I read James and the Giant Peach in the same children's literature class as I first read Harry Potter, and my teacher pointed out that James's full name is JAMES HENRY TROTTER. Kind of a similarity to HARRY JAMES POTTER, y/y??

      • Ruchira says:

        Not to mention the bullying in school in Dahl's 'Boy'. But then that was autobiographical. Dahl did hate a lot of adults.

    • flaviageminia says:

      absolutely. and JKR writing the Dursley's like she did, like Dahl villans, i think is partly why i never really felt strong hatred or fear towards them. keeping a kid in the cupboard? its almost as outlandish as twirling a girl over your head by her pigtails and launching her into a vegetable patch. it's like Matilda says: the more over-the-top outrageous you are (in literature, anyway. especially children's literature) the less it's believed or taken seriously. same principle with cartoons, really.

    • hazelwillow says:

      Yes, this is along the lines of what I was going to post! I agree! Matilda! 🙂

      Okay, all this talk about how evil the Dursleys are. They ARE, I agree. But I can't help thinking the Dursleys are following in a huge (HUGE!) tradition of cartoonishly horrible, darkly funny, cruel adults in British children's literature. (Roald Dahl is a brilliant example). There's a streak of dark, cynical humour throughout Harry Potter that strikes me as very British. For instance, the arguably horrible but just rewards that characters get (Lockhart, for instance), the caricature of the Evil Teacher (Snape, in the first book, anyway). It's very fairy-tale (I'm talking about the real Brothers Grimm, not the Disney type) –Snow White's evil stepmother-queen having to dance in magical red hot shoes till she fell down dead comes to mind. We accept these things because they're part of a larger-than-life genre. Because of this, I've always half-read the Dursleys as an exaggeration. I get that they were horrible and abusive to Harry, but after reading the later books I kind of imagine the Dursleys in my head being more subtle than they are in the early books. Does that make sense?

      I think the weird thing about Harry Potter is that as Harry grows, it switches genres. It starts as a larger-than-life fairy tale and turns into something a lot more realist, a serious quest narrative thingy. And all the fairy-tale cariacatures (the Horribly Evil Teacher Who Totally HATES you for No Reason, the Evil Step Parents, the Kindly Old Wizard, etc.) turn out to actually be real people. The fairy tale turns out to be real, and of course that is terrifying (Voldemort!), and more complicated (Snape's backstory), but it also doesn't stop it from being a fairy tale (Snape's backstory turns him into a real person but he's still the Evil Teacher who Totally Hates you More Than They Should).

      And then there are those characters that never change, like Hagrid (friendly giant), and Dobby… by the end they seem more over the top then everything else in their world, it's a bit odd.

      In many kids books the kids go on crazy magical adventures but then in the end they come back to reality and everything's normal and they're maybe not even sure it really happened (this always happens in Mary Poppins, although she tends to give you a tiny hint that it did actually happen…), and sometimes the kids even FORGET what happened to them, and you can tell it's all supposed to be this metaphor for playing or imagination or something. Or childhood. When it's over you forget. Something like that. But Harry Potter doesn't do that, and THAT is what I loved most about it when I read it for the very first time.

      /end of rant.

    • notemily says:

      Oh man, the Dursleys are a LOT like Matilda's parents! I never made that connection before. I don't think of the cupboard as like the one in the book, though–Umbridge is more like Trunchbull to me. I think she'd approve of that closet with the spikes and such.

      I do think that both books share a sort of sensibility with regards to abuse at home and at school, though. Obviously it's more exaggerated in Matilda, but it's there. Maybe it's a British thing.

  21. andreah1234 says:

    Two reviews AND ONE OF THEM ABOUT HARRY FREAKING POTTER?!??!?!?!? WIIIIIIIII *happy dance*

    I remember when I first read this chapter, I really hated the Dursleys, I mean the first chapters I though meh they are just super annoying, and it was this chapter that made truly hate them for the first time. You just don't do to a child what this people did to Harry, and it's not just that, what Vernon did to his own family, it is totally awful that his hate for Harry (who has done nothing to him, NOTHING AT ALL) would take him to such a extremes for him to drag his family to the middle of nowhere by a simple act of ignorance. Of course at the time I was way to small to actually produce such a coherent response to this acts so my only answer to it was "the Dursleys are YUCKY!!" (I was a really smart and thoughtful child), but then again this works too.

    • pennylane27 says:

      I wonder what you said in Spanish instead of yucky, I said something along the lines of "por queeee son taaan maaalooos con Harryyy?!"

      • andreah1234 says:

        It was something along the lines of "Esos asquerositos *norrow eyes*" which, funny as it is, very alike yucky.

        • pennylane27 says:


          • andreah1234 says:

            OMG I TOTALLY DID SAY THAT. And it's actually a funny story because when I said it my mom and grandma were in the room, and my mom scold me for saying it but when she realize I was talking to the book she went "WTF O.o", turned to my grandma and told her "Well at least she's reading", and we never spoke of it again.

  22. pennylane27 says:

    I was just thinking, do you think that when JKR wrote this she imagined she would have such a rabid fanbase demanding to know all this stuff?

    Hey, let's write her a letter! "Dear Jo, please, do tell us why the wizarding community, i.e. Dumbledore, didn't do something about the Harry Potter malnutrition, abuse and bullying situation? *insert here every question we've been asking for the last couple of hours or so*"

    • corporatecake says:

      I think Dumbledore simply valued Harry's physical well-being over his emotional well-being and having a happy childhood.

      Which is really sad. :\ But I don't think that Dumbledore was a "do things half way" kind of guy.

      • pennylane27 says:

        But he did care about his well-being. In OotP when he's finally getting down to some explaining, he says that when Harry arrived he didn't look as well-nourished (and I can't remember what else) as he had wished. When he talks to the Dursleys in HBP he says something like he had asked Petunia in his letter to raise him as a son (I can't remember the exact words).

        I mean, of course that in the long-run I prefer Harry to be safe from Voldemort, and he didn't turn out so messed up after all, but still.

        • corporatecake says:

          Well, I know that Dumbledore would have preferred to have it both ways, but I'm sure that people who weren't as hell-bent on his MUST BE UNDER HIS MOTHER'S PROTECTION, WHERE NO HARM CAN COME TO HIM wouldn't see compromising a little bit of chance that Harry might be hurt so that he could live with a wizarding family that just had really, really good spells up around their house to be an unfair trade.

        • FlameRaven says:

          Well, that's why I originally asked if the protection he gets is really a fair-trade off for those years of abuse and neglect. I don't think it was.

          Personally I think Dumbledore was playing a very dangerous game. It's pretty much sheer luck that Harry turned out as well-adjusted as he did. I think if this weren't fiction he may have turned out much more damaged (like Snape was) and who's to say that that wouldn't have tipped the balance and put him in Slytherin instead? He already had a good chance of ending up in Slytherin because of his connection to Voldemort. If he'd had a worse life or hadn't been told Slytherin was bad, maybe he WOULD have wanted the extra power or influence– a strong temptation for someone who's never had any power or control his whole life. Then everyone would have been rather screwed. :/

          (Alternately, that could be the set up for a really neat piece of fanfic.)

    • andreah1234 says:

      And Why hasn't this happen yet? Has to be done. like whoa.

  23. phoebe says:

    i hope you saw that picture of you as your leather daddy boyfriend. (btw every time i see him "leather daddy" is all i think. You have successfully corrupted my mind :D)

  24. phoebe says:

    whats up with the new comment screening before it goes online?

  25. Joanie says:

    Oh, good ol' chapter four. I wasn't sure whether we'd be able to convert you or not.;)

  26. purplejilly says:

    when uncle vernon descended into madness in this chapter, and then took them out to the rock, I felt like the next step was going to be a murder-suicide thing – where vernon shoots them all then shoots himself. because siriously, that's how those people behave, right before they cross that line into the no turning back land..

    And it all just seemed a little much. for Vernon to go that far out of his way, take the family to a hotel, go to all that trouble and expense to keep Harry from getting his letter…wouldn't it make sense that they'd WANT him to go away? I would think Aunt Petunia would have been counting down the days until he turned 11, and that letter would come, and then he could go off to school and they were done with him for most of the year!!

    I know its been established that they like to be mean to Harry, and make him suffer, and keeping him from school would make him suffer, but Harry really wouldn't know. he'd never been to hogwarts so he wouldnt know what he was missing..

    • Andrew (Chagrin) says:

      In reality though, bad people act irrationally. That's entirely true to life.

      In the Dursleys' minds, if Harry went to school and learned magic, he could turn it against them. Because people expect others to do to them what they would do to others.

      • Kiryn says:

        Yep. Look at Tom Riddle. Look what he did once he got magic and the power that goes along with it. The Dursleys are just lucky that Harry's a good person, and better than them to sink to their level.

    • corporatecake says:

      There's one point in the series (I think it's the next chapter where Hagrid shows up, but don't quote me on that) where Vernon says that they tried to squash the magic out of him, or something to that effect. They don't want to a wizard in the family. They think that if they run away, they can pretend that Harry is just a normal Muggle kid and they won't have to be associated with magic.

  27. Emily says:

    I always feel a little sorry for Vernon at this point. It seems clear that the world is just too vast and complicated a place for him to handle – take him out of his little box where he can control everything, and he snaps.

  28. Clare-with-earmuffs says:

    When I first read this chapter, I didn't find it as humorous as the previous chapters. I started reading HP after the first movie came about because I was intrigued (and eleven years old at that time, so, 'hey, I could get a letter to Hogwarts' was my thought at that time). I actually began with CoS because it was the easiest one to get hold of and I didn't have a cut-and-dried clear picture of the abuse Harry went through yet. As an eleven-year-old, the movie was somewhat vague in those details.

    When I actually read PS, I remember being horrified at the Dursleys ('What if my parents/relatives do these things to me? A cupboard! I can't play in a cupboard! It's small!') and simultaneously amused by the other things happening, like the trip to the zoo, the random people saying hello to Harry, the way Harry's magic defied his relatives most times. JK is able to write bizzare scenes well and makes them funny.

    But when I reached this chapter, I was honestly afraid of Uncle Vernon. Here is a grown, temperamental man being slowly driven mad by magical events that won't ever stop until Harry receives his letter. I remember yelling, 'Just give him the bloody letter already!' because whatever is in it must be better than Uncle Vernon going mad. But he didn't and instead decided to move far, far away. He didn't even consult his wife and son, never mind Harry. Then he bought a bloody gun</i> and brought them on a hut atop a rock in the middle of the sea. Honestly, I was frightened.

    It's only years later did I think that Vernon is absolutely terrifying and possibly capable of doing so much more if the letters had continued arriving. I always wonder what sort of abuse Harry would have suffered if he'd not gone to Hogwarts. They were willing to starve and lock away Harry. I reckon they hit him at times, too, though nothing too serious.

    Still, I always thought it was brave of Rowling to actually tackle abuse in her stories. It's a brilliant way to have people sympathise with Harry, and clearly differentiate him from Voldemort who had a similar childhood but for Harry to turn out so nice and brave and good.

    I really thank Merlin that Hagrid came and saved Harry from Uncle Vernon's madness 🙂

    • Tabbyclaw says:

      God, I am such an American. Half a lifetime of devouring British literature and television — including several detective shows — and I still have to remind myself occasionally that yes, it is really rare, difficult, and usually illegal for someone to get their hands on a gun in England.

      • Claretts says:

        That's why rereading this chapter makes my skin crawl, that Vernon was mad enough to buy a gun in a place where it is bloody illegal to own one.

        • kytten says:

          Not- illegal, but controlled. To own a gun in tthe UK, you have to do several things.
          1: Join a gun club
          2: prove you can use a gun safely
          3: ahve a safe place to keep it. Probably your gun glub
          4: persuade your local chief of police that you have a good reason for private gun ownership and are not a risk with it. Good luck with that one, the only people the police say 'ok' to is themselves and farmers, pretty much. You CERTAINLY wouldn't get to own one in a city.

  29. gredandforge says:

    Omgsh! There's a high chance I failed my Organic Chemistry final this morning, and checking your website and seeing a new HP re-read review made me so happy, almost makes up for the horrible morning 🙂 time to read the actual review lol!

  30. Kiryn says:

    You know, I've never really given this chapter (or this part of the book) as much thought as I have others. I think this is because it doesn't focus on my top five favorite characters (though Harry is like number 6), and because too often (as we've seen the beginnings of it above) it turns into an 'I hate Dumbledore' war. And so, since I prefer to avoid conflicts like this, I tend to focus on other parts of the story. Besides, I have no real experiences to compare to Harry's life (thank God) except for being something of an outcast when I was younger and thought to be weird, because I read so many books in elementary school. So mostly this part fills me with sadness, and the knowledge that I'd rather skip on in the story to when he goes to Hogwarts and I can be content when my favorite characters appear to love them.

  31. jennreyn says:

    Let today be known as the day you unleashed the words that ruined everyone's childhood onto the internet: "Leather daddy boyfriend Hagrid."

    Also, Dudley is about a month older than Harry. On a similar note, a random thought I had the other day that maybe someone could answer, because I'm sure we know but I can't remember: Petunia was older than Lily, yes? I only ask because it struck me (lol because the fact isn't RIGHT THERE IN YOUR FACE when he visits the grave in DH) that Lily was only 20 when Harry was born.

  32. LunaKyria says:

    OH!!!! I meant to do this on the last chapter so you could laugh when you read it in this one….
    This is only quoting from my head but I'm pretty sure it's accurate;
    " "No post on Sundays," said Uncle Vernon, as he spread marmalade on his newspapers. "
    Read it again.
    " …as he spread marmalade on his newspapers. "
    It took me YEARS to notice it – you tend to automatically skip over it – but it's there. ^^

  33. Dementress says:

    Can we have a Blingee of "Leather Daddy Boyfriend Hagrid"?

    "Petunia, you didn’t have such good luck the last time you did that."

    Hoshit MIND BLOWN.

    Also, can't wait for the AVPM liveblog! You better announce the liveblog a week beforehand, Mark. Give us a couple of days to spam the StarkidPotter Facebook page for some new participants. 😀

  34. Shelby says:

    I'm sure someone has brought this up, but the over exaggeration of the Dursleys is very reminiscent of Roald Dahl and other British writers of childrens' books. If you read some of his autobiographical works, the idea makes a lot more sense… the problem is, you are reading this book through the eyes of an adult and not those of a child. Dahl actually discusses this in his writings. It is especially obvious with Matilda (parental abuse), but the exaggerated situations of despair can also be seen in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (poverty), The Witches (omg that book still scares me), and George's Marvelous Medicine (yeah he basically poisons his grandmother because she's evil).

  35. mugglemomof2 says:

    "Next up: The introduction of my astral plane, leather daddy boyfriend Hagrid. Also known as the moment I started falling in love with the Harry Potter series."

    I love this so much!

  36. JessicaR says:

    Wow, Petunia is really lucky, she found a husband just as awful as her! While I do feel her pain about wanting to join the wizarding world then being “rejected” that does not excuse the way she and Vernon treated Harry. >:|

    • Tasneemoo says:

      it's true, she shouldn't have held a grudge for THAT long. But I don't think I can ever forgive Vernon, I mean why does he have to hate wizards? He has not reason to yet he decided to take it upon himself to hate them anyway. :/ Pathetic really.

  37. Laura says:

    You're totally right to hate the Dursleys. They are horrible people, and nothing can excuse them, or redeem them.

    However, I don't hate them. Not actively. Because, well, we don't see a whole lot of them. They are the opening of every book, and they're really not nice. But when you put them next to Voldemort, and all the energy it requres to go on hating him, there simply isn't enough for the Dursleys. They're not worth it.

  38. Stephanie says:
    Everyone should go check this out. It's a petition by the Harry Potter Alliance to Time Warner trying to get all chocolates that are marketed with Harry's name to be fair trade. Please go sign it!

  39. sami says:

    Hi there Mark.

    I've never commented on one of your blogs before because I've never had a buzznet or wordpress account but I was just wondering, have you read the short Harry Potter prequel J.K wrote about James and Sirius?
    If I remember correctly she wrote it for some kind of charity but I'm not sure, its easy enough to find via google though.

    Happy reading (:

  40. halfbreedlover says:

    Having grown up reading Roald Dahl, and being familiar with families like the Wormwoods and James Trotter's aunts, I really didn't think the Dursleys were that bad. A child growing up with abusive guardians is a common trope in children's literature. Look at Cinderella who basically became a slave in her own house, look at Snow White who's stepmom tried to kill her, and look at Annie from Little Orphan Annie- who was actually beaten with a paddle in one scene. In one version of the story, Hansel and Gretel were thrown out of their home by their stepmom. I could think of many more.

    The Dursley's behavior was never that shocking compared to some of these other stories. They all seemed to come out of the same tradition.

    • hazelwillow says:

      I agree. as I said somewhere in the thick forest above, what's different about Harry Potter is that it grows out of that genre as the books go on, so your expectations about how realistic/exaggerated things will be changes too… and then you go back to the beginning and you start to take it much more literally than you did the first time. I sort of justify it in my head by assuming the Dursleys are a bit exaggerated!

  41. JaneMarple9 says:

    I really enjoyed this chapter, especailly Vernon's classic line "No Post on Sundays". Dudley is only about a month older than Harry is. It is weird, the way Petunia suggests writing to the school, after she failed on her appeal when she was younger.
    I am thinking Petunia never even mentioned her sister to Vernon until she was married.

  42. hazelwillow says:

    I got this message… "Your comment must be approved by the site admins before it will appear publicly;" does anyone know why this sometimes happens and not other times?


    • notemily says:

      I got it when I put in a certain word that starts with P and ends with N and has an OR in the middle. I think it's just screening for spammers. Don't talk about that thing that everyone is always accusing Obama of, too, because it has the name of a certain product in it.

  43. Laura says:

    Ok I agree. The Dursley's suck in every way. But they are Rowling's first tool for showing how Harry is growing up, if nothing else. And despite their general uselessness in their upbringing of Harry, they are protecting Harry from Voldemort. Petunia is doing so knowingly. Remember in Book 3, when Marge (and even Harry) wonders why the Dursleys didn't just send Harry to an orphanage? That was Petunia. Harry needed to be with family, near the blood of Lily Potter. And Petunia, as negligent and stupid as she was, was not about to allow her sister's son be murdered by some madman, no matter how hurt or angry she was about the past. They were still sisters. If no one ever showed up to stop the abuse the Dursleys

  44. Yes, Petunia is totally worried that people will KNOW. That she's abused Harry. That her family isn't normal. That she envied Lily. That she is, on the inside, ugly and not gifted and not special, and other people are, and that… that isn't fair. That hurts.

  45. J. Visger says:

    As the mother of an “adult witch” who turned 17 (an adult in the wizarding world) there was nothing that would have delighted her more than a wand. Having started reading the series when she was in 2nd grade, she has quite grown up with Harry Potter. The wand was beautiful, crafted exceptionally, and the box was terrific!! She was very surprised and delighted and has designated it a an heirloom to the children she may have in the future.
    I looked at less expensive versions on ebay and other vendors, but we were more than satisfied with the communication, shipping time and overall quality of this product.
    Merry Christmas!!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  46. SymphonyOfRain says:

    Come to think of it, growing up with the Dursleys made Harry a much better person. It also prepared him for all those months camping near starvation. He is able to see the good side of people, and embraces it more than anyone else would. He doesn't go looking for the flaws, which he only notes when he's displeased with the person in question.

    And Dudley's birthday is right at the end of June. It's like, the 26th or the 28th or something.

    Anyone else notice that Harry Potter is one big, dramatic, impressive Cinderella-esque story?

  47. Dudley’s birthday is on June 30th. Yeah, it was more or less a month :/

    “Should we write back?” Tell them we don’t want—“
    Petunia, you didn’t have such good luck the last time you did that.

    But actually, this was the correct way of doing it. As Harry's guardians, had they written saying they didn't want Harry to go to Hogwarts, that's it.

    (Theoretically at least, I don't think Dumbledore would let that happen. But in any other case, that was it).

  48. Araxie says:

    Not sure if you know this, Mark, but after the final book was released, Jo claimed that Harry brought the family to visit the Dursleys for the holidays every year (much to James, Albus and Lily's collective reluctance). Goodness me, does that say a lot on how Harry eventually matured. Similarly, my mother is also in semi-frequent contact with her family, despite the fact that they themselves make very little effort at all.

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