“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself”

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter 17

Love Is More Powerful Than Hatred

In the final chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry meets Voldemort again and defeats him using Voldemort’s greatest weakness. If I had to boil the Harry Potter series down to one central theme it would be the idea that love is more powerful than hatred. Harry was initially protected from Voldemort because of his mother’s love and sacrifice for him. Now 10 years later that protection spell still runs through Harry’s veins, making him too painful for a weakened Voldemort to touch. Voldemort can never understand the power that love provides and it is always what allows Harry to get the better of him.

Harry continues to fight this fight throughout the series, not just to avenge his parents, but because of his love of the wizarding world and his need to protect it. It is his home, the only place that he has ever felt like he belonged, like he was wanted. This time when he looks through the Mirror of Erised, he doesn’t see his parents, but he sees himself holding the stone. He sees himself stopping Voldemort from having the stone and coming back to full strength. This is more important to him now than seeing his parents again. Voldemort on the other hand fights for revenge and power. This is why he can never win.

Dumbledore’s Plan for Harry

At the end of every Harry Potter book, there is a Dumbledore explains things chapter after Harry fights that books battle. In this first one the battle and the explanation are combined into one chapter. I generally really enjoy these chapters, they are packed with information and things to ponder in the coming books. Dumbledore explains that Quirrell did not get the stone, it will be destroyed, and that Voldemort is still alive. This was an attempt to come back to full power and Harry thwarted it, but he will certainly try again. Harry asks him why Voldemort wanted to kill him in the first place and Dumbledore basically tells him he isn’t ready to know that yet.

Later when Harry is talking to Ron and Hermione, he tells them that he thinks Dumbledore has known for a while that Harry knew about the stone and wanted to go after it. That he thinks Dumbledore gave him a chance to face Voldemort. Though we can’t really know if that is true or not, it does lead to the question of Dumbledore’s philosophy and plan for Harry. He gives Harry credit and the opportunity to prove himself when it comes to fighting Voldemort. But he is stingy with information. He will later claim this is because he wanted Harry to live as normally as possible for as long as possible. But it also feels like it is part of some larger plan he has for using Harry to defeat Voldemort. I do think Dumbledore truly cares for Harry but he also views him as a tool sometimes and is strategic with how he uses it.

Evaluation

And that wraps up The Sorcerer’s Stone! The final chapter definitely delivers. The reveal of Quirrell being the bad guy and not Snape is somewhat obvious, but for the intended audience it is probably shocking. I really noticed this time of reading through how much Quirrell is set up to be the bad guy. He is in every scene where Snape is looking suspicious. Harry overhears conversations between them that make Snape look guilty but it is mostly because Harry is going into it assuming Snape is the bad guy. What he overhears could, and does, have other meanings. The better reveal is that Voldemort is basically using Quirrell as a host. He is like a little parasite on the back of Quirrell’s head. When Voldemort can no longer use him, he leaves Quirrell to die.

Overall this book is a good introduction to the series. It sets up a lot of the major characters and themes. When Rowling wrote it she of course wouldn’t know if she was going to get to write the rest of the series so it works as both an introduction to the larger series but also could have stood alone had she not gotten the opportunity to do more. It ends with the idea that Voldemort will be trying again and of course there is so much that we still don’t know about him and Harry. Whenever I re-read the series I always view this book as sort of the intro I have to get through to get into the parts of the series I like more. Compared to the later books it feels somewhat shallow. A lot of the action is brushed over and it moves from scene to scene very quickly. After this the books get steadily longer which allows for more detail and a less rushed pace. They allow you to really live with the characters and get to know the wizarding world in a deeper way. But this book does serve as a good introduction to what is to come. I am excited to get started on Chamber of Secrets!

Miscellaneous

  • Dumbledore tells Harry that his dad and Snape were enemies but that his dad saved Snape’s life once and he has hated feeling indebted to him. This is why he felt the need to protect Harry this year. I feel this is a gross oversimplification of that entire situation.
  • “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it”
  • I liked that in the battle with Quirrell/Voldemort, Harry doesn’t really use magic. He doesn’t know enough yet to actually fight an adult wizard so he uses what is at his disposal. Harry is very intuitive and good at thinking on his feet. As soon as he realizes that it causes Quirrell pain to touch him, Harry uses it to weaken him.
  • Dumbledore couldn’t have helped Flamel with making the stone because Flamel is 600 years old, he would have made it long before Dumbledore was born. So what did they make together? The mirror?
  • I of course can’t leave this book without talking about Dumbledore’s House points tinkering. He conveniently gives the Gryffindor’s just enough points to go from last to first place, dethroning Slytherin. As a kid I probably thought this was a great moment, now I feel like it is really unfair. I am pretty sure after like the second book we stop even learning who wins the House Cup. Getting points deducted/rewarded continues throughout the series, but the awarding of the House Cup at the end I think is abandoned. I think it is added in these early books as a way to get a kind of happy, hopeful ending. Whereas in the later books, happy endings feel inappropriate.

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