Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
J. K. Rowling
Contributed by Sung Miele
Discussion Questions

Q: Harry and his friends worked together as a team to seek out the Sorcerer’s Stone. Although it was always going to be Harry that faced the ultimate test, he needed the others to reach the final chamber. What did the members of his team contribute to the success of their mission?

At the start, Harry takes the lead.  He is in charge and using the flute he received from Hagrid as a Christmas present, he calms the 3-headed dog, which falls asleep.  Heroically, he goes through the trapdoor followed by Ron and Hermione. They are trapped by the Devil’s Snare, and it is Hermione who frees them.  Her long hours of study and ploughing through numerous books have borne fruit. She is quickly able to draw on her wide knowledge and free the pair.

When they are faced with finding the right key amongst numerous flying shapes, it is Harry using his seeker skills, obtained through Quidditch training that spots the correct key. 

This enables the team to progress through to the chess game, and now Ron plays his part by taking charge of the game. As in most games of chess, sacrifices have to be made in order to win the struggle, and unselfishly, Ron sacrifices himself so that Harry and Hermione can continue the quest.

The next problem requires logic and again Hermione comes to the rescue and solves the riddle of the bottles.  She states that many a wizard doesn’t have an ounce of logic in them. 

Harry has to continue on his own, but he is only in this position due to the support from Ron and Hermione. Hermione’s parting words show that she is wise for she tells Harry, “There are more important things than books and cleverness!  Friendship and bravery, be careful!”

 

Q: The key to any good book is the use of succinct or precise phrases that with an economy of words convey to the reader the exact circumstances of any situation. These can be comic, descriptive or thought-provoking.  They can also set the scene or change the mood. Provide examples.

“Quidditch referees had been known to vanish and turn up months later in the Sahara Desert” – comic.

“The baby dragon flopped onto the table. It wasn’t exactly pretty ’’ it looked like a crumpled, black umbrella.  Its spiny wings were huge compared to its skinny jet body and it had a long snout with wide nostrils, stumps of horns and bulging orange eyes ’’ ‘Isn’t he beautiful?’ Hagrid murmured” – descriptive and comic.

“The truth.  It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.” – thought-provoking.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” – thought-provoking.

“A bush on the edge of the clearing quivered ’’ then, out of the shadows, a hooded figure came crawling across the ground like some stalking beast ’’ It reached the unicorn, it lowered its head over the wound in the animal’s side and began to drink its blood.” – tension-building.

“A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to the platform packed with people ’’ smoke from its engine drifted over the heads of the chattering crowd, while cats of every color wound here and there between their legs. Owls hooted to each other in a disgruntled sort of way over the babble and scraping of heavy trunks.” – setting the scene.

“If any dog needs exercise, that one does.” – changing the mood and comic.

 

Q: Rowling devised the game of Quidditch as a representation of Harry’s time at Hogwarts School. Please expand.

This 3-dimensional game involves the players streaking about on their broomsticks seeking the different sized balls and trying to score points.  Harry’s life at the school also had its ups and downs. His performance in the Quidditch match made him very popular, but then when he was disciplined for breaking school rules and lost house points he became unpopular.  His position in the team was that of seeker. It was his job to spot the Golden Snitch. and towards the end of the story he also has to seek the Sorcerer’s Stone.

In the game, he requires his team-mates to divert the opposition and give him freedom to complete his task.  In his real struggle against Voldemort he again requires the support of Ron and Hermione so that he can face the final challenge.

 

Q: Rowling obviously has opinions concerning bullying, and punishing pupils for breaking school rules. What are they?

Bullying -  Harry faces two sets of bullies in the story - firstly Dudley’s gang and then Malfoy and his two cronies. She reaffirms that bullies only thrive in a gang and that individually they are cowards.  In the end, both gang leaders get their comeuppance. Dudley has the indignity of getting a pig’s tail from Hagrid, and it is some weeks before this is surgically removed. No doubt, this will have tempered his bullying tendencies, and no doubt Harry has more delights in store for Dudley when he returns at the end of the book to Privet Drive. So far as Malfoy is concerned, when he is on a broomstick without his henchmen in a one-to-one situation with Harry who is clearly highly skilled in this area, he backs down.  Later, in the forbidden forest he shows his cowardice by running away at the sight of Voldemort sucking blood from the unicorn. All the bullies are described in less than glowing terms, and the point Rowling is trying to make is that bullies not only damage those around them, but they damage themselves as well.

Breaking school rules -  Rowling has clear views concerning the writing of lines as a form of punishment. It is clearly a waste of time and has no constructive purpose. At Hogwarts School the aim is for the detention to produce something positive and not waste time. Again all those breaking the rules share a common task.

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