Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
|Harry Potter books
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
|Author||J. K. Rowling|
|Illustrators||Thomas Taylor (UK)
Mary GrandPré (US)
Arthur A. Levine/
|Released||26 June 1997 (UK)
1 September 1998 (US)
|Followed by||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets|
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first novel in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling and featuring Harry Potter, a young wizard. It describes how Harry discovers he is a wizard, makes close friends and a few enemies at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and with the help of his friends thwarts an attempted comeback by the evil wizard Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents when Harry was one year old.
The book, which is J.K. Rowling's debut novel, was published on 26 June 1997 by Bloomsbury in London. In 1998 Scholastic Corporation published an edition for the United States market under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The novel won most of the British book awards that were judged by children, and other awards in the US. The book reached the top of the New York Times list of best-selling fiction in August 1999, and stayed near the top of that list for much of 1999 and 2000. It has been translated into several other languages and has been made into a feature-length film of the same name.
Most reviews were very favourable, commenting on Rowling's imagination, humour, simple, direct style and clever plot construction, although a few complained that the final chapters seemed rushed. The writing has been compared to that of Jane Austen, one of Rowling's favourite authors, or Roald Dahl, whose works dominated children's stories before the appearance of Harry Potter, and of the Ancient Greek story-teller Homer. While some commentators thought the book looked backwards to Victorian and Edwardian boarding school stories, others thought it placed the genre firmly in the modern world by featuring contemporary ethical and social issues.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, along with the rest of the Harry Potter series, has been attacked by several religious groups and banned in some countries because of accusations that the novels promote witchcraft, but some Christian commentators have written that the book exemplifies important Christian viewpoints, including the power of self-sacrifice and the ways in which people's decisions shape their personalities. Educators regard Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and its sequels as an important aid in improving literacy because of the books' popularity. The series has also been used as a source of object lessons in educational techniques, sociological analysis and marketing.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Development, publication and reception
- 3 Style and themes
- 4 Legacy
- 5 Footnotes
- 6 External links
Before the start of the novel, Voldemort, considered the most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, kills Harry's parents but mysteriously vanishes after trying to kill the infant Harry. While the wizarding world celebrates Voldemort's downfall, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid place the one year-old orphan in the care of his neglectful and abusive Muggle (non-wizard) uncle and aunt: Vernon and Petunia Dursley. Harry grows up with his aunt and uncle and their son, Dudley, a spoiled and selfish boy.
For ten years, Harry is tormented by the Dursleys. Harry is treated more as an unpleasant servant than a member of the family. Shortly before his eleventh birthday, a series of letters addressed to Harry arrive, but Vernon destroys them before Harry can read them, leading only to an influx of more letters. To get away from the letters, Vernon takes the family first to a hotel and when the letters arrive there too he drives them all to a small island. As they are settling in, Hagrid (a half giant who holds position of Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry) bursts through the door to deliver Harry's letter and tell him what the Dursleys have kept from him: Harry is a wizard and has been accepted at Hogwarts. Hagrid takes Harry to Diagon Alley, a magically concealed shopping precinct in London, where Harry is bewildered to discover how famous he is among wizards as "the boy who lived." He also finds that he is quite wealthy, since a bequest from his parents has remained on deposit at Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Guided by Hagrid, he buys the equipment he needs for his first year at Hogwarts.
One of the many materials Harry needs to purchase for his upcoming year at Hogwarts is a wand. At the wand shop, he finds that the wand that suits him best is the twin of Voldemort's; both wands contain feathers from the same phoenix. Harry also leaves with a new pet and birthday gift from Hagrid, an owl named Hedwig who is to become one of his most loyal companions and friends. A month later, Harry leaves the Dursleys' home to catch the Hogwarts Express from King's Cross railway station. There he meets the Weasley family, who show him how to pass through the magical wall to Platform 9¾, where the train that will take them to Hogwarts is waiting. While on the train, Harry makes friends with Ron Weasley, who tells him that someone tried to rob a vault at Gringotts. They discuss the upcoming school year, which Harry is both anxious and excited for. During the ride, they meet Hermione Granger. She is later to become one of their best friends. Harry also makes an enemy on this trip. Another new pupil, Draco Malfoy, accompanied by his sidekicks Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, offers to advise Harry, but Harry dislikes Draco's arrogance and prejudice and rejects his offer of "friendship".
Before the term's first dinner in the school's Great Hall, the new pupils are allocated to houses by the Sorting Hat. While Harry is being sorted, the Hat wonders whether he should be in Slytherin, but when Harry objects, the Hat sends him to Gryffindor. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are also sorted into Gryffindor. Draco Malfoy is sorted into Slytherin house, Gryffindor's rival house. During the meal, Harry catches Professor Snape's eye and feels a pain in the scar Voldemort left on his forehead.
After a terrible first Potions lesson with Snape, Harry and Ron visit Hagrid, who lives in a cabin on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. There they learn that the attempted robbery at Gringotts happened the day Harry withdrew money from his vault. Harry remembers that Hagrid had removed a small package from the vault that had been broken into.
During the new pupils' first broom-flying lesson, fellow Gryffindor Neville Longbottom breaks his wrist and is rushed to the infirmary by their instructor. Draco takes advantage to throw the forgetful Neville's fragile Remembrall, which Neville dropped because of his accident, high in the air. Harry gives chase on his broomstick, catching the Remembrall inches from the ground. Unbeknownst to Harry, Professor McGonagall, head of Gryffindor house, has witnessed his performance on his broom. Professor McGonagall dashes out and appoints him as the new Seeker for the Gryffindor Quidditch team.[a]
When Draco tricks Ron and Harry, who are accompanied by Neville and Hermione Granger, into a midnight excursion, they accidentally enter a forbidden corridor and find a huge three-headed dog. The group hastily retreats, and Hermione notices that the dog is standing over a trap-door. Harry concludes that the monster is guarding the package Hagrid retrieved from Gringotts.
After Ron criticises Hermione's ostentatious proficiency in Charms, she hides in the girls' toilet, crying. At the Halloween Feast, Professor Quirrell reports that a troll has entered the dungeons. While everyone returns to their dormitories, Harry and Ron rush to warn Hermione, who was not at the feast to hear the announcement. The troll corners Hermione in the toilet but Harry and Ron clumsily save her. Afterwards, Hermione takes the blame for the battle and becomes a firm friend of the two boys.
The evening before Harry's first Quidditch match, he sees Snape receiving medical attention from Filch for a bite on his leg caused by the three-headed dog. During the game, Harry's broomstick goes out of control, endangering his life, and Hermione notices that Snape is staring at Harry and muttering.Concluding that Professor Snape is responsible for Harry's out of control broom, she dashes over to the Professors' stand, knocking over Professor Quirrell in her haste, and sets fire to Snape's robe. Harry regains control of his broomstick and catches the Golden Snitch, winning the game for Gryffindor. Hagrid refuses to believe that Snape was responsible for Harry's danger, but lets slip that he bought the three-headed dog and that the monster is guarding a secret that belongs to Professor Dumbledore and someone called Nicolas Flamel.
When Christmas break arrives, Harry and the Weasleys remain at Hogwarts, while Hermione goes back home. One of Harry's presents, from an anonymous donor, is an Invisibility Cloak that belonged to his father. Harry uses the Cloak to search the library's Restricted Section for information about the mysterious Flamel, and he happens to find a room containing the Mirror of Erised, which shows him his parents and several of their ancestors. Harry becomes addicted to the Mirror's visions, choosing to spend time with his family than with his friends at Hogwarts, until he is rescued by Professor Dumbledore, who explains that it only shows the viewer what he most desperately longs for.
When the rest of the pupils return for the next term, Draco plays a prank on Neville, and Harry consoles Neville with a sweet. The collectible card wrapped with the sweet identifies Flamel as an alchemist. Hermione soon finds that he is a 665-year-old man who possesses the only known Philosopher's Stone, from which an elixir of life can be extracted. A few days later, Harry notices Snape sneaking towards the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest. There he half-hears a furtive conversation about the Philosopher's Stone between Snape and Quirrell. Harry concludes that Snape is trying to steal the Stone and Quirrell has helped prepare a series of defences for it, which was an almost fatal mistake.
The three friends discover that Hagrid is raising a baby dragon in violation of the wizard law, and arranges to smuggle it out of the country around midnight. Draco, hoping to get them into trouble, informs Professor McGonagall. Although the dragon is safely sent away, they are caught outside of their dormitory. Harry, Hermione, Draco, and Neville (who, in trying to stop Harry and Hermione)are punished together and assigned with the task of helping Hagrid with rescuing a badly injured unicorn in the Forbidden Forest. They split into two parties and venture off into the Forest where Harry and Draco come across a hooded figure drinking the blood of an injured unicorn. Aware of their presence, the hooded figure approaches the boys but Harry is rescued by a centaur, Firenze, who offers to give him a ride back to the school. The centaur tells Harry that drinking a unicorn's blood will save the life of a mortally injured person, but at the price of having a cursed life from that moment on. Firenze suggests Voldemort drank the unicorn's blood to gain enough strength to make the elixir of life from the Philosopher's Stone, and regain full health by drinking that.
A few weeks later, Harry learns from Hagrid that the dragon egg was given to him by a hooded stranger who had asked him how to get past the three-headed dog, which Hagrid had admitted was easy – music sends it to sleep. Realizing that one of the Philosopher's Stone's defenses is no longer secure, Harry goes to inform Professor Dumbledore, only to find that the headmaster has just left for a meeting in London. Harry concludes that Snape faked the message that called Dumbledore away and will try to steal the Stone that night. Harry decides that they must protect the stone themselves in Dumbledore's absence. Covered by the Invisibility Cloak, Harry and his two friends go to the three-headed dog's chamber, where Harry sends the beast to sleep by playing a flute. After lifting the trap-door, they encounter a series of obstacles, each of which requires special skills possessed by one of the three, and one of which requires Ron to sacrifice himself in a life-size game of wizard's chess.
Despite his reluctance to leave Ron behind, Harry and Hermione arrive at a room with a series of potions of varying sizes and colors. After Hermione figures out the riddle provided, she instructs Harry on which potion to drink. Harry swallows the liquid, safely passes through the fire and enters the final room while Hermione returns to collect Ron and notify Dumbledore of the night's events.
In the final room Harry, now alone, finds Quirrell rather than Snape. Quirrell admits that he let in the troll and that he tried to kill Harry during the first Quidditch match. Snape had been trying to protect Harry all along. Quirrell serves Voldemort and, after failing to steal the Philosopher's Stone from Gringotts, allowed his master to possess him in order to improve their chances of success. This, however, proves a difficult task because the only other object in the room is the Mirror of Erised, which will not reveal to Quirrell where the Stone is. At Voldemort's bidding, Quirrell forces Harry to stand in front of the Mirror. The mirror shows Harry finding the stone. Harry feels the Stone drop into his pocket and tries to stall. Quirrell removes his turban, revealing the face of Voldemort on the back of his head. Voldemort/Quirrell tries to grab the Stone from Harry, but simply touching Harry causes Quirrell's flesh to burn.
After further struggles, Harry passes out. He awakes in the school hospital, where Professor Dumbledore tells him that he survived because his mother sacrificed her life to protect him, and Voldemort could not understand the power of such love. Voldemort left Quirrell to die and is likely to return by some other means. The Stone has now been destroyed. The school year ends at the final feast, during which Gryffindor wins the House Cup. Harry returns to the Dursley's for the summer holiday, but does not tell them that under-age wizards are forbidden to use magic outside Hogwarts.
Harry Potter is an orphan whom Rowling imagined as a "scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard." She developed the series' story and characters to explain how Harry came to be in this situation and how his life unfolded from there. Apart from the first chapter, the events of this book take place just before and in the year following Harry's eleventh birthday. Voldemort's attack left a lightning bolt-shaped scar on Harry's forehead, which produces stabbing pains when Voldemort feels any strong emotion. Harry has prodigious natural talent for Quidditch and the ability to persuade friends by passionate speeches.
Ron Weasley is Harry's age and Rowling describes him as the ultimate best friend, "always there when you need him." He was freckled, red haired and quite tall. He grew up in a fairly large pure-blood family as the sixth born of seven children. Although his family was quite poor, they still lived very comfortably and happy. His loyalty and bravery in the face of a game of Wizards Chess play a vital part in finding the Philosopher's Stone.
Hermione Granger, the daughter of an all-Muggle family, is a bossy girl who has apparently memorised most of the textbooks before the start of term. Rowling described Hermione as a "very logical, upright and good" character with "a lot of insecurity and a great fear of failure beneath her swottiness". Despite her nagging efforts to keep Harry and Ron out of trouble, she becomes a close friend of the two boys after they save her from a troll, and her magical and analytical skills play a vital part in finding the Philosopher's Stone. She has brown bushy hair and rather large front teeth.
Neville Longbottom is a plump, diffident boy, so forgetful that his grandmother gives him a Remembrall. Neville's magical abilities are weak and appeared just in time to save his life when he was eight. Despite his timidity, Neville will fight anyone after some encouragement or if he thinks it is right and important.
Hagrid, a half-giant nearly 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, with tangled black hair and beard, was expelled from Hogwarts and his wand was broken, but Professor Dumbledore let him stay on as the school's gamekeeper, a job which enables him to lavish affection and pet names on even the most dangerous of magical creatures. Hagrid is fiercely loyal to Dumbledore and quickly becomes a close friend of Harry, Ron and later Hermione, but his carelessness makes him unreliable.
Professor Dumbledore, a tall, thin man who wears half-moon spectacles and has silver hair and a beard that tucks into his belt, is the headmaster of Hogwarts, and thought to be the only wizard Voldemort fears. Dumbledore, while renowned for his achievements in magic, finds it difficult to resist sweets and has a whimsical sense of humour. Although he shrugs off praise, he is aware of his own brilliance. Rowling described him as the "epitome of goodness".
Professor McGonagall, a tall, severe-looking woman with black hair tied in a tight bun, teaches Transfiguration, and sometimes transforms herself into a cat. She is in charge of Gryffindor House, and according to the author, "under that gruff exterior" is "a bit of an old softy".
Petunia Dursley, the sister of Harry's mother Lily, is a thin woman with a long neck that she uses for spying on the neighbours. She regards her magical sister as a freak and tries to pretend that she never existed. Her husband Vernon is a heavily built man whose irascible bluster covers a narrow mind and a fear of anything unusual. Their son Dudley is an overweight, spoiled bully.
Draco Malfoy is a slim, pale boy who speaks in a bored drawl. He is arrogant about his skill in Quidditch, and despises anyone who is not a pure blood wizard – and wizards who do not share his views. His parents had supported Voldemort, but changed sides after the dark wizard's disappearance. Draco avoids direct confrontations, and tries to get Harry and his friends into trouble.
Twitching, stammering Professor Quirrell teaches Defence Against the Dark Arts. Reputedly he was a brilliant scholar, but his nerve was shattered by an encounter with vampires. Quirrell wears a turban to conceal the fact that he is voluntarily possessed by Voldemort, whose face appears on the back of Quirrell's head.
Professor Snape, who has a hooked nose, sallow complexion and greasy black hair, teaches Potions, but is eager to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts. Snape praises pupils in Slytherin, his own House, but seizes every opportunity to humiliate others, especially Harry. Several incidents, beginning with the shooting pain in Harry's scar near the end of the first dinner, lead Harry and his friends to think Snape is a follower of Voldemort.
The school's caretaker, Filch, knows the school's secret passages better than anyone else except possibly the Weasley twins. His cat, Mrs. Norris, aids his hunts for misbehaving pupils. Other members of Hogwarts staff include: the dumpy Herbology teacher Professor Sprout; Professor Flitwick, the tiny and excitable Charms teacher, who is discreetly friendly towards Harry; the soporific History of Magic teacher, Professor Binns, a ghost who does not seem to have noticed his own death; and Madam Hooch, the Quidditch coach, who is strict but a considerate, methodical teacher. The poltergeist Peeves wanders around the buildings causing trouble for whomever he can.
Development, publication and reception
In 1990 Jo Rowling, as she preferred to be known,[b] wanted to move with her boyfriend to a flat in Manchester and in her words, "One weekend after flat hunting, I took the train back to London on my own and the idea for Harry Potter fell into my head... A scrawny, little, black-haired, bespectacled boy became more and more of a wizard to me... I began to write Philosopher's Stone that very evening. Although, the first couple of pages look nothing like the finished product." Then Rowling's mother died and, to cope with her pain, Rowling transferred her own anguish to the orphan Harry. Rowling spent six years working on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and in 1996 obtained a grant of £8,000 from the Scottish Arts Council, which enabled her to finish the book and plan the sequels. She sent the book to an agent and a publisher, and then the second agent she approached spent a year trying to sell the book to publishers, most of whom thought it was too long at about 90,000 words. Barry Cunningham, who was building a portfolio of distinctive fantasies by new authors for Bloomsbury Children's Books, recommended accepting the book, and the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury's chief executive said it was "so much better than anything else".
Publication and reception in the United Kingdom
Bloomsbury accepted the book, paying Rowling a £2,500 advance, and Cunningham sent proof copies to carefully chosen authors, critics and booksellers in order to obtain comments that could be quoted when the book was launched. He was less concerned about the book's length than about its author's name, as the title sounded like a boys' book and boys prefer books by male authors. Rowling therefore adopted the nom de plume J.K. Rowling just before publication. In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher's Stone with an initial print-run of 500 copies in hardback, three hundred of which were distributed to libraries. The short initial print run was standard for first novels, and Cunningham hoped booksellers would read the book and recommend it to customers. Examples from this initial print run have become quite valuable, selling for as much as US$33,460 in a 2007 Heritage Auction.
Lindsey Fraser, who had supplied one of the blurb comments, wrote what is thought to be the first published review, in The Scotsman on 28 June 1997. She described Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as "a hugely entertaining thriller" and Rowling as "a first-rate writer for children". Another early review, in The Herald, said, "I have yet to find a child who can put it down." Newspapers outside Scotland started to notice the book, with glowing reviews in The Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Mail on Sunday, and in September 1997 Books for Keeps, a magazine that specialised in children's books, gave the novel four stars out of five. The Mail on Sunday rated it as "the most imaginative debut since Roald Dahl"; a view echoed by the Sunday Times ("comparisons to Dahl are, this time, justified"), while The Guardian called it "a richly textured novel given lift-off by an inventive wit" and The Scotsman said it had "all the makings of a classic".
In 1997 the UK edition won a National Book Award and a gold medal in the 9 to 11 year-olds category of the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize. The Smarties award, which is voted for by children, made the book well-known within six months of publication, while most children's books have to wait for years. The following year, Philosopher's Stone won almost all the other major British awards that were decided by children.[c] It was also shortlisted for children's books awards adjudicated by adults, but did not win. Sandra Beckett comments that books which were popular with children were regarded as undemanding and as not of the highest literary standards – for example the literary establishment disdained the works of Roald Dahl, an overwhelming favourite of children before the appearance of Rowling's books.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone won two publishing industry awards given for sales rather than literary merit, the British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year and the Booksellers' Association / Bookseller Author of the Year. By March 1999 UK editions had sold just over 300,000 copies, and the story was still the UK's best-selling title in December 2001. A Braille edition was published in May 1998 by the Scottish Braille Press.
U.S. publication and reception
Scholastic Corporation bought the U.S. rights at the Bologna Book Fair in April 1997 for US$105,000, an unusually high sum for a children's book. They thought that a child would not want to read a book with the word "philosopher" in the title and, after some discussion, the American edition was published in October 1998 under the title Rowling suggested, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Rowling claimed that she regretted this change and would have fought it if she had been in a stronger position at the time. Philip Nel has pointed out that the change lost the connection with alchemy, and the meaning of some other terms changed in translation, for example from UK English "crumpets" to US English "muffin". While Rowling accepted the change from both UK English "mum" and Seamus Finnigan's Irish variant "mam" to "mom" in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, she vetoed this change in the later books. However Nel considered that Scholastic's translations were considerably more sensitive than most of those imposed on UK English books of the time, and that some other changes could be regarded as useful copyedits. Since the UK editions of early titles in the series were published a few months earlier than the American versions, some American readers became familiar with the British English versions after buying them via the Internet.
At first the most prestigious reviewers ignored the book, leaving it to book trade and library publications such as Kirkus Reviews and Booklist, which examined it only by the entertainment-oriented criteria of children's fiction. However, more penetrating specialist reviews (such as one by Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, which pointed out the complexity, depth and consistency of the world Rowling had built) attracted the attention of reviewers in major newspapers. Although The Boston Globe and Michael Winerip in The New York Times complained that the final chapters were the weakest part of the book they and most other American reviewers gave glowing praise. A year later the US edition was selected as an American Library Association Notable Book, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1998, and a New York Public Library 1998 Best Book of the Year, and won Parenting Magazine's Book of the Year Award for 1998, the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults.
In August 1999 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone topped the New York Times list of best-selling fiction, and stayed near the top of the list for much of 1999 and 2000, until the New York Times split its list into children's and adult sections under pressure from other publishers who were eager to see their books given higher placings. Publishers Weekly's report in December 2001 on cumulative sales of children's fiction placed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 19th among hardbacks (over 5 million copies) and 7th among paperbacks (over 6.6 million copies).
In May 2008, Scholastic announced the creation of a 10th Anniversary Edition of the book that was released on 23 September 2008 to mark the tenth anniversary of the original American release.
By mid-2008 official translations of the book were published in 67 languages. Bloomsbury have published translations in Latin and in Ancient Greek, and the latter was described as "one of the most important pieces of Ancient Greek prose written in many centuries".
Style and themes
Philip Nel highlighted the influence of Jane Austen, whom Rowling has greatly admired since the age of twelve. Both novelists encourage re-reading, because details that look insignificant foreshadow important events or characters much later in the story-line – for example Sirius Black is briefly mentioned near the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and then becomes a major character in the third to fifth books. Like Austen's heroines, Harry often has to re-examine his ideas near the ends of books. Some social behaviour in the Harry Potter books is remininiscent of Austen, for example the excited communal reading of letters. Both authors satirise social behaviour and give characters names that express their personalities. However in Nel's opinion Rowling's humour is more based on caricature and the names she invents are more like those found in Charles Dickens's stories,:13–15 and Amanda Cockrell noted that many of these express their owners' traits through allusions that run from ancient Roman mythology to eighteenth-century German literature. Rowling, like the Narnia series' author C.S. Lewis, thinks there is no rigid distinction between stories for children and for adults. Nel also noted that, like many good writers for children, Rowling combines literary genres – fantasy, young-adult fiction, boarding school stories, Bildungsroman and many others.:51–52
Some reviewers compared Philosopher's Stone to the stories of Roald Dahl, who died in 1990. Many writers since the 1970s had been hailed as his successor, but none had attained anything near his popularity with children and, in a poll conducted shortly after the launch of Philosopher's Stone, seven of the ten most popular children's books were by Dahl, including the one in top place. The only other really popular children's author of the late 1990s was an American, R. L. Stine. Some of the story elements in Philosopher's Stone resembled parts of Dahl's stories; for example, the hero of James and the Giant Peach lost his parents and had to live with a pair of unpleasant aunts – one fat and one thin rather like Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, who treated Harry as a servant. However Harry Potter was a distinctive creation, able to take on the responsibilities of an adult while remaining a child inside.
Librarian Nancy Knapp and marketing professor Stephen Brown noted the liveliness and detail of descriptions, especially of shop scenes such as Diagon Alley. Tad Brennan commented that Rowling's writing resembles that of Homer: "rapid, plain, and direct in expression." Stephen King admired "the sort of playful details of which only British fantasists seem capable" and concluded that they worked because Rowling enjoys a quick giggle and then moves briskly forward.
Nicholas Tucker described the early Harry Potter books as looking back to Victorian and Edwardian children's stories: Hogwarts was an old-style boarding school in which the teachers addressed pupils formally by their surnames and were most concerned with the reputations of the houses with which they were associated; characters' personalities were plainly shown by their appearances, starting with the Dursleys; evil or malicious characters were to be crushed rather than reformed, including Filch's cat Mrs Norris; and the hero, a mistreated orphan who found his true place in life, was charismatic and good at sports, but considerate and protective towards the weak. Several other commentators have stated that the books present a highly stratified society including many social stereotypes. However Karin Westerman drew parallels with 1990s Britain: a class system that was breaking down but defended by those whose power and status it upheld; the multi-ethnic composition of Hogwarts' students; the racial tensions between the various intelligent species; and school bullying.
Susan Hall wrote that there is no rule of law in the books, as the actions of Ministry of Magic officials are unconstrained by laws, accountability or any kind of legal challenge. This provides an opportunity for Voldemort to offer his own horrific version of order. As a side-effect Harry and Hermione, who were brought up in the highly regulated Muggle world, find solutions by thinking in ways unfamiliar to wizards. For example Hermione notes that one obstacle to finding the Philosopher's Stone is a test of logic rather than magical power, and that most wizards have no chance of solving it.
Nel suggested that the unflattering characterisation of the extremely conventional, status-conscious, materialistic Dursleys was Rowling's reaction to the family policies of the British government in the early 1990s, which treated the married heterosexual couple as the "preferred norm", while the author was a single mother. Harry's relationships with adult and juvenile wizards are based on affection and loyalty. This is reflected in his happiness whenever he is a temporary member of the Weasley family throughout the series, and in his treatment of first Rubeus Hagrid and later Remus Lupin and Sirius Black as father-figures.:13–15, 47–48
The second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was originally published in the UK on 2 July 1998 and in the US on 2 June 1999. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was then published a year later in the UK on 8 July 1999 and in the US on 8 September 1999. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published on 8 July 2000 at the same time by Bloomsbury and Scholastic. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series at 766 pages in the UK version and 870 pages in the US version. It was published worldwide in English on 21 June 2003. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published on 16 July 2005, and sold 11 million copies in the first 24 hours of its worldwide release. The seventh and final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published 21 July 2007. The book sold 11 million copies within 24 hours of its release: 2.7 million copies in the UK and 8.3 million in the US.
In 1999, Rowling sold the film rights of the first four Harry Potter books to Warner Bros. for a reported £1 million ($1,982,900). Rowling demanded that the principal cast be kept strictly British, but allowed for the casting of Irish actors such as the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and of foreign actors as characters of the same nationalities in later books. After extensive casting, filming began in October 2000 at Leavesden Film Studios and in London, with production ending in July 2001. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released in London on 14 November 2001. Reviewers' comments were positive, as reflected by a 80% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and by a score of 64% at Metacritic representing "generally favourable reviews".
Video games loosely based on the book were released between 2001 and 2003, generally under the American title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Most were published by Electronic Arts but produced by different developers:
|Electronic Arts||2001||MS Windows||Role-playing game||65%|
|Aspyr||2002||Mac OS 9||Role-playing game||(not available)||Same as Windows version|
|Electronic Arts||2001||Game Boy Color||Role-playing game||(not available)|
|Electronic Arts||2001||Game Boy Advance||"Adventure/puzzle" game||64%|
|Electronic Arts||2003||GameCube||"Action adventure"||62%|
|Electronic Arts||2001||PlayStation||Role-playing game||64%|
|Electronic Arts||2003||PlayStation 2||"Action adventure"||56%|
|Electronic Arts||2003||Xbox||"Action adventure"||59%|
Uses in education and business
Educationalists have found that children's literacy is directly related to how many words they read per year, and they read much more if they find material they like. A 2001 survey by The New York Times estimated that almost 60% of US children aged between 6 and 17 had read at least one Harry Potter book. Surveys in other countries, including India and South Africa, found that children were enthusiastic about the series. Since even the first two books are quite long, a child who has read the first four will have read over four times the number of pages in a year's worth of school reading texts. This greatly improves children's skills and their motivation to read.
Writers on education and business subjects have used the book as an object lesson. Writing about clinical teaching in medical schools, Jennifer Conn contrasted Snape's technical expertise with his intimidating behaviour towards students; on the other hand Quidditch coach Madam Hooch illustrated useful techniques in the teaching of physical skills, including breaking down complex actions into sequences of simple ones and helping students to avoid common errors. Joyce Fields wrote that the books illustrate four of the five main topics in a typical first-year sociology class: "sociological concepts including culture, society, and socialisation; stratification and social inequality; social institutions; and social theory".
Stephen Brown noted that the early Harry Potter books, especially Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, were a runaway success despite inadequate and poorly organised marketing. Brown advised marketing executives to be less preoccupied with rigorous statistical analyses and the "analysis, planning, implementation, and control" model of management. Instead he recommended that they should treat the stories as "a marketing masterclass", full of enticing products and brand names. For example, a real-world analogue of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans was introduced under licence in 2000 by toymaker Hasbro.
- The film's version of this incident is different from the book's.
- J.K. Rowling was christened Joanne Rowling, without a middle name, and adopted the nom de plume J.K. Rowling for publication. She says that she was always known as "Jo" The book's copyright page gives her name as "Joanne Rowling".
- The Children's Book Award, The Young Telegraph Paperback of the Year Award, the Birmingham Cable Children's Book Award and the Sheffield Children's Book Award.
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|The Wikibook Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter has a page on the topic of: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone|
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