"Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light."
Since 1997, the Harry Potter series has enchanted readers, both young and old. Legendary British author, J.K. Rowling's debut novel has gained international acclaim since its initial publication, winning a total of seven awards. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the thrilling first installment of the series where all of the magic began.
The novel begins at the small, quiet house on Number Four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey where the book's eleven year-old protagonist, Harry Potter, lives in the cupboard under the stairs. He was orphaned at a young age after his parents were killed in a tragic accident and was sent to live with the Dursleys: Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and their son, Dudley. His only living relatives treat him poorly, making Harry's childhood miserable.
Harry's unhappy demeanor is replaced by one of elation when he receives a letter inviting him to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the finest school for witches and wizards in all of Britain. As the novel unfolds, Harry begins his first year at Hogwarts where he is introduced to the wizarding world, befriends other students, and comes face-to-face with adversity. The twists and turns, mounting suspense, and thrilling perils that Harry encounters render this book life-changning and unforgettable.
Rowling has a rare talent for creating believable, realistic characters that gradually change as the story progresses. These characters, as some people would say, possess a certain amount of depth. Their unique personalities and traits distinguish them from the characters in similar novels. Harry embodies all of the characteristics of a true hero: courage, tenacity, and an inclination to protect others. Harry is willing to sacrifice everything, including his own life, to ensure the safety of others. Rowling accurately captures his desire to protect those he loves, whatever the cost.
I must admit, Rowling's imagination is extraordinary. Her original vision of a young boy sporting a lighting scar who attended boarding school was transformed into a seven book series teeming with the unimaginable. Rowling's creative prowess enabled her to establish an entirely new world filled with realistic people, magical creatures, and thrilling enchantments. The wizarding world was crafted so thoroughly that it is flawless. No minor detail of this alternate world was excluded, allowing readers to fully immerse themselves in the book.
As the plot unfolded, readers received a glimpse of the growing complexity of the series. Rowling introduced specific details throughout the novel which the majority of readers overlook. These seemingly insignificant details, however, have a large impact upon later events within the book. My predictions of the events to come were quite far from the actual events that transpired. The shocking conclusion left me stunned and begging my mother to drive me to Barnes and Noble to purchase the second book.
While Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone falls under the "Fantasy" genre, Rowling discretely incorporated many mythological and historical references into the novel, especially those pertaining to the works of Ancient Rome. First and foremost among these allusions is Hagrid's three-headed dog, Fluffy. The concept of such a creature is taken from Greek Mythology; according to legend, Cerberus, a three-headed dog, ferociously guarded the entrance to the Underworld. The only means of subduing Cerberus (and Fluffy, consequently) is the playing of a lyre. Additionally, the Hogwarts motto, "Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus," is Latin for "Never tickle a sleeping dragon." Rowling relies heavily on her knowledge of Latin to create incantations and character names throughout the series.
I am most impressed not with the books themselves, but with the author whose rags-to-riches life story has inspired countless people worldwide. J.K. Rowling was born Joanne Kathleen Rowling into a poor family living in Gloucestershire, England. She was accepted at the University of Exeter, where she studied Classics. She was devastated when her mother died shortly after her graduation, having suffered from multiple sclerosis. Several years later, Rowling married Jorge Arantes and gave birth to their daughter, Jessica. The unhappy couple separated 13 months after their marriage. Homeless, penniless, and caring for a newborn, Rowling struggled with depression and contemplated suicide. We almost lost the brilliant, talented mind who is solely responsible for the series that has now become a worldwide phenomenon. Her rags to riches story inspires millions of people in similar situations. Despite her challenges, Rowling's perseverance and determination brought the world of Harry Potter to life.
Overall, this series is the most memorable from my childhood. I was originally introduced to the series in third grade and immediately fell in love with the realistic characters, suspenseful plot, and flawless writing style. I was the diehard fan who watched each movie a dozen times at the same movie theater, eventually coming to know the employees at the concessions stand on a first name basis. For Halloween last year, in fact, I dressed up in an old pair of robes, pulled on a wig, and drew a scar on my forehead. And to this day, I find myself reciting quotes from the series. I was crushed after the release of the final book, feeling that part of my childhood had ended with the series. Looking back, I have never once regretted the time I have spent reading and rereading the series, committing it to memory. The Harry Potter series has served as more than a way to pass the time; it has helped to shape the person I am today.