Note before reading this: as long as these books have been out and as prevalent as the series is in pop culture, I am taking it as read that everyone has at least seen the movies if not read the books. So there are some series spoilers in here.
It has been at least 5 years, if not more, since I re-read this book. As one of the most prominent things in pop culture, especially in book culture, I really don’t think that there is anything that I can add in terms of reviewing it. I love it, of course. Harry Potter was my introduction into magic and fantasy. But I just don’t feel like there is anything new to be said as far as reviewing it. So I just kind of want to ramble about things that I noticed reading it now that I didn’t when I was younger. More of a blog post than an actual review.
I was a little bit worried that having aged 18 years since I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the very first time, a lot of my fondness for the series would be based on nostalgia rather than actually still finding it an enjoyable, even magical, read. I have a recent history of not enjoying books that are targeted toward younger audiences.
I cannot tell you how happy I am to realize that, for me at least, the magic is definitely still there! Nostalgia does of course play a part in that magic for me. This has been something that has been a part of me pretty much for over half of my life and I was a pretty hardcore fangirl once upon a time but I think even if I was just picking it up for the very first time, I would still find it to be a great book.
The thing that actually bothered me though that I never noticed before was that the demonization of a group of children. Discrimination is a huge theme in the series but I don’t think it gets called out enough how much discrimination the kids in Slytherin went through. Obviously Slytherins that grew up to actually be Death Eaters (aka Terrible People) deserve all the shit that they receive. But these are kids.
I know that it has been pointed out many times before that Dumbledore taking the House Cup away from Slytherins at the end of Sorcerer’s Stone was unfair. And that’s true, it is pretty bullshit. This is something that I noticed while watching the movies again a while back but it wasn’t until reading this book that I noticed a somewhat deeper problem.
Something that I have come to really appreciate in books is nuance in the shades of gray in characters. I like the complexity and depth. That’s not to say that there are not complex characters in Harry Potter. There most certainly are! But the series as a whole does take a very black and white view of things and people.
In this first book, this is taken out on children.
Everyone’s hatred of Syltherins is rooted in its being tied to dark magic and to Voldemort. But that’s not the case for everyone that is in Slytherin just as being brave and true isn’t the case for everyone in Gryffindor (i.e. Peter Pettigrew).
There are comments made in the book about it not being just Gryffindors that hate the Slytherins for winning the House Cup for so many years in a row prior to this story. Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws are bitter about it always being Slytherin that wins.
So why is it that Slytherin always won?
It is mentioned that Snape favored Slytherins but there is never any mention of any other teacher favoring them. Surely it can’t be that the favoritism of one single teacher skewed the House Cup in favor of one group for several years. If this were the case, why didn’t someone step in?
So we have to conclude that the Slytherin children, at least some of the time, earned it. So everyone, including apparently the headmaster, is in on tearing these kids down as soon as Harry Potter shows up, even when the points for the House Cup show that they simply were more deserving according to Hogwarts rules.
No wonder they all hate him.
Imagine that you are a parent of one of these Slytherin kids. A victory was just taken away from your child because of another kid. Yeah, that kid did stop Voldemort from returning but Slytherin kids spent the whole year working up to their points that should have won them a victory only for it to be snatched away at the very last minute by some very reaching logic from their Headmaster.
As a parent, I’d be pissed.
Not only that, but they then get to see not just the Gryffindors who just won cheering but Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw cheering as well solely on the fact that it was not Slytherin that won.
So you have these children that because of their House, and in some cases their families, they are accused from childhood of being evil, of being lesser, or conspiring with dark magic. They themselves are discriminated against for something they really have no control over. What are the odds that when Voldemort returns, someone like Malfoy wouldn’t join the Death Eaters? Yes, the Golden Trio should be rewarded for preventing the return of a dark lord whose goal was little more than slaughtering people he saw as lesser. But is too much to ask to reward them in a way that doesn’t create more victims?
I thought Hermione was crazy when she comments (I believe in book 5 but I’m not certain exactly) that the concepts of Houses and, even House Quidditch teams, promotes division rather than unity.
I was too young to understand it then but she was so right! Draco Malfoy can be a bully and a snooty little brat and his character should be punished for that but the book kind of holds him and Snape as the standard for all of Slytherins and punishes them all equally when we only see a handful of them behave poorly.
Paradoxically, though there is this persecution of Slytherins, if I am not mistaken there have been studies done that show that people that read Harry Potter as kids have grown up to be people that see the harm in persecution and discrimination. I also think it is interesting that JK Rowling is one of the most liberal-minded and accepting people out there. I just don’t see her as the type of person that would judge a whole group of people based on the poor decisions of a few.
Perhaps, knowing JK Rowling for who she is (at least on social media, and I have no evidence to suggest that she is faking a stance online just for the popularity), she realized this and tried to move away from it as the series went on. As the series goes on, it moves a little away from the stark black and white view of the world and adds some nuance. Both Snape and Malfoy are given some shades of gray to their character, Voldemort is given a motive for why he is evil (as opposed to it just being evil for the sake of being evil), and the books actually begin their exploration of the harmfulness of persecution with Hermione in the second book.
This is also a reason that I love the Harry Potter fandom and got into fanfiction several years ago. So many stories were so good at exploring the characters in ways that differed from canon, sometimes drastically, or that delved into things that the books/movies only touched on.
I think this has managed to be my longest review/blog post yet so thank you to anyone that stuck it out all the way through with me. XD
But I would like to know what everyone else’s thoughts are on this or regarding any other topic related to Harry Potter so tell me what you think! There is never not time for a Harry Potter discussion!