Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Wrap-up

I have a lot of miscellaneous thoughts that didn’t necessarily come through in the commentaries. This isn’t a structured review so much as a chance to talk over ideas that didn’t come up in the commentary or needed more characters than I get in a tweet.

First I want to talk about Dumbledore. We see him here, already manipulating Harry. The conversation after Harry defeats Quirrell about death is far more sinister when I consider that Dumbledore fully expects Harry to die, probably before he finishes school. How much of Harry’s life is Dumbledore manipulating so that he’ll go to his death properly at the required time? How much is Dumbledore willing to sacrifice to protect the world from Voldemort? Dumbledore might be overall a force for good, but I question the morality of a lot of his choices.

I question a lot of what the students are taught, or how they are punished, especially considering their ages. I’m still not over sending children into a dangerous forest in the middle of the night with practically no supervision as punishment. But that makes me wonder, where are the teachers’ families? We know that the teachers were at the school for Christmas, and they always seem available, regardless of what ridiculous hour of the night it is. Are teachers at Hogwarts required to be single and childless? Why doesn’t everyone know that so-and-so in Hufflepuff is that teacher’s kid? I know that this story is focused on the students but, as someone with two teachers for parents, it seems odd to me that there is no evidence of a single Hogwarts teacher having a life outside the school.

Ethics in potion making. I feel like potions, perhaps more than any other class taught to the first years, needs to have an ethics component added on. Alongside potions for curing boils (are these a big problem? I’m not even sure what a boil is), they’re also taught things like Forgetfulness potions. Anything like that seems to be the equivalent of mind controlling or drugging someone. I don’t think you should be teaching that to eleven-year-olds ever, but if you need to for some reason, surely there needs to be a large ethics component for when and how they can be used. So far (and in my memory of the books) I don’t think there’s any indication that this happens.

The treatment of Harry at the Dursleys is horrifying. I can’t comment too much on the child abuse aspects, thankfully I have never had a reason to learn enough about the subject to feel that I can speak about it with authority. However, I feel the need to point out that the Dursleys do abuse Harry. Dumbledore, who is for some reason responsible for placing Harry with them, does nothing about it. I know that the in-universe reason is that living with them protects him through Lily’s love-magic, but that means that Harry is being denied a loving home because of it. You just know that Mrs. Weasley would take Harry in a heartbeat if asked.

And that brings us to my final point, and the reason I’m doing this reread in the first place. Harry defeats Voldemort using love. Voldemort is the opposite of love, cannot handle contact with the love that protects Harry. Romantic love has no place in the fight, in this book at least. It’s Harry’s mother’s love (poor James doesn’t get to count) and his friendships that mean he succeeds. His friendships are never directly called love, but supporting his friends (giving Neville a chocolate frog) and taking support from them (agreeing to Hermione and Ron to coming with him) is the only reason Harry gets to the confrontation in the first place. The love of friends is powerful and necessary.

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