Blog | Sitemap | Contact   

SCARPnotes for the book
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Table of Contents

   I. Key Facts Portus
  II. Plot Overview Portus
 III. Context- with commentary by Rubeus Hagrid Portus
  IV. Summary and Analysis of Chapters Portus
   V. Character List and Analysis Portus
  VI. Themes, Motifs and Symbols Portus
 VII. Important Quotations Portus
VIII. Study Questions and Essay Topics Portus
  IX. Review and Resources Portus
   X. Quiz Portus

Key Facts

Full title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer's Stone)
Author: Joanna Kathleen (J. K.) Rowling
Type of Work: Part one of a seven part Novel, containing 76,944 words in 17 chapters
Genre: Fantasy, Children's
Language: English
Time and Place Written: The 1990's to 1997
First Publication Date: UK: 1 July, 1997; US: 1 Sep 1998
Publisher: Great Britain: Bloomsbury Children's books; US: Arthur A. Levine Books an imprint of Scholastic inc.
Narrator: A detached third person close, but not in, the action.
Point of View: The narrator, who is omniscient, first takes the point of view of Vernon Dursley, a muggle; then Professor McGonagall; but, once Harry arrives, stays very close to the boys point of view.
Tone: Being a book for children, the tone is straight-forward, matter-of-fact, simple and, at times, comical; even when dealing with such subjects as: Harry's mistreatment, dealing with trolls and three headed dogs, and flying many feet from the ground. It gets a little more serious in the final chapter when dealing with Voldemort.
Tense: Past
Settings (time): Although in the beginning the books never actually give an exact date for the school years, the large fan base extensively researched internal clues and, through deductive reasoning, calculated Harry's birth date. Most likely to shut off the large amount of speculation, the author (JKR) gave a tangential reference to a "real" date, which then gave credence to the calculations once and for all. Some of the specific's remain "magical" however as the author's references still do not always coincide with a normal calendar; for example, the school year always begins on September 1st, and it's always a Monday, of every school year. Therefore, this book's action begins when Harry is three months old, (November 1st, 1979) following the death of his parents the previous Halloween night. It leaves for flashbacks in future books, the years intervening between coming to the Dursleys and the close of his 10th year of life. It covers his first school year at Hogwarts from September 1st (a Monday) 1990 to about June 1991. [Following the release of the 7th book - JKR gave a specific reference to a death as 1996, the end of Harry's 6th year].
Setting (place): Surrey and London England, and the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in the North of Great Britian.
Protagonists: Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore
Antagonists: Vernon Dursley, Severus Snape, Professor Quirrell, Voldemort
Major conflict: Unbeknown to Harry, his life's duty to "find himself" begins with discovering an entire new history... he is a wizard, something that his step-parents have been determined to "stamp out" of him. He must learn how to be one, cope with boarding school life, find and fit in with friends and discover "Harry" for himself. No one will listen to his tales of abuse by Snape, his DADA teacher; nor, his suspicions that Snape is intent on stealing the "Philosopher's Stone," which is being safeguarded in the bowels of Hogwarts Castle. Therefore, it falls to Harry and his friends to "save the stone" themselves.
Rising Action: The mystery gradually unfolds with discovery that it was the Philosopher's stone that someone had attempted to steal from Gringotts; except, that it had been removed by Hagrid beforehand. Snape, they believe, is trying to steal the stone so he can give it to Lord Voldemort who must be nearby. Snape threatens Quirrell, and Hagrid discloses the secret in getting past Fluffy— a dog guarding the stone. A Centaur saves Harry from an evil, hooded, person who he had caught obtaining the blood of a killed Unicorn for its restorative powers, and explained that it was Voldemort who wanted the blood in order to stay alive until he could obtain the stone.
Climax: Ron and Hermione help Harry get past six of the seven obstacles; then, he finds the seventh— the Mirror of Erised, and learns that it is Quirrell whom he must face. He obtained the stone due to his "pure intent," only to discover that it was Lord Voldemort himself who he would need to face.
Falling Action: Voldemort discovered that Harry had a protection he hadn't counted on and Quirrell couldn't touch the boy. The effort rendered Harry unconscious just as Quirrell was about to kill him. Dumbledore arrived, Voldemort fled and three days later Harry awoke in the hospital. Dumbledore explained more of Harry's history to him, including that it was his mother's sacrifice which had given him the protection; but, the rest of the story would have to wait until he was older.
Themes: Discovering Oneself (Finding out 'Who I Am')
The evils of being a bigot
The value (and irony) of Love
Motifs: Wizardry
Literary Devices: Mirror of Erised
Symbolism: Harry's scar
Forshadowing: Hidden knowledge of Dumbledore
Harry's future
Snape's unexplained hatred of Harry
Snape's initial potion's lesson and Ollivander's surprise about Harry's wand.

Plot Overview

The book begins when Harry is turning three months old and is still too young to realize that he has just gone through possibly the worst thing he will ever go through in his life... the demolition of his home and killing of his parents by the evil Voldemort— resulting in Voldemort's own "disappearance." Fortunately for Harry, his parents, and he, have friends who can help; because... they are magic! Unfortunately, he is raised by his aunt and uncle, who HATE magic... and "magic people." Fortunately, his as-yet-unmet friends: Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (the only wizard Voldemort ever feared but is too noble to use that kind of power), and Professor McGonagall (who can turn herself into a cat any time she wants thank you very much), both met at midnight outside of the Dursley home. They intended to install Harry into the "muggle" family whether they liked it or not! The two awaited the arrival of "keeper of the keys" Hagrid— a "giant" man who had helped rescue Harry from the rubble of his house and was now flying him in on a borrowed motorcycle. Unfortunately, none of them would be with Harry after he was left on the Dursley's porch and was raised along side: Dudley (a spoiled-brat) the son, of Harry's aunt Petunia (sister of Harry's mother), and his uncle Vernon (an arrogant director of a manufacturing firm); because, they would do everything in their power to "stamp out that nonsense" from the unsuspecting Harry. As Harry grew, he was treated like the true "stepchild" found in fairytales: with ridicule, harassment, and abuse; while, the "real son" became arrogant with superiority and joined in the abuse. Fortunately, even though it was unknown to Harry, he WAS magic and it did sort of protect him, all on its own, whenever the abuse and embarrassment became too great. Unfortunately, that didn't help the fact that he was made to live in a cupboard under the stairs and regularly locked in and starved as punishment, usually for doing something "unusual."

That was all to change however; because, he was nearing his eleventh birthday, and was almost at the end of his punishment for "accidentally" making the glass front of a boa constrictor's cage disappear on his cousin Dudley after Dudley had knocked him to the ground. Letters began arriving, oddly "determined" to reach him; but, unsuccessful due to his uncle's intervention. That is... until midnight, July 31, 1991 when Hagrid returned to: personally deliver his letter of acceptance to a school of witchcraft and wizardry; reveal to him that he was a wizard; and, explain the history of his parents, whom he had never known. Hagrid took him to "Diagon Alley," a place in London which couldn't be seen by Muggles— non-magic folk, and where they purchased all the supplies required by Hogwarts—his new school. They retrieved some Gold from Harry's parents vault at Gringott's—the wizarding bank, along with a secret package from another vault that Hagrid said was an "errand from Dumbledore." Hagrid bought Harry a pet snowy owl, which he named Hedwig, and went to Ollivander's wand shop where a wand "chose" Harry. Curiously Harry's new wand had a core of tail feather which had been given by the same Phoenix bird as had been in Voldemort's wand. Harry met Draco Malfoy— a snotty pure-blood wizard boy who would be in his class, and Quirrell— his new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at the school. On the appointed day to leave for school from platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station, a nice woman, with many red-haired children in tow, showed him how to run at a brick column in order to enter the magically concealed platform of the Hogwart's Express. Ron Weasley, one of her sons, sat with Harry in his compartment on the train and became his first, and best, magical friend. It was then that Harry realized just how famous the lightening-bolt shaped scar on his forehead— given to him by Voldemort, had unknowingly made him in the wizarding community. Fred and George— Ron's twin brother's, were also on the train, as was Percy— Ron's older brother, who was a school "prefect." They also met Neville Longbottom— a sort of "doofus" kid who had lost his pet toad; and, a know-it-all girl, Hermione Granger who was considered a "muggle-born"— magical child born to muggle parents. And, of course, Draco Malfoy, along with his two side-kicks Crabbe and Goyle, were also on the train. They stopped by to harass Harry for hanging around with "riff-raff" like Ron and were only dissuaded from stealing their candy by Scabbers— Ron's lazy pet rat, coming alive long enough to attack Goyle on his hand.

The magical sorting hat put Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville in Gryffindor house at school. Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle were placed in Slytherin— from whence had also come Voldemort in earlier years. Harry's new life at school was refreshingly, totally different for him; yet, strangely similar. He was treated with equality and even some respect for the first time in his life; but, where there had been Dudley and his Aunt and Uncle in his former life, there was now the Malfoy gang and Severus Snape— his potions teacher, and an old arch enemy of his father's, who tried to make his life miserable at every turn. Malfoy challenged him to a midnight duel which turned out to be just a ruse to get him caught and into trouble. Hermione had overheard the challenge and tried to intercept Harry in her bossy way; but, was accidentally locked out of the dormitory and had to accompany them. They were almost caught by Filtch, the care taker; but, escaped only by accidentally blundering into a forbidden room and nearly being bitten by a three-headed guard dog. Hermione was the one that noticed the dog was guarding a trap-door and Harry's adventure began; because, he surmised that the dog must be guarding the package which Hagrid had removed from Gringott's shortly before there had been an unprecedented attempt to steal it. Hermione's bossy attitude annoyed Ron so much that he made a sarcastic remark; which, she unfortunately overheard, and became so hurt that she hid herself in the girls bathroom to cry. That night, at the Halloween feast, Quirrell burst in to exclaim that he had spotted a troll in the dungeon. The students were sent back to their dormitory's; but, on the way Harry and Ron realized Hermione was still in the bathroom, so went to warn her. Unfortunately, that was where the troll was and their rescue began revealing the two's true courage and abilities. Harry jumped on its back to "get its attention"; but, in the process, accidentally stuck his wand up its nose. Then Ron saved Harry by using a levitation spell, which Hermione had criticized him for not being able to perform earlier, that conked the troll on its head with its own club. There are just some experiences that you can't share without becoming friends— and fighting trolls is one of them. From then on all three of them worked to solve the mystery of what was hidden under the dog. Harry was discovered to have an innate ability to play Quidditch— the wizarding game, sort of like "flying soccer" (British football), played on broomsticks with a ball that was used to score points, balls that flew around trying to knock you off your broom and a tiny ball that had to be caught to end the game. In a match, Harry's broom began trying to throw him off and Hermione noticed that Snape appeared to be uttering a spell to cause it. She set Snape's robes on fire, knocking Quirrell over in the attempt, which saved Harry. Afterwards, they found that Hagrid was only one of several teachers who had produced obstacles which were guarding the "object" being hidden under "Fluffy's" trapdoor. They also found that it was the "Philosopher's Stone"— which would produce the "Elixir of Life" potion, that had been made by Nicolas Flamel, a friend of Dumbledore's. The three had to help Hagrid remove an illegal dragon, that he had raised from an egg, after winning it in a card game with a hooded man, in a tavern. They were caught and sentenced to detention, along with the snitch Malfoy. Their detention turned out to be helping Hagrid track down what had been killing Unicorn's in the Forbidden Forest. Harry found that the killer was a hooded figure which was drinking the beasts blood; and, then he had to be rescued himself by a Centaur named Firenze. Over objections from the rest of his herd, Firenze explained to Harry that it was Voldemort who wanted the Philosophers Stone, being hidden in the castle, in order to return to power.

Events seemed to come to a head on the last day of their final exams and they decided they needed to try and get the stone before Snape could get it; but, had to petrify Neville in order to get past him. Using music, which they had learned would quiet Fluffy, they went through the trap-door. Hermione used fire to release them from the "Devil's Snare" plant at the bottom of the shaft. Harry used a broomstick to catch the single flying key which would open the door to the next room. Ron used his chess-playing skill to win a game of wizards chess against magically enlarged chessmen who knocked him out. Going on without Ron, Hermione had to use logic to solve a puzzle which told them which one of seven bottles of potion Harry should drink in order to get through the last door blocked with fire. After doing so, Harry was amazed and flummoxed to find the real culprit... Quirrell! The turbaned man had lost his stuttering, and simpering, and was trying to figure out the last protection, the Mirror of Erised— which Dumbledore had allowed Harry to "accidentally find and learn about" earlier in the year. It magically only showed the viewer the "deepest desire of their hearts." Quirrell was only seeing himself with the stone but couldn't figure out how to get it. A voice from his turban, which eventually turned out to be Voldemort possessing the man, said to "use the boy!" When Harry looked in the mirror he saw his own reflexion taking the stone from his pocket then putting it back in... and magically the stone really plopped into Harry's pocket. Voldemort had Quirrell try to kill Harry in order to obtain the stone, but Quirrell found that wherever he touched Harry's skin, his own skin burned. Harry grabbed Quirrell's face then fell into a dark coma from the strain. When he awoke he saw Dumbledore, who had arrived to rescue him; and was, finally, told more of his parents history. Voldemort had actually been trying to kill Harry (for reasons that Dumbledore wouldn't yet explain) when his father had put up a fight trying to protect him, but was killed. Voldemort gave Harry's mother a chance to live, but she chose to protect Harry and was also killed. When Voldemort used the killing curse on Harry, it rebounded upon himself due to the magical protection Harry's mother had invoked by her sacrifice. "It was her love," which gave you the protection in your very skin, Dumbledore told him. The stone had been destroyed and its owner and his wife would eventually "go to sleep after a long, long day." After all, Dumbledore told Harry, "to the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."

All the students were given a letter reminding them that it was not legal for them to perform magic during the summer. As he went back to his foster-home, his only solace was that... the Dursley's didn't know he couldn't use magic!