Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Throughout most of the story, we share Harry’s point of view. We see what he sees and experience what he experiences. In the first chapter, however, we are shown Mr. Dursley’s point of view as he drives to work, sees a cat reading a map, and encounters oddly dressed people on the streets. Rowling could have given us a more straightforward third-person story without any particular point of view. Why does she choose to show us Mr. Dursley’s thoughts and reactions in this first chapter?
2. How does the Hogwarts world compare with the Muggle world? Does Rowling want us to make such a comparison?
3. Harry has no personal contact with Dumbledore until he is caught in the forbidden room where the Mirror of Erised stands. Why does this first close contact with Dumbledore occur in the mirror room? Is the situation more important than just a routine rule violation by a naughty student? If so, how?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. At the end of Harry’s adventures, when the Sorcerer’s Stone has been safely destroyed, Dumbledore reveals to Harry that he devised the Mirror of Erised in the knowledge that Harry would succeed where Voldemort would fail. This admission raises the question of whether Dumbledore orchestrates other parts of Harry’s adventures too. Does he know, for instance, that the troll will be let into Hogwarts, and does he foresee Harry’s defeat of the troll? Is it possible that Dumbledore has a godlike foreknowledge of the whole story from beginning to end?
2. When Harry chooses his wand on Diagon Alley, he finds that the one right for him is the companion wand to the one sold long ago to Voldemort. Why does Rowling choose to emphasize a curious affinity between Harry and his great enemy, Voldemort?
3. What does the episode of the Sorting Hat reveal about Harry? What does it say about fate in the story? Is it always superior to human will?
4. At the end of Chapter 7, Harry dreams of various suspicious Hogwarts figures involved in the mysterious plot he has uncovered, including Quirrell and Snape. Why, do you think, does Malfoy appear in the dream as well? Is Malfoy’s role in the story deeper than it seems?
5. Why does the school first prohibit the Forbidden Forest and then force Harry to enter it for his detention? Has there been a change in opinion among the Hogwarts authorities as to Harry’s ability to handle danger so that prohibitions are no longer as necessary as they used to be?