protagonist of the story, who is gradually transformed from timid
weakling to powerful hero by the end. Marked on the forehead with
a lightning-shaped scar, Harry is marked also by the confrontation between
good and bad magic that caused that scar: the standoff between the
evil Voldemort and his parents who died to save their son. The story
eventually becomes a tale of Harry’s vengeance for their wrongful deaths.
As he matures, he shows himself to be caring and shrewd, a loyal
friend, and an excellent Quidditch player.
in-depth analysis of Harry Potter.
- Initially an annoying goody-two-shoes who studies
too much and obeys the school rules too zealously. Hermione eventually
becomes friendly with Harry after she learns to value friendship
over perfectionism and obedience. She comes from a purely Muggle
family, and her character illustrates the social-adjustment problems
often faced by new students at Hogwarts.
in-depth analysis of Hermione Granger.
shy, modest boy who comes from an impoverished wizard family. Ron
is Harry’s first friend at Hogwarts, and they become close. He lacks
Harry’s gusto and charisma, but his loyalty and help are useful to
Harry throughout their adventures. Ron’s mediocrity despite his
wizard background reminds us that success at Hogwarts is based
solely on talent and hard work, not on family connections. Ron’s willingness
to be beaten up by the monstrous chess queen shows how selfless
and generous he is.
oafish giant who works as a groundskeeper at Hogwarts. Rubeus Hagrid
is a well-meaning creature with more kindness than brains. He cares
deeply for Harry, as evidenced by the tears he sheds upon having to
leave the infant Harry with the Dursleys. His fondness for animals
is endearing, even if it gets him into trouble (as when he tries
raising a dragon at home). Hagrid symbolizes the importance of generosity and
human warmth in a world menaced by conniving villains.
- The kind, wise head of Hogwarts. Though he is a famous
wizard, Dumbledore is as humble and adorable as his name suggests.
While other school officials, such as Professor McGonagall, are
obsessed with the rules, Dumbledore respects them (as his warnings
against entering the Forbidden Forest remind us) but does not exaggerate
their importance. He appears to have an almost superhuman level
of wisdom, knowledge, and personal understanding, and it seems that
he may have set up the whole quest for the Sorcerer’s Stone so that
Harry could prove himself.
great wizard gone bad. When he killed Harry’s parents, Voldemort
gave Harry a lightning-shaped scar. Voldemort has thus shaped Harry’s
life so that Harry’s ultimate destruction of him appears as a kind
of vengeance. Voldemort, whose name in French means either “flight
of death” or “theft of death,” is associated both with high-flying
magic and with deceit throughout the story. He is determined to
escape death by finding the Sorcerer’s Stone. Voldemort’s weak point is
that he cannot understand love, and thus cannot touch Harry’s body,
which still bears the traces of Harry’s mother’s love for her son.
arrogant student and Harry’s nemesis. Malfoy, whose name translates
roughly to “dragon of bad faith,” is a rich snob from a long line
of wizards who feels entitled to the Hogwarts experience. He makes fun
of the poorer Ron Weasley and advises Harry to choose his friends
more carefully. As the story progresses, Malfoy becomes more and
more inimical to Harry and his friends, and there is a hint that
he may grow up to become another Voldemort.
in-depth analysis of Draco Malfoy.
- A timid Hogwarts classmate of Harry’s. Neville is
friendly and loyal, but like Ron, he lacks Harry’s charisma. Like
Hermione, he is initially too obedient, and when the time comes
to go after the Sorcerer’s Stone, he fears punishment and threatens
to report his friends to the teachers.
- The head of Gryffindor House at Hogwarts and a high-ranking
woman in the wizard world. Minerva McGonagall is fair but extremely
stern and severe in her punishments. Her devotion to the letter
of the law is impressive but a bit cold, and we constantly feel
that she could never become a warm and wise figure like Dumbledore.
Rowling named her after a notoriously bad nineteenth-century Scottish poet
named William McGonagall who was nevertheless highly confident of
his own talents.
- A professor of Potions at Hogwarts. Severus Snape
dislikes Harry and appears to be an evil man for most of the story.
His name associates him not only with unfair snap judgments of others
but also with his violent intentions to snap the bones of his enemies. Snape’s
grudge against Harry, which is nevertheless far from a murderous
ill will, helps us remember the difference between forgivable vices
and unforgivable evil intentions.
- A stuttering and seemingly harmless man, and a professor
of Defense against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. Quirrell appears as
nervous and squirrelly as his name suggests for most of the story.
It is he, for example, who nearly faints when announcing the news that
a troll is loose in the school. It turns out later, however, that
Quirrell has faked his withdrawing meekness and is actually a cold-blooded
rich uncle, with whom Harry lives for ten miserable years. Dursley
symbolizes the Muggle world at its most silly and mediocre. It is
through Mr. Dursley’s jaded Muggle eyes that we first glimpse wizards,
and his closed-mindedness toward the colorful cloaks and literate
cats that he meets emphasizes how different the human and wizard worlds
- Mr. Dursley’s wife. Petunia is an overly doting mother
to her spoiled son, Dudley, and a prison-keeper to Harry. She is
haughty and excessively concerned with what the neighbors think
of her family. She is somewhat humanized for us when we discover
that she was always jealous of the magical gifts of her sister, Lily,
Harry’s witch mother. Perhaps her malevolence toward Harry springs
from an earlier resentment of her sister.
cousin, a spoiled, fat bully. Annoying and loud, Dudley manipulates
parental love to get what he wants—his outrageous desires for multiple television
sets foreshadow the important scenes involving the Mirror of Erised
and the wrongful desire for eternal life that motivates Voldemort.
Dudley’s tormenting of Harry foreshadows Malfoy’s later bullying
tendencies at Hogwarts, though he is less gifted than Malfoy.