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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

J. K. Rowling

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title  · Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (originally titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)

author  · J. K. Rowling

type of work  · Novel

genre  · Children’s book, fantasy tale

language  · English

time and place written  · 1990s, Scotland

date of first publication  · 1997

publisher  · Bloomsbury Children’s Books

narrator  · The story is narrated by a detached third-person observer close to the action, but not involved in it.

point of view  · For most of the story, the narrator, who knows everything about all of the characters, generally stays close to Harry Potter’s point of view, registering surprise when Harry is surprised and fear when Harry is afraid. But while Harry is a baby in the first chapter, the narrator takes the point of view of Mr. Dursley, who is perplexed by signs of wizards around town. The shift in point of view from a Muggle’s perspective to a wizard’s emphasizes the difference between the two worlds.

tone  · As fitting for a children’s book, the tone is straightforward and simple, with few purely decorative elements or artistic features, few metaphors and figures, and little playful irony. The language is easy to grasp. The narrator never imposes moral judgments on any characters, even the wicked Voldemort, but allows us full freedom to praise or condemn.

tense  · Past

setting (time)  · An unspecified time, modern and roughly contemporary (late 1990s)

setting (place)  · Surrey, England, and the Hogwarts wizardry academy

protagonist  · Harry Potter

major conflict  · Harry attempts to stop Voldemort, who killed Harry’s parents, from stealing the Sorcerer’s Stone.

rising action  · Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts, the news of the break-in at Gringotts, and Hermione’s revelation of the trapdoor under the guard dog in the third-floor corridor bring Harry and Voldemort closer to confrontation.

climax  · Professor Snape’s apparent hex on Harry during the Quidditch game brings the simmering tension between good and evil out into the open, shifting Harry’s concern from winning the game to surviving.

falling action  · With the conflict out in the open, the forces of good and the forces of evil draw closer together: Harry, Ron, and Hermione explore the school and learn about the Sorcerer’s Stone; Voldemort drinks unicorn blood to sustain himself and attacks Harry in the Forbidden Forest; Harry faces Professor Quirrell and Voldemort, who orders Quirrell to kill Harry.

themes  · The value of humility, the occasional necessity of rebellion, the dangers of desire

motifs  · Muggles, points, authority

symbols  · Harry’s scar, Quidditch, the Mirror of Erised

foreshadowing  · The pain that Harry feels at the end of Chapter 7 when Snape stares at him hints that there is some underlying tension between the two. Rowling exploits our misgivings about Snape by leading us to believe that he and Harry will eventually confront each other in a climactic battle for the Sorcerer’s Stone.