Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

J. K. Rowling
Main Ideas

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.