Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a seminal work in contemporary fiction, laying the foundation for the immensely popular series of books by J. K. Rowling. The book not only introduces the protagonist, Harry Potter, but also establishes the magical world of witches and wizards in which Harry’s character develops. By introducing Harry, a reluctant hero and “nobody,” at the outset, Rowling is able to describe his journey of self-discovery, exploring how the notion of identity is shaped by one’s choices. Even the book’s overarching conflict, the struggle between “good” and “evil,” arises from choices that Harry and Quirrell/Voldemort make, choices that, in turn, inform who they are and will become.

When Harry is introduced in the opening chapter, he is viewed from the perspective of other characters, creating a narrative distance. In the second chapter, however, the point of view shifts to Harry’s, offering intimate glimpses into his personality, particularly through his interactions with his cousin, Dudley. Still, the development of Harry’s heroic identity has yet to begin: until his eleventh birthday, all of his choices are made for him. First, Dumbledore decides to leave him with the Dursleys, who then mistreat him and prevent him from making his own decisions.

The book’s inciting incident, Hagrid’s sudden arrival and the revelation that Harry is a wizard, sets the eleven-year-old protagonist on his journey of self-discovery. He gains a degree of autonomy and begins making choices that shape who he will grow to be. An early example is Harry’s choice to befriend the impoverished Ron Weasley rather than the rich and influential Draco Malfoy. He tells Malfoy, “I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks.” This becomes one of the first instances that Harry chooses according to his own desires, providing him with a loyal best friend and readers with insights into the person Harry is.

Through the events of the book’s rising action, Harry’s choices reflect a growing self-awareness and sense of personal influence. His career at Hogwarts begins with Harry exercising a degree of control over his fate; the Sorting Hat, symbolizing an external force of control in Harry’s life, takes his subconscious preferences into account, placing him in Gryffindor. The choice proves to be a turning point in Harry’s path, defining his identity. Later, Harry’s choice to defend Neville during their first flying lesson reveals aspects of his character that will continue to emerge. He is impulsive, brave, and has an inherent desire to fight for what is right. The Mirror of Erised, a symbol of Harry’s growing self-consciousness, draws him into an awareness that he longs for a family that loves him, something he has not experienced.

Paralleling Harry’s search for identity, Rowling’s other major characters similarly make choices that reveal their inner qualities and indicate their development. For example, Hermione chooses to lie to a teacher to help Harry and Ron, showing that she is more than a simple know-it-all. Neville chooses to stand up to his friends and is eventually lauded for this act by Dumbledore, showing a sense of self-confidence and bravery. Examples abound.

The book’s climax forms a classic face-off between good and evil. This confrontation calls for Harry to choose to endanger himself, without waiting for an adult to intervene. His choices throughout the plot culminate in the moment at which the Sorcerer’s Stone presents itself to him, not because he wishes to use it, but because he desires only to find it. He proves his heroic character, demonstrating that he does not covet power even when it is freely offered. Harry, in the climatic scene, represents “good,” while Quirrell and Voldemort, coveting power, represent “evil.” Voldemort’s choices doom him to his fate at the end of the book, when he is defeated by something as simple as love.

As the book moves through its falling action, Rowling again uses characters’ choices to emphasize the idea that heroic identity should be consciously crafted. Dumbledore decides to destroy the Stone, a choice that reveals his wisdom in recognizing its danger and in resisting its temptations. Harry, who revealed his desire in the Mirror of Erised, learns it was his mother’s love that protected him in the battle with Voldemort. Harry’s choice to see his parents, rooted in love, begets love and goodness, both of which become part of his identity, especially as he continues to grow and develop in the remaining books.

The book’s resolution foreshadows events to come later in the series. Voldemort, although defeated in the battle, is not finished with his quest to become all-powerful. His decision proves that he will remain the antagonist and an embodiment of evil in a long and continuing war with the protagonist, Harry, and his supporters. At the book’s close, Harry Potter, famous from the time he was a baby, has developed a heroic identity by entering the wizarding world and making choices through which he has discovered his own beliefs and convictions. He has become a character that goes well beyond being only “the Boy who Lived.”