But yeh must know about yer mom and dad. . . . I mean, they’re famous. You’re famous.

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The thump is heard again. A giant smashes down the door. Uncle Vernon threatens the giant with a gun, but the giant takes the gun and ties it into a knot. The giant presents Harry with a chocolate birthday cake and introduces himself as Hagrid, the “Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts.” Hagrid is disturbed to find out that the Dursleys have never told Harry what Hogwarts is. Vernon tries to stop Hagrid from telling Harry about Hogwarts, but to no avail. Hagrid tells Harry that Harry is a wizard and presents him with a letter of acceptance to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Vernon protests that he will not allow Harry to attend Hogwarts. Hagrid explains to Harry that the Dursleys have been lying all along about how the boy’s parents died. Harry learns that they did not die in a car crash, as he had always thought, but were killed by the evil wizard Voldemort. Harry does not believe he could be a wizard, but then he realizes that the incident with the boa constrictor was an act of wizardry. With Uncle Vernon protesting, Hagrid takes Harry from the shack.


The arrival of Harry’s birthday coincides with Hagrid’s revelation of who Harry is, further suggesting that Harry must mature into his new identity. The time may be coming when Harry actually becomes a young Mr. H. Potter, as the letters refer to him, who lives his own life and is capable of making his own way. Even the chocolate cake that Hagrid brings for his birthday shows that, for the first time, Harry is no longer dependent on the Dursleys to feed him. His departure from home at the end of Chapter 4 is symbolic of this maturation. Harry can begin to imagine a future life of adult self-reliance, and we see that the story is perhaps a tale about growing up.

The dramatic conflict in the shack between Mr. Dursley and Hagrid sharply illustrates the contrast between the world of wizards and the world of ordinary Muggles. These two worlds are each represented by authority figures, and we see how Mr. Dursley’s frantic obstinacy is very different from Hagrid’s confident power. Mr. Dursley clings to his dominant role in the family with a pathetic desperation, but we see that Harry, like any boy in his right mind, prefers to associate with the dynamic and direct Hagrid. The flimsy social world represented by the Dursley family is crashing down, and we see a more appealing world of power and charisma emerging as an alternative. This opposition between Mr. Dursley and Hagrid can hardly be called a power struggle, as Hagrid is so easily the victor in the standoff between the two men. When he effortlessly bends Dursley’s gun, we see that there can be no real contest between them. What is also interesting about the opposition between Muggles and wizards is that the Dursleys are aware of the two worlds the whole time. Rowling could have made the Dursleys oblivious of wizardry until Hagrid’s arrival; instead, she has them live in denial for ten years. Their denial is intriguing because it suggests that normal people repress difficult or potentially embarrassing facts in order to make their lives seem more normal.

Read more about how Rowling compares and contrasts the Muggle world and the wizarding world.