Summary: Chapter 5

Harry wakes up in the company of Hagrid and realizes that the preceding night was not a dream. The two set off to London to shop for Harry’s school supplies. Harry is concerned about the money required, but Hagrid assures him that his parents left behind plenty of funds for him at Gringotts, the wizards’ bank run by goblins. Their first stop in London is at the Leaky Cauldron, a pub where all the patrons recognize Harry and are both nervous and honored to have the opportunity to meet him. They head out to the street, where Hagrid taps on a brick wall, and a small street called Diagon Alley opens before them. Hagrid explains that Harry will buy what he needs for school here. They go to Gringotts, where they are escorted down to Harry’s safe. Inside, they view the piles of silver and gold that Harry’s parents left him. Hagrid explains the complex wizard monetary system, which is composed of Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts. Hagrid fills a small bag with money. He then takes Harry to another vault, number 713, which is empty except for a grubby little package that Hagrid picks up and hides in his clothes, warning Harry not to ask about it.

Hagrid then takes Harry to be fitted for his uniform. In the store, he encounters a snobbish and unlikable boy who will also be starting Hogwarts in the fall. The snobbish boy talks highly about grand old wizard families, and Harry begins to worry about whether he is cut out to be a wizard. But Hagrid reassures Harry, telling him that he will learn all he needs to know and that there are many Muggle students at Hogwarts. After buying the required books and ingredients for potions, Hagrid and Harry then head to the wand store. Mr. Ollivander, the storeowner, makes Harry try a number of magic wands, telling him that it will be clear when he has the right one. Harry tries out many wands. Finally, he picks up one made of holly and phoenix feather, and sparks shoot out from it—this is clearly the right wand. Ollivander tells Harry that the only other wand containing feathers from the same phoenix belonged to Voldemort and had been used to give Harry his lightning-bolt forehead scar.

Summary: Chapter 6

Harry’s last month with the Dursleys is unpleasant. The day before he is due to leave, Harry asks Uncle Vernon to take him to the train station. Uncle Vernon agrees to take him but ridicules him for saying he is to leave from track nine and three quarters, as is marked on the ticket Hagrid gave him. The following day, Harry arrives at the station and stands between tracks nine and ten, wondering with increasing alarm how to find track nine and three quarters. Finally, he overhears some people mention Hogwarts; it is a family of red-haired children who seem to be bound for the academy. He asks the mother for help, and she tells him to walk through the barrier between tracks nine and ten. Harry does so, and he is astonished to find the train to Hogwarts on the other side. Harry boards it.

On the train, Harry is introduced to Fred and George Weasley, twins who are returning to school, and to their brother Ron, another student who will be starting at Hogwarts. Ron introduces Harry to such details of wizard life as Quidditch (a game a bit like soccer, but played on broomsticks), Famous Witches and Wizards cards (collectible items like baseball cards), and Every Flavor Beans. One of the cards bears the picture of Albus Dumbledore. Ron, who comes from a poor family, cannot afford the pastries sold on the train, so Harry buys a lot with his newfound wealth and shares them with Ron. Harry also meets a somewhat annoying, overachieving girl named Hermione Granger and sees again the unpleasant boy from the uniform shop, whose name is Draco Malfoy. All the students have heard of Harry, and Harry is not sure how to respond to his fame. Arriving at the station, the newcomers are led onto boats in which they sail to the castle of Hogwarts.

Analysis: Chapters 5 & 6

The shopping trip to Diagon Alley and the train journey to Hogwarts represent not a total abandonment of Harry’s earlier life, but in many ways represents a more magical and mythical version of it. The Muggles’ world and the wizards’ world are not opposites, but parallels. Certainly there are major differences as far as Harry is concerned; whereas in the Muggle world he is dependent on the Dursleys and is relegated to cramped living spaces, he now has money and respect. But the two worlds themselves are not so very different. For instance, there is snobbery and condescension in both. Harry has not escaped the selfish Dudley entirely, because Dudley is in a sense reborn in the figure of Draco Malfoy, another snob who revels in making Harry feel socially inferior. Draco, like Dudley, considers himself superior to Harry because he belongs to an established family while Harry is an outsider. Moreover, just as the name Dudley Dursley contrasts with the name Harry Potter, so does the name Draco Malfoy. Draco was the name of a harsh ancient Greek lawmaker and is also the Latin word for “dragon”; Malfoy is an Anglicized version of the French words mal and foi, which mean, roughly, “bad faith.” Draco Malfoy can thus be seen as a more villainous (and more glamorous) version of Dudley Dursley.

Read an in-depth analysis of Draco Malfoy.

Similarly, money drives both worlds. The wizard realm is not a money-free paradise, but is like a mirror of the Dursleys’ consumerist world, complete with banks, shops, and candy vendors. Nothing in Diagon Alley is handed out for free; everything must be bought and paid for with an alternate currency, but the coins are minted in gold and silver just as in the Muggle world. There is outright wickedness in both the Muggle world and the wizard world. The villainous Voldemort matches the cruelly neglectful Dursleys in evil. All this shows that Harry’s exciting new life will not be simply a withdrawal from his earlier misery into some cushy new heaven. His new life will not necessarily be safer or easier than the old one. What is different is not the world so much as Harry’s role in it; his powers and status have increased enormously. He has been reborn—like the phoenix that gives his wand its powers—into much the same world as before, but with a new and different life.

Read more about money and the parallels between the world of Hogwarts and the world of Muggles.

Harry’s acquisition of his magic wand is a key symbol of his new identity. It symbolizes his fate, as he does not choose the wand he wants, but is chosen by it, just as he is chosen by fate to be a wizard. His own will and preference do not matter; his wizardry is beyond personal choice. The wand also connects Harry to his past and to his future. The storeowner remembers clearly the wands he once sold to Harry’s mother and father, which were made of willow and mahogany, respectively. These details give Harry a more concrete view of his parents than he has ever had (foreshadowing the family photos that Hagrid later gives Harry). Furthermore, because Harry’s wand is similar to the wand that Voldemort used to give Harry his lightning-bolt scar, this wand directly connects him to the trauma of losing his parents, a loss that changed his life. Yet the future is suggested as much as the past; it is clearly foreshadowed that the wand and the wand’s twin, which is in Voldemort’s possession, will be used in a final, climactic standoff between good and evil. Finally, the wand is a symbol of Harry’s new hero status—it is as though Harry is to redeem the world’s goodness. As Voldemort’s ultimate rival, Harry is set up as Voldemort’s potential equal. This hero status is evident on the shopping trip and on the train, where Harry’s new acquaintances are all aware of his fame. The magic wand, still unused but potentially powerful, is a fitting emblem of Harry’s immense and untapped skill.

Read more about Harry’s scar as a symbol.