Yum. Also, pumpkin pasties? Yes, please.
Moving along through Harry Potter raises more questions than answers. We're getting deeper and deeper into the labyrinth which only leaves us more lost but more eager to reach the center. After it's revealed to Harry that he is a wizard and accepted to the number one school for wizardry in the world, Hagrid takes him shopping in Diagon Alley (diagonally--get it?! how fun is that?), and we are introduced to some of the staples of the wizarding world. Throughout reading, my mental notes looked like this, only less organized:
- does the wizarding world exist in a parallel dimension to the Muggle world, or is it merely "hidden"?
- if non-magic people can have magical offspring, are wizards really a race, and if not, what's with the racism?
- what makes someone have the gift of magic and others not?
- why does a wizard need a wand to channel his magic?
- and why do the wands need magical items inside them if the wizards themselves posses magic?
- why do they need a pet/animal?
- why do wizards need money?
- what kind of moral rules are there in place for them to determine when a wizard has "gone to the dark side," and who made them?
- where is Hogwarts exactly, and why haven't Muggles stumbled upon it?
- if they have all these spells for easily accomplishing things, why aren't all wizards morbidly obese, and what do they spend all their time doing?
Maybe I'm an atypical curious reader. But far from frustrating, these are the kind of things that make for delightful reading. Some of the questions raised, I think, are easily glossed over at first introduction because they are already permeated into our folk culture: witches have cats and broomsticks and magic wands. That's just a given. But Rowling has an opportunity here to develop her own fanciful sub-creation and I'm eager to see what she does with it.
|R. Teressa Zimmerman, source|
These chapters introduce us to Harry's peers: the not-so nice Draco Malfoy, doesn't-quite-know-what-to-do-with-himself Ron, the over-compensating Hermione, and . . . Neville. Poor Neville! Harry also gets a chance to show us his moral mettle when he sticks up for Hagrid, and later Ron, firmly establishing himself from here-on-out among the unpopular crowd, albeit popular in reputation. These two seemingly casual events define his character. He could have taken the opportunity to use his fame to get a leg up in this new environment, a fresh start--leaving behind the bullying forever--but he doesn't. And he does it without wasting a second thinking on the consequences.
This leads me to another strong motif in the book, of expectation. Harry, who has not been expected to amount to anything his entire life, suddenly comes into a rich legacy and a dizzying fame. What to do with it? He handles it with innocence, which is very commendable. Still, I stand with Harry shoulder to shoulder and feel the weight of others' expectations.
"I think we must expect great things from you, Mr. Potter," says Mr. Ollivander. The follow-up sentence drives the weight home: "After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things--terrible, yes, but great." So what is a boy to do? When he is already "known" by a whole class--no, a whole world--of people, yet still inherently unknown? How does he establish himself as an individual? And how does he climb out from under the shadow of such a daunting figure, someone he can't even be allowed to name in order to stand against face-to-face and ask, "Who are you? And, more importantly, who does that make me?"