I've got lots of reflections, some of which were quite hard to put to words for this post, as I finish typing and reading by candlelight. That will be dealt with presently. First, however, your weekly treat:
|aprikose_fanart of dA, The Boy Who Lived|
The Harry Potter Book Club Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Playlist
Chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived
Sulfjan Stevens' Coventry Carol
Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass
the lullaby from the movie Pan's Labyrinth
Chapter 3: The Letters from No One
Harry Potter movie theme song a.k.a. Hedwig's Theme
Chapter 4: The Keeper of the Keys
Touch the Sky from the movie Brave
Chapter 5: Diagon Alley
Yael Naim's New Soul
Chapter 6: The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-quarters
Elements by Lindsey Stirling
Chapter 7: The Sorting Hat
Ministry of Magic's House Song(do yourself a favor and watch the video on this one!)
Chapter 8: The Potions Master
Pan's Labyrinth music box lullaby
Chapter 9: The Midnight Duel
Danuvius by Audiomachine
Chapter 10: Halloween
Rhythm of Life
Chapter 11: Quidditch
Florence + the Machine's Breath of Life
Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised
Dante's Prayer by Loreena Mckennit
Chapter 13: Nicolas Flamel
Idumea by Sulfjan Stevens
Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback
Taylor Swift's Mean
The Forbidden Forest
The Mummer's Dance by Loreena Mckennit
Chapter 16: Through the Trapdoor
Aisling's song from The Secret of Kells, a.k.a. Pangur Ban
Chapter 17: The Man with Two Faces
Or find all of the above plus some on my Youtube playlist.
What stood out to me most strongly in the following chapters after the introductory one is perhaps something that slips under most casual readers' radar . . . if so, I can't say why it was so potent to me. Am I a sensitive reader or an over-thinking one? But the recurring theme of chapters two and three is nothing short of a Cinderella tale, a boy-who-in-reality-is-a-prince adopted by relatives and treated as a servant in his own house. Let us put it this way; if the outline of the chapters were reported on the evening news, it would go something like this:
Eleven-year-old boy discovered to have suffered years of neglect and emotional abuse under the care of his guardians and relatives.
The utter horribleness of Harry's situation is blunted by Rowling's casual tone, and I find myself in a place between admiration and bafflement at Harry's perseverance; true, he's taken on a survival-of-the-fittest type of attitude, getting what he can when he can, but as far as situations go, it couldn't have been much worse for him and he couldn't have come out better.
|aprikose_fanart of dA, The Vanishing Glass|
So there's an untouchable purity in Harry and a spark of hope that has somehow gone to seed and grown despite the scraggly soil in which it has been planted. I daresay the best of us would have turned out much worse. I don't know if this was an oversight on the author's part or a deliberate choice; if the latter, she hasn't yet revealed to us the exact character strengths that went toward this unlikely preservation of innocence. When the letters come--at first in two's, then clumps, then showers and avalanches of mail--this reader was more than ready for something lightheartedly extraordinary to counteract the tragedy.
The other theme, as it were, that stood out secondarily, was the timelessness of the setting. Though we know it must take place at least in the 90's because of mention of video games and VCR's; Rowling's description of Dudley's Smelting uniform and accompanying stick; the colloquial Knickerbocker Glory ice cream dessert; and general portrayal of English suburban living hails back to early 20th century Britain. All references to current events, pop culture, fashions, and trends are deliberately absent, and this I find very fitting and wholly satisfying. It allows for further suspension of disbelief for the events that are about to occur and also claims solidarity for itself with other children's classics literature, like The Phantom Tollbooth and Narnia. I mean, children fifty years from now can be reading Harry Potter and not find the story "dated."
|aprikose_fanart of dA, The Letters from No One|
Jenna mentions the subtle but significant difference in Petunia's and Vernon's reactions to Hagrid and his disclosure that Harry is a wizard in Chapter 4. When reading this part, I felt a twinge of pity for Aunt Petunia:
". . . I was the only one who saw her for what she was--a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!"
She stopped to draw a deep breath and then went ranting on. It seemed she had been wanting to say all this for years.
Emphasis mine. I'm making no excuses for the blatant abuse of the child in her care. But I can sympathize with a woman who seems to have been overshadowed by a "gifted" sister, praised by her parents in the presence of the other child who had no way of comparing. At least, that is one way of interpreting her rant. I wonder if this observation isn't a sign of a continued nit-pick between myself and the Harry Potter books, about the seeming elevation of the wizarding types against normal human beings. That remains to be seen.