Model Essay #5
Model Literary Analysis
Topic Prompt: What are three important themes from the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a great story that develops around the legend of the Sorcerer’s Stone, a long sought after substance that would transform any metal into gold and bestow immortality. In telling the story of the Sorcerer’s Stone, the novel also touches on many universal themes, such as overcoming difficulties, dealing with conflict, relating to authority and learning new ideas. Choosing just three themes to analyze from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was a difficult task because so many themes are fully developed in the novel. However, the three significant themes that I chose to explain from the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone novel are the power of love, the importance of friendship, and courage on the hero’s journey.
The first important theme in the story is the power of love. In the first chapter, we find out that Harry’s parents are killed by Voldemort, but that their one-year-old son’s life was spared. Voldemort tried to kill Harry, but he was unable to and "when he couldn't kill Harry Potter, Voldemort's power somehow broke." (p. 12). From that awful encounter with Voldemort, Harry has a distinctive lightning scar that is a testament to Harry’s escaping Voldemort’s attempt on his life. We learn it was love that protects Harry, when Dumbledore tells Harry that Voldemort “didn’t realize love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark” (p. 299). Dumbledore explained that “to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” (p. 299). As dark and awful as Voldemort was, he could not overpower this protective force of love, and Harry’s lightning scar is a symbol of love’s triumph over evil. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, love is the luckiest charm and the most supernatural spell.
Friendship is another prevalent theme. In the novel we get to know the three main protagonists, Harry, Ron and Hermione especially well through their dynamic relationship. Harry, Ron and Hermione meet on the train ride to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and are all placed in the Gryffindor House by the Sorting Hat. The three support each other in the classroom, with homework, and during Quidditch matches, and they also compare ideas for understanding exciting magical mysteries. They make decisions that test their friendships and in some cases alienate them from their social group, such as when they losepoints for Gryffindor, and their House is in jeopardy of losing the House Cup. When Harry wants to take courageous action to stop the Sorcerer’s Stone from being stolen, Ron and Hermione naturally support him and go along. They work together, each one utilizing their own strengths and encouraging each other.
Crafted from the history of alchemy, the story of the Sorcerer’s Stone is ancient and captivating, and the story shows Harry courageously travelling on the hero’s journey to solve the mystery. According to Joseph Campbell, a hero is someone who “ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (Campbell, p. 30) Harry is initiated into a magical world, struggles with his fate and makes tough choices, and ultimately succeeds through his efforts and pure motive in finding the Sorcerer’s Stone. To discover the secret of the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry had to recognize what did not make sense, cope with peer pressure, and contend with being chastised and even reprimanded for his daring decisions. Harry was courageous in asking questions and continuing to pursue answers, even when it put his life or school future in jeopardy. In the end, Harry, as well as Ron and Hermione, struggled together in order to solve the mystery and become heroes.
By modeling the positive actions and choices of the main characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione, the novel uses the themes of love, friendship and the hero’s journey to entertain as well as inspire us to deal with the events of our lives courageously.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero of a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1948.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Inc, 1997.