Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is a children’s novel
about a young boy, Harry Potter, and his adventures at Hogwarts, a school for
wizards and witches. The novel is filled with humorous tales of exciting
escapades in and around the school. There are many characters in the novel, and
they do not always get along well. They make fun of each other and judge each
other by a certain set of standards. Some of these standards include wealth,
intelligence, family and athletic ability. These are all superficial ways of
judging people. Being a children’s author, Rowling shows her readers other, more
important ways of categorizing others through less apparent methods. These true
values that she emphasizes are judging others by their character and heart. The
false values by which children judge each other are more blatant in the novel
because they are illustrated through conversation instead of actions. The main
ways that they judge each other are: financial status, family background (Muggle
or wizard), house affiliation, intelligence and athletic ability. Almost every
character has some good values and some bad values in the novel. By illustrating
the characters with faults, Rowling makes them more realistic and believable.
The first skin deep value used to measure the status of a character is money.
Just as in the real world, some people have more money than others. One
character that seems to be very well off in the wizard world is Draco Malfoy. He
has all of the newest and nicest books and school supplies on the first day. His
owl is of the nicest breed. When the students receive mail at meals, Malfoy
frequently receives packages of goodies from his family and he is not humble
about it. He is quite a contrast to Ron Weasley and his family. Ron comes from a
poor family. Everything he brings to school with him seems to be a hand-me-down.
Ron says, “you never get anything new, either, with five brothers. I’ve got
Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand, and Percy’s old rat.” (p. 100).
Malfoy likes to use this weakness to make fun of Ron. He makes comments such as,
“What would you know about it, Weasley, you couldn’t afford half the
handle” when Harry gets a new broom (p. 165). Later, when they run into
Hagrid, Malfoy says to Ron, “Are you trying to earn some extra money,
Weasley…that hut of Hagrid’s must seem like a palace compared to what your
family’s used to” (pp. 195-196). These are very cruel comments, but money
is not the only way that Malfoy judges others. Family background is the second
shortsighted way of judging people in the book. Whether a character comes from a
Muggle family, a pure Wizard family or a mix between the two seems to play an
important role in the book. For example, Draco Malfoy is from a pure Wizard
family and he takes great pride in it. He often judges others by this measure.
On the train to Hogwarts he says to Harry, “You’ll soon find out some
wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go
making friends with the wrong sort.” (p. 108). Harry has Wizard parents,
but he has lived with Muggles his whole life so he has no experience in wizardry
at all. Harry’s friend, Hermione Granger, is from a pure Muggle family. For this
reason, Malfoy makes fun of her on more than one occasion. Ron is also from a
pure Wizard family, but he does not make fun of those who are not. There are
still other shallow ways of judging others. One of these ways is which house
each person belongs to. Each person is assigned to a house when they get to
Hogwarts. There is much competition between the houses, but the greatest
competition is between Gryffindor and Slytherin. When introducing the houses the
Sorting Hat says, “you might belong in Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at
heart, their daring, nerve, and chivalry set Gryffindor apart;… or perhaps in
Slytherin you’ll make your real friends, those cunning folk use any means to
achieve their ends.” (p. 118). Slytherin has a history of having its
members from pure Wizard families and of winning the House Cup many times. Draco
Malfoy is part of that house. However, it is not necessarily the best house.
There have also been a number of bad Wizards that belonged to that house.
Voldemort, a master at dark arts came from Slytherin. Gryffindor also has a good
reputation. On the train to Hogwarts hermione says, “I’ve been asking
around, and I hope I’m in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best; I hear
Dumbledore himself was in it.” (p. 106). The competition is so fierce
between the houses that even the professors get involved. Many of them seem to
be prejudiced in awarding and taking points from their own or opposing houses.
For example, Ron says, “Snape’s head of Slytherin House. They say he always
favors them.” (p. 135). Characters are also judged by their intelligence.
Hermione is the smartest person in the class so she has a good reputation.
Rowling describes her when she writes, “Hermione was on the edge of her
seat and looked desparate to prove that she wasn’t a dunderhead.” (p. 137).
By the end of the novel she accomplishes this through her final exam grades,
“Harry had almost forgotten that the exam results were still to come, but
come they did…Hermione, of course, had the best grades of the first
years.” (p.307). Neville Longbottom, on the other hand, is not so
intelligent. He does not do very well in school so his reputation is not as
good. Hagrid has the lowest reputation for intelligence. He is not very smart
and is not even allowed to use magic because he was kicked out of Hogwarts.
Whenever he does use magic he seems to mess it up in one way or another. This is
not really a good way to judge others, but it is used quite often, especially by
Draco Malfoy. He enjoys making fun of Hagrid for his stupidity. Neville
Longbottom has a below average intelligence, as well as below average skills at
just about every task that involves magic. His magic skills overall are very
poor. For example, when he tries to fly a broomstick he ends up breaking his
wrist because he can’t control it. Malfoy taunts him constantly for this. Harry,
on the other hand, has great skills at flying a broomstick. On his first try he
has great agility and speed. Professor McGonagall describes him by saying,
“The boy’s a natural. I’ve never seen anything like it…He caught that
thing in his hand after a fifty-foot dive, didn’t even scratch himself.”
(p. 151). Harry receives much praise and many compliments for all of his great
plays at Quidditch. All of these ways of judging people are not good ways to
judge others. People cannot control how much money their parents have, whether
or not they are from Muggle families, which house the Sorting Hat puts them in,
their natural intelligence or innate skills at magic, so it is unfair to use
these means to pass judgment on a person. Rowling understands this fact and she
makes an important point by showing her readers better ways to judge people
through the character’s actions. She shows that it is preferable to judge people
based on their integrity and heart. This is a very important message to send off
in a children’s book. Although the characters have flaws, she makes the readers
see their goodness by making the virtuous characters heroes and by allowing
their reputable qualities overpower their unfavorable flaws. For example,
although Hagrid is not especially intelligent or proficient at magic, he has a
good heart. He cares very much about the well being of others. This is seen in
all of his actions, from the beginning of the novel when he brings Harry to the
Dursley’s doorstep, to protecting Harry, Neville and Malfoy in the forest, to
caring for the baby dragon to the present he gives Harry at the end of the year.
Neville also illustrates honorable qualities to look for in a person. Even
though he is seen as sort of a weak and incompetent character he is rewarded for
standing up to his friends to trying to protect them at the end of the novel.
This is a very brave and noble thing for him to do. Hermione is also rewarded
for her admirable qualities. She does not come from a Wizard family but that
does not keep her from being the smartest in the class. This illustrates the
importance of a sound work ethic. Her intelligence ends up helping Harry get
through the secret passage to fight Voldemort. The entire time that she is
helping Harry she is paying close attention to his well being because she is
worried about him. She knows that intelligence is not the most important thing.
Right before Harry continues on his way she proves this by saying, “Books!
And cleverness! There are more important things? friendship and bravery and?
oh Harry- be careful!” (p. 287). This shows that it is not just what one
holds in their head, but what she holds in her heart as well. Ron also exhibits
some outstanding character traits. He sacrifices himself in a chess game to help
Harry out. It proves that he is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater
good. Finally, Harry exhibits numerous positive characteristics. He is generous,
caring, and he always does things in order to achieve some greater good.
Although he gets in trouble a lot, he is not a bad kid. Instead he is the hero
in the novel. By making Harry the hero, Rowling teaches children various
redeeming qualities for which they should strive. In the end, all of these
characters win points for Gryffindor and Gryffindor ends up winning the House
Cup. This is the way the ending should be because all of the virtuous characters
are in Gryffindor. By having Gryffindor win, Rowling shows that upright,
honorable characters don’t always finish last. Rowling not only teaches a lesson
by rewarding the good characters, but she also teaches a lesson by punishing the
immoral and corrupt guys. At the end of the story Dumbledore awards Ron,
Hermione, Neville and Harry a total of 170 points for their brave actions in
fighting Voldemort. This puts them nine points ahead of Slytherin in the battle
for the House Cup. When Gryffindor win the House Cup, Slytherin loses. This is
important because Malfoy is a member of Slytherin. By having Slytherin lose,
Rowling illustrates the point that all of Malfoy’s superficial judgments are not
a good way to judge people. He ends up being seen as the antagonist. He becomes
the bad example that children should not follow. The most important example of
evil and wickedness in the novel is Voldemort. In the battle between Voldemort
and Harry, Voldemort loses. He loses because his powers are not stronger than
love. Harry was saved by love. Dumbledore says, “Your mother died to save
you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love…Quirrell
full of hatred, greed and ambition, sharing a soul with Voldemort, could not
touch you for this very reason.” (p. 299). This message is the strongest
message in the whole book. It teaches children that love is always better than
hate and that love conquers all. There are not many messages that are better for
children to read. By the end of the novel J.K. Rowling has taught her readers
many important life lessons. The way the characters judge each other on an
external level can be compared to the way many people are judged in real life.
People are judged all the time by their intelligence, financial status, their
various skills and abilities and by the color of their skin. Rowling shows
through the actions of her characters that it is better to judge people by their
character and their heart than by aspects of their life that they can’t control.
She also shows her readers how important it is to love and take care of each
other. If people do not take care of each other than they will accomplish
nothing. Although Harry is the hero in the novel, he couldn’t have beaten
Voldemort without the help of his friends. Teamwork is a necessity for having a
successful life. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a very entertaining
novel, but more importantly, it gives off many essential life lessons.