Book essay: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Main characters:

Harry Potter is the protagonist of the plot and thus the story and characters were made up around him. He’s an eleven year old orphan who lives a miserable life with his aunt and uncle. Harry’s a rather thin, raven-haired, bespectacled boy who doesn’t know he’s a wizard yet. However things change rather quickly as he is saved by a beetle-eyed giant of a man named Rubeus Hagrid and enrols at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Here he makes various new friends and shows to have natural talent for Quidditch, which is as popular as human soccer, although these sports are very different. Throughout the story Harry acts courageously and he always seems to be focused. In this book, Harry also comes into contact with his archenemy and antagonist Voldemort.

The first chapter also gives away some previous events that helped shape the current situation. One of the most important events, namely the murdering of his parents by Voldemort, which Harry survived because of his ‘mother’s love’, left Harry with a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead, which seems to hurt excruciatingly whenever Voldemort feels a strong emotion.
Voldemort, a.k.a. the most evil wizard of all time, is so feared by most that they often refer to him as ‘You-Know-Who’ or ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’. After being nearly killed trying to kill Harry Potter, he now is weak and must either possess another human or drink unicorn’s blood to remain alive. Once a rather handsome man, Voldemort is now bald, noseless and vile-looking.
Ron Weasley, a boy of Harry’s age, becomes Harry’s first and best friend at Hogwarts. He’s a freckled, red-haired and quite tall boy that grew up in a fairly large, but warm ‘pure-blood family’ as the sixth-born of seven children. Although his family isn’t wealthy, they seem to live a comfortable life.
Even though Ron and Harry are best friends, they’re quite the opposite of each other. Whereas Harry is the famous and talented orphan with lots of inherited gold; Ron is the ordinary boy from a large, poor, but loving family. It is this controversy that makes Harry and Ron function as ‘Jing and Jang’ in the sense that they complement each other. It also makes the two friends jealous of the things the other possesses. For example: Harry is famous and talented but he longs not to be anything ‘special’, whereas Ron is rather ordinary and is quite mediocre regarding magic, Quidditch, etc. Because of this Ron is constantly trying to prove himself.
Ron is not only the best friend one could wish for: he’s also very loyal and brave, which he proves by sticking with Harry when no-one does and by putting his life in danger by playing ‘real wizard’s chess’ to find the Philosopher’s stone.
Hermione Granger is a girl of average size with bristly hair and rather large incisors. She’s the daughter of an ‘all-Muggle family’ (a family consisting only of non-wizards and the opposite of a pure-blood family) and seems to be a bossy girl who has apparently learnt almost every textbook by heart before the start of the first term. Therefore it’s not really worth mentioning that she’s quite the clever know-it-all. However despite being bossy and a know-it-all, she really is a good person that only wants the best for all.
At first Harry and Ron don’t like her, but after they save her from a troll, she becomes a close friend. This comes in handy for the two boys as Hermione tries continuously to keep them out of trouble. Her knowledge concerning magic and her ability to think logically also plays a great role in finding the Philosopher’s stone.
Rubeus Hagrid, a half-giant with long tangled black hair and a thick curly beard, was expelled from Hogwarts and had his wand broken, but Professor Dumbledore let him stay as the school’s gamekeeper. This job enables him to monitor, secretly befriend and raise the most magical creatures, albeit more than is strictly safe for him.
Because of Dumbledore’s generosity, Hagrid is fiercely loyal to him and quickly becomes a close friend of Harry, Ron and Hermione as he saves them on different occasions. The downside of this jolly giant is his carelessness which makes him unreliable. Furthermore his love for alcoholic drinks and his naivety make him say things that aren’t meant for the ‘wrong ears’.
Professor Dumbledore is a tall, slender man who wears quite peculiar half-moon spectacles and a large colourful cape. He has long silver hair and an enormous beard that tucks into his belt. Dumbledore is the headmaster of Hogwarts and is renowned for his achievements in magic such as the creation of the Philosopher’s stone with Nicolas Flamel and defeating a powerful dark wizard in 1945. Because of his skilfulness and wisdom he’s thought to be the only wizard feared by Voldemort. However, despite his fame he isn’t cocky or pretentious at all. Aside from being a famous wizard and headmaster of Hogwarts, he has a sweet tooth and is fond of woollen socks.
Neville Longbottom is a plump, timid boy, who’s so forgetful that his grandmother gives him a ‘remembrall’ (a ball that glows red when you’ve forgotten something). Neville’s magical abilities are weak and appeared just in time to save his life when he was eight according to the first chapter.
Despite his timidity, Neville will occasionally show his true bravery and fight anyone after some encouragement or when he thinks it’s really necessary. Despite Neville not being popular, Harry, Ron and Hermione feel sorry for his clumsiness and try to befriend him.
Professor McGonagall, a tall, stern-looking woman with black hair tied in a tight bun, teaches transfiguration at Hogwarts. She is also Head of Gryffindor House (the same house where Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville are in). Although she is very strict regarding rules, (much to the dislike of the students), she’s only that strict to protect the students from various things. You could conclude that underneath that reserved and severe outer shell, lies only a concerned ‘grandmother-like woman’.
Petunia Dursley, the sister of Harry’s mother Lily, where Harry resides since the death of his parents, is a rake-like woman with an unusually long neck that comes in handy for spying on neighbours. She regards her magical sister as a freak and tries to pretend that she never existed because she can’t comprehend magic and she doesn’t want the neighbours to know she’s related to such people. Her husband Vernon is a heavily built man with a pink, pig-like face that turns purple when he loses his temper. Both have narrow minds and fear everything that’s out of the ordinary. Their son Dudley is an overweight, spoiled bully who likes to use harry as his boxing-ball.
Because of their fear of magic and their disgust of Harry’s parents, they see Harry as a curse that is destined to remain with them. Therefore it doesn’t need saying that Harry’s life with the Dursleys isn’t that joyful.
Draco Malfoy is a slim, pale boy with blue eyes and blond hair which is combed neatly to the side. He comes from an old, noble wizarding family and despises ‘non-pure-blood’ wizards. Because he is of noble descent, he’s quite cocky, especially when it comes to his skills at Quidditch. Draco is also a very sly person who uses ‘whatever means necessary’ to accomplish his goals.
Professor Snape, head of house Slytherin and potions teacher, has a hooked nose, grey skin and greasy black hair. Snape favours Slytherin pupils and seems to dislike other students and especially Harry. At first, Snape is suspected of being on Voldemort’s side, but in the end he turns out to be a good man.
Professor Quirrell, teaches Defence Against the Dark Arts. Quirrell is voluntarily possessed by Voldemort, who appears on the back of his head, therefore he wears a turban as a disguise. To avoid being suspected of wanting to steal ‘the Philosophers’ Stone’ he stammers constantly and acts as if he has lost his courage by fainting when something unexpected happens.
What is the story about? + What happens in the end?

The story starts eleven years ago in the fictional suburb of Surrey, called Little Whining. At that moment, wizards across the world rejoiced that the most malicious wizard of all time, named Voldemort, was defeated. However, ordinary people, called ‘Muggles’, were very confused to see people in ‘weird robes’ celebrating for no apparent reason. The wizards were celebrating because earlier that day, Voldemort killed Harry Potter’s parents, but for some strange reason he wasn’t able to kill Harry who was still a baby at that time. After that incredible event, the evildoer seemed to have disappeared for good, causing Harry to become known as ‘the Boy Who Lived”, as he was the only person known to have survived an attack by Voldemort. Harry, who suddenly became an orphan, was brought to his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, by Hagrid, Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall.
Eleven years later, Harry still lives with his ill-tempered uncle Vernon, mean aunt Petunia and their spoiled, annoying son Dudley. Harry’s life with the Dursleys is almost unbearable; he has to live in a scruffy cupboard under the stairs, he is punished for everything except for drawing breath and the only belongings he has, are usually second-hand items passed down to him by Dudley. Knowing this, it’s needless to say that his aunt and uncle see him as a burden or even as a pest and try to avoid him as much as possible.
However, when the Dursleys go to the zoo for Dudley’s birthday, Harry is allowed to come along with them because there is no one who could keep an eye on ‘the boy’ whilst they were gone. At the zoo, Dudley and his friend try to awaken a boa constrictor, by tapping repeatedly on the glass, albeit without any success, but when Harry comes by the cage, he’s able to speak to the snake in ‘Parseltongue’ (the language of serpents). The snake tells him that it wants to go back to Brazil and somehow Harry seems to be able to remove the glass from the snake’s cage! After this incident, the Dursleys are quite afraid of Harry and decide to be even harsher on him ‘to stamp out this magical nonsense’.
After the excursion to the zoo, mysterious letters from Hogwarts addressed to Mr H. Potter, ‘The Cupboard under the stairs’ start to arrive. At first Vernon is furious and tries to keep the letters from Harry, but as he does this, more and more letters start to arrive, driving his uncle so mad that he decides to take the whole family to a dilapidated shack on a deserted island to outsmart ‘the mysterious sender’.
Anyhow, they can’t seem to go unnoticed, because Hagrid shows up on Harry’s birthday, to deliver yet another letter to explain that Harry’s a wizard and has been admitted to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This is rather a shock for Harry, but it does help him to understand why he does some unexplainable things at times when he’s in distress.
The following day, Hagrid and Harry go shopping for school supplies at a place, that’s hidden behind a magical brick wall, called Diagon Alley. Here Harry’s eyes open to this new and exciting world full of wizardry and magic. At Diagon Alley, Harry buys a lot of things, including a personalised wand. He also meets Malfoy, a fellow student, and Professor Quirrell, who teaches ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’ at Hogwarts. The duo also pays a visit to Gringotts, the goblin bank, where Harry finds out about his inherited fortune and where Hagrid picks up a mysterious package.
Harry spends the rest of the summer with the Dursleys in Dudley’s second bedroom, which was originally used to store Dudley’s old toys. Harry was given this bedroom, because his aunt and uncle wanted to keep up appearances by avoiding that anyone would find out about the way they treated Harry.
When the summer is on its last legs and school is around the corner, Harry goes to King’s Cross station to board the train bound for Hogwarts. Little does he know that the platform nine and three quarters is a magical platform that can only be accessed by ‘magical folk’. Luckily, a family called the Weasleys tells Harry to ‘run through the wall’ between the platforms nine and ten, where he can board the right train and set off to Hogwarts, making new friends such as Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom on the go.
Upon their arrival at Hogwarts, the first-year students are sorted into one of four houses according to their personality by ‘the Sorting Hat’. This hat is put on the pupil’s head and is said to know everything about the pupil. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville are all Gryffindors, a house known for bravery, although the hat wanted to put Harry in Slytherin at first. Malfoy is a Slytherin, a house known for ambition and infamous for producing dark wizards. After the sorting, the pupils get a tour of the school and go to the dormitories of their house to unpack.
When the first term starts, the pupils begin to take all kinds of lessons related to magic such as ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’, transfiguration, potions, etc. Potions proves to be Harry’s least favourite subject as the teacher, Severus Snape, seems to be really unfair and mean to Harry and the other pupils who aren’t members of house Slytherin.
In the course of the first term, Harry finds out in the newspaper that there was an attempted robbery at Gringotts bank, but nothing was taken. It doesn’t take Harry a long time ‘to connect the dots’ between the attempted robbery and the package that Hagrid picked up at the bank earlier that day. After asking Hagrid about the package, he lets it slip that the package has got something to do with a certain Nicolas Flamel.
During the first broom-flying lesson, it becomes clear that Harry belongs in house Gryffindor for his bravery, as he defends Neville who is being teased again by Malfoy, who steals Neville’s ‘remembrall’ and flies of with it. When flying after Malfoy, Harry suddenly realises that he’s very gifted at flying. Although Harry has obviously broken the rules by flying unsupervised, Professor McGonagall still rewards him by putting him on the Gryffindor Quidditch team as a Seeker, who badly need a good player to win the ‘House Cup’ after losing seven years in a row to Slytherin.
After the ‘fight on the brooms’, Malfoy and Harry clash again in school after which Malfoy challenges Harry to a wizard duel at midnight. It’s at this very moment that the slyness of Malfoy becomes visible, as he doesn’t show because he was just trying to get Harry, Ron and Hermione into trouble for moving about the school whilst not being allowed to. Noticing Malfoy’s sneaky move, the trio hurries of to their dormitory through various forbidden parts of the school. As they try to open a random door to escape from the janitor, they stumble upon a giant three-headed dog, resembling the one guarding the underworld in Greek mythology, and manage to avoid an almost certain death by scurrying off quickly. Up to this point in time, Harry and Ron are mostly rather annoyed by Hermione’s swotty attitude, but they become close friends when they save her from a troll that was terrorising the school.
As the first Quidditch match approaches in November, the three friends suspect Snape of wanting the package from Gringotts, because he seems to be the most hateful person in the world. During the game, Harry’s broom acts weirdly and seems to be jinxed, almost making Harry crash into the ground. Harry is saved mysteriously, but his friends blame Snape for putting him in danger as they saw him using some kind of spell on Harry.
During the winter break, Harry stays at Hogwarts to celebrate Christmas with his friends and is given an invisibility cloak that once belonged to his father. He uses it to sneak around the castle and discovers ‘the Mirror of Erised’ in one of Hogwarts’ many secret rooms. When he looks into the mirror he sees his parents, but when he shares the mirror with Ron, Ron sees himself as champion of the house cup. Wanting to see his family more and more, Harry increasingly risks sneaking off at night to sit in front of the mirror. Whilst being there, Harry is so focused that he doesn’t notice Dumbledore gazing at him from a dark corner of the room. Suddenly Dumbledore gets Harry’s attention and explains to him that this mirror shows you your deepest desire. Dumbledore also briefly mentions that he’s going to put the mirror in a safer place. Despite the mirror being removed, Harry can also make use of his cloak to visit the forbidden section of the library at night, sniffing around to find out more about Nicolas Flamel.
When classes resume after winter break, Harry, Ron, and Hermione finally figure out that Flamel is a renowned alchemist that made ‘the Philosopher’s Stone’ a.k.a. ‘the Sorcerer’s Stone’ which provides immortality to its owner and can turn any metal into gold. The first feature of the stone explains why Nicolas Flamel, born in 1327, is still alive. After some brainstorming the three friends come to the conclusion that ‘the stone’ must be the mysterious package that is now being guarded by the three-headed dog. The only question that lingers in their heads is: ‘who wants to steal this powerful stone and is able to do it’? Even though Harry wants to find out more, he has little time left as he tries to combine his classes, homework and Quidditch.
Meanwhile, Hagrid wins a dragon egg at game of cards and decides to breed it, which is illegal and of course dangerous. These two facts are the main arguments put forward by Harry, Ron and Hermione to convince Hagrid to smuggle the dragon out of school and give it a better future somewhere else. Malfoy, still hell-bent on getting Harry into trouble, spies on them and tries to turn them in. When Harry and Hermione have successfully sent the dragon off at midnight, they’re caught by Professor McGonagall, along with Neville, who was trying to warn them, and Malfoy, who ratted the pair out. Professor McGonagall is really disappointed, gives the lot a large amount of detention and detracts so many points from Gryffindor that they move to the last place in the house cup contest. Because of this everyone is really angry, especially at Harry, who is being called names continuously.
To make matters worse, the detention involves going into ‘the Forbidden Forest’ at night with Hagrid, to find out what has been hunting down unicorns and drinking their blood. During this quest, Harry and Malfoy stumble upon a vile, weak looking creature, crawling around the corpse of a unicorn, drinking its blood. It becomes clear to them that Voldemort, who is weakened, is trying to gain some extra life strength until he’s able to obtain ‘the stone’ to regain his full strength once more.
The following weeks are very crowded because of the exams. Hermione, who is kind of a role model, urges Harry and Ron on to study, which results in good grades for both. After the exams, the three friends pay Hagrid another visit. When talking to him about the ‘Philosopher’s Stone’, Hagrid realises that he might have said too much about ‘the stone’ to the mysterious stranger who gave him the dragon egg, as he was rather intoxicated.
The trio has a feeling that whoever is trying to steal the stone for Voldemort, is going to do it soon, so they decide to retrieve it after dark. As they leave the dormitory, Neville tries to stop him for their own wellbeing, so Hermione paralyses him temporarily. However retrieving the stone is no easy feat, as it is not only guarded by the three-headed dog, but also protected by multiple spells that pose serious challenges .
Hermione manages to make the dog doze by playing on her flute, so that they can sneak through a trap door. Then they fall into a flesh eating plant called ‘Devil’s Snare’, which they defeat by lighting a fire. Following this challenge is a room filled with flying keys, from which only a golden one fits into the lock. Harry manages to catch the right key, but notices that it’s wings are crumpled, meaning that someone has beat them to it, and they need to hurry. In the next room, Ron has to play a real life chess game, but gets knocked unconscious, leaving only Harry and Hermione to complete the next challenge. This challenge is a logic puzzle, which if solved correctly, points out the correct potion that they should drink to go through the blazing fire in front of them. Unfortunately, there’s only enough for one, so Harry moves on and sends Hermione back to help Ron.
To Harry’s surprise, he sees Quirrell standing in front of him and not Snape! Quirrell reveals that Voldemort is living on the back of his head like a parasite and says that it is the reason he wears a turban. He also says that he only stuttered to look weak, so he wouldn’t be a suspect. Furthermore he admits having tried to kill Harry at Quidditch whereas Snape tried to save him!
The room they’re standing in, is empty, except for the Mirror of Erised. As Quirrell looks into the mirror, he sees himself holding the stone, but he can’t figure out what to do. Then Voldemort whispers: ‘use the boy, use the boy!’ Following this command, Quirrell makes Harry use the Mirror of Erised, and Harry finds himself holding the stone in his hands. Voldemort and Quirrell don’t notice because they’re focused on the mirror. Because Voldemort gets so frustrated he orders Quirrell to kill Harry, but when Quirrell touches Harry he becomes ash, because Voldemort cannot touch Harry and he is living inside of Quirrell at the moment. Following all this exertion, Harry blacks out.
When Harry comes to his senses again, he’s in the infirmary sided by Dumbledore. Dumbledore explains that Harry defeated Quirrell/Voldemort through the protection of his mother’s love. He also says that he and Flamel have decided to destroy ‘the stone.’ The next day, at the end-of-year banquet, Dumbledore praises Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville for the roles they played in defeating Quirrell. He rewards them by giving house Gryffindor so much points that they still win the house cup.
After the banquet everyone packs his bags and heads back home for the summer holidays. Although Harry is reluctant to return to the Dursleys again, he does chuckle at the fact that it will become a lot more fun for him, as he knows how to use magic now.

Do you like the story? Why (not)?
I like the story because it’s well written, combining ‘simple English’ and more difficult, abstract words in a fluent way which results in a pleasant reading experience. Apart from the author’s writing style, the storyline is also well constructed and really intricate. The story features almost solely round characters which adds to the reading experience because they develop and sometimes surprise the reader over time, making him or her want to know what’s going to happen next. As the personality and the appearance of these characters is so refined, it’s easy to identify yourself with a certain character, automatically causing you to take sides and to really experience certain events and emotions in the story as strongly the characters do.
However the main asset of this story is that it creates an entire new world full of wizardry and magic, where nothing is normal or boring, which gives the reader the opportunity to get away from daily life for a few moments. It’s this stories ability to suck you into an enchanting world that makes it one of the best stories to read on a rainy or boring day.
In fact, I like the story so much that I’m planning to read all the remaining books in English.
On a separate sheet list 10 new, interesting words you learned from reading the story. Write the words down in the sentences they occur. Then look up and write down an English definition and add an extra sentence in which the word is used in the correct context.

‘Hermione had opened her mouth, perhaps to tell Ron exactly how to use the Curse of the Bogies, but Harry hissed at her to be quiet and beckoned them all forward. (page 117)’
To beckon means: to signal or summon, as by nodding or waving.
to beckon= lonken
He beckoned her to come and sit next to him.

”I think we’ve lost him,’ Harry panted, leaning against the cold wall and wiping his forehead. Neville was bent double, wheezing and spluttering. (page 118)’
To pant means: to breathe rapidly in short gasps, as after exertion.
to pant= hijgen
‘I can’t run anymore,’ he panted loudly.

‘Harry had difficulty hiding his glee as he handed the note to Ron to read. (page 122)’
Glee means extreme happiness or delight.
glee= vrolijkheid
I couldn’t hide my glee, when I got some positive feedback yesterday.

‘Harry was just helping himself to a jacket potato when Professor Quirrell came sprinting into the Hall, his turban askew and terror on his face. (page 127)’
Askew means: not in a straight or level position.
askew= scheef
The door was hanging askew on one twisted hinge.

‘He pushed the door ajar and peered inside ‘ and a horrible scene met his eyes. (page 134)’
Ajar means: slightly open.
ajar= op een kier
She had left the window ajar that morning.
”Just a bit of toast,’ wheedled Hermione. (page 135)’
To wheedle means: to employ endearments or flattery to persuade someone to do something or give one something.
to wheedle= vleien
I always wheedle if I really need something.

‘Way up above them, Harry was gliding over the game, squinting about for some sign of the Snitch. (page 137-138)’
To squint means: to look with the eyes partly closed.
to squint= turen
When I looked over the edge of the trenches, I was squinting through my binoculars, trying to spot German soldiers on the other side.

‘Festoons of holly and mistletoe hung all around the walls and no fewer than twelve towering Christmas trees stood around the room, some sparkling with tiny icicles, some glittering with hundreds of candles. (page 144)’
A festoon means: a string or chain of flowers, foliage, ribbon, etc., suspended in a curve between two points.
a festoon= een slinger
When we celebrated my sister’s fifteenth birthday, we had decorated the house with a lot of colourful festoons.
Holly is a shrub with green prickly leaves and usually red berries.
holly= hulst
It’s a Christmas tradition to decorate your house with branches of holly.

‘Harry stepped aside, but with Ron in front of the mirror, he couldn’t see his family anymore, just Ron in his paisley pyjamas. (page 155)’
Paisley means: a soft woven, woollen fabric with a colourful pattern consisting of detailed figures.
paisley= ‘paisley’
My grandmother had bought me a really soft, paisley scarf.

Source: Essay UK - http://ntechno.pro/essays/english-literature/book-essay-harry-potter-and-the-philosophers-stone/


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