A Review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a Novel by J. K. Rowling
The novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, written by J. K. Rowling is the first book in a seven-part series. Harry Potter’s heroic journey through the Muggle World into the Wizarding World shows a growth in himself and his mind. Potter follows the stages introduced by Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, learning new wizarding skills and challenging himself. Harry demonstrates the three stages; separation, initiation, and return, which are then divided into seventeen steps. Harry Potter’s heroic journey can be traced by readers throughout the novel.
The first stage of Joseph Cambell’s seventeen stage monomyth is separation, with five steps: call to adventure, refusal of call, supernatural aid, crossing the threshold, and belly of the whale. The call to adventure is the original alarm given to the hero, taking him from normality into an unknown trip. Harry Potter lives with his uncle, aunt, and cousin who hide from Harry that he is a wizard. His uncle, Mr. Dursley, shows characteristics of the ruler archetype by trying to have the most successful family. He displays his force through constantly nagging Potter. Dursley takes drastic measures to keep the letters that Harry has been admitted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry unopened, like moving the family of four out to a secret shack. The first two steps in Joseph Cambell’s monomyth are actually switched because oddly enough, the refusal of call is not done by Potter himself, but by his own uncle before the call to adventure. The refusal of the call is when the hero objects to the undertaking. Fortunately Mr. Durley could not keep the mail a secret and Potter ends up receiving a letter that he is admitted to Hogwarts School. Harry seems excited and ready to explore the magical world. A supernatural aid is often a figure who guides the hero through his new journey. Harry’s supernatural aid is a “giant of a man” who delivers the letter on Potter’s eleventh birthday, Rubeus Hagrid (Rowling 46). Hagrid can be classified as an explorer in the twelve common archetypes. The motto that the explorer exhibits is “don’t fence me in” (Golden 3). Throughout the book, he likes to live alone and barbarically as keeper of the grounds. Hagrid first introduces Harry to the wizardry world and helps him and his friends decipher the Sorcerer’s Stone. In the next step Harry crosses the threshold by leaving the behind his world of normality for a foreign experience. This is done by Potter at the “famous” Leaky Cauldron with Hagrid (Rowling 68). Potter is greeted with “scraping chairs” of excitement and instantly “…shaking hands with everyone in the Leaky Cauldron” (69). He will then cross another threshold in Diagon Alley where he encounters “dragon liver” and the “Gringotts” (72). The last threshold crossed is at Platform 9 ¾ with a fellow wizard family named the Weasleys into the wizarding world. This is when Harry meets a young boy named Ronald, a pureblood. Harry and Ronald descend from magic from both of parents which causes them to bond on the eleven o’clock train to Hogwarts. The fifth and final step of the first stage is the belly of the whale. The belly of the whale is the hero’s final step before entering the real calling; it is represented in the novel when Harry is faced with the sorting hat. He is nervous because he could be sorted into the house of Slytherin, the house of evil. Inside his head he chants, “not Slytherin, not Slytherin” in which the hat responds by giving into his choice (121). By ultimately choosing Griffindor , the room gave “the loudest cheer yet” (121). This shows his test in character and at this point Harry leaves the muggle world and enters the unknown.
The second stage of Joseph Cambell’s seventeen-stage monomyth is initiation with seven steps: road of trials, meeting the goddess, temptation, atonement with the father, apostasis, the ultimate boon, and the refusal of return. This is usually the longest, most eventful, and entertaining stage of Cambell’s monomyth. The road of trials are tests given the hero to complete in order to transform. Harry is faced with many minor problems within his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but one of his major road of trials is an evil, “foul smelling” troll (174). Inexperienced in magic, he uses it anyway in order to rescue his friend he accidentally traps, Hermione. This is when he becomes closer to Ron and Hermione and a long friendship blooms. Another is thinking that Professor Snape is the thief behind the sorcerer’s stone. By focusing on Professor Snape, Harry overlooks the real traitor of Hogwarts. Meeting the goddess affects the hero by having them feel eternal love. This step is sometimes represented by a mother figure. Lily, Harry’s mother, sacrificed her life for her son against Lord Voldemort. Even after her death she continues to protect her son with the scar given to him as a baby. Each time Voldemort is near, the scar burns as a warning. During the battle against Quirrel and Lord Voldemort, Quirrell could not touch Harry, his hands “looked burned, raw, red, and shiny,” due to the love of Harry’s mother (295). Lily died to save him. Temptations are defined as an object given to the hero to stray from his goal. An invisible cloak, from his father allows Harry to travel the school without being seen. One night over winter break he locates the Mirror of Erised, an ancient mirror that shows onlookers “‘the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts’” (213). While looking into the mirror, Harry sees people who are not located in the room. A woman who has “dark red hair” and eyes just like himself peers through the mirror along with other familiar faces (208). Potter realizes that these people are his dead family. This image that he desires keeps him coming back to the mirror each night for about a week. The Mirror of Erised is known as Harry’s temptation because the visits stray him from his goal of finding out who stole the sorcerer’s stone. The atonement of the father occurs when the hero confronts the object that holds the most power over his life. Although Voldemort is not a father figure, Harry needs to defeat him in order to turn a new stone in his life. Voldemort can be classified as a ruler within the twelve common archetypes because he believes power is the only aspect of life. With Voldemort having been vanquished, Harry discovers the corrupt world. The apostate is when the hero dies a death, physically or in spirit, and moves him beyond basic knowledge. This is represented when a hero enters a godlike stage. During the last chapter, Potter wakes up in a hospital bed, unknowing where the stone is. Dumbledore assures him that the stone “has been destroyed” (297). He now knows what it is like to be a good wizard because he experienced and handled danger. A weight has been lifted from his shoulders as he enters the end-of-term feast. The ultimate boon within the novel actually happens before the apostate. The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal. Lord Voldemort, Quirrell, and Harry battle over the sorcerer’s stone. Potter wants to preserve the stone while Voldemort wants to use it for his own advantage to acquire a body and be separate from Quirrell. All of Harry’s training has led up to this battle. The refusal of return is when the hero finds enlightenment and does not want to go back to their everyday life. Surprisingly, this occurs on the last page of the novel. Harry does not want to return back to the Dursleys at Privet Drive because he feels at home at Hogwarts. Moreover, he knows the Dursleys are going to outcast him once again. During the second stage of Cambell’s monomyth, the hero learns the most about himself and his new world. The hero is grasping his new self through many steps and trials.
Furthermore, the third stage and final of Joseph Cambell’s seventeen-stage monomyth is the return. This stage has five steps, magic flight, rescue from without, crossing the return threshold, master of two worlds, and the freedom to live. The novel changes the numerical order of the last stage quite a lot. The magic flight is known as the hero’s escape with the boon. Potter exhibits this step by returning back to the Muggle World. Harry knows his life will be dreary once again at Privet Drive. Ron invites him to “come and stay” the summer (308). He shows gratitude towards Ron’s offer, although with a somber attitude. The rescue from without is often a guide that brings the hero back to ordinary life. Within Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Albus Dumbledore acts as a guide to Harry. Almost instantly before Quirrell can kill Harry, Dumbledore saves him. Although Dumbledore does not bring Potter back to the Muggle World, he brings him back to safety. Crossing the return threshold is known as returning to their life before their adventure, while the master of two worlds is balancing the hero’s inner and outer world. Within the first Harry Potter novel, one might say that these two monomyth steps are actually conjoined. During the last chapter, Harry travels along the train from Hogwarts to “the gateway back to the Muggle World” (308). This is known as crossing the threshold, but the book ultimately stops there. Readers can infer that in the last chapter, the master of two worlds comes into play as Potter acknowledges he is going to “have a lot of fun with Dudley” over the summer because he will use magic within the Muggle World (309). The hero’s freedom to live is the final step of the monomyth. The hero now has no fear of death because their journey has made them courageous. Although Potter’s home is the Dursleys, he looks forward to returning back to Hogwarts. This gives him a sense of happiness which he has never felt at home before.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is only the first novel in a seven-part series, but Harry Potter’s heroic journey is the most important in this text alone. Joseph Cambell’s seventeen step monomyth is clearly shown throughout Harry’s adventure. This book shows Potter’s adventure through a new world that he must disregard everything he previously knows. He learns new skills through supernatural aids and roads of trials that ultimately lead up to his battle with Voldemort. The monomyth in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone paves the way for the future novels. Readers can see Harry’s life before magic and gain inside information on his character. The novel is the primal step to his new life.
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