Characterization of Harry Potter in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Harry Potter is the main protagonist in the novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Orphaned as a baby, he is brought up by his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys. Neglected and disdained, Harry grows up to be a timid boy unsure of his abilities. He is initially described as “small and skinny for his age,” with a thin face and knobbly knees (Rowling 20). Until his eleventh birthday, Harry had lived in Dudley’s shadow; he had been forced to wear Dudley’s old clothes (Rowling 20), and though not starved, he had always been given less food than Dudley, and even had his food (as well as everything else) taken from him by his cousin (Rowling 123). While Dudley, on the other hand, is showered with love and affection by his parents, Harry is treated as a “slug” (Rowling 22) unworthy of his family’s time and forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs (Rowling 19) – a cupboard which only fits someone as “small” as Harry.

The Dursleys’ maltreatment of Harry leaves him vulnerable and with a low self-esteem. He speaks rarely for fear of being frowned upon or shouted at and never expects people to believe him (Rowling 24). The primary reason for Harry’s insecurities is the way his aunt and uncle interact with him. They do not address him in a parental manner (though they are his guardians) but rather as someone they strongly dislike, often screeching, snapping and barking at him. This type of treatment leaves Harry unsure of himself and his capabilities, a trend that continues throughout the series. He frequently questions his own abilities and even voices them to Hagrid, stating that he is sure to be sorted in Hufflepuff because it is the house full “o’ duffers” (Rowling 80) and later to Ron when sitting on the train to Hogwarts: “I bet I’m the worst in the class” (Rowling 100). The Dursleys never cared much for Harry, so he never learned to believe in himself or expect to excel at anything.

The low expectations that characterize Harry’s everyday life are demonstrated by his certainty that Hagrid must have made a mistake about him being a wizard. Initially, Harry could not see how it was possible for him to be someone other than one “clouted by Dudley and bullied by Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon,” or believe that he, as a baby, defeated the “greatest sorcerer in the world,” yet his cousin was still able to beat and kick him growing up as if he were a football (Rowling 57). Harry’s uncertainties were further demonstrated by his deep fears of waking up on the morning after his eleventh birthday and realizing that Hagrid’s visit was just a dream. The home environment Harry grew up in with the Dursleys made him feel as though nothing good would ever happen to him. For this reason, he dared not open his eyes when he woke up the following morning in case he was still in the spider-infested cupboard under the stairs. Even after confirming that Hagrid was indeed a real human being, Harry still did not believe what he went through on his eleventh birthday was real. He couldn’t help but wonder whether it was all “some huge joke that the Dursleys had cooked up” (Rowling 68). Once he is introduced to the magical world, Harry experiences many changes in his life at Hogwarts: he is appreciated for the first time, praised for his excellent Quidditch skills, makes friends, and even acquires a father figure in the form of Professor Dumbledore. Hogwarts allows Harry to develop a stronger sense of identity and a better understanding of his own worth. Without the Dursleys’ constant disdain, Harry’s self-esteem thrives and he experiences true happiness for the first time he can remember. Among the many positive changes Hogwarts brings to Harry’s life, one is particularly prominent: the discovery of the Mirror of Erised (note that Erised spelled backwards is Desire). The inscription on the frame of the mirror reads: “Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi” (Rowling 207). This message holds meaning when the words are reversed: I show not your face but your heart’s desire. Making sense of the inscription provides insight into Harry’s character. The Mirror allows Harry to see his deepest desire: his parents, whom he has never seen before. It is initially difficult for Harry to understand who the people in the Mirror around him are; however, he gradually realizes that it must be his family as they share many of his physical characteristics (Rowling 208-209). Never having had the opportunity to learn about his parents (due to the Dursleys’ hatred towards James and Lily), Harry savors this treasure.

Hogwarts is also the place where Harry makes friends for the first time. Due to Dudley’s influence on the children at the Muggle school he attended, “Harry had no one. Everybody knew that Dudley’s gang hated that odd Harry Potter in his baggy old clothes and broken glasses, and nobody liked to disagree with Dudley’s gang” (Rowling 30). At Hogwarts, however, Harry was finally able to befriend people without the constant threat of his cousin’s wrath. Although some people only wanted to associate with Harry because of his fame, he managed to find two loyal and trusting friends in Ron and Hermione. Initially a boy with no significance in the muggle world, Harry discovers the magical world and his purpose in it. He meets people who care for him and embrace him as an equal; they appreciate his character and praise him for having outlived Voldemort. Due to the changes in his life, by the end of the novel, Harry undergoes a transformation in character: his self-esteem improves radically, he learns to befriend and love people, and after having finished his first year at Hogwarts, he no longer fears the Dursleys.

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