Posts from the ‘Dicussion Videos’ Category

SS Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived, Part I

[Editor’s Note:  This post has a discussion video that is meant to go with it.  If/when I get all of the kinks and editing done, I will upload it to this post.]

Now, I assume you’ve all read the series before coming here, so I warn all of you who haven’t that there WILL be spoilers as I will be referring to later events in most, if not all, of these videos.

Before we even begin reading the first chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone, we need to recognize it as both the first chapter of this novel and as the first chapter of a lengthy series.  Having said that, I won’t be talking about the events of this chapter too much (if at all), at least not in this post.  Rowling’s story has been called both original and derivative, though this is not necessarily a negative commentary.  She draws from other works to create her own, but more on that in a later post.  I tell you this because, after having read the entire series, I can safely say that she is a very capricious writer–from her plotting to her word choice–and we may overlook it in this very important chapter.  For this post I want to focus on her word and phrase choice, and in only two specific instances:

1.  Don’t even worry about what happens in the chapter itself–focus only on how she has chosen to title her first chapter.  A captivating title, “The Boy Who Lived,” but if you think about it in the broader scope of the series, it’s much more than merely eye-catching.  The boy who lived–that is to say, he survived when he should not have.  Right from the beginning Rowling is elevating her protagonist to a certain status.  What that status is we do not yet know, nor would we be so ingenious as to ponder the title so closely (at least on a first reading).  But this brings me to the other important instance in the chapter:

2.  Professor McGonagall says to Dumbledore quite pointedly, “He’ll be famous–a legend–I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future–there will be books written about Harry–every child in our world will know his name!”  At this point we know exactly what Harry is being elevated to–a legend.  In the context of this first chapter, Rowling uses it more to establish Harry as incredibly important, but it also establishes a very significant theme that will run throughout the series (but more on that later).  More intriguing is how she phrases that last part:

“[E]very child in our world will know his name!”

Curious.  Why did she not choose to say something different?  She could simply have said “everyone…,” but she instead chose “every child…”  She could well have chosen it so that it would pertain more closely to her young audience, but there’s still something very powerful about a person if even a child knows their name.  I could rant further with my own opinion on the matter, but I’ll leave it to you all to discuss.  Why did Rowling choose the words and phrases she did for this first chapter?  Is there any merit to analyzing them, or am I being overly ingenious?  I’ll open the discussion to you before I chime in with my own theories.

Children’s Lit 101

[Editor’s Note:  This post has a discussion video that is meant to go with it.  If/when I get all of the kinks and editing done, I will upload it to this post.]

We can’t talk about Harry Potter without first talking about children’s literature in general, but before we place Harry into that context, there are few things we should know:

1.  Children’s literature is fundamentally different from most, if not all, other types of literature.  For instance, take women’s literature (an oft-studied area):  when we say “women’s” in this context, we typically mean literature BY women and not necessarily FOR women.  In fact, this logic applies to most areas of literature, but the opposite is true for children’s literature.  When we say children’s literature, we typically mean literature written FOR this audience and very rarely BY it.  Which brings me to:

2.  What does this say about literature in general?  Using my example of women’s literature, what exactly classifies a work as being FOR women, or could a man possibly write women’s literature if it encompasses literature FOR that audience?  If Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights were written FOR women, is that to say a man could or should not read them?  Many of these literary labels are inaccurate:  it has become more likely to find this area as “literature by women”; even Wikipedia does not call it women’s literature, choosing instead to label it as “women’s writing.”  But as I’ve said, children’s literature is fundamentally different–in that most of it really is written FOR that audience–and so it is much harder to define.  There are four major kinds of works that must be considered:

a.  Works written for children.

b.  Works chosen by adults for children.

c.  Works written by children (they exist!).

d.  Works chosen by children for children.

3.  I never thought this would be such an important consideration for the Harry Potter series–at least not until I read Deathly Hallows, and even then I should have been more perceptive to it much sooner in the series:  fairy tales were NEVER ORIGINALLY INTENDED for children.  They were stories that tended to have moralistic values written for a general audience.  Perhaps because of this, fairy tales quickly became associated with children, and so we must take them into consideration.  However, there are far too many misconceptions surrounding them, especially in the context of children’s literature, so we must take care in making over-generalizations.  Bluebeard is a perfect example:  you won’t see Disney adapting it anytime soon.

As I’ve said, this is merely a general overview of somethings to keep in mind before you put Harry in a children’s literature context.  There are many preconceptions associated with this area of literature, especially with that last tidbit.  Of course there is more, but for now this should suffice.