[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.