Discussion on Setting in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
In the following criticism, A.D. discusses the relationship between the setting of Rowling's novel and how it pertains to the development of complex characters and themes.


J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first installment of a timeless coming of age story. By creating an entirely new world, filled with magic and possibilities, Rowling has been able to develop her story through any means possible. The most prominent medium that Rowling does this through is the setting of the novel. As the novel opens in the Muggle, or non-magic world, and progresses into the wizarding community, the setting is reflective of Harry's personal character growth, as well as the development of major themes such as trust, loyalty, and friendship.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much" (Rowling 1).

The very first line of the novel serves to establish the overall mood and feeling of the Muggle World. More specifically, Privet Drive, where Harry first lives with his aunt and uncle, is a location where conformity and normality are valued the most. The street itself was named after the privet bush, which grows primarily in the most suburban of areas. Additionally, the name of the town, Little Whinging, was once a British colloquial term, which referred to "whining" or "complaining." Together, these two things establish an extremely constraining environment for Harry to live in. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon repressed any characteristics of Harry's that would make him special and contribute to his development. Instead, they focused all of their attention on Harry's cousin, Dudley, who comes to represent the ignorance, stubbornness, and rudeness of the Muggle society.

Moreover, the cupboard under the stairs, where Harry is forced to sleep, is a small, cramped space, which also reflects the repression Harry is experiencing. In this cupboard, Harry physically, as well as mentally, has no space to grow. The trigger, which stimulates a change, is when Harry's first acceptance letters from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry arrive. Once this happens, the Dursleys move Harry to the smallest bedroom in an attempt to stop these letters from arriving. This change in location for Harry to live in was achieved indirectly through the magic world. This, in turn, demonstrates that it will be there, where Harry will begin to grow as a character. All in all, the Muggle setting as a whole served to constrict Harry's personal growth as a character. It is not until Harry is introduced to the magical world when his character finally begins to develop.

This development begins to unfold once Hagrid informs Harry of his magical ability. As the first person to let Harry know of this, Hagrid becomes somewhat of an anchor to Harry, which keeps him intact with magical world where he belongs. The setting where this scene takes place is in the hut on the sea as the ocean rages around them. The rough sea reflects the sheer force of this knowledge as Harry learns of his new life, but it also symbolizes a changing of tides in his life, as well. Soon after, Harry has his first encounter with the magical world in Diagon Alley. This location stands in stark contrast to the Privet Drive environment that Harry just left. Compared to the monotony and normalcy of Privet Drive, Diagon Alley is full of excitement and originality. Seeing as this positive image is the first view of the wizarding community that Rowling provides, it is easy to conclude that the magical society will welcome Harry with open arms.

"While you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts."

The most important growth that Harry experiences is while he is attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is here, where Harry has finally found acceptance. Through this, he is able to learn to trust, love, and be loyal to his new friends. Several settings within Hogwarts itself come to represent various things. The journey from Platform 9 3/4, signifies Harry's official entrance into the wizarding community, and it marks the start of his developing friendships. While at Hogwarts, the people around him quickly become his family, and Hogwarts, his home. Thus, the Gryffindor common room, along with the Great Hall, can signify the acceptance Harry is finally receiving.

All in all, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is an extraordinary introduction to Harry Potter's coming of age story.

A.D. 2012

Discussion on Setting in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

In the following essay, A.D. continues her analysis of Rowling's choice of setting to successfully conclude the Harry Potter book series. Comparisons will also be drawn against the first novel to demonstrate the growth of characters and themes.


In her final conclusion to the Harry Potter series as a whole, J.K. Rowling delves into much darker material throughout Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As Voldemort gains power in the wizarding world, it is Harry's destiny to defeat him. In this novel, Rowling proves that Harry has finally reached the maturity he needs to complete this. With a larger focus on death, it is clear that this is no longer purely a children's series. These dark themes are reflected through the setting of the novel, as well. The Hogwarts that Harry has come to know and love becomes a battleground as he watches his loved ones die around him. As with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the settings of certain scenes play key roles in developing and bringing a conclusion to the novel.

"...he almost forgot to take a last glimpse of number four, Privet Drive; by the time he looked over the edge of the sidecar he could no longer which one it was. Higher and higher they climbed into the sky-" (Rowling 55).

The beginning of the novel marks a significant event, as Harry prepares to leave Privet Drive forever. This signifies that he has once and for all left behind the constraints held against him in the first novel by the Muggle society. However, the group leaving Privet Drive is soon attacked by Voldemort and his death eaters, showing that Harry will be facing plenty of danger in the next phase of his life.

After leaving Privet Drive, Harry and the Order of the Phoenix go to the Burrow; another location which has come to represent an important part of Harry's life. Not only have those at Hogwarts become Harry's family, but also so have the Weasleys. The Burrow is a safe-haven for Harry, a place where he is always welcome, even in times of war. It has come to represent Harry's loved ones. In addition, Godric's Hollow is a significant setting in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This one location contains the history of not only Harry and his parents, but also Dumbledore and Voldemort's history as well. As the place that started everything when Voldemort killed Harry's parents, it is fitting that Harry and the gang revisits it on their travels to destroy the Horcruxes.

As the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort begins, the Battle of Hogwarts breaks out. This is significant in that Rowling shows that sometimes, one will have to fight for what he loves. In this case, Harry has to defend the one place that has come to mean the most to him. The novel finally concludes in the location where Harry's journey began: Platform 9 3/4. Nineteen years later, Harry and Ginny watch as their children board the Hogwarts express to start their own magical journey.

A.D. 2012


J. S. Discusses Lord Voldemort and the Illusion of Power and Evil in J.K Rowling’s Novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is the first step in the journey of a young man into a magical universe. Rowling uses the preface of magic to disguise the messages in her novel with mystique and wonder, but these messages are still within the text. Rowling uses the character of Lord Voldemort’s to portray the illusion of power those like him have. In Rowling’s universe, no wizard is more powerful, no wizard is more feared. The demented, soulless man strikes such fear into the hearts of many that they won’t even speak his name. “After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things- terrible yes, but great.” (Rowling 85) Here, Ollivander, a wand maker, describes to Harry the wonder that surrounds Voldemort. There is an aura around him no other wizard can match, and this only contributes to the fear he instills.

However, Rowling uses He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as a mere illusion for power. Until the end of the novel, Voldemort is nothing but a wonder; the reader has no idea what he looks or sounds like, or if he’s even alive. His appearance is constantly built up throughout the novel; his evil and danger creeping forward as the pages roll on. And when he’s finally revealed, there is nothing but a letdown. “…there was a face, the most terrible face Harry had ever seen. It was chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake…”See what I have become?” the face said. “Mere shadow and vapor… I have form only when I can share another’s body… but there have always been those willing to let me into their hearts and minds” (Rowling 293) Here, the exact opposite of what is expected of such a monster is shown. Instead of a commanding presence and never ending bank of power, Voldemort is weak and fragile. In order to survive, he must feed off of Professor Quirrell to survive. This is where the comparison of Voldemort’s two images can be made to form a conclusion on Rowling’s portrayal of power. His image is that of an absolute powerhouse, one who could rip through anyone who stood in front of him. When he’s finally revealed, he is dependent on the bumbling Professor Quirrell? That is not how such a demon would have to live. This shows that Rowling uses Voldemort to show that power is nothing without followers to feed the evil.

Voldemort was built up to be the biggest beast of the wizarding world, and when the reader finally gets a glimpse of him, he is nothing. Feeding off of his follower Professor Quirrell, he is a bodiless shell of his former self. No longer is he a great and powerful wizard who commands fear, he is nothing but a parasite; an organism who in order to survive must feed off of another. Without his followers, Voldemort is revealed to be nothing. But, even though he is nothing, he still commands fear. Rowling uses him to display that power is merely an illusion, and evil like Voldemort’s cannot be committed without followers. The comparison between Voldemort’s image and Voldemort’s current state in the novel clearly shows Rowling’s intentions for the character, to show that the power of evil is merely an illusion, and in order to survive must be parasitic amongst others.

J.S 2013



J. S. Continues Discussion on Lord Voldemort and the Illusion of Power and Evil in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series with the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The evolution of J.K. Rowling’s character, Lord Voldemort, is one that appears like a complete change, but is actually very stagnant. Going back to the first novel, Voldemort was a shell of his former self, having to feed off of his follower Professor Quirrell to sustain life. Looking ahead seven years to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, much has changed, but much has also stayed the same. Harry has grown from a boy to a man, and Voldemort has seemingly seized back the power he lost so many years ago. This is a mere illusion. Voldemort is still absolutely nothing. Without his followers and the use of fear, Voldemort is weak, but does not appear to be. Rowling uses Voldemort as a tool to show that power is a mere illusion.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Lord Voldemort has successfully taken over the magical world. Both Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic are under his control, and it appears there is no stopping him. Harry is on a quest to find Voldemort’s horcruxes, the items that each contain a separate piece of Voldemort’s soul. His quest leads him to the forbidden forest, where he must sacrifice himself, the last horcruxe, to destroy Voldemort. Voldemort unleashes a powerful curse and Harry falls to the ground, appearing to be dead. Harry then enters a dream like state and awakens in Kings Cross train station. It is here where the true Voldemort is exposed. The culmination of all of Rowling’s description of the tyrant shows the true illusion of his power. “He had spotted the thing that was making the noises. It had the form of a small, naked child, curled on the ground, it’s skin raw and rough, flayed looking, and it lay shuddering under a seat where it had been left, unwanted, stuffed out of sight, struggling for breath.” (Rowling 706) Here, Harry sees Voldemort for what he truly is; a sniveling, weak, waste. This is the part of Voldemort that he stored in Harry, the part that he had “left unwanted, stuffed out of sight”. Voldemort knows that he is weak, that he is nothing without his followers. This is why he uses fear to gain his power, and why he must tuck away his weakness so he cannot be overcome. Rowling uses him as a symbol of the false power evil has, and that it is nothing without others. Voldemort may be a skilled wizard, but Harry’s encounter with part of his soul cements the fact that he is nothing without his loyal followers.

In conclusion, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows showcases the illusion of power and the truth of it. In the first novel, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is nothing but a parasite who must feed off of his follower, and in the conclusion of the series, Voldemort does the exact same thing, but with more of an aura of fear surrounding him. In order to display the illusion of power, Rowling uses the vast contrast between the first and one of the last encounters Harry has with Voldemort. The piece of Voldemort’s soul Harry discovered and the vapor of his former self he first encountered are one in the same; a parasitic creature who must feed off of others to obtain the power Voldemort does so desire, power that is nothing more than a mere illusion throughout this novel.


J. S. 2013