It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This collection of discussion posts is called Stories, and aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. Here is the next installment in the Stories series…
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
In which we explore Harry and Voldemort’s relationship with regards to Harry’s Scar
Harry and Voldemort’s relationship is probably the most complex relationship in this collection, as it has the chance to fully develop over a series of 7 books. However, how their relationship first comes to existence is crucial to the story of the first book, and can be explored in it’s own way. Harry is an orphan, who grows up in the Muggle (non-wizarding) world, until, on his 11th birthday, he is informed by half-giant Hagrid that he is a wizard. He has been accepted to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he meets fellow wizard Ron, and witch Hermione, who stay with him and form a strong bond together over the 7 books. Voldemort is known as one of the darkest wizards of all time. He was the one responsible for the death of both James and Lily Potter; Harry’s parents. Voldemort attempted to kill Harry, but failed when the killing curse rebounded and he supposedly died. We find out later that he is just without his body, and his soul has to latch on to another live being to continue surviving. Of course, Harry and Voldemort are arch enemies. We find out later in the series that there was a prophecy spoken about them, which explains that neither can live while the other survives. The main challenge that each face throughout the series is trying to kill the other. However, in the first book, Harry is only just beginning his journey to find out everything about this new world, and is presented with his nemesis that he must eventually defeat. There are several things that connect these two enemies across the series, but the main symbol we are introduced to in Philosopher’s Stone is Harry’s scar. It remains throughout the 7 books as a representation of Harry’s fame, and how he is recognisable as the only known wizard to survive a killing curse, making him somewhat of a celebrity. However, there are deeper meanings and problems behind the scar that are further explored as the story progresses.
At the beginning of the novel, we learn about the murder of Harry’s parents, committed by Voldemort. When he then tries to kill Harry, Voldemort unintentionally marks Harry with a lightning bolt shaped scar, not truly understand why the curse didn’t kill Harry, and what happened when it rebounded. The scar here is believed to create a connection between the two characters, which is unknown to either of them until a lot later in the series. Voldemort doesn’t make a full appearance until further into the novel, because of what happened to him on the night his curse failed, and some believe him to be dead. Before starting at Hogwarts, Harry journeys to Diagon Alley to get his wand, where he finds that the wand that has chosen him has a core similar with only one other wand, which belonged to Voldemort. This was the wand that gave Harry his scar, which helps us as the reader to start to see the connection between them forming. Harry doesn’t encounter any problems with his scar until he starts at Hogwarts. On the night of the start of term feast, Harry gets a burning sensation in his scar when Professor Quirrell has his back to him. We learn later that Voldemort is living in Quirrell, and Quirrell’s turban is hiding Voldemort’s face on the back of his head. This is the first time Harry feels pain in his scar, showing how Harry will come to experience pain whenever Voldemort is close or particularly powerful at the time, the fact of which is fully uncovered later in the series. Knowing this, it foreshadows the end of the first book when we find out about Voldemort’s soul latched on to Quirrell. That night, Harry has a dream about Quirrell’s turban, which foreshadows what it is hiding underneath. This could also suggest development later in the series when Harry starts having dreams connected to what Voldemort is doing, and find his dreams being somewhat controlled. This begins to show their connection through using the idea in the first book, and also points to why the scar provides the connection it does, which is the Horcrux that Voldemort accidentally left in Harry when he cast the killing curse.
As the novel continues, there are only subtle mentions of Voldemort, but the story mainly focuses on Harry and his first year adventures. However, when Harry, Hermione, Draco and Neville are taken into the Forbidden Forest on detention, a discovery is made. Voldemort is using Quirrell and going into the forest to kill unicorns and drink their blood, which offers you eternal life, albeit a cursed one. Harry experiences intense pain in his scar when they encounter Voldemort hovering over a dead unicorn, showing the connection between them whenever Voldemort is close to Harry. It also shows that Voldemort is getting stronger through drinking the unicorn blood, and therefore become more powerful. The pain in Harry’s scar continues even when Quirrell isn’t around, such as when Harry is sitting his exams, which further supports how Voldemort has gotten stronger through Quirrell and drinking the unicorn blood. Harry states that he thinks “it’s a warning… it means dangers coming” (Rowling, 192), showing Harry beginning to understand the severity of the situation he and his fellow wizards and witches face if Voldemort were to return. This takes us to the final chapter of the first book, when Harry faces Voldemort for the second time in his life.
Harry meets Quirrell when he is attempting to steal the Philosopher’s Stone for Voldemort, which would provide him with eternal life that is not cursed from unicorn blood. Quirrell asks Harry where the stone is, and after using the Mirror of Erised, a magical mirror provided by Dumbledore as a barrier to the stone, it appears in Harry’s pocket. When Harry is questioned, he insists he doesn’t know where the stone is, but Voldemort can tell he is lying. This could be through the connection they have through the scar. When Voldemort instructs Quirrell to attack Harry, and they come into contact, it causes Harry extreme pain, which solidifies that the connection was definitely between him and Voldemort, and the pain is caused when he is close, and is increased in severity the closer or more powerful he gets. However, Voldemort is unable to have Harry touch him, because of a protection Harry has from his mother, something that Voldemort will never understand. Love. This becomes an extremely important protective shield through the first half of the series.
In summary, the first novel in the Harry Potter series builds a strong foundation for Harry and Voldemort’s relationship to continue growth and development. The introduction of the scar is imperative in understanding how the two characters have a more magical connection, and how Harry will learn how to develop that connection over the rest of the series. The most important part of this first book is establishing the relationship between these two long term enemies and learning how they are connected, as well as showing how Harry’s scar will become a key symbol throughout the following 6 books, particularly with it’s clear link to one of the darkest wizards of all time.
If anyone has any thoughts on anything written here, then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, as it will be very interesting to see what others have found when reading this particular book.
Until next time…