Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Themes


Love plays a crucial role in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," as well as all of the remaining books in the series. Rowling demonstrates the power of love from the very beginning of the narrative by explaining that Harry's ability to survive Voldemort's killing curse is a direct result of his mother's love. By sacrificing her own life to save that of her son, Lily Potter gave Harry an magical form of protection that shielded him from Voldemort's curse and nearly destroyed the dark wizard. As Professor Dumbledore asserts, Voldemort is incapable of understanding love, particularly in comparison to the strength of his own dark power, and so he was taken entirely by surprise when it came to Lily's sacrifice.

Harry's own ability to love and be loved are the key traits that distinguish him from Voldemort and ensure that Harry will never be seduced by the Dark Arts. Harry's love for his parents instill him with an earnest determination to defeat Voldemort and rebell against anything associated with the Dark Arts (thus, Harry's refusal to be sorted into Slytherin House). Harry's ability to love also provides him with a support system of friends that Voldemort can never hope to match.


One of the most important themes that Rowling discusses in the book is the concept of choice and free will. From the start of the book, Rowling describes many uncanny similarities between Harry and Voldemort: their twin wands, their connection to snakes, even their some aspects of their appearance. In some respects, Harry seems fated to follow in the footsteps of Voldemort, a destiny which is demonstrated in the Sorting Hat's initial intention to sort Harry into Slytherin House. Yet, Harry refuses to take a passive role when it comes to his own future, particularly when it means following the path marked by the dark wizard who killed his parents. Thus, instead of accepting the Sorting Hat's decision, Harry refuses to be placed in Slytherin House and is placed in Gryffindor House instead.

As Professor Dumbledore later explains to Harry, it is the choices made by an individual that determine what kind of person they are and why kind of person they will become. Nothing is cut in stone when it comes to an individual's future, but, as Harry demonstrates, each individual has the opportunity to change the direction of their life through significant, as well as insignificant, choices.

The Importance of Rebellion

Over the course of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," Harry, Ron, and Hermione break many school rules in pursuing their adventures. Harry, in particular, is always willing to break a Hogwarts rule if it means taking action or doing something that he believes is right. Although Rowling does admit that the rules imposed at Hogwarts are meant to keep the students safe, she also presents Harry's disregard for these rules as a heroic quality of his character. He is able to think for himself and, depending on the situation, making judgment calls that have the potential to save lives. Moreover, Harry is perfectly willing to accept the consequences for his rebellion, just as long as he is able to take action when he can.

It is significant to note that Harry never breaks the rules simply for the sake of breaking them: he breaks rules only when he truly believes that his actions are necessary. His selfless and compassionate nature (contrasting sharply with that of Lord Voldemort) is also highlighted in his reasons for breaking the rules. For example, one of the first rules that Harry breaks is during the flying lesson with Madam Hooch when Harry flies after Malfoy in order to retrieve Neville's Remembrall. Harry does not disobey Madam Hooch's direct orders in order to show off; he breaks the rules in order to retrieve the gift that Neville received from his grandmother.


One of the primary traits that differentiates Harry from the more malevolent characters in the book, such as Voldemort and Draco Malfoy, is his humility. Despite his reputation as the boy-who-lived and his skills in Quidditch, Harry maintains a modest persona throughout the novel. If anything, the extra attention that he receives because of his background makes him uncomfortable and insecure; he feels that he can never be extraordinary enough to be worthy of such an esteeemed reputation. Harry's humility is, in part, a direct result of his neglected childhood with the Dursleys. Because he was never treated as someone who was special, Harry grew up with the understanding that respect is not readily given and must be acheived. When Dumbledore left Harry with the Dursleys, he knew that Harry would be mistreated. Yet, he also realized that, by growing up away from the wizarding world that would put him on a pedestal, he ensured that Harry would grow up without being spoiled by pride and arrogance.

Harry's humility becomes p articularly significant as a theme of the book when he faces Voldemort in the dungeons of Hogwarts. Neither Voldemort nor Professor Quirrell is able to retrieve the Sorcerer's Stone from the Mirror of Erised because they are both thinking of ways that the Stone will benefit themselves. Harry, on the other hand, thinks only of retrieving the Stone in order to save other people from Voldemort's tyranny: with his humble nature, it would never occur to him to use the Sorcerer's Stone for his own selfish purposes.


Throughout the book, Rowling expresses the importance of friendship, particularly when it comes to overcoming challenges and difficult tasks. Before coming to Hogwarts, Harry is completely isolated. Not only does he not have a loving family environment, but he does not have any friends to serve as a support system. After becoming a student at Hogwarts, however, Harry quickly creates a large group of friends but, more importantly, a close relationship with Ron and Hermione. For most of the students at Hogwarts, a strong group of friends helps with homesickness and difficult classes. Yet, in Harry's case, Rowling draws a more obvious parallel between friendship and difficult life challenges: the only way that Harry is able to reach the Mirror of Erised in the dungeons of Hogwarts is with Ron and Hermione's help. Hermione and Ron both tackle specific challenges that Harry would have been unable to face on his own, specifically Professor McGonagall's challenge of the giant wizarding chess and Professor Snape's challenge of the potions. In this case, Harry's friendship with Ron and Hermione saves his life and allows him to keep Voldemort from finding the Sorcerer's Stone.

Harry's friendship with Ron and Hermione is also significant in the way that it further distinguishes Harry from Voldemort. Although Voldemort is far more powerful than Harry, he prefers to be isolated and independent from those around him. Even Professor Quirrell, who drinks unicorn blood for him, is nothing more than a servant to Voldemort. Because Voldemort lacks the ability to form lasting friendships, he is always alone and has only himself to rely on. Harry, on the other hand, is able to rely on himself while still drawing upon the support system and exceptional magical talents of his close friends.


Near the end of the book, Professor Dumbledore tells Harry, "Death is but the next great adventure." Rowling does not describe death as something to be feared or dreaded, but rather a part of the natural cycle of life that should be embraced as part of an individual's humanity. Death can also be viewed as something beautiful. For example, by sacrificing her own life for Harry, Lily Potter gave him the wondrous protection of her love and a chance at a life free from Voldemort's tyranny. Her death also provided Harry with purpose in his life and the determination to stop Voldemort from harming other innocent people.

Although none of the main characters die over the course of the book, Rowling still makes a clear distinction between the natural process of death and Voldemort's warped attempts to "defeat" it and attain immortality. After his failed attempt to kill Harry, Voldemort spent the next ten years existing only as "shadow and vapor," neither dead nor alive. Voldemort acheives a twisted form of immortality, but his refusal to accept the natural order of life and death demonstrates his evil nature and further distinguishes him from the pure-hearted Harry.


The theme of power serves as another distinguishing trait between Harry and Voldemort. Voldemort's primary goal during his reign of terror over Britain was to acheive absolute power in both the wizarding and Muggle community. Even after he is nearly destroyed by his backfiring killing curse, Voldemort's objective is still to acheive absolute power, first by stealing the Sorcerer's Stone and using the elixir of life to construct another body and second, to reach the same height of tyranny that he had enjoyed before his downfall. Harry, on the other hand, has no interest in acheiving absolute power. His modest and pure nature leads him to desire nothing more than the company of his lost parents, as well as a little less attention from those around him. In fact, it is because Harry does not desire power that he is able to retrieve the Sorcerer's Stone from within the Mirror of Erised: Professor Quirrell and Voldemort both want to use the Stone to gain power.

In the theme of power, Rowling notably provides Professor Dumbledore as a foil to Voldemort. Professor Dumbledore is a highly-skilled wizard and, Rowling points out, is the only wizard that Voldemort is truly afraid of. Yet, instead of using his vast magical knowledge to seize power and dominate those around him, Dumbledore is incapable of being corrupted by power. The only power that he desires is the power to shape young witches and wizards to use their magic safely and for the benefit of society.