Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review Contest: Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone (reviewed by Fong Chia Sin)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone written by J.K.Rowling were full with fantasy and adventure. This story introduces us to Harry Potter, an orphaned boy sent to live with his "horrible" Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and their fat, obnoxious son, Dudley. Since Harry's parents were powerful witches before they were killed by an even more powerful wizard known as Lord Voldemort on Halloween night, Harry has generational witchcraft in his background, making it very likely that he will be a wizard when he grows up.

Harry is totally unaware that he has Witchcraft in his background and that he might possess inherent "special powers" until he reaches eleven. This is where he was rescued by a beetled-eyed giant of a man named Hagrid to enrol at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In Hogwarts, Harry befriends other first-year students like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. He, Ron, and Hermione were chosen to be in the noble Gryffindor house.

As the school year gets underway, Harry goes through many challenges where he participated in the Qudditch game as the youngest seeker. Gryffindor won the game against Slytherin. On Halloween, a troll is found in the building. He and Ron again went to find Hermione who doesn’t aware of the troll. Unwittingly, they lock the troll in the girls' bathroom along with Hermione. Together, they defeat the troll. He also discovers the Mirror of Erised, which displays the deepest desire of whoever looks in it. Harry looks in it and sees his parents alive. Harry, Ron, and Hermione begin to unravel the mysterious connection between a break-in at Gringotts and the three-headed guard dog. They learn that the dog is guarding the Sorcerer's Stone belongs to Nicolas Flamel, Dumbledore's old partner. Harry also learns that it is Voldemort who has been trying to steal the Sorcerer's Stone. He, Ron, and Hermione sneak off that night to the forbidden third-floor corridor. They get past the guard dog and perform many impressive feats as they get closer and closer to the stone. Harry ultimately finds himself face to face with Quirrell, who announces that Harry must die. He tries to kill Harry, but Quirrell is burned by contact with the boy. A struggle ensues and Harry passes out

When Harry regains consciousness, he is in the hospital with Dumbledore. Dumbledore explains everything to Harry. Harry heads down to the end-of-year banquet, and then Dumbledore gets up and awards many last-minute points to Gryffindor, leads to them winning the house cup for Gryffindor. Harry returns to London to spend the summer with the Dursleys.

In this story, the author uses the third-person point of view. He or she knows everything about the characters, generally stays close to Harry Potter’s point of view. In the book the author register surprises when Harry is surprised and fear when Harry is afraid. This makes the book interesting as I can feel all the characters emotions and feelings while reading the book. Not only Harry, he also takes the point of view of Mr. Dursley, who dislike by the signs of wizards around town. The shift in point of view from a Muggle's perspective to a wizard's emphasizes the difference between the two worlds.

The story uses straightforward and simple tone, with few purely decorative elements or artistic features, few metaphors and figures, and little playful irony and even foreshadowing. Example of some symbols is Harry's scar, Quidditch, and the Mirror of Erised. The pain that Harry feels at the end of Chapter 7 when Snape stares at him foreshadow that there is some underlying tension between the two. J.K. Rowling exploits our misgivings about Snape by leading us to believe that he and Harry will eventually confront each other in a climactic battle for the Sorcerer's Stone. Besides that, the language used is also easy to grasp. The narrator also never involves moral judgements on any characters, even the wicked Voldemort, but allows us full freedom to praise or condemn. This makes the story easy to understand and interesting.

There is also varies in the settings of the story. It changes from stage to stage. The settings start at Private Drive where Harry stays with his aunt and uncle there since he was a baby. Then the story sets at Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This is where Harry studies and learn all the spells and also defense against the dark arts. This is also where he faces Voldemort at the end of the story. This varies in settings make the story more exciting and can have the feel of the atmosphere.

There is also meaningful theme underlying in this story used by the author. It underlined the deep friendship. This can be seen in Harry, Hermione and Ron who are best friend. They helped each other when there is trouble. Hermione and Ron helped Harry to discover the mystery of the Sorcerer’s Stone. They even joined Harry to stop Voldemort from stealing the stone. The friendship tie among them is very strong making the story very meaningful. In the story, J.K. Rowling too slips in many sub-themes such as the value of humility, the occasional necessity of rebellion and the dangers of desire.

This story is full of actions and adventure making it interesting. However, it is still very unrealistic as magic does not occur in our real life.

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