Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Chapter Three
Harry Potter’s birthday has just past, and that means it’s time to celebrate with another recap! I’m really enjoying writing these so far, and I have to say, regardless of my criticisms, these books are just so easy to read – the pacing’s great, the writing’s brisk (even though that would stutter a bit as the series grew more enormous by the book), and the character work and world-building is strong thus far, apart from, you know the whole thing where the magical world stuck Harry with an abusive family “for his own good”. But hey, we’re only on the third chapter – let’s not get ahead of ourselves, huh?
We start off with Harry recieving a long-lasting punishment after the escape of the Boa Constrictor (played by Andy Serkis in unedited mocap suit, if we recall) in the last chapter, and, thrillingly enough, we get another check-in with my cameo in the book:
“Mrs Figgs wasn’t as bad as usual. It turned out that she’d broken her leg tripping over one of her cats and she didn’t quite seem as fond of them as before.”
BLATANT LIES. My cat bit me in the face last night and my immediate reaction was to do something to deserve it, and to give her treats to say sorry. ALL CAT LADIES ARE PATHETIC PUSHOVERS, JK, GET IT RIGHT.
Harry is excited at the thought of going to secondary school, where he will be apart from Dudley for the first time in his life: again, the heartbreaking stuff here was something I overlooked as a kid because it’s Children’s Literature Protagonist 101, but I just want to gather Harry up in my arms and give him some cake. Fuck, I really am Mrs Figgs, aren’t I?
The post arrives the day Dudley gets his new uniform, and Harry goes to get it – to his surprise, he finds a letter addressed to him:
“Mr H Potter
The Cupboard Under the Stairs”
Look, I don’t want to beat a dead father figure here (heyo) but this is some more nonsense. Because it’s clear from the letter that the people who sent Harry to live with the Dursleys know that he’s been trapped under the stairs this whole time, so they must have been keeping an eye on him, and yet still decided that leaving him to suffer emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his family was better than, oh, I don’t know, fucking anything else. Dumbledore already seems like an ass, and he’s barely been in this book so far.
Vernon spots that Harry has a letter, deduces that it’s from Hogwarts, and boots Dudley and Harry out to discuss the development with Petunia. They’re clearly horrified, and decide to keep the letter from Harry in the hopes that whoever is reaching out to them will stop. But they do concede to move Harry to Dudley’s second bedroom, where, apparently, I visited briefly after Hannibal wasn’t renewed for season four:
“In the corner was Dudley’s first television set, which he’d put his foot through when his favourite programme had been cancelled.”
BIG mood. Anyway, Harry recieves another letter the next day, this time addressed to “The Smallest Bedroom”, which, again, CLEARLY SHOWS THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE WATCHING HIM AND MUST KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON. Vernon disposes of it again, and Harry comes up with a plan to acquire the next letter that comes through the door, by sneaking up early in the morning to collect it before the family are awake. But he finds Vernon waiting for him – treading on his face by accident – and things take a turn for the worse as Vernon begins nailing up the letterboxes to stop the letters getting through. I’ve got to say, I find this sequence super funny, and I reminder of the total Britishness that’s entrenched in every part of this series – it’s such a delightfully English reaction to just ignore the problem in such an active fashion, to go out of your way to make it so you don’t have to face up to the troubles at hand.
That’s followed by the iconic “no post on Sundays” sequence, as a barrage of letters come through the chimney, driving Vernon to take the family out of the city and to a dingy hotel far away in the hopes of shaking off the letters. He also hits Dudley in the process of this journey, so, you know, Vernon as a “hliariously” nasty villain is really just Vernon as an abuser of a whole family, which isn’t nearly as cute, even when you slap Richard Griffiths fabulously gurning face over it in your mind.
The letters continue to arrive at the hotel, driving Vernon to take the family to a rocky outcrop in the middle of a storm in order to stop them finding Harry. Harry thinks about how it’s his eleventh birthday the next day, and I’m reminded again just how little this character is to have gone through everything he has and oh my God I’m tearing up again, think about something else, think about Mrs Figgs and her cats, there, all better. Well, mostly.
As Harry listens to the storm outside later that night, he counts down the minutes the minutes to his birthday and hears strange noises beyond the cabin – of course, we know it’s my Lord, Saviour, and personal biggest crush Hagrid on the way, but I still like the way Rowling writes this as the start of a gothic horror nightmare. The fear that Vernon has over whatever is coming for Harry is clearly intense in this chapter, and introducing them with what sounds like the fucking Dunwich Horror on the way to collect just works for me.
We close out the chapter as Harry hears a knock on the door, and that’s us for this week. What are you thinking of the book so far? Are you reading along? Who’s your biggest crush in the (book) series? Hit me up over on Twitter, or let me know in the comments below!
(header image courtesy of Bustle)