Friday, January 18, 2013

Sorcerer's Stone ~ Post the Second

Happy Harry Potter Day!  It is here again!  Except this time it's colder because I'm writing today from chilly Wisconsin, where I'm visiting my in-laws for the weekend.  I finished Sorcerer's Stone the other day and have already made a sizeable dent in Chamber of Secrets, so I can already tell that I'm going to have to be careful to not got too far ahead of myself in this readalong.

Just a head's up: I love this book and this series, but the second half of Sorcerer's Stone is just SO FULL of things to mock that that's pretty much all I'll be doing this post.  I still love it.  Deal.
I have so many things to poke holes in!  But I'm going to try and contain myself to three a few main points so that it doesn't get to be too much.  Firstly: Snape's piercing gaze.  Foreshadowing to the eventual revelation of his skill in Occlumency or one of those little details that Rowling repurposes later on?  I tend to think the latter.  I also wouldn't rule out the option that Snape isn't so much reading Harry's mind ("the mind is not a book, to be opened at will") as seeing... well, you know.  We'll come back to this far later in the series.

And then there's the Quidditch.  Ah, Quidditch.  At first glance, it seems fun and whimsical, like wizarding money (which Sarah at Sarah Says Read suggested may have ridiculous exchanges because it's based on WEIGHT, which I think is genius because wizards are old-fashioned and there money IS made out of actual precious metals - but anyway) but then you think about it and it all seems ridiculous.  So, not only is the length of the game based not on time but on one player performing a specific action, but that one action is valued so highly that it determines the outcome of almost every game (almost, I said almost!).  As a result, after weeks of practice and anticipation and the whole school turning out, Harry's second game ends in under five minutes and the other team does not have a chance.  Even if they had scored 14 times and Gryffindor hadn't scored at all, Gryffindor would have won.  I believe that the scoring is cumulative over the season, which works out that issue a bit, but it's still really boring and unfairly balanced.  Also, I would argue that it's more of a game than a sport, since it doesn't have much athleticism.  The brooms do most of the work.
 photo swallowingsnitch_zpsa26751b1.gif
game over
Moving on to the meat of this section: the sorcerer's stone, and it's so-called "protection."  Nevermind the fact that two 11-year old wizards and one witch were able to break through the "defenses"; similarly intelligent Muggles could have done so as well.  There is nothing inherently magical about the protection except in it's construction. Harry et al. play music, light a fire, board magical brooms (there is no indication that they actually require magic, much less skill to fly them), play chess, solve a logic puzzle, and would have had to hit a troll in the head if it hadn't already been done.  Finally, Harry looks into a mirror with goodness in his heart.  Even lowly Muggles could manage that.  And also, on a side note: I think Harry learns a total of two spells in this school year - wingardium leviosa and alohomora, which Hermione teaches him.  Where is all the magic in this magic school??

So then, towards the end of the aforementioned "magical" adventure, we have this gem:
"Harry - you're a great wizard, you know."
"I'm not as good as you," said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.
"Me!" said Hermione.  "Books!  And cleverness!  There are more important things -friendship and bravery and - oh Harry - be careful!"
Face.  PALM.  I think that this bit of mushiness has made me angry since my very first reading.  Yes, Hermione likes books and she is clever.  She is also a wonderful friend, who uses those skills to help her friends and is fiercely loyal, following Harry into danger without a moment's hesitation, pretty much proving her bravery and loyalty, and therefore powers of friendship once again.  Yeah, I get that she's concerned for Harry's safety but he could at least have said "same to you, you brave friend of mine."  But Harry's the hero and Rowling wants to make sure we know it, even though that comes at the cost of undermining one of the best characters in the series.  Maybe even The Best.  I do not like this part.

My final issue is that Hogwarts is a terribly dangerous place.  There is NO instruction before children are placed on flying brooms, little to no supervision at most times, and Dumbledore knowingly lets Harry face "deadly" obstacles and a dangerous nemesis.
"'Well,' Hermione exploded, 'if he did - I meant to say - that's terrible - you could have been killed.'"
AGREED.  Not to mention the fact that Dumbly decides to hide a powerfully magical object that he clearly knows someone is after in a school while it is in session.  I mean, what the heck is he thinking??  And then there's Hagrid, who allows two of his eleven-year old proteges to dispose of his dragon dangerous fire beast for him and doesn't even defend them when they get into trouble for it!  Then detention takes place in the Forbidden Forest at midnight with completely inadequate protection.  "Here, have my cowardly dog and you know how to make red sparks, right?"  And Hogwarts just gets more and more dangerous as the series goes on.

But! Neville!  So maybe he belongs in Gryffindor after all, despite his suggestions otherwise.  Rowling's going to pretty much forget about/make a joke of him for the next few books but here!  He is fantastic!  He takes on Crabbe and Goyle (okay, maybe that's more dumb than cowardly) and even stands up to the great HP himself!  He is not actually successful in any of these endeavors, but he tries!  And he is brave!  And just wait for the end of the series when I will share with all of you my Alternate Ending!
and he cleans up well too
So yeah, I think this half of the book is kind of weak but I still love it!  I like to watch the movie version of Sorcerer's Stone when I'm sleepy or lonely because it's familiarity is comforting, but I always turn it off before the "scary parts" at the end because...well...see above.

The Master Post
Sorcerer's Stone, Post the First
My original review

24 comments:

  1. SO MUCH AGREEMENT ON QUIDDITCH. I like the idea but the seeker needs to not be the more important person out there. Maybe if catching the snitch JUST ended the game and maybe was worth like 2 goals instead of 15. Then there's some actual strategy involved.

    Dumbledore puts children in danger just constantly. Or maybe magical folks are a lot harder to kill off than normal Muggles, so they have a different gauge of mortality. Or Hogwarts is just CRAZY negligent...

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    1. But still, having the Seeker end the game makes it so anti-climactic! I'd rather it count for 150 points (even though that's ridiculous) and have a time requirement allowing the other team at least a chance to make up the difference. But really, the whole thing is just ridiculous.

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    2. I don't know if it's anti-climactic for the snitch to end the game. Unless of course it happens 5 min into the match and then everyone that spent all that time climbing up to their seats barely has time to sit before they have to climb back down again. But either making the snitch worth the same but having a time limit for the game OR having the snitch worth less still fixes the problem. Rowling, you had two solutions in front of you. Tsk.

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    3. Yeah, it's not inherently anticlimactic. But it has the capacity to be.

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  2. In defense of Hagrid, if he'd gone to McGonagall about Norbert she'd have known it wasn't just a ploy to get Malfoy out of bed and into trouble. And that would have meant crazy trouble for everyone involved.

    As for quidditch, I agree for the most part but I bet if you spoke to horse riders they'd tell you there's more effort than simply sitting on the horse - even if it doesn't look like much.

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    1. I think that is Hagrid had come clean, it would have just been him and Malfoy in trouble. Technically Harry and Hermione broke the rules, but I think that could be washed away considering they were trying to protect their peers and showing loyalty for their friend (such good Gryffindors!).

      Yeah, that's true about the horses. Though I think brooms, even animated ones, are probably more obedient than animals with brains of their own.

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    2. I don't know why Malfoy would be in trouble and not Harry and Hermione. They knew and did nothing and THEN they carried to dragon through the school - endangering everyone. All Malfoy did was snitch.

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  3. I don't think that part's meant to undermine Hermione TO US. Do you think it really is? I think it's just the situation where when you're young and people give you a compliment you're like, No no no, my skills are completely valueless. The reader already knows that Hermione is the total MVP of these books and Harry would never succeed in fighting evil if not for her.

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    1. I don't think it's necessarily INTENDED to undermine Hermione to us, but it is meant to make Harry the ultimate hero, which has the nasty side effect of diminishing Hermione's own accomplishments. Because yes, she is totally MVP.

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  4. Oh see, I'm actually a big fan of the 'books and cleverness' thing, because people who are very smart tend to think that's the Be All, End All and makes up for everything else. But Hermione acknowledges that yes, while she is awesome in those areas, other things count too and are probably more important. Her being dismissive of her own awesomeness makes me like her much more.

    Also, almost positive a normal wizard would use magic to solve most of the other tests. Maybe you didn't have to use the brooms but could get the key with the right summoning spell? And you almost definitely would have to use magic on the troll.

    They learned how to turn matchboxes into mice or whatever. I think she just doesn't tell us the other spells specifically because they're not important to the plot.

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    1. That's true about the matchboxes. It just sucks that we don't get to see more of the classes in this book, because that's a really fun part of later books.

      And yes, most wizards probably would use magic, but my point is that maybe strong, clever Muggles could manage without.

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  5. NOW. I think that the Hemione thing is important because in the first half of the book she's all irritating and know-it-all ish and friendship isn't something that's as important for her BUT she's learnt by the end of the book that it's totally important and that's part of her character development and how she BECOMES so awesome.

    Quidditch is a crazy sport, now that I think of it. But HARRY IS THE HERO AT ALL TIMES, alright? This is clearly very important to JK!

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  6. I agree that the "books and cleverness" bit downplays Hermione's wonderfulness, BUT she'd be kind of a braggart if she was all, "Look at all the awesome things I can do, and good job on you being able to do two of them as well."

    Have you read this? "In praise of the Hermione Granger Series": http://globalcomment.com/in-praise-of-hermione-granger-series/

    I need to remember to link to this in my post next week, because it's awesome and is kind of (sadly) true.

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  7. Quidditch is ridiculous - but that's still not going to stop me from my buying my grad school's new set of "quidditch shirts" that came in last week!

    I'm pretty disappointed that there weren't more spells and demonstration of magic skills toward the end - I guess JKR was trying to make the point that loyalty and bravery trumps everything, but do the obstacles have to be *that* easy?? Are the Hogwarts professors that rusty? The redeeming factor was the mirror of erised and how it was "impossible" for a selfish, power hungry person to obtain the stone.

    Also, Neville does clean up well. Thank you, thank you for that beautiful reminder.

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    1. Oh, I would totally WEAR Quidditch apparel. I would just tell anybody that comments on it that Quidditch is completely illogical!

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  8. I totally with you in that passage where Hermione is all, "aww, shucks, i'm just a girl who likes books and *you* are the great wizard in this scenario, harry." bothers me every time. she's the only one who sticks by harry until the bitter end, all the way through DH. she's fiercely loyal and the best friend he'll ever have, and yes, those things are more important than cleverness and she should just own it.

    Also, apparently we both love Neville and posted pics of him as a hottie.

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    1. Lol, that's hilarious! I wasn't even intending to post a picture of grown-up Neville, but I was googling pictures of him (from the movie) and found that and just HAD to share! :]

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  9. Awww you mentioned me!! :-D
    And I was looking for that gif of Harry spitting out the Snitch so hard but couldn't find one, lol.

    AGREED on the weak ass protections around the stone. LAME.

    I don't think Hogwarts is SO dangerous, partly because of all the magical fixes they have. Like flying on the brooms - as we see later, they can break (or lose) their bones and then get them healed or grown back. The forest is dangerous, but Hagrid points out that the kids are safe with him and Fang because the creatures of the forest like him so much I guess. (Also, I think scaring the kids by putting them in the scary forest was GENIUS punishment, lol, much more effective than doing lines.)

    Yeah, hiding the Stone at Hogwarts was probably a bad idea... but maybe Dumbledore thought it'd be safest with him? In which case maybe he should have carried it around or kept it in his office, but whatever. Then we wouldn't have the book!

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    1. Lol, behavioral conditioning gone very very wrong. And would you say that the Stone's safety is more important than the students?

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  10. Yaaa...when I was reading it, I didn't really think Quidditch made a lot of sense, but I tried not to over think it too much. And wasn't it mentioned that the longest game ever last like 5 months? What are the rules then? Is it continuous? Do they stop after a certain time period and resume the game the next day, week?

    And yes to the unsafety-ness of the school! It bugged me that their detention started at midnight (or was it 1am?). Either way, that's REALLY LATE for 11 year olds! And then they're expected to go to class the next morning?

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    1. They also have astronomy classes at midnight, so maybe they're used to it?

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  11. I think that the Quidditch is fun, but I do kind of space out during the descriptions of it. Kind of like I do at real sports...

    The quote from Hermoine about "books and cleverness" was kind of DOH! moment for me too. I just kept thinking about how Ron and Harry could never really figure out anything if Hermoine wasn't reading all those books.

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