HP reread! Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 3: The Letters From No One

Remember when people still thought Arabella Figg might be a kickass bodyguard witch? The fact that she has a TV should have clued us in about how that can’t be right. 

…I’d never quite realized before how fucking rich the Dursleys are exactly.

Dudley In His Knickerbockers

“As he looked at Dudley in his new knickerbockers, Uncle Vernon said gruffly that it was the proudest moment of his life. Aunt Petunia burst into tears and said she couldn’t believe it was her Ickle Dudleykins, he looked to handsome and grown-up. Harry didn’t trust himself to speak. He thought two of his ribs might already have cracked from trying not to laugh.”

This is such a great paragraph because it illustrates the psychology of the entire book opening. The Dursleys’ adoration for Dudley –> leading to the readers’ dislike and pity –> sinister atmosphere averted by Harry’s reaction.

The Snake Sneaks Up

Interesting point: Harry’s first introduction to the Slytherin theme was the snake, and he loved the snake. The snake returns when he gets his letter: The House symbols are on it, and the only one we have a personal relationship to at that point is the snake. It’s gotta be a good letter, we know immediately, because it has a snake. How quickly the tides will change! Well done, Draco. 

How we probably shouldn’t picture Slytherin House parties.

The Thing With The Letters

The letters make the Dursleys angry because they’re convinced that they’re “reeducating” Harry into not being a wizard. But they also scare them into giving him a new room: Seeing “cupboard under the stairs” in writing (followed by the no less accusing, “the smallest bedroom” on the second letter), clearly they’re very aware that they’re mistreating him. And they don’t want to be confronted with it by people who they perceive as dangerous. It’s an interesting double dynamic. It explains why they’d run away instead of just handing Harry over and getting rid of him. I mean even with Petunia’s promise to keep him safe in mind, they could have just handed him over and been rid of him for most of the year – and Petunia starts being okay with that when things get out of hand, while Vernon turns obsessive about running away. There’s a warped attempt at protection going on. Vernon’s protecting his normalcy, which Harry is a part of, and he’s protecting his family from punishment. Also the whole production has a sweetly presented message of, “Running away from weird things will make you weird yourself.” 

For all Harry’s so desensitized to the Dursleys’ abuse, he sure gets animated about the letter and the opportunity to get attention / open communication with somebody who knows who he is. It’s a bit heartbreaking.

What She Read Made Her Shudder From Disdain

“Someone was outside, knocking to come in.” I’ve always loved JKR’s cliffhangers. She always delivers them by giving us the first bit of information about what’s going to happen next, rather than withholding information. Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code) does that and it’s cheap and annoying. “And then what she saw made her stare in terror.” Just tell us what it fucking is and be done with it. 

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