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Birth of a hero

It’s the reason we grow up with the feeling of the need for acceptance. The reason many boys grow up playing games like ‘cops and robbers’ or play ‘superhero’ and young girls may pretend to be a ballerina or a princess. There is inherently a visceral need to have a purpose in life, and alongside it, the need for love and fellowship with others. Yet, somewhere within the attempt to discover ourselves, there are always those fine lines that must always be toed between acceptance and doing what is known to be right. The line between ‘humble’ and ‘bold’. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone is J.K. Rowling’s infamous debut novel that was published by Bloomsbury in 1997 and it became the first of a successful series of Harry Potter compositions, all the way to the new Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The main protagonist in the book is, of course, the eleven-year-old Harry who undergoes a path of discovery regarding his magical heritage during his first year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With the support and help of his close friends, Harry partakes in an epic, mysterious and magical journey with the purpose of thwarting the attempted comeback of the Lord Voldemort (Bauer). Lord Voldemort is Harry’s arch nemesis and dark wizard who also killed Harry’s parents while failing to harm young Harry when he was merely a year old. The artistic creativity witnessed in the composition is what makes it an enduring masterpiece that both adults and children have embraced. In J.K. Rowling’s novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, readers will realize that in the journey of self-actualization will come about moments in which great action must be taken, along with self-sacrifice in the form of humility. As Harry’s journey begins toward becoming a wizard hero, the author uses the concepts of self- discovery, love, companionships, courage and the virtue of humility to describe the main attributes required in the path to heroism, even in contemporary society.

A Heroic quest and self- discovery seems to be the author’s most predominant concept used in the novel. As Rowling slowly unfolds the story, Harry is seen to be progressing through classic and mythic stages of a protagonist’s journey. Despite Harry’s adventurous tale occurring in a mysterious and fantastic world, most of the readers can somewhat relate to his struggle and journey of discovery. Like Harry, all human beings have to identify the known and unknowns to be able to discover the underlying truth about our real personalities or backgrounds. With regards to Harry’s yearning to discover his magical inheritance as well as the truth behind his parent’s death, Dumbledore states, “The truth…It is a beautiful and terrible thing and should, therefore, be treated with great caution. However, I shall answer your questions unless I have a very good reason not to, in which case I beg you’ll forgive me. I shall not, of course, lie.” In this manner, Rowling is using the professor as a mouthpiece to tell both Harry and the readers that a journey of self-discovery is not only one of the core tasks of life, but it may also bring along psychological or emotional dangers; therefore, one should make adequate preparation before taking that step. Author’s Andrew J. Frank and Matthew T. McBee from the University Of Georgia in their article, “The Use of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to Discuss Identity Development With Gifted Adolescents.” Stated, “the gifted may experience unique difficulties associated with identity development, and points out that gifted children not only think differently, they also feel differently.”( Frank and Mcbee, Pg 3) Harry felt this psychologically because he did not know he came from a wizard family. Discovering his unknown background, the protagonist’s identity lacks the foundation of close identification with his parents in order to eventually begin the process of differentiation needed later in adolescence.

In addition, another important attribute presented in the novel is the power of love. The first contact that Harry makes with his heroic fate is when he was just a one year baby. After James and Lily Potter died, Voldemort cast a deadly curse onto baby Harry, but the curse suddenly reversed to defeat the evil lord. Rowling writes, “when he couldn’t kill Harry Potter, Voldemort’s power somehow broke” (Rowling, p.12). It is later revealed that it was the power of love that helped saved his life, as before Lily Potter passed on, she used her remaining magical power to cast a protective hex onto Harry (Team). It is this powerful spell that allowed Harry to repel the villain and had his life spared. Following that awful and dreadful encounter with the evil lord, Harry was scarred with a lightning-shaped mark on his forehead that acts as a testament to escaping from an attempt on his young life as well as the power of a parent’s love for their child. Dumbledore claims that Voldemort “didn’t realize love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. Tison Pugh and David L. Wallace, Professors at the University of Central Florida, in their article, “Heteronormative Heroism and Queering the School Story in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series”, referenced that in a perfectly stereotypical heroic tale composed by the author, no matter how dark or awful Lord Voldemort was, he simply could not surpass the formidable protective force of love; and the lightning scar conspicuous on his young face is the symbol of the triumph of heroic love over evil (Pugh and Wallace, p 263). With Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the novelist suggests that love is the luckiest charm that exists in both the fictional and contemporary society of London where it directly works as a divine protection spell.

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In the epic journey of our young hero, Rowling also places significant emphasis on friendship and companionship by including the dynamic duo of Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley in typically all the adventures Harry experiences (Tucker). Harry, Ron, and Hermione all meet at the train station that is headed to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and they immediately strike up a platonic relationship. Once the sorting hat is utilized to pick the house of residence, the three friends are placed to Gryffindor which along with the remaining three houses are portrayed as the basis for all the young wizards to forge and cultivate useful interpersonal communications. The Sorting Hat sings; “You might belong in Gryffindor, Where dwell the brave at heart, Their daring, nerve, and chivalry Set Gryffindors apart.” (p.118).According to the Sorting Hat, just like the Hufflepuffs are generally associated with their loyalty among house members, the Gryffindors are mostly defined through their noble courage. The nerve, chivalry and daring that they display originates from an emotional foundation such that their innate bravery or heroic dispositions are brought out by feelings for one another and not from thinking or mental calculations (Team). Under these circumstances, these three friends work together and support each other not only in the classroom but also with homework, at Quidditch matches as well as compare magical concepts and ideas to further their comprehension of the exciting wizardry mysteries. From this portion of the story the reader can infer that although the heroic journey of self-discovery is very critical, it is not the sole journey that Human Beings should undertake in the course of their life. Hermione comments about this saying, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things- friendship and bravery and –oh Harry- be careful!” This line from Rowling suggests that we must all embark on a journey to cultivate relationships with other people in our immediate society, but also discover bravery for the sake of protecting them. Tison Pugh and David L. Wallace Professors at the University of Central Florida in their article, “Heteronormative Heroism and Queering the School Story in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter Series.” The Professors state, “Even when Harry undertakes the courageous mission of preventing the theft of the Sorcerer’s Stone, both his friends naturally stand by him as they work together; while utilizing their personal strengths to support and encourage each other.” (Pugh and Wallace, p 265 ). The morality inherently suggested by the author is that, as individuals, humans are not to be isolated from one another if they are to accomplish their fated purposes.

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Following this as seen in the novel Courage and bravery is displayed through the hero’s journey. The concept of the sorcerer’s stone is not only captivating to readers but mainly because it shows our young hero courageously embarking on a journey to solve the wizarding world’s mystery. As Dumbledore states, “To Mr. Harry Potter for pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Gryffindor House sixty points.” Harry’s bravery throughout the novel shows us what true courage is. J.K Rowling takes us on a journey that facing your own insecurities and fears makes us stronger and courageous. In the opinion of author and mythologist Joseph Campbell, he writes in his novel, The hero with a thousand faces, “A real hero is one who directly ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered, and a decisive victory is won.” (Campbell, p.30). He insists that only from coming back from such a mysterious and arduous adventure would a hero possess the power to bestow substantial boons to his fellow man in society. In the Article, “Crowning the King: Harry Potter and the Construction of Authority”,” writer and scholar Farah Mendlesohn from Atlantic State University states, “When initially introduced into the fascinating magical world, Harry intensely struggles with his heroic fate and has to make tough choices that might affect many lives, and he eventually succeeds due to concerted efforts coupled with a pure motive of finding the infamous stone.” (Mendlesohn, p 290). In a bid to innately comprehend the secrets within the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry had to primarily identify what was or what was not sensible as well as progressively cope with enormous peer pressure while having to contend with being reprimanded and chastised regularly for his courageous actions. Even when the process of self and societal discovery put his life or future of Hogwarts in jeopardy, he continued to courageously inquire for the answers in his concerted pursuit for them. After struggling together to solve a major mystery that set up the consequences of the next Harry Potter series, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were able to succeed in outing the conspiracy to become heroes of the wizardry world (Team). Literary Scholar, Anne Alton in her Article, “Generic Fusion and the Mosaic of Harry Potter”, suggests that Rowling creates personalities which exemplify the innate power of self-sacrifice and strong will and that is why all three of the main protagonists appeal to readers. Everyone can either identify with or knows someone like brainy Hermione, faithful and funny Ron and orphan Harry. (Alton, P143) Alton insists that in such articulately developed characters within the novel that allowed Rowling to combine reality and fantasy in a wizard world that effortlessly invokes their innate suspension of belief as they realize they are no longer in England anymore. (Alton) As such, by positively modeling the actions or choices of the main protagonists Harry, Hermione, and Ron the composition can be able to portray the concepts of friendship, love, and courage within an epic hero’s journey; which directly inspire the readers to approach significant events in our lives with absolute courage.

These themes are not the only ones that J.K Rowling focuses on, as she also places great emphasis on the virtue of humility. It can be claimed that by showcasing the modesty of its hero, the novel makes extraordinary modesty to be one of the reasons for Harry successfully obtaining the Sorcerer’s Stone. The humility portrayed by Harry was without a doubt deep-rooted in his character during the most miserable decade of living under constant cruelty and neglect with the Dursleys (Team). From the very beginning, the author describes that “Perhaps it had something to do with living in a dark cupboard, but Harry had always been small and skinny for his age. He looked even smaller, and skinnier than he really was because all he had to wear were old clothes of Dudley’s and Dudley was four times bigger than he was.” For him to manage to live under such adverse conditions, Harry had to be both patient and incredibly humble. Further, his humility does not stop even when he discovers his immense fame, wealth and popularity within the wizardry world. Writer, Declan Kiberd in an article, “School Stories, Studies in Children’s Literature: Harry Potter’s World.” Kiberd addresses that when everyone appears to innately know his name as he traveled on the train, rather than posing and acting unequal, Harry instead hopes to be able to live to the expectations of his high reputation (Kiberd, P 54). This is quite a big contrast when compared to the bullish Draco Malfoy who is greatly conceited by his family reputation and never downplays a single achievement of his.

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Moreover, when Harry displays exceptional talent in the game of Quidditch, his reaction to the recommendation by professor McGonagall to represent the Gryffindor house in the games is not to glorify himself, but rather to train hard and become more diligent than before (Rowling). Even after performing outstandingly in the Quidditch game, where he caught the golden snitch in a record time of five minutes, he is not carried away by the applause of the spectators; quickly rushing off after the game. Rowling seems to indicate that Harry’s refusal to glorify himself for every little achievement was instrumental in keeping him on track of his mission to acquire the stone. Unlike the wicked wizards, like Quirrell, who seeks the stone for the desire of power, immortality, and glory. In an article, “What can clinical teachers learn from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone?”, Dr. Jennifer J Conn from the University of Melbourne, Australia theorizes that Harry’s core reason of finding the stone is for the well being of the Hogwarts world, not for the acquisition of personal fortune or fame (Conn p 1117). He can be said to be the extreme opposite of the evil Voldemort who after possessing Quirrell’s body, seeks the stone for the selfish goals of reincarnation and immortality. This rhetoric by the author may leave a lingering sense of wonder; if Harry were less humble, he probably would be unable to seize the stone in the end, enabling it to be destroyed by Dumbledore.

In conclusion, the notion of a young hero embarking on a heroic journey of self-discovery and against evil, the common good has long been featured in many fantasies, magical and adventurous narrations. Most of them leave readers with innate inquiries about what attributes entail the life of a hero. It is common knowledge that a hero should be intelligent, have great strength and stand up for the values they believe in. However, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling reveals that in the journey of a hero there also needs to be love, courage, peerless bravery, friendship, and companionship. Possessing the traits will help our hero accomplish his mission and fight for the right ideals that are essential for the common good (Conn). It is also these characteristics that allow Harry to regularly face fear as well as danger to his life without the slightest hesitation, flinching or batting an eyelid, all for the sake of the Hogwarts wizardly world. From when Harry was introduced to the hidden world of witchcraft and wizardry, he received the protection of love, acquired numerous companions, broke rules for these companions and courageously fought against evil schemes for the common good. This is a clear indication that for all heroes, even in contemporary society, one cannot accomplish life missions without portraying the appropriate support, courage, and bravery.

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