Welcome, welcome! You’re reading our very first edition of Muggles and Mocha! This will be a weekly blog charting the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling chapter by chapter.
As mentioned in our announcement from this past Tuesday (which can be found here), every week there will be both an article covering a specific topic from each chapter as well as a YouTube video discussing the chapter as a whole. I’m so excited you’re here, and I know this is going to be such a fun experience.
With that, let’s get started! The video of my discussion of chapter one of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is located below. And guys—I talked for a full hour about chapter one! I deleted thirty minutes of material. I’m still trying to nail down how long these will be. Please feel free to give me your feedback on that subject.
For this first chapter, I wanted to start by discussing the many dichotomies present at the beginning of this series and the various purposes they serve as we enter Harry’s world. J.K. Rowling works with some delightful juxtapositions that all come together to make this opening truly impactful while slowly ushering us into the world she’s created. Let’s dive in.
Rowling begins her tale, which we know will grow into one of the most well-known fantasy stories in literature, by starting in a place that may seem unexpected: the real world. Our world. Not only that, but she places us in the midst of the most Muggle family imaginable—the Dursleys.
Why is this relevant? Because she starts by dropping us into a world we can relate to: a plain street in an ordinary suburb. She introduces us to people who seem normal by our non-magical standards. We see Vernon and Petunia Dursley have a normal day. Vernon goes to work, seeing strange sights, but we read about him in the setting of an ordinary office, something we’re familiar with. Rowling starts with the mundane before bringing in the fantasy. By the time Dumbledore apparates onto the scene, we’ve been steeped in the Muggle world with which we’re so familiar through the eyes of a couple who despises the extraordinary—as readers, we’re primed to witness some magic.
When the sun sets on the Dursleys’ day, everything changes. We meet one of the most interesting, abnormal characters in the series, juxtaposed against Vernon Dursley in this moment—Albus Dumbledore. All of a sudden, we see magic—lights being put out, a cat turning into a human, a flying motorcycle manned by a literal giant (eh, almost), and the mystery of a baby surviving the most dangerous wizard of all time. We suddenly realize the stage is set for the most magical of stories to begin in Harry Potter’s childhood home—a Muggle house, just like ours, with a boy who has the potential of being more than he ever realized.
Talk about a swing! Throughout this first chapter, we, too, travel from our dreary, normal world to the fantastic world of wizardry shimmering on the horizon.
I have a couple of reasons I think this transformation from our world to Harry’s was a dynamic choice on Rowling’s part. First, unlike some fantasy writers, she doesn’t begin by immediately throwing us into her imaginative world. I’m sure this would have involved some intense restraint. Instead, she begins with the comfortable, the familiar, then slowly gives us a peek into what’s coming.
Now, hear me out—I’m not saying the technique of starting with the bells and whistles would have been bad, exactly. Sometimes, it’s nice to start off with a bang! But in this instance, especially for a story originally meant for children (I say this begrudgingly because it’s true… but you’re never too old for Harry Potter!), I believe this technique helps readers fully process and digest the fantastic world rushing toward them in a way that isn’t overwhelming. We become comfortable in a place we recognize only to realize it’s not what it seems—there’s something wonderful going on here! Starting in the real world only makes us even more excited for what’s to come.
This building excitement applies to the characters we’re introduced to as well. The Dursleys are… detestable. And they’re supposed to be! Because when Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hagrid show up, we realize there’s something better here, something behind the scenes… something magical. Rowling wants us to slowly leave the Muggle world behind. Sure, we’re comfortable here, but the Muggle world is boring. She gives us a taste of the universe to come alongside images of our world, and the result is exhilarating. We’re ready to learn about the wonders of Hogwarts and the entire magical community because of this!
The last juxtaposition we find simply gives us a hint of the story to come—celebration and tragedy. At the end of the chapter, we learn Voldemort, an evil wizard, has finally been defeated! The joy can barely be contained within the wizarding world that day. But then you catch sight of the tiny baby who’s just lost his parents, who has no idea of the adventure—both exciting and horrifying—that his life will hold. And while there’s happiness surrounding this group standing on Privet Drive, there’s a tinge of death in the air and the fear of the unknown, both for the wizarding community and this young child.
So now, the world to come has slowly been revealed, and surrounding it is an underlying sense of mystery. Rowling has built our interest in the world she’s created, of course; but more important than that, she’s gotten us invested in her protagonist from the very beginning because of the circumstances in which he’s introduced. We see where he’ll live and with whom, we learn bits and pieces of what’s happened to him, and we, the readers, see what’s waiting for him—a universe he’s never seen. But we know he will. Which makes us excited to experience that with him!
Phew! Just writing about it has me excited to read more. I promise I’ll criticize J.K. Rowling at some point, because no one is a perfect writer; but really, she’s pretty brilliant.
So, these are my thoughts on the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I loved writing it. If you have thoughts on this topic or something else from chapter one, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear other ideas and what you think about this. This applies to the YouTube video as well. Or if you’d like to message me directly about this particular article or have suggestions for what you’d like to read about from this series, you can reach me through the contact button at the bottom of the page. My social media accounts are there, too, which will help you keep up-to-date with the new releases, or you can follow this blog by subscribing through email.
If you liked the article, don’t hesitate to share it with any Harry Potter fans in your life, too!
If you’re following along, read chapter two of the first book and watch for my next article and video for Muggles and Mocha, which will be released next Friday.
Until next time, you Muggles!
Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.