Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Theme Analysis

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The Heroic Quest is probably the predominant theme of this novel, as the preceding Analysis indicates. As the story unfolds, Harry progresses through the classic, mythic stages of the hero's journey. (See individual chapter summaries and analyses for a detailed discussion of how Harry's tale fits the heroic archetype.) Even though Harry's story takes place in a fantastic world, it is or will be really the story of everyone who reads about him. Like Harry, we must all separate from the known in order to discover the truth about who we are. Rowling suggests that self-discovery is one of the central tasks of life.
Rowling also, however, places great emphasis on companionship by including Ron and Hermione in virtually all of Harry's adventures. The way in which these three friends work together to get Harry to the Sorcerer's Stone in the book's penultimate chapter lead readers to infer that the journey of self-discovery, while important, is not the only journey human beings must undertake in life. We must also journey toward discovering others and building relationships with them. The morality displayed in Rowling's books suggests that we are individuals who are not to be isolated from one another.
"The Man With Two Faces" is the name of the final chapter in the novel, but it could also be a phrase describing one of the novel's central themes. While Quirrell literally has two faces and thus serves as a symbol of the dual nature of humanity-a conflict between good and evil-Harry exhibits "two faces" as well, albeit in subtler ways. For example, the same kind of magic wand that responded to Voldemort also responds to Harry. The Sorting Hat tells Harry he could achieve great things in Slytherin-the same House to which Voldemort belonged when a student at Hogwarts-and might belong there as much as in Gryffindor. Throughout the course of the Harry Potter novels, Harry must learn to recognize and reconcile these conflicting "faces" within himself. He is-or, more precisely, must learn to become-the antithesis of Lord Voldemort. Part of his character's complexity lies in the fact that he is similar in so many ways to his nemesis.

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