Things That Confuse and Anger Me About the Harry Potter Series: Philosopher’s Stone

By Ashley

So I have seen the final Harry Potter movie. I laughed, I cried, I bitched about the epilogue. Harry Potter is and always will be a huge part of my life. But for me, loving the series also means seriously examining its many flaws and inconsistencies. With the end of the films, I’ve decided to reread the entire series. Reading the series through an adult lens makes the series’ plot holes, flaws and just plain weird moments all the more obvious to me. So, as I read each book I’ve decided to write and share my bitching and griping about the series! I’m writing these under the assumption that the people reading will have a more-than-cursory familiarity with the series; in other words, spoilers ahead! Also, know that this is strictly about the bookverse, no movieverse stuff (that would be a completely different series of blogs on its own).

Things That Confuse and Anger Me About the Harry Potter Series: Philosopher’s Stone

1. How could the Dursleys get away with that level of abuse? After Harry accidentally sets the Brazilian snake free, he gets his “longest ever punishment”—a month in his cupboard. Maybe I’m reading it too literally, but it makes it seem like he’s not allowed out for ANYTHING, even school; he has to sneak food in the middle of the night and by the time he’s allowed out, summer has started. No school officials noticed that this thin, scraggly, obviously abused young child is missing for the entire last month of school?

2. When Harry asks about Wizard banks, Hagrid replies that there’s “just the one—Gringotts”. Really, Hagrid? So, magical folk from Egypt, Africa, America or ANYWHERE else have to Apparate all the way to London to take money out of the bank? It’s little things like these that make me feel like J. K. Rowling loses grip on the absolute breadth of the world she’s created; she’s from Britain so it makes sense for things to be concentrated in Britain (and Scotland, where Hogwarts is). But even as the series progresses and the world expands and we’re even introduced to foreign witches and wizards we’re still lead to believe that the core of the entire magical community is Britain, specifically London, and Hogwarts. Is there really just ONE magical government, and one person is the leader of an entire world of people? And that person is Cornelius Fudge? (In book four, some of these issues with the government are, thankfully, addressed.)

3. When the little First Years are gathered outside the Great Hall, Harry and Ron are wondering about what kind of test they’ll have to pass to be sorted into their houses. Really, Ron? It’s unbelievable that this kid who has had five siblings and both parents go to Hogwarts before him has no idea about the Sorting Hat. And even if he didn’t, some other first years from Wizarding homes would know about it and would be talking about it with their peers. I get that it’s a device to create suspension for the readers but…come on.

4. This is something that’s always bothered me ever since I was a kid. When Harry and Ron save Hermione from the troll and she lies to McGonagall, saying that she went searching for the troll. What the hell, Hermione? Why not just tell the truth: you were in the bathroom, didn’t know about the troll and Harry and Ron helped you? Either way, Harry and Ron look like the saviors but in the lie she tells, it makes her look like a glory-seeking fool. I’ve never understood this lie and I don’t think it was necessary for Harry, Ron and Hermione to become friends.

5. This is a recurring theme in this book: Harry being unjustly rewarded and favored. The first major example is when Harry chases Malfoy down on his broomstick; McGonagall catches him and at first we’re led to believe she’s going to punish him (because she’s McGonagall and she doesn’t play favorites and she’s very straight-lace) but instead she rewards him with a spot on the Gryffindor Quidditch team and a high-end, expensive broomstick (even though the rule is that first years aren’t allowed their own brooms). The second is a less egregious example: when Harry has spent the past three nights roaming the halls after hours to sit in front of the Mirror of Erised. This one is a little more understandable; Dumbledore finds him and reprimands him in his kind, old-man way, teaching him a valuable lesson about dwelling on dreams. So, it’s not quite as bad but the first example in the series of Dumbledore’s obvious favoritism towards Harry. But then, the doozy of all favoritism doozies, perhaps in the entire series: the end-of-year feast in the Great Hall. Due to points lost for Harry and Hermione getting caught getting rid of Norbert the dragon, Gryffindor is in last place for the House Cup and Slytherin has won for the seventh year running. However, Dumbledore unloads a boat-load of last minute points on Gryffindor house for Harry, Ron and Hermione’s actions while going after the Philosopher’s Stone. He gives the three of them just enough points to be neck-in-neck with Slytherin and then awards Neville an extra 10 points for his courage, which pushes them ahead and then win the House Cup. All the green and silver decorations instantly turn to red and gold and the rest of the school celebrates Slytherin unexpected and humiliating loss.

What the fuck, Dumbledore?

This is a huge problem in the entire series, which I’ll probably touch a lot: it’s completely confusing in its sense of morality and right and wrong. The whole series is supposed to be about good vs. evil but save for a few complex characters (Snape, Dumbledore, the Malfoys), we’re stuck with this version of black and white morality. And in this instance, the headmaster of the entire school—who is supposed to care for all his students and foster inter-house civility and camaraderie—is basically saying to the entire school, “Yeah, fuck Slytherin.”  Why couldn’t Gryffindor have come in a triumphant but humble second and then actually won another year, like with the Quidditch Cup? But oh, no, Dumbledore had to restore the points and repair Harry’s damaged reputation within the school.  Do you think any of the Slytherin students, especially the ones who have just finished their first year of school and are really excited about having won the House Cup, will ever trust Dumbledore again? Man, I wonder if this could possibly come back to fuck them over, when like, a war starts or something.

If you have some plot holes, inconsistencies or just things that anger or confuse you about the Harry Potter series or you want to try to defend the things I’ve brought up here, please feel free to comment! I’m always up for some rousing Harry Potter discussion.

Read the rest of the series as well:

TTCaAMAtHPS: Chamber of Secrets

TTCaAMAtHPS: Prisoner of Azkaban

TTCaAMAtHPS: Goblet of Fire part 1 and part 2

TTCaAMAtHPS: Order of the Phoenix part 1, part 2 and part 3

TTCaAMAtHPS: Half-Blood Prince part 1 and part 2

TTCaAMAtHPS: Deathly Hallows and the Epilogue


Filed under Literature, Media, Personal

10 responses to “Things That Confuse and Anger Me About the Harry Potter Series: Philosopher’s Stone

  1. You know what? I was running up a list of questions I had while re-reading the series and posting those questions on Facebook and NOBODY ANSWERED ME! (Well, one, but that’s because I asked her to.) I will happily post the list on my blog if you’re interested in reading/commenting there.

    I like all your questions…I never came up with those myself. Two responses, though:

    1. I assumed that Harry was allowed out of the cupboard -only- to go to school after the snake incident. But if he had no idea that Dudley had broken/done all that stuff while he (Harry) was being punished, it calls into question how often he was let out of the cupboard. Good catch! As far as the abuse -period-…wouldn’t you have thought SOMEONE would’ve figured out SOMETHING was going on in Harry’s life in the six or so years he was going to public school?

    2. I never assumed that Gringotts was the only wizarding bank in the world and I never assumed that Fudge was chief of the only wizarding government in the world, either. I guess I was just presuming quite a lot.

    Looking forward to your comments on Chamber of Secrets!

  2. If I had been drinking something, “Fuck Slytherin” would have made it come out of my nose.

    I think the overall plot now seems silly. I mean, Dumbledore knows that Voldemort is after the Stone, so he brings it to A GODDAMNED SCHOOL. I don’t give a toss what the book arbitrarily says about Hogwarts being safe; he’s basically saying, “Oh yeah, Magic Hitler might be stopping by soon. But you just keep on being you, Harry.” It brings out that creepy alternate side to Dumbledore’s favoritism, his willful placement of Harry in danger just to teach him a lesson or take some small step to a protracted final duel.

    And I don’t understand how Rowling sets up Gringotts (as you say, apparently the repository for the world’s wizarding wealth) as this impenetrable fortress and then casually has someone break into it like two hundred pages later. And shit, in the last book, three teenagers somehow succeed where legions of thieves failed, even though they slip up the entire way and are just like “Do you guys validate?” as they fly a goddamn dragon to freedom. Is there an equivalent wizarding government insurance on wizard banks, because I would be burying my Knuts in the backyard if the best I had was the goblins’ assurance it would be fine.

    • Ashley

      OH MY GOD, YOU ARE SO RIGHT. What the hell, Dumbledore, why the ever-loving fuck would you bring something you know the Darkest of all Dark Wizards is after to HOGWARTS? Sometimes I really think he’s a shitty Headmaster, for real. I’m happy to see that some people are just as confused about Gringotts (and its security) as I am.

  3. I always wondered how kids of that age could be whisked out of regular schools and sent to wizarding school where there was no mention of “the basics” being taught (reading & math). Yet they could read complex spell books even as first years, and Hermione was advanced enough in math in future years to take Arithmancy? Hmmm.

    As for Philosopher’s Stone specifically, how would the Dursleys have explained Harry being taken out of public school (to the school) without having his records transferred to another one? Seems like there might be some legal ramifications to that one.

    And quite frankly, Harry’s behavior wasn’t at all consistent with a child who had supposedly grown up knowing nothing but abuse.

    Eeek! Maybe I spend too much time over-analyzing fiction! (LOL)

    • Thinking about what I learned in junior high and high school in regards to math…all the basics, I learned in elementary school. There’s no reason why you’d need algebra and geometry in Harry’s world. (Unless arithmancy was like algebra?) (Speaking of arithmancy, why did Hermione stick with it? “-mancy” is an indicator of a form of divination: cartomancy, geomancy, etc. If she thought divination was that “wooly”, she should’ve dropped out.) Science? Potions would be like chem. “Reading complex spell books”? Most people can read and comprehend just fine by sixth grade…at that point, English is more about grammar than learning to read. And history would be covered by history of magic. (Any other subjects I’m missing?)

      And you’re right…someone would’ve HAD to have noticed that Harry was no longer going to public school. *singsong voice:* PLOT hole!

    • Ashley

      NO SUCH THING AS OVER-ANALYZING, MY GOOD FRIEND. I think J. K. once said something about like…some Wizard parents send their parents to muggle primary schools but most homeschool them on math and reading and such? I don’t know why should couldn’t just be like, yeah, there are Wizarding primary schools where you learn basic math, reading and history and then when you hit 11 you go to your secondary school. Woulda been really easy to mention that at some point. Ahh, I would’ve never thought to point out the legal issues surrounding Harry just magically disappearing from the school system; very nice.

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