Monday, October 10, 2016

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 3: The Letters From No One

Welcome to the next Specialis Revelio chapter analysis! If this is your first time on the blog, please check out this introductory post, where I explain the purpose of this blog, as well as the different sections you'll see in each post. You can also click here to go to the page where all of my posts are listed in chronological order.

~I solemnly swear that I am up to no good~

Specialis Revelio: a spell that reveals an object's hidden secrets.

Harry receives a harsh punishment for the snake incident that lasts well into summer vacation. Dudley prepares to begin school at Smeltings Academy, while Harry will be going to public school. One day, Harry discovers a letter in the post with his name on it. His uncle takes it away, refusing to let him see it. Over the next several days, Harry begins to receive more & more letters, sometimes coming in odd ways such as inside eggs. This garners more & more extreme reactions from his uncle, eventually leading to mass amounts of letters shooting out of the fireplace. Much to Dudley's distress, Vernon decides that the family is going to be leaving the house to take a trip in hopes of avoiding the letters. The next day, they receive numerous letters at their hotel, so Vernon takes them all the way to an island shack. As the clock strikes midnight on Harry's 11th birthday, there's a loud knock at the door.

So, there's something a bit wonky here with the dates. Given that J.K. Rowling is known for really detailed foreshadowing, it's often assumed that everything is meticulously done, but that's not incredibly accurate with some of the dates in this first book.

So. Chapter 3 spans an entire week, starting as Harry gets the mail on a Tuesday, and ending right at the beginning of Harry's birthday, which (given this timeline) is a Tuesday. The quick explanation here is that we are explicitly told days of the week for several of these days. The day that the Dursleys go to the island is explicitly mentioned as a Monday, because Dudley complains that he's missing his Monday programs. We also know that this is not an accident because we get a clear "On Friday... On Saturday... On Sunday... The next morning" succession, so Rowling clearly set it up so the day before Harry's birthday was a Monday, thus making Harry's birthday (July 31!) a Tuesday.
So, pretty clear timeline, right? Except. We already established that this is taking place in the summer of 1991. Harry and Dudley were both born in 1980 and they're both turning 11, plus tons of other out-of-story confirmation that this year is 1991. However, July 31 was on a Wednesday in 1991. So clearly, Rowling made an oopsie here. Because Harry's birthday & the year this takes place are both solid facts, but the timeline that she very purposefully lays out in this chapter contradicts these facts. Clearly, she just didn't have her dates right, but I had a lot of fun laying all of this out and proving that I was right and J.K. Rowling was wrong ;)

Personal Thoughts
I love the humor surrounding the Smelting stick! Also, I love the moment where Harry makes that clever quip back to Dudley and Dudley is too slow to figure out that he was insulted. It's our first brief glimpse into Harry's single distinct personality trait- DAT. SASS. Also, there's a point where Vernon is humming "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," which is fitting because that song gives me the creeps.

WWP Analysis
-More references to the number 12, including a dozen eggs, midnight, and the number 36.
-There's an interesting note that Mrs. Figg seems to get around quite a bit. She's apparently hobbling around near the Dursleys' house, despite living a few streets away.

Notes for First Years
Not much here today, kids. This chapter is rather heavy on plot elements that are specifically for this book. Remember that Aunt Marge tho.

Controversial Moments
Again, nada. This chapter is just here to move dat plot along. The only potential one is the whole messed up date thing.

My Remembrall is Glowing!
I totally forgot about Harry sneaking downstairs in the morning to beat the Dursleys to the mail! Young Harry was super proactive when trying to get these letters. I also forgot they stopped at a hotel before the island.

Got Peeves'd
(Remember, this section is spoilery if you haven't seen the movie!)
The movie leaves out everything relating to the school Harry was supposed to go to. Also, it left out the fact that he got a real bedroom. Also, the night spent at the hotel. Honestly, a large chunk of this chapter was left out. It was basically boiled down to letters, letters, and more letters, followed by the trip to the island. And TBH, that makes a lot of sense because none of those things are really very important to the overall plot, so it makes sense to condense a bit in order to not bog down the movie. Having every single day play out wouldn't have translated well into movie form, despite being good within this chapter.

No first years past this point!
From here forward, spoilers from all 7 books are fair game!

Divination Class
Again, not much here. Sure, we'll continue to see Dudley and crew beating up Harry, but that's not "foreshadowing," per se. I guess the closest thing is just how kooky Dumbledore is portrayed in this book. Sending letters via egg and addressing them specifically to the cupboard under the stairs or the smallest bedroom makes total sense with quirky Dumbledore. We also get a glimpse into the persistence on both Dumbledore's and the Dursleys' sides-- the Dursleys will avoid 5ever and Dumbledore will just keep on truckin'.

Not a spoiler, but this seems like the best place to talk about it, since I already harped on it in the non-spoiler section. Seriously, though, I can't believe all these day of the week inaccuracies! After some searching and some back and forth, I think that all of this section was based on the year that this was written. If my memory serves me correctly, this was written in 1990, and the days of the week mentioned line up correctly for the dates when using the 1990 calendar. Given that we already noted that we know this takes place in 1991, this is clearly some sort of editing error. How did no one catch this?! My only guess is that maybe she wasn't sure what year this was supposed to take place or didn't mention the year to the editor or something but there was some sort of slip up here.

Also, fun fact that I read a long time ago on JKR's website-- apparently, the original plan (or at least, one of the earlier plans) was for the boat guy to be Hermione's dad (and for the family to own the island, I think). As you can tell, this is a vague memory so I don't remember all the details, but that just really stands out in my mind.

So, that's it for this chapter analysis! I'm already so excited about re-reading this series and looking at each chapter through a different lens than I normally do. Let me know in the comments what you thought of this post and if you have any ideas for other things that I can look at in the chapter. Thanks so much for reading and don't forget to check out my links below!

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~Mischief Managed~

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