Family can have numerous meanings, depending on the individual defining the term. The term can exclusively mean “a group of people who share common ancestors,“ or it can mean “a blended collection of individuals related by marriage, adoption, partnership, or friendship” (“Introduction to Concepts of Family”). It just so happens that one of the more important themes in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is family, in which the novel attempts to show how subjective the term can be. By placing Harry in the extremes of the Dursley household, one grasps that family has deeper meaning than just being bound by biological relations. Family means being connected by selfsame values and morals, as well as the need to support one another socially and emotionally. Consequently, Harry’s family shares no aspect of a biological family tree, his family is comprised of his friends Hermonie, Ron, and Ron’s family.
Harry’s parents, being murdered, leave Harry with his only living relatives: his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin. Despite them being relatives to the Potters, they ostracized Harry and his parents. His Uncle, Aunt, and cousin often “spoke about Harry … as though he wasn’t there – or rather, as though he was something very nasty that couldn’t understand them, like a slug” (Rowling 27-28). Although this assemblage of people are related to Harry, they can scarcely be characterized as Harry’s family. Families are meant to fulfill and support emotional and social needs, as well as protect and care for each other. The Dursleys’ clothed, fed, and sheltered Harry to the bare minimum of requirements. However, they bore him no love, adoration, or social status in their abode. Furthermore, the Dursleys’ attempted to divide any ties they had with the Potters’, “Mrs. Dursley [even] pretended she didn’t have a sister” (Rowling 2). She claimed that her sister and “good-for-nothing husband were as unDursleyish as it was possible to be” (Rowling 2). This effort in severing association with the Potters’ symbolizes the literal cutting of family bonds – solidifying that the Dursleys’ cannot be held to any family standards for Harry.
Before Harry even arrives at Hogwarts, it is foreshadowed that Ron and his family would soon be his surrogate family. When Harry cannot find his way to platform nine-and-three-quarters, he overhears Ron’s mother speaking about muggles, which are non wizard folk. He quickly takes this opportunity to ask for assistance to get onto the platform. Ron’s mother offers guidance while offering emotional support to Harry by telling him to “[not] be scared … best to [get onto the platform] at a bit of a run if you’re nervous” (Rowling 116). As Harry crosses the barrier onto platform nine-and-three-quarters, it represents his passage into a realm where his biological family ties are irrelevant. He has left the Dursleys’ behind in the muggle world, while venturing into the wizarding world with Ron’s family. Symbolically, this segment of the book represents the adoption of Harry into the Weasley family.
Later in the book, during chapter 7, “The Sorting Hat,” symbolism is used to show that the Weasleys’ and Hermonie are Harry’s adoptive family. When Professor McGonagall welcomes the first year students to Hogwarts, she informs them that “[the] Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while [at Hogwarts], [a student’s] house will be something like [their] family within Hogwarts” (Rowling 142). Little did McGonagall know, she couldn’t have been more accurate. As Harry, Ron, and Hermonie are all placed into Gryffindor (one of the four student houses), it symbolizes their coming together under one name – namely, Gryffindor. Gryffindor acts as the family tree for Harry, connecting him to Hermonie and Ron’s family. Not only is Harry joined under one name with the Weasleys’ and Hermonie, but students of the same house commonly share the same values and morals; which is yet another aspect of family qualities.
In addition to being sorted into the same house, Ron and Harry end up spending Christmastime together, a holiday traditionally spent between biological family members. Moreover, Harry is surprised to find that he had received a gift from Ron’s mother. Harry opens “the parcel to find a thick, hand-knitted sweater in emerald green and a large box of homemade fudge” (Rowling 248). Sweaters often embody the bonds one has with their family and friends. However, what is interesting about Harry receiving this sweater is that all the Weasley boys receive one. The sweater not only represents the bond between family members, but it also represents Harry’s inclusion within the Weasley family. It is Mrs. Weasley’s way of letting Harry know he has been accepted into her family.
At the climax of the novel, chapter sixteen, “Through The Trapdoor,” Hermonie and Ron continue to show their support of Harry by accepting and adopting his passion to retrieve the Sorcerer’s Stone. Harry is so passionate about retrieving the stone since it has the power to bring back Voldemort, who killed Harry’s biological parents. Accordingly, Harry’s friends insist to go with him, telling Harry, “you don’t think we’d let you go alone” (Rowling 337). Showing their enthusiasm to help Harry defeat his formidable foe depicts the same values and morals that this trio contains; the same values and morals that landed them in Gryffindor collectively. United by their beliefs, they display just how much they care for, support, and share a family bond with Harry by helping him complete his quest.
It can be seen from the above analysis that Harry’s friends replaced his biological family. While his parents were unavailable, and the Dursleys’ repudiated Harry, Harry’s friends demonstrated unending support, unconditional love, and nourished Harry’s strengths. His friends also shared selfsame morals and values while they demonstrated how it was like to have a family. Therefore, it could also be said that family is one of the most important themes in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The novel teaches the reader that family cannot be circumscribed, it is a term that extends further than its literal meaning. In this case, Harry’s family reaches further from his biological ties to his wizardly friends – Hermonie and Ron.
“Introduction to Concepts of Family.” Family in Society: Essential Primary Sources. Ed. K. Lee Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, and Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 3. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 14 Feb. 2015.