This chapter is an overview of what Harry’s life has been like living with the Dursleys. I think this is covered fairly well in the film adaptation. The main thing missing here is Mrs. Figg whom we don’t see in the films until Order of the Phoenix. There are some details that have no impact on the story and a few that are foreshadowing future events (such as the presence of Mrs. Figg.)
Dudley is described as “a large blond boy”. Harry is awakened from a dream about a flying motorcycle. There are spiders in his cupboard under the stairs, which explains why later on in The Chamber of Secrets he isn’t bothered by Aragog.
While Dudley is unwrapping his birthday presents, Mrs. Dursley gets a call from Mrs. Figg, who was supposed to watch Harry while Mr. & Mrs. Dursley took Dudley out for his birthday. This is how they usually handled Dudley’s birthday, further emphasizing that they tolerated Harry’s presence but didn’t treat him like a member of the family. Vernon Dursley suggests phoning Marge – in the next book she makes an appearance as Vernon’s sister, so that’s another bit of foreshadowing. They also state she hates Harry. They debate taking him to the zoo and leaving him in the car, but even then, Vernon is afraid the car will somehow be damaged by leaving him alone in it.
Dudley throws a tantrum, not wanting Harry to come. He cries that “he always spoils everything” leaving the reader to believe some magical things have happened around Harry in the past. Dudley’s best friend, Piers Polkiss, is going with them to the zoo.
In documenting the strange things that have happened around Harry, readers read about the time when Aunt Petunia cut his hair so short, he was nearly bald, and the next morning it was right back to the way it had been. There was a time when a sweater Harry didn’t want to wear shrunk so much while Petunia was attempting to put it on him that there was no way to get it to fit him. Another time, Harry was running away from Dudley and his gang and somehow ended up on the roof of the school and was punished for “climbing the building.”
On the way to the zoo, Harry tells the Dursleys about his dream about a flying motorcycle, and Vernon nearly crashes the car.
Once at the zoo, the comparison of the snake being bored in his cage to Harry being caged in the cupboard is made quite strongly. When Harry unknowingly removes the glass from the cage, the snake speaks more to him than just “Thanks.” The glass does not reappear and Dudley is not trapped inside, although he and Piers both act traumatized. Harry is sent to the cupboard with no supper after they arrive home and Piers leaves, while Vernon calms himself down with some brandy.
The chapter ends with emphasizing how lost Harry is. He has no memories of what the Dursleys have told him happened to his parents, and some other memories that don’t seem to make sense. At the same time, he notices that some people in public seem to know him, making it clear that the muggle world and magical world live in harmony, with muggles generally oblivious to the presence of wizards and witches around them.
While this is depicted well in the film, it doesn’t have the depth that the book does, much like the first chapter.
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Next chapter: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone Chapter 3: Letters From No One
Categories: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Movie versus Book
I’m really enjoying this commentary Patti!