This chapter is the first that makes it clear Harry is someone special. It’s a humorous way of depicting the Wizarding World reclaiming one of its own, despite the Dursley’s best attempts to make sure Harry didn’t participate in any of that magic stuff that his parents had.
Rather than Dudley’s birthday having taken place just before Harry’s letters start arriving from Hogwarts, this makes it clear that those events took place during the school year. This chapter begins with Harry not getting out of the punishment for the incident with the snake until the “summer holidays.”
Harry sees a light at the end of the tunnel as he will be attending the local public secondary school whereas Dudley will be attending the same private secondary school Uncle Vernon attended. When Aunt Petunia takes Dudley shopping for his school uniform, Harry stays with Mrs. Figg, who’s not quite as find of her cats since she tripped over one of them and broke her leg. Harry’s new school uniform consists of some of Dudley’s old clothes Aunt Petunia is dying the necessary color.
When Harry’s first letter from Hogwarts arrives, he and Dudley are put out of the kitchen while Vernon and Petunia have a conversation about it. Their first concern is that “they” have been watching the house since it’s addressed to Mr. H. Potter;
The Cupboard under the Stairs. Their discussion is brief and cryptic – Harry learns nothing about the letter from listening in. However, later that evening Uncle Vernon comes to visit Harry in the cupboard and allows him to move from the cupboard to Dudley’s second bedroom. It’s clear he is spooked by the letter.
Although everything in Harry’s new bedroom is things that have been broken by Dudley, Dudley still resents that Harry has been given the room. It’s clear that he usually gets his way and despite and extensive temper tantrum, Harry is still in the room and Dudley is in shock at not getting his way. When Dudley retrieves the mail, this time there is a letter addressed to Mr. H. Potter, The Smallest Bedroom. The next day, Harry tries to get up before anyone else and get the letter, but Uncle Vernon spent the night sleeping by the door. Harry sees three letters arrive for him, which Vernon promptly tears up.
This chapter is represented well in the film, save for the drive away from the house on Privet Drive where Vernon takes a series of turns in various directions in an attempt to “shake them off.” When they stop at a hotel for the night, there is a letter waiting at the desk for Harry. There are some more comedic moments on the drive, where Dudley exclaims “Daddy’s gone mad, hasn’t he?” Eventually, Vernon believes he has found a solution, and in the middle of a storm he takes the four of them to a deserted, leaky shack on an island.
In the shack on the sea, Harry is lying awake watching the minutes tick off on Dudley’s lighted watch to his eleventh birthday. He’s hearing noises outside but thinks it’s just the storm. As the seconds count down and it becomes his birthday, there’s a knock on the door….