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MonkeyNotes-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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Dursley Family

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley are an odd couple: they think alike, but look very different. Mr. Dursley is stocky with no neck, whereas Mrs. Dursley is lanky with a long neck--almost birdlike in appearance. Odd couples abound in literature and film: Laurel and Hardy, Jay and Silent Bob, Jake and Elwood (the Blues Brothers). This kind of a comparison of opposites is called juxtaposition.

Because the Dursleys stand for everything Rowling hates, their rule that Harry never ask questions probably reflects Rowling’s respect for curiosity as a character trait.

The Dursleys’ birthday and Christmas gifts for Harry are a running joke throughout the series. Apparently, for Harry’s last birthday he received a coat hanger and a pair of old socks. A year or so later Harry’s gifts from the Dursleys will reach an all time low when they give him a q-tip.

Name meaning: Dursley is a small town in Britain.

Dursley, Dudley

Harry’s spoiled cousin Dudley represents human greed. His insatiable hunger for sweets, video games, and television is contrasted with Harry’s thirst for knowledge (sneaking under the sheets to do homework) and love (he wants his parents back).

Dudley himself serves as a foil for Harry. Dudley is ungrateful for being so spoiled and rarely thinks of others. Harry is mistreated yet considerate. Harry and Dudley’s treatment has also been contrasted with the number of pictures each has on the mantle, what each of them has to do for chores, their bedrooms, and their school uniforms.

Harry and Dudley are different not only in personality and the treatment they receive but also in appearance. Dudley’s blond hair and watery blue eyes are entirely unlike Harry’s untidy black hair and green eyes. More noticeable is the fact that Dudley is four times bigger than skinny little Harry. The fact that Harry is going to Stonewall while Dudley is going to Smeltings is another contrast in the way they are treated by the Dursleys. Harry’s birthday “celebration,” or lack thereof, is contrasted with Dudley’s 38-present bonanza the chapter before.


Dudley’s love for toys, and especially television and the computer, and dislike of books is a social commentary by Rowling. Rowling thinks too many kids are growing up glued to the television and blowing up aliens on computer games and too few are reading. She makes Harry out to be better off for not being corrupting with the “modern conveniences” of TV and computers. Rowling makes Harry out to be a noble savage of sorts, a nature boy uncorrupted by civilization much as Huck Finn was in Mark Twain’s works. Dudley’s demand for more presents reflects his growing up to be the perfect businessman, at least in Mr. Dursley’s eyes. Perhaps this is a commentary by Rowling on how greed is rewarded in today’s capitalist world.

Name meaning: Dudley is both a play on “dud” (a boring person) and an industrial town in England.

Dursley, Vernon

Harry’s easily angered Uncle Vernon represents intolerance and hunger for status. For Vernon, it's all about appearances. He wants nothing more than to be completely normal, thank you very much, although he also wants to be better than everyone else around him, too. He places high regard on things like which kind of car a person drives. In fact, when he gets a new company car himself, he stands out in the driveway with his wife and son exclaiming about how wonderful it is, all in voices loud enough so that the neighbors will hear. (http://www.i2k.com/~svderark/lexicon/dursley.html)

Mr. [Vernon] Dursley’s character is well introduced by the end of the chapter. He is a stock character, not very well developed or rounded out. This is not a criticism of Rowling’s writing but rather a choice by the author to use Mr. Dursley as a contrast to Harry rather than as an interesting character in and of himself. Generally, a character is developed when the reader can sympathize with him or her, when that character’s motivation is clear, and when both good and bad aspects of that character are evident. Mr. Dursley doesn’t seem entirely evil, but he’s not easy to sympathize with. Few readers could say, “I see where he’s coming from when he locks Harry up.” His fear of the strange, his blaming strange events on Harry, his excessive punishment of Harry, and his spoiling Dudley all seem irrational to the reader. Although Vernon dominates the first quarter of the book, he takes a backseat later when the action shifts to focus on Hogwarts in chapter five. Although his temper is his most evident characteristic, his fury folds in the presence of his son and his wife. This is not out of politeness but rather cowardice. His rough exterior hides the fact that he capitulates to his bossy son and fears his wife’s wrath.

The fact that Rowling dislikes everything the Dursleys stand for combined with Uncle Vernon’s purchase of a rifle is a hint that Rowling dislikes guns. Also consider the fact that Dudley owned a toy rifle before he broke it.

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