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MonkeyNotes-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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The Letter of the Law vs. the Spirit of the Law

Harry breaks Madam Hooch’s order not to move in order to accomplish the higher good of saving Neville’s Remembrall. This isn’t an epic decision but it touches on a very popular literary theme: the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law. The Ancient Greek play Antigone is a classic example of a piece of literature that incorporates this theme. Harry often breaks school rules, especially by roaming around at night when he’s not supposed to, but he usually has good intentions.

Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Against Popular Opinion

The crowds of students at Hogwarts seem awfully fickle. Harry’s fall in popularity from “one of the most popular and admired people at the school” to “the most hated” is a reoccurring theme in the series. In Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry loses popularity because he lost 150 from Gryffindor for sneaking out.

Warning: spoiler material ahead. In Chamber of Secrets, Harry becomes unpopular when he is suspected of being the Heir of Slytherin after speaking in Parsletoungue (snake- speak). In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is temporarily shunned because everyone expects him to be killed by Black. In Goblet of Fire, much of the school is angry with Harry for putting his name in the Goblet of Fire and thereby trying to take Cedric Diggory’s glory as Hogwarts’ Champion. Note that in none of these situations is Harry’s fall from popularity his fault.


Emerson wrote about the very same theme in his essay Self- Reliance: What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

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