A look at chapters 6-7 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone through the lens of friendship
This week the book club is reading Book 1, chapters 6 and 7. I am only looking at a small, but I think essential, portion of that in this week’s amateur analysis.
Friendship is such a crucial part of this story. Harry meets people that will be with him, for better or worse, throughout his time at Hogwarts and his choices matter a lot.
In the last section, Harry met a boy in Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions who makes him rather uncomfortable with his snobbishness and superiority. He meets the boy again, this time accompanied by his chums, on the train to Hogwarts. In this moment, we see Harry facing a test of his loyalty and convictions:
“You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter,” [said Malfoy.] “You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.” He held out his hand to shake Harry’s, but Harry didn’t take it. “I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks,” he said coolly.
In this moment, Harry is faced with a big choice. As we learned in our last reading, he has been friendless his whole life. Arguably, he has a friend of sorts in Mrs. Figg, the elderly woman from Privet Drive who looks after him from time to time. But she is a bit boring to Harry and he probably would not have named her as a friend, certainly not at this point. I think Hagrid is Harry’s first real friend, a person to trust who cares about him and takes him out into the world, sharing experiences with him. But Hagrid is a more paternal figure, not a peer, and due to his age and other differences, is not someone we expect Harry to pal around with at school.
Luckily, Harry has the very good luck to meet the Weasleys right off the bat on the train platform. Quirky and affable, they are warm and accepting of Harry even before they have any reason to think that he is the famous young wizard who stopped He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Ron is naturally curious about Harry– who in his position would not be?– but it is clear that he is not interested in befriending Harry in order to exploit him. And Harry has his first chance to try out being a friend to someone as well. He finds a way to share his good fortune (and wonderful snacks from the trolley) while maintaining Ron’s dignity. The two treat each other very well in this scene, especially for 11-year-old boys!
In contrast, Malfoy was only interested in allying with Harry once he knew who he was. He admits as much when he says he came to the compartment to meet the famous Harry Potter.
Harry has every reason to dislike Malfoy. He already has sensed that he is a bully, having brought Dudley to mind in the shop, an impression only enhanced by Malfoy presenting himself flanked by “bodyguards.” But his whole life Harry has been an outsider. It is not unreasonable that he could be tempted to finally be a part of the “in” group. And this makes his standing up to Malfoy even more powerful. He is essentially signing up to be an outsider once again, at least as far as this clique is concerned. That takes a strong moral center and no small measure of bravery.
When he rebuffs him, Harry doesn’t merely politely demur and try to maintain a foot in Malfoy’s camp. Rather, Harry coolly and unequivocally stands up for himself, his choices, and Ron. He refuses to shake Malfoy’s hand, which is very confrontational, embarrassing Malfoy in front of everyone and essentially cementing a rivalry that will have repercussions for them both down the line. I view this as a watershed moment for both Harry himself and the story as a whole in terms of free will, character, loyalty, and friendship.