At the center of The Sorcerer’s Stone is the importance of love from both family and friends. Though Harry’s parents, Lily and James, love him a great deal, they die when he is very young, and he is placed in the care of his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, Muggle relatives who treat him terribly. When he goes to school at Hogwarts, Harry gains a group of friends—primarily Ron and Hermione—who demonstrate that the love at the heart of friendship can be just as important as that at the heart of familial ties. Ultimately, as Harry learns about his magical abilities and tries to thwart the forces of evil in the wizarding world, Rowling argues that love, family, and friendship serve as forms of protection that help Harry to overcome whatever challenges come his way.
Through Lily and James’s sacrifices for their son, they demonstrate that family can be a life-saving source of love. Harry’s story starts in the aftermath of his parent’s death. When he is only a year old, an evil wizard named Voldemort goes to the Potter home in order to kill Lily and James. Both are killed trying to protect their son, but Lily’s sacrifice in particular prevents Voldemort from being able to kill Harry, as it is implied that this love gives him a kind of magical protection. Additionally, when he tries to kill Harry, Voldemort becomes incredibly weak and disappears. The sacrifice that Lily makes continues to protect him even later in his life. Harry comes face-to-face with Voldemort again at the end of the novel; he has returned, even though he is weak, by taking over the body of a Hogwarts professor named Quirrell. Professor Quirrell is unable to touch Harry without being burned, which ultimately prevents him from being able to kill Harry. Dumbledore, the headmaster at Hogwarts, later reveals to Harry that Lily’s love is indeed what protected Harry and kept Quirrell from being able to touch him. Dumbledore explains that “to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” Thus, love becomes essentially the ultimate force for good and a weapon against evil.
While love is always a force for good in the novel, family is not always a conduit for love. Rowling provides a counterexample to James and Lily in the Dursleys, Harry’s unpleasant aunt and uncle, who demonstrate how family ties without love essentially constitute meaningless bonds. Harry’s Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon have absolutely no love for him and are hesitant to take him in as a baby in the first place. Over the first eleven years of his life, they make his living conditions horrendous by forcing him to live in a cupboard, giving him no possessions of his own, and essentially treating him as a servant in their home. Thus, even though family can be a source of love, when a child is not treated with love, it can make a child feel far from protected. Harry feels vulnerable and isolated in the only home he has ever known; as a result, he must find the familial love he is not getting from the Dursleys from other places.
Ultimately, friendships come to take the place of Harry’s family in terms of providing love, support, and protection. The friends that Harry makes at Hogwarts function as a kind of chosen family, as they allow him to feel loved, and, perhaps more importantly, help him to overcome challenges in his life. Even before Harry has officially started school, he meets a classmate named Ron on the train to Hogwarts. Harry confesses his fears that he won’t be good at school because he doesn’t know any magic. Ron immediately quells those fears, telling him that there “loads of people who come from Muggle [non-magic] families and they learn quick enough.” Harry in turn shares his candy with Ron on the train, demonstrating the mutually beneficial power of friendship. Ron and Harry, in turn, help another friend overcome a great challenge; when a troll is running loose at Hogwarts, they help to save another girl in their class, Hermione, from being killed by it. Buoyed by their ability to overcome this obstacle together, the three immediately form a tight-knit bond as a result—one that drives not only the rest of the plot of this book, but the rest of their seven years at Hogwarts. At the end of the novel, Harry is trying to prevent one of the professors, Snape, from obtaining the Sorcerer’s Stone, which is a powerful object that can grant its bearer eternal life. The Stone is guarded by several rooms, each bearing a different obstacle. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide that the best way to protect the stone is by stealing it first, they work as a team to get past these challenges. Hermione is able to remember a key detail from Herbology to get past a set of vines that threatens to strangle them; she also gets past a tricky logic puzzle. Ron takes the lead on a chess game with living pieces, even sacrificing himself in order to let Harry and Hermione advance without him. Harry uses his flying skills to retrieve a key with wings, allowing them to pass through yet another door. Only together are they able to advance, and thus their love and friendship is ultimately what allows Harry to face Voldemort and conquer him once more.
The power of love is a thread that runs through all seven of the Harry Potter books, but Rowling’s argument concerning love is clear even from the very first pages of the very first novel in the series. Love allows Harry to live, and then ensures that he has the support he needs to fight off the forces of evil. Ultimately love becomes the definitive difference between Harry and Voldemort, and is the reason why good will always conquer evil.
Love, Family, and Friendship ThemeTracker
Love, Family, and Friendship Quotes in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
At school, Harry had no one. Everybody knew that Dudley’s gang hated that odd Harry Potter in his baggy old clothes and broken glasses, and nobody liked to disagree with Dudley’s gang.
“Then she met that Potter at school and they left and got married and had you, and of course I knew you’d be just the same, just as strange, just as — as — abnormal— and then, if you please, she went and got herself blown up and we got landed with you!”
“Don’ you worry, Harry. You’ll learn last enough. Everyone starts at the beginning at Hogwarts, you’ll be just fine. Just be yerself. I know it’s hard. Yeh’ve been singled out, an’ that’s always hard. But yeh’ll have a great time at Hogwarts — I did — still do, ’smatter of fact.”
“Go on, have a pasty,” said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron, eating their way through all Harry’s pasties, cakes, and candies (the sandwiches lay forgotten).
“Not Slytherin, eh?” said the small voice. “Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that — no? Well, if you’re sure — better be GRYFFINDOR!”
Harry heard the hat shout the last word to the whole hall. He took off the hat and walked shakily toward the Gryffindor table. He was so relieved to have been chosen and not put in Slytherin, he hardly noticed that he was getting the loudest cheer yet.
Hermione hung her head. Harry was speechless. Hermione was the last person to do anything against the rules, and here she was, pretending she had, to get them out of trouble.
“Oh, come off it, you don’t think we’d let you go alone?”
“Of course not,” said Hermione briskly. "How do you think you’d get to the Stone without us? I’d better go and look through my books, there might be something useful…”
“Harry — you’re a great wizard, you know.”
“I’m not as good as you,” said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.
“Me!” said Hermione. “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery and — oh Harry — be careful!”
“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.”