Reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone reminded me of J.K. Rowling’s brilliance as an author. This time around, I was drawn to the ideas of right and good and how Rowling introduces the differences in this first book.
We’re conditioned to use the words “right” and “good” interchangeably. But this interesting article by William Meacham, PhD. distinguishes the two as separate ideas under the umbrella of ethics and morality. Meacham writes, “The good has to do with achievement of goals; the right, with laws and rules.” In further elaborating on the definition of good, Meacham claims that “Something that benefits something or someone else is called good for that thing or person”, whereas “What is right has to do with conformance to rules or regulations.” (Meacham). Why is it important to distinguish between the two? It’s important because Harry didn’t always do what adults in the wizarding world regarded as the “right” thing in order to secure the greater “good” of all.
There are several examples of this throughout the novel. One instance is when Quirrell brought a troll into the castle on Halloween. Instead of following the other students to their dormitories, Harry and Ron look for Hermione to warn her (Rowling, 173). Fortunately, they came out of the encounter alive. Unfortunately, McGonagall wasn’t pleased. “‘What on earth were you thinking of?…You’re lucky you weren’t killed. Why aren’t you in your dormitory?'” (177). In the eyes of McGonagall, Harry and Ron didn’t do the right thing, but they chose to do so to save Hermione, which was a good thing.
The greatest example would have to be the trio’s journey to obtain the sorcerer’s stone. Harry, Ron, and Hermione broke thousands of school rules in order to prevent Snape (actually, Quirell) from getting to the stone first and bringing Voldemort back to power. Harry recognized that no adult would believe their story, let alone believe they were doing the right thing. Furthermore, he knew exactly what was at risk in allowing Quirrell to get to the stone. So, at the risk of doing the “wrong” thing, they set out to stop Quirrell, for the greater good of all.
In looking at these instances, it’s easy to see how “right” and “good” are two different things. The adults in the novel believed the right thing was to follow rules and stick to the status quo, but Harry believed that securing what was good for everyone was more important than doing what the adults believed was the right thing.
In recognizing the differences between right and good and how Rowling contrasts the two in her novel, my appreciation for the books was further cemented as well as my belief in Rowling’s brilliance as an author. But the question is still up for debate: is there a difference between right and good? And do you think Rowling differentiates the two in the book?
“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Pottermore, www.pottermore.com/features/behind-the-scenes-trolls.
“Harry Potter Trio Chess .” Harrypotter Fandom.com, harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Chessboard_Chamber?file=Harry-potter1-trio_chess.jpg.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic, 1997.
TheMovieDB. TheMovieDB, www.themoviedb.org/movie/671-harry-potter-and-the-philosopher-s-stone.