Fiction: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix presents a difficult problem for me: Harry Potter burnout. I am now well over the hump, so to speak, of the Harry Potter mania in which I have been immersing myself, and I have already begun contemplating the order of books I will attempt to get through next. (Hint: there are two re-reads in a beloved series; the next title in that same series; the last title in another, hated series; the first title in a series [with a movie coming out in December that stars my favorite pretend boyfriend]; and finally, a couple of beloved treasures that I have not yet reviewed. In other words, stay tuned.) And while my hope was to complete the entire series before going to see Deathly Hallows, Part II, rest assured that did not happen. The final consequence of all this immersion is that it is now harder for me to slog through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince than I would like to admit. And it’s not that I don’t love that entry in the series (and I’ll discuss that entry later, obviously); I’m just … I’m at the place where I want the next thing.

As Order of the Phoenix is the longest title in the series, I have attempted to create some coherence in an entry that would otherwise be at risk of being all over the map. Also, I would like to warn certain friends that have skipped around in the books, and, recognizing that there are some elements that were not in the movie, before I get too in-depth with this analysis, I must put a SPOILER ALERT on the whole proceedings.

That is all; proceed at your own risk.

Whiny Harry
Let us begin at the beginning – namely, the title character, and oh look, he brought his angst along for the ride this time.

I recognize that, in this entry, J.K. Rowling was attempting to show teenage angst from the viewpoint of her main character. I get it; show me a teenager that did not experience some level of angst during those years, and I’ll show you a future serial killer. Everyone goes through it. And as the Harry Potter series was, in some way, originally created as a young adult series, I can understand why it’s so important that the main character, as extraordinary as he is and in such extraordinary circumstances, goes through the same things that you or I did when we were fifteen. It’s another way in which we, the reader, can see our own problems in a character we admire. It makes us – and Harry – more human; more approachable.

Having said that – Jeebus H. Kristoff, were we reallythat awful? Did we really sound that entitled, that selfish, that … that bitchy? Really? Wait, you mean we actually sounded like this at some point?:

“Maybe [Dumbledore] thinks I can’t be trusted,” said Harry, watching their expressions.

“Don’t be thick,” said Ron, looking highly disconcerted.

“Or that I can’t take care of myself –”

“Of course he doesn’t think that!” said Hermione anxiously.

“So how come I have to stay at the Dursleys’ while you two get to join in everything that’s going on here?” said Harry, the words tumbling over one another in a rush, his voice growing louder with every word. “How come you two are allowed to know everything that’s going on –”

“We’re not!” Ron interrupted. “Mum won’t let us near the meeting, she says we’re too young –”

But before he knew it, Harry was shouting.

“SO YOU HAVEN’T BEEN IN THE MEETINGS, BIG DEAL! YOU’VE STILL BEEN HERE, HAVEN’T YOU? YOU’VE STILL BEEN TOGETHER! ME, I’VE BEEN STUCK AT THE DURSLEYS’ FOR A MONTH! AND I’VE HANDLED MORE THAN YOU TWO’VE EVER MANAGED AND DUMBLEDORE KNOWS IT – WHO SAVED THE SORCERER’S STONE? WHO GOT RID OF RIDDLE? WHO SAVED BOTH YOUR SKINS FROM THE DEMENTORS?”

Every bitter and resentful thought that Harry had had in the past month was pouring out of him; his frustration at the lack of news, the hurt that they had all been together without him, his fury at being followed and not told about it: All the feelings he was half-ashamed of finally burst their boundaries. [65-66]

I mean, really? We did that? Burst into loud yelling fits with no apparent reason – oh, we did, huh? Really, Mom? Oh.

Sorry.

But – as if being a teenaged wizard with abandonment issues and a god complex weren’t enough, Hermione later brings up another one of Harry’s psychoses that really paints a picture:

“You … This isn’t a criticism, Harry! But you do … sort of … I mean – don’t you think you’ve got a bit of a – a — saving-people-thing?” she said. [733]

If Harry Potter has a fatal flaw (and right now I can’t think of the term – it’s from Aristotelian drama or something), it has to be the need to save people. Be it the Sorcerer’s Stone from the hands of Snape, Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets – even saving Cedric from losing the Triwizard Tournament – Harry has to save people. And yes, all heroes have, to some extent, a saving-people thing. In a way, that’s what makes them heroes. But, in another way, that’s also what makes them crazy.

Professor Umbridge
Holy crap on a cracker, do I hate this woman. And I recognize that I am supposed to hate this woman. So, in a way, thank you, Ms. Rowling, for creating a character so uniformly hated by the entire populace who interacts in this fandom. I can’t think of a single person who actually likes Umbridge.

Aside from Voldemort, Umbridge has to be the best villain in the entire series. She’s a scorpion masquerading as a fluffy bunny. Even her kitten plates in her office are evil. She takes absolute glee in causing pain and suffering, and what’s worse, is that she knows what she’s doing is wrong. But for her, that’s what makes it that much better.

I mean, I cringe every time she issues another Educational Decree. I can feel the oppression that Umbridge is trying to create at Hogwarts when another Educational Decree is … well, decreed. I can only imagine that, given enough time and power, Umbridge could turn Hogwarts into something that resembles Auschwitz.

She’s that evil, guys. And that’s how much I hate her. That’s right – I just compared Umbridge to the Nazis.

Uh – moving on.

Professor McGonagall
On the other hand, there’s Professor McGonagall. She’d always been there, in the background in the previous books, but in Order of the Phoenix, she comes into her own as a character. And not just a character – a badass character. She is, as they would say on the interwebs, a badass motherfucker (BAMF).

Let’s look at the progression. Sure, there’s another smidgeon of the repartee between herself and Lee Jordan:

“And it’s Johnson, Johnson with the Quaffle, what a player that girl is, I’ve been saying it for years but she still won’t go out with me –”

“JORDAN!” yelled Professor McGonagall. [406]

But let’s also look at her interactions with Umbridge. From her inspection in which she blatantly ignores the High Inquisitor:

Hem hem.

“I wonder,” said Professor McGonagall in cold fury, turning on Professor Umbridge, “how you expect to gain an idea of my usual teaching methods if you continue to interrupt me? You see, I do not generally permit people to talk when I am talking.”

[…]

“Very well,” [Umbridge] said, “you will receive the results of your inspection in ten days’ time.”

“I can hardly wait,” said Professor McGonagall in a coldly indifferent voice, and she strode off toward the door. “Hurry up, you three,” she added, sweeping Harry, Ron, and Hermione before her. Harry could not help giving her a faint smile and could have sworn he received one in return. [320-321]

She’s so confident in her badass-itude, she’s sharing a smile with Harry in their rebellion against the evil bitch.

And then there’s this gem:

“Potter has no chance whatsoever of becoming an Auror!”

Professor McGonagall got to her feet too, and in her case this was a much more impressive move. She towered over Professor Umbridge.

“Potter,” she said in ringing tones, “I will assist you to become an Auror if it is the last thing I do! If I have to coach you nightly I will make sure you achieve the required results!” [665]

And finally, my most favorite Professor McGonagall moment ever:

Indeed, a week after Fred and George’s departure Harry witnessed Professor McGonagall walking right past Peeves, who was determinately loosening a crystal chandelier, and could have sworn he heard her tell the poltergeist out of the corner of her mouth, “It unscrews the other way.” [678]

Every time I read that line — every time — I put the book down so I can laugh. And then I cry a little bit, because Chris Columbus decided not to include Peeves in the first movie, which meant that that moment would never be seen on film.

Fred & George
And that provides an excellent segue into my most favorite scene from the entire series (thus far): Fred & George’s departure. As I said in my review for Goblet of Fire, Fred and George provide the humorous counterpoint to the drama surrounding Harry and his quest. But their first scene of true gravitas is, of course, their epic departure from Hogwarts:

“You two,” [Umbridge] went on, gazing down at Fred and George, “are about to learn what happens to wrongdoers in my school.”

“You know what?” said Fred. “I don’t think we are.”

He turned to his twin.

“George,” said Fred, “I think we’ve outgrown full-time education.”

“Yeah, I’ve been feeling that way myself,” said George lightly.

“Time to test our talents in the real world, d’you reckon?” asked Fred.

“Definitely,” said George.

[…]

“We won’t be seeing you,” Fred told Professor Umbridge, swinging his leg over his broomstick.

“Yeah, don’t bother to keep in touch,” said George, mounting his own.

Fred looked around at the assembled students, and at the silent, watchful crowd.

“If anyone fancies buying a Portable Swamp, as demonstrated upstairs, come to number ninety-three, Diagon Alley – Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes,” he said in a loud voice. “Our new premises!”

“Special discounts to Hogwarts students who swear they’re going to use our products to get rid of this old bat,” added George, pointing at Professor Umbridge.

[…]

Fred looked across the hall at the poltergeist bobbing on his level above the ground.

“Give her hell from us, Peeves.”

And Peeves, whom Harry had never seen take an order from a student before, swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute as Fred and George wheeled about to tumultuous applause from the students below and sped out of the open front doors into the glorious sunset. [674-675]

HOW FUCKING COOL IS THAT. And look, I’ll admit: I have quitting fantasies. There are days when I go in, thinking maybe today’s the day to bust out the Lester Burnham speech [warning: not safe for work, language]. Or, possibly, maybe I just toss my nametag down and bust open my uniform shirt to reveal my soundtrack shirt, at which point I’ll queue up “Eye of the Tiger,” or possibly “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi, or something equally as appropriate and sweet. But there are days when I wish that I were a wizard and, on my way out, could turn to someone and say, “Give ’em hell for us, Peeves.” Or some sort of equivalent.

But I’m not going to quit, which is why they remain fantasies.

Sirius and Lupin
Before we get into weightier matters, let’s discuss the relationship between Sirius and Lupin. Because look: you can swear up one side and down the other that Lupin and Tonks fall in love and get married and have a baby (whoops – uh, spoiler alert?), but there ain’t NO WAY you are convincing me that Lupin and Sirius weren’t an item beforehand.

I mean, take a look at these pieces of evidence and try and tell me that they were ‘just friends’:

“Yes, but the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters,” said Sirius with a wry smile. “I know she’s a nasty piece of work, though – you should hear Lupin talk about her.” [302]

Sirius and Lupin had given Harry a set of excellent books entitled Practical Defensive Magic and Its Use Against the Dark Arts … [501]

“Here,” said Lupin quietly, and pointing his wand at Neville’s legs he said, “Finite.” The spell was lifted. Neville’s legs fell back onto the floor and remained still. Lupin’s face was pale. “Let’s – let’s find the others. Where are they all, Neville?”

Lupin turned away from the archway as he spoke. It sounded as though every word was causing him pain. [808]

See?

Aunt Petunia
I think Aunt Petunia is a revelation in this book. Before, she’d just been a shadow to Vernon, going along with everything he said to Harry and causing him equal amounts of misery. But here, she’s shown as a person with a history, and more importantly, more knowledge of Harry’s world than even she knows.

“A couple of – what’s this codswallop?”

“De – men – tors,” said Harry slowly and clearly. “Two of them.”

“And what the ruddy hell are dementors?”

“They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban,” said Aunt Petunia.

Two seconds’ ringing silence followed these words and then Aunt Petunia clapped her hand over her mouth as though she had let slip a disgusting swear word. [31]

When I read this passage, I do the same thing: read through it, and then shake my head and reread to ensure that yes, that was Aunt Petunia who spoke.

Even Harry recognizes this new information as a revelation:

[Petunia] was looking at Harry as she had never looked at him before. And all of a sudden, for the very first time in his life, Harry fully appreciated that Aunt Petunia was his mother’s sister. He could not have said why this hit him so very powerfully at this moment. All he knew was that he was not the only person in the room who had an inkling of what Lord Voldemort being back might mean. Aunt Petunia had never in her life looked at him like that before. Her large, pale eyes (so unlike her sister’s) were not narrowed in dislike or anger: They were wide and fearful. The furious pretense that Aunt Petunia had maintained all Harry’s life – that there was no magic and no world other than the world she inhabited with Uncle Vernon – seemed to have fallen away. [38]

And we, the reader, also remember here that Petunia was in fact related to Lily. It’s hard to remember in the first books that Petunia was related to a witch, but this little moment does a lot to remind us of that information. And, in a way, it also makes Harry’s world a little smaller. Just as the world isn’t truly divided into good people and Death Eaters, so the world is also not truly divided between wizards and Muggles.

Snape and his Memory
I don’t even know where to start. I mean, I have been Snape’s Girl since the beginning, since reading Sorcerer’s Stone and yelling at my sister that Snape was good, he was going to be a good guy and fight on the side of the light. Regardless of who was cast to play Snape (though I still thank God that He created Alan Rickman, because I can’t imagine anyone else who could have done that character justice), I would have trusted in him to the ends of the earth. I know a trope when I see one, guys, and Snape Being Good was proclaimed from the turrets in the first book.

But Snape’s Worst Memory – and the entire business about Occlumency – showed the more human side of Snape. That he was a person, that he had feelings, and that there was more to him than what he had shown Harry.

But before we get to the memory, we also learn that Snape is hiding fear:

“How come I saw through the snake’s eyes if it’s Voldemort’s thoughts I’m sharing?”

Do not say the Dark Lord’s name!” spat Snape.

There was a nasty silence. They glared at each other across the Pensieve.

“Professor Dumbledore says his name,” said Harry quietly.

“Dumbledore is an extremely powerful wizard,” Snape muttered. “While he may feel secure enough to use the name … the rest of us …” He rubbed his left forearm, apparently unconsciously, on the spot where Harry knew the Dark Mark was burned into his skin. [332]

This scene shows how fearful Snape is of Voldemort, regardless of what role he is currently playing. (We learn more about this role in the next book, so I won’t get into it here.)

And then, there’s the memory. And, being Snape’s Girl, I cringe every time Harry makes the decision to peek into the Pensieve. I want to yell, “Come on, you berk, don’t do that! That shit’s private! How do you feel every time Snape sees Dudley bullying you in your memories? He’s a person too!” But that doesn’t matter to Harry, because he doesn’t think Snape’s hiding anything personal; he thinks he (along with the rest of the ‘grown-ups,’ if you will) are hiding stuff about the Department of Mysteries from him, because he’s a baby and nobody tells him anything and oh look, it’s Whiny McWhinerson reporting for duty again.

But then when he sees the memory, there’s elation at the fact that he gets to follow the Marauders around for an afternoon. He gets to see Sirius and James in action, and of course Harry’s going to hang around with them at any chance he can get. But when he sees James for who he really was back in ‘high-school,’ flipping Snape upside-down just because he could, Harry feels legitimately awful. And I hate Sirius a little bit for smoothing over the whole thing later, by saying James and Snape just hated each other and that was that, because that alleviates Harry’s huge guilt over what he shouldn’t have seen in the Pensieve.

And as much as I enjoyed the movie, I still say that Snape’s Worst Memory was not done justice in either Order of the Phoenix or in Deathly Hallows, Part II. And I’ll touch more on that later.

The Prophecy
This topic was hugely discussed once everyone had read Order of the Phoenix. What did that mean? Maybe Harry wasn’t the Chosen One, maybe it was someone else who had to kill Voldemort? I mean, yeah, Dumbledore explains that because Voldemort’s an impatient prat (and the fact that Voldemort only heard the first part of the prophecy) he went ahead and marked Harry as his equal in trying to kill him, thereby naming Harry as the other person in the prophecy, but what if it had been someone like Neville?

But before I get to him, let me take one moment to talk about Dumbledore. He says this, when leading himself up to telling Harry about the Prophecy:

“Do you see, Harry? Do you see the flaw in my brilliant plan now? I had fallen into the trap I had foreseen, that I had told myself I could avoid, that I must avoid.” [838]

Dumbledore had a brilliant plan. And the way I interpreted it on this go-round, having read Deathly Hallows before, is that he had a plan, and Harry was a part of it. To me, this revealed a cunning, manipulative side of Dumbledore that we hadn’t previously seen. In essence, he’s admitting to using Harry as a pawn in a larger game of Wizard’s Chess than he had anticipated.

Makes you think.

Neville Longbottom
And now, my final topic (yay!): Neville. Neville, who we have seen in the background throughout this series so far, is now coming into his own. Punching Malfoy when he makes a snide remark about St. Mungo’s (I’m unsure if Malfoy knows the significance of that ward to Neville; I’m inclined to believe he doesn’t, and that, even amongst enemies, some things are left sacred), devoting his time and energy to Dumbledore’s Army so much that he almost becomes equal with Harry (and much better than Ron) at some of those jinxes and anti-curses. Who’s to say, if Voldemort’s spy had heard the last half of the prophecy, would Neville have become Voldemort’s equal?

Thus concludes my longest entry ever. I think it’s fitting, as this book is, I believe, even longer than Gone With the Wind. But, even if it isn’t longer, I think the true testament to how awesome the series is (in the true sense of the word awesome) is how much this book makes us think and imagine.

Thanks, Ms. Rowling.

Grade for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 4 stars

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