When I was younger, I decided that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was my least favourite of all the Harry Potter books. Not to say that I did not enjoy it, but simply that I got a lot more out of the other ones. Whether that is still the case remains to be seen. Let’s get down to discussing this book.
The first thing I want to—or try to—make sense of is how no one really tells Harry anything. Sure, Dumbledore admits his mistake at the end, but honestly I do not believe that Dumbledore ever really understands the magnitude of what he has done up to this point—especially since parts of it should have been obvious—and escapes any real personal consequences.
Apparently Dumbledore believed that Harry was happier and safer not knowing about the prophecy and what it would entail for his future. He forced Harry to stay at the Dursleys’ for the majority of the summer, when he really should know the abuse that Harry endures there. At the end of this book, Dumbledore makes a comment about Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts for his first year. He says that while Harry was not “as happy nor as well-nourished as [he] would have liked, perhaps, yet alive and healthy. You were not a pampered little prince, but as normal a boy as [he] could have hoped under the circumstances.” Now, I highly doubt that Harry was all that healthy considering we know that the Dursleys would refuse to feed him on a regular basis, and when he did get food it was often things such as a little bit of stale bread and cheese.
Building on this, members of the Order talk about only telling Harry what he needs to know. I fully believe that Harry needed to know about the prophecy. How else could he prepare for the fight that he will inevitably face? When Dumbledore realized what was happening with Harry’s dreams, he should have told him. Harry should have received Occlumency lessons from Dumbledore, and the weak acknowledgement from Dumbledore really does nothing to rectify the error. Snape was never going to treat Harry with anything more than disgust and derision. He should have known that. If he was such as great wizard, what was stopping him from knowing? Frankly, I think that part of it was Dumbledore’s need to have some power over people, though he disguises it quite well.
By the way, I do think that Snape’s disgust for Harry’s father (as well as the other Marauders) got in the way of him teaching Harry Occlumency properly. It takes a lot of discipline and willpower to do, sure, but those are also skills needed to throw off the Imperius Curse. Harry cannot do that, can he? Oh wait, as we all know from Goblet of Fire, Harry does have that ability. I do not mean to say that Harry would have mastered it, after all J.K. Rowling has stated that “Harry’s problem with it was always that his emotions were too near the surface and that he is in some ways too damaged. But he’s also very in touch with his feelings about what’s happened to him. He’s not repressed, he’s quite honest about facing them, and he couldn’t suppress them, he couldn’t suppress these memories”, but I do feel Harry would have been better had he had a better—or at least more unbiased—teacher.
Dumbledore talks about the numerous mistakes he made starting from when he dropped Harry off at Privet Drive. Which begs the question, what gave Dumbledore the right to take a baby from the home and move him to another? Was there no system in place for orphaned wizarding children, or for those whose parents gave them up?
I think that I have to stop myself here. My rant about Dumbledore could go on for a while, and there may actually be one more quip by the end of this, but I do have to talk about other things.
As much as people might focus on Harry in this book, I think that Neville Longbottom goes through a massive change here. He and his grandmother believe Harry and Dumbledore, he joins the DA, works tirelessly to improve his spell work, sees the escape of one of the Death Eaters who tortured his parents, has his secret revealed, and goes to the Department of Mysteries to battle with Death Eaters. He is just as brave as Harry. Just as important. The only thing working against Neville is that he lacks confidence and is intimated easily as a result (see: Snape and Potions). When he receives encouragement? Well, he excels in Herbology, and the support Harry gives through the DA helps him improve.
In addition, the escape of Bellatrix gives him so much determination and ambition even Slytherins would be jealous. I know that I have already eliminated Gryffindor from the “selection” of what house I belong in, but if I were to be a Gryffindor…I would be so lucky to be someone like Neville. You know, I did not pick him as one of my favourite characters when I was young reading these books. Now though, he is definitely up there. I think he and Luna would take the top spots, but we will see by the end of the series.
I did not realize this before, but I think that Order of the Phoenix would be a good book to look at in terms of a character study. You can see how returning characters changed in the face of this wizarding war, such as Sirius Black and Harry Potter, as well as how new characters are portrayed in this version based on their position in the war, like Dolores Umbridge (who, by the way, makes me more uncomfortable than most of the “evil” characters) and Luna Lovegood. Characters, whether they are good or evil in the book, are a major point of interest and concern for me whenever I read. By concern I mean that I want to be invested in the characters in one way or the other (love or hate type of thing) and that they really cannot be flat or “Mary-Sue” like for me to enjoy the book, regardless of the plot. I have had many books ruined because, despite a brilliant premise, the characters just crumbled.
My opinion on the book as it relates to the series as a whole remains to be seen, but I definitely think that I enjoyed Order of the Phoenix more as an adult than as a child.
Now, I told you that I would eliminate another house. I have been sitting on this for almost two weeks now but needed to save it, like I mentioned in my previous post, so that I can reveal (hopefully) in my Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows post.
Thus, I can say that I do not believe that I belong in Slytherin. I do have ambition and the other qualities that Slytherins value, but I do not feel that they are my “dominant” traits. I think that, in select cases, I can be quite the Slytherin, but overall I am somewhere else. This leaves Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff in the running. I think on some level, as one of my best friends will know as we spoke about this a few weeks ago, I knew that it would come down to these two. However, I do also believe that I needed this re-read to re-affirm that belief. What is interesting is these are the results of my first two Pottermore Sortings. The only question now is whether I end up with my first result or my second.