Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix surprised me. I’ve known that as the series progresses that the books would become darker and more mature; yet so far, the ambiance of the books have only felt subtle like how a frog would feel as the water slowly starts to boil.
Phoenix ostensibly stages everything like it has in the previous four books. My first thoughts were a semblance of guttural sounds. Everything felt so normal when it shouldn’t, not after what happened in Goblet of Fire, and for several minutes, my thoughts sputtered and my own stamina waivered. To tell you the truth, I almost quit reading. My thoughts were perfectly aligned with Harry’s: Didn’t anything happen???
Then Phoenix takes a sharp turn away from the monotony of Privet Drive and the Dursleys. Harry is attacked out in the open. Muggles are harmed. Dementors are no longer playing on the Ministry’s side.
This is exactly the kind of thing I expect to happen after Voldermort’s revival, the significant interruption in the status quo. What I didn’t expect was the extensiveness of the lunacy of the entire Ministry of Magic. I knew, but the films don’t inform you quite the way Phoenix does. It’s not just about preserving peace; it’s a power play.
Phoenix exceeds my expectations. It’s by far the most politically charged and antagonizing book out of the Harry Potter series. So many players are introduced and reintroduced in a new way (Professor McGonagall and her ability to stand her ground for instance.) We’re also witnesses to Fudge’s campaigned against Dumbledore, the monitoring of information and media (although it’s no Hunger Games), the restriction of speech, and the attempt to indoctrinate archaic, out of date practices. There’s a lot we could critically analyze: an anti-government sentimentality to the subtexts of Nazism. All these ideas, while have been building over the course of four books, are heavily pronounced in Phoenix, which as a post-English major, I truly love.
Putting the political criticism aside, Phoenix explores further into the heroism of Harry Potter. By now, Harry has experienced multiple life-and-death situations and witnessed tragedy firsthand (and later on.) He’s so alienated from the people around him. And why is that? Because he’s special—since he was born. He is, after all, ‘The Boy Who Lived.’
A lot of what made Harry Potter famous in the wizardry world is his miraculous survival when Voldemort attacked him with a killing curse, which subsequently severely crippled Voldemort and lead many to believe Voldemort had perished. As a result of this, Harry was considered a hero for defeating the Dark Lord, and Harry, who was nothing but short on luck, has not lived a normal life.
Harry notes on several occasions how people first look at his lightning-bolt scar before regarding him. His legend overshadows even himself. He wants people to see him for what he is beyond his hero status—or so I thought. Harry, despite what he says, does the opposite when it comes to people being in danger, proving later to endanger the people around him and himself. This is a consequence of being crowned a hero when he was only eleven. While we could argue that Harry didn’t ask for any of this, we see Harry repeatedly put himself in danger often with the reason: who else is going to do it but me? But the truth is, there are many people who could do it and Phoenix exemplifies this when Harry learns that Sirius Black is in danger and he, along with his Scooby-Doo friends, rush to save Black. He thinks there’s no one that can help when there was.
It’s not that no one can help, but Harry feels the need to insert himself and save people regardless of the consequences. It’s a nice idea, ideal even, but it’s also not normal and more messed up than we realize.
Phoenix gives us a better understanding of who Harry Potter is. He’s certainly a hero just trying to do what’s right, but this sense of righteousness stems from his own feelings of guilt. His parents were killed protecting him. Ginny Weasley was mind controlled by Voldemort to get to Harry. Cedric Diggory was killed in cold blood by Voldemort. And with the death of Sirius, Harry’s anger explodes. It’s not that Harry just feels guilty for everyone’s death, he feels guilty for living, being the only one to survive. It explains a lot about his character and his savior complex. He’s someone who shouldn’t be alive but is. What else is he supposed to do except to try and give his life unconditionally?
In Phoenix, there’s less glory and more of the stigma attached to being Harry Potter. The transition from the golden boy to supposed nut case was really interesting to read. In our culture, we often glorify heroes, and overlook the darker aspects.
Here are my other thoughts about Phoenix [Yes, there will be more Spoilers ahead]:
Dumbledore is revered among the wizardry community for not only his magical prowess but his fortitude and gumption. Dumbledore has a clever retort or counter spell for everything. Up to this point, I couldn’t believe that a man of his caliber would fall—until now.
I understand Dumbledore’s purpose in keeping Harry at a distance. Even so, if Dumbledore was purely thinking strategically, he’d easily use Harry to his own devices and possibly feed Voldemort wrong information. Dumbledore had the advantage, but he didn’t take it. He was reluctant, and he’s been holding back this entire time, which includes information he held back from Harry.
Dumbledore considered Harry a child who needed rescuing despite Harry experiencing many things that children don’t normally see.
It’s interesting that Dumbledore views this as his weakness; yet I cannot think of anything more valuable than compassion, as it sometimes feels like there’s a paucity of it.
Sirius Reliving His Glory Days:
There’s a real knife in the heart when reading Sirius’s last year alive. He’s forced to live in a stuffy, moldy house. He can’t help any of his other comrades for fear of exposure. His communication is cut off from Harry. He’s traded being a prisoner in Azkaban to being prisoner in the Order of the Phoenix’s headquarters.
He’s a tragic character who’s had to endure the most. Losing his best friends and then being trapped in Azkaban for thirteen years, Sirius wilted into something almost unrecognizable. He was anxious and willing to gamble with his and Harry’s safety. His brain is rattled from years of trauma and isolation that when he was finally killed, I was ambivalent. It was sad when he died, but I was also relieved; he wasn’t living but existing.
The aftermath of Sirius’s death is also so tangible. Harry can feel nothing but removed, isolated. He can only feel his emotions searing him, over and over again. Phoenix doesn’t end with him miraculously cured of grief but with it occasionally throbbing and resurfacing like blisters. It’s not all brooding. Harry does find some solace after speaking with Luna Lovegood (loooove her, btw). The moment lets him breath long before the drowning sets back in.
Blood Magic. The Mystery is Revealed!
If you’ve been following my series, one of my biggest complaints has been that Harry’s friends continue to send him back to his physically/emotionally abusive relatives. This was egregious, one of the things I couldn’t forgive.
But as it turns out, Dumbledore piggybacked (or so I understand) off the love-spell of Harry’s mother and imbued the Dursley’s house with the ultimate protection spell, sealed and enacted by Petunia’s blood. As long as they’re living there, the spell is in effect and can keep Voldemort from killing Harry. (If I’ve misunderstood this, please let me know.)
I’ve always thought that Harry possibly had more relatives. I thought it was strange that Dumbledore knowing full well that putting Harry in the care of the Dursley would be a mistake, considering how much Dumbledore cared about the Potters. Now that the reasons has been revealed, Dumbledore really didn’t have a choice. It was the best protection he could give Harry.
There’s so much more to discuss (two pages worth that I had to take out of editing) but I’ll leave you with a picture of my adorable Corgi Archer. Have a great Halloween everyone!