Thursday, July 18, 2013
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Description: There is a door at the end of a silent corridor. And it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?
Harry has a lot on his mind for this, his fifth year at Hogwarts: a Defense against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey; a big surprise on the Gryffindor Quidditch team; and the looming terror of the Ordinary Wizarding Level exams. But all these things pale next to the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named--a threat that neither the magical government nor the authorities at Hogwarts can stop.
As the grasp of darkness tightens, Harry must discover the true depth and strength of his friends, the importance of boundless loyalty, and the shocking price of unbearable sacrifice.
His fate depends on them all. (book flap)
My Thoughts: Order of the Phoenix is a long litany of Harry's poor choices. He is angry, impatient, and entitled, which is mostly a result of his horrific experiences at the end of the fourth book and his knowledge that Voldemort has returned (although the fact that he is now fifteen probably doesn't help, either). While I would have been disappointed in Rowling if Harry hadn't reacted at all to what happened in Goblet of Fire, the reaction she chose makes Harry into a character that it is almost impossible to like (to be fair, however, this was one of my favorite books when I was a teenager. I think then I had a lot more anger than I realized, and I enjoyed reading about Harry's anger and how he actually expressed it (even if it wasn't in good ways). Perhaps I just find Harry unbearable now because I'm sick of the endless emotions in myself and find antagonism of authorities much less amusing).
I don't think Harry ever learns to control his anger in this book; he just continues to allow it to rule his emotions and his decisions, despite a series of wrong choices that he makes because of his anger. Harry absolutely has good reasons to be angry: Voldemort has returned to power and Harry saw it happen, the wizarding world has decided that it doesn't believe him and that he is unbalanced and possibly insane, and he is surrounded by cruel and unfair teachers who continue to gain power through the book despite their cruelty and/or complete lack of teaching ability. Although Harry is often punished by teachers for those decisions based on anger, it is always by the extraordinarily unlikable teachers mentioned above, and they always assign punishments that are completely out of proportion with Harry's actions. Harry's bad decisions often don't seem that bad because they're so funny and we as readers so hate those he is acting against. By the end of the book he has learned the consequence of his anger to a certain extent, as Harry's inability to control his emotions and thoughts leads to some truly awful consequences, but he has not learned control.
Order of the Phoenix does showcase Rowling's ability to write emotions well, in a way that comes across to the reader. Harry's anger is palpable, especially at the beginning of the book and a few choice events at Hogwarts where Harry becomes especially angry and various other characters become especially antagonistic. Harry's grief at various events is also palpable (I cried).
Order of the Phoenix is the longest Harry Potter book, and it would have improved significantly with more editing. Although there are some truly fantastic scenes (*spoiler alert* I am especially fond of the scene where Fudge tries to arrest Dumbledore and the scene where Dumbledore and Voldemort duel *end spoilers*) as well as some interesting ones (most of Harry's time at the Dursley's, the visit to St. Mungo's Hospital), there are also plenty of boring and pointless ones. It is the only Harry Potter book that was not that enjoyable to reread.
Finally, Dumbledore was written completely out of character for the entire book. I understand that Rowling is trying to make Dumbledore seem more human, but in Order of the Phoenix all his "human" behavior is very unintelligent, very short-sighted, and very unlike Dumbledore.
You may have noticed that this is the first Harry Potter book that I've classified as a young adult book rather than a children's book. Of course the line between the two can get fuzzy, and the entire series is always to be found in the children's section of a bookstore or library (something I think is a mistake--books six and seven especially are way too mature for a child of, say, 10 to find interesting or to understand). However, I think Order of the Phoenix is the first to touch on themes that tend to be more young adult (especially romance, but also inept governments and angry/emotional teenagers). Goblet of Fire is a close runner-up, though; the graveyard scene at the end, especially, is pretty mature (I spent about a week thinking Voldemort was lurking outside my house in the dark after I read it the first time), and it's the first book that touches on romance.
Definitely a book that tends to be either hated or loved. It has some great scenes, and although I'm not a huge fan, it's a vital chapter in Harry's development into an adult and in his story.