Josh’s Harry Potter (Re)reading Adventure: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix often seems to crop up as the book many people dislike (or like the least) out of the seven. The reason usually cited for this is the moodiness of the main character, the way in which Harry seems to complain about everything and be a generally terrible person. And the thing is, I don’t really disagree with any of that. Harry is kind of awful in this book, but Rowling gives us a way to understand it. Voldemort’s link with Harry is a major part of both the emotional and narrative scope of the book, so it’s easy (and understandable) to make sense of Harry’s dickishness in the book. That doesn’t mean that the reader has to enjoy it of course, but I’m not totally sure Rowling wants us to like Harry in this book or enjoy his dramatic swings. In a lot of ways, I think Order of the Phoenix draws the reader’s attention to the luscious world and dynamic characters around Harry. We get a shot of Neville that just briefly lets us glimpse how tragic and deep of a character he is. We see the Weasley twins being totally awesome in a their-own-narrative-climax kind of way. Harry is the irritating, kind-of-absent center of this book, and I think we’re supposed to spend our time looking everywhere but at our scar-laden hero.

The one thing that irks me a bit about Order of the Phoenix is the way in which Harry gets idolized so fully by everyone around him. I get the idea that Harry is becoming a shadow of Voldemort in this book, and his own sense of self-aggrandizing is explainable (though, again, not especially appealing) through that. But it gets a bit frustrating when everyone around Harry tends to idolize him–not for the stuff that he’d been through necessarily but for his heroic actions therein. Harry does try, at first, to explain away his experiences over the past few years through luck and help, but he too quickly falls into the hero narrative being spun by his friends/the DA. And I get that Harry has been through some stuff, but the thing is…he really did just get pretty lucky most of the time.

-First year? He let Quirrel touch him. Nice work, Harry; you killed it there with your awesome wizarding skills.

-Second year? Fawkes blinded the serpent, the Sorting Hat gave you a sword, and you managed to stab the basilisk as it bit you (keep in mind, you it was still blind at this point). Then, Fawkes saved the day again by healing your wounds. Again, you’re a star.

-Third year? Hermione’s logic, just like the first year and just about every minor issue you have, set you up to succeed. But you did learn the Patronus charm, which is major magic for your age, so we can give you this one. Nice work. One for three.

-Fourth year? Your wand happened to share some characteristics with Voldemort’s. Otherwise, you and I both know you’d have had no chance. Like, none. Not any. One for four, super solid work.

So, yeah, the idolization of Harry Potter is a bit frustrating, especially because the DA and the Order (not to mention Dumbledore) totally save his butt at the Ministry.

Also, just a quick note to say that the fight between Dumbledore and Voldemort is easily one of the coolest parts of this series. Dumbledore has been hinted at as the unending well of power and wisdom, and seeing him come together with Voldemort is a moment Rowling has been setting up for a long time. Dumbledore’s confidence and certainty throughout most of the fight are awesome to see, and it’s even pretty neat to see his confidence break slightly when he knows Harry is in trouble. Plus, it’s just plain awesome to see the two greatest wizards currently alive let loose against one another.

At the end of the day, Order of the Phoenix isn’t my favorite book in the series, but I do think it complicates the narrative in some really important ways. We get our first emotionally significant death (not that Cedric’s death wasn’t emotionally important, but it’s not even in the same league as Sirius’s), we get an incredibly despicable character in Umbridge, and we get a glimpse of the dangerous, violent world that we will be living in while Voldemort is at full power.

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