Thursday, October 20, 2011

Notes on The Order of the Phoenix (book version)

Warning: Harry Potter spoilers!

* When Harry was waiting over the summer for news of Voldemort's return, it reminded me of what it was like after 9/11, when we all (or at least I) thought World War III was coming, and then nothing really happened.

* I am in love with Nymphadora Tonks' special ability. I would kill to be a metamorphmagus. I used to think that if I could have one magical item or ability from Harry Potter, I'd take an Invisibility Cloak; but upon further reflection, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be able to willfully change my appearance.

* I love how Hogwarts descends into chaos after Umbridge ousts Dumbledore. It just goes to show, you can only push so far, before the oppressed begin to push back - when the cost of obedience outweighs the fear of punishment. It's just a shame it takes that long, and that it's only effective when enough people are willing to fight back that they can't be easily stifled and singled out.

* I can't believe Umbridge was prepared to use the Cruciatus Curse on Harry! I was convinced at that point that I would view Umbridge as a Dark Wizard (Dark Witch?) - even if in no way affiliated with Voldemort. But then later, when even Harry used the Cruciatus Curse in his anger after Sirius was killed...I figured, as much as I still hate Umbridge, I have to at least give her the benefit of that doubt, else I'd have to consider Harry a Dark Wizard too.

* I was thinking that Voldemort must have been allowing the Ministry of Magic to go about its business, because out of coincidence, it happened to be working in his favor. Not believing the rumors of Voldemort's return meant that the Ministry was helping the Dark Lord to stay hidden and unknown. Plus, their meddling with Hogwarts was directly undermining Dumbledore's authority. But Voldemort was so focused on getting the prophecy, and scared to face down the Ministry head on in the end, that I guess maybe it wasn't necessarily part of his strategy, but just a coincidence in his favor.

* Finally, evidence that Dumbledore is not infallible, even if it has nothing to do with his trusting Snape - and I could see it all along:

"Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young..."

It's obvious that Dumbledore's plan wasn't working re: getting Harry to learn Occlumency. His mistake - a mistake that too many make too frequently - was to try to control another person's behavior, believing that lying to (or withholding information from) them is the best way to trick them into following your path. In this case, it was Dumbledore tricking Harry into learning Occlumency, when Harry's instinct was to resist those lessons. How could he be so blind as to not see that being honest and forthright with Harry was the best (indeed only) way to accomplish what must be done? But yes, it was his love and protective instinct that precluded him from being able to do it.

It's like in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. The old househand warns the new occupants not to open the bricked-in fireplace. He doesn't tell them why, apparently not realizing that their curiosity (and lack of a good reason) would only make them more eager to open up the fireplace and see what's inside. Maybe they wouldn't have believed him if he told them there were evil murderous spirits inside, but it couldn't have hurt their chances of opening up the fireplace against his wishes.

I'm getting diverted, but it's the same concept. Trying to trick someone into behaving a certain way by lying to them or withholding important information, instead of being honest and open and giving them the opportunity to choose to do the right thing, with full knowledge. I really thought Dumbledore of all people was better than that. Not to give the wrong impression, I still respect him and all that - and indeed, his blunder makes for a great example. And after all, he is aware of his mistake and regretful of it like few would be.

* Snape came off pretty pathetically in the third book. In this book, it's Sirius who comes off pretty pathetic, ignoring his tragic demise. Cooped up in his old house that whole time, eager to be reckless... It's a shame his hands were tied and he couldn't go out and be more of a hero.

* On a related note, James Potter doesn't come off very well via Snape's memory. Not very well at all. Of course, it's a little unfair to judge his character based on what is Snape's worst memory (or one of them), and quite possibly one of James' least proud moments in his life. We all have bad moments like that, when we do things we are not proud of, and it would be grossly unjust to judge a person's character based entirely on one of those moments. Still, James' arrogance does not come off well at all.

* Still looking forward to learning more about Snape's past, and his motivations, in the last two books.

* I was kind of underwhelmed to learn that Hermione's patronus is an otter. What's so great about otters? It's kind of unremarkable. On the other hand, it's only one letter shy of "Potter", so maybe it's an indication that Hermione truly does belong with Harry. :3

* I was relieved when Harry finally did his interview and told his story to the wizarding world. I really felt, all along, that the majority of the people sneering at him didn't necessarily disbelieve his claim about Voldemort's return, or believe the things the papers were saying about him. I think they just wanted to hear his story, to know just what happened, before coming to any kind of conclusion. Granted, I know it's not easy for Harry to talk about it, but I think he should have at least understood that - that they just needed to know more.

* In this book, one of the characters asks Hermione the question I've been dying to ask her - why isn't she in Ravenclaw? Predictable answer - the Sorting Hat considered it before finally putting her in Gryffindor - but it's nice to actually hear that confirmation that Hermione is total Ravenclaw material. Of course, given Cho and her friend's behavior, that may indicate the difference between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, with an emphasis on Gryffindor's honor.


  1. When it comes to Hermione and Ravenclaw... sorting is, of course, not an exact science. The best individuals have a variety of good qualities to choose from, not just a few. But I think maybe... what makes Hermione more Gryffindor material than Ravenclaw, could be her no-nonsense skepticism? It certainly highlights the difference between her and Luna. Hermione would perhaps rather spend her time pouring over complex arithmancy textbooks, than ponder the philosophical, which I believe is more the forte of Ravenclaw. Even though she would excel at it none the less. A Ravenclaw would likely say the pursuit of knowledge is itself the reward, whereas Hermione no doubt sees the knowledge and its practical use as the only note-worthy reward (other than, perhaps, a good grade, when eligible).

    I don't think I like James Potter. I think he has some redeeming qualities but I don't recall what they are. You can say he was young then, but so are Harry & Hermione. Perhaps James never had good role models like Harry & Hermione, I don't know. But if nothing else he was at least a steadfastly moral man, who indeed saved Severus's life when Sirius planned to trick him into his demise. As for Sirius... immature. Foolish, he never grew up. But Azkaban is no place to foster personal growth.

  2. Ah! I forgot. This is why I consider the conclusion of Book 4 to be the most optimistic conclusion in the series. At that point in time, there is no question as to what has occurred. Here is Dumbledore, standing in front of the great hall, a brilliant orator, whipping up support for the rebellion against Voldemort. To me, the wizarding world never seems stronger than at that moment. When book 5 begins, this solidarity is broken. Doubt has been cast as to what is really going on, and that confusion makes the whole wizarding world feel vulnerable.