You’re Angry, I’m Angry
Tons of people loved Order of the Phoenix. I did too, but a lot of people I’ve spoken to, in person and online, have said that one of the things that they didn’t like about the book was Harry’s seemingly constant anger. I’ve heard many things like, “He was way too moody”, “He was so ticked off all the time”, “His anger was so irritating”, and “He was such a whiner in this one.” It seems that the source (or sources) of Harry’s anger are flying right over many (not all) fans’ heads, as though this sudden, unfounded anger appeared out of nowhere (sarcasm ;)). A lot of people found Harry’s rage annoying, and I found it very annoying that so many people found it annoying.
Reading something and actually experiencing it are two very different things. This was also discussed by the MuggleCast boys after Goblet of Fire received a PG-13 rating by the MPAA. When you read something, you’re imagining it, but seeing it is completely different. When you read conversations in books, those are very believable and common, everyday things. But if you read the final chapters of GoF, it’s a different story. Sure, you’re worried for Harry throughout the whole thing, but in the back of your mind, you know that it’s not real…fantasy…didn’t really happen.
But what if it did?
Of course, these books are works of fiction. There’s magic, witches, wands, trolls, unicorns, and other fantastical elements within their pages. But the characters are very real, meaning that you could find people with similar personalities to these characters in real life. They have logic, feelings, and emotions: human elements. So would you think that just because these characters reside in a series of books where making magic is an everyday practice that they would not react to certain things and situations the same way we do? You can probably see where this is going. Ever hear of post-traumatic stress and depression? Can you guess what one of the symptoms is? Anger! You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to notice that Harry is experiencing just that in OotP. Anyone who has ever lost someone or been through a horrific incident can very easily identify with Harry and his rage. People have actually told me that Order of the Phoenix helped them get through their own depression by reading about Harry’s. I’ve done the same thing; it’s one of the many reasons why I read these wonderful books. They knew exactly how he felt, and I think it made them feel less lonely. The same has been said about people near the Gulf Coast reading Harry Potter because the books helped them cope with the hurricane disaster.
What happened to Harry in GoF didn’t really happen. Again, what if it did? What if our world was Harry’s world, and what Harry went through on that fateful night in June suddenly happened to someone in real life? Would they be the same person? Just to put this in perspective: If one of your friends was killed right before your eyes for no reason, and you were tied to a gravestone, tortured, and almost killed, you would have several good reasons for being a little angry. The fact that ‘magic’ was involved would have nothing to do with it. An adult would have an extremely hard time dealing with that, but Harry’s 14 at the time that the Triwizard Tournament ended with a fellow student’s death. Most fourteen-year olds in our world don’t have to deal with all of that, and those who do rarely process it all before experiencing a lot of anger. In Harry’s case, angry at the whole thing! Add to that the guilt and anger at yourself for believing that you contributed to your friend’s death, just by wanting them to have the same glory as you; your friend, whose house is underestimated on a daily basis, and deserves much more glory than it receives. I think that those people who were frustrated with Harry’s attitude read those painful chapters in GoF, then read the book a couple more times, realized that it was indeed just fantasy, and that took a lot of the seriousness away. Just because it happened in a fantasy world does not make it any less serious.
It is said that what happens to us means less than what happens in us. At the time that we first meet Harry in OotP, he has been mulling the entire situation over in his mind for a month, stewing in anger, guilt, and sadness…and it’s not like the Dursleys are helping. If you’re locked in your room for most of each day for 30 days, you tend to do a lot of thinking (he has no one to talk to, after all); and after the events in GOF, what else would Harry think about? How the Tutshill Tornadoes are doing? Oh yeah… He’d also be thinking about how he got slapped in the face by the Minister of Magic so carelessly and how the Daily Prophet is pleasantly whistling and looking the other direction. And he would also be frustrated as heck at the fact that his two best friends aren’t telling him a thing about what’s going on. Then, proceeding to almost having his soul sucked out again by two dementors who have completely forgotten about Azkaban because of a certain toad lady (making him relive the event that caused his month-long depression in the first place) would not make him feel any better. Needless to say, Harry isn’t having a very good summer during his so-called vacation.
Later in the year, he has to deal with Dolores Umbridge… Do we really need to go into all of the reasons why Harry would be ticked off at her and the rest of the Ministry? If we did, this editorial would never end, so just take those reasons into consideration because the High Inquisitor was a HUGE contributer to Harry’s rage in Book 5 (and other people’s for that matter).
Another thing fans need to remember is that not all of Harry’s anger was Harry’s. How can we forget his and Voldemort’s special mind link? Not only was our hero trying to handle his own feelings, but he also had to deal with Voldemort’s. He was basically carrying around with him the thoughts and emotions of two people, along with his scar being an incessant pain. That in itself is a heavy load. Take the scene where Hermione suggests to Harry that he teach the students:
Ron and Hermione were still smirking and Harry felt his temper rise; he wasn’t even sure why he was feeling so angry.”Don’t sit there grinning like you know better than I do, I was there, wasn’t I?” he said heatedly. “I know what went on, all right? And I didn’t get through any of that because I was brilliant at Defence Against the Dark Arts, I got through it all because – because help came at the right time, or because I guessed right – but I just blundered through it all, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing – STOP LAUGHING!” The bowl of Murtlap essence fell to the floor and smashed. He became aware that he was on his feet, though he couldn’t remember standing up. Crookshanks streaked away under a sofa. Ron and Hermione’s smiles had vanished.
OotP UK Edition, page 293 (emphasis mine)
The Murtlap scene is a perfect example of what happens when Voldemort is angry at the exact same time that Harry is. Simply put, Voldemort’s rage amplified Harry’s, literally and consequently. Remember, he didn’t even know why he was feeling so angry. His anger was amplified so much that he stood up and broke the bowl without even knowing it. Take this part:
Before he had started studying Occlumency, his scar had prickled occasionally, usually during the night, or else following one of those strange flashes of Voldemort’s thoughts or mood that he experienced every now and then. Nowadays, however, his scar hardly ever stopped prickling, and he often felt lurches of annoyance or cheerfulness that were unrelated to what was happening to him at the time, which were always accompanied by a particularly painful twinge from his scar.
OotP UK Edition, page 488-489 (emphasis mine)
The Occlumency lessons are making it worse, and making him sick as well. Furthermore, this goes to show that not all of the anger Harry felt in OotP was plain old ‘adolescent agonizing’, as how one of our favorite portraits, Phineas Nigellus, put it. He may be working for Dumbledore, and he may be very clever, but he does not understand Harry’s position. Many teenagers today identify with Harry and his frustration, since many adults don’t understand them either. Anyway, with this in mind, we could probably find other scenes in which Harry’s anger was amplified by Voldy’s, not just the Murtlap one.
Did any of you notice that Harry was a lot calmer in HBP? That was partly because Harry became more mature, but it was also because Voldemort was employing Occlumency against him; so Harry didn’t feel what he felt anymore, much to his relief. If Voldemort hadn’t done that, Harry would probably be almost as angsty in HBP as he was in OotP. So we’re glad Voldemort finally got a grip over himself. Harry needed the break and it opened up new opportunities…
The Order of the Phoenix was needed. Harry’s anger was needed. Harry could not have possibly gone through all of the things that he went through in each book and not let them affect him at least once. He’s not superhuman. So at the end of OotP, with the murder of his godfather (I hope you all have come out of denial by now), with the death again being partially his fault in his mind, the last of the Blacks and the last father figure he had, gone, he finally snapped. Do you know what I thought? About time. It had to happen. Harry couldn’t have held all of that in forever, so he had to let it out; and who better to let it all out to but Dumbledore, the only source of help from an adult (besides maybe Lupin or McGonagall) he had left (that changed in HBP, but I’m discussing OotP, so bear with me :))? Who better to storm at than the man who had refused to even look at him the entire year (before Harry knew why, of course)? So guys, give the kid a break. He’s been through a lot, and his anger wasn’t permanent. Maturity is an ongoing process; you cannot just get ‘there’ overnight. If you removed OotP from the series, an essential, pivotal piece of that process would seriously be missing. It would not be a natural transition for Harry to go from GoF to HBP just like that. He has to overcome more challenges (just like we do in real life) and gain control over his emotions (he couldn’t do much about Voldemort’s, and Occlumency wasn’t aiding him either). Order of the Phoenix did that for him, so that now, he’s on his way to becoming a man.