MuggleNet Rereads “Order of the Phoenix”
Welcome back to our fifth installment of “MuggleNet Rereads Harry Potter.” So far, we’ve recovered the Philosopher’s Stone, visited the Chamber of Secrets, helped free the Prisoner of Azkaban, and have been called from the Goblet of Fire. Now, follow me as we delve into corruption and rebellion in the Order of the Phoenix. For a more in-depth discussion of the books, check out our podcast, Alohomora! You won’t be disappointed.
The first time I read Order of the Phoenix, I did so at a slight disadvantage. At that point, I had read all of the other books except Goblet of Fire. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t get my hands on a copy of the book and though my husband had it on audio I could not find the time to sit and listen to it. Because of this, I missed a lot of context needed to understand parts of the fifth book, such as Harry’s investment in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Now, with a complete understanding of events leading up to it, I can reread Order of the Phoenix with full enjoyment. So journey with me as I return to a Ministry-infiltrated Hogwarts and join the fight against the corruption within.
As is pretty standard in the series, we begin our book back in the Muggle world with the dreaded Dursleys. Not too much has changed with them (they are still as horrible as ever), but there are a couple of things I noticed this time around. For instance, while he has not gotten any smarter, Dudley has managed to get scarier. It used to be he was just a bumbling idiot, but in Book 5 we are introduced to a level of bullying that edged on frightening. Harry comments, at one point, that he has to pick on younger children to feel like a badass. While I understand the intended insult, I also can’t help but see the underlying threat of this choice of victims. Dudley truly does not have a line he won’t cross. This definitely makes it easier to enjoy the Dementor attack on Dudley in a very satisfying way.
Vernon, however, proved to be just as we always see him. His bigotry is only outshined by his ever-expanding vocabulary (Dementee-whazzits, Voldy-thing, Dementoids, Dismembers—Oh, Vernon you wordsmith.).
From the moment Moody told Harry he was “going to put an eye out” with his wand (hello, irony), I knew I was going to love the adult characters in this book. This time through, I was better able to appreciate the rich characters in the series, most especially the adults in the Order.
I’ve always felt a kind of kinship with Tonks — a carefree woman who embraced her strangeness and had a love-hate relationship with the furniture around her. My shins and I can totally relate. The love doesn’t stop with the new faces, though, since we get to revisit characters like Lupin and Sirius and also get to see more closely how the adults of the series interact with one another. Molly, for example, really blossomed as a character for me — from her hesitant patience with the trainwreck Tonks, to her visible mama-bear attitude for Harry, and even with his godfather. Also, we get to see changes within well-known student characters (such as the much-awaited sense of confidence Neville starts to build in this book) and the introduction of Luna Lovegood and her array of oddities. In fact, one of the most fascinating things I noted was how Luna managed to bring out a sense of intolerance from our beloved Hermione of all people. Hermione, being a target of blood-status discrimination, completely looks down on the whimsical Luna for her beliefs, strange as they are, and continues to shut her down every chance she gets. I thought this was a particularly interesting facet, showing even the best of us can have our faults.
Also, can I say, when I heard “he pocketed it” in Chapter 6 (I had to use the audiobook at times while I was working), I giggled like a loony?
Possibly the most resonating part of this entire book, for me, was the scene where Harry discovered Molly trying to cleanse number twelve of the boggart. Her persistent attempt to be rid of the creature only to have it change, one after the other, into the lifeless bodies of those she loved most in the world… Are there even words for such horror? When I joined MuggleNet, I was asked what my boggart would be. My answer? Gravestones with my children’s names. It suffices to say, I connected with Molly here more than any other scene in any other book.
To give you a small idea of the absolute loathing I have for this character, I will mention that the notes I was taking while reading are filled with involuntary rage-scribbles. Every time I heard her name, she spoke, or Merlin forbid, I heard that twitch-inducing *hem hem* I felt the need to destroy something. Never, in my entire lifetime of reading, have I ever held so much tangible, blinding hatred for a character.
Here’s Voldemort, the big bad of the entire series, and this squat little toad in pink is the one I ultimately wish to see torn apart by the giant squid. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if JKR decided to create this most unforgivable character as a way for the readers to think, if only for a moment, “Oh, well, Voldemort isn’t that bad, I suppose.” Whatever the reason, Rowling managed to create the worst human being imaginable. She embodies the worst of the world. Blind bigotry, inflated superiority, sadism―these are just a few examples of what makes this horrible, awful, wretched woman. From the instant she pulls a Kanye on Dumbledore at the start-of-term feast, we realize there is nothing kind to say about her, nor is there any chance at redemption. Ever. Umbridge is the most revolting insult you can say in my family. Just ask my nine-year-old who got sprayed down with the kitchen sprayer when she called her dad Umbridge.
If there is one good thing to come from this abomination of a human being, it is how the world around her started to unite together against her. Dumbledore’s Army was only the tip of the iceberg. Seeing the professors join in against her was a treat to savor. I am still so disappointed to not see the wonderful scenes between Umbridge and Sassy McGonagall, since they were works of art, but I do believe most people forget when Professor Flitwick had his own moment of sassy glory against her.
Thank you so much, Professor!” said Professor Flitwick in his squeaky little voice. “I could have got rid of the sparklers myself, of course, but I wasn’t sure whether I had the authority…”
Beaming, he closed the classroom door in Umbridge’s snarling face.”– Order of the Phoenix
In wrapping up this installment, I have to say my understanding of the book the first time I read it versus now is, unsurprisingly, different. The first time through, I thought this was simply a “stick it to the man!” sort of thing, but it’s not so simple. Order of the Phoenix more closely embodies those awkward teenage years we all wish to forget. Being the fifth book, it’s sort of a teenager in and of itself. We have the white-hot angst eating away at Harry from the word “go,” soul-crushing exams, romantic jealousy and utter cluelessness about the opposite sex, inexplicable rushes of emotion turning girls into human hosepipes, and of course the inevitable teenage rebellion. Yes, I think this book really does sum up those awful teenage years quite well.
I also feel as though this book was the first to really wander from the cheerier youthful side of the stories and embrace the darker side of the world. If Goblet of Fire was the tipping point, Order of Phoenix was the book that brought the more horrible truths of the wizarding world, and the detestable people within it, to light.
What parts of the book were your favorites? What does OotP mean to you? Tell us in the comments below and stay tuned for “MuggleNet Rereads Half-Blood Prince.”