Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Theme of Suffering
Harry Potter lost both his parents when he was a year old. He was raised by emotionally and sometimes physically abusive people who essentially used him as a servant until he was eleven. When he joined the wizarding world, Harry found out that a crazed maniac has an unexplained, personal grudge against him. And Harry has faced that crazed maniac and his followers four times in four years. What's more, on the most recent occasion, at the end of Book 4, Harry had to watch one of his fellow students – a boy he liked and respected – get murdered. So yeah, there has been plenty of suffering in Harry's life up until Book 5. But it's in Order of the Phoenix that all of this suffering seems to be hitting Harry: the Dursleys, Cedric, Voldemort, being mistrusted, being singled out by the Ministry of Magic. His suffering takes on a huge thematic importance in this novel.
Questions About Suffering
- Harry makes it clear to everyone around him that he is suffering. How does J.K. Rowling represent the suffering of other characters like Neville or Sirius in this novel? How do they show their pain? How does their suffering compare to Harry's?
- For much of Book 5, Harry appears almost competitive about his suffering. He reminds his friends, "WHO SAW HIM COME BACK? WHO HAD TO ESCAPE FROM HIM? ME!" (4.69). Why does Harry suddenly want acknowledgment of what he has gone through? Why is he so concerned that his friends will forget his suffering? What does this behavior tell you about Harry's character in Book 5?
- At the end of the book, Dumbledore tells Voldemort, "Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness —" (36.70). What kinds of suffering might be worse than death? Does Rowling give any examples of such suffering in the Harry Potter series? What does Rowling suggest is worse? Why?