Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Dissatisfaction

By J.K. Rowling

Dissatisfaction

"[Harry's]'s not your son," said Sirius quietly.

"He's as good as," said Mrs. Weasley fiercely. "Who else has he got?"

"He's got me!"

"Yes," said Mrs. Weasley, her lip curling, "the thing is, it's been rather difficult for you to look after him while you've been locked up in Azkaban, hasn't it?" (5.124-127)

So, Mrs. Weasley definitely goes too far with this one: it's not Sirius's fault that Peter Pettigrew framed him for murder, leaving him stuck in Azkaban prison for twelve years. At the same time, this is an example of the kinds of goads that contribute to Sirius's later recklessness at the end of the novel. Harry blames Professor Snape for Sirius's poor state of mind, but it's not just him – Mrs. Weasley, Fred, and George all goad Sirius at one time or another for his lack of participation in the war and Harry's upbringing. By the time Harry heads to the Department of Mysteries, everyone in Sirius's life has made him good and ready to risk everything, no matter what the consequences – he just can't stand to be trapped any longer.

"If my parents could see the use their house was being put to now ... well, my mother's portrait should give you some idea ..."

[Sirius] scowled for a moment, then sighed.

"I wouldn't mind if I could just get out occasionally and do something useful. I've asked Dumbledore whether I can escort you to your hearing – as Snuffles, obviously – so I can give you a bit of moral support, what d'you think?" (6.187-189)

Dumbledore claims, at the end of Book 5, that he just wanted to keep Sirius safe by locking him away at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. But Dumbledore seems to have no respect for psychology: would you call Sirius's current state of mind, when he's so desperate to leave the house that he just wants to turn into a dog and escort Harry to the train station, safe? Keeping Sirius locked up for a year is essentially asking for trouble – what was Dumbledore thinking?

"You belong at Hogwarts and Sirius knows it. Personally, I think he's being selfish. [...] He'll have company!" said Hermione. "It's Headquarters to the Order of the Phoenix, isn't it? He just got his hopes up that Harry would be coming to live here with him."

"I don't think that's true," said Harry, wringing out his cloth. "He wouldn't give me a straight answer when I asked him if I could."

"He just didn't want to get his own hopes up even more," said Hermione wisely. "And he probably felt a bit guilty himself, because I think a part of him was really hoping you'd be expelled. Then you'd both be outcasts together." (9.62-66)

First off, Hermione is fifteen just like Ron and Harry. We know that she's brilliant, but how exactly did she get so wise about the motivations of other people? Sometimes, she does seem almost too brilliant. But anyway, we agree with her assessment of Sirius here: Sirius knows intellectually that it's better for Harry to go back to Hogwarts, but he wishes emotionally that Harry would be expelled so that he could have a friend at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. The problem with the relationship between Harry and Sirius is that Harry is looking for a father in Sirius, while Sirius is looking for a friend (and not so much a son, for whom he would have to be responsible) in Harry. They can't really give each other what they want, so their relationship is probably doomed to tragedy from the start.

I sort you into houses
Because that is what I'm for,
But this year I'll go further,
Listen closely to my song:
Though condemned I am to split you
Still I worry that it's wrong,
Though I must fulfill my duty
And must quarter every year
Still I wonder whether Sorting
May not bring the end I fear.
Oh, know the perils, read the signs,
The warning history shows,
For our Hogwarts is in danger
From external, deadly foes
And we must unite inside her
Or we'll crumble from within
I have told you, I have warned you ...
Let the Sorting now begin
. (11.39)

The Sorting Hat branches out this year. Usually, before sorting the first years into the four Hogwarts Houses, it just explains the major House traits – Gryffindor = bravery, Hufflepuff = loyalty, Ravenclaw = smarts, and Slytherin = ambition. But this year, the Sorting Hat admits to some guilt about the whole process. By Sorting Hogwarts students according to their basic characteristics, doesn't the Sorting Hat encourage them to compete against each other? As times get hard and Voldemort grows more powerful, Hogwarts students need to stand together, and not allow themselves to be divided by House loyalties. Clearly, the biggest problem in the Sorting system is Slytherin House, which all of the other Houses distrust. If you're Sorted into Slytherin, it seems almost like a foregone conclusion that you'll be a bad person. On the other hand, it might be a self-fulfilling prophecy: by becoming Slytherin, perhaps you have no choice but to live down to the expectations of the other three houses. So, we agree with the Sorting Hat: the Hogwarts House system does seem divisive and potentially damaging, since it separates kids according to their personalities when they are only eleven years old. What do you think of the Hogwarts Sorting system? Does it seem ethical to you? What House would you most like to join?

There was a pause in which Sirius looked out at Harry, a crease between his sunken eyes.

"You're less like your father than I thought," he said finally, a definite coolness in his voice. The risk would've been what made it fun for James." (14.272-273)

When Sirius suggests coming to Hogsmeade in his dog form to visit Harry, Harry says no. He knows that Draco recognized Sirius on the train platform in London, so he fears that it won't be safe for Sirius to go out in the open, no matter what form he's in. But Sirius is so cabin-feverish that he lashes out at Harry for not taking him up on his offer. Sirius is being unfair to Harry in two ways: first, and most obviously, he's sneering at Harry for being "less like" James Potter than he had thought. But the situations are completely different: it's not like Sirius wants to leave school grounds without permission. He wants to go out in public as a convicted Death Eater when he knows that the Malfoys at least can recognize him. Sirius's plan is insanely dangerous, a point that he refuses to acknowledge. Second, Sirius wants Harry to be a chum, a partner in crime. But Harry is actually more mature than Sirius in this case. Harry looks up to Sirius, but Sirius is forcing Harry to be the responsible adult in this pairing. Since Harry is the one who is fifteen, this is really unfair.

"You don't think he has become ... sort of ... reckless since he's been cooped up in Grimmauld Place? You don't think he's ... kind of ... living through us?"

"What d'you mean, 'living through us'?" Harry retorted.

"I mean ... well, I think he'd love to be forming secret Defense societies right under the nose of someone from the Ministry ... I think he's really frustrated at how little he can do where he is ... so I think he's keen to kind of ... egg us on." (18.50-52)

This piece of dialogue is just one among many when Hermione takes a second to suggest that they be careful. In this case, she's wondering if the D.A. is really such a good idea if Sirius is so excited about it. After all, he's not the most reliable of supporters right now. He is trying to live vicariously through Harry, Ron, and Hermione. If the project of Book 5 is to humanize characters like Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape, then what about Hermione? What faults does she demonstrate in the novel? Does Hermione get any additional character development in Book 5? How is Book 5 Hermione different from Book 1 Hermione? Or Book 4 Hermione?

[Professor McGonagall] strode around behind her desk and faced them, quivering with rage as she threw the Gryffindor scarf aside on the floor.

"Well?" she said. "I have never seen such a disgraceful exhibition. Two on one! Explain yourselves!" (19.115-116)

After the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin, Draco taunts Harry, Fred, and George into attacking him. This is nothing new – Draco is always mocking Harry, and Harry often rises to the bait (especially now that his temper is on such a hair trigger). What's surprising about this scene is how very angry Professor McGonagall seems to be. Why do you think Professor McGonagall gets so riled up about this particular fight? What does Professor McGonagall seem most concerned about as she yells at the boys?

The teachers were of course forbidden from mentioning the interview [in The Quibbler] by Educational Decree Number Twenty-six, but they found ways to express their feelings about it all the same. Professor Sprout awarded Gryffindor twenty points when Harry passed her a watering can; a beaming Professor Flitwick pressed a box of squeaking sugar mice on him at the end of Charms, said, "Shh!" and hurried away; and Professor Trelawney broke into hysterical sobs during Divination and announced to the startled class, and a very disapproving Umbridge, that Harry was not going to suffer an early death after all, but would live to a ripe old age, become Minister for Magic and have twelve children. (26.108)

These are great examples of passive resistance: the teachers hate Professor Umbridge's guts and they believe in Dumbledore, so they do their best to show their support for Harry after he gives an interview about Voldemort to The Quibbler. But they keep their support for Harry under cover, and they don't rise up against Professor Umbridge openly. Why not? Why do the teachers choose to go along with Professor Umbridge for most of her stay as Headmistress? And how do they show their disapproval for Professor Umbridge? How do they attempt to undermine her authority?

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