Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Suffering

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Harry felt as though his head had been split in two. Eyes streaming, he swayed, trying to focus on the street to spot the source of the noise, but he had barely staggered upright when two large purple hands reached through the open window and closed tightly around his throat.

"Put – it – away!" Uncle Vernon snarled into Harry's ear. "Now! Before – anyone – sees!"

"Get – off – me!" Harry gasped. For a few seconds they struggled, Harry pulling at his uncle's sausage-like fingers with his left hand, his right maintaing a firm grip on his raised wand; then, as the pain in the top of Harry's head gave a particularly nasty throb, Uncle Vernon yelped and released Harry as though he had received an electric shock. (1.22-24)

At the beginning of Book 1, the Dursleys clearly abuse Harry, making him do all of their cooking and keeping him locked in a cupboard under the stairs. But it seems almost cartoonish, like the way that Matilda's family treats her in Roald Dahl's novel Matilda. It doesn't seem real. But as Harry gets older and the Dursleys' violence increases (Uncle Vernon just grabbed Harry by the throat through an open window!), their treatment of him seems more and more appalling. It really feels as though it's not just the characters in the Harry Potter series who are growing up; it's the books themselves that are developing as well.

"Hasn't anyone told you? This was my parents' house," said Sirius. But I'm the last Black left, so it's mine now. I offered it to Dumbledore for Headquarters – about the only useful thing I've been able to do."

Harry, who had expected a better welcome, noted how hard and bitter Sirius's voice sounded. He followed his godfather to the bottom of the steps and through a door leading into the basement kitchen. (5.4-5)

In a lot of ways, Sirius's emotions in Book 5 are identical to Harry's, except maybe more intense. Sirius is filled with bitterness and resentment at being left out of the main fight. Sirius is also trapped in a place he doesn't want to be (with Kreacher, which makes things worse). As Sirius watches Harry going off to Hogwarts, he feels a sense of unreasonable envy, envy that he's a little ashamed of (a bit like Harry's guilty envy of Ron's prefect badge). The fact that Sirius feels so much like a fifteen-year old filled with teenage angst tells us that Sirius has a case of arrested development – after all, he hasn't spent much of his adult life outside of prison. No wonder he is so reckless and careless: Sirius isn't really a mature grown-up, no matter how old his body looks.

"Harry, I'm so sorry. What must you think of me?" [Mrs. Weasley] said shakily. "Not even able to get rid of a Boggart ..."

"Don't be stupid," said Harry, trying to smile.

"I'm just s - s - so worried," she said, tears spilling out of her eyes again. "Half the f - f - family's in the Order, it'll b - b - be a miracle if we all come through this ... and P - P - Percy's not talking to us ... what if something d - d - dreadful happens and we've never m - m - made it up with him? And what's going to happen if Arthur and I get killed, who's g - g- going to look after Ron and Ginny?" (9.297-299)

Mrs. Weasley's overprotectiveness is generally funny. Starting in Book 2, with her Howler to Ron about the flying car, her quick temper and constant concern for her family have been reassuring and kind of amusing. But now, in Book 5, as Voldemort has come back and everything is becoming more dangerous, Mrs. Weasley's fear for her family is a much more serious and tangible thing. She seems overbearing to Harry and Ron, but no wonder: every night, she imagines members of her own family dead in the War. And since it's true that half the Weasleys are in the Order of the Phoenix, chances are good that the family will suffer some losses. This is one of the most tragic scenes in Book 5, because even though Mrs. Weasley is willing and even eager to do her best to resist Voldemort, she is all too aware of the terrible cost that her resistance may exact on her nearest and dearest.

"Your father knew what he was getting into and he won't thank you for messing things up for the Order!" said Sirius, equally angry. "This is how it is – this is why you're not in the Order – you don't understand – there are things worth dying for!"

"Easy for you to say, stuck here!" bellowed Fred. "I don't see you risking your neck!"

The little color remaining in Sirius's face drained from it. He looked for a moment as though he would quite like to hit Fred, but when he spoke, it was in a voice of determined calm. (22.106-108)

Sirius is always all too ready to die for what he believes in – he is willing to risk his life at the drop of a hat, just to accompany Harry to the train station at King's Cross or to chat with him in the Gryffindor common room. The problem is that Sirius is also supposed to be a father figure for Harry, and fathers can't be as reckless with their lives as ordinary guys. After all, look how miserable Mr. Weasley's injury makes Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny. Mr. Weasley has a family to look after, so he has to be careful of himself. Sirius, on the other hand, is supposed to be Harry's godfather. He's supposed to be responsible for Harry. But he isn't used to that kind of adult burden. So, he's not really capable of behaving like a father, of not taking those heroic risks that he always wants to take. And his reckless behavior is what leads to his death and Harry's deep sense of loss in Book 5.

If Harry had ever sat through a longer night than this one, he could not remember it. Sirius suggested once, without any real conviction, that they all go to bed, but the Weasleys' looks of disgust were answer enough. They mostly sat in silence around the table, watching the candle wick sinking lower and lower into liquid wax, occasionally raising a bottle to their lips, speaking only to check the time, to wonder aloud what was happening and to reassure each other if there was bad news, they would know straight away, for Mrs. Weasley must long since have arrived at St. Mungo's. (22.122)

This is a nice reversal for Harry: usually, he's the one lying in the hospital wing frightening his friends with his injuries. But in Book 5, Harry gets to see what it's like to worry about other people: first, Mr. Weasley when he has been bitten by Voldemort's snake, and then at the end of the novel, when Hermione and Ron have both been seriously injured in the showdown at the Department of Mysteries.

"No!" [Professor Trelawney] shrieked. "NO! This cannot be happening ... it cannot ... I refuse to accept it!"

"You didn't realize this was coming?" said a high girlish voice, sounding callously amused, and Harry, moving slightly to his right, saw that Trelawney's terrifying vision was nothing other than Professor Umbridge. "Incapable though you are of predicting even tomorrow's weather, you must surely have realized that your pitiful performance during my inspections, and lack of any improvement, would make it inevitable that you would be sacked?" (26.230-231)

Professor Umbridge really enjoys bringing one of her fellow teachers to her knees by firing Professor Trelawney and throwing her out of the castle in the most public and humiliating fashion possible. We're of two minds about this scene: first, it seems like Professor Umbridge is just enjoying the pain that she's causing. She likes having the power to destroy another person as she is destroying Professor Trelawney. On the other hand, could this be a warning to the other teachers in the school not to cross her? Or is it a public performance to attract people who are bullies like Professor Umbridge to join her side? Why do you think Professor Umbridge decides to fire Professor Trelawney so publicly? What is she getting out of it?

Hatred rose in Harry such as he had never known before: he flung himself out from behind the fountain and bellowed, "Crucio!"

Bellatrix screamed: the spell had knocked her off her feet, but she did not writhe and shriek with pain as Neville had – she was already back on her feet, breathless, no longer laughing. [...]

"Never used an Unforgivable Curse before, have you, boy?" she yelled. She had abandoned her baby voice now. "You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain – to enjoy it – righteous anger won't hurt me for long – I'll show you how it is done, shall I? I'll give you a lesson —" (36.30-32)

Were you surprised when Harry Potter – our hero — tried to cast an Unforgivable Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange? Would you have thought Harry capable of casting a Cruciatus Curse in, say, Book 4? Are there points later in the series when you could imagine him crossing that line again? What does Harry's efforts to cast a Cruciatus Curse here tell you about his character? And about the spell itself?

"There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!" snarled Voldemort.

"You are quite wrong," said Dumbledore, still closing in upon Voldemort and speaking as lightly as though they were discussing the matter over drinks. Harry felt scared to see him walking along, undefended, shieldless; he wanted to cry out a warning, but his headless guard kept shunting him backwards towards the wall, blocking his every attempt to get out from behind it. "Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness —" (36.69-70)

(That "headless guard" is the golden statue from the Ministry's fountain that Professor Dumbledore has spelled to defend Harry from Voldemort's curses.) What evidence have we seen in Books One through Four of Voldemort's extreme fear of death? Do you agree with Voldemort that there is nothing worse than death? Or do you agree with Dumbledore that "there are things much worse than death"? What might be worse than death for Dumbledore, in particular? What do you think he's talking about here?

"People don't like being locked up!" Harry said furiously, rounding on him. "You did it to me all last summer —"

Dumbledore closed his eyes and buried his face in his long-fingered hands. Harry watched him, but this uncharacteristic sign of exhaustion, or sadness, or whatever it was from Dumbledore, did not soften him. On the contrary, he felt even angrier that Dumbledore was showing signs of weakness. He had no business being weak when Harry wanted to rage and storm at him. (37.131-132)

Why can't Harry rage and storm at Dumbledore properly if Dumbledore is being weak? Why do you think Dumbledore is suddenly willing to appear weak in front of Harry? And what changes do you think Dumbledore's appearance of weakness in front of Harry will bring for their future relationship?

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