Alright, alright, alright. I am officially SUPER BEHIND on the read along, and I blame the real world for that. If you want more explanation than that, you’ll have to see my June reading round-up.
Anywho. I distinctly remember reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the first time when I was in college; at this point I was reading the books in real time, as they were being published, and had a gaggle of nerdy friends with whom to discuss the agony and the ecstasy of the world of Hogwarts. Maybe it was because I wasn’t quite far enough removed from the world of teenage angst (let’s be real, I was angsty until my mid-twenties), but I remember being really annoyed with how full of THE WORLD IS AGAINST ME sentiment the man HP was, to the point that I didn’t like the book all that much. There may have been more reasons for my initial lukewarm feelings towards The Order of the Phoenix, but that’s the predominant complaint that stands out in my befuddled, thirty-something-year-old brain. HOWEVER, I’m happy to announce that those lukewarm feelings have warmed considerably on this third re-reading! More of my thoughts, in no particular order, and be gentle with me because I actually finished this book several weeks ago but have not had computer access in the meantime:
- Yes, Harry is INCREDIBLY angst-ridden, but I think my years of angst and waving my fist at the establishment/authority figures are far enough in my past that I find it entertaining instead of annoying. I work with kids who, if they could, would talk about just how angry they feel all the time, and they don’t even have a mind-connection with Voldemort to blame, so all I have to say is hormones, man. They’re rough.
- OK, I love Sirius. LOVE him. However, my feelings about him throughout Order of the Phoenix were very conflicted. He’s sulky, which, OK, understandable considering he’s essentially on house arrest in a site of horrible emotional trauma with a grumpy old weirdo i.e. Kreecher, but he’s also an inexcusable dick to Harry on a few occasions. I’m thinking, specifically, of him telling Harry that he’s not as much like his father as he thought when they’re chatting in the fireplace; it’s unbelievably cruel for him, a grown-ass man, to put his own shit on a lonely kid who has never even KNOWN his parents.
- As much as that aspect of character development made me uncomfortable, it’s is also a strength, as far as I’m concerned. Your heroes aren’t perfect, and your villains aren’t so terrible. When Harry glimpses Snape’s most painful memory, he realizes that the idols of his father and Sirius, whom he had placed on a pedestal in his imagination, are flawed. They were arrogant, they were bullies, and Snape was actually a person to be pitied. Harry’s ability to wrap his teenaged brain around these complexities of character mark his own growth process, and I think it’s well-done by Rowling.
- Dolores Umbridge, woof. I wrote a bit about her in our worst villains post many moons ago, but it had been a while since I’d read this book and I am not sure I fully remembered how painful reading about her could be. She embodies a combination of truly terrifying traits, most notable of which is the impunity with which her position of authority allows her to act out her insidious sadism. Reading about her rise to power and hiding her cruelty behind a mask of bureaucratic ambition made me physically uncomfortable.
- I LOVE THESTRALS.
I’d love to include some more critical analysis of this reread but folks, I don’t really remember any other specific critiques that verge on intelligent, so apparently my thoughts have a shelf-life of roughly two weeks in my brain before they’re gone. Ah, well, thus is life.