The Order of the Phoenix, Chs. 10, 18, and 34-37
REL 3112—Spring 2017
The means of locomotion of the carriages seem creepy. Thestrals sound corrupted/decaying. Is this a stab at anti-Augustinian thought?
We learn later why Ron and Hermione can’t see the Thestrals. But in the moment, think about the implications. Think about what we know about Harry in this novel: He’s doubted. By most everyone. Why should we trust his sight at this point?
So think about what it means when a Ravenclaw, a year below him, confesses she can see them. He’s not alone. He’s not mad. Being in community matters.
Can we talk about Umbridge? She’s the worst. She’s like getting the flu during Spring Break. Which I have done, so I don’t recommend.
Anyway. Charms class. Umbridge has made Hogwarts so oppressive the only privacy the trio can get is during a loud lesson.
Which reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald. In The Great Gatsby, Jordan says, “And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” So… Yeah. Ten points for Rowling.
Now, let’s talk about the origin of an idea. Hermione wants to start a Defense Against the Dark Arts group… but once Sirius is on board, she kind of sours on the idea. This reveals something important. Hermione is cautious. She’s protective. She’s calculating. Sirius may be protective, but the other two? He’s kind of impulsive. This isn’t a very good thing to pair with Harry because he’s also impulsive.
Fam, let’s focus on Harry’s scar hurting. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn, Harry, back at it again with the visions.
This is a major revelation: Harry and Ron articulate there’s some kind of window. That’s… ominous.
When they finally interact with Dobby, there’s a strange dynamic. We could mine the depths with Augustine and “free service” and complex Latin translations, but so it goes.
What I’m chiefly interested in is the reality of mystery. Harry is a Pure-blood, but raised by Muggles. The Room of Requirement should be utterly fascinating to him. But instead it serves as a mere means to an end. This suggests to me some kind of service to community. Which is, after all, what this chapter is all about. He’s a bit reluctant to take up the mantle of teacher. Can we (or should we?) read this as some kind of Christ-like disposition?
So, skipping ahead a bit. Dobby’s plan to meet in the Room of Requirement meets a bit of skepticism from Hermione. Again, she’s kind of our voice of caution. But when Harry points out Dumbledore knew about the place (as talked about during the Yule Ball), Hermione calms down. Again, this reinforces my argument that Dumbly is our God-figure. She trusts him implicitly.
Again, this is such a badass chapter for Hermione. During the meeting, she holds the presses and demands they elect a leader. The demand on/for authority is real. And Harry has both a symbolic and practical function in the narrative. If he is our chosen child/Christ-figure, he has to *do* something.
I guess we have to talk about Cho and her friend, the traitor. They’re both forbidden by their parents from doing anything against Umbridge (and by extension, the Ministry). But we, as readers, know at this point in the story the Ministry is basically serving Voldemort’s agenda. Is there such a thing as righteous resistance? Well, if we take into account Christ was executed by the Roman Empire, then yeah. Probably.
Let’s talk about “Harry’s” dreams. Rowling notes after months they have finally arrived. But to what degree are they authentically Harry’s dreams? Can we mine the depths of this for some kind of commentary about individuality/personal identity? I keep asking about the link between Harry and Voldemort because it’s so important.
When Harry suggests a few should remain behind as a lookout they shut him down. Harry inspires loyalty. Is this purely because of his status as a chosen child? Or is there some other kind of dynamic going on?
OKAY. OKAY. OKAY. SO I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THE VEIL.
I MEAN HERMIONE (WHO HAS BEEN SO RIGHT ON SO MUCH) CAN’T HEAR THE VOICES. BUT HARRY CAN. AND CAN WE THROWBACK TO THE THESTRALS? WE HAVE ZERO REASON TO DOUBT HARRY AT THIS POINT.
I’ll turn caps lock off now that I have your attention.
Luna can hear the whispers. This is huge. This is a parallel to what happened earlier. Death, recall, is Rowling’s primary theme. I’m not just throwing that out there. She’s said as much.
So what the fluff (yes, students, fluff) is the Veil?
I’ve watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. MACUSA has some kind of strange veil-y thing going on. Can wizards harness this kind of power? Because I kind of just assumed ancient wizards built the Ministry of Magic *around* the Veil.
I mean I’m totally fine being wrong. It happens.
BUT WHAT ON EARTH?
THERE’S A FLUFFING VEIL WITH WHISPERING FOLKS FROM THE BEYOND.
Okay. Okay. So prophecy. Good golly gosh. We’re finally here. There’s something tangible about it. Prophecy is literally… right… there. Neville isn’t super sweet on it. And Rowling notes Harry is moved by “recklessness” to reach out and take it. This is NOT a good thing. But hey, he’s the Chosen One. Whatever.
Except there are very real consequences. This was planned. Harry, you reckless motherfluffer.
This is a Livingston Original thought I’ve yet to find on Tumblr, so shh. But Bellatrix’s emergence into the story is… interesting. We’ve seen her in flashback. But Lucius throws out the idea that Voldemort “always knows.” To which Bellatrix replies, “Always.”
Fam, “Always” is kind of *the* Harry Potter refrain. When it gets uttered, we know there’s some power there. I’m kind of thinking—and I could be wrong—that Rowling is mocking the power of evil.
Now, jumping ahead, Harry totally writes off the prophecy. He thinks of it as a stupid/dusty orb. He doesn’t want his “stupidity” to get his friends killed.
Harry gets a bad rap. Some fans think he’s quite stupid indeed. But I argue it’s not his lack of empathy that gets him in trouble: It is his abundance. He’s so invested in saving Sirius that he charges off… assuming he’ll be alone. Other people throw their hats in the ring because they love him. But like in Sorcerer’s Stone and like later in Deathly Hallows, Harry doesn’t assume this degree of loyalty.
FAM—Lucius delivers a fairly critical piece of information. It’s not just a prophecy about Harry. It’s also a prophecy about Voldemort. They’re linked. They’re like that darling couple on Instagram getting paid to travel the world. Except not.
We can talk about Bellatrix being awful by holding a generational grudge against Neville. She’s mean.
Now let’s talk about optics: At the moment Harry is otherwise forced to hand over the prophecy: In rush members of the Order. It’s beautiful.
Anyway, Dumbledore’s appearance signals something. I’ve talked about the value of hope. There’s a change in the tenor of battle. Suddenly it’s not just some kids and some resistors against the forces of darkness. Suddenly there’s a real power behind the effort.
Now, let’s consider the optics of Sirius v. Bellatrix. In the movie, Sirius is definitely hit by the Killing Curse. In the book, Rowling doesn’t specify. This matters. A lot.
Well, because there are two options.
First, Sirius isn’t dead when he passed beyond the Veil?
(Well, then why didn’t he use the mirror?)
Second, it’s the act of passing beyond the Veil that kills him.
So, a realm of whispers. Where Sirius passes. But from which he doesn’t (or can’t) communicate.
But what about Priori Incantaem? The Mirror of Erised?
Different realms? Same realm? Harsher visitation rules?
Harry’s inability to cast a heartfelt Unforgivable Curse tells us a lot about him. He’s not Death Eater caliber. This matters. They say the weak resort to violence. But I don’t think Rowling is wholly consistent on this.
But what Harry does have on Bellatrix is his knowledge of Voldemort’s moods. He taunts her to some degree of effectiveness. So… let’s think about that cruelty streak.
Again, let’s think about optics. Harry is otherwise beaten down and defenseless. When Voldy casts a Killing Curse, it’s simply the good timing/choreography of Dumbledore that saves him.
And with that, we have one of the most intriguing exchanges (by my thinking). Dumbledore calls
Voldemort “Tom.” Without fail. He’s Tom. I have asked: Is this an infantilizing mood (throwing Voldemort back to childhood and weakness and fear) or something else? That something else would be a redemptive call back to self. Why does Luke call Darth Vader “Anakin?” Well, because of something low-key Augustinian. If evil isn’t the original state, but rather a corruption, that reminder matters.
So… that possession. I don’t know what to do with this. Harry is so sure he’ll “see Sirius again.”
And Rowling has said that what separates Harry and Hermione. It’s not just their experiences in life (Hermione hasn’t witnessed death like Harry), it’s their entire belief system about life. Hermione is a skeptic. Rowling says this is what keeps her from hearing the whispers beyond the Veil. Well, if that’s the case, Harry is absolutely a Platonist. But we run into a literary problem: How much do we trust our protagonist?
And finally—FINALLY—at the end of the chapter, Fudge has to admit what an idiot he was.
Dumbledore reasserts control over the situation. But all isn’t well. This wasn’t our eucatastrophe. Things have to get worse before they get better.
I have ~so many feelings~ about this chapter.
I was a pre-teen when this book came out and ho-damn. The arguments I used to have with the other students of Alice B. Landrum Middle School.
In Dumbledore’s office, Harry is very hard on himself. He blames himself. Voldemort knew it was his love of “playing the hero” (that got Sirius killed). Should we be this hard on Harry?
Dumbledore claims Harry’s pain is his greatest strength. This comes early in the chapter. You should re-read this. I’m probably 100% likely to ask about this.
Now, jumping ahead, Dumbledore claims partial responsibility for the death of Sirius. This raises an important point I’ve been teasing all along: How much power do individual actors in the Wizarding World have over their own lives?
FOLKS—Dumbledore admits shortsightedness. CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
“Harry, I owe you an explanation,” said Dumbledore. “An explanation of an old man’s mistakes. For I see now that what I have done, and not done, with regard to you, bears all the hallmarks of the failings of age. Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young . . . and I seem to have forgotten lately. . . .”
We’re so used to hearing about wisdom associated with age/experience. This is an inversion of that.
Let’s talk about power. So often we think of power in the abstract. As a thing governments wield. But let’s think about Dumbledore actively avoiding Harry. He admits he feared the fact Voldemort could choose to possess Harry. Dumbledore worried close contact would imperil Harry’s life.
… Do we buy this? Most of us have read the seventh book. Snape’s critique that Dumbledore was raising Harry “for the proper moment” has some weight to it.
We should probably talk this out.
Yo so we could talk about Kreacher and the idea that both Sirius and Harry are cruel. But I feel like I’m beating a dead horse.
However, there’s one major thing: Dumbledore was right. They were awful to the House-elf. And he uses the language of pity. Is this in the same vein as Tolkien? Or is this something else?
Dumbledore insists “indifference” can be far more damaging than outright contempt. How true is this statement?
YOOOOOOOOOOOOO. This chapter is the bomb. Harry and Dumbledore debate the
fundamental value of love, family, and mutuality. We’ve talked already about whether Harry *had* to be with the Dursleys. Dumbledore suggests yes. And this is a hard confirmation about sacrifice transmitting some Extra Special Magic. We know it from previous books, but damn is it every so clear here.
I AM SCREAMING. Rowling devotes 2-3 pages to Dumbledore confessing to Harry he cared too much for him. I promised I’d ask the question: When did Dumbledore fall in love with Harry?
Again, not romantically. Perhaps paternally.
Because here he says it’s in the hospital wing during the first book. Should we doubt him?
But the follow-up question is: Does it matter when? Knowing what we know about how/why Harry was raised… does it really matter?
Anyway. Remember the end goal: Voldemort is seeking weapons for how to destroy Harry. No more, no less.
To that end, choice reenters the narrative. Dumbledore reveals Neville could have been a viable candidate for “the Chosen One.” Which throws into question the prophetic role of the Chosen One. If Voldemort marks his equal… how Divine is that?
We’ll talk about this.
But finally—FINALLY—we learn something important about the prophecy. One of them (Harry or Voldemort) has to die.
We’ll also talk about this.
 For two points on your next assignment, email me what you and your middle school friends argued about.
 Swirls mental whiskey.
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