14 Thoughts I Had While Rereading the 5th Harry Potter Book

DSC_0026The twins and I just finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In order for me to read them the next one (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince) they will both need to read the first five books on their own. Too much? We’ll see, but I’ve never seen my son lock himself in a room for hours to read like he did after the challenge was accepted. Minecraft, schminecraft.

SPOILERS AHOY!!!

I bought Order of the Phoenix when it came out, at midnight in a bookstore in Dublin, and read the whole thing cover-to-cover on the shortest transatlantic flight ever. I remember that Harry annoyed me, which was new as he never had before. I hated the way he lost his temper at Hermione and Ron, when they were just trying to help. I didn’t understand his righteous anger at those who doubted his account of the events in the fourth book. He was right, so who cared?

Well, 10 years or so have passed and I felt a lot more empathetic to Phoenix Harry this time around. This, and other observations:

  1. My God, Umbridge is the absolute worst. Torturing children for telling the truth? CHILLING.
  2. I loved Luna Lovegood just as much the second time, yet I finally appreciated why she got sorted into Ravenclaw. As spacey as she might seem, she’s actually coolly rational. She’s the one who gets the gang to the Ministry of Magic via the thestrals, after all.
  3. Ginny, never my favorite, starts to gain prominence in Phoenix. I think it’s her Bat Boogey Hex that grates the most. The constant mentioning of her mastery of this charm seems a cheap ploy to make her the heiress to Fred and George at Hogwarts. She’s an amalgam of attributes we’re supposed to like, but she never feels authentic to me. She bugs.
  4. Poor Cho! Yes, her friend was a snitch (and boy does she pay for it). Cho cries a lot, but who wouldn’t be sad if their boyfriend died? However, I get Harry’s feelings too. It’s hard out there for a teenager in love with the girlfriend of his competitor in the Triwizard Tournament who gets smoked by the most evil wizard in a century. I mean, I think we can all relate.
  5. Neville! Phoenix marks a turning point in the evolution of Neville, and he battles HARD at the Department of Mysteries even though he’s sorely overmatched in almost every way. Neville arguably has the least amount of talent in his year, but he works harder than anyone at the Dumbledore Army meetings. We should all try to be like Neville Longbottom.
  6. James Potter IS a tosser, or at least he is in Snape’s Worst Memory. He’s like one of those talented jocks in high school who thinks they are REAL FUNNY but they are actually bullies and everyone secretly dislikes them. We have to take it on the word of others that James changed, but this impression of him really sticks.
  7. Hermione continues to rock steady. Hermione is the real superhero in this book in many ways, and I too am troubled by the classification of her as a sidekick (hat tip, Grumpy Rumblings). She was the only one who knew Voldemort was using Harry.
  8. The Daily Prophet’s attack on Harry’s character is maddening. I know what it is like to go into Gryffindor’s dormitory and have a friend shun you because they believe the Daily Prophet. It sucks, and I get why Harry is so pissed off about it. When the story is being told by someone else, he’s powerless. Not coincidently, things turn around for him when he tells his story to the Quibbler.
  9. Speaking of maddening: Hagrid, ugh. Everyone has had That Friend – the one with the best intentions but who does the dumbest things that are frankly dangerous. Somehow, everything always works out OK in the end. Then you go into a corner and have a quiet breakdown.
  10. Harry’s temper in Phoenix is mostly related to grief, shock and guilt. And well, I think the ALI community can relate to that.
  11. Does Ron have Imposter Syndrome? His terrible goal-keeping improves after his brothers leave, and he has nothing left to prove.
  12. Movie Filch is unspeakably sinister now that I’ve seen the Red Wedding.
  13. The Sirius storyline is so sad. Because I’m shallow, I wonder just how “very good-looking” he was before Azkaban. Like, did he look like Jon Snow?
  14. Phoenix has my favorite Fred and George moment, when they fly into the sunset after unleashing all manner of chaos upon Umbridge.

‘Give her hell from us, Peeves.’

And Peeves, whom Harry has never seen take an order from a student before, swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute as Fred and George wheeled about to tumultuous applause from the students below and sped out of the open front doors into the glorious sunset.

Love Ginny? Hate Neville? Ron = Imposter? Would love to hear your thoughts, even (especiallly?) if you disagree.

 

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “14 Thoughts I Had While Rereading the 5th Harry Potter Book

  1. ooooh I love this J! I just recently re read the entire box set as my 8 year old nephew is in love with the series after I bought him book #1 last year for his birthday. I got the series on the pretence of needing them for Molly but really it was just for me.

    Ok my thoughts without having the book in front of me;
    – I like Ginny. Girl is smart. The bat bogey hex is a bit frustrating how they carry on. I am sure there were so many other things she could do. It would have been better to have a bit more of a back story on Ginny but there is no mistaking those Weasley kids were geniuses. Except Ron. Not sure what happened there!
    – Umbridge is Hitler. How sinister was she?
    – Fred & George are amazing. And again those Weasley smarts.
    – Do you know who grates on me – Ron. He never seems to appreciate how damn lucky he is with his family. And now having a one child family it bugs me more. Sure, it is nice to have a fancy new broom but a mum and dad who adore you is worth 10x of those and he never seemed to get that about Harry. He would have given up everything to have his parents.
    – I absolutely 100% agree with you about James. He is awful. I am not sure at what point he actually ever did get better. Apart from the stories of when Harry was born but no wonder Severus drifted to the dark side.
    – I love how those kids take on the Death Eaters and they have never been trained to fight like that. Makes me think of what you can do when your security and friends are threatened. And Neville is a delight. I don’t think he is as dumb as we think (personally think Seamus, Crabb & Goyle are dumber 😉 ) but like Harry scarred from what has happened to his parents which is a tragedy on its own.
    – can we talk about the abusive life Harry had. It is always sort of mentioned as a joke but the reality is that was severe abuse! It makes me shudder!
    – I thought it was incredibly brave of JK Rowling to never go the Hollywood ending because it played nice. People died. It was war. Makes it more real.
    – Can we also talk about Hermione? of all the stories after the books I would love to know what she did. The movies had her looking so dowdy at the end. i really wanted her to take on the world.
    – I can’t believe how so many people didn’t believe Harry. It seemed so weird. Especially if Dumbledore did.

    I might go back and re read them all again. They are amazingly powerful books. the themes within them are so strong and we can all relate and wish deep down we had a little magic in us as well.

  2. and Nymphadora! The name alone is the best thing ever.

  3. What I hated the most about Harry becoming annoying as all heck is that it seemingly happened overnight. If there’d been some space between books, or if we’d seen him becoming obnoxious (presumably because of the previous tragedy stealing promised happiness [and permanent escape from the Dursleys] from him), it would have been much more believable. But going from sweet plucky boy hero to obnoxious teenager in no time really killed the series for me.

    I don’t think having people dying was brave… it’s PATHOS (to quote Craig Shaw Gardener), and her choice of who to die pretty well maximized pathos, especially the way she did it in ascending order of pathos. This is why the hero’s cute animal sidekick often doesn’t survive to the end of an epic fantasy novel (and I’m not talking about the owl in HP’s case). I was pretty good at predicting who wouldn’t make it because the choices seemed pretty obvious from that perspective. First you kill someone unimportant to let people know there’s danger, then you start killing off people as mcguffins to shape the hero/provide him direction.

    • Interesting! I actually think Sirius’s death was the worst, in Book 5. He was the closest thing orphan Harry had to a parent then he’s cruelly snatched away. Dumbledore is more of a wise old teacher – still sucks, don’t get me wrong but not worse than Sirius. If one of the trio was killed in the last book, I would agree with you about escalating the kill factor book by book.

      I hear you about rage-y Harry. To play devil’s advocate, hormones are a b**** – Harry turns 15. I’m sure that could play a role, along with The Daily Prophet widely discrediting him. I didn’t take that seriously the first time I read it, but if you have a powerful platform turning friends against you, it IS maddening. It’s hard to know this unless you’ve been through it, and I recently did. It made me really cranky.

      • Sirius wasn’t around for very long though, so for the reader he wasn’t as big a deal. Sirius’s death was PRECISELY there to make Harry more alone. His death is there to affect Harry. (Hagrid, of course, is equivalent to a pet dying.) Dumbledore’s death is there to make everything seem less safe and to force the children to have to save the day without a net. It has to happen closer to the end for that reason, otherwise they’re on their own too soon and there’s less to build up to.

        Teenage angst doesn’t happen on a dime, even with hormones. They should have shown him going through the transition, or allowed some time for it to happen off-screen. If the summer had passed between books like it did in the earlier novels, or if we’d seen him struggling through the change, then that would have been more believable. Instead it’s plucky boy hero who is still himself after being dealt a horrible blow at the end of a book and obnoxious teenage angster like a day later at the beginning of the next book.

      • p.s. It’s all about the Narrative. (Before Scalzi’s Redshirts, there was the Cineverse trilogy by Craig Shaw Gardener, and also Diana Wynne Jones’ Guide to Fantasyland. They do a good job of cataloging standard literary tropes. Not saying Harry Potter is derivative, but.. it kind of is. It’s good, but it definitely plays along standard fantasy/adventure tropes. It just does it well.)

  4. After leaving the books untouched since 2007 (has it been that long since the mailman delivered book 7 only 3 days before the bar exam and I had to (gasp) wait!?) I just started rereading #1 a few days ago. It has been so fun to revisit so far. My recollection is that 5 is my least favorite for the wanting-to-smack-Harry-upside-the-head reasons you and Chon articulate. Six is my favorite so I hope the twins read fast!

  5. Mo

    Love everything about this post. Seriously.
    I’ve read (and listened to) book 5 about a dozen times by now, and I agree with practically every point here. Practically. 🙂
    I actually never found Harry’s anger to be grating. I always got it. Not only is he a teen going through a rebellious phase with no parents to take it out on, he’s SEEN SOME SHIT.
    My husband still dislikes the book for that very same reason.
    Sirius’ story is probably one that gets me the most, perhaps in the entire series. From all sides. Harry finally had something close to a parent in his life, and lost him so quickly. It’s heartbreaking.
    Agree with you about Ginny. I don’t think she was ever truly fleshed out.
    One of my favorite Fred and George moments comes a bit later, and makes me laugh audibly every time – and they’re actually not involved in the scene:
    “Harry could still hear the distant bangs of escaped fireworks when he and Ron went to bed an hour later, and as he got undressed a sparkler floated past the tower, still resolutely spelling out the word POO.”
    I’m a sucker for toilet humor 🙂
    PS – I don’t have a “favorite book”, because that doesn’t feel right to me. I’m a MAJOR superfan. I do, however, have a ranking:

    1) Book 7
    2) Book 3
    3) Book 5 (yep!)
    4) Book 6
    5) Book 4
    6) Book 1
    7) Book 2 – which I mostly dislike. I think it’s the only book by JK Rowling I truly don’t like. And I’ve read every single book she’s published (including the ones under the Robert Galbraith pen name) and love all of them except this one. This book felt to me like she was trying to find her legs as a writer, and that it had too much involvement from the editors. Talk about grating.
    Oh! Wait! Ginny has a major role here too. Do I sense a pattern…?

    • I don’t love book 2 either. It’s my least favorite. And you’re right, it is heavy on Ginny. Lots of people telling Harry what Ginny is like (loud, talkative) when her own behavior contradicts this, then Harry’s rescue of her made into a huge dramatic centerpiece (honestly other than her being Ron’s sister, why are we supposed to care – she’s a cypher.)

      Way too much telling not showing with Ginny throughout the whole series.

  6. Six is my favorite because I felt like it flipped the world upside down on 1-5 and made me think about them in a completely new light. Plus, I’ve always loved the introduction of new mysteries and the lead-up to the climax better than any resolution. (This is why I was a HUGE Lost fan back in the day – until the last season.)

    • And ranking my favorites based on long-ago memory (or, in other words, I reserve the right to amend after I’ve read them again) are:
      6
      3
      7
      4
      1
      2
      5

      • Mo

        Good point about book 6. I absolutely loved the Voldemort backstory, and I think the end of the book was an incredibly emotional milestone that established Harry as a truly grounded almost-adult.

    • Interesting – because of Snape? The Horcruxes? Or something else?

      • Because of Horcruxes. I went from thinking JKR writes a pretty good story to oh my word how this all fits together is genius!

    • This is an interesting point – I also love the build up. I loved the parts with them in the woods during Deathly Hollows, and I know most people didn’t. I didn’t want the series to end, I think.

  7. Mo

    I love those parts too, j! It was this very stark reminder that they’re kids and how alone they truly were in the fight.

  8. Gonna be real shallow on my comment – forewarned

    I totally wonder if Sirius Black looked like Jon Snow too! lol.

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