With its 768 pages Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix obviously is the most weighty tome of the series by far. This quality makes it equally a complex and intense book but also a good means to clobber perpetrators of undesired reading interruptions with. 🙄
For me, the book is inseparably connected with the notion of that horrible and child-torturing Ministry of Magic employee Dolores Umbridge. Only to think of the name…don’t get me wrong, I KNOW (for sure) that Umbridge is only a fictional character, really, I do! ^^ However, the idea of her character attributes united in one person…Owen Meany would say: „IT GIVES ME THE SHIVERS!“
I have to admit, I am feeling a deep satisfaction when in the end she gets what was coming to her. Did I mention I am a big fan of Centaurs all of a sudden?
As the book’s title already suggests, the Order of the Phoenix has been reinstated by Albus Dumbledore to stand up against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. It already existed when the peace of the magical community was threatened the first time. Back then, Harry’s dead father and mother and also Neville’s parents who were cursed into insanity in the effort to fight that evil wizard, were members of that group. The additional problem the Order faces now, however, is that – unlike before – the Ministry of Magic keeps their eyes shut against the dangers and pretends that there is none existing. This attitude leads to additional problems which keeps persons from dealing with the crucial one.
After a Dementors‘ attack on his cousin Dudley and himself which he just managed to fight off with his stag Patronus, Harry is escorted by members of the Order to their Headquarters which is Harry’s godfather Sirius‘ birth place, Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place in London. The house is the home of the old Black’s house elf Kreacher, too. Kreacher reacts hostile towards the temporary inhabitants. He worshipped Sirius‘ parents and his brother Regulus, all of them dead, and he shares their opinion that Sirius has proven himself a ‚blood traitor‘ for joining the ‚enemy‘. Thus, the atmosphere in the house cannot exactly be called inviting. Sirius with his rising temper is not able to behave friendly towards Kreacher which hardens the fronts even more. The street’s name, Grimmauld Place, underlines perfectly the character of the place with its associations of ‚grim‘, ‚mould‘ and ‚old‘ – a nice example for J. K. Rowling’s use of meaningful names.
Because of his self-defense against the Dementors, Harry receives a summons to court where he is charged for the improper use of Underage Magic outside of Hogwarts. Thanks to Albus Dumbledore Harry eventually is cleared of all charges to the utter dislike of Dolores Umbridge, one of the most ferocious prosecutors during his trial. Later, in Hogwarts, there will be another encounter with Umbridge who is assigned by the Ministry of Magic for teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. To this subject, Umbridge brings an entirely unique touch. Instead of really practicing defensive techniques, she thinks serious reading will do just fine which finally leads to the foundation of Dumbledore’s Army, the DA.
Dolores Umbridge is the prototype of a human being that is given power but is not fit to use it in a responsible way. She abuses her granted rights in the most despicable manner. She tortures students physically (the quill!), she humiliates colleagues psychologically (Prof. Trelawny, Hagrid) who lack the ability to defend themselves. What is worse, she justifies all these cruelties with a higher purpose, namely to act exclusively in the interest of the Ministry with its aim to preserve the stability of society and the system. Sounds familiar? In history these kinds of justifications frequently involved dreadful trends and upheavals towards totalitarian systems.
The Order of the Phoenix ranks high in a competition for the most emotional book of the series in my eyes. With Sirius‘ death and Harry’s grief and anger about the loss of the next person close to him, his insecurity about what the future holds in store for him…even when the last two sequels are yet to come – this one gives you more than a glimpse of what is lying ahead. And apart from the actual story: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix leaves you with a feeling that dangerous tendencies in society and politics are ubiquitous and that there is no need to blind oneself feeling inviolable in ones cosiness. So keep in mind what Mad-Eye Moody says all of the time: