Though not quite my favorite book, The Order of the Phoenix is definitely the scariest in the Harry Potter series. The fact that two of us raised our hands to speak for it says much, but like its doppelgänger, Prisoner of Azkaban, Phoenix’s fear is primarily psychological and therefore far more upsetting than its more externally-focused counterparts. Continue reading
This continues a series begun last spring. If you’re new to this series, or wish a refresher, see Part 1–The Magical World, Part 2—Institutions and Groups, Part 3—The Trio, and Part 4—The Evanses and Dursleys for this series’ introduction and context.
The Grangers are Muggles, and Hermione is the only Muggle-born character we see who struggles between her love for and loyalty to both her blood family and wizarding family. Hermione is lucky—her parents are enthusiastic about their daughter’s magical abilities, embrace the magical world and her school, and are proud of her accomplishments.
Muggle parents are fascinating to contemplate. What do they think when they learn the source of their child’s strange, unfocused and troubling abilities? When their 11-year olds get a letter from complete strangers inviting them to a school the family has never heard of, to be taught to use their strange abilities? Who would believe it? We never hear of a Parent’s Day at Hogwarts, so do the parents ever even visit the school where their children spend seven years? Also, once the child enters the magical world, he or she is also leaving the Muggle world and its interests, most likely for good. Do the parents mourn? Worry? Feel conflicted over divided loyalties? Do they have the urge to pull their child out of the Wizarding World, and what happens to a magical Muggle child denied a wizarding education?
Unfortunately, we never get a glimpse into these quandaries beyond Hermione’s parents, and we get very little there.
Literally! Throughout Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley have been juxtaposed—both in the air of the Quidditch field and on the ground—as Harry’s possible love interests:
“Yeah,” said Ron slowly, savoring the words, “we won. Did you see the look on Chang’s face when Ginny got the Snitch right out from under her nose?” (OotP, chap. 31, p. 704)
Boy, did Ginny ever get “the Snitch right out from under” Cho’s nose! As we see yet again, when “Ginny play[s] Seeker against Cho” in Half-Blood Prince and Gryffindor beats Ravenclaw 450 points to 140, the other Snitch that Ginny was “Seeking” enters the Gryffindor Common Room and stumbles upon the big celebration of the Quidditch win:
“Harry looked around; there was Ginny running toward him; she had a hard, blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her.” (HBP, chap. 24, pp. 532-33)
Halloween marks the occasion of the death of Nearly Headless Nick (a.k.a. Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington), which was caused by having been “hit forty-five times in the neck with a blunt axe” (CoS p. 123).
We find out in Chapter 12 of Chamber of Secrets that October 31, 1992 is Nick’s five hundredth deathday. Hoping that Harry will attest to Nick’s being impressively frightening so that he might be allowed to join the Headless Hunt, Nick invites Harry and his friends to his Deathday Party. Ron skeptically asks a good question: “Why would anyone want to celebrate the day they died?” And Hermione characteristically looks forward to what she can learn from the experience: “A deathday party? . . . I bet there aren’t many living people who can say they’ve been to one of those—it’ll be fascinating!” (CoS p. 130).
With Hermione’s inquisitive spirit, let’s have a go at wrestling with Ron’s question. Is there something more going on here than a chillingly gothic setting for the horrors to be unleashed by the re-opening of the Chamber of Secrets?
Part III: Lockean Law of Nature
This is the third of a three-part series on Lockean political themes in Order of the Phoenix. (Click on these links, if you missed order cheap viagrarg/un-locke-ing-order-of-the-phoenix-part-i-7412/”>Part I: Creating a Legitimate Order and Part II: When Reason Rebels.) Here, I’d like to pick up on the mention made in Part I about Lockean pre-political moral standing, since this is both the source of the purpose of the state and the moral justification for a right to rebellion: In a State of Nature humans are free and equal, according to the Law of Nature. Locke’s natural law/natural rights theory about moral standing provides the philosophical grounding for protection of what he broadly terms “property” (i.e., life, health, liberty, and possessions). This post also picks up on a theme present in several comments made especially by Mary Ellen, namely, the unequal treatment of various (Lockean) moral agents (e.g., Elves, Centaurs, Half-Giants, Half-Bloods, Mud-Bloods, etc.) that serves as a strong sub-plot in the series.
If Prisoner of Azkaban is about Harry’s father and Half-Blood Prince is about his mother, Order of the Phoenix is about family relationships.
Family Ties That Bind, Choke, and Divide
We have many families in Harry Potter’s world, but only four of the ones we meet are intact nuclear families—the Dursleys, the Weasleys, the Grangers, and the Malfoys. The others are splintered by dysfunction, death, and division.
In OotP several families are already familiar to us and we learn more about them, while others are introduced for the first time. Some are conventional families by blood, while others are unconventional, formed of individuals bonded together by love, propinquity, and shared goals. Families of either kind can provide loving, beneficial, and health-giving environments or offer bitter estrangements and permanent, damaging wounds. In both types of families given prominence throughout the series we encounter only one good father figure and three good mother figures.
Familial connection and disconnection are key themes in OotP, with family members shown to be loving, happy, involved, cruel, intolerant, disaffected, emotionally injured, and sometimes combinations of these traits. Several families in the book suffer the loss of a parent or parental figure: Arthur Weasley’s near fatal injury; Dumbledore’s emotional and physical absence; Sirius Black’s death; Hagrid’s absence while on assignment; Frank and Alice Longbottom’s insanity, and Lucius Malfoy’s imprisonment.
In J.K. Rowling’s seven-book saga, and in this book in particular, characters are framed in families and tribes, with many dynamics at play. Their dramas raise many questions. What is the family structure? How does a family support or deny its members, and vice versa? How do parental expectations burden a child and must the child live up to them to be accepted? How does abuse impact children’s lives into adulthood? Is individuality encouraged, or at least allowed? How far does tolerance go? How are families split or mended? Is someone or something outside or within the family usurping it? Should a child become the family caretaker? What is the breaking point of family relationship, and when do family members become “other”? Can deep wounds and rifts heal? What does “brethren” really mean? Am I my brother’s keeper?
There are no easy answers, because Rowling gives us no family that is ideal or without imperfection, one lighting the way by sterling example. Family relationships, blood or chosen, suffer tension, pain, or alienating discord. We follow a family’s progress and growth, but the end result disappoints our hopes for them. We want something better, all the messiness tied up in a hopeful bow.
Rowling refuses pretty ribbons. We see ourselves in her families filled with selfish, noble, immature, wounded, aspiring, sacrificial, unkind, nutty, fallible, relatable people. Restoration and resolution, when it occurs (and often it doesn’t), is hopeful but flawed—sometimes satisfying and sometimes incomplete. Such honesty about family dynamics is one of the strongest aspects of the Harry Potter books. Rowling portrays families as they are, rather than how we’d like them to be. And this reality rings true.
Over the course of three posts, we’ll examine the many family units in OotP. However, before we can discuss individual wizarding families, we must look at the wider picture—the umbrella of the magical world itself. So we’ll begin by examining that umbrella, and how the racial families under it relate to it and to each other. All page references are from the Scholastic editions.
Part II: When Reason Rebels
It’s been a while since I posted Part I: Creating a Legitimate Order (apologies for the delay) in this three-part series (with Part III: Lockean Law of Nature to come out in the Spring) on Lockean political philosophy themes in Order of the Phoenix. The previous post focused on Locke’s justification in his Second Treatise of Government for the two-stage move from the state of nature to a political society/civil order by means of express consent. Some parallels were drawn, despite some disanalogy, between this two-stage move and Hermione’s role in the two-stage founding of Dumbledore’s Army.
This post focuses on Locke’s justification for the people’s right of rebellion/revolution when their legitimately constituted legislature/ruler violates the purpose of the state. Hermione—as the mind/reason figure—will again figure prominently in drawing parallels in OotP (with a little Deathly Hallows sprinkled in).
Part I: Creating a Legitimate Order
Seventeenth-century British philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) penned a number of influential works in the history of modern philosophy, but one was especially revolutionary: Second Treatise of Government (1689-90). Much in here profoundly affected Thomas Jefferson’s drafting of The Declaration of Independence–there is easily 25% similarity between the wording of Locke’s Second Treatise and Jefferson’s Declaration–from all men being born free and equal according to the Law of Nature to the authority of government by consent to the right of revolution.
Given Locke’s influence and British pedigree, it would be unsurprising for strands of his political thought to have been woven into Rowling’s saga. A close reading of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix shows signs of a Lockean (if not Locke’s) approach to moving from a state of nature to a civil society and to that move’s being legitimately grounded in consent.