Hullo, my friends!
As predicted, I have recently finished the fifth installment in the Harry Potter book series: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Wow. Honestly, all I can really say after reading this book is just wow.
But, not to worry! I won’t limit this delicious opportunity to dissect and analyze a book to a simple “wow.” That’s what this analysis is about: to elaborate on that “wow.” That is precisely what I intend to do.
As with my usual “spotlight” posts, I’m going to highlight the themes and ideas that stuck out most to me while reading this book…and good Lord, it was a good one. So far, it is my favorite book in the series.
Yes, all eight-hundred seventy pages of it! So much so that I’m already nearly fifty pages in to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Don’t even get me going on that one. So wonderful.
So, without further adieu, let’s address the top three themes, shall we? Firstly, I want to address the prominent and demanding theme of the Mind as seen in this book. The Mind played a significant, and I mean significant part in this book, and I think the whole idea of thought, psychology, and mental health was practically screaming out as I read this.
Secondly, I want to address the equally as loud theme of Order. Yes, this book is called the Order of the Phoenix, but that’s not why I’m choosing to elaborate on this theme. Not only was “order” visible in the coordinated and organized group of aurors, but it was also seen overtly and obnoxiously in the person of Professor Dolores Umbridge….more on this in a few.
Lastly, the theme of singularity. Everything in the Harry Potter series is abnormal, true, but this book particularly stresses the ups and downs of being “odd.”
And, again, as I usually suggest, please don’t read the below if you haven’t read this book yet. Unless you want major spoilers.
Okay, last chance to turn back! Read at your own risk!
Alright, if you keep reading, it’s officially your fault and I do not take responsibility for crushed souls and ruined expectations (if that’s even applicable). Ahem.
- #1 – The Mind
“Only Muggles talk of ‘mind reading.’ The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be persuaded by any invader. The mind is a complex and many-layered thing, Potter…or at least, most minds are….” He smirked. “It is true, however, that those who have mastered Legilimency are able, under certain circumstances, to delve into the minds of their victims and to interpret their findings correctly. The Dark Lord, for instance, almost always knows when somebody is lying to him. Only those skilled at Occlumency are able to shut down those feelings and memories that contradict the lie, and so utter falsehoods in his presence without detection.”
Professor Snape, from Chapter Twenty-four, “Occlumency”
Early on in The Order of the Phoenix, Harry begins to realize that he has an odd and rather frightening connection with Lord Voldemort himself…through his mind. Harry feels the same emotions, at times, and has dreams of what the Dark Lord plans or does.
After having a dream of possessing a snake and nearly killing one of the members of the Order of the Phoenix, Harry is commanded by Professor Dumbledore to begin lessons from Professor Snape in the magical art of “occlumency,” the process of shutting down one’s mind and protecting it from being invaded by outside forces. The putting away of feelings, the determination to resist the temptation to let them control you.
I honestly thought this was an essentially appropriate time for Rowling to bring up the problem of the mind. She has before, naturally, but this book really emphasized its role in Harry’s life. He, now at the age of fifteen, is becoming a young man, a young wizard, and the mind, as one get’s older, becomes a greater role in one’s life.
Harry has seen so much with his mind: he sees Voldemort torturing a death eater for a plan gone wrong (a useful bit of information), he sees Mr. Weasley being attacked by a snake (also a wonderful bit of information which prevented Mr. Weasley’s death), and he sees Voldemort’s target: the obscure door at the end of the hallway at the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic (which also gives Harry an idea of what Voldemort is up to and how he can be stopped…useful, yes?).
With all of these helpful tidbits and glances into Voldemort’s mind, Harry is befuddled and frustrated when his professors tell him to clear his mind of emotion to resist glimpsing his enemy’s plans. “Why?” Harry constantly wonders. If it weren’t for his ability to see the snake, Mr. Weasley would be dead and would have left his wife and plethora of red-headed children behind.
To the reader’s dismay, Harry disregards their warnings casually.
When the mind takes over the actions of the body, that is when terrible things happen. Only then, when the mind loses its boundaries, can it be a truly dangerous thing. The mind is wonderful, beautiful, and capable of incredible feats. Our minds can hold more information than any super computer on earth. Humans come up with immense ideas, discover hidden truths, and cope with challenging situations.
However, when the mind is used for ill and begins to control rather than contribute to the body’s actions, bad things are bound to follow.
As seen in the book, Harry is instructed and heavily admonished by Ron and Hermoine to work hard and study Occlumency and resist the temptation to explore the mind of his enemy. When Harry dreams of his beloved godfather, Sirius, being tortured by Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries itself, he feels he has no choice but to rescue him there.
With his loyal friends Ron, Hermoine, Neville, Ginny, and newest character Luna Lovegood, Harry flies to London and finally sees, in reality, the mysterious corridor he has dreamed of for months. When he finally reaches the place where Sirius was in his dream, Harry and the gang realize, with horror, that it was all a trick. Sirius is not only not there, but a crowd of death eaters, including Lucius Malfoy and the venomously frightening Azkaban escapee Bellatrix Lestrange, are surrounding them.
Yes, the Dark Lord discovered Harry’s connection to his mind and used it against him. Seeing, knowing, and feeling Harry’s love for Sirius, Voldemort lured him into the trap. Surrounded by Death Eaters, Harry and his friends are once more in danger, but not by accident: because of his decision to let his mind control his body.
And Sirius was killed fighting to save him.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7
Most often, this verse is viewed as a way to overcome the obstacles of fear and doubt, and it should be, but an important factor must be noted well: instead of giving us fear, the Lord gives us a sound mind. The definition of “sound” on Google is, as an adjective, as follows: “based on reason, sense, or judgement.”
The Lord gives us a sound mind; the mind is, as Snape said, a “complex and many-layered thing.” It has the capacities to dream up inventions, discover opportunities and solutions, show love, affection, and anger, etc. However, when the mind is used in a way that dishonors the Creator of it, we instantly fall prey to the Voldemorts of this world. Vulnerable, weak, and unstable.
For me it was daydreaming. I had to learn how to control my mind when it comes to daydreaming, and, as we become young adult people, our bodies begin to change and our minds do wander. Constantly. Difficult? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. In recent years, the demand has become much greater, but every time I practice with the Occlumency of my day (filling my mind with the goodness and grace of Christ), I am no longer vulnerable and weak, but protected, guarded, and vigorous.
And when we do that, we can use the enemy’s tactics against him.
Alright, moving on to number two: order.
- #2 – Order
In this book, there was a funny irony going around. I noticed it a little later than I had expected, and I actually laughed aloud as I thought about it.
There are two types of order in this book: the systematic and logical harmony, and the over-bearing and meticulous demand for perfection. The former was seen in the group of aurors known as “The Order of the Phoenix” (I mean, der…they are called an “order”), and the latter as seen in the person of Professor Dolores Umbridge.
Can we all just agree that Umbridge invokes a *cringe* moment?
I mean, honestly. I was not even at Hogwarts, but I just wanted to scream. I, the reader, felt absolutely suffocated by Umbridge, which, in turn, made me feel absolutely terrible for Harry and the rest of the students…maybe not the Slytherins, but definitely the rest of them. We see Umbridge, and we see the ridiculously obnoxious perfectionist trying to keep everything perfectly in perfect order.
“Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness, and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited.”
Professor Umbridge, from Chapter Eleven, “The Sorting Hat’s New Song”
As the reader advances in the story, Umbridge, little by little does exactly what she says above. Little by little, every ounce of fun or enjoyment left at Hogwarts is “pruned” and all that remains is one ugly, dead tree without leaves. A woman of complete and utter perfection, Umbridge practically destroys Hogwarts, causes students to retaliate dangerously, and even smothers the truth about Harry’s fight with Lord Voldemort in the previous year/book.
To contrast, the Order of the Phoenix brings together everyone’s differences, quirks, and ideas to create one synchronized, harmonious society pledged to the fight against evil and the exaltation of good. All of the members of the Order are, in fact, less than “perfection” as Umbridge terms it. Nymphadora Tonks, a metamorphagus witch, has spiky pink hair, can turn herself into whatever she pleases, and is exceedingly clumsy, especially in Sirius’s mother’s tiny house. Mad-eye Moody is even worse: with a botched nose, scarred face, and a magical eye that swirls around in all directions, he defies any standard of perfection Umbridge would throw his way. Sirius Black can turn into a dog. Lupin is a werewolf. Then there’s the Weasleys with their numerous red-haired, loud, and joyous children.
Even though they cannot be considered “perfect,” they embrace their flaws, their oddities, and their friendship to make the Order more systematic than everything Umbridge tried at Hogwarts. By embracing our flawed natures, likewise, we can turn our eyes toward Christ, who makes us beautifully broken in His global mosaic. Not by letting ourselves sin as we please, but by outlawing the possibility of perfection. By trying ourselves to fix every little problem in our way, we cannot make our life easier: it is only when we see ourselves for who we are that we can live in freedom knowing and living in the peace and grace of Christ.
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.
We don’t arm ourselves with strength or make our own ways perfect: Christ does.
Okie dokie! Moving on to theme three:
- #3. Singularity
With the introduction of Luna Lovegood and thestrals, this book put the emphasis on odd people and ideas. Luna believes the weirdest things, whether it’s wearing turnip earrings to “keep the nargles away” or putting up “lost” notes around Hogwarts so that her missing possessions will come back to her. While some might view her as odd and idiotic, Luna’s resilience and ability to cope with anything thrown her way really draws in the reader. Her interest in crumple horned snorkacks and The Quibbler are lively, and they shed a light upon the dark scenes some of the book includes.
The other idea of oddity shown in the book were portrayed in the thestrals: skeletal horses who are only seen by those who have seen death. Most of the students are afraid of them, but Luna and Harry are particularly drawn to them…especially since they are some of the only ones who can see them.
I actually did not notice this theme until I watched the film, and there’s a scene with Harry and Luna and the thestrals. This was something the film did particularly well, and I wanted to include it in this post:
I think I might just cosplay Luna in a few months. She’s just so adorable and funny. xD
Not only are Luna and the thestrals looked at as odd and weird, but our dear hero Harry is as well. As Harry finds himself at Hogwarts in his fifth year, he also finds disdain, mockery, and ridicule from his fellow students. Remember, Harry claimed to have seen Lord Voldemort rise again in the previous book, The Goblet of Fire. These claims were dismissed by The Ministry of Magic, who repeatedly mocked him in their propaganda newspaper: The Daily Profit.
Harry goes in to Hogwarts being doubted and laughed at by some of his closes friends, including Seamus Finnigan.
Then he [Seamus] said, with his back still turned to Harry, “Me mam didn’t want me to come back.”
“What?” said Harry, pausing in the act of pulling off his robes.
“She didn’t want me to come back to Hogwarts.”
Seamus turned away from his poster and pulled his own pajamas out of his trunk, still not looking at Harry.
“But—why?” said Harry, astonished….
Seamus did not answer until he finished buttoning his pajamas.
“Well,” he said in a measured voice, “I suppose…because of you.”
“What d’you mean?” said Harry quickly. His heart was beating rather fast. He felt vaguely as though something was closing in on him.
“Well,” said Seamus again, still avoiding Harry’s eyes, “she…er…well, it’s not just you, it’s Dumbledore, too…”
“She believes the Daily Profit?” said Harry. “She thinks I’m a liar and Dumbledore’s an old fool?”
Seamus looked up at him. “Yeah, something like that.”
– From Chapter Eleven, “The Sorting Hat’s New Song”
Not only is Harry burdened by the fear of Voldemort’s return, but he’s also burdened by the shame of disbelieving peers.
Harry, Luna, and the thestrals are all examples of the way Rowling portrays oddity in the story. All three of them are laughed, mocked, and scorned at for the things they believe and the beings that they are. Their singularity sets them apart from most everything else in the story, yet that is what makes us, the readers, love them so much. The ugly thestrals, Luna’s quirky ideas, and Harry’s disturbing tale all make the story so much more interesting.
Just as Christians we are to be looked at as quirky by the world surrounding us.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Not only is it normal for us to be different than the rest of our fellow humans, but it is a command from God himself. His plan for us is to draw the attention of the laughing onlooker and for them to see the light pouring through us. The truth pouring through us. The love pouring through us.
That’s just what we see in Harry and Luna. The more they were looked at, the more they were believed, and the more they drew in people of likened minds.
Well, my friends, there it is!
My third analysis post: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I will be archiving this in the “Story Spotlight Posts” page, so if you ever want to read this again, just head there!
To add, I did watch the movie for this book, and it is probably the best of the movie adaptations. Bellatrix. Oh. My. Word. Evanna Lycnh’s Luna Lovegood was splendid. I loved every moment of her performance! Umbridge was a horrible tyrant, which made her great. To be honest, I didn’t really dig the first four movies, just because they really weren’t true to the books, but this one was pretty much there for me. They seem to get better as time goes on!
Also, I have finished King Henry V and will be writing an analysis post on it shortly. Oh. my. gosh. Was it wonderful! He had me crying at “once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Long live King Henry V! Always immortal, even after death.
I’m not saying he’s a ghost, just that his story lives on.
Well, I guess this is goodbye until next time, friends! I have enjoyed this post, and I hope you do, too! Be sure to drop a like, post a comment, share this post, and subscribe to my email list! Until next time!
Oh, and had to post this before I jump off:
Fare thee well, great hearts,
P.S. If you want to get in the Order of the Phoenix mood, here’s my two favorite songs from the film soundtrack: