SNEAK: Our Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

It took me an inordinate amount of time to get through book five. I can't decide if this is because of all the angst, the ultimate sadness that I knew was coming, or a little too much Potter back to back but I've conquered it and now
Michelle and I have returned to share our thoughts.
 
M: Okay so, what I've always said about this book is that it contains Maximum Neville, but here's the thing what this book actually is is the turning point. Everyone comes into their own in this book (with the exception of Harry who spends most of the book confused and angry and Hermione who has known who she was since birth). At one point McGonagall says to Neville, "there's nothing wrong with your work except lack of confidence." Between the release of the individuals who tortured his parents and his experience in the DA, Neville comes in to his power and ability. He's not a great wizard by the end of the book but he's getting there. More importantly though, Neville has always been a great person and I feel like book five is when he realizes it and the trio come to value him as well. And Ginny. Oh Ginny. I never cared much for Ginny on my first reading of the series, but this time around I am in awe of her awesomeness. In this book at age fourteen she decides that she will not longer be shunted to to the sidelines; things are serious, she knows how serious they are, and she is going to help. Basically, it's Neville and Ginny forever now (though not together...I'm too busy shipping Neville and Luna to think about that). So, did you come away with any different perceptions this time around?
 
V: Oh yeah, definitely. Because of what you said about Neville, I paid much more attention to him and to Ginny as well. I completely agree with what you said. I honestly think that a lot of the groundwork for Neville's development in this book was laid by impostor Moody in Book 4, too. Ginny definitely becomes much more of a legitimate character in this book as well, and I adored it! I'm quite a Ginny fan. One character who really surprised me in rereading was Professor McGonagall. I knew she sassed Umbridge a lot in this one, but I don't think I quite understood the full implications of that sort of behavior towards a ministry spy. It had to have taken a great deal of Gryffindor-brand courage for McGonagall to risk her job and really her life as she knows it to stand up to Umbridge like that, especially seeing as how the Ministry treated Dumbledore throughout this book. I could tell that the unfairness and injustice of the whole situation just ate at McGonagall. I was also a bit impressed with Snape. When I read the Occlumency lessons previously, I always assumed Harry and Ron were a little bit right that Snape wasn't really trying to teach him properly. I figured his hatred of Harry stopped him from trying to effectively teach. But he did seem to put in quite a bit of effort. Sure, a lot of it was through anger on both of their parts, but reading the things Snape actually said to him in their lessons, there wasn't as much cruelty and meanness as there normally is between Snape and Harry. He actually gave Harry some good advice that Harry simply ignored. And of course, Snape's worst memory...I read that so differently now that I know the whole story. But I really do with I could punch James, Sirius, AND Snape in that scene.
The thing that struck me the most in this book was actually Harry's grief for Sirius and Dumbledore's sad and pained reaction. That whole scene ripped my heart in two. Harry grieving and trying so hard to deal with this unimaginable pain, and Dumbledore knowing that, through years of trying and trying to spare Harry every bit of pain he could, he ended up causing the worst pain of all. This scene definitely cements for me the fact that Dumbledore legitimately cared for Harry. I know that comes into question later on, but I fully believe that he cared about Harry, and that he knew it was unwise of him to do so. Thoughts on that?
 
M: In his office, after the battle with Voldemort and the death of Sirius, Dumbledore says to Harry, "I cared about you too much ... more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed." That's something a parent feels. Most parents would let the world burn were it to save their child. It's a rather horrible thought, really, but it makes sense. And of course Dumbledore felt an almost parental affection for Harry. He was always there. So yeah, I totally believe that Dumbledore cared deeply for Harry.
Now, I feel like I need to talk about Umbridge. Before we started the series I told you that I was a bit worried that JKR had a woman problem. There was Umbridge and her terrifying femininity, Hermione's constant nagging, and Bellatrix, the Mad Woman. I believed that this problem solidified itself within this book, oh how wrong I was! In this book we do see Umbridge is terrifying and feminine but it's never a note that the two go handedly together - it's just part of this one character. Same with Bellatrix, yes she's mad and she's a woman and there is not a man that is her equal in insanity or hysterics within the series, but Sirius comes pretty close to it at times in both books 4 and 5. I believe that to be more of a tribute to Azkaban than anything else. Then there's Hermione...all of that "nagging" she's done throughout the series, well, it becomes brilliantly clear in this book that if Harry had just listened to her advice more often he would have been much better off. There's also a surprising strength in Luna who can be eerily logical when the situation demands it, and as you say, McGonagall's action throughout the book are inspiring (even at risk to her life, she was almost stunned to death for defending Hagrid). Then there's Ginny, and instead of discussing her character again I'll leave you with this quote from Fred and George, "size is no guarantee of power ... Look at Ginny." Yeah, Ginny Forever.
 
V: I'm so glad you feel that way! I've heard many accusations about Umbridge's character being sexist, since she ends up being more hated than Voldemort in a lot of cases, but I've never really agreed with that idea. Many people think that the hatred everyone feels for Umbridge has a lot to do with her being a woman with power, but I completely disagree. The fandom's hatred of Umbridge has to do with her realness.  There are Umbridge's out there in the world, and many kids deal with them day to day and cannot do anything to fight back. To me, it was never because she was a woman. In fact, her being feminine only made her scarier, because we normally associate that kind of femininity with kindness and more motherly qualities, but she twists that idea entirely. Umbridge is at her most dangerous when she's being falsely sweet...I honestly think Umbridge is aware of that clash and uses it to her advantage. She's probably aware that people underestimate her. I think you're right that there are some excellentexamples of female characters in this series: as you said, McGonagall. Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and we should never forget Molly Weasley. Even more minor characters like Angelina Johnson, who captains the school's underdog sports team to a Quidditch Cup win...JKR knows what's up when it comes to excellent and humanized female characters.
 
And that wraps up our thoughts on Book 5! We've emerged emotionally damaged from Order of the Phoenix, and now we head into the penultimate book of the series, Half-Blood Prince! Don't forget to check out our read-along tweets on Twitter and our Potter postings on Tumblr! Also, don't miss our first podcast, Jiggery Pokery! We'll be recording our second podcast after we finish the series, and we'll be following up on a lot of our mid-series discussion from the first podcast.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Cover Image
By Mary GrandPre (Illustrator), J. K. Rowling
$12.99
ISBN: 9780439358071
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scholastic - August 10th, 2004

The most eagerly anticipated book in history becomes the biggest paperback release of 2004

The book that took the world by storm....