The fifth book begins with a very disgruntled Harry spending his summer holidays with the Dursleys and itching to find out what has been happening in the wizarding world since the return of Lord Voldermort. However, he can’t seem to get straight answers from anyone and this only fuels his anger. Eventually he is taken to Grimmauld Place where he finds the members of the Order of the Phoenix. The group of witches and wizards who are planning to fight Voldermort. However, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George and Ginny are underage and hence not permitted to be part of the Order or know too much about their undertakings. That doesn’t stop Sirius and Lupin informing them that Lord Voldermort this time is after a weapon. A weaapon that is very powerful. However, the details remain unknown to Harry and his friends. After Harry manages to get acquitted in a trial for using underage magic outside of school and in front of a muggle (Dudley), he gets back to Hogwarts with Ron and Hermione being chosen as prefects for Gryffindor. They are in for a surprise in their crucial fifth year where they have to take exams known as the O.W.L. (Ordinary Wizarding Levels). The Ministry of Magic appears to be infiltrating Hogwarts with one of their staff being appointed as the Defence against the Dark Arts teacher: Dolores Umbridge. They still do not believe Voldermort has returned and the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge is adamant that Dumbledore is plotting against him. As Umbridge wreaks havoc as a teacher with the help of the Ministry and refuses to teach her subject to the standard it should be taught, Harry and his friends on Hermione’s idea, start secret meetings of their own practising defence against the dark arts. Taught by Harry. Harry’s school year continues as he goes on a forgettable date with Cho Chang, gets banned from playing Quidditch, has visions of walking through a dark passage, sees Dumbledore ousted as principal, wonders why Dumbledore doesn’t make eye contact with him and also has visions occasionally of Voldermort’s experiences. He is asked to practise Occlumency with Professor Snape by Dumbledore in order to be able to block his mind from the visions he has been having; however, being a teenager and not liking Snape result in him not really learning this skill. Which consequently results in a thrilling and heart-wrenching finale.
After the third book, I think this is probably one of my favourites. I did not see the ending coming and the loss of one of my favourite characters had me in tears. In this book though, Harry is not very likeable particularly in the beginning where he seems to think every one is against him and he is better than Ron and Hermione. Furthermore, his anger at them is a bit too egocentric given that they have stood by him through a lot. Yet at the same time, this depiction is that of any teenager. The egocentrism, the flouting of rules, the mood swings, the impulsive behaviour — very common of adolescence where consequences of ones actions are not always thought about. And Harry, makes a big mistake by letting his arrogance get the better of him when it comes to learning Occlumency.
The role of the corrupt Ministry is not dissimilar to governments we see in so many countries around the world. The ease with which educational decrees are passed all for the benefit of the Ministry with no thought of the students or others, reminds you of the power governments can hold, particularly in some countries where democracy is but a farce. The Ministry hears what it wants to hear and chooses to speak ill and come down hard on those against it. Almost like a dictatorship. The role the media plays in printing and delivering the community with lies is also an important factor especially when you think about the power of the media in our world. How many people make up their minds just based on what the media tells them? In the same manner, majority of the wizarding world makes up its minds about Harry and Dumbledore and how the former is just craving for attention and is nothing short of a lunatic thanks to the Daily Prophet.
The importance of education is also highlighted in this book where the Ministry through Umbridge threatens to deny first Harry’s individual right to education, and then the rest of the students’ rights by teaching them a tame version of an important subject. But by educating themselves in this area, a number of students are empowered. Finally, an important theme in this book is unity. Dumbledore is trying to get the giants and the goblins on the good side because only then can they fight Voldermort. The Sorting hat talks about the students being united and fighting the war. However, the manner in which students are segregated into houses itself kind of defeats this. At the same time, Harry’s friends stay united in their attempt to help him — Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and a new character, Luna all insist on coming with him to the Ministry of Magic in the end and by keeping a united front, they are able to stave off the Death Eaters until members of the Order arrive.
Once again, a fantastic piece of work by J. K. Rowling. There is the ever ongoing theme of bravery and the discrimination that exists in the wizarding world. Her characters are brilliant. Umbridge is a new addition and is a fantastic character in that you loathe her with all your heart. You get annoyed with the “hem, hem” by Umbridge because you just know she is just going to say something horrible. You can visualise her toad-like features and it makes you squirm. Luna Lovegood too is an interesting quirky character. I love how Ron is developing, how Hermione is so smart and a great friend to have and how Ginny is no longer shy but outspoken and funny. And of course, Fred and George Weasley are absolute riots!
Until next time,