Now we have come to the fifth instalment of Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts. And it is still magical, but not all nice and enchanting. Like all the previous sequels it is the logical next step in Harry’s journey and as he progresses through the years his journey becomes darker and darker.
After the ending of The Goblet of Fire we knew Year 5 wasn’t going to be much more cheerful. And we were right… The whole book takes a much more grown up and darker view. Harry does not only have to deal with being famous just at school – the Ministry is trying everything to discredit him and he gets a lot of unwanted press attention. And Dolores Umbridge is not exactly a likable character… It is unbelievable how well J.K. Rowling got her nastiness across. She has a perfect eye for characterisation. So the new situation and new characters make the whole book darker. There are not so many light moments anymore and the few “good” moments are usually giving us a grim satisfaction, because they are about getting back on Umbridge or the Ministry.
Moreover I found Harry’s attitude in this book very difficult. Yes, I know where it’s coming from and I can often understand him as well. But his irritable temper makes it sometimes difficult to stay completely on his side. He isn’t treating Cho very nicely and Ron and Hermione get a fair share of undeserved snaps. In a way, it’s only natural Harry is harassed, apart from the connection to Voldemort – the whole Ministry situation is far from ideal and it threatens to take Hogwarts as his home away. I would be irritable as well. But it does make for a more emotionally difficult read, in my opinion.
It sounds a bit harsh, but I think the 5th book is my least favourite. Of course I love the whole series, but if I had to make a ranking The Order of the Phoenix would come last. One of my reasons is Harry’s temper and the overall more negative feel. Also I feel the story is too long in places – says the Lord of the Rings fan 😉 I just feel that in the previous books the narrative was taut and directed and in comparison for me the 5th book seems a little lost sometimes in scenes that don’t lead anywhere. Maybe that’s why the first three stories are my favourites – one thing leads neatly to another until the conclusion. I think I prefer that kind of storytelling for Harry Potter, even though I of course love all the little random details.
In The Order of the Phoenix Harry moves from passive to active. He had always been forced to react or he had been carried along by the events or other people’s actions. Now, with a little nudge from Hermione, he is becoming an active agent. He leads the DA, he is fighting back, he goes purposefully on an “adventure” to save Sirius. Before he has just been dragged into these kind of things. I think he doesn’t quite know who he is at the beginning, but he is finding out more and more. He is growing up and is learning more about himself all the time. We can see he is on his way to complete the journey to become an adult.
All in all The Order of the Phoenix leaves a rather dark impression and leaves us wondering whether Harry will ever have a quiet year at Hogwarts. We follow his journey, as he continues to learn more about who he is, as he actively fights against injustice and the dark powers. Part 6 is waiting and it is taking us even deeper into evil plots and dark revelations.