Mild spoilers below
Much anger can I see in that young man.. or so might Yoda have said, if he read HP5. Harry is an angry 15-year-old, fighting hormones, fighting his own poor self-image and fighting, it seems, the rest of the wizarding world almost single handedly in this book. He even ends up fightingor rather shouting at—Ron and Hermione much more than might be good for him.
OotP is more grown-up than the earlier Harry Potter books. Not just darker. JKR has deftly expanded the depth of characterisation in each of the five books so far, to match the expanding world view of a growing teenager. Simultaneously, she has also exanded her vocabulary, using longer, more grown-up words. All these subtle advances allow OotP to jump more than just one level in the depth of the characters.
So this time we see Harry realising that many of his heroes are in some way flawed, while others are impotent. This time we see that Harry himself is a mixture of strange feelings and unfamiliar emotions. We are not simply talking a mixture of good and bad, but Harry is full of confusion and uncertainty.
Harry is directionless in the book. He simply doesn't know what he wants. Late in the book, we see a careers advice session going badly wrong, a subtle message, perhaps, from JKR that Harry hasat age 15no real sense of the future. This explains some of the lack of direction of the book. In previous episodes, Harry knew what he had to do, and he did it. In this one, he is much less sure of himself, and the book reflects this: the events happen all around us, but we somehow feel that Harry is less of a controlling influence and more of a passive observer. I am guessing that the next book will remove some of this doubt and in the final book, Harry will regain his old certainty, but then it will be as a mature adult, prepared, if need be, to sacrifice himself to some greater good.
Up to now, I have always liked book three the best. You could almost tell that JKR was more relaxed about writing that one. It did not seem at all forced or awkward. Now that HP5 is out, I am going to have a hard time deciding which of the two is best. I'll have to read OotP a few more times, but I think book three still just about holds on, mostly because the ending of OotP is relatively weak. As a book, the tension builds steadily, and there is a great deal of interest and humour throughout, but the ending does not fulfill the earlier promise, and (IMHO) lets the book down.
Nevertheless, HP5 is far more complex and layered than any of the previous books. We see all the characters from book three, many from book four and a few of the minor characters from the first two books returning to the scene. We discover much more about the past, but this time from the adult perspective. We see that the simple world view that Harry took with him at the end of books three and four, of a heroic father surrounded by two loyal and equally heroic friends and a fourth, traitorous villain was not necessarily the whole truth. Or even the truth at all.
Throughout the series, we have seen the size and scope of JKR's world expanding as the 'baby who lived' grows into a boy and then a man and on the way expands his own ability to see the world for what it is, rather than how he might like it to be. This book makes a giant leap forward, certainly in terms of geography but more especially in terms of comprehension. Harry really starts to grow up in this book and so do his friends. And it all happens at about age 15. JKR knows her teenagers.
The book kicks off right from the start with revelations about the people who live in Little Whinging. Everyone guessed that Mrs Figg was not all she seemed, and we discover that we were right, but not in the way we expected. We see a lot of changes in the Dursley household—it is not only Harry who is growing up. But even in this parody of curtain-twitching suburbia, the Dursleys have some surprises for us.
Through all this, we find a confused and hormonal Harry striking out at friends and enemies alike, desperate for news of Voldemort and for news of his friends.
Back in the real world, it has been three years since book four came out. Three years since we first visualised those terrible scenes of Voldemort's resurrection, but I had to keep reminding myself in the first few chapters of OotP that those events are only a few weeks old in JKR's fictional world. It took a conscious effort of will to remember that Harry is still shocked at the memories and deeply worried about the implications of that horrific resurrection.
Some have complained that the first few chapters in OotP are a bit slow. I agree that JKR spends a lot of time showing her readers that this book is different, but I don't think that makes for a slow start. The scene-setting in those early chapters is vital for the rest of the book. We learn that the Ministry is using the Daily Prophet to discredit Harry and to smear Dumbledore. We discover that simple vanity, and the jealousy that goes with it, has turned Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge into a vicious ostrich, one moment hiding his head in the sand of denial over Voldemort's return, and the next using his power to discredit those who want to reveal the truth and destroy their means to tell others. What does this tell us about JKR's view of governments and the media?
When Harry meets Fudge once more, in these early chapters, Fudge is anything but the bumbling, avuncular figure we met at the beginning of book three. He is on a mission to destroy Harry's reputation, discredit Dumbledore and all his allies and remove Dumbledore from any position of influence. He succeeds in most of these aims, and so impairs the fight against Voldemort.
Meanwhile, we discover—as many fansites predicted— that the Order of the Phoenix is a group of adult wizards and witches who fight Voldemort and his followers, the Death-Eaters. The OrderDumbledore's "old crowd" of book 4has re-formed following Voldemort's resurrection and is attempting to prevent Voldemort's return to power.
Eventually, all scene-setting finished, JKR brings the friends back to Hogwarts, but Hogwarts has changed. The new DADA teacher is indeed a woman, but not one that any of the fansites guessed. She is a new character completely. Did I say that all the characters had shades of grey in their personality? I was wrong.
Dolores Umbridge is 100 percent nasty, spiteful, and narrow minded and we all quickly come to hate her. Even Snape has his fansand probably more of them after this bookbut Umbridge…. She is JKR's most brilliant (and most hateful) character yet. She plays a dominant role throughout the book, acting as the personification of the Ministry's increasing power at Hogwarts, and becoming an allegory for all the small-mindedness and spite of power-crazed civil servants who put their own petty personal agendas above the greater good. Now, what were we saying about JKR's view of governments?
One of the interesting things about Umbridge is that she is evil. Not in the same comic-book way that Voldemort is evil, but the evil she doeslike the thought police in Orwell's 1984is forcing people to pretend to believe something they know to be false. This is in some ways a more pernicious form of evil than the terrorism practised by Voldemort. JKR is exploring different kinds of evil here, and she has some very challenging ideas, for 15-year-olds and adults alike.
Umbridge aside, There are other new characters. And many of the older ones start to become properly fleshed out. The fansites are full of approving references to the slightly peculiar Luna Lovegood, and to the heroic transformation we find in another of Harry's fellow Gryffindors. Another vote of approval from the fansites comes in response to the maturing of Ginny Weasley. She becomes a strong character in her own right: intelligent, courageous, assertive and kind, but also ruthless in her ability to lie with a straight face. And she's a better Quidditch seeker than Cho Chang. Ginny has become one hot red-headed chick and I am sure she will play a larger role in future books. Hermione, previously used by JKR to explain the history of Hogwarts and describe magical culture, now becomes the plot device to show Harry (and the poor readers) the strengths and flaws in many of the adult (and student) characters. She is constantly explaining to Harry why so-and-so said this or that, or burst into tears, or acted out of character. Her insights are a valuable guide to the people who surround Harry, and JKR rarely allows Hermione to be mistaken in her analysis.
Serious spoilers below
With the emergence of so many strong characters among the Hogwarts schoolgirls, we also find Harry feeling many mixed emotions. He gets his first kiss under the mistletoe and his first real date, which he messes up completely. True to the mood of the book, these things happen to a near-passive Harry, rather than as a result of any deliberate action on his part.
Continuing the theme of more subtle characterisation, just as Harry is becoming aware of more complex emotions within himself, we also discover that some of the emotions he is feeling belong to someone else. Harry has discovered that he can sense the emotional state of Voldemort. Again, though, the things which happen to Harry come from outside, rather than from Harry's own volition.
This mutual awareness continues a trend in the books, and I have to put my own theory in here. Harry and Voldemort seem to be growing closer in thought, emotion and deed. Was anyone else surprised at how willingly Harry fired the cruciatus curse at Bellatrix Lestrange. That should be enough to land him a life sentence in Azkaban. Another trial in book 6, anyone?
We already knew there were parallels in their parentage, orphan status and powersnot to mention their wandsbut OotP shows that this increasing similarity is no coincidence. It will, I am convinced, become a dominant aspect of the last two books. My guess is, the parallels and interconnections will be pivotal in the resolution of the Harry/Voldemort conflict. This is reinforced by the final chapters of OotP, in which we discover that Harry and Voldemort are (probably) linked by a life-death bond. One has to die 'at the hand' of the other.
Having discovered that Harry can sense Voldemort's emotions, Dumbledore suspects, rightly, that the power is reciprocal, and sends Harry for private lessons to hide his emotions from Voldemort.
During these lessons he starts to understand more about the time Mooney, Padfoot Wormtail and Prongs were at school, and how they behaved, and how that behaviour was perceived by others. It is a sobering lesson in how his own behaviour might be interpreted by current Hogwarts residents.
In a separate thread, a small group of Hogwarts student s form themselves into 'Dumbledore's Army' as a junior league to the adult 'Order of the Phoenix. This allows JKR to move away from the over-familiar Harry-Ron-Hermione-Malfoy cycle and involve more students in the Hogwarts action. It is a good decision, allowing her to tell us much more about other students who, up to now, have been mere walk-on characters. Beyond that, it allows us to see possible relationships forming among this new core gang.
Harry, Hermione and Ron are in their fifth year, taking their OWL exams and the workload is arduous. Fred and George by contrast, are in their seventh and final year and supposed to be taking their final exams, NEWTs. However, they seem to spend more time testing samples for their joke-shop-to-be than school work. In one of the funniest scenes of the whole series, they decide they have had enough of Umbridge and Hogwarts and depart in spectacular fashion to set up shop with Harry's Triwizard winnings.
As the emotional link between Harry and Voldemort grows, Harry discovers that Voldemort is desperate to get his hands on someting hidden deep in the Ministry of Magic. Eventually, Harry decides he has to go there. Harry finds his way to the correct place and finds a prophecy hidden within a crystal ball. He takes the ball, but it is a trap. All Voldemort's Death-Eaters are there, including those who, earlier in the book, escaped from Azkaban.
In a scene which should have been gripping, but which I found too much like a poor Keystone Kops episode, Harry and his fellow DA students attempt to fight off the Death-Eaters. Honestly, six 15-year-olds trying to fight off a dozen sadistic, wizarding murderers, bent on revenge? I simply don't see it. Malfoy should have picked the kids off one by one to force Harry to hand the ball over. But no, all the kids escape with no permanent injury and then Harry is cornered, and just as he is about to hand over the prophecy, all his adult friends in the OotP arrive to fight the Death Eaters. There is another terrific battle, during which the predicted death occurs, and the crystal ball is smashed. Eventually Dumbledore arrives to help his friends, and easily defeats all the Death Eaters. Harry meanwhile chases one of them (who caused the awful death) and does battle. Eventually, Voldemort himself turns up, and Harry has to face him yet again . Once more Dumbledore arrives and, in a scene reminiscent of Yoda facing Count Dooku in Star Wars-2, fights Voldemort. It is quite clear that Dumbledore is the superior wizard, but Voldemort still manages to escape.
Finally we have the denouement, with the prophecy revealed and Dumbledore's de-briefing, in which he reveals to Harry why Vodemort wants to kill him, but precious little else. Nothing about Lily; nothing about the eyes; nothing about family histories. Personally, I think the line "Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything." is a serious exaggeration, because the explanation falls so far short of the full story that it is a real disappointment. Throughout the speech, Harry remains belligerent and angry, while Dumbledore is reduced to tears. Dumbledore once more insists that Harry was able to repel Voldemort because of the strength of his love for his godfather. Voldemort was not able to remain in Harry's mind through Harry's intense love for Sirius.
At last, following the near-destruction of the Ministry of Magic and the capture of all but one of the Death-Eaters, and the appearance of Voldemort, the Minister for Magic acknowledges that Voldemort really is back, and instructs the Daily Prophet to inform the wizarding world of the fact. Harry is at last exonerated.
A touching scene at the end of the book has all Harry's adult wizard friends seeing him off to the Dursley's and for almost the first time in OotP, we see Harry's anger starting to subside. A hint of the mood in book 6, perhaps. We should see Harry more at ease with himself.
While OotP repeats the same formula of Dursleys-Hogwarts-schoolyear-climax-debriefing-Dursleys, it is such a many-layered book that, in my own opinion it was worth the wait. Book 4, although long and involving did seem a little ponderous in the middle and overly rushed at the end. JKR got the balance much better with this one, building the pace more steadily and, although the final climax is perhaps more gimmicky and less intense than the climax of book 4, it still leaves us just the same way: begging for more. I hear she has already started Book 6. Let's not rush her for that one. She needs the time to write it properly. This time the wait was worth it.
What is to come in books six and seven?
These may change...
Hopefully we will see Harry in a more confident mood. Of course, he has to get the results of his OWL tests, which are likely to be good, because he will probably try to be an auror. This means he continues to study potions under Snape and Transfiguration under McGonagall. I think this because in a live webcast on 26 June, 2003, JKR said her reading (of the careers advice episode) contained a hint of some of the content of book 6.
No doubt Voldemort will be growing stronger. Now that the Ministry has officially acknowledged he is back, he will be free to appear and wreak havoc once more, but how will he act without his death eaters? We will also see, I guess, how the Ministry treats the captured death eaters, including Lucius Malfoy. I guess book 6 will be shorter and simpler than 4 or 5, setting the scene for the big showdown in book 7.
I think we have to see Harry fall properly in love, and then Voldemort will use this love-interest as a lever against Harry. Voldemort has used everyone that Harry has truly loved, and killed them, one by one. My guess for the final book is Ginny Weasley. She is turning into a formidable character. Will she survive? Or will Harry have to make a choice?
JKR has put in a number of hints that Harry and Ginny might end up together. Not least was the Hogwarts Express scene in the first book, with a love-struck Ginny running along by the train as it pulls out of King's Cross. Surely that was foreshadowing a future scene carrying a great deal more emotional power.
Ginny has already been possessed by Voldemort once, With her DADA lessons from Harry, her native wit and her ability to lie and to love, she stands as good a chance as any of the students of getting away through her own merits. It is also interesting to note that Harry saved Ginny's life in the Chamber of Secrets, so there might be some kind of extra connection there, should Voldemort try to use Harry's love for Ginny against him.
I also think we have to see many of the former characters, and especially Hagrid's creatures, return for the big fight at the end of book 7: I want to see Norbert come back. Otherwise, what was the point of introducing him in book 1. I also think we will see Grawp again for the same reason. I would not be surprised to see Aragog and the spiders making an appearance for the good guys.
Neville has been set up for a much more important role in the last two books. I somehow feel that he will come out of it all as one of the main heroes, possibly by being the one to capture or cause the death of Bellatrix Lestrange. He has been more than a bit-part all along, and his love of herbology, his affinity with plants and his growing courage are all leading somewhere... And then there was that prediction. Expect Neville the wimp to become Neville the major character.
Then there is Pettigrew. JKR kept him hidden in this book, but he has to return in book 6 or 7, so that the life-debt he owes to Harry can be the flaw in one of Voldemort's plans.
Snape is made still more complex in this installment. We see clearly that he is a spy for the order, and that he can both close certain parts of his mind to other wizards, and probe their minds for thoughts, memories and emotions, but hidden in the book is a clear reference that Snape is beholden to Lucius Malfoy. We see Sirius taunting Snape about snivelling to Malfoy and other references. When I re-read the other books, looking for evidence of a strong connection between Snape and the Malfoy family, there are many references to such a link. Looks like Snape does pretty much what Lucius Malfoy tells him.
Luna... Now what is she doing? Luna Lovegood. JKR has a Dickensian way of naming her characters according to their characteristics. Ms Lovegood has to be the love interest for one of the main characters. Hermione and Ron will end up together. That's more or less a certainty. I already said I think Harry will go out with Ginny in book 7, but maybe Harry and Luna will be drawn together in book 6. Such speculation aside,
I think Luna will end up with Neville. He was always described as having a moon-shaped face, and her name seems to hint at a moon connection. In any case, there is something about her that remains to be seen. Update 11 Dec., 2004 Wrong! JKR specifically said on her site that the two will not become more than (platonic) friends. She's a bit too wacky for Neville.
And Dumbledore. He is still, obviously, more powerful than Voldemort. Witness that last battle scene in book 5, but he is growing old and weary. He had to use other objects and creatures to block Voldemort's Avada Kedavra spells. I have a feeling that he will not survive all the way to the end of book 7. Probably he will give his life to save Harry, because I think that Dumbledore too loves Harry, and this will help Harry to finally overcome Voldemort at the end.
Finally, what about Harry? JKR has repeatedly said there will be exactly seven Harry Potter adventures; no more, no less. When asked what will happen to Harry after book seven, or if she will be able to resist pressure to stop writing about him, she now responds cryptically, "How do you know Harry will survive?"
I admit to being puzzled by this. But if you want to stop writing about a fictional character, there is no better way than to kill them off. However, in the early days, just after books one and two were published, her answer to the same question was different. She implied that Harry does survive to the end of book seven, but that she would choose not to write anything about Harry beyond his 17th year.
So I think the only result is that 'Good' wins over 'Evil' and that Voldemort is finally vanquished at the end of book seven. My guess is that Dumbledore dies (in book 7) to save Harry. This gives Harry the power to first resist and then defeat Voldemort.
It's wild speculation, but I think love is the key to the whole thing. Dumbledore constantly tells Harry how love saves him from Voldemort. First it was his mother's love and self-sacrifice. Next, it is Harry's (platonic) love for Ron and Hermione which enables him to drive off the dementors, then at the end, it is Harry's love for Sirius that drives Voldemort out of Harry's mind. And then there was that room in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry, which was devoted to love.
I'm starting to form the idea that Harry's platonic love is powerful enough to protect Harry from Voldemort, but when enhanced by the power of sexual love, it will be enough to defeat Voldemort. Maybe, as Harry falls properly in love, and Voldemort tries to use Harry's lover as a lever, they come face to face. Voldemort tries to possess and dominate Harry once more, but the passion of Harry's love is enough to destroy Voldemort.
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