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Harry Potter (Series) | Study Guide

J.K. Rowling

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Harry Potter (Series) | Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | Summary

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About the Title

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the resistance to Voldemort and his Death Eaters begins to take shape. Adult witches and wizards who oppose Voldemort may join the Order of the Phoenix, led by Albus Dumbledore.

Summary

Unauthorized Use of Magic

When Dementors appear near the Dursleys' home and attack Dudley, Harry must use magic to protect his cousin. Fearing expulsion for the unauthorized use of magic, Harry sends letters to Hermione, Ron, and Sirius. Several wizards, including the real Mad-Eye Moody, Lupin, and a young witch named Tonks, arrive at the Dursleys' to help him get safely to Number 12, Grimmauld Place—the Black ancestral home and the new headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. When they all arrive, Harry finds his friends there as well as most of the Weasley family. In addition, a house-elf named Kreacher who belongs to the Black family lives there. Kreacher hates the Order of the Phoenix because the Black family—except for Sirius—have been Voldemort supporters.

Harry has to attend a hearing for his illegal use of magic. Despite the fact many in the Ministry of Magic think he should be expelled, he is cleared of the charges since the magic was used for protection. On the train to Hogwarts, he meets Luna Lovegood, whose father owns a disreputable news magazine called the Quibbler.

The High Inquisitor

The beginning-of-the-year feast is tense. Much of the wizarding world, following the Ministry of Magic's lead, is in denial Voldemort is back. Harry is regarded by many as someone who makes up outrageous stories. Still, Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix are working secretly to prepare for war with Voldemort. A new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, sickly sweet Dolores Umbridge, has been sent by the Ministry of Magic to spy on Dumbledore and make sure rumors of Voldemort's return are not allowed to grow. Naturally, she takes a dislike to Harry and gives him detention at the first opportunity. Her detention is cruel and sadistic: she forces Harry to carve "I will not tell lies" into his own hand, over and over. Despite this punishment, Harry refuses to stop saying Voldemort has returned.

Eventually, Umbridge is appointed High Inquisitor at Hogwarts, giving the Ministry of Magic more control over the school. She intimidates the teachers and institutes rule after rule. Meanwhile, Hermione is attempting to free all the house-elves by knitting elf hats and leaving them around where the elves might pick them up while cleaning. Harry has nightly dreams of a long corridor with a locked door at the end of it—dreams that make his scar prickle. The main newspaper, The Daily Prophet, continues to portray Harry as delusional or a liar and Dumbledore as an eccentric and unreliable headmaster although the Quibbler eventually publishes Harry's side of the story.

Umbridge refuses to actually teach students how to counter the Dark Arts, so Harry—the only one among the students who has ever actually faced Voldemort—agrees to secretly teach a select group of students what he knows. The students who meet in secret include Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, Neville, and Harry's crush Cho Chang. They practice stunning, disarming, and summoning as well as more advanced magic such as the Patronus Charm and the Impediment Jinx. They call themselves "Dumbledore's Army."

A Vulnerable Mind

One night, instead of dreaming only about the long corridor and the locked door, Harry dreams about Arthur Weasley, Ron's dad, being attacked by a giant snake. In the dream Harry sees the events from the snake's point of view. He alerts Professor McGonagall, who takes him straight to Dumbledore. Dumbledore believes the dream is of a real event, and he ensures the right people will find Mr. Weasley and take him to the hospital.

Since Harry's mind seems vulnerable to Voldemort, Dumbledore arranges for Harry to have Occlumency lessons with Snape so he can learn to block intrusions into his mind. Since Snape and Harry dislike each other intensely, the lessons do not go well. Harry continues having the dreams, each time getting further down the corridor and through the door. In one dream he reaches a room full of glass spheres. Inside, Voldemort uses the Cruciatus Curse on Sirius to get him to pick up a particular sphere. Harry wakes from this dream and unsuccessfully tries to find Professor McGonagall. He contacts Number 12, Grimmauld Place, but Kreacher tells him Sirius isn't there. Harry decides he has to go save Sirius.

The Prophecy

After a close call with Umbridge, Harry is able to leave the Hogwarts grounds. Taking friends from Dumbledore's Army along, Harry uses the school's herd of invisible flying creatures, called thestrals, to fly to the Ministry of Magic. Inside, they run to the Department of Mysteries, where Harry is convinced Voldemort has Sirius. The Department of Mysteries holds magical objects that relate to life's greatest mysteries, such as time and death. They reach the room Harry has dreamed about, with the rows of glass balls. Neither Sirius nor Voldemort is there. However, Ron notices a glass ball with Harry's name on it: "S. P. T. to A. P. W. B. D. Dark Lord and (?) Harry Potter." Harry, intrigued, picks it up.

Suddenly, Lucius Malfoy appears and demands the sphere, which he calls a prophecy. Other Death Eaters appear, too, and Harry realizes he's been tricked. As the Death Eaters hesitate to harm the sphere, Harry and his friends flee. The Death Eaters pursue them through the Department of Mysteries. During the ensuing fight, Sirius Black arrives and joins in, along with other members of the Order: Lupin, Moody, Tonks, and Kingsley. Even Dumbledore arrives, but just after he does, Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange casts a spell that pushes Sirius through a mysterious veiled archway. Sirius disappears. In all the commotion, the prophecy sphere is broken.

Harry pursues Bellatrix into the Ministry of Magic's Atrium, which is dominated by the Fountain of Magical Brethren. There, Voldemort appears and fights first Harry, then Dumbledore. Dumbledore causes the statues of the fountain to suddenly come to life and block all of Voldemort's curses. Finally, Voldemort tries to take possession of Harry's body and, by doing so, forces Dumbledore to kill Harry. Just as Harry thinks death is imminent, he thinks of Sirius, and how dying would reunite them. In that moment Harry's love for Sirius forces Voldemort out of his body.

Dumbledore tells a shocked Cornelius Fudge to remove Umbridge from the school and then takes Harry and the others back to Hogwarts. Alone with Dumbledore later, Harry learns what was in the broken prophecy globe: a prophecy made by Trelawney in front of Dumbledore himself. Dumbledore tells Harry the prophecy means he must kill or be killed by Voldemort.

Analysis

Choosing Sides

In this installment of the Harry Potter series, the wizarding world must grapple with the return of Voldemort. This crisis presents wizards and witches with a choice: join Voldemort or oppose him. Voldemort's followers are Death Eaters. The groups that oppose Voldemort are the Order of the Phoenix, the official resistance made up of those who have achieved adulthood under the law (age 17), and Dumbledore's Army, the unofficial group of Hogwarts students who meet to practice defending themselves against the Dark Arts.

As often happens in real life, however, many people do not want to make this choice. They believe there is a middle ground—one in which they do not expressly join Voldemort but do not openly oppose him either. Some, like Fudge, decide to deny the problem, and in doing so, become part of the problem. Some, like Umbridge, do not openly join or oppose Voldemort but take advantage of the opportunity to consolidate and grow their own power. They end up doing Voldemort's work, whether they want to admit it or not. By not opposing Voldemort, they enable him to flourish.

The view of government in this book is not flattering. Cornelius Fudge is the maddening Minister of Magic who is so afraid Dumbledore will take over his job, he restrains those students who would be able to resist Voldemort by refusing to allow them to learn practical defenses. Umbridge is not technically a Death Eater, though she shares Death Eater views on those who are not pure-bloods and especially abhors those of other magical races. As Sirius Black observes, "The world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters." The implication is people do not need to be Death Eaters to be cruel and selfish or to perpetuate evil in the world.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

In the previous book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Ron chides Harry for wasting time rescuing Gabrielle Delacour in addition to Ron in the second task of the Triwizard Tournament: "I hope you didn't waste time down there acting the hero!" In this book Hermione echoes this assessment of Harry: "Don't you think you've got a bit of a—a—saving-people-thing? ... Voldemort knows you, Harry! He took Ginny down into the Chamber of Secrets to lure you there, it's the kind of thing he does, he knows you're the—the sort of person who'd go to Sirius's aid!" Voldemort exploits Harry's tendency to impulsively take on the role of hero without investigating matters thoroughly. While Harry's impulses are often the morally correct response, they are hit or miss in terms of result. He will need to learn to listen to his friends' warnings and cautions.

Family and Identity

In the midst of the crisis, Harry continues to grapple with his own identity and how his family ties affect his sense of self. As all children must, he has to work through the revelation that his parents were not perfect people. This disillusionment is heightened when, during his Occlumency lessons, Harry gains access to Snape's mind and sees Snape's worst memory. The memory is of being teased and humiliated by Harry's father, James Potter. Harry wonders if his dad was really the great guy everyone says he was. A conversation with Sirius and Lupin about his father's youthful arrogance and insensitivity doesn't give Harry much comfort. Additionally, Sirius Black, a father figure for Harry, proves to have his own flaws and is himself plagued by a sense of insecurity stemming from family.

While Harry grapples with having an imperfect father and Sirius struggles with having a bigoted family, Neville Longbottom begins the opposite journey. When Harry, Hermione, and the rest of the Weasley family visit Mr. Weasley at St. Mungo's over the Christmas holiday, they run into Neville and his grandmother, who are visiting Neville's parents. Neville seems embarrassed. He has never told his friends about his parents, who were Aurors tortured into insanity by Death Eaters during Voldemort's original reign of terror. As Neville understands more about his parents' history, he has more reason to be proud of them.

Developing Themes

This book continues to develop the major themes of the series. The themes of power and of self-sacrifice versus self-preservation clearly appear in the important minor characters, Cornelius Fudge and the Longbottoms. Cornelius Fudge is blinded by his obsession with Dumbledore and his completely unfounded fears Dumbledore is scheming to take over the government. His desire to preserve his own position and power causes him to inadvertently assist Voldemort's rise to power.

The theme of death, resurrection, and immortality is developed by the death of Sirius Black. Although at the end of the previous book, Cedric Diggory's death was an important turning point for Harry, Sirius's death is a much greater loss for him. He had begun to see Sirius as a father figure; now he is orphaned once more. The details surrounding Sirius's death are significant. He does not die as a result of injuries or a killing curse but by being pushed through a veiled archway. This veiled archway is in a room in the Department of Mysteries, suggesting death is one of the mysteries studied there along with time and prophecy. When Harry first encounters this veil, he has "the strangest feeling that there was someone standing right behind the veil on the other side of the archway." He thinks it has "a kind of beauty about it" and hears "faint whispering, murmuring noises coming from the other side of the veil." Harry's impression, then, is whatever world is beyond the veil is very close to this world—so close you can hear its whispers and murmurs. It is calm, beautiful, and intriguing. When Sirius passes through it, though, he is quite definitively gone. Those who have died are both very close yet very separate from the living.

The theme of discrimination continues with Hermione's attempts to free the house-elves from their slavery. It also appears with Dolores Umbridge's visceral hatred of any "half-breeds." Hagrid is a half-breed because he is half giant. Centaurs are half-breeds because they display both human and animal traits. Dolores Umbridge's attitude reflects a bias found in other places in the wizarding world, including the Ministry of Magic. When the Fountain of Magical Brethren, around which the final confrontation rages, is destroyed, Dumbledore notes: "The fountain we destroyed tonight told a lie. We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward."

The theme of fate and free will comes through primarily by the discovery of the prophecy and Dumbledore's explanation of it to Harry. The wording of the prophecy is very careful so as to allow free will to be retained even though Dumbledore agrees Harry is the only one who has a chance at overcoming Voldemort's power. Dumbledore explains the prophecy could have applied to either Neville Longbottom or Harry Potter. However, Dumbledore says by attacking him and marking him with the lightning scar, Voldemort's own actions—not fate—determined Harry would be the one. "It seemed plain to the keeper of the Hall of Prophecy that Voldemort could only have tried to kill you because he knew you to be the one to whom Sybill was referring ... Voldemort himself would 'mark him as his equal.' And so he did, Harry. He chose you, not Neville. He gave you the scar that has proved both blessing and curse."

Repeated Structures

The story retains the basic school year structure, even including the career counseling and the special exams taken by fifth-year students (O.W.L.s). The object introduced toward the beginning that is part of the book's climax is the fountain at the Ministry of Magic, with its "group of golden statues ... in the middle of a circular pool ... a noble-looking wizard ... a beautiful witch, a centaur, a goblin, and a house-elf." Harry sees this fountain when he goes for his hearing, and then later, the battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort takes place around it. Harry meets Kreacher when he first goes to Number 12, Grimmauld Place, and the house-elf is part of the reason Harry goes to the Department of Mysteries (as well as Sirius).

The conversation between Dumbledore and Harry focuses on the prophecy found in the Hall of Prophecy in the Department of Mysteries. The book ends as Harry learns the hard truth he is the one who must face Voldemort.

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