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Complete, detailed, and amazing Reader's Guides
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Chapter One:
Dudley Demented


Synopsis by Maureen Knight
Notes and links by Michele L. Worley
and Steve Vander Ark

U.S. hardcover edition: pages 1 - 19
U.K. hardcover edition: pages 7 - 23
U.K. paperback edition: pages 7 - 27
Timeframe: Monday, 2 August, 1995 [Y15]

In which Harry is angry and picks on Dudley, Dudley is attacked by Dementors, and their neighbour Mrs. Figg returns.

Dudley Demented, OP1, by Mary GrandPré

Interesting facts and notes about the text of this chapter:

The chapter title has been very cleverly selected to be apt without giving away too much on a first reading. The word "demented" means "insane", but it also seems like a good word to use to describe someone who has suffered a Dementor attack. Notice that in the next chapter, when Dudley describes the effects of the Dementors on him (they made him hear voices, for instance), his parents fear for his sanity.

The action of each of the first three books began on or before (in PS' case, long before) Harry's birthday on 31 July. In this book as in GF, the story begins in August.

the use of hosepipes had been banned due to drought

This story starts on August 2, 1995. Coincidentally, the summer of 1995 did in fact bring a severe drought to much of Britain, and water control measures were in effect.

The only person left outdoors was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four.

In Order of the Phoenix, Harry learns that few things - including situations and people - are as they appear to be at first glance, and right away we are presented with an instance of this. In fact, we learn later that at least two other creatures are present in this scene, both of whom are watching over Harry. Mundungus Fletcher is under an Invisibility Cloak, while Mr. Tibbles (one of Mrs. Figg's "cats") is hiding under a car.

...the pinched, slightly unhealthy look of someone who has grown a lot in a short space of time.

When Harry first entered Hogwarts at the age of 11, he was described as being unusually short for his age. The growth spurt mentioned here helps explain how, in OP28, Harry can observe that he is within an inch of his father's height at the same age, when James Potter was a tall man.

'Glad to see the boy's stopped trying to butt in.

Notce that Vernon and Petunia do not mention Harry by name. He is simply "the boy."

"Where is he, anyway?"
"I don't know," said Aunt Petunia, unconcernedly. "Not in the house."

Ironically, the Dursleys are taking essentially the same approach with both Harry and Dudley this summer - letting them run wild - but for quite different reasons. In Harry's case, the senior Dursleys don't care about him as long as he's not making any trouble for them. In Dudley's case, they dote on him, but their disciplinary skills haven't extended to verifying what he's really doing with his time this summer.

"Watching the news..."

Harry has had the sense to take a leaf out of Dumbledore's book, and like the headmaster is following the Muggle news to look for hints of what Voldemort is up to.

like to know what he's really up to

No, Vernon, you reaaly don't want to know. In a couple of hours, you'll be learning more than you ever wanted to about the return of Lord Voldemort, and your reaction will be less than controlled:

'...You're not staying here if some loony's after you, you're not endangering my wife and son, you're not bringing trouble down on us. If you're going the same way as your useless parents, I've had it! OUT!' (OP2)

"Dudley hasn't got a clue what's going on; doubt he knows who the Prime Minister is!"

Dudley, as Vernon so aptly puts it, "hasn't got a clue" about the most basic information of the world around him. And to his father, this is apparently a good thing.

If anything had happened, it would surely have been the first item on the news; death and destruction were more important than stranded holidaymakers.

Harry is quite right in this assumption. The following summer, as the war heats up into open violence, the Muggle news is filled with stories of msterious murders, destruction of a bridge killing a number of Muggles, and a freak hurricane in the West Country. When Voldemort attacks, everyone knows that something is up, even the Muggles.

...he watched Mrs. Figg, a batty cat-loving old lady from nearby Wisteria Walk, amble slowly past. She was frowning and muttering to herself.

Things are not as they seem. Mrs. Figg knows that Mundungus is present under an Invisibility Cloak, and is telling him (as she reminds him loudly in the next chapter) not to leave his post to pursue one of his "business opportunities".

Mrs Figg had recently taken to asking him round for tea whenever she met him in the street.

She's desperate to find a way to give him contact with the world to which he belongs. He just doesn't realize who she really is. Poor Arabella...what a difficult thing it must have been for all those years, pretending to be uncaring and strange when she knew who he was and what a rough life he was living. Okay, so she wasn't really pretending to be strange. We'll learn soon enough that she is pretty strange, in a lovable sort of way. Remember when you first read this passage? The speculation that Mrs Figg was actually part of Dumbledore's "team" was running rampant, but we had nothing to go on, and reading this chapter was a delightful experience, full of "A-ha" moments as we learned that what we'd all suspected was true. Rowling still managed to surprise us, though: Arabella Figg is not in fact a witch but a Squib.

They had swallowed all his dim-witted lies about having tea with a different member of his gang every night of the summer holidays.

We learned the names of the four other members of Dudley's gang back in PS2 and PS3, and three of them are named later in this chapter. More about this when they amble into view later.

...then a helicopter that had almost crashed in a field in Surrey...

Harry should have paid more attention to this, even if it turned out not to be relevant. Little Whinging, where the Dursleys live, is in Surrey. If Draco's boastful stories of his pre-Hogwarts adventures on a broomstick (PS9) had even a grain of truth to them - even if they might have happened to somebody else entirely - wizarding folk on broomsticks can occasionally have rather exciting close encounters with Muggle helicopters.

A loud, echoing crack broke the sleepy silence like a gunshot

Mundungus has given in to temptation, and has just Disapparated to pursue his "business opportunity" with the stolen cauldrons. While he's funny and appealing, Mundungus is actually a horrible security risk because of this sort of thing; all that any of Voldemort's agents would have to do to lure Mundungus out of the way would be to tempt him with some competitively-priced stolen goods, and he'd fall for it without intentionally betraying anyone.

...a cat streaked out from under a parked car and flew out of sight...

Mrs. Figg identifies the "cat" later as Mr. Tibbles, whom Harry had to look at in pictures many times as a child when Petunia left him with her. Mrs. Figg's cats are actually part-kneazles; she makes a good living breeding them (JKR).

then, as the pain in the top of Harry's head gave a particularly nasty throb, Uncle Vernon yelped and released Harry as though he had received an electric shock. Some invisible force seemed to have surged through his nephew, making him impossible to hold.

This is a fascinating passage. In essense, Harry repels his Uncle's grip with some sort of wandless, non-verbal, even unintentional magic. What's interesting is that the spell appears to be connected to the pain in Harry's head. We know that Harry is at this point connected to Voldemort more closely that he realizes. Is this magical force perhaps an involuntary reaction from the Dark Lord himself? This is all wild speculation, of course. Harry himself certainly has the magical power to perform this kind of magic.

Another interesting thing to consider the connection between this event and the evidence elsewhere in the books that Wizards are not as easily injured as Muggles would be. The most compelling evidence of this is that as a boy, Neville was accidentally dropped from a second floor window and "bounced all the way down the garden." Are we perhaps seeing this same automatic magical defense in action for Harry here under the Dursley's living room window?

Harry was sure that Dobby did not know how to become invisible.

Really? Just because Harry has never actually seen him do it? I wouldn't put anything past Dobby, whose magic is far more powerful than anyone guesses. What's a little Invisibility Spell compared to closing the magical barrier to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters or tampering with a Bludger, which can't be all that easy or people would do it all the time.

Tomorrow morning he would be woken by the alarm at five o'clock so he could pay the owl that delivered the Daily Prophet - but was there any point in continuing to take it? Harry merely glanced at the front page before throwing it aside these days...

As his friends have to tell him later in Grimmauld Place (OP4), Harry has been making a mistake in doing this; the Prophet's news coverage isn't as innocuous and disconnected from Harry's life as the front page news makes it appear at first glance.

In fact, he was so angry with [Ron and Hermione] that he had thrown away, unopened, the two boxes of Honeydukes chocolates that they'd sent him for his birthday. He'd regretted it later, after the wilted salad Aunt Petunia had provided for dinner that night.

On one level, this passage merely indicates how angry Harry is with his friends - he discarded birthday presents that he would have enjoyed, and lived to regret it.

On another level, chocolate in the wizarding world is used to help counteract the effects of depression; it's a standard first-aid treatment for the after-effects of a Dementor attack, in particular. Harry is so emotional that he's not thinking clearly, and ironically this led to discarding something that might have helped sort out his emotional state.

On still another level, we have the symbolism of Harry's friends attempting to provide him with sustenance - both physical and emotional - in the form of food, while Petunia's grudged efforts at feeding Harry reflect the fact that she is depriving him of emotional and physical comfort. She doesn't show any care for him, apparently not even noticing his emotional distress and nightmares, let alone trying to help him.

It was bad enough that he kept revisiting the graveyard in his nightmares, without dwelling on it in his waking moments too.

Summer nightmares about his adventures during the school year are nothing new for Harry; he's had them as far back as the summer after his first year at Hogwarts (CS1). Unfortunately, as time has passed, not only have more things happened to him to provide material for nightmares, but the events involved have become increasingly traumatic.

Nevertheless, it was quite galling to be told not to be rash by a man who had spent twelve years in the wizard prison, Azkaban, escaped, attempted to commit the murder he had been convicted for in the first place, then gone on the run with a stolen hippogriff.

Now that you mention it, Sirius Black has some serious credibility issues in trying to discipline any kid who knows anything about him as an adult, let alone who also knows what Sirius was like when he was young.

When he reached the swings he sank onto the only one that Dudley and his friends had not yet managed to break, coiled one arm around the chain and stared moodily at the ground.

Harry in the Swing, OP1, by Marta T.

In the meantime, he had nothing to look forward to but another restless, disturbed night, because even when he escaped the nightmares about Cedric he had unsettling dreams about long dark corridors, all finishing in dead ends and locked doors, which he supposed had something to do with the trapped feeling he had when he was awake.

It's a pity that Trelawney has so little credibility as a teacher, or Harry might pay better attention in Divination to the lessons on dream interpretation. In this case, the image from Harry's dreams corresponds with those he will see later in the year as he unknowingly has visions of Voldemort's obsession with hearing the prophecy kept in the Department of Mysteries. The corridor and locked door Harry sees in his dream here is a place he will first see in waking life ten days from now, just before his disciplinary hearing on the 12th of August.

In the past, his scar hurting had warned that Voldemort was getting stronger again, but now that Voldemort was back they would probably remind him that its regular irritation was only to be expected...nothing to worry about...old news...

Even Harry's preconceptions about the unpleasant parts of his life will be shattered, so that he will have to see even his pain in a new light. He will learn more about what his scar pains now mean in later chapters.

And his reward was to be stuck in Little Whinging for four solid weeks, completely cut off from the magical world

This remark refers us back four weeks to the end of June, when Harry was recovering from his ordeal in the graveyard, and the end of the previous book. Interestingly, a passage at the end of book four harkens forward to this passage in book five:

When he looked back, even a month later, Harry found he had only scattered memories of the next few days.  It was as though he had been through too much to take in any more.  The recollections he did have were very painful. GF37)

For fans, however, the break between the end of book four and the beginning of book five was far more than four weeks. After cranking out a book per year for the previous four years, Rowling took three years to write book five. I remember well how strange it was to read this passage after all that time of anticipation and to realize that the events being described were not taking place years after the events at the end of the Triwizard Tournament.

He did not know how long he had sat on the swing

Actually, it was about an hour. Contributor Elanor Isolda informs us:

The only terrestrial channels which have the news on at seven are Channels 4 and 5.  Channel 5 didn't launch until 1997, so assuming the Dursleys are on terrestrial TV, it will be the Channel Four News, which lasts 55 minutes.  This is a little odd though, as the Dursleys don't strike me as a Channel Four News type family.  Also, the tone of the programme - especially of the budgie bit - doesn't match Channel Four.  Still, there you go... Sunset in London in early August 1995 was 8.40 - 8.50pm. (email, 4-September-2006)

We know from the evidence given at Harry's hearing that the Dementor attack took place shortly after 9 pm, a half-hour after sunset.

...Dudley Dursley, wending his way home, accompanied by his faithful gang.

Dudley's gang consists of four boys, named in PS, three of whom are mentioned by name here. Since the chapter refers to the entire gang being present, it seems reasonable to suppose that all four boys are present although not all of them speak.

Magnolia Road, like Privet Drive, was full of large, square houses with perfectly manicured lawns, all owned by large, square owners who drove very clean cars similar to Uncle Vernon's.

Vernon, as Harry observed in GF4, tends to judge other men by the cars they drive. From a certain point of view, this makes some sense: the car someone drives gives one some clues about how much money that person has, something about the person's taste and how conventional they are in expressing it, and how much care they take in looking after their material possessions (e.g., whether the car is kept clean, and whether it is properly maintained). Here we're being shown that the neighbours in the area of Privet Drive are concerned with appearances, and wish to look respectable.

Harry preferred Little Whinging by night, when the curtained windows made patches of jewel-bright color in the darkness and he ran no danger of hearing disapproving mutters about his 'delinquent' appearance when he passed the householders.

This further reinforces the impression being conveyed that the residents of Little Whinging - in the Privet Drive area, at least - tend to judge by appearances and surface impressions. We're also being shown how different - how much more magical and mysterious - Little Whinging itself appears when seen by night rather than by day.

"Bye, Dud!"

As nicknames go, this is an interesting thing to be called by one's friends. When something is referred to as a dud, the speaker is saying that the person or thing being referred to is useless, as Ron called the twins' bogus color-change spell a dud four years before this encounter (PS6). Incidentally, to call an explosive a dud is equivalent to calling a firework a squib (coincidence, of course).

"What about 'Popkin' and 'Dinky Diddydums', can I use them then?"

Youch. Possibly Dudley has some excuse for going out and beating people up, if he has to put up with his mother calling him embarrassing things like this at home.

"Dinky" means "little," but carries the implication that whatever is being referred to isn't very substantial or important.

"Another ten year old? I know you did Mark Evans two nights ago."

Since this is the night of 2 August, that means that Dudley and his gang beat up Mark Evans on 31 July, Harry's birthday.

A great deal of speculation has taken place since the release of OP, since Mark has the same surname as Lily's maiden name. According to [JKR], however, this really was a coincidence.

Characters introduced in this chapter:

Characters returning in this chapter:

Characters mentioned in this chapter:

Settings and locations introduced or returning in this chapter:

Settings and locations mentioned in this chapter:

Exceptional character moments:

  • Dudley, whose activities with his "gang" now involve vandalism and beating up much younger children. His parents did Harry few favours in bringing him up, but they've done almost as badly by Dudley in letting him think that he can do anything he likes without paying a price.

  • Harry, yanking Dudley's chain about all the gooey nicknames Petunia has for him. Harry himself seems to be aware that he's using Dudley as an outlet for his frustration and stress, but justifies it by thinking of what Dudley put him through when they were younger.

Spells:

Links and Resources:

Memorable lines:

  • Harry Potter's appearance did not endear him to the neighbours, who were the sort of people who thought scruffiness ought to be punishable by law....

  • If they had reached water-skiing budgerigars, there was nothing else worth hearing.

  • Nevertheless, it was quite galling to be told not to be rash by a man who had spent twelve years in the wizard prison, Azkaban, escaped, attempted to commit the murder he had been convicted for in the first place, then gone on the run with a stolen hippogriff.

  • "This is night, Diddykins. That's what we call it when it goes all dark like this."

Strictly British:

Timelines/Calendar:

The date of the action of this chapter is given during Harry's disciplinary hearing on the 12th of August, in OP8. Since chapter 6 specifies that the 11th of August was a Wednesday, the 2nd of August was a Monday.

July-August 1995

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
25
26
27 28 29 30

31
Harry's 15th
birthday

Mark Evans attacked

1
2
Dementor attack in Little Whinging
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11

12
hearing

13
14
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