I really, really don’t like most of the characters in it. I don’t like Harry, I don’t like Sirius, I don’t like Molly … I don’t like any of them.
You know what strikes me about chapter five of Order of the Phoenix? I really, really don’t like most of the characters in it. I don’t like Harry, I don’t like Sirius, I don’t like Molly … I don’t like any of them. But this is a tribute to Rowling’s skill as a writer, her willingness to tell the story that needs to be told, not the one we’ve imagined. She’s placing us in the midst of a group of people under high stress, who are desperately trying to figure out how to move forward, who are cooped up together in a, let’s face it, really creepy and unpleasant house, and they act the way that any of us would act. And I’m uncomfortable watching it happen, which is exactly how I should be feeling.
But I remember reading this book for the first time. It was a shock. We had had the first four books for ages. We’d picked them apart and analyzed every tiny clue. We thought we knew these people and this world so well, and while yes, it had turned pretty dark at the end of book four, overall it was a world of whimsy and cleverness, where the good people were nice and kind and the bad were mean and snarly. These are the same people we meet in this chapter, but they’re not whimsical or sweet. These people are flawed and ragged and annoying and torn up with doubt and worry. I’m not alone in feeling at this point of the book that maybe I don’t like the Harry Potter series quite as much as I thought I did.
And it just got worse. I remember feeling frustrated and deeply disturbed as Umbridge came on the scene and Dumbledore seemed powerless. I remember the discomfort of those dreadful Occlumency lessons. I remember the pain of loss as everything Harry held dear was stripped away. But then the tide turned. And was there ever a sweeter feeling than when Umbridge starts to lose her grip on things and finally is defeated? We are dragged through the mud and the worst happens, but in the end there is vindication and hope. Thing is, at this point that’s still 25 chapters away.
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