We’ve been exploring chapters from the fifth book in the Harry Potter series, The Order of the Phoenix. In several of these podcasts, I’ve marveled at the way Rowling can really bring us into the magical places in her books. The creaky, dusty old house in Grimmauld Place is a great example. So is the description of the Ministry of Magic’s headquarters.
In this chapter, we’re treated to another example of Rowling’s writing genius: her knack for creating believable conversation. Here we spend a fair amount of time hanging out with the Trio in the common room, listening in as they chatter and argue. As the chapter — and the conversation — rolls along, Rowling vividly portrays the mercurial emotions of all three of them. Here’s an example:
‘I was wondering,’ Hermione said suddenly, ‘whether you’d thought any more about Defence Against the Dark Arts, Harry.’
‘Course I have,’ said Harry grumpily, ‘can’t forget it, can we, with that hag teaching us -‘
‘I meant the idea Ron and I had -‘ Ron cast her an alarmed, threatening kind of look. She frowned at him, ‘- Oh, all right, the idea I had, then – about you teaching us.’
Notice the description of Ron’s reluctance and Hermione charging on alone. It’s easy to picture exactly what’s going on, exactly what Ron’s expression was and how Hermione’s voice switched in the middle. The scene continues:
Harry did not answer at once. He pretended to be perusing a page of Asiatic Anti-Venoms, because he did not want to say what was in his mind.
He had given the matter a great deal of thought over the past fortnight. Sometimes it seemed an insane idea, just as it had on the night Hermione had proposed it, but at others, he had found himself thinking about the spells that had served him best in his various encounters with Dark creatures and Death Eaters – found himself, in fact, subconsciously planning lessons…
‘Well,’ he said slowly, when he could no longer pretend to find Asiatic Anti-Venoms interesting, ‘yeah, I – I’ve thought about it a bit.’
Reading that paragraph describing Harry’s thoughts nicely fills up the right amount of time before he gives up pretending to read his book. Rowling could have simply written “Harry thought about it for a moment, then said …” Instead, she writes a lovely bit of characterization which fits Harry perfectly. Of course Harry would stall in that case, and he might very well have randomly picked up a textbook as cover, but he certainly wouldn’t find it very interesting.
There’s another clever bit of writing which Rowling uses several times in this chapter. Hermione says Voldemort’s name aloud, which apparently gets a reaction out of Ron. We aren’t told or shown what Ron’s reaction actually is,whether it’s a few words or a startled jump. Hermione barely slows down enough to do more than chastise him in passing for getting upset. Notice how she passes by Ron’s protests in this passage:
‘Well,’ said Hermione, looking a mite anxious again. ‘Well… now, don’t fly off the handle again, Harry, please… but I really think you ought to teach anyone who wants to learn. I mean, we’re talking about defending ourselves against V-Voldemort. Oh, don’t be pathetic, Ron. It doesn’t seem fair if we don’t offer the chance to other people.’
You can probably tell that I enjoy reading Rowling’s writing in this chapter. I am a theatre director, after all, and these conversations in chapter 16 are an actor’s delight.
In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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