We’ve reached chapter 30 of Order of the Phoenix and as always, there’s a lot to talk about here. The castle is in chaos. The students are in full rebellion against Umbridge, and the teachers are too apparently. Filch is having to transport students across the swamp on the fifth floor using a boat and Peeves is completely out of control. After all these chapters of Umbridge’s hostility and downright evil, it’s so much fun to watch things fall apart on her.
But Rowling still has a lot more story to tell. The first part of the chapter feels like a dam bursting. Umbridge seems all but defeated. And then we get to the second half of the chapter and we’re forced back into reality. The mystery of Hagrid’s strange behavior is explained, but Harry and Hermione are left with yet another problem on their heads — what to do with Grawp. Umbridge might be down on her heels, but there are plenty of other difficulties and mysteries still to be handled.
But at the very end, Rowling gives us a great positive moment: Gryffindor has won the Quidditch Cup. Finally, after years of frustration, the Cup is theirs, although ironically, Harry wasn’t even in the stadium much less playing in the match.
So here are a few observations about all the events in this tumultuous chapter.
I’ve often talked about the brilliance of Rowling’s visual writing style. The way she describes things makes everything vividly real in our minds. She tells visual jokes to embellish and enliven the dialogue. Take a look at the conversation during Transfiguration class. As the trio talk, we are given the visual image of the three teacups in their various states. We have Harry’s cup with stubby legs that don’t reach the ground, Ron’s cup with wobbly legs that can barely stand, and Hermione’s perfect cup which literally runs circles around the others. The legs on Hermione’s cup are even described as being “willow-patterned” — Hermione not only created a perfectly functional animated teacup but also added decorative touches. All of this description is completely extra to the story, of course. That conversation could have been written with no reference whatsoever to their school assignment. Rowling, like Hermione, goes beyond functional and gives us those delightful decorative touches that make the Harry Potter novels such a joy to read.
Notice Luna’s eagle hat. We all remember the roaring lion, but the eagle hat is often forgotten. Think about the magical prowess required for a fourth year student to create animated objects like that! We just watched our favorite fifth years struggling just to create a walking teacup!
One of my favorite lines in the entire series appears in this chapter. I’ll quote the whole passage, just so we can savor the moment:
None of the staff but Filch seemed to be stirring themselves to help her. Indeed, a week after Fred and George’s departure Harry witnessed Professor McGonagall walking right past Peeves, who was determinedly loosening a crystal chandelier, and could have sworn he heard her tell the poltergeist out of the corner of her mouth, ‘It unscrews the other way.’
Yeah. McGonagall telling Peeves how to destroy Hogwarts property. I remember laughing right out loud the first time I read that.
Chapter 30 of Order of the Phoenix is a wonderful mixed bag. We’re watching the crumbling of Umbridge while at the same time worrying about what Harry’s dreams mean. We meet Grawp and fear for Hagrid. And in the end, we cheer for the Gryffindor Quidditch team and revel in the new lyrics to the Slytherins’ hateful, jeering song. We’re getting near the end of the book with plenty of problems still to solve.
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