Sunday, July 11, 2010

Harry Potter V: Thoughts, Complaints, and Defense

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is my least favorite volume in the Harry Potter series. I think it was the first book in the series that I was waiting for from the day I finished the book before, and it was a several year wait. Things were so intense at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (book four), that I had high expectations for the fifth book—expectations that were not met.

The trouble with Harry Potter V is on two counts: First, it is so long, and, second, it is so cranky. Long was a good thing in book four with so much going on, but in book five nothing happens and it’s so long. As I started reading the series for probably my third complete run-through, I decided that this was book five’s last chance. If I still felt like it was a drag to read after this time through, in the future I would just start skipping it.

Well, I happened to not hate Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix quite so much this time, so for now it has been redeemed and I will probably read it again, someday. I read this time looking for elements that J.K. Rowling ties into the seventh book, and found quite a few. Maybe another difference is that I’m a little more grown up now (I think the book first came out when I wasn’t much older than fifteen (like Harry) myself), so the teenage perspective is far enough away that I can appreciate it better.

The following points used to be my complaints about Harry Potter V, but I’m starting to change my mind and decide that the book really isn’t all that bad.

1) Tantrums: Harry is emotionally out of control in this book, and it’s really annoying. I never felt like his personality was the angry type, but he does a lot of lashing out, yelling, and throwing in this book. On the other hand, weren’t we all like that as teenagers—at least to some extent? And where do teenage tantrums come from? I think Harry’s life shows how difficult it is for teenagers to start handling adult situations and problems with still only a child’s emotional coping system.

2) Weakness: In this book, Sirius is immature, Mrs. Weasley is over-protective, and Dumbledore is neglectful. But for Harry, the emotions of these situations are magnified at least ten times, and it’s pretty annoying, especially since these are some of our favorite characters. Personally, I especially hate how we see so many of Sirius’ imperfections. However, stripping down her characters to real flaws and imperfections is a pretty courageous move for J.K. Rowling, and it makes them much more real. Harry’s feelings are also very real; don’t we all harbor a sense of frustration, denial, injustice, and anger as we grow up and realize that the adults around us are still growing and learning too? It’s especially amazing that J.K.Rowling has the guts to work the theme that Dumbledore doesn’t have all the answers throughout the last three books. Although at first the realization that adults aren’t perfect makes Harry feel cheated and vulnerable, in the end it gives him strength to know that his best is all that’s expected of him—he doesn’t have to know everything in order to make good choices either.

3) Pacing: When the fourth book ends, we’re ready to pick up the next and jump right back into action. Bring on Voldemort—we’re ready to fight! And for hundreds of pages, nothing happens. This was my top complaint when the book first came out, but as I thought over Rowlings pacing this time, I’ve realized that it’s pretty ingenious because, after all, we feel just as frustrated as, and along with, Harry. And isn’t that exactly how life is? Not only is life full of ups and downs, it’s also full of speed ups and slow downs. Just when we’re ready for events and hard-core choices to flash by, something breaks down, hits the breaks, and pulls us to a stop in whatever progression we thought we were on and wherever we thought we were going. Life isn’t like a constant roller-coaster; usually you have to wait in line between rides, sometimes for a long time. While this type of pacing allows Rowling to draw the story out into a long series, it’s also pretty true to how life is.

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