Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J. K. ROWLING 2003INTRODUCTION
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is J. K. Rowling's fifth installment in her internationally bestselling series about a young orphaned wizard named Harry Potter. The "Harry Potter" books have been translated into numerous languages, have sold over 80 million copies, and appeal to a wide range of audiences including both children and adults. Published in 2003, The Order of the Phoenix has topped many Bestseller Lists, continuing to widen Rowling's extraordinary global fan base.
The 800-page novel sees the main character, Harry Potter, enter his fifth year at wizardry school, Hogwarts. Now fifteen, Harry encounters such teenage problems as moodiness and resentment of authority, while at the same time trying to untangle the mysterious return of the all-powerful, evil Lord Voldemort. By the end of the story, readers watch Harry transform from a young, confused boy into a strong leader of his fellow students, and a brave warrior against the dark powers of his world. This transformation is not without its difficulties, however, as one of Harry's dearest companions is lost in the final battle.
In a slower buildup to this story's main action than in earlier books, readers follow Harry's psychological journey toward a more mature understanding of himself and his place in the wizardry community. Rowling spends much of The Order of the Phoenix tracking Harry's growing frustration as those who care most about him continue to withhold valuable information from him in an attempt to keep Harry safe from Voldemort's powers. In the end, Harry learns, through a series of mistakes and triumphs, that he is finally mature enough to learn the full truth about his famous but mysterious past as well as his significant but ominous future.
Beginning in 1998 with the publication of her first novel about a young wizard named Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling launched an internationally recognized writing career and a literary sensation unmatched in the early twenty-first century. With record breaking sales for each completed installment of her seven part series, Rowling's 2003 addition, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, sold in excess of eight million copies in the United States alone. As publishers translate the series into sixty one languages in two hundred different countries, fans worldwide flock to pre-order the remaining books of the series and to view "Harry Potter" movies, making Rowling not only wealthier than the Queen of England, but also a worldwide phenomenon.
Joanne Rowling was born in Chipping Sodbury near Bristol, England on July 31, 1965. She later adopted her middle initial of K in honor of her favorite grandmother, Kathleen. Rowling was educated at Exeter University and has called England, France, Portugal, and Scotland home. Naming E. Nesbit, Paul Gallico, and C. S. Lewis as her literary influences, the former teacher always knew she would be a writer. As the popular story goes, she conceived the idea for Harry Potter while on a train and wrote the first novel while her young daughter napped. Rowling subsisted on welfare while writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, with the main goal of merely being published, never daring to dream of the acclaim she would receive. Despite the series' phenomenal success, Rowling reports being rejected by numerous publishers before securing a contract from Bloomsbury in the United Kingdom and Scholastic in the United States.
Rowling's other titles in the "Harry Potter" series include, in order of publication: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (American edition; British edition titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Each Rowling release, in addition to being wildly popular, has also garnered critical acclaim. She has been awarded many notable literary prizes including the British Book Award's Children's Book of the Year, the Hugo Award, the Whitbread Award for Best Children's book, and several consecutive years of the Smarties Prize.
As of 2005, Rowling lives in Scotland with her husband and three children.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opens with Harry Potter, a fifteen-year-old boy possessed with magical powers, spending another unhappy summer with his non-magical, or Muggle, guardians, the Dursleys. Still reeling from the previous school year's tragic events (chronicled in Rowling's fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Harry suffers recurring nightmares about his graveyard meeting with the dark Lord Voldemort where his friend Cedric was murdered. As a result of that encounter, Voldemort has now returned to bodily form, and Harry, with great anxiety, awaits news of the destruction Voldemort will inflict upon the wizardry and non-wizardry worlds. Harry finds there are no reports of unusual events despite his constant checking of the newspaper and television news, until one summer evening when he hears a sound that leads him to take a walk in the dark. Harry runs into his cousin Dudley while walking and as they taunt each other, two Dementors, the death-like, happiness-sucking prison guards from the wizardry world, attack the boys. Harry is able to fend them off with his sophisticated magic, only to find that he has been watched all summer by a neighbor as well as several incognito witches and wizards. Underage magic is banned in the Muggle world, thus Harry is threatened with expulsion from his wizardry boarding school, Hogwarts, and thrown out of his relatives' home for his defense against the Dementors. Several mysterious letters delivered by owl reverse both of Harry's punishments, setting a hearing for his return to Hogwarts and threatening Aunt Petunia into continuing to provide a home for Harry.
Harry waits for any helpful information from his friends to explain recent events, but receives none until a troop of adult witches and wizards appears in the Dursleys' kitchen. The group leads Harry to the invisible and secret location of those fighting against Voldemort's return to power. Located at the family estate of Sirius Black—Harry's godfather—the Order of the Phoenix represents an elite guard of witches and wizards fighting against Voldemort. Once Harry arrives at the Order, he is reunited with best friends and classmates, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Despite being relieved to finally see his friends again, Harry expresses his anger at their keeping him uninformed about events in the wizardry world over the summer. His friends explain their promise kept to Hogwarts Headmaster and Order of the Phoenix leader, Albus Dumbledore, not to give Harry any knowledge that might be dangerous. Ron and Hermione also reveal that most of the wizardry world does not believe Voldemort has returned, and instead regards both Harry and Dumbledore as liars.
Harry joins his friends in cleaning chores throughout the enchanted Black family house while the Order has secret meetings to plan their defense against Voldemort. The kids manage to eavesdrop and find out that Voldemort now seeks some mysterious weapon to enhance his power. Harry also finds out that Sirius Black comes from a long line of dark wizards who support Voldemort, and consider Sirius an outcast.
Once Harry has his hearing in front of the full Ministry of Magic court, he does his best to justify his use of magic against the Dementors. The Minister of Magic himself tries to discredit Harry's story, but Harry wins the hearing only after Dumbledore produces a surprise eyewitness to his account. Harry is thrilled to be going back to Hogwarts, but notices an unusual distance that Dumbledore, his once-confidant, seems to be keeping from him.
Everyone but Sirius is thrilled with Harry's successful hearing. Sirius, on the other hand, is a fugitive of the law and will be staying alone in his family home over the coming year; he had hoped Harry would be around to keep him company. The mood around the house becomes increasingly strained when Ron and Hermione receive news of their appointment to school Prefect but Harry is denied the title. Feeling resentful and angry already, Harry becomes even more depressed when he is shown a photo of the previous Order of the Phoenix members, many of whom have become Voldemort's victims. Harry's parents are featured in the photo.
It is finally time for school to begin, and Harry and his friends leave the Black house to meet the Hogwarts Express. Sirius disobeys Dumbledore's orders and follows Harry to the train, disguised as the shaggy black dog, Snuffles. When Ron and Hermione must meet for Prefect duties, Harry is reunited with friend Neville Longbottom, and they sit together on the train, meeting another student named Luna Lovegood. Luna appears to be a flighty girl whose father publishes a tabloid newspaper called The Quibbler, which is considered a less trustworthy news source than the popular wizarding newspaper, The Daily Prophet. Harry also has an awkward meeting with his crush from last year, Cho Chang. Once at Hogwarts, Harry sees mysterious black horses pulling the school carriages that previously were horseless; many students cannot see the horses, and Harry finds little comfort in the fact that the slightly strange Luna says she can see them too.
Once inside the Hogwarts castle, the students gather to hear the Sorting Hat's yearly song. This year's song emphasizes school unity, implying that the return of Voldemort may cause detrimental divisions among the students and staff. Almost immediately the school provides evidence of such divisions, as many mock and scorn Harry's story about the battle in the graveyard. Harry notices that Hagrid does not appear at the faculty table, but a new Defense Against Dark Arts Professor, Delores Umbridge, does. She also contradicts typical Hogwarts protocol by interrupting Dumbledore's speech to warn against change and progress. Her instruction, once classes begin, further varies from that of previous teachers. She uses only the textbook and refuses to allow students to actually practice magic. This teaching strategy angers both Hermione and Harry, the latter of whom receives a week's worth of detention for telling what Umbridge considers a lie, that Voldemort has returned. Her detentions prove to be particularly cruel as she forces Harry to carve a sentence onto the back of his own hand. Harry continues to be angry at his treatment by both students and faculty but refuses to report any-thing to Dumbledore.
Both Ron and Harry receive significant correspondences from those close to them. Ron fumes after receiving a long letter from his estranged brother Percy, who now works for the Minister of Magic, congratulating him on becoming Prefect and encouraging him to support Umbridge's new policies at Hogwarts. He further tries to persuade Ron that both Dumbledore and Harry should be avoided because they are threats to the Ministry. Sirius appears to Harry in a fire in the common-room fireplace, explaining that the Ministry of Magic is keeping a close watch on Hogwarts through Professor Umbridge because it suspects Dumbledore of conspiracy. Both Percy's and Sirius's words are proven true when Umbridge becomes High Inquisitor of the school, allowing her to inspect all faculty and students for the Ministry of Magic's benefit. Umbridge proceeds to attend various professors' classes, interrupt their lessons, and threaten them with probation. Ron struggles as the newest goalkeeper for the Gryffindor Quidditch team while Harry continues to have nightmares involving long, dark corridors.
Hermione's distaste for the new rules at Hogwarts leads her to propose that Harry form a club to practice now-forbidden Defense Against Dark Arts techniques. After angrily reliving his many frightening encounters with Voldemort, Harry calms down and sees the logic in Hermione's proposal. Meeting at a pub in nearby Hogsmead that they think is safe, many students gather to discuss the new Dark Arts group. Harry is both excited and nervous at the prospect of teaching fellow students. The group plans their first meeting time and signs a list committing to the cause. When the next day there is a new Ministry decree requiring Umbridge to approve all student organizations, the Dark Arts group realizes they were noticed at the pub; Sirius later appears in the fire in the common-room fireplace confirming that the students were easily overheard. A hand reaches out from the fire to catch Sirius and injures Harry's messenger owl, Hedwig, establishing that all communication at Hogwarts is being monitored by Umbridge. Fred and George Weasley provide comic relief throughout these events as they continuously experiment with various practical joke products they hope to market in the future.
Harry contemplates his mysterious internal connection with Voldemort because he now not only feels pain in his scar when the evil wizard becomes angry, but also seems to be aware when his foe experiences happiness or triumph. Harry remains intensely curious about the weapon for which Voldemort searches, and the dreams of corridors seem to provide important clues to its whereabouts.
His house-elf friend, Dobby, informs Harry of a special room where the Dark Arts group can hold their now-secret meetings. At their first gathering, the group chooses to call themselves Dumbledore's Army, or the D.A., and begins to practice spells and charms at Harry's direction. Pleased with the first meeting's success, Harry finds even more thrill in his conversation with Cho. Houses Gryffindor and Slytherin meet in the first Quidditch match, where Ron plays miserably but Harry wins for the team. After the match, Harry's school nemesis, Draco Malfoy, taunts the Gryffindor players, causing Harry, Fred, and George to physically attack him. As a result, Umbridge bans all three Gryffindor players from Quidditch for life.
Hagrid finally returns to Hogwarts, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione rush to welcome him. They find out that Hagrid has been on a secret mission for the Order of the Phoenix, recruiting giants for their cause. Hagrid explains that his mission was a failure because the giants fight amongst themselves and the Order's rival group, the Death Eaters, were also courting the giants.
In Hagrid's class, Harry learns that the black horses pulling the Hogwarts carriages are called thestrals. Because only those who have witnessed someone's death can see the horses, Harry is among the few in the class to whom they are not invisible. Harry feels intensely proud as the D.A. continues to meet and make great progress. After one class, Cho dawdles to talk to Harry; first she cries about Cedric's death last year, then she kisses Harry. He calls his first kiss "wet" when he talks to Ron, and despite Hermione's extensive explanations, remains confused about Cho's emotional nature.
Harry's dreams reach a new level of reality as he sees himself behind the eyes of a serpent attacking Ron's father, Arthur Weasley. So intense is the dream that Harry is convinced Mr. Weasley is actually hurt; when Harry awakes, he insists on reporting his dream to members of the Order of the Phoenix. After Dumbledore hears about the dream, he quickly finds out that Mr. Weasley was indeed attacked. Following a long night of waiting, Harry and the Weasley family visit Mr. Weasley and find that he will make a full recovery. Harry feels guilty for his seeming participation in the snake attack, and only feels worse when he overhears members of the Order discussing whether Voldemort may in fact be possessing Harry. Panicked, Harry believes the only way to keep his friends safe from Voldemort is to run away. When Dumbledore sends a messenger to him, Harry decides to stay but remains sullen because his mentor still will not speak directly to him.
Harry enjoys a happy Christmas break with the Weasleys and other members of the Order after his friends convince him that although there is a strange connection between himself and Voldemort, it is unlikely that he is being possessed. The Weasley's celebrations include visits to Mr. Weasley at the hospital, where Harry, Ron, and Hermione also run into fellow classmate Neville Longbottom. Ron and Hermione find out that Neville's parents permanently reside at St. Mungo's Hospital because they were tortured into insanity by Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange. As Christmas vacation comes to a close, Harry finds out he will be taking extra lessons with his least favorite professor, Severus Snape, to learn how to close his mind to Voldemort. Called Occlumency, the skill to control entry to one's mind should help Harry ward off his dreams and thus Voldemort's access to him.
Once back at Hogwarts, students find out that there are several gains for supporters of Voldemort: many Death Eaters break out of prison and a potential witness for the Order is murdered. Despite Umbridge's attempts to control all political conversation at Hogwarts, students begin to suspect the Ministry's cover-up and wonder whether Voldemort has indeed come back. Taking advantage of this turning tide, Hermione convinces Harry to publish in The Quibbler his account of Voldemort's return to power. Harry feels Voldemort's moods more often, and continues having the vivid dreams involving the evil wizard and his followers.
More fast-moving action begins in this section as a new Divination professor is hired when Umbridge fires Professor Trelawney. Firenze the centaur takes over Trelawney's classes, though Dumbledore allows Trelawney to remain living at Hogwarts. During one Divination class, Firenze sends a mysterious message to Hagrid through Harry, telling him to give up his latest project because it is failing.
One of the D.A. students betrays the group to Umbridge, causing a round-up in Dumbledore's office, including Harry and several officials from the Ministry of Magic. Once the list titled "Dumbledore's Army" appears, Dumbledore uses this loophole as a way of claiming the group as his own. Umbridge has no choice but to find Harry innocent of organizing an illegal student group. Instead of allowing the Ministry to capture him, though, Dumbledore escapes arrest and exits his office amid a shower of spells and charms. As news of Dumbledore's absence spreads, Fred and George promise to cause chaos as a sign of loyalty to their Headmaster.
At Dumbledore's urging, Harry continues Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape. During one session, Harry enrages Snape when he sneaks a look into the Pensieve, which holds Snape's past memories; Harry sees disturbing scenes of his father acting like a schoolboy bully. The idea that his father was arrogant and cruel as a teenager haunts Harry and leads him to arrange, with the help of Fred's and George's antics, a conversation with Sirius about his father's upsetting behavior. Meanwhile, students study frantically for their fifth-year exams called O.W.L.s. Snape cancels Occlumency classes because of his anger, and although Harry has made some progress in closing his mind, he continues to relish his recurring dreams because he wants to find out what is behind the last door. Fred and George make a memorable exit from Hogwarts.
During another Quidditch match, Hagrid enlists Harry and Hermione to follow him into the Forbidden Forest as a favor. Once deep within the trees, Hagrid reveals his project has been to tame his brother, a full-size giant named Grawp. Hagrid expects to be fired by Umbridge at any time, and wants Harry and Hermione to visit Grawp in his absence. On their return to campus, they find that Ron actually played well and helped Gryffindor win the Quidditch Cup.
After much anticipation, O.W.L. exams begin and Harry excels at Defense Against the Dark Arts and performs generally well overall. During their Astronomy exam, Harry and fellow students watch as Ministry officials arrive at Hagrid's cabin door and proceed to attack him. When Professor McGonagall arrives for protection, the Ministry representatives stun her without warning. Harry's world becomes even more chaotic when he falls asleep during his History of Magic exam, only to see a new element in his dreams of the long corridors: Sirius being tortured by Voldemort. Harry assumes his vision to be real and thus mobilizes his friends to save Sirius. Despite Hermione's cautions, Harry's friends help him devise a plan to rescue Sirius, only to be caught by Umbridge and a band of students loyal to her. Umbridge frantically attempts to discover Harry's plans and resolves to use the illegal, unforgivable Cruciatus curse on him. Just then, Hermione intervenes by pretending to confess all to Umbridge.
Umbridge's student guards watch the others as Hermione and Harry lead Umbridge into the Forbidden Forest under the guise of revealing their plans. Once in the forest, as Hermione expected, the centaurs circle and attack Umbridge because she is an arrogant adult human. The centaurs would have allowed Harry and Hermione safe exit because of their youth but Hermione upsets them. It is not until Grawp comes to their rescue that the centaurs are driven away. At this point, Neville, Luna, Ron, and Ron's sister Ginny escape Umbridge's guards, meet Harry and Hermione in the forest, and plan their mission to save Sirius. Traveling via thestral, the group arrives at the Ministry of Magic only to find that Sirius is not there and that Harry fell into Voldemort's trap. Harry finds a glass orb with his name on it, which he discovers has a prophecy explaining the connection between Harry and Voldemort. Voldemort desperately wants the prophecy but cannot gain it without Harry's help.
A battle ensues pitting several adult Death Eaters against Harry and his young friends. The Death Eaters chase Harry and friends through many enchanted rooms in the Department of Mysteries, being careful not to damage the prophecy as they battle. The students use their D.A. skills well, but are eventually overtaken by the adult wizards. Neville even faces his parents' torturer, Bellatrix Lestrange. The Death Eaters are gaining ground when the Order of the Phoenix arrives, saving Harry and his friends. Unfortunately, the fight ends badly with the prophecy shattering and Sirius dying by falling through a magic veil. Harry angrily chases Lestrange, his godfather's murderer, into the lobby of the Ministry, only to find Voldemort himself waiting for him. When Voldemort attempts to use the deadliest curse against Harry, Dumbledore appears and fights triumphantly to save Harry's life.
Later, in the Headmaster's office, Harry rages against Dumbledore for not giving him any important information about his connection to Voldemort. Dumbledore humbly agrees, and takes responsibility for Harry's mistakes and for Sirius's death. He then says it is time for Harry to know the truth about his past. Harry listens attentively as Dumbledore explains how the prophecy foretells a connection between Harry and Voldemort that caused the evil wizard to attack him as a baby. Although Voldemort only knows half of the prophecy, Dumbledore heard the full prophecy from Professor Trelawney herself and reveals that ultimately Harry and Voldemort cannot coexist: one must kill the other. Harry also discovers that his mother's bloodlines protect him when he stays with the Dursleys, despite his aunt and uncle's foul treatment.
Still distraught over losing his godfather, Harry prepares to return to the Dursleys for another summer. A glimmer of hope emerges as Luna explains how Harry might speak with Sirius through the veil, but he does not have a chance to try before leaving Hogwarts for the year. The Order of the Phoenix accompanies Harry to the train station, warning the Dursleys against any ill treatment of Harry over the summer. Harry finds some satisfaction in this newfound band of friends.
Sirius attended Hogwarts with Harry's father James, his mother Lily, and their close friend. Remus Lupin. Sirius is a fugitive in the wizardry community as he is believed to be a murderer, and follower of the evil Lord Voldemort. Both accusations prove false as he is actually a member of the Order of the Phoenix, a group dedicated to fighting Voldemort. However, Sirius must remain in hiding, often taking on the disguise of a black dog named Snuffles, or risk being sent back to prison. As James's close friend, Sirius serves as Harry's godfather and closest adult confidant in the series. Harry relies on Sirius for friendship and advice.
Dobby is the house-elf that has attached itself to Harry as his loyal servant at Hogwarts. He suggests the secret meeting place that Harry and the others in the D.A. group can use to practice their Defense Against the Dark Arts.
As the most powerful good wizard in the "Harry Potter" series, Dumbledore plays numerous roles in the wizardry world. He is the Headmaster of Hogwarts School, leader of the Order of the Phoenix, and highly influential advisor to the wizardry world's governing bodies. Dumbledore also becomes Harry Potter's mentor early in the series, although that relationship becomes strained in this book. Dumbledore is known as the only wizard Voldemort ever feared, and thus can offer Harry the best protection from the evil wizard. As readers see for the first time in the series, Dumbledore not only knows the answers to many of Harry's deepest questions but he also remains the most powerful good wizard in the world. For the first time, Harry witnesses Dumbledore's battle skills when he challenges Voldemort head-on at the end of the novel. Because Dumbledore keeps Harry isolated for much of the story, their usually close relationship does not reappear until the Headmaster apologizes to Harry in the final chapters.
Dudley is Harry's cousin on his mother's side. He appears at the beginning and end of each "Harry Potter" book because Harry lives with him during the summers between Hogwarts sessions. Dudley is babied by his parents, and baits Harry to get him in trouble. He becomes increasingly fatter and more aggressive in each book, and this year becomes an even bigger bully as he trains as a wrestler.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released in an unabridged version on audio CD by the Listening Library in 2003. Jim Dale reads the part of Harry Potter. This CD is widely available through book stores and online merchants.
Petunia is Harry's only living blood relative, his mother Lily's sister, and thus holds the responsibility for his safekeeping. Much to her dismay, her shared bloodline with Harry's mother provides Harry protection against Voldemort while under her roof. Petunia, like her husband Vernon, hates the mere mention of magic and focuses her attention on coddling her only son Dudley.
Harry's uncle by marriage, Vernon Dursley merely tolerates Harry's presence at his house each summer. He hates all things magical, and forbids Harry to mention magic or Hogwarts in his home. He much prefers his own son Dudley over Harry, and cannot wait for his nephew to leave every fall for school.
Minister of Magic for the "Harry Potter" series thus far, Fudge plays the role of generally incompetent bureaucrat. Often found wearing a green bowler-type hat, his physical appearance matches his equally inept leadership of the wizardry world. Convinced that Dumbledore wants to steal his position, Fudge constantly mocks any mention of Voldemort's return as a way to undermine Dumbledore's authority.
Hermione Granger is Harry's closest companion at Hogwarts, after Ron Weasley. The three students continue to be inseparable in this book, as they are in the other "Harry Potter" novels. Hermione plays the intellectual role to Ron's sidekick part, always knowing the textbook answer to magic dilemmas. She is a straight A student who makes school and learning a priority, often urging Harry and Ron to be more attentive students.
Hermione comes from a non-magic, or Muggle, family where she is the only witch. Although none of the sympathetic characters, such as Harry and Ron, consider Hermione any different, some in the wizardry world regard Muggle-borns as second class. Those who follow Voldemort, for example, use the derogatory name "mudblood" to describe witches and wizards of non-magic descent. As a result of this stigma, readers often witness Hermione's championing of other oppressed magic creatures, such as the enslaved house-elves. Although Hermione's strength of character and logical approach frequently extricate Harry and Ron from difficult circumstances, readers recognize that life is about more than books. It takes all three characters, and their gifts of bravery, loyalty, and intelligence, to solve the problems in each "Harry Potter" novel.
A half giant, Hagrid strikes an intimidating figure with his large beard, unkempt clothes, and massive physical presence. He reappears in the fifth "Harry Potter" novel as more of a peer to Harry and his friends than an authority figure, despite his role as Care of Magical Creatures professor at Hogwarts. Harry, Ron, and Hermione feel especially affectionate towards Hagrid, whose rough appearance belies his sensitivity.
Serving as the Black family house-elf, Kreacher lives with Sirius throughout the novel. He remains loyal to the dark wizards of the Black family, and thus constantly insults Sirius and the Order of the Phoenix members who stay at the house. Because house-elves are bound to their masters, Kreacher cannot leave or disobey Sirius until he receives a direct order. In the end, this loophole allows him to play a key role in trapping Harry Potter into meeting Voldemort.
Sirius Black's cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange has been in prison for fifteen years as a result of her allegiance to Voldemort. In this story, she breaks out of prison and helps provide Voldemort with information to lure Harry into his plot. Lestrange tortured Neville Longbottom's parents into insanity, and she tortures Neville himself in the book's final battle.
Classmate of Harry Potter's, Neville is a close friend of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Readers generally feel sorry for Neville because his clumsiness lands him in continually awkward or embarrassing situations. Also, his parents were driven insane by torture when Neville was a baby; his grandmother raised him. Neville appears in all five books, but gains a larger role in this novel as he bravely-but sometimes clumsily-fights Voldemort and the Death Eaters at the end.
A new character in the "Harry Potter" series, Luna Lovegood enters as a slightly strange classmate of Harry's who tells odd stories about questionable creatures and events. Known to other students as "Loony," Luna eventually becomes key to the story's action when she fights Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic. Her father publishes the slightly offbeat newspaper, The Quibbler.
A werewolf, Remus Lupin entered Harry's life as a Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor in a previous book. Because he knew Harry's parents in school and serves as a member of the Order of the Phoenix, Lupin remains a mentor to Harry throughout his adventures.
Harry Potter's chief rival at Hogwarts, Draco Malfoy serves as a constant irritant and bully to characters with whom readers sympathize. Draco represents Harry's foil as he plays the same position in Quidditch, is a leader of Slytherin House, and attracts many followers because of his strong personality. He verbally taunts Harry and his friends throughout the school year. Also opposing Harry and causing conflict, Draco's father Lucius follows Voldemort as a Death Eater.
The character of Lucius Malfoy, Draco's father, appears more frequently in the later "Harry Potter" novels. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Malfoy continues to serve Voldemort as a Death Eater and tries to influence the Minister of Magic towards the evil wizard's cause. In the final battle, Malfoy fights Harry and his friends, only to be sent to prison once his allegiance to Voldemort becomes public knowledge.
Professor McGonagall teaches Transfiguration at Hogwarts, leads Gryffindor House, and functions as Dumbledore's second-in-command. She appears in every "Harry Potter" book, providing stern but fair friendship to Harry and his friends. She is also a member of the Order of the Phoenix.
Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody
Another of the former Professors of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody is named for his magic eye that can see in all directions, even through the back of his head. He is a master of magical defense, and is thus a leader in the Order of the Phoenix. He takes special care of Harry's safety in this book, and fights in the battle against Voldemort at the end.
Harry Potter is a young wizard celebrating his fifteenth birthday at the beginning of the story. His life has been a difficult one for someone so young: his parents were killed by the evil wizard, Voldemort, when Harry was only a baby, but when the wizard tried to kill him too, he survived. Harry has a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his forehead as a result of this event, which throbs with pain whenever Voldemort is near. The mystery of the story, and the larger "Harry Potter" series, asks why Harry was a target in the first place, how he managed to be the lone survivor of his family, and why Voldemort was nearly destroyed in the process. Harry's achievement made him famous in the wizardry world, earning him the label "The Boy Who Lived."
Earlier "Harry Potter" books describe Harry's past in more detail. Despite Harry's fame, those closest to him decided he should be raised by his non-magic relatives, the Dursleys, until age eleven. Treated poorly and kept ignorant of his past until then, Harry celebrated his eleventh birthday by discovering he was a wizard and that he would be attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry's entry into the wizardry world as a young boy unaware of his special powers made him a likeable, humble character to whom many readers could relate. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix takes place during Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts.
Harry's adolescence becomes apparent in this story; he spends much of his time moody, angry, and isolated. He faces many normal teenage pressures throughout the novel, such as dating, balancing homework and social activities, and considering his future. But he must also face the much larger responsibility of vanquishing Voldemort in order to save the entire wizardry world. In the end, Harry finds out more clues to his past, including the prophecy that predicts that Harry and Voldemort cannot coexist, and that one will kill the other. The combination of these levels of stress cause the teenage Harry, normally even-tempered, to remain sensitive and brooding through most of the book.
Professor Snape teaches Potions at Hogwarts, although he covets the Defense Against Dark Arts position. Despite his application for that position every year, he mysteriously never receives it. Harry's least favorite professor, Snape used to follow Voldemort as a Death Eater but has since reformed and become loyal to Dumbledore. Harry doubts Snape's allegiance in each book, and finds even more reasons to hate him in this one. Snape appears to hate Harry back, as the story reveals that Harry's father bullied Snape as a schoolboy. Snape expresses his aversion to Harry constantly, docking his grades in class and looking for ways to punish him outside of class.
Nymphadora Tonks works as an Auror and as a member of the Order of the Phoenix, appearing for the first time in this "Harry Potter" book. She answers only to her last name, and she can change bodily form at whim; she takes on various physical characteristics from short to long hair, small to tall stature, and young to old features. She fights in the final battle to save Harry at the end.
The latest Defense Against Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, Umbridge plays the role of informant to the Ministry of Magic. She gains more and more power from the Ministry as the story goes on, eventually becoming High Inquisitor, or chief tattle tale, at Hogwarts. Umbridge attempts to control all activities and information inside the school, cruelly punishing any students who challenge her authority. Harry and his friends fight Umbridge's new school policies all year long.
The most evil wizard in the world, Lord Voldemort recently returned to bodily form and seeks supreme power throughout this book. Once reigning in the wizardry world, Voldemort nearly died when he tried to kill Harry Potter fifteen years ago. Instead of dying, however, Voldemort maintained various states of existence in each of the earlier "Harry Potter" books. By the fifth installment, Voldemort regains a body and seeks to capture ultimate power by destroying Harry Potter.
Born Tom Riddle, Voldemort actually has non-magic bloodlines despite his emphasis on pureblooded magic families. Riddle trained as a Hogwarts student under Dumbledore's professorship, but turned evil as his talent and power increased. In this story, Voldemort's cruelty becomes more apparent as readers witness him punishing and killing both foes and allies. Despite Voldemort's inability to kill Harry by the end of the story, the prophecy foretells that neither can exist together. Rowling sets the stage for larger, more dangerous battles in the final two "Harry Potter" books.
Father of seven, Arthur Weasley also plays the role of surrogate father to Harry Potter. Ron brings Harry to his house early in the series, and Arthur makes the famous wizard feel at home for the first time in his life. A member of the Order of the Phoenix and working in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department of the Ministry of Magic, Arthur also exhibits a special fondness for non-magic people. In this novel, Voldemort's snake attacks Arthur and sends him to the hospital with serious injuries.
Fred and George Weasley
Ron's older twin brothers Fred and George always appear together and provide comic relief throughout the story. They are typical Weasleys, with red hair and freckles, but show a penchant for mischief. Throughout the school year, Fred and George develop practical joke products, such as pills that make students vomit, or bleed from the nose, that they hope to sell in their own joke shop one day. Their elaborate and explosive departure from Hogwarts at the end of the term not only helps Harry in his quest to fight Voldemort, but, although not yet graduated, also marks their permanent exit from school.
Ron Weasley's younger sister Ginny Weasley becomes less meek in this story than in previous "Harry Potter" books. With her apparent crush on Harry in the past, Ginny becomes a stronger presence among the group of students training to fight Voldemort. She is more vocal about her opinions throughout the novel, and fights in the battles at the Ministry of Magic at the end.
Mother of the Weasley clan, Molly becomes the surrogate mother to Harry and Hermione while they all stay at Sirius's family house in this book. Molly plays a stereotypical motherly role as she cooks and cleans for the family, worries about her children constantly, and pesters everyone to behave correctly. Molly is also a member of the Order of the Phoenix. She is an especially lovable character because she cares for Harry as if he were her own son.
Fastidious son of Arthur and Molly Weasley, Percy spends The Order of the Phoenix estranged from his family. His loyalty lies with his boss, the Minister of Magic, and he turns his back on his father's work with the Order of the Phoenix.
Ron Weasley, known only to his mother as "Ronald," continues to play the role of Harry Potter's best friend in Rowling's fifth "Harry Potter" book. Tall, lanky, and red haired, Ron comes from a large family with little money, opening him up to constant mocking from his fellow students. Besides helping Harry cope with the larger challenges of Voldemort's return, Ron also struggles with his own insecurities about school and social activities. Not a stellar student, he breaks into athletics in this book as he becomes the Gryffindor Quidditch team's goalie. His performance is generally poor until the end of the story, causing the already insecure Ron to doubt himself even more. Readers will notice a romantic undercurrent in the constant bickering between Ron and Harry's other best friend Hermione Granger. Ron's greatest weaknesses lie in his envy of the money and skill Harry seems to come by so naturally. But he remains Harry's loyal companion through all adventures and, even when his magical skills do not compare to the famous Harry Potter's, Ron's uncompromising friendship endears him to readers.
Search for Knowledge
The largest mystery in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix surrounds Harry's search for knowledge of himself and his place in the wizardry world. The novel opens with Harry's constant attention to newspapers and news programs as he looks for any evidence of Voldemort's return. When he finds nothing in his searches, he looks to letters from Ron and Hermione for information. At Dumbledore's request, those letters similarly contain little helpful news. Once at the Order of the Phoenix, Harry's quest for answers becomes partially satisfied as he learns that Voldemort still lies in wait, spending his energies gathering supporters and looking for a new kind of "weapon." But the larger questions about Voldemort's long-term strategies and the Order's plans to defend the wizardry community evade Harry. Members of the Order, led by Dumbledore, contend that Harry should only be told what "he needs to know" and little else.
Harry's initial curiosity about Voldemort seems to be unfounded adolescent energy. Many adult readers might agree at the beginning of the novel that, although he did play a key role in the community-altering events of the previous year, Harry indeed should be protected from further involvement because of his youth. In fact, Dumbledore clearly expresses this view in the final scenes of the novel: "I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth…." But Harry's instincts serve him well; his search for knowledge of Voldemort proved not to be mere teenage arrogance but rather a longing for self-knowledge. Dumbledore explains a great deal to Harry about himself in the end, and gives him many keys to unlock his past and his future. Although some of this knowledge, especially Harry's destiny to kill or be killed by Voldemort, weighs heavily on the fifteen-year-old. Dumbledore tells him, "I know you have long been ready for the knowledge I have kept from you for so long, because you have proved that I should have placed the burden upon you before this."
Good and Evil
The forces of good and evil battle fiercely in each "Harry Potter" book, as Harry and Voldemort square off by the end of each adventure. But as Harry matures, so does his understanding of good and evil forces in the world. As Sirius Black explains "with a wry smile," there are many ambiguities in the adult world, and that world "isn't split into good people and Death Eaters."
Delores Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic provide the most compelling examples of the complex moral world in which Harry now finds himself. The Ministry's mission, led by Minister Cornelius Fudge, should be to use the governmental structures to protect and benefit the lives of witches and wizards. Although the actions of Fudge and Umbridge illustrate character flaws that range from incompetence to cruelty, neither character should be read as wholly evil. Both characters believe they seek the good of the community. Fudge's attempt to discredit Dumbledore's story of Voldemort's return stems from his insecurity and fear of losing power. Yet this discrediting falls far short of Death Eater—type evil. Even Umbridge's mean-spirited manipulation of Hogwarts students illustrates her own struggles with control rather than indicating a penchant for true evil. Umbridge's willingness to torture the truth out of Harry only proves the complex relationship that exists between good intentions and evil outcomes. Harry must navigate these cloudy waters as he grows up, doing his best to react appropriately to the sometimes wrongheaded but well-intentioned individuals that populate much of the world, while still recognizing true evil when he faces it. Rowling's representation of a complex moral atmosphere explains her novels' broad appeal to both children and adults.
The last few "Harry Potter" novels introduce the ancillary theme of social order in the wizardry and Muggle worlds. Indeed, readers learn the difference between what are considered pure-blood wizards and what are negatively labeled "mudbloods" in as early as the second book. Hermione Granger represents the latter as she is the only witch in her non-magical family. Most of the wizardry world overlooks such distinctions but as Voldemort and his followers gain more power, readers see that not all wizards agree. Voldemort, despite not being pure-blood, draws primary support from pure-blooded wizardry families such as the Malfoys and the Blacks. Keeping the wizardry legacy "pure" drives much of the Death Eaters' actions and therefore plays a crucial role in Voldemort's larger plan.
From wanting Hogwarts to serve exclusively pure-blooded students, to subjecting lesser orders of magical creatures to servitude, Rowling depicts a world of social segregation much like readers' own. As Hermione battles attitudes such as Draco Malfoy's about her heritage, it is not surprising that she becomes an advocate for those in servitude, like the house-elves. Throughout their school year, Harry and Ron watch Hermione attempt to free the Hogwarts house-elves by giving them clothing, and more specifically, by knitting them hats. Rowling demonstrates the complexity of social oppression, however, as many house-elves do not wish to be free and actually resent Hermione's attempts to trick them into independence.
In its attempt to band together against Voldemort's return, moreover, the wizardry community must pay for injustices done to non-human magical creatures. Difficulty with the giants, the centaurs, and even the Dementors present obstacles to a unified front against Voldemort. Dumbledore explains, "We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward." Social order grows in prominence as a theme in each subsequent "Harry Potter" novel, certainly foreshadowing its role as one of the central conflicts to be resolved in the larger series.
With whispers of romance beginning during the last school year, this year at Hogwarts sees Harry's first kiss, and Hermione's flirtations with Ron and a student from another school. Harry finds courtship to be a rocky road as he attempts to date the pretty Ravenclaw Seeker, Cho Chang. Previously Cedric's girlfriend, Cho spends much of her time with Harry crying about her former boyfriend's death. As any teenage boy would, Harry vacillates between feeling terrified and frustrated at the young girl's constant tears. Even with Hermione's attempts to translate Cho's emotional state, Harry is relieved when their brief romance ends. The flirtation between Ron and Hermione, in contrast, appears to be growing throughout their fifth year together. Constantly bickering so that Harry is reminded of a married couple, the two cannot admit their attraction to each other yet, but readers clearly see a relationship in their future. Ron's jealousy at Hermione's pen-pal relationship with Viktor especially highlights that Hermione is more than just a friend. Not to be left out of the social activity, Ginny Weasley also begins dating during the school year; even though she was previously infatuated with Harry. By the end of the school year, though, they have broken up only for Ginny to date still another boy. Perhaps foreshadowing a relationship in the future, Ron subtly expresses his disappointment that his sister is not dating his best friend Harry.
TOPICS FOR FURTHER STUDY
- In a two-page essay, compare the Ministry of Magic to your government: where do you see successes or failures in each? Where do you see abuses of power like those perpetrated by Cornelius Fudge or Delores Umbridge? Where do you see progress being made by leaders such as Albus Dumbledore or Arthur Weasley?
- How does your school compare to Hogwarts? In his fifth year, Harry faces extremely difficult standardized exams. Provide examples of characters for which the tests were effective as well as individuals for whom the exams were not a fair judge of talent or intelligence. What is Rowling's attitude towards standardized tests? How does your school or community evaluate student progress? What are the benefits and shortcomings in each world? Write a one-page summary on your findings.
- Professor Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic constantly censor and control the information available to both Hogwarts students and the wizardry community as a whole. Especially through the newspaper, the Daily Prophet, the Ministry attempts to control the messages presented to the community about Voldemort's return. The Ministry even goes as far as denying what it knows to be true in an effort to keep the peace. In a one-page essay, compare these governmental strategies with ones you observe today, in the age of terrorism and global threats. How and why might your government attempt to control threatening information? What are the benefits of managing information in this way? What are the dangers?
- Analyze Professor Snape's role in Harry Potter's life. On one hand, he intentionally singles out Harry and mistreats him. On the other hand, he provides wise advice to him during Occlumency lessons: "Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions … stand no chance against [Voldemort's] powers…. Control your anger, discipline your mind!" How might this direction have helped Harry in the novel? Further, what does Rowling intend for readers to think about Snape? Clearly, Dumbledore and most of the Order of the Phoenix members trust him but Harry does not. What will Snape's role be in Harry's future? How should readers understand his character? Write a brief essay explaining your opinions.
Another adolescent factor in the novel's focus is Harry's struggle to master his moods. From feeling sad and alone with his nightmares, to feeling elated and surrounded by true friends, Harry's emotional states vary widely throughout his fifth year. As many teenagers do, Harry often feels isolated from his peers because of his unique experiences. He becomes angry when other people believe they understand exactly what he is going through. In these cases, Harry often spends long periods of time alone, whereas he used to seek the company of his friends. Isolation remains a hallmark of teenage life, and when Harry does find himself with company, he often becomes quickly angry at them. Growing frustrated more often with Ron and Hermione, Harry admits that he "wasn't even sure why he was feeling so angry." Rowling describes Harry's "temper," like many normal adolescents, as "always so close to the surface these days." Harry's moodiness and resulting sarcastic or biting remarks, in addition to his newly growing romantic relationships, place him squarely within the typical teenage world.
From the beginning, Rowling envisioned the "Harry Potter" series to be comprised of seven books, one for each year of Harry's schooling at Hogwarts. The series follow the lives of the same main characters—Harry, Ron, and Hermione—through each novel and continues the narrative from one book to the next. One way to view the series is to consider the overall series as one book, with each novel acting as a chapter. Although each of the "Harry Potter" books can stand independently, there are several threads that link the series together, and each subsequent novel moves the characters and the plot forward. The opening chapters of each book include a brief summary of events that have transpired in the previous books, keeping the reader informed of earlier plot action and acting as an introduction to the series for first-time readers. As the series draws to a close, major plot points and themes begin to move toward the final culminating battle between Harry and Voldemort. Rowling utilizes foreshadowing to hook the reader's interest in the climax and resolutions to be revealed in the remaining books in the series.
Third-Person Limited Omniscient Point of View
In spite of the fact that the novel is written from a third-person perspective, throughout much of the book Rowling reveals clues through Harry's perspective. Using third-person limited omniscient point of view, an author presents the events from an outside perspective, but reveals the perceptions of one or more characters. As opposed to presenting information through characters' conversations, their observations, or their activities, Rowling instead allows readers to witness Harry's thoughts in this novel. While still at the Dursleys, Harry sits quietly on a swing ruminating about Cedric's death in the graveyard; many scenes echo this first glimpse into Harry's psychological struggles, as he begins to search himself for answers rather than taking every problem immediately to Ron and Hermione, as in other books. More than once, Harry decides not to talk to his friends until he has thought deeply about his problems. Sometimes Harry is not even certain why he does not want to talk to his friends: "He was not really sure why he was not telling Ron and Hermione exactly what was happening…." Rowling writes, but eventually, he does bring major concerns to his friends, who then discuss strategies for solving those problems.
Government and the War on Terror
The "Harry Potter" series can only be understood as creating a cultural phenomenon all on its own. With 80 million books in print by the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, as well as the continuing success of each Warner Brothers film adaptation, Rowling's writing will demand its own account in future history books. But the novels do reflect some of the cultural atmosphere of the early twenty-first century. While the majority of the "Harry Potter" series was published during the years of western economic prosperity, the fifth novel follows the September 11, 2001 attacks and the subsequent global war on terror. Some of the darker tone of the fifth novel echoes the more negative global atmosphere present after September 11th. Additionally, religious protests continue to hound Rowling's series, as some readers find the magical content morally questionable.
During the years following more terrorist attacks on western targets, political tensions in the United Kingdom increased as Prime Minister Tony Blair supported American President George Bush's war in Iraq. It would perhaps be an overstatement to say that Rowling intended to criticize this specific governmental policy with her plot of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; still, readers may be specifically attuned to the generally critical tone toward authority in the story. The Ministry of Magic, led by fumbling Minister Cornelius Fudge, provides little protection for the magic community as he refuses to release factual information about Voldemort's return. Further, Delores Umbridge's militant control of information within Hogwarts castle and The Daily Prophet's censorship of news reports also provide parallels to the political atmosphere of the time. Readers may recognize a similar attitude of governmental mistrust as both Blair and Bush were criticized for withholding or manipulating intelligence information that led to Iraq's invasion. Media scandals with the BBC and the New York Times additionally reverberate with action in the novel.
Although the "Harry Potter" series enjoyed unmatched popularity in the majority of markets, more conservative religious populations continued to raise concerns about the morality of magic. Religious objections about the magic content of the "Harry Potter" series ranged from mild concerns about children who solve their problems with magic rather than honest effort, to extreme accusations of evil and anti-biblical representations of devil worship. There have even been several, although not well-received, instances of "Harry Potter" censorship and book burnings. Television shows such as 60 Minutes detailed these protests, but their influence was only marginal compared to the widespread celebration of the novels' positive influence on children.
Generally, Rowling's books are credited with reintroducing an entire generation of children to the joys of reading. News reports often gleefully cite images of ten-year-olds tearing through 800-page books, and staying up late at night reading. There are even medical reports describing patterns of children complaining of neck cramps caused by excessive time spent reading "Harry Potter" novels. On the whole, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix continues to speak to an entire generation of child and adult readers because of their high entertainment value.
Critical reaction to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix reflects significant attention to the "Harry Potter" series in general; that is, the largest debate surrounds whether Rowling's writing earns consideration as quality, valid, adult literature. Critics are asking the same question often asked of any text enjoying enormous popularity: Is it any good?
To answer the question of literary merit, scholars approach Rowling's work from a number of perspectives. Considerations of genre, style, and content provide fodder for both sides of the debate, and establish a considerable argument that "Harry Potter" may not qualify as substantial literature. To the contrary, it should be taken seriously for its literary depth and topical merit.
Categorizing Rowling's writing becomes difficult for several reasons. First, a series of seven books with a maturing main character makes labeling the whole of the work much more complicated. In an effort to understand where these books fit into the world of literature, critics focus primarily on the novels as members of the Fantasy or Great Novel genre. In either case, numerous critics argue that Rowling does or does not fit the standards for that genre. Fantasy, for instance, draws the constant attention of writers because of the "Harry Potter" books' many similarities with J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some of the most ardent detractors of Rowling's work also use Tolkien as their basis of comparison, citing his deep allegorical content as vastly superior to Rowling's more childlike and humorous stories. Highly prominent writers A. S. Byatt and William Safire join these ranks in their New York Times articles, with Byatt calling the books "jokey" rather than substantial, and Safire claiming the books are "not written on two levels" and therefore, "prizeworthy culture [they] ain't." Just as many critics have rallied in Rowling's defense, however, stockpiling evidence that the "Harry Potter" books are as serious contributions to the genres of fantasy and novel as even Tolkien's and C. S. Lewis's. Writing for the journal Topic, Miranda Maney Yaggi uses Tolkien's own guidelines to validate the "Harry Potter" series, while Steven Barfield, in the same journal, classifies Rowling's works as a subcategory called "satirical fantasy." Paige Byam, also in Topic, even argues that Rowling's stories fit into the great tradition of British novels, following in Charles Dickens's and Charlotte Brontë's footsteps.
Next, many readers evaluate Rowling's writing style to determine how worthy her texts might be for serious literary consideration. One of the most prominent recent literary scholars, Harold Bloom, famously weighed in on this debate, using the Wall Street Journal to call Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone "heavy on cliché," "inadequate," and "not well written." Because of its "aesthetic weakness," Bloom relegates Rowling's work to "the dustbins of the ages." Philip Hensher agrees, in his Spectator review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, basing his judgment on Rowling's simplistic writing style that falls short of eloquence. Among the throngs of readers who disagree with Bloom is Kathleen McEvoy, also writing in Topic, who demonstrates the aesthetic beauty of Rowling's writing style. McEvoy details the intricate organization and assiduously structured form in the "Harry Potter" novels, stating that "the beautiful architecture" of the books makes them "as structurally sound as any work out there and serve as valuable examples of what good writing can and should be."
Finally, readers disagree on the appropriateness of the magic content in the "Harry Potter" series. Especially as the novels grow darker and more mature, some conservative Christian groups find the magic to be too alluring for young, impressionable minds. The Christian Broadcasting Network website provides several articles showing parents' and communities' concerns over how magic in the novels may influence occult practices among their children. Communities and school districts must enter this debate especially since the film versions of "Harry Potter" have debuted, and decide whether to allow or ban the books from their classrooms. In rare instances, the theme of magic in Rowling's works has been alleged to encourage devil worship and has spawned actual book-burnings. Opposing these opinions, however, many writers detail the positive moral content within Rowling's texts, and claim they enrich and embolden their young readers' lives. In response to those who would ban "Harry Potter," Lee Ann Diffendal argues in Topic that the series actually promotes Judeo-Christian standards and "contains classic philanthropic lessons on loyalty, faith, courage, and friendship." Thus, despite the various controversial aspects of Rowling's ever popular series, readers and scholars alike find material to bolster both sides of the literary worthiness debate, undoubtedly underscoring the series' merit and cultural importance.
Laura Baker Shearer
Shearer holds a Ph.D. in American literature and works as an English professor and freelance writer. In this essay, Shearer examines character complexity in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and questions elite scholars who discount the text's literary worthiness.
As Rowling completes each installment in her "Harry Potter" series, and as these novels draw more and more readers the world over, substantial scholarship about the popular literature grows. For the most part, critics have become increasingly willing to take the texts seriously, developing numerous literary strategies to interpret and evaluate what were originally considered mere children's books. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix offers a similarly wide landscape for literary analysis, especially in the area of character development. By this fifth year in Harry Potter's education at Hogwarts, readers may feel they know the main characters on a deep level. Rowling does not fail, however, to thwart expectations regarding most of the main characters, leaving Harry's world much less secure than in past books in the series.
It is this unexpected complexity that adds rich texture to what may otherwise have been a predictable storyline. A few members of the academic elite still refuse to recognize genuine literary merit in the popular series—possibly because of its very popularity—and ignore the elements that "Harry Potter" books share with the novels of great literature. While their evaluations have some credibility, the wholesale dismissal of a large adult readership as juvenile and regressive raises red flags and calls for a closer inspection. The true genius of Rowling's latest "Harry Potter" adventure reveals itself in her relentless attention to character complexity, which indicates a level of writing worthy of literary merit. Intelligent adult readers may justify their love of these books in Rowling's mature and elaborate character development.
The vivid characters and compelling story-line in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix provide a magnetic, energetic, and engrossing literary experience that overcomes the few artistic flaws some critics address. Suspicious of the series' large readership, prominent critics such as Harold Bloom, William Safire, and A. S. Byatt believe many adult fans do not use an adequately critical eye when reading "Harry Potter" books. Contrary to these criticisms, the fifth "Harry Potter" novel presents itself as good literature not simply because numerous readers enjoy it but because it provides many avenues for literary inquiry. For instance, Kathleen McEvoy in Topic locates merit in the intricate "architectural" plot Rowling unravels within and across each book. John Leonard of the New York Times finds the literary spark in the veritable "cluster bombs" of creative curses, creatures, and characters with which the book overflows. One may extend literary analysis of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by appreciating the extensive and surprising character development within the story, which sees many of the main characters change in ways that create complexity not only in themselves but in plot development and reader expectations.
The series hero, Harry Potter, undergoes an extensive character transformation during his fifteenth year. In addition to the bravery and courage readers expect to find in their favorite boy wizard, they also encounter some less-than-appealing personality traits as he enters the heart of his adolescence. A certain moodiness associated with teenage years is to be expected, but Harry's erratic emotions may strain reader sympathy. Harry lashes out at his best friends, Ron and Hermione, and ultimately at his beloved mentor, Albus Dumbledore. His behavior causes readers, for the first time, to question the series' protagonist. Readers' skepticism is justified when, in the end, Harry ignores all warnings and endangers his closest friends. Leading toward the final battle at the Ministry of Magic, readers recognize the mistakes Harry makes as he disengages with his school community and withdraws into the world of his dark dreams.
Readers' sympathy is stretched the farthest when they discover Harry enjoying his ventures into Voldemort's mind: "The truth was that he was so intensely curious about what was hidden in that room full of dusty orbs that he was quite keen for the dreams to continue." Even though a certain level of curiosity seems normal, Harry quickly falls into the traps of vanity and self-importance as he chases after Voldemort's thoughts. Voldemort capitalizes on Harry's mistakes and, in the process, Harry causes permanent damage to the wizarding community. Harry had certainly made mistakes in his previous years at Hogwarts, but it is not until his fifth year that his own ego begins to affect his otherwise generally selfless decision-making. Presenting her hero in this more negative light allows Rowling to add depth and drama to her narrative. Harry's actions also become more difficult for readers to predict, adding interest and complexity to what could have been a simplistic, childish story.
Harry's constant companions, Ron and Hermione, also find different roles in this installment. Usually the loyal sidekick and the brainy bookworm, Ron's and Hermione's respective roles fade throughout this school year as a result of Harry's increasing isolation. Readers expect the three friends to solve the book's mystery together, as they have in previous novels. This year, however, Harry excludes his friends from his troubles. From the beginning, when they meet again at Twelve, Grimmauld Place, Harry vents his frustrations by yelling at his friends. Throughout the novel, Harry chooses to lash out at Ron and Hermione rather than invite their help in solving his problems. Readers may find this choice distasteful because the three friends have found such success working together in the past. When Harry ultimately makes his fateful blunder by believing Voldemort has captured Sirius, Hermione's remarkably accurate warning echoes in readers' ears: "[D]on't you think you've got a bit of a—a—saving-people-thing?… Voldemort knows you, Harry!… What if he's just trying to get you into the Department of Myst[eries]?" If Harry had not responded to Hermione's reasonable, and correct, prediction by flying into a rage, perhaps he would have avoided his tragic error. The exclusion of his faithful friends from Harry's internal struggles, and Ron's and Hermione's subsequent reactions, gives readers a new perspective on these well-known and well-loved characters. It also marks the end of Harry's—and the series'—reliance on the teamwork of childhood and the beginning of his isolation and singularity of adulthood.
Dumbledore further confounds readers' expectations in the novel. Nearly omniscient in every other book, Dumbledore knows all about Harry's exploits, both legal and otherwise, and seems to hold (and withhold) the answers to all of Harry's questions. But in this story, Dumbledore's absence becomes more noticeable than his presence. While Harry excludes his friends from his troubles, he deeply longs for his mentor's advice. Much to Harry's disappointment, Dumbledore continues to evade his company. In the end, readers are again disturbed to find that Dumbledore commits an error as fatal as Harry's: he suppresses crucial information that could have saved Sirius Black's life. "For I see now," Dumbledore confesses, "that what I have done, and not done, with regard to you, bears all the hallmarks of the failings of age…. An old man's mistake." Dumbledore's god-like image shatters by the end of The Order of the Phoenix as readers witness his fallibility and increasing frailty. This character change forces readers to reconfigure their understanding of Hogwarts as a secure place under Dumbledore's reign. Rowling's undermining of Dumbledore's authority shifts the power structure in the wizarding world, leaving Harry Potter more alone than ever.
Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, also undergoes a change in characterization throughout the novel. In the previous books in the series, the mature Black offered Harry his only true father figure. However, Rowling diminishes Black's reputation in The Order of the Phoenix by depicting him as a moody and selfish adolescent. Why does she present Black in such a negative light when he dies at the end? Revealing the chinks in Harry's godfather's armor is not at all unexpected, as many critics point out, because Harry must learn to become independent of the godfather whom he resembles so closely. But Sirius represents a small respite from an exhausting and challenging world for Harry. Could Sirius have not left the wizarding world with his godfatherly tenderness intact? Rowling's presentation of Black's faults, like Dumbledore's, causes Harry's world to become less stable, and readers' expectations to be continually challenged.
Severus Snape embodies a final conundrum. Rowling continues to taunt readers with his mean-spirited treatment of Harry in their public and private meetings, but once readers witness Snape's own childhood trauma, they feel sympathy towards him, and perhaps even begin to understand why he is what he is. Harry feels a similar, though tentative, connection because of this shared humiliation. In the end, though, Harry refuses their bond, vowing to himself that "he would never forgive Snape … never." Presumably, Harry feels such anger toward Snape, because Snape was unhelpful during the violent battle with Voldemort and the Death Eaters. However, readers may not blame Snape so harshly. It is at this point that they may feel an uncomfortable distance and near-judgment of Harry, whom they have championed and sympathized with since his first year at Hogwarts.
Such complex threads of character development keep Rowling's narrative multidimensional and thus worthy of literary considera-tion. Critics Bloom, Safire, and Byatt deny this achievement, however, citing the text's popularity as evidence of less-than-discerning readers and citing the work as greatly over-praised and under-scrutinized. They explain away Rowling's massive adult readership as evidence of immature grown-ups seeking the comforts of childhood. It is, however, in Byatt's concluding comments about cultural studies that these elite critics' true objection seems to lie. Byatt blames the Rowling "phenomenon" on "the leveling effect of cultural studies, which are as interested in hype and popularity as they are in literary merit, which they don't really believe exists." This obvious aggression toward the inclusive values of cultural studies may explain the threat some critics perceive in Rowling and their wholesale rejection of the nearly monopolistic cultural popularity she enjoys.
The last thirty years have brought vast changes to the academic world as scholars have sought to break open the closed and male-dominated realm of higher education. Wanting to recover female, multi-ethnic, and multi-classed presences for serious study at a university level, academics now examine nontraditional texts with academic standards previously reserved for classics. In literature, for example, critics review letters, diaries, and even recipes of women and people of color as a way to recover and fully understand those voices. Because only the privileged and educated individuals in most societies found time or avenues for artistic endeavor, groundbreaking academics attempt to include marginalized forms and voices to redefine what might be considered art. Part of this movement includes the new practice of reading what the masses read and considering popular work alongside more traditional art. This dynamic is the "leveling" of which Byatt speaks, and it is the threat Rowling presents to the body of so-called great literature.
What Bloom, Safire, and Byatt fail to recognize, it seems, is that Rowling's novels are not considered good literature exclusively or even primarily because of their popularity. Few, if any, serious analyses of Rowling's texts state that the novels are worthy pieces of literature solely because so many adult readers love them. Some certainly take the cultural studies standpoint that their massive popularity should cause critics to take notice of Rowling's work, but the final judgment of the "Harry Potter" series still depends upon a set of literary criteria. It is not, as Byatt claims, that scholars of Rowling do not believe in "literary merit"; it is instead that they believe merit may be found in the most unusual, and potentially popular, places.
In his Wall Street Journal article, Bloom contemplates the "Harry Potter" books and rightly asks, "Why read, if what you read will not enrich mind or spirit or personality?" The deeply textured characterization found in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is one of the reasons that the novel can be called greatly enriching. Rowling's books do not, as Bloom, Safire, and Byatt claim, lull readers into an entertainment haze. Instead, they cause readers to think about how characters have grown over the years and to ponder their unpredictable and potentially precarious fates in the final books.
Source: Laura Baker Shearer, Critical Essay on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in Literary Newsmakers for Students, Thomson Gale, 2006.
In the following excerpt, Byam argues that the Harry Potter series compares favorably with other classic British novels, and deserves attention and respect for its "adult" literary merits.
Often, great success brings controversy: such is the case for the Harry Potter series. After the first two novels in the series had been published, it was already very clear that their author, J. K. Rowling, had engaged a new generation of readers, especially among the elementary-school-age crowd. It was also apparent that adults were reading the books in huge numbers, and I became interested in this phenomenon—as well as eagerly anticipating each book in the series for my own part.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) is Rowling's first installment in her series about the young wizard. In it, Harry first discovers he is a wizard; he also learns that the world of magic will offer him a home, a place to find friends, and to fit in.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999) continues Harry's journey through his second year at Hogwarts. Rowling shows Harry facing Voldemort for the second time and learning he has more in common with the evil wizard than he ever imagined.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) follows Harry's third year at Hogwarts and takes on a darker tone than in earlier books. The evil Harry faces appears greater, but so do his rewards, including a newfound father figure.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000) takes the series in a much more mature direction. With action beginning in the early pages, Rowling's 700-page story introduces numerous new characters and presents adult situations, including a murder.
- J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King were initially published in 1954 and 1955 as three separate installments and have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as a result of its recent Hollywood film adaptations. In his trilogy, Tolkien presents a rich fantasy world, often considered more allegorical and mature than Rowling's series, that follows the search for goodness in the face of terrible evil.
- Cornelia Funke's Inkheart (2003) is the story of Meggie, whose father Mo has the ability to read characters into and out of books. When one of the evil characters he has accidentally read out of a book called "Inkheart" wants to use Mo's power for his own wicked plans, Meggie, Mo, and their friends must escape capture and find the author of "Inkheart" to rewrite a new ending.
- The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (1978) tells the classic story of young King Arthur as he trains under the tutelage of the magician Merlin to become a gentleman and a knight. All of his training leads to the day when he pulls the sword from the stone and becomes the King of England.
However, it is the cult status of the series among adults that has drawn much criticism and created controversy since that time. Many debates, inside of the academy and out, have focused on whether or not the Harry Potter books are "just" children's books, and whether they have literary merit. This controversy erupted most spectacularly in the New York Times's placing of the Harry Potter books on its "Best Seller List."
Because the huge, long-term success of the Harry Potter books placed the books in the series atop the list and left little room for books aimed strictly at adult readers, the New York Times decided to put them into a newly created children's best-seller list. Commenting on this decision in July of 2000, Charles McGrath, the editor of the New York Times Book Review, stated:
The sales and popularity of children's books can rival and, in the case of the Harry Potter books, even exceed those of adult books … With a separate children's list we can more fully represent what people are reading, and we can clear more room on the adult list for adult books.
Some regarded this as an attempt to quash adult interest in the series by sending out a message to readers that the Harry Potter books are really children's fiction and that adults were not supposed to read the series. Also, placement on the new children's list did a disservice to the series by not reflecting how many copies of each book sold each week compared to "adult" best-sellers.
At the very least, the New York Times's decision to create a separate children's bestseller list was a strategy to shift attention away from the Harry Potter series. At this point in time, 7 July 2000, "one or more of the three books in the J. K. Rowling Harry Potter series [had] commanded spots on the adult fiction bestseller list for 81 weeks to date." Removing the Harry Potter books from the adult bestseller list was a marketing decision designed to obscure the fact that the series was still outselling top adult fiction and that no other children's book approached it in sales at the time.
I side with those who believe that the Harry Potter series not only deserves the attention it is getting because of its imaginative qualities and compelling storyline, but also because of its "adult" literary merits. I will argue here that the Harry Potter series fits well into "the great tradition" of British novels that is still taught in college classrooms, beginning with Samuel Richardson, continued by Jane Austen, and culminating in the efforts of Charlotte Brontë and Charles Dickens.
Perhaps it is the sense of "fun" and the comedic element that we encounter—especially in books one to four of the series—that makes some people think that the books are not for adults, and that they do not fit into the "great tradition" of the novel. In many cases, the problems and even tragedies that Harry encounters are resolved or diminished and not left for readers to ponder, as in many other classic British novels. While this pattern of resolution is less typical of "adult" classics, it should not be used as a reason for knocking the Harry Potter series out of the "adult" fiction category. Critics may have judged the series by the first two or three books, prematurely placing it in the children's literature category. The New York Times's decision came in July 2000, before Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban could be properly digested, and three years before the publication of the most "adult" book—in terms of content—to date, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Another reason some critics think the Harry Potter books are not for adult readers is simply because the hero is not grown up. True, the character of Harry is an adolescent—but so are Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, and Charles Dickens's Pip and Esther Summerson when we first meet them, to name a few. As of yet, the series has not followed Harry to adulthood, but this should not be a "requirement" for adult fiction either. Furthermore, with the publication of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Rowling has introduced us to a "new" Harry—one who is entering turbulent teen years and experiencing all the angst, doubts, and troubles that we see in "classic" British novels.
A central topos that links the Harry Potter series not only to the archetypal hero in literature, but also to other canonical British novels, is the figure of the orphan. It is no coincidence that King Arthur and Harry Potter are both orphans. The orphan is also a common feature of the Bildungsroman, or novel of education or development, in which a character must develop in society, and find his or her own way in the world. The protagonist of the Bildungsroman is often an orphan, since being parentless enhances his or her necessary independence: the orphan can be exposed to unusual circumstances and is freer to act within them than a "normal" protagonist would be.
The orphan has audience appeal because he or she is alone in the world and has often suffered great trauma; the reader thus usually sympathizes with the character and roots for him or her. Harry Potter lives with his aunt, as do Jane Eyre and Esther Summerson (although she does not know it), while Pip lives with his sister. All of these children have a family connection to their lodgings, but they also live in misery because of how they are treated. They are often deprived of food (as in the cases of Harry and Pip) and enclosed both literally (Harry in the cupboard; Jane in the Red Room) and psychologically by their "families." They must endure cruel behavior: Harry is beaten by his cousin Dudley, Jane is struck by her cousin John, and Pip is physically abused by his sister, Mrs. Joe.
In another crucial novelistic motif, the character or characters to be unraveled are, like the protagonist, orphans. Each serves as a literary double or doppelgänger of the protagonist. The psychological double does what the other character would like to and acts on similar impulses; the doppelgänger represents a spirit that can adapt its form (as Voldemort literally does). The double and doppelgänger functions represent a possible future for each protagonist.
The doppelgänger motif is prevalent in many "great tradition" novels. In Jane Eyre, Bertha and Jane are psychological doubles in any number of ways, from drawing blood from their victims, to seeing their images in the glass, to their association with fire, and their connection with Rochester. In Great Expectations, Pip's doubles are Magwitch and Orlick. Perhaps Pip's greatest challenge is to acknowledge his psychological and literal connection with Magwitch, the banished criminal. Furthermore, Orlick's assault on Mrs. Joe is often interpreted as an acting out of Pip's psychological desire, just as Bertha's burning of Thornfield acts out Jane's own subliminal desires. In the Harry Potter series, Tom Riddle/Voldemort is a double for Harry—they both are parseltongues, they are of mixed muggle/wizard parentage, and they have "twin" wands, both cored with a feather from the same phoenix. Moreover, as developed in The Order of the Phoenix, Harry is privy to many of Voldemort's thoughts through the scar that Harry received from him. Finally, though James Potter, Harry's father, is dead, his memory serves as another double for Harry.
The protagonist orphans learn key information about themselves from their orphan doubles, but then they must sift through their various inheritances. In Jane Eyre, Jane must learn from Bertha—her rival, double, and antithesis—and decide how she needs to negotiate her place in Rochester's world. At the same time, she is given her inheritance from her uncle. Pip must come to terms with the criminal identity of his benefactor and the role of love in his life. The secret and tainted money from Magwitch that helps Pip also reveals the social hypocrisy underlying the social strata that Pip must negotiate.
In the Harry Potter series, Harry must keep trying to understand the literal and psychological scar that Voldemort has inflicted upon him, he must deal with his fame, and he must learn to traverse two worlds. Harry has tangible inheritances to help him, such as his unexpected fortune in wizarding currency, as well as the unanticipated advantage of the invisibility cloak and the Marauder's Map. However, these tools only lead him toward understanding, they do not produce it.
Why, then, has there been such a controversy over the status of the Harry Potter books as both children's and adult literature? As I have already discussed, some of the attempts to categorize them as children's literature may be chalked up as marketing decisions. Some others may be premature critical decisions, based on knee-jerk responses to the first and, perhaps, second volumes in the series. Although I believe that sophisticated themes have already been developed in the Harry Potter series, it is important to remember that the series is not yet complete. Whether or not Harry matures or learns to deal with the coming-of-age adversities that Jane Eyre and Pip ultimately overcome is yet to be seen—although The Order of the Phoenix shows Harry making great strides in maturity. However, even for those critics who have kept up with Rowling's novels, the fact that the series is currently in flux may contribute to the feeling that the Harry Potter novels are not worthy of being identified as "adult" fiction. For many critics, the type of an ending a novel has tends to dictate its classification, and the Harry Potter series eludes such placement because it currently lacks an ending.
In fact, the status of the novels as a series may also have influenced some critics and academic readers to dismiss it from consideration as adult literature. They may believe that its popularity is due largely to the crass commercialization and audience manipulation involved in serial publication. These critics see the serialization of the Harry Potter novels as placing them in the same category as other print and video series that are designed to attract, respond to, and exploit a popular audience. However, it is worth noting that Great Expectations was published in serial form, that the market was a driving force in Dickens's writing of Great Expectations, and that Dickens ended up writing two different endings to the text in an effort to please his audience. While some might argue that the example of Dickens shows how the novels in the British canon have never been completely divorced from commercial considerations, at the very least, one might conclude from it that great literature can be created within the confines of commercial form. Thus, critics are wrong to dismiss Rowling's books simply because they are designed to attract a popular audience.
Although we have yet to see the resolution of the Harry Potter series, its literary connections to the great tradition of the British novel, and specifically the Bildungsroman, make the books worthy of adult interest. Ultimately, the Harry Potter series is too popular and too important to the future of the novel to be defined exclusively as either children's or adult fiction.
Source: Paige Byam, "Children's Literature or Adult Classic? The Harry Potter Series and the British Novel Tradition," in Topic: The Washington & Jefferson College Review, Vol. 54, Fall 2004, pp. 7-13.
Barfield, Steven, "Fantasy and the Interpretation of Fantasy in Harry Potter," in Topic: The Washington and Jefferson College Review, Vol. 54, Fall 2004, p. 30.
Bloom, Harold, "Can 35 Million Book Buyers Be Wrong? Yes," in the Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2000, p. A26.
Byam, Paige, "Children's Literature or Adult Classic? The Harry Potter Series and the British Novel Tradition," in Topic: The Washington and Jefferson College Review, Vol. 54, Fall 2004, pp. 7-13.
Byatt, A.S., "Harry Potter and the Childish Adult," in New York Times, July 7, 2003, p. A13.
Christian Broadcasting Network, www.cbn.com (June 4, 2005).
Diffendal, Lee Ann, "Questioning Witchcraft and Wizardry as Obscenity: Harry Potter's Potion for Regulation," in Topic: The Washington and Jefferson College Review, Vol. 54, Fall 2004, p. 60.
Hensher, Philip, "A Crowd-Pleaser But No Classic" in Spectator, Vol. 292, June 28, 2003, pp. 30-31.
Leonard, John, "Nobody Expects the Inquisition," in the New York Times, July 13, 2003, p. 13.
McEvoy, Kathleen, "Aesthetic Organization: The Structural Beauty of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series," in Topic: The Washington and Jefferson College Review, Vol. 54, Fall 2004, p. 21.
Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Scholastic Press, 1999.
―――――――, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Scholastic Press, 2000.
―――――――, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Scholastic Press, 1999.
―――――――, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Scholastic Press, 1998.
―――――――, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Scholastic Press, 2003.
Safire, William, "Besotted with Potter," in New York Times, January 27, 2000, p. A27.
Tolkien, J. R. R., The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994; originally published separately in 1954 and 1955.
Yaggi, Miranda Maney, "Harry Potter's Heritage: Tolkien as Rowling's Patronus Against the Critics," in Topic: The Washington and Jefferson College Review, Vol. 54, Fall 2004, pp. 33-45.
Anatol, Giselle Liza, editor, Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays, Praeger, 2003.
This collection of essays offers numerous ways to interpret the "Harry Potter" novels and offers evidence of the series being taken seriously as more than simple children's stories.
Becker, Beverley C., Hit List for Children II: Frequently Challenged Books, American Library Association, 2002.
Reviewing over forty different titles, this compilation examines the "Harry Potter" series up through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, offering reasons for the books' controversial reception as well as providing biographical and critical reviews.
Colbert, David, Magical Worlds of Harry Potter: A Treasury of Myths, Legends, and Fascinating Facts, Berkley, 2003.
Colbert provides a substantial reference guide for the many mythological, literary, and historical references present in all Rowling's novels.
J.K. Rowling's Official Site, www.jkrowling.com (June 4, 2005).
Rowling claims to have authored all the content on this website, directing her comments to her millions of fans worldwide. Information includes details about previous and upcoming "Harry Potter" books as well as biographical information and responses to rumors.
Kirk, Connie Ann, J. K. Rowling: A Biography, Greenwood Press, 2003.
Kirk focuses on the "Harry Potter" novels themselves to explain details of Rowling's life, how characters were developed, and what the characters' connection may be to Rowling's own experience. The biography also provides extensive interpretive strategies for the series.
Neal, C. W., The Gospel According to Harry Potter: Spirituality in the Stories of the World's Most Famous Seeker, Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.
Neal takes an explicitly positive approach to the "Harry Potter" novels by detailing the moral messages contained in Rowling's fiction. While written from an overtly Christian perspective, this book provides an answer to religious groups protesting the books' magic content.