Friday, May 18, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

A few notes on The Order of the Phoenix, which I finished rereading today: 

1) Dolores Umbridge's punishment of Harry (having him magically etch his "lines" into his hand) is the first Kafkaesque moment I have discovered in Rowling: think of "In the Penal Colony." Would Umbridge implode if she inscribed "Be Just" on her own hand? 

2) Surely Neville's misnaming of the "philosopher's stone" as the "philological stone" in chapter 16 ("In the Hog's Head") is in part Rowling's slap in the face to her American publisher for having been so stupid as to change the title of the first book for the American edition. What does Neville say in the American edition instead of "sorcerer"? 

 3) This has to be up there with my favorite sentences in the whole series: "Hermione was going skiing with her parents, something that greatly amused Ron, who had never before heard of Muggles strapping narrow strips of wood to their feet to slide down mountains." That's been my joke about skiing for decades! 

4) Snape tells Harry: "Only those skilled at Occlumency are able to shut down those feelings and memories that contradict the lie, and so utter falsehoods in his [Voldemort's] presence without detection." So Snape is skilled at Occlumency, right? That would mean he would be able to lie to Voldemort without Voldemort's realizing it. And that would mean Snape could be a double agent. (I know he's a twit, but for some reason I want him to be a double agent. I want him to have actually killed Dumbledore, but to have done it in order to trick Voldemort. My pet theory.) 

 5) But then there's Ron's theory: Snape intentionally did not teach Harry Occlumency well. In fact, he opened Harry's mind to Voldemort. Harry repeats this theory to Dumbledore at the end of the book, who discounts it. (An additional point: rereading the books with the end of book six in mind makes Snape an incredibly complex character!) 

6) One point of contact with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials: all the characters have their own individual Patronuses, just as the characters in Pullman all have their own characteristic daemon. 

 7) It's Snape's memory, of course, but Harry's future mother was right about the fifteen-year-old James Potter: "But you're just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter." I know bullying when I see it, and what he did to Snape was pure, unadulterated, nasty bullying of the first order.


mrjumbo said...

My Dear, Dear, Andrew:

You and Ron certainly are confused.

Skis aren't slabs of wood. Not anymore.


It's simply too hard to justify charging an exorbitant fee for glorified barrel staves. Very important to bring Technology into play if you want to see customers whip out their plastic and plunk it on the counter.

Haven't skied in years myself, but I try to stay up with things.

With Greatest Respect,


Andrew Shields said...

I can't decide which is worse: strips of wood or strips of plastic!

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I suspect Snape is still a double agent and Dumbledore is not really dead. This summer we find out. ... Tho I probly won't read the last Potter till the fall when the holds queue has evaporated (there are currently 90 people on the waiting list at Berkeley Public Library where I work).

Andrew Shields said...

I'll come back to your comment, Glenn, when I reread volume 6 next month. That very issue is going to be at the center of my attention!

Anonymous said...

Not exactly a pet theory re: Snape being a double agent. There's a whole movement (see that spends days and nights debating and dreaming about this very issue ...

Andrew Shields said...

I've just started volume six, and I had completely forgotten the explicit meetings between Snape and the Death Eaters. If he is a double agent, boy is he a tricky one!

I'm consciously avoiding mugglenet—a fascinating site, but I don't want to go that far!

Andrew Shields said...

Okay, I've been thinking about the expression "pet theory." The anonymous poster of comment number 4 apparently uses "pet" in this sense to mean "own special unique"; to me, it just means "favorite."

So in my usage, even if a zillion other people have that theory, it can still be *my* favorite, so it can still be "my pet theory."