Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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As delightful as the Harry Potter books are, they've always infuriated me because all the adults are idiots. Despite the danger to Harry, the serious threat Voldemort poses to him, the irrevocable link binding Harry to Voldemort, and the remarkable capability and valor Harry has repeatedly demonstrated, all of the people charged with safeguarding him treat him as a child and go out of their way to keep him in the dark about matters which directly pertain to him.

Perhaps this very behavior is partly responsible for the books' success. In the real world, adults routinely underestimate the maturity and capability of children. Having the main character go through the same kind of treatment may make him more sympathetic to young adult readers. But I don't think so. When I was a kid, this kind of thing ticked me off just as much as it does today. When the police chief dismissed the Hardy Boys' suspicions despite their impressive track record, it always exasperated me. Kids may be inexperienced, but they're not stupid.

Seeing Dumbledore, McGonagall, the Weasleys, and the rest of the authority figures continually ignoring not only the wisdom of keeping Harry in the loop but Harry's demonstrated ability to handle it always struck me as lazy writing. The characters needed to be stupid to advance the plot. And since the plot was entertaining, I begrudgingly went along for the ride.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it finally became too much to ignore. The kid almost has his brain sucked out by dementors, and still the adults don't think it might be prudent to let Harry in on what's going on? Un-freaking-believable. Literally. It just wasn't believable. Nobody's that myopic. Did it not occur to anyone that perhaps Harry would be far more diligent about studying occlumency if he knew why it was so vital? The raging stupidity of all the adult characters was just too much to bear, and I resolved that this would be the last Harry Potter book I'd read.

And then J.K. Rowling unexpectedly came clean.

I'm not sure if she planned it this way from the beginning, or if she looked back at the past four books and realized she had some 'splaining to do-- but she finally addressed the issue head-on. The characters actually talk about why the adults-- and Dumbledore in particular-- have been such spectacular morons. And while it doesn't excuse their behavior for the past five books, it at least casts it in a new light and gives me enough confidence in Rowling to continue reading.

1 Comment

I agree to a point, although while reading "The Order.." I found myself being frustrated in equal parts by Harry, the adults, and the author. In the end it is a good book, and the revelations do go a ways towards redeeming the series. But it is also in many ways the most 'painful' to read, precisely because all the characters you love are acting so stupid so often.
Recently there was an article about how research has shown that witnessing someone make a mistake stimulates the exact same response in your brain as making a mistake yourself. I question whether subjecting myself to that on the scale of this book was really a fun thing to do.
Still, like the addict that I am, I will dutifully read the next book whenever it comes out. And, of course, visit the theater for the movie versions as well.


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