Sunday, July 08, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The plot of this novel drives toward a powerful conclusion that knocks the stuffing out of readers who have come to care about the characters. Professor Dolores Umbridge is a near-perfect enemy for the students at Hogwarts to rebel against, and her intrusion into their lives makes for entertaining reading. The way she intrudes makes her like so many well-meaning adults who underestimate teenagers, and she is recognizable in some ways as the government nanny. This reader couldn't wait for Umbridge to get her comeuppance, and the many "withering looks" and other polite confrontations in her encounters with Professor McGonagall in particular are fun to read. There are many other comic elements in this novel, which buoy the reader just enough throughout the novel to make the tragedy at the end surprising and painful, just like a real tragedy often is. This isn't a great tragic novel, though, with pity and fear and all that Aristotelian tragic hero stuff -- it is a largely comic novel with a tragic twist at the end. The good parts still outweigh the bad, and Harry's heroism and his humanity come out in the end, as readers have come to expect. Dumbledore's final revelations at the end of the novel are very well-tuned to Harry's problems, and bring it to a satisfying conclusion, even though the events of the plot are not as readers would wish them to be. I read this one quickly and couldn't put it down, even though it is just as long as the fourth book. I didn't find this one overlong at all.
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