Friday, July 11, 2008

harry potter 5 book discussion!

Post comments about HP and the Order of the Phoenix here!

Remember, the next discussion will take place on July 25th.

10 comments:

wordnerdy said...

All right, some cursory comments on HP5:

Of course, this is my least favorite of the books (which isn't to say I don't like it!)--I always call it Teen Angst Harry Potter b/c its hero is so gosh-darned annoying. I spend most of the book wanting to give him a shake, especially when he speaks in ALL CAPS!

But this book does have its upsides! It introduces several great characters, notably Tonks (one of my FAVES) and Luna Lovegood, both of whom display some admirable heroism here. There's a lot of girl power in this book--Ginny is pretty great, and as usual Hermione is right about everything! (EVerything being house-elves, Sirius, romance, etc--she's very intuitive. Her manipulation of Rita Skeeter and finding a way to get Harry's story out is pure genius.)

Ron also gets some much-needed glory here--he's made a prefect (though Dumbledore does negate this by admitting later that of course HP deserved it but had enough on his plate, with of course a wistful tear trickling down his beard, ugh). Ron also gets some Quidditch glory, perhaps much more important to a teenage boy.

As for Harry . . . here we again see this connection he has to Voldemort and even the snake. Here also we do see his desire to be a hero, which could really be argued away in earlier books (as Harry himself does argue when Hermione suggests forming the DA). But of course it leads to Sirius' death, etc.

The DA classes are one of the best things about this book--I especally love when Neville finally starts to shine. Getting to actually see his family tragedies makes me weepy (though, oddly, Sirius' death never does).

ahartsell said...

I love Tonks too! She's so cool. And Luna is very funny, and yet really likeable. I think this is the book when we start to see Ginny as a real potential match for Harry. He may still be moaning about Cho, but Ginny starts to show how cool she is.

Speaking of Hermione. One of my favorite parts is when she explains to Harry exactly how Cho is feeling. Then Ron says, "One person can't feel all that at once, they'd explode" (459). And Hermione replies, "Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have" (459). Just cracks me up.

Ron does get some much needed glory. The parts where he plays Quidditch are great. It just makes him seem like such a realistic teenager. He wants to do really well, and he wants all that attention. But then he's really insecure and gets really nervous about it. Even how he tried to keep it a secret that he was going to try out for the team.

I really like Fred and George in this book. I think we get a bit more nuance from them, like when their dad gets attacked. Plus the scene where they leave Hogwarts is hilarious.

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who didn't feel that bad about Sirius. I felt bad for Harry, but it just didn't make me that upset (unlike some of the future deaths). I think because Sirius is the kind of guy I generally don't like---arrogant, daredevil type. I liked Lupin much more.

wordnerdy said...

Yeah, I was always bummed there wasn't more Lupin in this book (or all of them, really). He also makes sense as a father figure for Harry--though Harry really does run through them!--since he knew Harry's actual parents, was a great teacher, etc.

I don't know why I wasn't bummed about Sirius--at the time I first read this, I attributed it to the death being so sudden, but of course there are other sudden deaths in the series that had me sobbing. Maybe it's that we never really got to know Sirius much as a character. He's really a pretty peripheral figure, especially compared to everyone else Harry cares about.

Here's something else interesting in book 5--the prophecy that the boy who had the power to destroy Voldemort could just have easily been Neville! I always wondered why V. wanted it so badly. Did he really think it would give, like, explicit instructions on how to kill Harry or whatever?

ahartsell said...

I wondered too why Voldemort wanted the prophecy. How exactly was it going to help him? Did he think it would reveal how Harry was going to defeat him? Maybe he thought if he knew ahead of time how Harry was going to do it, he could stop it?

It's so interesting that it could easily have been Neville who the prophecy was about. I guess it would have been a very different book if it had been Neville instead. Speaking of Neville---one part of the book that does make me cry a little is when we see Neville's parents. It's just so sad. I always thought it was interesting how Neville's grandma doesn't seem like such a bad person after that scene. Sure she's stern, but she's so proud of her son. And I think she really does love Neville. What do you think?

wordnerdy said...

Yeah, we really get a lot of insight into Neville's character here. I can imagine that having institutionalized parents who were nearly tortured to death would make any kid sort of nervous and shy and clumsy and totally non-confident--especially if his stern grandmother is always comparing him to his heroic father. It's a lot to live up to! He's seen first-hand what standing up to Voldemort can really do--the true horrors--but he does it anyway. I think I was always a little frustrated that there wasn't MORE Neville after this book--since this one does such a good job of making him a really lovable and admirable character. (The scene with his parents--when his mom gives him the candy wrapper--makes me cry too.)

There's something else I wanted to say about book 5 but my internet was down when I thought of it and now I can't remember!!

ahartsell said...

We haven't discussed the Occlumency lessons. Something I've always wondered is why after seeing Harry's memories Snape's not more sympathetic towards him? I mean the memories that Harry reveals show that he hasn't had a privileged childhood and doesn't have the arrogance of James. I really loved the parts where we saw Snape's memories. I liked that we begin to see his complicated history, right down to Lilly defending him against James.

I think that Umbridge is a great character in that she's another one of those characters that help Harry and the others learn that people aren't always so easy to divide in terms of good and evil. I loved it when Sirius says, "Yes, but the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters" (302). Sure she's clearly evil (the whole writing lines thing is just sadistic and awful), but she's not a Death Eater.

I do love when the school gangs up on her. It's some good comedic relief with everything that goes on. I also liked seeing how the teachers react to her. I thought it made them seem really cool. It shows how much they cared about the students and how loyal they are to Dumbledore.

wordnerdy said...

What's also interesting about the Occlumency lessons is that Harry sees parts of Snape's horrible past but he's not that sympathetic either (unless I'm misremembering). He's more worried that his dad was actually a jerk. Of course, Snape DOES call Harry's mom a Mudblood, which doesn't really inspire much sympathy. It's a little sad, though, that Snape's blind to any goodness from Harry just b/c he hated Harry's dad. (And really, vice versa.)

Ah yes, Umbridge!! That's what I wanted to post about. I agree that the reactions to her are priceless. The other teachers clearly hate her, much more so than they did Lockhart in book 2 (though some of their behaviors are the same), b/c of course Lockhart was generally harmless, whereas they all see the threat of Umbridge and the Ministry "interfering at Hogwart's" ("I'm glad to see you listen to Hermione Granger, at any rate" or whatever that line is--McGonagall is priceless.) They really do ally against her--condoning Fred and George's mischief (which takes some advanced magic, as an impressed Hermione notes), setting Peeves against her, comforting the usually laughable Trelawney . . . You know, McGonagall really is a bad-ass in this book. She does get taken down at the end (very unfairly and cruelly, as everyone notes), but she really is a great character.

I do wish we knew more of James and Lily's history--when he became more modest and lovable and actually grew up, their early lives, their fight with Voldemort . . . all we know is that they defied him three times (or whatever the prophecy says). I know people want more HP sequels--the next generation!--but I demand prequels!

ahartsell said...

You're right about the Occlumency. Harry is more concerned with the idea that his dad might have been a jerk than how Snape must have felt. It's really rather sad that they never really understand each other.

I would like a prequel too. I want to know more about Lupin's experiences! Mostly just because I really like him as a character.

McGonagall is a bad-ass in this book. I always thought it showed that underneath her stern exterior she's a very passionate person (and also has a great sense of humor). I love the scene where she gives Peeves advice on how to get the chandelier down!

I sometimes wonder if the Umbridge character was a way for Rowling to comment about education. I don't know much about the state of education in Britain, but I think Umbridge clearly shows the dangers of too much government involvement with education and how pushing agendas can become a problem. Her emphasis on just theory and learning only what you need to pass the O.W.L.'s reminds me a bit of the no-child left behind stuff and how it leads to teaching to the test.

wordnerdy said...

Book 5 in general seems to have an almost anti-government message. Most of the Ministry is totally oblivious/in denial, and others (like Umbridge) are teetering on the brink of insanity. (Seriously, who sics dementors on a kid??) Great point about the teaching the test stuff--maybe Rowling hopes students who read her book will take their educations into their own hands like Hermione and the others decide to do.

I've always thought it was a shame that we never really learn anything about the teachers at Hogwarts (something that will undoubtedly come up in discussion for book 7). I suppose that's because the stories are really from the students' perspectives, and what student ever knows much about his or her teachers? But we do get a good deal of Hagrid's backstory--of course, it's vital to the plot in books 2 and 4--so it does seem a little odd. I guess there's only so much you can cram into a book--and this is the longest one, isn't it?--and personal stuff about the teachers isn't really relevant. Still, I would love to know McGonagall's history!

I do love all the stirrings of teen romance here, too. I think this is the first time I really noticed the scene where Hermione kisses Ron on the cheek before a Quidditch game. Poor Hermione, having to wait for Ron to catch up to her, maturity-wise. He really is pretty clueless about these things. (As is Harry, obviously.)

I know this probably should wait till book 7's discussion--but your remark that Harry and Snape never really understood each other is totally right. I always thought Harry named his one son after Snape not just b/c Snape was a hero, but to make up for hating and misjudging Snape for all those years.

christinamerge said...

I am re-reading this book, and like Alicia, it has never been one that I look forward to re-reading. This time around, though, I am noticing more and more of Rowling's brilliance in capturing Harry's state of mind as he grows up, and what it must be like at the beginning of a battle for young people who have never been through anything scary and terrible before. The thestrals are great imagery for the division between the students who have an idea of what is out there, and those who don't yet know what to expect.

The contrast between Harry and Ron and the way they have been treated at school and by their friends through Ron and Hermione's points of view is so important especially now that we know what happens in the 7th book. The strength of their friendship is ultimately what saves them all.

I cried when Sirius died, because of the sense of what might have been more than anything else. What would a different life have done for someone with Sirius' skills and personality? He meant so much to Harry, and despite his ridiculous and selfish behavior in this book, taking more away from Harry just made me sad.

Snape as a character is impossible to like even when you find out his back story. He was unable to rise above the mistreatment of his youth to recognize that Harry was not his father. I think Harry naming his child after Snape just emphasizes the lessons he learns from his friends and knowing his parent's story. It all goes back to Dumbledore in the 2nd book pointing out that it is what we choose to become that defines us.

Hermione's love advice is amazing. And I am so happy Cho goes away after this! Ginny is the best!