Order of the Phoenix: Is it more about the adult wizards?
When we last left our hero, the story really didn’t have much to do with our hero at all. As Chapter 9 closed with Mrs. Weasley crumpled on the floor, sobbing over the images of her potentially soon-to-be dead family members, I had a difficult time even remotely caring about Harry Potter. In fact, I pose the argument that in the first part of Order of the Phoenix, we’re not really being asked to care about Harry Potter.
The Harry we meet in the beginning of Book 5 is not a particularly likable guy. Granted, how many fifteen year olds do you know who are likable? He’s angsty, self-involved, and wallowing in his victimhood. Yep, sounds like a Grade A standard edition teenager. That’s how they make ‘em. There is nothing wrong with that. I’d question if he showed up in Book 5 as noble as he was in Books 1 & 2. It’s easy to be noble when you’re 12 years old.
Perhaps this is where the age of the reader comes into play. While anyone would care about the injustice if Harry was actually expelled, the threat of expulsion doesn’t carry the same weight with adult readers. You pretty much know he isn’t going to get expelled – at least not yet. However, the existence of the Order of the Phoenix, the fact that most of the original members died, and the fear Mrs. Weasley has in putting her entire family in the same danger, carry a hell of a lot of weight. I think young readers can understand that weight, but an adult reader probably gets it on a completely different level. I’m going to assume most children haven’t looked at an old photo and thought “…this is the last photo we took of so-and-so. They died just after that.” A lot of adults have. I have.
So on one hand, the first part of Order of the Phoenix might be more for the adults – but I’m also going to say it’s more about the adults. Ron and Hermione becoming Prefects is nice enough, sure. Fred and George’s mail-order joke shop is amusing, okay. Harry’s teen angst is…annoying as all hell, to be honest. But none of these things are remotely as interesting as the Order of the Phoenix. The idea of a clandestine group of wizards risking their lives to save a society of wizards who not only don’t believe them, but think they’re dangerous, is compelling. You can feel the danger they are in world’s more than anything Harry’s potential expulsion makes you feel. And with that, you know a few things are going to happen: they’re going to kick some ass, something is going to go horribly wrong, and someone is going to die.
This means I care a lot more about this mysterious weapon than why Dumbledore isn’t talking to Harry. I want to know what the Order is planning, not why Harry wasn’t selected as a Prefect. The first part of this book seems to give a better picture of where the young wizards are going, through the presence of the young adult wizards (Bill, Tonks), and the adults themselves. It leaves little room to care about where they currently are.
While I’m sure the teen wizards will make a comeback once we get to Hogwarts, the beginning of the book really isn’t about them. And honestly, after spending 4 books with the kids, it’s a nice change of pace.