Hermione insists on freeing all of the House Elves at Hogwarts, even the ones who do not wish to be freed. What role do slavery and enslavement play in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? Who else in the book, besides the elves, is enslaved? How do notions of freedom play into the narrative?
The ideas of freedom and autonomy are extremely important Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Nearly every character is forced to contend with some kind of internally or externally imposed limits, and most would like to break away from those confines. For most of the book, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is fighting for independence from the Ministry of Magic. The students and faculty have been indefinitely enslaved by one of the Ministry’s employees, Dolores Umbridge, who goes from being Fudge’s Senior Undersecretary to become Hogwarts High Inquisitor. Umbridge denies students their right to learn how to defend themselves, play Quidditch, or speak freely with their professors. Faculty members do not fare much better: because of Umbridge’s interference, they cannot run their classes without interruption, and their jobs are subject to Umbridge’s ridiculous evaluations. Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, is enslaved by his past. Even though he successfully broke out of the prison at Azkaban, he cannot leave his home at Twelve Grimmauld Place for fear of being sent back to prison. Over the summer, Harry feels similarly enslaved by the Dursleys, who don’t permit Harry to speak about magic and won’t acknowledge his life at Hogwarts. Grawp is enslaved by Hagrid, who takes him away from his home in the mountains and leaves him alone in the Forbidden Forest. Hermione is enslaved by her schoolwork. Nearly Headless Nick is enslaved by his decision to become a ghost.
Harry and his godfather, Sirius Black, share a very close relationship. What are their similarities and differences, and how do those factors affect their friendship?
Sirius and Harry feel a kinship not only because Harry’s father, James Potter, appointed Sirius as Harry’s godfather, but also because they are often subject to same kinds of frustrating restrictions. Every summer, Harry must stay with his wretched Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and cousin Dudley. Even though they are technically his family, he feels isolated and repressed in their home, and they do not treat him with any kindness or compassion. Still, Dumbledore insists that Harry remain there for his own safety. Likewise, Sirius must remain in his family’s home, Twelve Grimmauld Place, because he cannot risk being spotted by Ministry of Magic officials and being sent back to Azkaban. Even though Sirius is desperate to help the Order of the Phoenix destroy Lord Voldemort, Dumbledore demands that Sirius remain inside, cleaning his home and staying out of trouble. Sirius’s banishment is especially painful considering the unpleasant memories he associates with Twelve Grimmauld Place—the Black family were once followers of Voldemort, and Sirius betrayed them out of loyalty to Dumbledore.
Despite all of these external similarities, Harry and Sirius are still very different Wizards. Sirius often admonishes Harry for not being more of a risk-taker, reminding Harry that his father, James, thrived on risk. When Harry sneaks into Snape’s Pensieve and witnesses Snape’s Hogwarts memories, he sees Sirius and James cruelly taunting Snape for no apparent reason. Harry would never be so needlessly mean—he treats most students with compassion and respect. Even though they have very different temperaments and social habits, Sirius and Harry are very close, and their mutual trust is a powerful force.
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