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.
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.