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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors
used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
As Harry quickly realizes, in order to effectively practice
Occlumency, which is the closing off of one’s mind to external penetration, a
Wizard must free his or her mind of all distractions. Before Harry’s lessons,
Snape empties his thoughts into Dumbledore’s Pensieve—a device designed
to collect and hold an individual’s thoughts and memories—so he
doesn’t unintentionally reveal anything private to Harry. Unfortunately,
Harry is not allowed the same luxury. Instead, Snape demands that
he concentrate, forcing his mind clear without outside help. With
so much going on in his young life, this becomes impossible for
Harry, and Occlumency ultimately serves as a symbol of Harry’s youth.
Because Harry is so entrenched in the trappings of adolescence,
he lacks the dedication and work ethic to truly empty his mind,
especially when none of the authority figures in his life are willing
to explain exactly why it is so important for Harry to learn this
skill. Ultimately, Harry’s inability to effectively practice Occlumency
leads to a false vision of Sirius being tortured at the Ministry,
which later becomes the impetus for a disastrous trek to row ninety-seven.
Dolores Umbridge’s Educational Decrees suggest the corruption that
goes hand in hand with unchecked power. With the authority of the
Ministry behind her, Umbridge takes to posting Educational Decrees
on the bulletin boards at Hogwarts. Drunk with newfound power, Umbridge
uses the Decrees to award herself even more authority over the faculty
and students. Often, the Decrees are meaningless or vindictive,
and they are almost always designed to meet Umbridge’s immediate
needs, regardless of the school’s priorities. When Umbridge decides
to ban all student organizations, societies, teams, groups, and
clubs, she promptly grants the Slytherin Quidditch team permission
to reform. However, she inexplicably waits before allowing the Gryffindor
team to reform, presumably because she is so irritated by Harry
and his friends. Every time something happens to thwart her authority
or the authority of the Ministry, such as Harry’s Quibbler interview,
she invents a decree, such as banning all copies of the Quibbler from
Hogwarts, to stop it.
Much like the SAT exams, the O.W.L. exams are very important
to a young Wizard’s occupational and educational future and are designed
to be representative of his or her emerging magical skills. However,
the O.W.L. exams ultimately suggest the vast difference between
success in the classroom and success in the real world. Harry Potter
perfectly embodies this difference. Harry is already a powerful
and influential wizard, capable of teaching Defense Against the
Dark Arts on his own, but he is just a mediocre student. In this
sense, the O.W.L. exams seem almost silly. Harry has faced Voldemort
and escaped many times, and he has saved Hogwarts more than once—yet
he is still terribly worried about passing his O.W.L.s. The near-disastrous
consequences of Umbridge’s pitiful Defense Against the Dark Arts
course, in which she refuses to teach her students any practical
skills, shows that real-life experience is often far more important
than book learning.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix!