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Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas
explored in a literary work.
Knowledge is absolutely crucial to Harry’s survival, and,
fittingly, his experiences as a boarding school student provide the
most prominent narrative arcs in the series. Unlike contemporary
students, who have access to computers and other knowledge-accelerating technology, Harry’s
education must happen slowly and carefully over an extended period
of time, often via trial and error. For Harry, the acquisition of
knowledge is explicitly and often painfully linked to the passage
of time. For example, Harry must live with his last remaining blood
relatives, the hideous Dursleys, for eleven years until Dumbledore
finally decides Harry is ready to experience life as a Wizard. Likewise,
Harry must wait until he is no longer an “underage wizard” before
he is allowed to safely use his magic outside of Hogwarts. (Harry’s
defiance of this rule—in self-defense—provides the main conflict
for the first few chapters of Book V). Harry must also wait nearly
sixteen years until he is allowed to know the truth about his scar
and hear about the prophecy that was made before his birth. He must wait
for Dumbledore to finally explain Harry’s kill-or-be-killed link to
Voldemort. He does not learn the mission of the Order of the Phoenix until
he discovers it himself.
In Book V, Harry’s education is put in jeopardy for the
very first time, and the true value of that education becomes fully
clear. Hogwarts is gradually overtaken by the corrupt Ministry of
Magic, and High Inquisitor Dolores Umbridge refuses to let the students
learn proper Defense Against the Dark Arts. Concerned, the students
take learning Defense into their own hands, forming a secret study group,
the D.A., and spending the semester meeting privately to learn and
practice Defense spells. Ultimately, their hard work and practice
save them at the end of the novel, where they use their newly developed
skills to escape the Death Eaters unharmed. Had the students not
been so stubbornly proactive, they might not have survived, and
they can appreciate the true importance of what they are learning
at Hogwarts in an entirely new way.
At the start of the school year, the Sorting Hat warns
students that they need to stand together. Unfortunately, the House
system at Hogwarts automatically divides students into four houses,
mirroring the ideological split of the school’s four founders. Coupled
with a highly competitive Quidditch Cup tournament and separate
dormitories, students at Hogwarts are inherently segregated. All
of Harry’s close friends—Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville—are members
of Harry’s House, Gryffindor. Houses are not the only form of segregation
at Hogwarts. Like Slytherin founder Salazar Slytherin, some Hogwarts
students believe that only pure blood Wizards should be allowed
to study at Hogwarts—Mudbloods and half bloods are often ostracized
or mocked. Even outside of the Wizarding community, terrible segregation
exists. The giants Hagrid visits in the mountains are not welcoming
to others, and the Centaurs constantly chase outsiders out of the
Lord Voldemort preys on this internal splintering, as
does the Ministry of Magic. Ultimately, Ministry employee Dolores Umbridge
is able to use this petty competition to form an Inquisitorial Squad
of students, which consistently thwarts Harry’s attempts to stop
Voldemort, making his work far more difficult. Now more than ever,
Hogwarts must stand together—not only to defeat Voldemort but to
protect themselves against corrupt faculty members that threaten
Ace your assignments with our guide to Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix!