Tons of people loved Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I did too, but a lot of people I’ve spoken to, in person and online, have said that one of the things that they didn’t like about the book was Harry’s seemingly constant anger. I’ve heard many things such as, “He was way too moody,” “He was so ticked off all the time,” “His anger was so irritating,” and “He was such a whiner in this one.” On forums, I have seen people casually calling our hero “Emo-Harry”, “CAPSLOCK-Harry”, as well as some rude slang terms. It seems that the sources of Harry’s anger are flying right over many fans’ heads, as though this sudden, unfounded anger appeared out of nowhere. A lot of people found Harry’s rage annoying and attacked him for it. But Harry’s anger comes out of a very real place. Because of the events in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry is experiencing anger and depression.
“Depression is a result of a deep sense of loss or repressed, pent-up anger.” 1 Anyone who has ever lost someone or been through a horrific incident can very easily identify with Harry and his rage. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to notice that Harry is experiencing just that in Order of the Phoenix. People have actually told me that Order of the Phoenix helped them get through their own depression by reading about Harry’s. They knew exactly how Harry felt, and I think it made them feel less lonely. The same has been said about people near the Gulf Coast reading Harry Potter books because they helped them cope with the aftermath of the hurricane disaster.
The events in Goblet of Fire were very traumatizing. According to the research, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs “in children or teens [...] following their seeing, or being involved in a very frightening event or trauma.” 2 What if what Harry went through on that fateful night in June suddenly happened to someone in real life? In fact, similar events do happen, but not a lot of people are fully aware of it. If that happened to someone you knew would they be the same person? Just to put this in perspective: If one of your friends were killed right before your eyes for no reason, and you were tied, tortured, and almost killed, you would have several good reasons for being angry. Add to that the guilt and anger at yourself for believing that you contributed to your friend’s death. An adult would have an extremely hard time dealing with that, but Harry is fourteen at the time the Triwizard Tournament ends with a fellow student’s death. There are fourteen-year-old teens in our world who deal with some sort of trauma like that, and they rarely process it all without experiencing a lot of anger. “Following a traumatic event, children and teens may feel very fearful, helpless, angry, sad or guilty that they were somehow the cause of the traumatic event….” 3 In Harry’s case, he is angry, guilty, and feeling helpless about the whole thing! It is natural. It is human.
It is said that what happens to us means less than what happens in us. At the time that we first meet Harry in Order of the Phoenix, he’s locked in his room for most of each day for thirty days, and he does a lot of thinking (he has no one to talk to, after all). After the events in Goblet of Fire, there are many things he has been mulling over in his mind for a month, stewing in anger, guilt, and sadness. What else would Harry think about? The Dursleys are not helping. There are no caregivers helping Harry through this. He is also frustrated as heck at the fact that his two best friends aren’t telling him a thing about what’s going on. Anyone who has been left in the dark about something important can more than understand how frustrating it is. Then, he almost has his soul sucked out again by two Dementors, who make him relive some terrible moments. This does not make him feel any better. Needless to say, Harry isn’t having a very good summer during his vacation.
Harry’s anger and frustration are further fueled by the behavior of the political authorities. At the hearing it’s as if the Minister of Magic has capriciously slapped him in the face, while The Daily Prophet is pleasantly whistling and looking in the other direction. Later in the year, he has to deal with Dolores Umbridge. She physically tortures him with an enchanted quill. She emotionally tortures him by preventing him from playing Quidditch; and we later find out she psychologically tortured him by sending the Dementors to Privet Drive. She also persecutes the Gryffindors at school and anyone who doesn’t go along with her. She takes away the students’ freedoms, and recruits the Slytherins to turn in their own classmates. The High Inquisitor is a HUGE contributor to Harry’s rage.
Another thing to remember is that not all of Harry’s anger is Harry’s. How can we forget his and Voldemort’s special mind link? Not only is our hero trying to handle his own feelings, but he also has to deal with Voldemort’s. He is basically carrying around with him the thoughts and emotions of two people. That in itself is a heavy load. The Occlumency lessons are making matters worse and make him sick as well. In the scene where Harry has just returned from his first Occlumency lesson with Professor Snape, we see the effects the connection to the maniacal emotions of Lord Voldemort has on Harry:
He opened the door of his dormitory and was one step inside it when he experienced pain so severe he thought that someone must have sliced into the top of his head. He did not know where he was, whether he was standing or lying down, he did not even know his own name.
Maniacal laughter was ringing in his ears…he was happier than he had been in a very long time…jubilant, ecstatic, triumphant…a wonderful, wonderful thing had happened…
Someone had hit him around the face. The insane laughter was punctuated with a cry of pain. The happiness was draining out of him, but the laughter continued…
He opened his eyes and, as he did so, he became aware that the wild laughter was coming out of his own mouth. The moment he realized this, it died away; Harry lay panting on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, the scar on his forehead throbbing horribly. Ron was bending over him, looking very worried. 4
This scene indicates just how much Harry feels Voldemort’s emotions, even when the emotion is not anger. There are many scenes throughout Order of the Phoenix where the Dark Lord’s feelings influence Harry. That needs to be taken into account.
At the end of Order of the Phoenix, Harry is almost killed by Voldemort, his godfather is murdered, and again he feels it is partially his fault. The last of the Blacks and the last father figure he had is gone; Harry finally snaps. It had to happen. Harry could not have held all of that anger in forever, so he had to let it out. Who better to vent his anger and frustration at but Albus Dumbledore, the only real adult source of help (besides maybe Lupin or McGonagall) he has left? Who better than the person who should have been helping him and guiding him? Who better to storm at than the man who had refused to even look him in the eye the entire year?
In Order of the Phoenix, Harry has to deal emotionally with the murder of Cedric and the return of Voldemort while working through the events he is experiencing at school. Harry’s anger is a natural reaction to those events. He’s not superhuman. He has been through a lot and his anger isn’t permanent. Maturity is an ongoing process; one cannot just get there overnight. If Harry had not responded to his anger in Order of the Phoenix, he would not have been able to handle the horrible events that occurred in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and would definitely not be ready for what’s to come in Book Seven. If you removed Order of the Phoenix from the series, an essential piece of that process would be missing. It would not be a natural transition for Harry to go from Goblet of Fire to Half-Blood Prince just like that. Just as we do, Harry has to overcome more challenges and gain control over his emotions. Order of the Phoenix did that for him, so that now, he’s on his way to becoming a man.
1. McGee, Search for Significance, 72.
2. Taylor, “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) in Children,” 1.
3. Ibid., 2.
4. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 478.
McGee, Robert S. Search for Significance. Houston, Texas: Rapha Publishing, 1992.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000.
-. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003.
Taylor, Roger. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children.” The Advocate for Douglas County CASA Volunteers. June 2006.