Dudley Demented

chapter one of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Furious with his friends for leaving him at Privet Drive all summer, Harry gets in a fight with his aunt and uncle and then walks the neighborhood, where he runs into Dudley. Before they get home, however, they are attacked by dementors, and as Harry fights them off, Mrs. Figg comes running up to his great surprise.

Hydrangea, by salamandersoup

The only person left outdoors was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flower bed outside number four.


Harry onna Swing, by salamandersoup

How could Dumbledore have forgotten him so easily? Why had Ron and Hermione got together without inviting him along too? How much longer was he supposed to endure Sirius telling him to sit tight and be a good boy?


Dudley Dursley, by Laurence Peguy

The figure… was unmistakably his cousin, Dudley Dursley, wending his way home.


Dementors, by Laurence Peguy

But he fell silent…. There was something in the alleyway apart from themselves, something that was drawing long, hoarse, rattling breaths. Harry felt a horrible jolt of dread as he stood in the freezing air.


Dementor, by Snapesforte

A second dementor was crouching low over [Dudley], gripping his wrists in its slimy hands, prizing them slowly, almost lovingly apart, lowering its hooded head toward Dudley’s face as though about to kiss him….


Expecto Patronum, by MartinTenbones

An enormous silver stag erupted from the tip of Harry’s wand; its antlers caught the dementor in the place where the heart should have been; it was thrown backward, weightless as darkness….


about the chapter


Mrs. Figg’s line at the conclusion of this chapter – “Don’t put it away, idiot boy! What if there are more of them around? Oh, I’m going to kill Mundungus Fletcher!” – is one of my favorites of the Harry Potter series. Just like when Scabbers was revealed to be an Animagus or Moody revealed to be an escaped convict in disguise, this revelation flips all of our assumptions about Harry’s world on their heads. And unlike those others, this one comes in the book’s first chapter. I will always remember reading it; I may or may not have jumped out of my chair and screamed “WHAT!” in shock. :) And I still smile every time I come across it.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

It’s funny that, as Harry lies in the flowerbed wishing for contact with the wizarding world, he is in fact at that very moment in contact with the wizarding world without realizing a thing. After all, he’s watching Mrs. Figg walk by, “muttering to herself” – but he’ll soon learn she’s far more than a batty old cat-lover, and while she may be muttering, turns out it’s not to herself. And why exactly did that cat jump out from under the car when Harry heard the loud crack? We’ll find out in the next chapter.

The Power of Magic

Can you imagine how unbelievably frightening a dementor attack must be to a Muggle kid like Dudley? He’s only seen magic a few times in his life (the vanishing glass, his pig’s tail, Marge blowing up, and his Ton-Tongue Toffee), and now he’s being chased by invisible creatures that seem (maybe?) to have been called by his cousin. Yikes. No wonder he punched Harry in the head.

The Boy Who Lived

Once again we see an interesting example of the Dursleys’ priorities when it comes to Harry: his Muggle clothes are “baggy,” “faded,” “torn and dirty” – presumably because the only clothes provided him by the Dursleys are hand-me-downs from Dudley (and when else could Harry have purchased Muggle clothing?). And yet his neighbors apparently aren’t thrilled, as they are “the sort of people who thought scruffiness ought to be punishable by law.” In other words, Vernon and Petunia – two people who are obsessive over the opinions of their neighbors – think it’s worthwhile that the neighbors think less of their relative just so Harry can be forced to wear shabby clothes. Perhaps they’re trying to distance themselves as much as possible (after all, the neighbors also think he’s a delinquent), but doesn’t that seem to take things a bit far?


Oh boy, did poor Rowling ever blow this one. After four books of dropping hints of characters who would later take on major roles, she named the Muggle kid that Dudley beats up ‘Mark Evans.’ Evans, of course, is the maiden name of Harry’s mother, and for months after Order of the Phoenix was released, the fan community was abuzz trying to figure out what Mark Evans’s relationship to Harry could possibly be. Eventually, Rowling posted an explanation to her website:

Mark Evans is… nobody. He’s nobody in the sense that Mr. Prentice, Madam Marsh and Gordon-Dudley’s-gang-member are nobodies, just background people who need names, but who have no role other than the walk-on parts assigned to them….
I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. Sirius Black, Mrs. Figg and Mundungus Fletcher were all mentioned in passing well before they burst onto the stage as fully-fledged characters, so now you’ve all become too clever, not for your own good, but for mine. The fact is that once you drew my attention to it, I realised that Mark Evans did indeed look like one of those ‘here he is, just a casual passer-by, nothing to worry about, bet you barely noticed him’ characters who would suddenly become, half way through book seven, ‘Ha ha! Yes, Mark Evans is back, suckers, and he’s the key to everything!….
Then why – WHY – (I hear you cry) – did I give him the surname “Evans”? Well, believe me, you can’t regret it more than I do right now. “Evans” is a common name; I didn’t give it much thought; I wasn’t even trying to set up another red herring. I could just as easily have called him ‘Smith’ or ‘Jones’ (or ‘Black’ or ‘Thomas’ or ‘Brown’, all of which would have got me into trouble too).

Of course, we’ve got a wizard Smith and a witch Jones both introduced in this book as well…. ;)

The Final Word

“When Dudley was attacked by the Dementors he saw himself, for the first time, as he really was. This was an extremely painful, but ultimately salutory lesson, and began [a] transformation in him.”–J.K. Rowling, July 2007

24 Responses to “Dudley Demented”

  1. Oh man, I love this book so much. And, as pointed out by the commentary, there is so much that happens in the first chapter it makes you want to keep reading because you can feel how much more you’ll find out in this book. I hate that the Dursleys go completely out of their prim and proper lives to make Harry seem as inferior and lower class to others as possible (which still shocks me, because even though he’s not their very own child, wouldn’t you think he’s still a reflection of the family?) I loved discovering Mrs. Figg’s true identity (And Josie? I’m pretty sure I yelled “what?!” just as loudly as you did).

    And, dear heavens, I remember when we could vote on what question we wanted answered most on her site and I voted for the one about Mark Evans because I HAD to know what was going on. I was (a little) disappointed when I found out it was a complete and utter accident, but I loved that she understood that we as readers just couldn’t take anything for granted anymore and loved the humor used in her answer (I believe she made several references to packing the car and checking that the kids were fastened in safely).

  2. Oh, do I remember the Mark Evans scandal. I had just gotten into the fandom, an dfinally here was something I was clever enough to have spotted myself! For over a year, I was formulating this carefully concocted theory that Lily and Petunia had a younger brother who was also killed and that brother had a son named Mark Evans who would be going to Hogwarts in Book 6…well, you get the idea. Ah, good times.

  3. MartinTenbones’ painting is beautiful. It’s just how I imagine that moment.
    I think my jaw literally dropped open when I realized that Mrs. Figg, the nutty cat lady, was connected to the wizarding world. I like that we find out right off the bat, because it sets up a very slight tone of a conspiracy (at least, for me). This book is where Harry really starts to become aware of how much is being withheld from him. Finding out that Mrs. Figg (of all people) is in on secrets that Harry isn’t is sort of the beginning of the “need to know” frustration that plagues Harry for the remainder of the series.

  4. Haha, I remember when I thought that I had discovered something too! I was so proud of myself when I saw it and thought “Hey, finding these clues isn’t that hard after all, is it?”. Then I went online and found out that he was “nobody”. :( So much for my superb sleuthing skills! :)

  5. This is so great. While Order of the Phoenix isn’t my favorite of the series, I find that I am looking forward to seeing so many of the wonderful scenes depicted. I have to agree with the comment above, the MartinTenbones painting is perfect for that moment.

  6. oh, Mark Evans… I came to the internet when the sith book was released and went back to find what people were fuzzing about this evans-boy. Then I found the JK-sign and I remember laughing so hard! The onlything that was better, was finding the angry comments from people who had thought they had struck gold with their theories.
    I remember being thouroughly confused by this chapter, and not liking the book at all by this point….

  7. I love this book, it is my favorite. Many people complain about the slowness and lack of action, but so much for the future books is set up in this book.

  8. When I read about Mrs Figg it was more a YES!!!!!!!!! moment than a WHAT?? Since DD mentioned Arabella Figg at the end of GoF my fiends and I were convinced she was Mrs Figg and that she was a witch or wizard … I was more stunned that she was a squib than she knew about the wizarding world .

  9. I’m with Josie: Next to CoS this is my least favorite book of the series. But I’m looking forward to listening to Jim Dales version of the audiobook and reading up on the chapters on this site nonetheless!

    About this chapter I was wondering: Had we ever seen Harry use Magic purposefully without a wand before? Here he can’t find his wand and out of desperation says “Lumos!” and it works. We now know that wands are channelling the magic, but back then?

  10. I’m re reading the series and, although I know perfectly well what is going to happen in each chapter, I still feel the same rush I felt many years ago every time I read the Mrs. Figg line. It’s such a “What on earth…?” moment, even if you remember Dumbledore mentioning Arabella Figg as part of “the old crowd”.

  11. Another reason why this chapter is so amazing: Dudley’s encounter with dementors is what jump-starts his off-screen transformation into the kind of person we see at the beginning of DH. I feel a little sorry for Dudley, he never knew any better and went through this transformation (I think) without any help or support from his parents. Poor guy must have had it rough for the next few years.

  12. I love how Mrs. Figg has that strange connection with her kneazle-cats. interesting though isn’t it. Both squibs we know have their cats on duty for them. and they seem to comunicate quite well.

  13. I did not care for OOTP. What I remember most about the book after the first read was Harry yelling all the time. It seemed at the time that he was shouting on every page and I had to keep reminding myself that he is only fifteen and that is a very shouty age. I was more surprised by Mrs. Figg being a squib than surprised than anything else. I will admit though, that I spent most of the book trying not to skip to the last chapter because I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that THIS was the book where Dumbledore was going to die. That was MY OOTP theory.

  14. I’m surprised that so many people here didn’t see the Mrs Figg thing coming, given that as others have said she was mentioned at the end of GoF, but then I don’t know how big a gap or how many re-reads you guys had between the two books, or whether you were already in the online fandom. Like Mark Evans, it was one of those things that a lot of fans were pretty convinced on. They also thought, since Jo had said in an interview that the next DADA teacher would be a woman, that Mrs Figg might be it.

    OotP is my favourite book. It seems to be the kind of marmite book of the series, people seem to either LOVE it or are a bit cold towards it. Harry’s moodiness didn’t bother me, in fact I loved it. It irritates the heck out of me when I see characters taking all kinds of frustrating rubbish from people without hardly arguing back, which is usually the case if it’s an adult doing frustrating things towards a kid. If I were Harry I’d want to shout too, though I probably wouldn’t. Dumbledore frustrates me a lot more then Harry in this book, but in an entertained way, and I have forgiven him based on his good intentions.

  15. yeah…I definitely started giggling uncontrollably when I saw that Mrs. Figg was indeed apart of the wizarding world. I was like no way! and I had to re-read that section multiple times. Dudley is indeed going to start going through changes. I’m curious as to what he saw/heard exactly when the dementors got so close to him. Did he see all the horrible things about himself, and that he is actually only a bully (like most bullies are) because he is self-conscious? Perhaps even sharing his mother’s unhealthy jealousy of Harry (and Lily’s) Magical abilities?

  16. I definitely liked this book the absolute least of all the books in the series. Harry just seemed so egotistical at many parts of the novel often causing unnecessary strife for himself and other characters. While Harry’s actions are often “very brave and very stupid” a lot of his actions leaned more on the stupid side. Finally, I just think there were so many ways that this book could have ended without the death that could easily have been avoided if Harry had been using his head.

  17. I’m with you elizabethauthor, this is my absolute FAVORITE book of the entire series. Why? I think much of it has to do with the fact that, as one of the younger readers, I was around the same age as Harry when I read this book, and I was going through a deep state of depression in my life (eventually being diagnosed). Everything Harry was feeling, I was feeling, and it added so much richness to the book for me. I wanted to shout at everybody, and Harry did it for me. I made rash decisions, and so did Harry. I connected to him more than I ever had. I could not put the book down. It went everywhere with me, and I just kept flipping pages. Not to mention, the end battle in this book is effing AMAZING. I haven’t read so many chapters as quickly as I had at the end of this book. It was, and always will be, my favorite Harry Potter novel, and I’m looking forward so much to reading it along with this site. Thank you again, Josie, for your brilliance!

    I also have to wonder what Dudley was hearing in his head during the time he was attacked. Does Jo ever explain this in any interview? Has anyone ever asked? I’d be really interested to know her thought process on it, as I’m just as curious as Harry is to find out just what Dudley’s worst moments were, and why they would give him such an incredible change in character.

    As for Mark Evans, I don’t remember ever wondering about who this kid was. The name was just another name to me. But I do remember reading a fan fiction where Mark Evans actually *did* end up going to Hogwarts in Harry’s sixth year (after having been saved by Harry from being beaten up again in Little Whinging the summer before).

  18. Casey, I think the quote that you’re asking about (re: Dudley) is on the page. It’s the last section before the comments (‘The Final Word’).

  19. I did read that, Josie, but it doesn’t really tell us much at all. “He saw himself”. I guess I would have just liked a more specific answer. What exactly did he see about himself? What were the exact images or voices that he heard? That’s my question. Not just generality.

  20. @casey i think he saw the true nature of himself, the nullying he did, the way his parents treated him like he was still a baby, he must of realized that he can’t live like this anymore

  21. Something we read right over in this chapter is that Mrs. Figg has been trying all summer to get Harry to come to tea at her house. We can’t blame Harry for declining and avoiding her, given how unpleasant his visits with Mrs. Figg have always been. But imagine how much better his summer might have gone if he’d accepted. She might have been looking for an opportunity to tell Harry that she was a squib watching out for him on Dumbledore’s orders. She could have answered some of his burning questions and made him feel much less cut off from the magical world.

  22. I was probably the only person who didn’t think of Lily Evans when I read about Mark. (Maybe I’d forgotten her maiden name at the time. And, as Rowling said, “Evans” is a common surname.)

  23. @elizabethauthor and Casey- FINALLY I see people who agree with me! I understood a lot of what Harry was going through. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have yelled as much, but when everything’s beginning to go to hell all around you and no one’s telling you anything about it… you go a little crazy. I thought it was pretty funny actually, though I did feel a *little* bad for Hermione. I’m not sure where I read it but someone made a interesting theory about Harry’s attitude. Later in the books It’s always shown how when Voldemort goes through high emotions Harry can feel them. In fact, whenever Harry’s around DD Voldemort’s hatred and anger towards him begin to seep through and affect Harry. Considering that this is the first year with Voldemort on the rise I wonder just how many emotions Harry goes through are actually being manipulated by the bond? Neither of them are aware of how the bond actually works until later so…

  24. This is the first book that I read shortly after release. All the previous books I read at some point between then and the first movie. Each previous book I had read at this point only once. So Mrs. Figg didn’t even register, until she identified her status, and what was up with the cats. Suddenly I said, “Oh, yeah, her!” I was a mature adult when I read, but I recall feeling great empathy with Harry in his frustration. I don’t know who annoyed me more with the “for your own good” nonsense, Molly or Dumbledore (while not him after the final chapters). Molly with her motherly comfort at the end of the previous book is a bit in character with her in this one, but good grief! You would think she had learned with seven kids (and six of them boys) that smothering someone with your care isn’t going to win you points in returned affection! I like this book because, despite childish errors, Harry is beginning to take on a role of greater leadership, based on increasing confidence. And while she is always slowing him down, Hermione helped with this, as well as Ginny and Ron. It’s wonderful. And we get Luna in a few chapters… who could complain about that, eh?

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