The Advance Guard

chapter three of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry writes to his friends for answers, but receives none – until a huge group of wizards, including Moody, Lupin, and Tonks, arrives unexpectedly and flies him to London.
 

The Advance Guard, by Sayurikemiko

His heart shot upward into his throat. There were people standing in the shadowy hall below.


 

The Advance Guard, by Leela Starsky

A wand tip flared, illuminating the hall with magical light. Harry blinked. The people below were crowded around the foot of the stairs, gazing intently up at him, some craning their heads for a better look.


 

The Order of the Phoenix, by MartinTenbones

Harry could hardly believe this was real. Four weeks with nothing, not the tiniest hint of a plan to remove him from Privet Drive, and suddenly a whole bunch of wizards were standing matter-of-factly in the house as though this were a long-standing arrangement.


 

Tonks, by Michael Greenholt

“You’re an Auror?” said Harry, impressed.
“Yeah,” said Tonks, looking proud…. “I only qualified a year ago.”


 

Mad-Eye Moody, by TBranch

“If one of us is killed, the others keep flying, don’t stop, don’t break ranks. If they take out all of us and you survive, Harry, the rear guard are standing by to take over; keep flying east and they’ll join you.”

(by TBranch)


 

about the chapter

 

We first heard of Animagi in book one, and of Polyjuice Potion in book two. Both methods of magical concealment seemed innocuous at the time, and if anything rather amusing; but by books three and four, these two bits of magic became the big secrets behind the stories’ plots. So when Tonks hit the scene in this chapter, introducing us to the concept of a Metamorphmagus, I assumed right away (and I wasn’t alone) that we needed to start keeping our eyes out for another one, perhaps using these natural-born skills for less noble means. It never transpired, of course, but I can’t help wondering if Rowling once had further plans for this particular talent.
 

Something You May Not Have Noticed

I don’t know how Tonks knew enough about the Dursleys to know that an “All-England Best-Kept Suburban Lawn Competition” would lure them away (with Uncle Vernon “wearing his best suit and an expression of enormous smugness!”), but it was certainly brilliant. Especially because, just a few days previously, we learned that England is in the midst of a drought – complete with a hosepipe ban. So the best-kept lawn competition, if it actually existed, would be a gathering of people who openly flaunt rules for the sake of their own vanity. Right up the Dursleys’ alley. Maybe the government should have sponsored a real version of this event, so they could dole out fines to the nominees once they arrived.
 

The Wizarding World

After Mad-Eye Moody chastises Harry for keeping his wand in his back jeans pocket, he grumbles about how “nobody bothers anymore” about “elementary wand safety.” It’s funny, because during Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, we never heard once about this idea – yet it seems that wand safety must have been covered somewhere. But in which class? And what else, exactly, does it entail? I can’t for the life of me come up with an idea of what a course like this might look like.
 

Oops

One thing Rowling never seemed to quite think all the way through was the means of transport her characters take over the course of the series. Just as Hagrid “flew” to the hut-on-the-rock in book one but had no means of doing so, we’re now given a rather ho-hum explanation that Harry is too young to Apparate out of Privet Drive, while a year from now he will pair with an adult to do just that. And wouldn’t Side-Along-Apparition have been preferable to Arthur Weasley’s blowing out the Dursleys’ chimney the previous year, which he said then was the “only way?” It’s something that just never seems to have been thought through – which, for Rowling, is an extreme rarity.
 

Something to Remember

Lots of wizards in the Advance Guard seem familiar with James and Lily, despite not having had any reason (that we know of) to cross paths with them. Both Kingsley Shacklebolt and Elphias Doge, for instance, make the classic comparison between Harry and his parents – “his dad’s looks but his mother’s eyes.” James and Lily were only a couple of years out of Hogwarts when they were killed; why would older wizards like these guys have known them so well?
 


84 Responses to “The Advance Guard”

  1. As to how Tonks knew that winning that particular competition or sweepstakes would really get at the Dursleys…later in the book it is made clear that Harry’s neighborhood has always been closely watched, for pretty obvious reasons. This itself would probably lend the Ministry some clues as to the sort of people who live in the homes there- after all, the neighbors have always seemed to be very much like the Dursleys. If the Ministry did have this kind of information, Tonks works for the Ministry (as an Auror) and therefore it would probably be available to her.
    If this explanation is to be accepted, it does raise concerns about the concept of privacy and the role of the government in the Wizarding World!

  2. Tonks as a whole is probably the most disappointing character of the series. Not for the Metamorphmagus thing (though I too bought into that and spent quite a bit of time assuring everyone who woudl listen that in DH we’ll meet Andromeda, who will also be a Metamorphmagus and be instrumental to everything). It’s just that Tonks was so cool in OotP – a strong and snarky female, a member of the Order but young enough to sympathize with Harry’s generation better, a duelist powerful enough to challenge Bellatrix…and then she falls in love with Lupin, and that’s her whole role in the series. *sigh* [Voldemort voice] I confess myself…disappointed! [/Voldemort voice] Still, I have my Tonks outfit ready for Halloween – her hair makes her the perfect character for cosplay!

  3. Jessi – an interesting idea; we DO know that Dumbledore is keeping a pretty close watch on Harry, so perhaps he made the suggestion to Tonks?

    hpboy13 – I completely agree. It’s frustrating that Rowling’s ideas of strong female characters are Hermione (who melts under pressure until the last few chapters of DH), Molly (a housewife who falls apart with a boggart, though she does produce one cool spell against Bellatrix), and Tonks, who as you mentioned, is the only female Auror we know but is completely dismantled when she falls in love. There are dozens of males that are stronger than her strongest female, and it’s definitely one of the biggest weaknesses/problems with the books.

  4. Tonks’ letdown as a character aside, I respectfully disagree with the idea that Rowling’s females are weak, or weaker than her males. I think the idea of a “strong woman” has become something strange in popular culture… someone almost one-dimensional who can never display any facet of weakness. I’m actually very pleased Rowling doesn’t succumb to this idea. All of the characters have major flaws, and to create a ‘strong female’ character would be to airbrush those human flaws. Molly does fall apart once (the boggart), after which she quickly recovers and assures everyone she’s “being silly,” as though she herself believes that expressing her fears is weak. Hermione does give under pressure, but after being the practical one of the trio for almost seven books. It would be unrealistic for her not to falter occasionally.
    What male character doesn’t have such weaknesses? Ron carries a defeatist, cynical attitude with him off and on for most of the books. Harry certainly spends enough of the series making emotion-based mistakes. Draco can scarcely handle the weight of his responsibility in book 6 and breaks down crying (not that anyone was arguing he was a strong character;) ). Arthur Weasley is generally mild and submissive (in fact, while Molly offs Bellatrix, all Arthur gets is a punch at Lucius). Dumbledore could be argued as a strong male character, and so could Snape (if you disregard his Molly-like moment when he finds Lily’s picture), and Sirius (though he completely cracks upon learning his best friend is dead).
    I honestly don’t see a difference in female vs. male weakness in the HP characters. I don’t see Tonks as being dismantled when she falls in love with Lupin. She’s still capable as an auror, she just never does anything truly exciting. But being in love doesn’t have to do with her lack of heroism, as even motherhood doesn’t keep her from joining in the fray.

    Incidentally, hpboy, my Tonks Halloween costume is nearly done. ;)

  5. Inky Squirrel: Wow, you said it way better than I ever could.

    Rowling wasn’t trying to create mini-Supermen–she wanted her characters to feel real and, since no one is perfect and everyone is learning and growing, these characters are some of my favorites. Even looking at moments like CAPSLock!Harry make me laugh because when did *I* or my friends skip the annoying teenage years? We didn’t.

  6. Inky Squirrel, thanks for your thoughtful comment – I’m actually really glad you disagree with me, because my impression of the females in the books has always bothered me. It’s definitely a good thing if it’s not shared by everyone. :)

    I definitely agree that it’s a plus that all of Rowling’s characters are flawed – that’s a huge part of what makes them so appealing! I think what irks me a little bit is the feeling I get sometimes that all the females tend to be flawed in the same (stereotypical) way, which is to say a lack of strength/toughness. I don’t think I can agree with your statement that Tonks doesn’t melt down – you say she’s able to keep doing her job, but we don’t ever see how well she performs it, either before or after her change. What we do see is that her Patronus changes, she loses her ability to Metamorph(?), and she’s downright depressed every time Harry sees her. I’ve never known anybody in real life to lose their personality that dramatically for that long just because someone won’t date them. Meanwhile, while Molly and Hermione both come through in the end, I would say that it was a big question mark heading into the final book whether they would be able to.

    There are certainly male characters who are flawed in this same way – look at Fudge, or Quirrell! But aside from perhaps McGonagall (whose personality we never fully see, because of her role as a teacher), and I suppose Umbridge and Bellatrix, I wouldn’t say we have any major female characters who DON’T struggle with it. I’m wouldn’t want a dramatic/unrealistic change in all the female characters; I just want one who stays as tough as Dumbledore, or Sirius, or Moody, or Kingsley, or even Scrimgeour. Even bringing McGonagall into a more relevant role in the Order, so that we see another side of her, could have done it. After book five I thought Tonks was filling that role, and I was really disappointed when she flopped in the following book.

  7. hi again, can I just add that I think it would be more of a flaw in Molly’s character if we didn’t see that she was worried about her family in some way. Especially after the whole Ginny and the Chamber of Secrets episode/ her brothers dying in the first war. She does have reason to fall apart at seeing her sons dead on the floor and I see as less of a weakness as just the circumstances and that she finally cracked, as anyone else would.

  8. Inky Squirrel and Natalia- I agree and can’t word it nearly as well, you’ve said all I’d like to.

    Josie- what about Luna? I’d say she was pretty tough, she certaily isn’t fazed much by the multitudes of students that bullied her throughout school or being stuck in the Malfoy Mannor with a half dead wandmaker and Voldemort living somewhere above her.

    I always figured Mrs Figg had ideas of how much appearences and such mean to the Dursleys (Petunia might as well be Mrs Bucket) and passed that on to the Order.

  9. Ha ha, I can see I’m quickly being overruled here. Which I’m glad about. :) And Jess – yes, I somehow managed to completely forget about Luna! Obviously. Whoops.

    In terms of your comment on Molly – if “anyone else” would crack under those circumstances, then why don’t we ever see it happen to Arthur? And why does Narcissa crack far more than Lucius? My point isn’t that these types of weaknesses are unreasonable, it’s just that they’re ascribed to all of the women, which is what I’m uncomfortable with. Does that make sense?

  10. Josie: I don’t see these women caring about their husbands and children as weak. After all, women are often called the “nurturing sex” which, in my own life experience, is true and not something to feel ashamed/bad/or anything negative about. While I know my dad cares about me and my siblings, it’s my mother that dotes on us. :D

    And, while we’re thinking of examples of women who don’t “crack” (**spoilers!**) let’s throw Neville’s grandmother in there–she stood up to the Ministry officials, went on the lam, and even showed up at Hogwarts during the final battle.

    (And my opinion about the Lucius/Narcissa thing (**spoilers again!**): Narcissa was STRONG enough to be willing to defy and lie to Voldemort–a great, evil wizard–for a chance to find and care for her son. Lucius was either complacent or fearful enough to just keep his mouth shut (which may or may not be due to his character or the fact that Azkaban/having Voldie as a roommate broke him).)

  11. Oh my, I’ve started quite the kettle of worms here, haven’t I? My views are that while Rowling has many strong female characters, I expected many more. It’s just that whenever a really powerful/cool female appears, two books later she’s totally lame.
    I already gave Tonks as an example. In Book 5, she had a decent role and we expected great things. In HBP, she mopes around a bit, fusses over Lupin, and mopes more. In DH, she gets married, gets pregnant, disappears for the remainder of the book, appears at the battle, rushes off after Lupin, and ends up dead. Whatever happened to the badass Auror who was supposed to kick some Death Eater tushy?
    Then there’s Fleur Delacour. In GoF, we’re presented originally with a selfish Barbie. As the book wears on, we see that Fleur is quite the capable witch (as Triwizard Champion), though note that she’s always lagging behind all the male champions. We then hear that she’ll stay in England, and we all have high hopes for Fleur to be a powerful member of the Order, a liason to the French wizards, and for her to lead a bunch of French wizards into battle in DH. Instead, she returns in HBP as everyone’s nightmare daughter-in-law, and then becomes a housewife for DH. Who could imagine the Triwizard Champion of Book 4 wearing aprons and cooking in DH?
    And then there’s Ginny. In OotP, we see a Ginny who’s powerful, sassy, and independent. We finally think that she’s more than an annoying little sister, and we’re totally rooting for Harry to finally notice her. In HBP, he does. In DH, Ginny is to be kept firmly out of harm’s way, and is kept out of the Battle of Hogwarts because she’s “underage” – yet is almost seventeen, showed herself mroe than capable at 2 previous battles, and is likely older than Luna who’s allowed to go. Between these three women, we could have had a trio of femme fatales and expected just that after OotP, and wer eincredibly disappointed in the last two books.
    That’s not to say that there aren’t strong females in the books. One just has to look at Narcissa (who stands up to Voldemort), Hermione (who saves Harry more times than I can count), McGonagall (who totally shows up Snape and then holds her own against VOLDY himself), Molly (who kills Bellatrix and raises seven Weasleys – brave woman!), and my favorite Luna. But the only females who are truly powerful and strong (not strong of character or morality) are Umbridge and Bellatrix. The message I get from the books is that good women can’t be powerful. So, on the whole, the females in HP do disappoint somewhat.

  12. What a great discussion! Very thoughtful and insightful comments from everyone. One more “strong female” that seems to have been left out: Ginny. She plays an important part in the series and in Harry’s life by being in many ways a counter-balancing force to the other “strong female”: Hermione.

    (And as a side note: Madam Hooch, Prof. Grubbly-Plank, Alecto Carrow, Madame Maxime, the strong female presence on the Gryffindor Quidditch team especially Angelina Johnson, repeated references to Gwenog Jones… the list goes on)

    I realize that the characters I mentioned above are far from being center-stage, but they serve to flush out an image of the Wizarding World where woman play a significant part.

  13. Hi – just feel compelled to add something to the debate:
    I agree with Inky Squirrel (thank you!) and Natalia, and want to add that the reason why Molly and Tonks are seen to be weak is because they are worried about the people they care for. Shall I call this ability to worry and cry sometimes, their “ability to love”? shall I mention that there’s a rather nasty character in the HP books who thinks love is a weakness? Hm…

    I’d also like to say something about different types of toughness – the men cited as tough here, like Dumbledore and Sirius and Moody and Snape, are all merely acting tough – they can fight in a battle and pretend not to cry but they are scared and flawed by their experiences and JKR shows this. Their weakness is what makes them real, to me at least, and what makes me like them and want to read more about them. With the female characters – I agree to an extent in that they are less present, in some way, with the exception of Hermione, or less important or interested to Harry and therefore we just don’t get to see them. But I really don’t see them as less tough, or less flawed, or more so, than the male characters. Hermione regularly bursts into tears or says she’s afraid of doing something, but she does it anyway and never ever chickens out. Has anyone mentioned Ginny yet? She strikes me as tough. The McGonagall/Umbridge cat-fight later in Book 5 is an amusing testament of toughness on the part of both women, I’d say. Maybe we are looking for toughness in different places.

  14. Oops. I guess I posted my comment before reading the last one before it where Ginny was mentioned. But a question for hpboy13: You say there are no “truly powerful and strong” female characters who are good. Are there any “truly powerful and strong” male characters that are good either? I would say no. Or rather, I would say that I think Rowling is showing us that to be “truly powerful and strong” at the exclusion of any personal faults is impossible for men or women, wizards or Muggles.

  15. Hear hear.

  16. Ben, well put.

    I’m glad to read the views on Narcissa, as I’ve not yet decided for myself whether she’s just a fragile rich girl, or one of the gutsiest characters in the HP world. I’m sure it’ll come up again in the DH chapters.

  17. Ben, there are many powerful and strong male characters who are good – one coming to mind is Albus Dumbledore, but there’s also Snape (let’s call him good for all intents and purposes), Moody, even Harry’s quite powerful. I’m not saying powerful and flawless, just that it’s be nice to have some formidable females fighting alongside Harry (ooh, I just realized that was a delightful alliteration!). Why couldn’t we have some female Order members at the end fighting instead of just Molly killing Bellatrix and Tonks dying. Why are so many male Order members important to the plot (Kingsley, Moody, Lupin, etc) whereas Emmeline Vance gets a passing mention that she was murdered (we don’t know how), Hestia Jones is babysitting the Dursleys, and Tonks mopes for a year, then disappears for a year only to die chasing after Lupin?
    In regards to your point about the female characters – to be sure, women are a presence in the wizarding world – we’ve had female Ministers, Headmistresses, etc. But the ones you mentioned all play so minor a role, I can’t see how they’re relevant to the topic.
    Inky Squirrel, I agree that Narcissa is intriguing, and I choose to view her as what strong females SHOULD be. She cares about her family and gets really emotional, but she won’t sit back and cry over Draco and Lucius. No, she’ll defy Voldy and Bella to go to Snape, she’ll try to protect her son, she even lies to Voldemort! If nothing else, that shows she’s a master Occlumens! I think Narcissa Malfoy is one of Jo’s triumphs.

  18. hpboy13, I see your point, and I partially agree with it. I think one of the things that Rowling does so well – and it’s one of the reasons the books are so appealing – is to make her fantastical world have a strong foundation in reality, in a world we can relate to. Just as the racial, socio-economic, religious and cultural make-up of the Hogwarts student body reflects the actual population of Britain (there’s a nice essay on the HP Lexicon about this), the gender proportions in Wizarding law-enforcement resemble those in the Muggle world. Rather than use the books as a medium to show an ideal or equitable society, Rowling replicates tendencies in the real world – including all the flaws and shortcomings – to tell a better story.

  19. hpboy, I have to disagree with you, especially on Ginny. You say she isn’t a strong character because she is not allowed to be in the battle in DH. However, being strong, and not being allowed are two different matters. Ginny has proven (with Luna and Neville) to be strong enough to endure tortures for leading Dumbledore’s Army in DH. That she isn’t allowed for the battle at the end was not her own decision: it was that of Molly and partly Harry’s and she barely listened to it. She is held down by the stereotype thinking that others think of her, not by her own flaws or weakness.
    I actually think Ginny is a very strong woman, especially since we see her grow so much during the books: from shy little girl to a fierce, sassy woman.
    And Maybe I overlooked it (since there are now so many comments :P) but I also haven’t found a good reason why Luna isn’t a strong character.
    Oh, and Josie, you wondered somewhere in the comments why we do see Molly crack and we don’t see that with Arthur. Isn’t the fact that Arthur gets pushed around by Molly (in sort of a funny way) enough for being a bit weak? He actually cowered to tell his wife about the candy the twins gave Dudley in book 4 and all his electronic stuff he collects aren’t allowed in the house, but in his own personal hidingplace, the shack nearby. Don’t get me wrong, I love Arthur, but the fact that he doesn’t crack down in front of us, doesn’t mean he’s also not weak….

  20. Haha, such a lively discussion! Thanks to everyone for maintaining respect – I got up this morning and saw all the new comments and thought, “uh oh…” but I underestimated my readership. :)

    I love this also because every comment I read, I think, “they’re right!” and then I read the next one and it’s “oh yeah, but that’s also true….” So clearly the “problem” is not as big as I had once thought, and I’m glad to be shown otherwise.

    I guess what I was looking at when I said I was disappointed in the females was more a general big picture than anything else. In 199 chapters, there are plenty of examples and counter-examples of both genders acting “strong” and “weak,” and plenty of arguments to be had (clearly ;) ) about how to even define those terms. I wonder, if there were some way to objectively tally up moments of strength for each gender, which would win – and whether it would (or should be) an accurate reflection of our world. The message IS clearly sent that being a housewife does NOT mean you are weak, which is absolutely a positive. Molly finishing off Bellatrix was pretty darn cool. But I think that Rowling also had a lot of opportunities to show females being equal to males that she could have taken without making the story less believable, and she didn’t take them. Fleur comes off by far the worst in the Triwizard Tournament (despite being three years older than Harry!); I’ve already discussed Tonks’s response to Lupin; and many strong characters we do see, like McGonagall, aren’t fully developed. Of course there are counterexamples here too, like Hermione, Luna, etc. And the more I think about it, the more I realize this is LESS of a problem for the younger generation – which is perhaps an accurate reflection of the real world, as Ginny, Hermione, and Luna all apparently continue with careers once they’re grown, including jobs traditionally held by males.

    I should also just add that I’m a dad who stays home with my son during the days and works part-time on the side, while my wife works full-time. So it’s certainly plausible that I’m only even viewing this as an issue at all because I’m looking through the nontraditional/progressive/whatever-you-want-to-call-it lens of my experience. The females in the story could legitimately seem weak to me and still be strong compared to society’s general perception of them, if that makes sense.

  21. It’s true that we see Molly break down, but not Arthur, but it’s also true that we see a little more of her as a character. She’s Harry’s replacement mother, in a way, where as Arthur is, although lovely, less of a replacement father than say, Sirius. So, perhaps it is more important for us to see her with the boggart, as it shows her seeing Harry getting killed too.

    Also, let’s not forget Sirius’ breakdowns in OotP. For example, when he calls Harry ‘James’. That’s a wonderful example of a male charater falling apart. An even better one, would be Ron, where he storms off in DH.

    Frankly, the women seem stronger throughout. The men seem to make frequent mistakes or have problems, such as Ron’s jealousy, Dumbledore keeping secrets, and Snape, who still mourns for Lilly. The women only seem to have one particularly bad moment, then it’s back to business as usual. Molly pulls herself together and gets on with it, Hermione does the same, and Tonks’ problem is resolved. JKR was a single mother with clinical depression. She would’ve had to have pulled herself together and pushed her problems to one side for the sake of her kid. This is mirrored in the books, as the women all seem to put their problems to one side for the sake of a loved one (except, perhaps, Tonks). The men, however, seem to have problems BECAUSE they love someone. Dumbledore, Snape, and yes, even Harry. All the characters are flawed. That’s what makes them so compelling.

  22. Josie, I agree, this debate is so much fun! And everyone has really good points.
    kim, I see what you mena about Ginny. I dunno if I made this distinction (I guess not), but I was using her as an example of how we got short-changed to having a female have an integral role, a powerful moment, etc. Ginny is an awesome character, and it’s no wonder Harry likes her and many other guys do too, so I felt really frustrated when I didn’t see her throwing Bat-Bogey Hexes at the DEs.
    And you will never EVER hear me say a bad word about Luna. She’s absolutely perfect as is. :D

  23. Wow. This a really good discussion. Most of what I would have said has probably already been said, but I’ll try and be original. If I repeat something, sorry, I did read all the posts, but I may have forgotten some tiny details along the way.

    I don’t think the books lack strong women. And perhaps more importantly, there are plenty of “weaker” men. Yes, Tonks becomes a bit dull in HBP, but Snape had the same thing happen to him, and he didn’t cope any better. Molly did break down when she saw the boggart, but it is comparable to the nervous breakdown Remus had at Grimmauld Place worrying about his unborn child (I seem to recall chairs being kicked over and hair being ripped out)? Both Merope and Dumbledore did foolish things for love, and while Dumbledore was able to change, did he really suffer from his decision less? Sure, Hermione had trouble coping when Ron left, but the Horcrux reveals a side to Ron that is just as vulnerable. Everything Sirius does is fueled by his emotions, and he’s just as hot headed as Ginny. I could go on, but I think you get what I’m saying. The males are in no way perfect or immune to having emotional problems, and they get them as frequently as the girls do. Plenty of the male characters have cried, in fact, it is hard to think of one who hasn’t.

    Were the male characters all strong and totally capable of holding it together, and the females weren’t, then I’d say it was sexist. But everyone is flawed, both male and female,and so as long as that is distributed evenly, I don’t think it’s an issue. Equality is key.

  24. Riley, I’m not saying the women shouldn’t have emotional problems and shouldn’t succumb to emotions sometimes. The guys in the series are just as emotionally unstable, if nto mroe so, than the girls (as you pointed out). It’s just that when guys get emotional, exciting things happen. When Tonks gets emotional, she loses all liveliness and just acts bland, and then just disappears for DH.

  25. glad we agree on Luna, HP-boy! I have to say, I hated it too when Ginny wasn’t shown in action in DH. I just kept disagreeing with my book. Anyway, I think Josie says it all in her last comment: the women aren’t exactly weak, but they don’t break down in the potteruniverse the same way as the men do.
    Just one little comment, Josie: Is it really that surprising that Harry did better than Fleur in the Triwizard Tournament? I mean, he got a little help…..

    Oh, I just started wondering about this: Is it a coincidence that Mad-eye starts talking about people dying when they get him from the Durseleys? Maybe some forboding for what’s about to come in DH?
    x-kim-x

  26. kim – haha, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that Harry came out better than Fleur in the tournament (it’s his name on the cover, after all). But Fleur definitely had help too, and I mean seriously, she couldn’t take on a couple of grindylows? I realize she needed to not get to her sister for the plot, but then she was also the first one down in the maze – she just came out looking incredibly inferior in all three tasks, which I thought was unnecessary.

    I like hpboy13’s last two points, too. Lupin has a moment of weakness; Tonks has a year of it. Ron shows weakness through the locket but then immediately overcomes it and destroys the horcrux; Hermione is all but nonfunctional for weeks after he leaves. We could have seen McGonagall being awesome working with the Order, could have seen Ginny being awesome in the battle (or anywhere in book seven, really…), and it’s just not there. You all have definitely convinced me that it’s not nearly so black or white as I originally made the issue out to be; I’m just left wanting a tiny bit more at the end. Luna DEFINITELY helps, though.

    Oh, and kim, as far as Moody goes… there are certainly death omens in the books, but I don’t know if I’d call this one of them. I mean, is there ever a time that Moody DOESN’T talk about death? ;)

  27. Good debate everyone. I enjoyed reading it!

  28. Wow, quite a discussion! My comment doesn’t follow it though, ha, ha! It’s about the Side-Along Apparation. I’ve always thought of Side-Along Apparation as a “last resort” method of travel used only in life-threatening emergencies, like when Death Eaters are attacking (as stated in the Mom pamphlet in HP6). It’s difficult enough to Apparate alone, let alone having someone holding onto you (like when Hermione side-along Apparates Ron and Harry from Grimmauld Place – Ron gets splinched). Dumbledore probably allows Harry to do it with him since he, Dumbledore, is much more experienced at Apparating.

  29. I’m a couple days late on the Tonks discussion, and I’m not ashamed to say that my favorite couple from HP is Lupin and Tonks, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that JK Rowling wrote Tonks into the books purely for Lupin. Am I crazy or does anyone else remember that?

  30. Josie, I disagree about Ron and the horcrux. He had difficulty wearing it from the moment he puts it on, that was the reason for his foul mood right before he left. He wore it from September 2 to sometime in the fall. As soon as he takes it off, leaves and is minus it’s influence, he regrets the decision. He also admits his problems wearing it to Harry before he destroys the horcrux.

  31. So THIS is what happens when I go without the internet for a few weeks?
    I really don’t think Fleur should’ve come last in all of the Triwizard Tournament tasks (did she come last in the first task too?) I mean, they should have been shifting positions during the three competitions, not just Fleur being a complete idiot the whole time.
    My thoughts on the “male-female strong lead character” debate…I reckon they’re pretty equal. There seem to be a few more males, but really – they all have strengths and they all have weaknesses, that’s what makes them interesting. They’re similar to normal people, we’re not exactly going to find an equal amount of strong boys and girls, are we? So many boys have their whole “I’m so strong” cover. In Harry Potter I guess you see a bit underneath the shields.

  32. Loader Lady – A good point. I was just referring to the moment the images of Harry and Hermione came out of it to torture him, but you’re right that I wasn’t considering the full story there.

    Roonil Wazlib – I love this idea, as I’d never thought of it this way before. But it TOTALLY makes sense, and helps explain all the discrepancies, too! I love explanations like that. :)

    Erin – I’ve read all of the Rowling interviews that are catalogued on Accio Quote, and I’ve never seen that quote. So my guess would be that even though you read it somewhere, Rowling herself didn’t say it, so I don’t know that I’d give it much credibility. Though it’s possible there was an interview that AQ missed, of course, especially if it was particularly recent.

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!

  33. Okay I’m a little late for the discussion…
    I don’t think “strong” and “weak” are not necessarily the best choice of words here, all the characters show both. I think maybe there is a tendency in the books, though, for the female characters to fall into cliches moreso than the males.
    -Tonks’s dramatic relationship troubles (which don’t seem as severe for Lupin) and her consequent loss of magic power (don’t forget Merope Gaunt also loses her powers over love)
    -Fleur’s continual last placement in the TriWizard Tourney
    -Molly remains a housewife even though after Book 2 there aren’t any more kids at home for her to take care of (and wouldn’t getting at least a part time job help with the Weasley’s financial situation?-and what does she do all day now?)
    -Even Fleur, who’s such a strong willed character, seems to fall into the housewife roll with nary a peep, almost as if it was expected of her
    -Ginny, after being so strong and prominent in the last several books, is relegated to “Harry’s girlfriend” in book 7 until she becomes “Harry’s wife” in the epilogue
    There’s nothing wrong with women as housewives or getting upset over unrequited love, but different female cliches-a woman’s place is in the home and women are slaves to their emotions-seems to rear its ugly head at times.

  34. martintenbones, very well put. I think you hit the nail on the head as far as what bothered me about the females’ roles, and you phrased it much more eloquently than I did.

  35. I’ve noticed in several people’s comments the recurring, dismissive use of the term “housewife” (Fleur is just a housewife, Molly is just a housewife, etc). Why is being a housewife less important than being an auror or a ministry worker? Treating the role of “housewife” as a lesser occupation seems a bit sexist in itself.

  36. If I’ve sounded dismissive of the term “housewife” then I apologize, that wasn’t my intent.

    I think maybe my main problem stems from the feeling that traditional, and even stereotypical, gender roles are sometimes unnecessarily emphasized within the books. Emphasized may not be the right word but maybe idealized or expected.

    Molly and Fleur are good examples of this. Molly is a stay-at-home mom even after there’s not only no reason to do so (all of her children are either adults or are in school most of the year) but (at least) one very good reason not to (to add to the Weasley’s finances and ease their monetary woes). Many “housewives” do go out into the world to work once their children are grown for just these reasons (my own mom was one of them).

    Fleur was not only a strong, independent young woman, she even has a job (at Gringotts) until she gets engaged to Bill, where she quietly becomes a housewife. It happened so quietly that there was a sense of “well, that’s what she’s supposed to do, that’s what’s expected of her”. Why would she stop working simply because she was getting married?

  37. Inky Squirrel, I second martintenbones’s comment – I didn’t mean it to be dismissive of the occupation either (I’m a househusband at the moment, or whatever you want to call it). It’s just a stereotype that was part of what made me frustrated with the female roles.

  38. Re-reading my last comment, I think I seemed a bit abrupt. I hope it didn’t come across that way.
    I do see what you’re saying about the role of housewife now, martintenbones, particularly regarding Fleur’s transition as being assumed, despite having no children to care for, as well as a job that was potentially useful to the Order. She does sort of fade into that traditional role without an apparent reason. I hadn’t noticed it before.

  39. When was it said that Fleur was a housewife? None of the Weasley’s were working at the time, Bill said that. Seeing as the DE’s attacked their wedding, it’s common knowledge that Fleur is married to Bill, so she can’t very well do anything at Gringotts for the Order. We don’t know whether Fleur went back to working at Gringotts (or anywhere else) or not after the war ended (unless JKR said something I don’t know about).

    There are plenty of mothers in the series who work after marriage and children, such as Hermione, Luna, and Ginny. Three of the most significant female peers Harry had in his life become both mothers and have careers. And, we can’t forget Harry’s mother. In the vision we see in Voldemort’s head, Lily was the one who went out to do whatever needed to be done while they were in hiding, and James was at home with Harry. Neville’s mum was an Auror (who defied Voldemore three times, I might add). Even if Fluer was a housewife, does it really matter? Some women are more comfortable in the house then in a workplace, and if a few women in the series show that, then why shouldn’t they? To be honest, I don’t get the stereotypical housewife thing. Like I said, many women in the series aren’t simply housewives.

  40. Riley, I totally get what you’re saying (and you’re right about Fleur perhaps having had a job – I hadn’t thought that one through). But I don’t know if I agree with your examples. Hermione, Luna, and Ginny would be great examples – if any of them were mentioned in the books. And I’m not sure what you’re referring to with “Lily was the one who went out to do whatever needed to be done while they were in hiding.” All Voldemort ever saw was James and Lily both in the house, right?.

    I also don’t think anybody here is saying that a housewife is necessarily a bad thing to be – as I said, it’s a choice I’ve made myself. But it is a female stereotype, and it is negative in the sense that it can be constraining. If Rowling wanted to show women having the opportunity to break out of that role, why not do it in the books, instead of waiting for a later interview where she discussed what she thought the younger characters went on to do as adults? She certainly had plenty of space, and, as I pointed out earlier, opportunities. That was my frustration.

  41. You’re right. I don’t where I got the Lily thing from, because I reread the part, and it wasn’t there. I must have read something else, or my mind mixed some canon with some theroy, or something. Sorry about that.

    Perhaps why I am less objectful to the way females are treated in the books is because I’m in high school. Hermione, Ginny, and Luna are more likely to be the ones I identify with. So, since they are strong, capable young women, I tend to see that more than Mrs. Weasley, or someone her age. I could see where people might see Mrs. Weasley as a stereotype, but I just can’t quite connect with it the same way that I would if say, Hermione was a submissive female who let Harry and Ron walk all over her.

  42. I remember how my friend was all angry with JKR because she thought she had changed her style now that she lived in the US and knew the books were made into movies. My friend thought Tonks was written in because she would look cool in the movie.
    hpboy13, Tonks’ role in the series was not to fall in love with Lupin, but to have a baby boy who would soon be an orphan due to a war with Voldemort.

    Josie, “females being equal to males” doesn’t sound right to me. Why do they have to be made equal at all? They are different, but none is better, right? This reminds me of a comic of a school for different animals (a chimp, an elephant, a snake, a fish,…) and to give them all an equal chance they all have to climb a tree.
    martintenbones, how is a man not being a househusband less a clichè than a woman being a housewife?

    I was thinking the same about Side-Along Apparition. I’m assuming that it makes a better read when different means of transportation are introduced spaced throughout the series.

    So people are doing magic in the Dursley’s house similar to how Dobby did magic there. Weren’t they afraid Harry would get punished for this, too?

    We learn about the Disillusionment charm in this book. (Or do we? Might it be similar to the Invisibility Booster of the Ford Anglia? But it’s said in book 2 that Harry couldn’t see himself while here he sort of can.) Anyway, I was wondering if this is what Dumbledore meant in book 1 when he said he doesn’t need an invisibility cloak to make himself invisible.
    Oh, and what about Harry’s broom, was it affected by the charm? And the Order members? Wouldn’t it be a bit suspicious if they were visibly flying around something invisible?

    About the location of headquaters: Jane Austin writes in Pride and Prejudice: “Where else can they be so well concealed” about two characters hiding in London.

  43. Wow, Kim, glad to read your note!

    Concerning the Aurors/Order members doing magic at the Dursleys: wasn’t the reason Harry got in trouble because they could detect magic but not another wizard? (A tracking method used by Voldemort himself on his enchanted boat in the cave.) However, it then makes me wonder what sort of (poor) monitoring system there really is that folks at the Ministry didn’t notice a bunch of wizards using magic at Number 4.

    Harry himself says later on in the series that Dumbledore can perform such a good Disillusionment Charm that he needs no invisibility cloak.

    Love the Jane Austen tie-in. :D

  44. Natalia, thanks for answering my questions. Good points!

  45. Getting in a little late, but my question is why? Why would you have liked JKR to add something in about “strong” women? That’s not what the books are about and I don’t think adding it would have helped. They’re meant to be real, as real as a wizarding world can be. Women become housewives half the time, because they want to take care of their families and sometimes they are affected so greatly by love that their whole character can change. They are called cliches for a reason, because it’s predictable, because that’s what happens in real life. I would never say I’m disappointed with Tonks, sometimes love is that powerful, it changes you. Just like with Fluer, we see how love transforms her from a somewhat selfish young girl into a women who cares about others deeply. I would never call Molly weak, everything she did was for her family. And why are we even talking about Fluer being last in the Triwizard Championship, would we be talking about how weak Krum was if he ended up last in all the tasks. I for one had never even made a connection to Fluer “the only girl” ending last.

  46. Joyce, I can’t answer for everyone, but for me the answer is: role models. Rowling has said that she gets loads of letters from little girls thanking her for showing, through Hermione, that brainy girls can be cool. Why not an adult character that does the same thing? It doesn’t have to be (nor do I think it should be) what the books are ‘about’ – I’m not saying Harry should have been Harriet.

    And no, we wouldn’t be talking about how weak Krum was, because that’s not the point of the conversation. Fleur was the only girl; she finished last by an overwhelming margin (I mean, she got creamed). It jumped out at me as I was reading it. And in isolation I’m okay with that, just like in isolation I’m okay with Tonks’s character development – it’s not an unrealistic possibility. It’s the aggregate of all of the little moments like these that left me disappointed with the adult females in the books. The little examples don’t each make an argument on their own, but they do add up to something bigger. That’s my feeling.

    Although, as you will see if you read the comments above, I did get my mind changed several times and I don’t feel as strongly about it as I once did. :)

  47. The thing that bothers me most of about Tonks (because I think the whole thing of her moping is a red herring for the plot) is that she left her infant son to join the battle and when she was asked “why” she said something like (going from memory) “I couldn’t stand being at home and not knowing.” If she had said “I want my son to have a world to live in,” I could have worked with that. But abandoning a presumably still-nursing infant just to get news faster made me think so much less of her, and seemed so unrealistic. It was the opposite of the issue in the discussion — i.e. her acting unlike what a mother would be expected to do.

  48. Hi, I’m reading OotP again for the umpteenth time, so have been rereading Josie’s comments etc, and the responses above. Really good reading and many good points. But I do have to go along with Joyce – “Why does it matter” that there is not an equal number of “strong” women as men. Real life isn’t split into equal numbers of opposites – and strength isn’t just physical (ie fighting the good fight) it’s a lot about strength of character and most of JKR’s women do have this strength even though they can sometimes crack (mostly due to love and worry for their families). With regard to Fleur’s coming last in each part of the Triwizard – the way the points were given wasn’t really very fair, was it? Especially with Karkaroff (and even Percy Weasley) giving 10 for tasks which had flaws. Poor Fleur was really in the minority there. But even if she didn’t win, she still faced each of the tasks the boys did – that would take some courage. Really looking forward to the next two books comments Josie.

  49. Hi everyone! I am a new reader and I have enjoyed all of your comments about the books.

    In defense of Ginny (who is my favorite character) she proves herself to be one tough lady. I admired the way she grew from a shy little girl to a confident, self-possessed woman. Harry was darn lucky to find such a partner. She proved herself to be a loyal friend and fighter. I agree with Kim. Ginny was a victim to what people thought about her not who she truly was.

  50. Perhaps I missed it in the comments above, but I don’t think anyone pointed out how, with the exception of the teaching staff (minus Snape of course), all the characters are rather young, especially for wizards. Arthur and Molly are approx. in their mid-late forties, Lupin, Snape, and Sirius are about thirty-seven (Snape and Sirius show definite signs of clinical emotional retardation at that!), Tonks is probably in her mid-twenties, and the kids are even younger. Yes, Tonks is going to behave as if the world ended because the man she wants doesn’t seem to want her back. For all her abilities, she’s still a heartbroken young woman and I have known women (and men) that moped for over a year over losing “the one.” (Always wanted to smack them myself, and because I like her, especially Tonks.)
    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that with the exception of Snape, Sirius, and to a lesser extent Lupin, the characters act age appropriate.
    Molly acts the mother because that’s what she’s been since she was (I assume) quite young. An older Tonks might not have acted the lovelorn idiot quite so much and (skipping ahead a bit) might not have had an “oops” that put her out of the action.
    I always assumed that Fleur was a “throwaway” character and was actually surprised to see her return.
    And Ginny and Hermione act older and are far stronger emotionally than Sirius and Snape, especially in OOTP. Admittedly, it’s been a while, and my books are five hundred miles away, so I could be wrong on that count.

  51. Josie, you make a point about Hermione being ‘all but non-functional’ in the weeks after Ron’s departure. I have to disagree.
    In that time, we don’t see either Harry or Hermione doing much, apart from Godric’s Hollow, which I’ll get to in a moment. Harry is just as affected as her and just because she is able to cry about doesn’t mean that she is in any way weaker than him. Throughout these chapters, she is the one putting up all the protective charms to keep them safe, the one cooking for them both, and the one who chooses where to go and takes them there.
    **SPOILERS**
    In the Godric’s Hollow scene – she’s the one who starts to see that there’s something up with Bathilda and tries to talk Harry out of it. She’s the one who manages to Apparate them both out of Godrc’s Hollow, right under Voldemort’s nose, and she tends to Harry afterwards, while he’s reliving his parents death through Harry’s eyes. She’s constantly trying to make Harry feel better about Dumbledore, while dealing with her own confusion about the Headmaster.
    I actually think this is a perfect example of Hermione’s strength. Yes, she’s heartbroken. Yes, she cries every night for weeks. But she realises, that Ron isn’t the priority – helping Harry is. She puts aside her own problems to focus on something much more important – defeating Voldemort.

  52. In “Something to Remember,” Kingsley Shacklebolt and Elphias Doge might have known the Potters because they were Aurors with them, as well as being in the Order of the Phoenix together. That might explain that despite the age difference, they could see the resemblances of James and Lily in Harry.

  53. Two ideas:
    1. I agree with the points above about Hermione’s strength during Ron’s absence in DH. Let’s not forget that the guy she’s in love with has disappeared off on his own in the middle of a war being fought against an evil government, when he’s also known as the best friend of Undesirable Number One and a girl who is hated by the same evil govt. just for being Muggle-born. She hasn’t seen anyone she loves except Harry and Ron for months, either.
    2. About the bashing of Fleur in the Triwizard Tournament. Let’s examine her performance. We have no evidence at all that she received more than one point less than Harry in the first task, including that being partly reliant on the biased judging of Karkaroff. In the second task, she is attacked by Grindylows, yes, but this happens as she’s just learnt that her 8-year-old sister has been knocked out and left underwater with a bunch of total strangers guarding her, and it’s been established that Fleur has no-one else around, otherwise why would Gabrielle have been brought from France to Scotland just for this task? Harry himself freaks out, believing that the hostages will die if he’s late – is it so unlikely Fleur would have had a similar experience? And in the third task, there is no indication of how far behind the rest she is, except that she is last. It could be that she is mere seconds behind Krum – the whistles certainly sound close together in the text. And as for her performance – she is Stunned by a hardened, committed-beyond-the-point-of-sanity Death Eater who is good enough at defensive magic to have masqueraded successfully as a skilled and decorated Auror and a DADA teacher in front of the nose of the world’s most powerful wizard for a year. There is no evidence that she has any time to attempt a response to this, as she screams and then stops. Perhaps CrouchMoody just snuck up on her and she spun around to find him with his wand on her. Next second, out cold. Let’s not also forget that Viktor Krum only did anything more significant in the maze because CrouchMoody forced him to by the Imperius Curse – he showed no more resistance to CrouchMoody than Fleur did, even when you consider that he is being ordered to torture someone, which he obviously has a strong moral objection to, and he still can’t stop himself doing it. The only reason CrouchMoody didn’t get Cedric is because Harry saved him from Krum and then spent a lot of the subsequent time in Cedric’s presence. In conclusion, the one failure that can be identified on Fleur’s part in the TT is the Grindylow incident, which I have already given possible explanations for. Also, she and Bill got married early because of the Second Wizarding War, and, always assuming she didn’t want to be a housewife, Fleur could easily have decided to concentrate more on Order work than monetary rewards.

  54. I think that it becomes quite clear that many of the older Order members are familiar with Lily and James from having served with them in the original incarnation of the Order. And let’s not forget that while Lily and James were only a few years out of Hogwarts when they were killed, they were by no means ordinary, having defied Voldemort three times. This alone would have brought them recognition with the older and more experienced of those fighting during the first war.

  55. I haven’t read the entire thread because it’s getting late here, but I’ve read most of it and I have to say it’s a rare pleasure to read a debate that has been consistently respectful and intelligent. This is a touchy subject for many and debates tend to get quite snippy. But then that’s one of the things I love about the Harry Potter fandom – it tends to be respectful and intelligent in general (except perhaps on the subject of shipping, lol), at least in the major forums.

    (Personally I agree with Natalia, Inky Squirrel etc, althougyh I do agree that Tonks’ character in DH was a bit disappointing).

  56. Tonks character in HBP and DH WAS a let down. I really liked her in OOTP but then she just got on my nerves with her moping.
    Another thing that I didn’t like: Did anyone notice that not a SINGLE female member of the ORIGINAL Order survived? I mean, as far as we know, Dedulas Diggle, Sturgis Podmore, Elphias Doge, Hagrid and Aberforth all survived. But Emmeline Vance and Amelia Bones were immediately killed (and we don’t even know how!) at the beginning of DH!!
    That really annoyed me, that the only “strong” female characers (that get developed) are the ones in Harrys generation (Luna, Ginny etc.)

  57. Not quite true, Wevi. McGonagall was a strong, developed female Order member and she survived. As was Mrs Weasley.

  58. elizabethauthor: I think the point Wevi was trying to make was that the Weasleys didn’t join the Order until the second time around and I don’t believe McGonagall was part of it either.

    Wevi: I hadn’t thought of that. How sad!

  59. I have just sat and read the whole discussion about strong female characters and was astonished to find that Lily has barely had a mention. I know that she can’t really be considered a “main” character because she wasn’t actually alive in the time the books are based but from what we know of her she is extremely intelligent (which we learn in HBP) and also kind (from snapes memories) and to top it all she stands up to Voldemort right up to her death to protect Harry – at this time she was still a very young woman. She must have been very brave and in this case (as compared to for instance Mrs Weasley and the boggart) we are shown a woman displaying the love for her family not as a weakness, but as her strength. Without Lily there would be no story. I can’t help but imagine her to have been very similar to how Ginny is – fiery, passionate, independant. In my opinion there is no greater example of a strong woman in the books.

    And as for Tonks, I love the fact that she fell hopelessly in love with Lupin – we all have weaknesses, hers just happens to be a warewolf old enough to be her dad!

    Just want to also say after only discovering the site recently how wonderful it is. There have been so many details I picked up on after reading the books several times and it’s great to find somewhere I can read other peoples takes on why, how etc. There is, afterall, only so much you can discuss with a partner who refuses to read. It is also great to see the wonderful artwork and think to myself “that’s exactly how I pictured him!!!”

  60. Good point about Lily, Blaire.

  61. About elementary wand saftey comment from Moody, no one seems to have picked up on. In the lessons Harry later teaches his defense group, he complains about the way people hold there wands to cast spells (or in one case flourish un-necessarily) i think that elementary wand safety is supposed to be covered in DADA but they’ve had such crappy teachers that its never been covered but Harry had private lessons with Lupin in the third year so knows how to handle his wand for spells but was never taught the wand safety. And Tonks comments on the buttocks part but isn’t surprised by the wand safety, so is it re-taught in Auror training?

  62. Actually, I dont think JK Rowling was making any comparisons either. For example, lets take Lupin and Tonks, easy since its Tonks who’s the subject anyways. Tonks is, yes, rather moody and sad in the following book and not very interesting but wasn’t Lupin? Wasnt he the one staring into the fire, and didnt talk until they had the convo about Snape? Tonks isnt weak, she’s a good example of a modern woman =) come on, the males have their flaws— Who felt guilty about impregnating Tonks? Who shouts and tears his hair out? x) Hehehe…

  63. I hate to keep popping in to make spelling corrections, but in the “Something You May Not Have Noticed” section, “draught” should be “drought”.

  64. Josie, I have to disagree when you say you’ve never seen anybody fall apart like that because somebody won’t date them. You may not have seen it, but I’ve lived through it. This actually kind of made me connect with Tonks a little bit, cause I’ve been exactly where she was. So does that make me “weak”? No, because it’s a learning process. And after all, she’s not that much older than the other kids. Perhaps this was her time to go through that stage, late or not. And let’s not forget love is a huge driving force in magic, especially good magic, and she just didn’t have much to draw on. We also don’t get to see how much ass she kicked before she died in the Battle of Hogwarts. She may have ended up dead, but I can see her taking scores of Death Eaters down with her!

    I’d also like to say that I think of McGonagall as an honorary Order member, whether she was active or not. Anybody with her strength, determination, and loyalty to Dumbledore is certainly an Order member in my eyes. Title is not everything.

    I think a lot of what’s happening is that there’s no reading between the lines here. We all seem to be looking at the cold hard facts of what the books tell us, and not creatively coming up with our own character developments and battles and things like that. I’m not criticizing, I’m just saying, there seems to be a whole lot of “we didn’t see this, we didn’t see that” when I feel like, as readers, we should be able to come up with those scenes in our minds, you know?

    My opinion is that the female characters are just as strong (and weak) as the male ones. I mean, in the trio, who is the best at spells? Who is the quick thinker that got them out of the Lovegood house in DH? Hermione is a huge driving force for the three of them. As Ron says in Part 1 “we’d be lost without her!” which I think is quite true. I won’t say much more, cause everything I would want to say has already been said, but I thought I’d give my two cents. I don’t think any of the characters are unnecessarily “weak”. They all have strengths and weaknesses, and those strengths and weaknesses tend to coincide with other characters. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione are the strongest when they’re together, so are the rest of the characters! It’s not about singular strength, it’s about coming together to be the strength against Voldemort, as the Sorting Hat is always putting it.

  65. SPOILERS THROUGH OUT
    >>Adding to what Casey said above me, the real problem is, when these women would be showing how strong they are in this and the following two books, they aren’t in front of Harry. It’s told from his point of view, so if he doesn’t see it, we don’t see it. Ginny was kept out of the Battle for Hogwarts…for a little bit. Her mom didn’t want her fighting and neither did Harry, but as soon as they were distracted, she was out of there and fighting. When Harry follows Voldemort into the Great Hall, Ginny’s fighting Death Eaters there. What gets Molly into the fight with Bellatrix is Bella casting at Ginny (“Not my daughter, you b*tch!”). We don’t see a lot of what these people are doing, especially in the last book, because we’re stuck in a tent in the wilds of the UK for most of it.

    By that same token with Mrs. Weasley and the boggart, her moment of weakness if you call it that, falls under the same category. We don’t see Mr. Weasley having that kind of breakdown because we usually don’t see Mr. Weasley, period. His moments of weakness happen off stage, just like McGonagall’s moments of strength.

    >>Tonks wouldn’t have been put in the books just to make Teddy an orphan, because her and Lupin weren’t originally going to die. JKR was originally going to kill Mr. Weasley in this book (he wasn’t going to survive the snake attack). She felt, though, that Harry shouldn’t lose another parental figure, but still had to kill of parents (paraphrasing here), so Lupin and Tonks bit it.

    >>The wizards crowded in Harry’s house that shouldn’t have any reason to know James and Lily, of course know them because they are almost as famous as their son. After all, in two books’ time, we’ll get to see a rather nice “war memorial”.

    >>I think I’ve said quite enough for one post, don’t you?

  66. >>One more point. Dumbledore shared Tonks’ weakness. He, too, was completely changed by love. Our champion of Muggles and the weak once plotted to overthrow the current order and have wizards ruling the world because his love blinded him to the faults of the other person.

    “Dumbledore, who was the great defender of Love, and who sincerely believed that Love was the greatest, most powerful, force in the universe, was himself made a fool of by Love…. In his youth, he was – he became infatuated with a man who was almost his dark twin.”
    –J.K. Rowling (December 2007)

  67. Lesharo, the thing that bothers me about your comparison between Tonks and Dumbledore is that Tonks seemed pretty debilitated by her love, while Dumbledore overcame his faults and became the most powerful wizard in the world.

    Your point did make me realize, though, that we do have a direct male counterpart to Tonks: Snape. In both cases, once they fell in love, they thought of virtually nothing else until the day they died, and while it drove both to do good things, it remained a debilitating weakness for the rest of their lives. So there is that!

  68. Fantastic discussion!

    I wanted to mention something completely off-topic: Mad-Eye’s “Come here, boy. I need to disillusion you,” which I think is one of the funniest lines in the books!

    And a thought about Fleur in the Tri-Wizard Tournament: The task where she did significantly worse than the others was the second, where she was derailed by grindylows. Grindylows are native to Scotland and not to France or Bulgaria, so Harry and Cedric had an advantage there. Krum prepared better than anyone for the second task – we saw him swimming in the lake in January, and he probably became familiar with the creatures that lived in the lake while he was swimming there. Fleur failed in the second task not because she was weak or not as good at magic, but because she didn’t do the research that Krum did and that Cedric and Harry didn’t need to do.

  69. I would like to add that don’t forget that they are in the middle of a war. they are rippled by fear that they will lose their loved ones at any given moment. even the men fear this.

    also, everyone has their own definition of what strong and weak is, but what is it? nobody is perfect, especially during war, thats what i will add

  70. The reason that the older wizards would have crossed paths with James and Lily is obvious isn’t it? They were in the first Order together, so surely there would have been a fair bit of interaction at meetings.

  71. Love the discussion, I was waiting for something like this to turn up, but I never expected it to be this interesting! Everyone has really good points and I don’t think I can contribute much to the discussion after this :P I both agree and don’t agree with everything, like Josie said: I think “that’s true too…” everytime I read other thoughts.

    I do, however, agree with some of you that the discussion about so called “strong women” in literature is somewhat strange. It has become such a loaded subject that you can barely touch it without it blowing up in your face. It seems like, in order for a female character to be regarded as “strong”, she will need to show no weaknesses.
    I think this is rubbish, and I think that the characters in HP are more or less equal between the genders, and more so than in many other books. They show human sides, without them they would simply be flat and boring characters. I have read far too many books where the author puts so much effort into making the main female character strong, that it simply becomes laughable and the girl in question is a boring stereotype without any humanity whatsoever that you can relate to as a reader.

    True, I did notice Fleur was ridicolously behind the males in the Triwizard Tournament and, true, all the girls tend to become quite stereotypical once they have fallen in love. But I do think most of them can still be regarded as equal to the males; Molly Weasley is very strong and cool in my opinion, and we all knew from the start that her family is her weakest spot. Ginny, Hermione, Fleur (not to mention Luna!) are all displaying sides that can be regarded as “strong female sides”, as well as sides that can be regarded as “weak”.
    But we have to remeber, showing weakness is not the same thing as being weak.

  72. Such a late comment, I know but I just have to say that all of you are absolutely brilliant. This debate is wonderful and there are so many points that I’d never even thought of. I’m on my knees in awe at all of you. One comment that somebody made though sticks out in my mind. Someone made the point that the books give off the vibe that “all women are slaves to their emotions”, I think it was martin? I don’t really believe that. In all honesty, imo the ones that fall victim to their emotions the most are Harry and, every now and then Ron.

  73. I have nothing to add to the “weak vs strong females” conversation though i will say that as someone who grew up wanting to be a “housewife”, I love Molly. And I laughed at whoever asked, “What does she do all day?” now that the kids are all grown or at school. There are things to be done, even without the kids at home.

    ANYWAY, I wanted to say that I would assume that most people in the wizarding world would know what James and Lily Potter looked like because there would have been a ton of information, pictures, memorials, what have you after they died and Harry lived and Voldemort was gone. Their picture would have been on the front page of the Daily Prophet at least the next morning, if not more often. Possibly their pictures would be in whatever book Hermione read that told her about Harry Potter (she knew about him on the first Hogwarts Express trip, right?), but Harry, oddly, was never one to seek out information about his parents as much as you’d think he might, so we’ll never know.

  74. Erin, we do see one piece of evidence to back up your idea about James and Lily’s appearances being well-known – there’s an enormous statue of them in the town square of Godric’s Hollow.

  75. **SPOILERS THROUGHOUT***
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    My theory on why Apparition is not used to take Harry from the Dursleys’ is in fact due to how closely Harry is being watched. He is already currently in trouble for using a Patronus in front of his cousin, and potentially, magic done around Harry could be detected as well (remember CoS when Dobby dropped Aunt Petunia’s dessert). This issue is addressed again in DH when Lily’s protection is about to be removed due to Harry’s coming-of-age.

    The Ministry is VERY interested in Harry in Book 5, since Harry is essentially a pariah claiming that the biggest threat the Wizarding world has ever seen has returned, but the Ministry backs off of Harry in terms of under-age magic use in Book 6 when they realize the truth. The Ministry in Book 7, now under Voldemort’s influence, is once again watching Harry closely to capture him for Voldemort’s ultimate victory.

  76. I always thought that side-along apparation is something not everyone can do. Amos Diggory appearantly isn’t able to apparate Cedric.

    But yeah, the fifth year is a little bit puzzling. I would think that apparation at Privet Drive might get Harry in trouble, because it’s a detectable magic act. But how was Fletcher able to apparate without setting off the alarms?

    Either way, perhaps the brooms where their way to disguise Harry’s movements from Voldemort and the ministry. A year later, the ministry wasn’t hell bent on expelling Harry anymore.

  77. Gotta comment even though it’s so late in this thread! This is a terrific, amazingly calm and respectful discussion about a tricky, emotion-laden subject. Josie, thanks for maintaining an environment where such a discussion is possible.

    I’m going to submit that Rowling’s female characters do indeed get less screentime, and are less flashy, than her male characters, but that in terms of strength, her males and females are well balanced or possibly weighted in favor of the females. Here are some examples:

    Hermione vs. Ron: Hermione is consistently stronger than Ron (and much more sensible than Harry, for that matter). Yes, she has a tendency to freeze up under pressure, but she has to have SOME flaw. She’s much more level-headed than either of them, and her ability to stick with what she’s decided is right, regardless of public opinion or emotional challenges, is vastly above Ron’s until his return in DH.

    Narcissa vs. Lucius: Lucius appears stronger because he’s out front leading the DEs, but he completely disintegrates by DH. Narcissa is the one holding both him and Draco together by the time we see them at the beginning of DH. Remember when Voldy demands Lucius’s wand? It’s Narcissa whom Lucius looks to for guidance there. Then, at the end of DH when Harry is apparently dead in the forest, it’s Narcissa who has the presence of mind to think through the implications of this, know that the only way to reach her and Lucius’s goal of finding Draco is for Harry to be dead, and BETRAYS VOLDEMORT RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIS NOSE.

    Tonks vs. Lupin: Yes, Tonks spends a long time moping, but so does Lupin. We see Lupin being curt and nonresponsive about their relationship well before his final breakdown at Grimmauld Place. But here’s where Tonks is stronger: She never gives up (despite her moping), but Lupin does. When we see him in Grimmauld Place, he has abandoned his family, and only goes back to them because Harry calls him out on it. Tonks in HBP never wavered in her commitment to Lupin.
    I could list a few more (Lily vs. James, for example), but this is long enough as is. Thanks for the awesome discussion, everyone!

  78. How did kingsley and elphias know lily and james? Maybe because they were in the same vigilante dark wizard fighting team? (the order of the pheonix) It seems they were probably in the order last time voldy was out in force, so they would have met them there.

  79. Such a good debate. I have to agree with Reebus (& others) above me and would like to make my own case for Tonks (I’ve taken to calling her Dora).
    May I just say, as well as Ginny for her fierceness, Molly for her motherliness and Hermione for her bookishness, Dora has become another “role model” for me as she is klutzy but cool. I’d love to be able to change my hair at will.
    We see her at her most klutzy and cool in OotP, but she’s also rather young there. She was fairly young when the first war ended and so is slightly inexperienced…but still goes at it with all her gutsy determination.
    I think the side we hear & see in HBP and DH STRENGTHENS her character rather than weakens it. It shows that she has her fears as well as her successes. She gets depressed in HBP. Clinically depressed, in my opinion. Her favourite was killed by her crazy aunt and the guy who she’s in love with wont admit it cuz he’s being a prat about his own issues. But she is stubborn and hangs on as best she can during the year, as the war gets steadily worse and her worries about Remus – and presumably her other friends & family – grow worse.
    In DH, she probably either is sacked or forced to resign from her dream job – whether because of the Ministry takeover, her marriage to Remus, or the pregnancy (which was NOT an oops, I don’t think… There was a wedding night, wasn’t there?). Her mentor dies and her dad is forced to go on the run. She’s largely isolated from her friends due to the Order having to go into hiding. Yet despite the tough times, thanks to her portrayal in OotP, I can see her joking around at meetings, sharing pregnancy stories with the women and old Auror stuff generally at meetings and, until the spring, coping fairly well. After all, as Ron says, “… Lupin’s living with Tonks again! And apparently she’s getting pretty big too.”
    Then in March, things start going downhill. Her dad turns up dead. More and more people are getting killed or going missing. Due the pregnancy, she wouldn’t be able to go out as much in the dangerous times.
    When Teddy’s born, I believe that Dora developed post-natal depression. As she’s already had depression, would have been experiencing high levels of anxiety etc throughout the pregnancy, is somewhat isolated, etc, she would have been at risk.
    The person most likely to help her during her downtimes? Remus Lupin.
    So of course, when Remus left to go to the Battle, with no 100% guarantee he’d be back, and so many friends & family had already been killed…. Dora felt she had to go.

    Remus “strength/ weakness” is another kettle of fish (ooh, I order what the Wizarding equivalent of that is?) entirely. I’ll wait to post my views on him I think.

    Suffice to say that Jo’s world is full of characters that can never truly be here nor there; all have flaws and talents. And that’s what makes the series so good.
    I hope I haven’t trodden too hard on anyone’s toes. : P

  80. I keep reading the series. I love the respectful debate and agree we all see the Harry Potter world differently. Lothario made a great point that these characters are described from Harry’s POV. How would we fare in descriptions fron a teen aged boy in our lives? Fairly one dementional, I expect.
    Now off on a tanget. Why are most the wizarding world habitat shabby? Excepting the malfoys’, snape’s house & blacks’ house just seem in the worst parts of town. Decayed. Even St Mungo’s and MOM externally are creepily decayed and run down. Ugh. You’d think magic could spruce it up a bit.

  81. St. Mungo’s & the MoM are only decayed on the outside, and that’s done to prevent Muggles from taking any interest in them. Snape’s poor-quality house can be explained in two ways, at least: 1) he came from a working-class North of England family, one that to boot did not feature any emotionally stable householders; 2) he lacked the will to move out given his bitterness. The decay of the Black house can be explained by the fact that its only inhabitant for the last decade was a house-elf who exhibits behaviour that suggests he is at least partly insane, and even if he isn’t, spending 10 years alone isn’t a good idea if you want to keep a firm hold on your rationality.

  82. Also Snape would feel little need to move out given that he lives at Hogwarts for 10 months of the year.

  83. Wow… I was just reading about the whole “strong female” discussion and I am appalled not to have read ONE word on Lilly Potter or Alice Longbottom. One of them died protecting her son -after watching her husband be murdered- and the other endured the Cruciatus curse until she lost her mind rather than give out information. And both of these women, despite their youth and recent motherhood, still continued to serve the Order of the Phoenix… Really, no strong female characters?
    Of course women are flawed, and so are men, and the cool thing about this saga is how most of the characters seem to be able to overcome these flaws and grow. Heck, even the Malfoys do better in the end!

  84. I’ve skipped a few of the later comments, so I might be repeating something already said. I like the comments made regarding Molly as a housewife. Her role as a member of the Order, of a family in which her husband and all of her adult children are in the Order, and all her under age children wind up in the DA, requires a lot of strength. Don’t forget, too, that she lost her brothers in the first War against Voldemort. She doesn’t complain about a ‘relegated’ role of Kuchen und Kinder. Her issues are with how certain ones are treated, or how certain others are behaving. We saw in the previous book how much Harry needed a strong and compassionate mother figure, as he lost his real mother three months on after his first birthday. We see her in this one as someone who could prepare a wholesome meal with adequate nutrition and good taste. Harry, unlike everyone else whom we care about, had nobody else to fill that role.

    I am not sure that, by the 7th book, any of the women, or men, for that matter, in the Order had any choice but to do what they could where they could. Fleur and Bill, both, are confined to the vicinity of Shell Cottage by that point in the saga. They really have no choice but to be housewife and househusband. One wonders how they have the resources to exist in this way, other than support from family. That is not a choice to stay at home and tend to chores. That is a lack of safe and viable options. Yet their home becomes a safe house for refugees and a burial ground for a dead fighter.

    Another point in the discussion about female compared to male portrayals. The men are portrayed with as much male type-casting as are the females. Ron holds in his emotions until they boil over. Harry boils over at the slightest provocation, rather than sucking it up and going on. See what I mean? These strategies seem opposite, yet both are typical, and both are harmful. Neither one thinks about the stresses affecting him, and each reacts in harmful ways. Dumbledore, the benevolent father/grandfather figure, has secrets in his past, and acts secretively in his planning in the present. I believe it is worthwhile to see how each of these characters, men and women, transcend the stereotypes of their gender roles. Others above have essentially said this for Hermione and Ginny. Molly, Fleur, Bill, Ron, and Harry, do this as well. As for Dumbledore, that remediation is provided by Harry, himself, at Kings Cross in the last book. Without the guidance, mentoring, tutoring, and care he received from his headmaster, the outcome of the story would have been plenty different. Dumbledore overcame his weaknesses, too. From his parents’ death onward, Harry gave Dumbledore the opportunity to do something really good that he had lacked before then. That bit worked out very well, indeed!

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