So, we are slowly but surely reaching the end point of this project of mine. Rereading this book was a much more pleasant experience than rereading Order of the Phoenix, obvs, but I still had quite a few problems with it! So without further rambling, here’s the first part of my critique of HBP.
1. I am four chapters in and I have found nothing to say yet. This is pretty astounding. Especially considering that in Order of the Phoenix it took me about 3 pages to start bitching. What an improvement. (Oh, my God, I’m into the sixth book and I’m still talking about book five. I think this reread has made me hate that book. Okay, maybe not hate—I don’t hate any of them—but it’s made me realize that it’s my least favorite and probably the worst in the series.)
2. This is something that is a bit of a joke between Alice and I: the way J.K. R. just cannot stop herself from describing how fat Slughorn is every single time he’s on the page. Like…seriously, there is always like five different mentions of his huge stomach or fat hands or how he resembles a walrus or…something! We get it! He’s fat! We got it the first fifty times you mentioned it. She might as well write “Slughorn fatly moved his fatness across the room and he was fat while he did it. FAT.” This kind of connects to something else that I have an issue with: almost every single fat or larger-than-average character is mean or unpleasant. Dudley, Vernon, Aunt Marge, Millicent Bullstrode, Crabbe and Goyle, Peter Pettigrew, Myrtle. Even Neville doesn’t get “cool” and more confident until he’s older—and thinner. I’m surprised she didn’t go all the way with the “fat=bad” shit and make Voldemort a 400 pound snake-man who swoops in on a flying bed covered in ice cream and Cauldron Cakes.
Hit the jump to see who gets unfairly hit by the “implausible love” train, Harry being a dick (shocking, I know), Ron’s ugly jealousy and more…
3. I really hate what J.K. Rowling did to Tonks’ character. She was one of the coolest characters—female or otherwise—introduced late in the series. She was spunky, vivacious, a little clumsy, friendly, loyal, intelligent and driven; for a character we just met she was pretty 3-dimensional. And then in the sixth book she gets Strangled By The Red String. We first see Tonks in HBP sitting in the Weasleys’ kitchen, forlorn and mousy-haired. We’re led to believe at first that she’s upset about Sirius’s death, which is a little strange but would make some sense. The actual truth—that she’s pining over Lupin—is even more bizarre. Like…she was fine two weeks prior when she met Harry at King’s Cross. Now all of a sudden she’s all sad and stuff over Lupin? I’ll talk more about this subject later when I get closer to the climax of the book, but suffice it to say that it just gets more ridiculous.
4. Ahhh, here we go. Page 123, we get back into our old ways. So far the book has been really slick and clever, showing rather than telling and giving us a tighter story. But now we get back to something I’m familiar with: Harry putting his nose where it doesn’t belong to further the plot. Why do you have to follow Draco into Knockturn Alley? Mind your goddamn business.
5. This is something that has always confused the shit out of me: there are repeated references to “Malfoy’s Hand of Glory” and he actually uses one later in the book. Ron says “Remember that shriveled old hand Malfoy had?” Wut? The last I heard about any Hand of Glory, Lucius Malfoy was refusing to buy one for his son, hoping that he would become more than a common criminal in Chamber of Secrets. Now all of a sudden Malfoy owns a Hand of Glory, and it’s common knowledge to the point that Ron knows about it? Where the hell was I when that part of the story happened?
6. Harry’s such a dick to Tonks! After she discovers him lying paralyzed and bloody on the train, he keeps thinking about how annoyingly sad she is now and gets frustrated when she shoots down his idea to scale the walls of Hogwarts. (BECAUSE IT WAS A TOTALLY GOOD SMART IDEA OMG GUISE!) At one point he actually thinks about how he no longer wants to be in her presence because her sadness is not fun to be around. Like….dood, stop being such an asshole. You weren’t exactly a fucking ray of sunshine to be around ALL OF THE PREVIOUS GODDAMN BOOK. Even though Harry’s behavior isn’t as overtly obnoxious in this book, he’s still got the running characteristic of being an insensitive asshole to people who haven’t done him any harm (and who oftentimes help him a lot).
7. I’m a little confused about the sheer intensity of Harry’s hatred towards Snape right now. I mean, Snape is a douche as usual. And I know that it feels satisfying for him to blame Snape for Sirius’s death but this 1) clashes with the relative mental stability Harry showed in regards to Sirius’s death earlier in this same book and 2) makes no sense in the light of all the things Dumbledore told him at the end of book five. We’re told that Snape not only immediately checked to see if Sirius was okay, but alerted other Order members and went searching for Harry and Hermione when they didn’t return to the school. I feel like I’ve managed to be pretty unbiased in how I talk about Snape; he’s one of my favorite characters, but I’ve been quick to point out how unreasonable he is a lot of the time. But with this, Snape did every single thing in his power to make sure Harry, his friends, and Sirius were safe.
Harry is the one who charged straight into danger and Harry is the one who now chooses to believe that Sirius was so injured by Snape’s childish jabs about him being useless for the Order that he chose to leave Grimmauld Place. Sirius was a grown-ass man who should’ve been above that kind of schoolyard rival bullshit. Believing that Snape’s taunting was a major contributor to Sirius leaving Grimmauld Place is motherfucking insulting to Sirius: he left because he cared for you, Harry, and wanted to ensure your safety. But you don’t want to think about that because then you’d have to actually think about your fucking actions and how they endanger people. It bothers me immensely that Harry is so full of despair over how his actions put others in danger at the end of the fifth book, but all of that has disappeared come the sixth book. He’s decided, somehow, that it’s not his fault at all. And yet somehow it’s Snape’s fault? Wut.
8. Dear Jesus. This is going to be long. The entire Felix Felicis chapter. Where the fuck to even start? Ron’s jealousy in this book is so ugly. So fucking ugly. When he possessively freaks out when he finds Ginny making out with Dean, she fights right back claiming that he’s only jealous because no one wants to snog him, saying that Harry’s snogged Cho and Hermione’s snogged Krum. (This seriously ignores the underlying idea of patriarchal ownership that lends itself to this kind of behavior but whatever). Harry secretly agrees with Ron because he wants Ginny to himself (which is totally fucked up). And this whole thing sends Ron into a dark, angry mood. He’s so fucking wounded at the idea of Hermione kissing another guy two years ago that he gets totally pissed off at everyone and starts lashing out, especially towards Hermione who has no fucking idea why he’s so pissed at her. I’m sorry, but this is not healthy behavior, not even for a 16-year-old. As a result he’s performing very poorly at his Keeping.
Then Harry, good ol’ Harry, gets a bright idea. He sets Hermione up to see him slip Felix Felicis into Ron’s drink; of course, she tries to stop him. When she storms off, Harry has this thought: “[He] watched her go without regret. Hermione had never really understood what a serious business Quidditch was.” Wow. Harry, you are a fucking douchebag jock. Ron, thinking he’s been slipped liquid luck, gets a boost in confidence and performs fantastically. When Hermione confronts Harry, he reveals that he just wanted Ron to think he’d been slipped the shit. And what does Ron do? Gets pissed off at Hermione for not thinking he could save goals on his own.
WHAT. IS. THIS. FUCKITUDE?
Harry is the one who thought you were so fucking inept at your goddamn Keeping that he had to make you think you’d been drugged before you could play well! But he sets Hermione up to point it out, so you get mad at her!? And Harry, how the fuck could you even do something like that to Hermione? You know that Ron treats her like garbage all the time and not only do you not fucking stick up for her when Ron gets mad at her over something that happened years ago (or, you know, ever) but you set her up as a pawn in your little fucking ploy to win Quidditch. And then you’re surprised when this blows up in your face?
So then, Ron goes and snogs the shit out of Lavender. Just to prove that he’s snog-worthy or something. But more so to hurt Hermione. And okay, I’ve heard lots and lots of people talk about how incredibly wrong Hermione is for having the birds attack Ron. Listen, I know I’m biased toward Hermione. I know that. Do I think she should have responded with violence or that violence is a way to resolve problems?
No. I don’t. But I don’t hear people talking about how horrible Harry was for telling Hedwig to attack Ron, Hermione, and Sirius in book five when he was angry. And I surely don’t hear very many people talking about how Ron is consistently a shitty motherfucker to Hermione throughout all the books. All the books. Taken out of context, what Hermione does is really fucked up. Taken within the context of Hermione having dealt with the same possessive, jealous, hurtful shit from Ron for six years straight…it’s not surprising. Why do we fault Hermione so much for finally retaliating against really fucking horrible treatment? And why are we so fucking quick to forgive Ron for all the disgusting shit he’s done to Hermione? Is it because she’s set up as a moral superior and Ron has always been shown to be emotionally insensitive? That’s fucking bullshit; just because Ron has always acted this way doesn’t fucking make it okay.
And then! And then…this fucking line that happens when Hermione reveals that she’s going to the party with McLaggen: “Harry was left to ponder the depths to which girls would sink to get revenge.” WHAT THE FUCK?! Ron did the same goddamn thing but now that Hermione’s doing it all of a sudden it’s a “girl thing”? Fucking shenanigans. Hermione used McLaggen for one evening to try to make Ron jealous, then realized she couldn’t stand McLaggen and stopped. Ron continued on in his relationship with Lavender even after he no longer enjoyed being around her; he led her on and deceived her until finally she forced him into confrontation. But yeah, okay, it’s definitely Hermione who is the more wrong one here.
And, much like the situation in Prisoner of Azkaban, Ron never has to apologize or recognize that his behavior is fucked up. He gets poisoned and Hermione just kind of lets it all go. Gawwwddd, Ron I hate you.
So, dear readers, as much as I hate to leave you in suspsense, I think here is a good place to cut off. Come back next Wednesday for the conclusion to my critique of HBP! And as always, please leave any comments, questions, anything at all in the comments below!