All fifth-years at Hogwarts must take O.W.L.s, or Ordinary
Wizard Level exams. The faculty piles on homework in preparation.
Ron, Harry, and Hermione report to their first session of Professor Umbridge’s
Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Professor Umbridge has written
her course aims on the blackboard, and Hermione points out that
she’s listed nothing about using the defensive spells, only studying
them. Professor Umbridge explains that the Ministry does not want
underage wizards practicing spells that are dangerous and unnecessary.
Harry explodes, explaining that they must be prepared to fight Voldemort.
Professor Umbridge insists that Voldemort has not returned and gives
Harry detention every night for a week. Harry is sent to see Professor
McGonagall, who tells Harry to be mindful of who Umbridge is and
to whom she is reporting.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave dinner early to escape
whispering students. In the Gryffindor common room, Hermione catches
Fred and George testing their joke products on first-years, and
threatens to write Mrs. Weasley. Before bed, Hermione sets out small
knit hats for the House Elves, who are freed when they find clothing
of their own. As usual, Hermione seems more concerned with freeing
elves than with whether or not they want to be freed.
Gryffindor Quidditch captain Angelina Johnson reprimands Harry
for having to miss Keeper tryouts because of his detention. After
dinner, Harry reports to Umbridge’s office, and Umbridge assigns
him the task of writing “I must not tell lies” over and over again
on a piece of parchment. She gives him a special quill to use, and
the words appear on the parchment in blood. The phrase also appears
on the back of Harry’s hand, cut into his skin. As Harry stares
at the cut, the skin heals over again, slightly redder but still smooth.
The process is extremely painful, but Harry does not want to show
weakness and does not complain or ask questions. Umbridge finally
lets Harry leave. It is past midnight, and he has not had time to
complete any of his homework.
Harry does not tell Ron or Hermione about what happened
at his detention. On his way back to the dorms after his third night
with Umbridge, Harry runs into Ron, who has been secretly practicing for
Keeper tryouts. Harry is delighted. Ron sees the back of Harry’s hand,
and Harry finally tells him the truth about detention. Ron suggests
that he tell Dumbledore, but Harry refuses. At his final detention
on Friday, Harry strains to watch Ron’s Keeper tryout from the window.
Umbridge grabs his hand to check his progress. As she touches him,
Harry’s scar burns tremendously, and he experiences a peculiar sensation
in his midriff. When Harry returns to the dorm, he learns that Ron
made the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Harry tells Hermione about detention
and the pain in his scar. Like Ron, she suggests he consult Dumbledore.
Harry refuses but mentions that he may ask Sirius for help. Hermione
quickly reminds him of the Order’s warning about letters.
Although Dolores Umbridge is highly unlikable from the
very start of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,
in these chapters she proves just how evil she can be. Instead of
assigning a traditional detention and forcing Harry to write regular
lines, Umbridge has Harry carve “I must not tell lies” into the
back of his hand, a cruel and unfair punishment. Both Ron and Hermione
suggest that Harry complain about his detention to Dumbledore, but
Harry refuses. He is still upset with Dumbledore, but he also doesn’t
want to show any signs of weakness, particularly in front of Umbridge.
That Harry neither complains nor tattles again confirms why he was
placed in Gryffindor, not Slytherin: he bravely endures Umbridge’s
petty torture, without a word of complaint.
Umbridge is the first Hogwarts instructor to deny students
their right to a proper education. The students of Hogwarts rely
heavily on their teachers for edification and instruction, and while
they may grow frustrated with their homework and lessons, they are
nonetheless grateful for the opportunity to learn. Given the importance
of the upcoming O.W.L. exams, the pressure to learn and excel is higher
than ever. Umbridge’s insistence that the students simply read their
textbooks in silence, with their wands put away, indicates her lack
of ability as an instructor and her desire to keep her students from
actually learning how to use a Defense spell, which, presumably,
mirrors the Ministry of Magic’s desire. Once again, adults are denying
children information under the guise of keeping the children “safe.”
In reality, Umbridge’s refusal to teach her students how to defend
themselves again the Dark Arts makes them considerably more vulnerable.
Harry’s outburst in Umbridge’s class is understandable,
given the circumstances of her lesson, but it is also rash and hot-headed. Throughout Harry
Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry wholeheartedly
embraces his role as the troubled teenager, picking fights with
Umbridge and constantly snapping at his best friends. Harry is still
upset at not being chosen as a Gryffindor prefect and displays very
little tolerance for Ron and Hermione’s normal quibbling. In Book
IV, Harry witnessed Lord Voldemort’s ugly return to full power,
which involved loads of blood, severed limbs, and the grisly murder
of a classmate, Cedric Diggory, and these events seem to have wounded
Harry in deep and personal ways. He is no longer the calm and affable
young man from the first four books. Instead, he is irritable and
rash, no longer able to quietly accept torment, whether it’s from
his boorish cousin, Dudley, or his new professor. Because of Harry’s
behavior he must miss Keeper tryouts, and he manages to fall very
far behind on his schoolwork. Harry’s ever-brewing anger and impatience
will later lead him to make a series of poor, ill-conceived decisions
with deadly consequences.