chapter one of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Furious with his friends for leaving him at Privet Drive all summer, Harry gets in a fight with his aunt and uncle and then walks the neighborhood, where he runs into Dudley. Before they get home, however, they are attacked by dementors, and as Harry fights them off, Mrs. Figg comes running up to his great surprise.
The only person left outdoors was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flower bed outside number four.
How could Dumbledore have forgotten him so easily? Why had Ron and Hermione got together without inviting him along too? How much longer was he supposed to endure Sirius telling him to sit tight and be a good boy?
The figure… was unmistakably his cousin, Dudley Dursley, wending his way home.
(by Laurence Peguy)
But he fell silent…. There was something in the alleyway apart from themselves, something that was drawing long, hoarse, rattling breaths. Harry felt a horrible jolt of dread as he stood in the freezing air.
(by Laurence Peguy)
A second dementor was crouching low over [Dudley], gripping his wrists in its slimy hands, prizing them slowly, almost lovingly apart, lowering its hooded head toward Dudley’s face as though about to kiss him….
An enormous silver stag erupted from the tip of Harry’s wand; its antlers caught the dementor in the place where the heart should have been; it was thrown backward, weightless as darkness….
about the chapter
Mrs. Figg’s line at the conclusion of this chapter – “Don’t put it away, idiot boy! What if there are more of them around? Oh, I’m going to kill Mundungus Fletcher!” – is one of my favorites of the Harry Potter series. Just like when Scabbers was revealed to be an Animagus or Moody revealed to be an escaped convict in disguise, this revelation flips all of our assumptions about Harry’s world on their heads. And unlike those others, this one comes in the book’s first chapter. I will always remember reading it; I may or may not have jumped out of my chair and screamed “WHAT!” in shock. :) And I still smile every time I come across it.
Something You May Not Have Noticed
It’s funny that, as Harry lies in the flowerbed wishing for contact with the wizarding world, he is in fact at that very moment in contact with the wizarding world without realizing a thing. After all, he’s watching Mrs. Figg walk by, “muttering to herself” – but he’ll soon learn she’s far more than a batty old cat-lover, and while she may be muttering, turns out it’s not to herself. And why exactly did that cat jump out from under the car when Harry heard the loud crack? We’ll find out in the next chapter.
The Power of Magic
Can you imagine how unbelievably frightening a dementor attack must be to a Muggle kid like Dudley? He’s only seen magic a few times in his life (the vanishing glass, his pig’s tail, Marge blowing up, and his Ton-Tongue Toffee), and now he’s being chased by invisible creatures that seem (maybe?) to have been called by his cousin. Yikes. No wonder he punched Harry in the head.
The Boy Who Lived
Once again we see an interesting example of the Dursleys’ priorities when it comes to Harry: his Muggle clothes are “baggy,” “faded,” “torn and dirty” – presumably because the only clothes provided him by the Dursleys are hand-me-downs from Dudley (and when else could Harry have purchased Muggle clothing?). And yet his neighbors apparently aren’t thrilled, as they are “the sort of people who thought scruffiness ought to be punishable by law.” In other words, Vernon and Petunia – two people who are obsessive over the opinions of their neighbors – think it’s worthwhile that the neighbors think less of their relative just so Harry can be forced to wear shabby clothes. Perhaps they’re trying to distance themselves as much as possible (after all, the neighbors also think he’s a delinquent), but doesn’t that seem to take things a bit far?
Oh boy, did poor Rowling ever blow this one. After four books of dropping hints of characters who would later take on major roles, she named the Muggle kid that Dudley beats up ‘Mark Evans.’ Evans, of course, is the maiden name of Harry’s mother, and for months after Order of the Phoenix was released, the fan community was abuzz trying to figure out what Mark Evans’s relationship to Harry could possibly be. Eventually, Rowling posted an explanation to her website:
Mark Evans is… nobody. He’s nobody in the sense that Mr. Prentice, Madam Marsh and Gordon-Dudley’s-gang-member are nobodies, just background people who need names, but who have no role other than the walk-on parts assigned to them….
I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. Sirius Black, Mrs. Figg and Mundungus Fletcher were all mentioned in passing well before they burst onto the stage as fully-fledged characters, so now you’ve all become too clever, not for your own good, but for mine. The fact is that once you drew my attention to it, I realised that Mark Evans did indeed look like one of those ‘here he is, just a casual passer-by, nothing to worry about, bet you barely noticed him’ characters who would suddenly become, half way through book seven, ‘Ha ha! Yes, Mark Evans is back, suckers, and he’s the key to everything!….
Then why – WHY – (I hear you cry) – did I give him the surname “Evans”? Well, believe me, you can’t regret it more than I do right now. “Evans” is a common name; I didn’t give it much thought; I wasn’t even trying to set up another red herring. I could just as easily have called him ‘Smith’ or ‘Jones’ (or ‘Black’ or ‘Thomas’ or ‘Brown’, all of which would have got me into trouble too).
Of course, we’ve got a wizard Smith and a witch Jones both introduced in this book as well…. ;)
The Final Word
“When Dudley was attacked by the Dementors he saw himself, for the first time, as he really was. This was an extremely painful, but ultimately salutory lesson, and began [a] transformation in him.”–J.K. Rowling, July 2007