Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Good vs. Evil Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Thank you, Weatherby, and when you have done that, I would like a cup of tea. My wife and son will be arriving shortly, we are attending a concert tonight with Mr. and Mrs. Fudge."
Crouch was now talking fluently to a tree again, and seemed completely unaware that Harry was there, which surprised Harry so much he didn't notice that Crouch had released him. [...]
"Don't ... leave ... me!" he whispered, his eyes bulging again. "I ... escaped ... must warn ... must tell ... see Dumbledore ... my fault ... all my fault ... Bertha ... dead ... all my fault ... my son ... my fault ..." (28.196-7, 202)
Mr. Crouch's struggle out in the forest strikes us as unbelievably sad. In the moments when he's obeying the Imperius Curse and behaving as though he's at the Ministry, he is clearly reliving good times when his wife and son were both around (and, you know, not Death Eating). But then, when he shakes free of the curse, he thinks only of warning Dumbledore because it is "[his] son" and "[his] fault." This moment really humanizes Mr. Crouch. We know from Sirius that Mr. Crouch is a proud, unbending, power-hungry wizard. And we have to wonder what role Mr. Crouch's coldness and ambition played in the development of Barty Crouch, Jr. But, at the same time, he's bitterly aware of the mistakes that he has made and he dies trying to correct them. There's some redemption in that.
"Ludo Bagman, you have been brought here in front of the Council of Magical Law to answer charges relating to the activities of the Death Eaters," said Mr. Crouch. "We have heard the evidence against you, and are about to reach out verdict. Do you have anything to add to your testimony before we pronounce judgment?"
Harry couldn't believe his ears. Ludo Bagman, a Death Eater?
"Only," said Bagman, smiling awkwardly, "well — I know I've been a bit of an idiot —"
One or two wizards and witches in the surrounding seats smiled indulgently. Mr. Crouch did not appear to share their feelings. He was staring down at Ludo Bagman with an expression of the utmost severity and dislike." (30.89-92)
The thing is, Severus Snape looks the part of a Death Eater. He's pale, snake-like, greasy-haired, and mean. Igor Karkaroff also looks like a Death Eater: he's vain, smarmy, and slimy. But Ludo Bagman doesn't look like a Death Eater. He's young, handsome, affable, and a stellar Quidditch player. So, even though he was "caught passing information to Lord Voldemort's supporters" (30.94), he doesn't seem to serve any jail time at all. What role does appearance play in determining the public's opinion of a person's moral character? Do you think a person is more likely to get away with a crime if he's good-looking? Yikes.
"You see that house upon the hillside, Potter? My father lived there. My mother, a witch who lived here in this village, fell in love with him. But he abandoned her when she told him what she was ... He didn't like magic, my father ...
"He left her and returned to his Muggle parents before I was even born, Potter, and she died giving birth to me, leaving me to be raised in a Muggle orphanage ... but I vowed to find him ... I revenged myself upon him, that fool who gave me his name ... Tom Riddle ..." (30.18-9)
What's the difference between an explanation and an excuse? Voldemort's personal history gives some explanation for why he has become the monster that he is. Still, it's difficult to feel pity for a monster that has destroyed so many families. It's also interesting to think that Voldemort and Harry share so many similarities (e.g., both are orphans, raised in isolation from the wizarding world). Yet Voldemort has become a deranged Muggle-murdering monster while Harry is a decent, generous guy.
So even though Voldemort's past provides context for why he is the way he is, we also know that he wasn't fated to become a monster. Both he and Harry have faced similar obstacles, but Voldemort chose to become a monster. It's not enough to look at Voldemort's past and say, "Ah ha! So that's why he's a mass murderer!" By that logic, Harry should be a mass murderer, too. Obviously, the importance of free will has been one of the themes of the Harry Potter series from the moment Harry chose to be in Gryffindor and not Slytherin in the first book. And Voldemort's background story only affirms Rowling's emphasis on personal choice in the fight between good and evil.