| Quote #1
The police were summoned, and the whole of Little Hangleton had seethed with shocked curiosity and ill-disguised excitement. Nobody wasted their breath pretending to feel very sad about the Riddles, for they had been most unpopular. Elderly Mr. and Mrs. Riddle had been rich, snobbish, and rude, and their grownup son, Tom, had been, if anything, worse. All the villagers cared about was the identity of their murderer – for plainly, three apparently healthy people did not all drop dead of natural causes on the same night. (1.5)
A lot of the Harry Potter series emphasizes the way that evil creeps into the everyday. Sure, there's the big evil that is Voldemort, but there's also the regular cruelty of bullying and gossip, which can still destroy people's lives even if they don't seem as significant. This little passage about the murder of the Riddles highlights exactly how small-scale prejudices can contribute to larger badness. The villagers don't waste "their breath pretending to feel very sad about the Riddles" – who have just been murdered, for crying out loud. Even if the Riddles weren't popular, the fact that the villagers immediately use their murder to cast out town oddball Frank Bryce is tasteless at best and downright immoral at worst. What's more, the town's willingness not to care about the Riddles' real murderer leaves a terrible act unresolved – with awful consequences for our own Harry Potter and many others.
| Quote #2
The floating people were suddenly illuminated as they passed over a burning tent and Harry recognized one of them: Mr. Roberts, the campsite manager. The other three looked as though they might be his wife and children. One of the marchers below flipped Mrs. Roberts upside down with his wand; her nightdress fell down to reveal voluminous drawers and she struggled to cover herself up as the crowd below her screeched and hooted with glee. (9.16)
It's striking how often cruelty is tied to cowardliness: these wizards can laugh and jeer as they expose poor Mrs. Roberts the Muggle in her underwear. But they're all safely behind masks while they do so. How exactly does it show wizarding pride to harass Muggles in the dark, without showing their faces?
| Quote #3
"I don't like people who attack when their opponent's back is turned," growled Moody as the ferret bounced higher and higher, squealing in pain. "Stinking, cowardly, scummy thing to do ..."
We love Moody's message here – it's "stinking, cowardly" and "scummy" to attack when your opponent's back is turned. But what do you think of his method of teaching Malfoy a lesson? What might Moody's goal be here, in punishing Malfoy so violently and humiliatingly? How does your impression of what Moody is trying to achieve in this scene change once you've reached the end of the novel and figured out who he really is and what he's up to?