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Quotes

Quote #1

"[Dudley's tongue] was four feet long before his parents would let me shrink it!"

Harry and the Weasleys roared with laughter again.

"It isn't funny!" Mr. Weasley shouted. "That sort of behavior seriously undermines wizard-Muggle relations! I spend half my life campaigning against the mistreatment of Muggles, and my own sons –"

"We didn't give it to him because he's a Muggle!" said Fred indignantly.

"No, we gave it to him because he's a great bullying git," said George. (5.13-7)

We can see both sides here: what the twins did – leaving a Ton-Tongue Toffee where dieting-and-not-happy-about-it Dudley could easily eat it – is pretty funny. And Dudley is "a great bullying git." He's been making Harry's life a misery since they were both babies. But these kinds of tricks are totally feeding into the Dursleys' paranoia about wizardry. No wonder they don't trust wizards when a magical toffee can make their son's tongue four feet long without them being able to do anything about it. We all fear things that make us feel weak or unsafe. The twins' practical joke isn't at all serious, but only because the twins choose not to do real damage – not because they couldn't. Which side do you fall on in this argument between the twins and Mr. Weasley? Is there any harm in a Ton-Tongue Toffee for bullying gits like Dudley? Or are we totally over-thinking the morals of Harry Potter?

Quote #2

"Don't tell me you don't know?" [Malfoy] said delightedly. "You've got a father and a brother at the Ministry and you don't even know? My God, my father told me about it ages ago ... heard it from Cornelius Fudge. But then, Father's always been associated with the top people at the Ministry ... Maybe your father's too junior to know about it, Weasley ... yes .... they probably don't talk about important stuff in front of him ..." (11.109).

Voldemort's followers (including the Malfoy family) use hatred to distinguish themselves from other wizards and to justify their own power. So a lot of the bullying nonsense that Draco Malfoy spouts when he makes fun of Ron's poverty or his father's "too junior" position in the Ministry or Hermione's Muggle heritage comes straight from the prejudices of his family. It's like a package deal – no one can support Voldemort without buying into his whole anti-Muggle, pro-pureblood fantasies too. There's strength in this position because all the followers of Voldemort are unified in their opinions. On the other hand, there's a lot of division among the people against Voldemort – after all, being against Voldemort doesn't mean being for any one thing in particular. So it's a lot harder for the good guys to organize themselves or decide what's right in fighting Voldemort. This is why the supposedly "good" anti-Voldemort side can still give rise to power-hungry wizards like Mr. Crouch or Cornelius Fudge.

Quote #3

[Ron] forced Hermione to show Snape her teeth – she was doing her best to hide them with her hands, though this was difficult as they had now grown down past her collar. [...]

Snape looked coldly at Hermione, then said, "I see no difference."

Hermione let out a whimper; her eyes filled with tears, she turned on her heel and ran, ran all the way up the corridor and out of sight. (18.87-9)

If you want to discuss what exactly is going on with Snape, you should check out the later books in the series, especially Books 5 and 7. Dumbledore trusts him, yet Snape is deeply, sadistically turned against pretty much everyone else who's working with Dumbledore – even to the point that he's willing to indulge in this piece of petty cruelty against one of his own students. Do you find Snape's characterization consistent? How do you explain Snape's behavior in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? And what is Snape's role in the Harry Potter novels as a whole? How is his character important to the moral message of Harry Potter?

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