Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Isolation Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
Frank Bryce was the Riddles' gardener. He lived alone in a run-down cottage on the grounds of the Riddle House. Frank had come back from the war with a very stiff leg and a great dislike of crowds and loud noises, and had been working for the Riddles ever since. [...]
"Always thought he was odd," [the cook at the Hanged Man] told the eagerly listening villagers, after her fourth sherry. "Unfriendly, like. I'm sure if I've offered him a cuppa once, I've offered it a hundred times. Never wanted to mix, he didn't."
"Ah now," said a woman at the bar, "he had a hard war, Frank. He likes a quiet life. That's no reason to –"
"Who else had a key to the back door, then?" barked the cook. "There's been a spare key hanging in the gardener's cottage far back as I can remember! Nobody forced the door last night! No broken windows! All Frank had to do was creep up to the big house while we was all sleeping ... "
The villagers exchanged dark looks.
"I always thought he had a nasty look about him, right enough," grunted a man at the bar.
"War turned him funny, if you ask me," said the landlord. [...]
By the following morning, hardly anyone in Little Hangleton doubted that Frank Bryce had killed the Riddles. (1.8-18)
("The war" that Frank Bryce came back from is probably World War II, and "a cuppa" is a cup of tea.) This passage is brilliant: in just a few sentences, J.K. Rowling demonstrates how quickly an ordinary man can go from being "odd" to being "nasty" and crazed, with the help of a public rumor. Frank Bryce comes back from World War II with an injured leg and PTSD ("a great dislike of crowds and loud noises"), and his sensitivity actually inspires prejudiced villagers to turn against him. Because Frank is a social outcast, he has no one to stand up for him when rumors start circulating that he must have killed the Riddles. Before you know it, everyone in the village is sure that Frank Bryce is a murderer. This chapter makes us feel so claustrophobic and heartbroken: this poor guy, a veteran no less, prefers not to mix with the villagers, and that seems to be proof enough to convict him of murdering three people. So unfair!
[The Dursleys] knew perfectly well that, as an underage wizard, Harry wasn't allowed to use magic outside Hogwarts, but they were still apt to blame him for anything that went wrong about the house. Harry had never been able to confide in them or tell them anything about his life in the wizarding world. The very idea of going to them when they awoke, and telling them about his scar hurting him, and about his worries about Voldemort, was laughable. (2.15)
One of the formative aspects of Harry's character is that he has grown up in an emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive household. Harry as been raised by the Dursleys, his aunt and uncle, who despise and fear him for being a wizard. So they would have absolutely no sympathy for "his scar hurting him" or "his worries about Voldemort" if Harry were to even tell them. But the long-term effect of Harry's isolation as a child is that he has trouble telling anyone when things are going wrong in his life – he wants to handle everything by himself. When Harry thinks of telling his mentor, Professor Dumbledore, about his concerns, he feels "stupid" and can't do it. Still, Harry does manage to reach out to his godfather, Sirius Black – character development!
Harry sat there, aware that every head in the Great Hall had turned to look at him. he was stunned. He felt numb. He was surely dreaming. He had not heard correctly.
There was no applause. A buzzing, as though of angry bees, was starting to fill the Hall; some students were standing up to get a better look at Harry as he sat, frozen, in his seat. (17.1-2)
Even when Harry is doing his best to stay part of a crowd, he gets picked out for isolation by forces beyond his control. It's odd because we want something like the adventurous life Harry has – we want the magic and the daring too, though probably not the deadly danger and the deceased parents. But Harry stands out (as we kind of wish we did) and he wants nothing more than to become ordinary (at least, by wizarding standards). He wants to melt into the crowd. We find it funny that we spend a lot of time reading novels about a kid who has a life we kind of want to lead – yet that kid is miserable in that life most of the time.