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Quotes

Quote #4

Moody began to beckon students forward in turn and put the Imperius Curse upon them. Harry watched as, one by one, his classmates did the most extraordinary things under its influence. Dean Thomas hopped three times around he room, singing the national anthem. Lavender Brown imitated a squirrel. Neville performed a series of quite astonishing gymnastics he would certainly not have been capable of in his normal state. Not one of them seemed to be able to fight off the curse, and each of them recovered only when Moody had removed it. (15.15)

The Imperius Curse is like the definition of abuse of power over another person: it can make anyone do anything, even things that he should be incapable of (like Neville's gymnastics). What is it about Harry that gives him the ability to fight off power? What kind of personality traits might make someone more or less vulnerable to the Imperius Curse? How do you think you would fare against this Curse? Why?

Quote #5

Hermione suddenly smiled very mischievously, and Harry noticed it too: it was a very different smile for the one he remembered.

"Well ... when I went up to Madam Pomfrey to get them shrunk, she held up a mirror and told me to stop her when they were back to how they normally were [...] And I just ... let her carry on a bit. [...] Mum and Dad won't be too pleased. I've been trying to persuade them to let me shrink them for ages, but they wanted me to carry on with my braces. You know, they're dentists, they just don't think teeth and magic should – look! Pigwidgeon's back!" (23.16-7)

OK, this is a very different kind of power from the Imperius Curse and the more serious things that come up in the Harry Potter books. Still, one of the things that makes the wizarding world so attractive to us as readers is that a lot of stuff we have to deal with so slowly and painfully in the non-magic world – buckteeth and housework and so on – can just be magicked away in Harry's world. Being a wizard doesn't make prejudice or poverty go away, but still – who wouldn't want the power to fix a slightly toothy smile with the wave of a wand? It's the promise of the easy way around things that makes magic seem so attractive. If you could cast any one spell from the Harry Potter books to make your life easier, which one would you choose?

Quote #6

Crouch's principles might've been good in the beginning – I wouldn't know. he rose quickly through the Ministry and he started ordering very harsh measures against Voldemort's supporters. The Aurors were given new powers – powers to kill rather than capture, for instance. And I wasn't the only one who was handed straight to the Dementors without trial. Crouch fought violence with violence, and authorized the use of the Unforgivable Curses against suspects. I would say that he became as ruthless and cruel as many on the Dark Side. (27.151)

The use of the Unforgivable Curses seems to be a slippery slope: once you've gotten a taste of that kind of power, even with good intentions, it seems to be easier and easier to keep on using them. We can't ignore the fact that, in real-life arguments against the use of torture in terrorism interrogation, many human rights activists also claim that, by fighting "violence with violence," good people may become "as ruthless and cruel as many on the Dark Side." This is a tricky issue, with huge moral relevance now: how far is it OK to go in fighting terrorism? (After all, Voldemort and the Death Eaters are terrorists.) What kinds of moral limits are appropriate for us to follow in our fight against terrorism? Are there methods of combating terrorism that, like the Cruciatus Course, are too morally problematic for us to use?

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