Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
How we cite our quotes:
At that moment, a wizard in plus-fours appeared out of thin air next to Mr. Roberts's front door.
"Oblivate!" he said sharply, pointing his wand at Mr. Roberts.
Instantly, Mr. Roberts's eyes slid out of focus, his brows unknitted, and a look of dreamy unconcern fell over his face. Harry recognizes the symptoms of one who had just had his memory modified. (7.27-9)
If you've ever wondered how J.K. Rowling leaves room for the wizarding world while leaving our humdrum, normal lives unchanged, this is your answer: it's because her wizards are really, really good at hiding their identities. To keep the wizarding world a secret, they will use any means that they have to, including memory charms for Muggles who start asking too many questions, such as Mr. Roberts does here. Mr. Roberts is putting together too many clues from his job as a caretaker of this campground; he's starting to get suspicious about this giant crowd of odd people suddenly turning up all at once (for the Quidditch World Cup, of course). So a Ministry of Magic official keeps modifying his memory – "Needs a Memory Charm ten times a day to him happy" (7.32), comments the official on Mr. Roberts. But it does seem like, while we can understand the need from the wizards' point of view, the use of Memory Charms on people who can't defend themselves or understand what's happening to them is a moral grey area. If you were a wizard, where would you draw the line about appropriate use of magic in front of or on Muggles? In what kinds situations might magic be necessary for self-defense in dealing with Muggles? And when is magic use on Muggles an abuse of power?
"The point?" said Mr. Weasley with a hollow laugh. "Harry, that's their idea of fun. Half the Muggle killings back when You-Know-Who was in power were done for fun. I suppose they had a few drinks tonight and couldn't resist reminding us all that lots of them are still at large. A nice little reunion for them," he finished disgustedly. (9.256)
So, all of that hoopla – the masks and the hoods and the floating of the Roberts family – was just a big joke. It's amazing how quickly J.K. Rowling sums up the mechanics of terrorism in this chapter. There are immediate victims of the Death Eaters' violence, the Roberts family. But then there's also a second, much larger circle of people injured by this grotesque display. The fear that these Death Eaters generated back in the day, when they were murdering Muggles randomly for fun, has left the wizarding world so traumatized that Amos Diggory is willing to suspect Harry – obviously a youngster – of casting Voldemort's Dark Mark. Once the Death Eaters get together for their "few drinks" and their "nice little reunion," all they need to do is reappear in public to make people at the campsite scream. It seems that a lot of this novel is dedicated to showing just how much power can come from fear. This lays the foundation for the question posed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: what power could Harry have that's stronger than fear?
"Well, the fat's really in the fire now," [Mr. Weasley] told Mrs. Weasley as he sat down in an armchair near the hearth and toyed unenthusiastically with his somewhat shriveled cauliflower. "Rita Skeeter's been ferreting around all week, looking for more Ministry mess-ups to report. And now she's found out about poor old Bertha going missing, so that'll be the headline in the Prophet tomorrow. I told Bagman he should have sent someone to look for her ages ago." (10.78)
Obviously, Rita Skeeter abuses her power of the press. She presents a highly biased point of view of the news, but she reports her findings as though they are objective – bad combo. At the same time, doesn't the public have the right to know about the disappearance of Bertha Jorkins, a Ministry-employed witch? And her disappearance proves to have huge significance to the plot of the novel. How should we balance the public's right to know with an individual's right to privacy? What should be the role of the press in reporting on government activities? Do you have any real-life models for how the press should behave?