Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
How we cite our quotes:
Out in the corridor, Frank suddenly became aware that the hand gripping his walking stick was slippery with sweat. The man with the cold voice had killed a woman. He was talking about it without any kind of remorse – with amusement. He was dangerous – a madman. And he was planning more murders – this boy, Harry Potter, whoever he was – was in danger –.
Frank knew what he must do. Now, if ever, was the time to go to the police. (1.78-9).
Frank Bryce never makes it to the police to warn them about the "man with the cold voice" – Voldemort. He's murdered before he can. This first murder is the most violent opening to a Harry Potter book yet (compared to Books 1 through 3). It sets the tone for the more serious plot line to follow. And it also shows that Frank Bryce is a principled man. Even though he has been treated like a social outcast and a guilty man by the village of Little Hangleton for fifty years, he's still horrified to hear a man discussing murder "with amusement." Frank Bryce is a good man, which is one of the reasons why his death is so painful, even though we have never met his character before and hardly get to know him.
"The way they were treating her!" said Hermione furiously. "Mr. Diggory, calling her 'elf' all the time ... and Mr. Crouch! He knows she didn't do it and he's still going to sack her! He didn't care how frightened she's been, or how upset she was – it was like she wasn't even human!"
"Well, she's not," said Ron.
Hermione rounded on him.
"That doesn't mean she hasn't got feelings, Ron." (9.219-22)
Being a house-elf is like an invitation to be abused by cruel wizards. It's basically a magical kind of slavery. We can see why Hermione takes such a strong, principled stand on the subject of elf rights, and she's also absolutely right that Winky has feelings. The thing is, though, Ron is also right here. Winky isn't human. That doesn't mean that she should be abused (obviously), but there's also an issue with treating non-human living things exactly like people. Where do you stand on Hermione's style of activism? Within the world of Harry Potter, should house-elves be freed of their service to wizarding houses? What might be the consequences of such an act?
Now each of these four founders
Formed their own House, for each
Did value different virtues
In the ones they had to teach.
By Gryffindor, the bravest were
Prized far beyond the rest;
For Ravenclaw, the cleverest
Would always be the best;
For Hufflepuff, hard workers were
Most worthy of admission;
And power-hungry Slytherin
Loved those of great ambition. (12.34)
This song is the Sorting Hat's explanation for how the House system got started at Hogwarts: each of the four founders of the school preferred certain virtues and then selected students according to these traits. We're not totally sure how we feel about this method of dividing kids into groups. After all, it's true that the moral universe at Hogwarts is not totally predictable – there are bad Gryffindors (Pettigrew) and (sort of) good Slytherins. But the novel's heroes tend to come from Gryffindor, and its villains tend to come from Slytherin. The bias of the novel against Slytherin is visible even in the Sorting Hat's song, since it's tough to make "power-hungry Slytherin" sound super positive. These aren't value-neutral divisions: being a Slytherin means you're a certain kind of person, and you're branded as that kind of person as soon as you are sorted into that House when you're but eleven years old. What are some of the ethical problems with sorting kids according to their personalities? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Hogwarts House system? Which House would you be in, if you could choose? Why?