Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Fear

By J.K. Rowling

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The doctors did note (as though determined to find something wrong with the bodies) that each of the Riddles had a look of terror upon his or her face – but as the frustrated police said, whoever heard of three people being frightened to death? (1.21)

So, if the folks from CSI or Bones were performing their forensic magic on the case of the Riddle murders, all they would find is "a look of terror" on the bodies. We guess the killing spell Avada Kedavra doesn't leave any trace evidence for the cops to collect. This detail reminds us that magic isn't all fun boarding school hijinks; there's something especially terrifying about power that can kill people without leaving a mark. How are you supposed to defend yourself against power like this?

Well, all right then. You can go to this ruddy ... this stupid ... this World Cup thing. You write and tell these – these Weasleys they're to pick you up, mind. I haven't got time to go dropping you off all over the country. And you can spend the rest of the summer there. And you can tell your – your godfather ... tell him ... tell him you're going. (3.55)

Harry uses his uncle's fear of wizarding kind in general, and of Sirius in particular, to manipulate him into letting Harry go to the Quidditch World Cup. Now, don't get us wrong – we think Harry is totally justified, since Uncle Vernon is a bully. But Harry's willingness to use someone else's fear to get what he wants is interesting from the perspective of his characterization. It shows that, even though Harry is a good guy, he's also practical and willing to get his hands dirty. After all, playing on Uncle Vernon's prejudices is somewhat morally suspect, even if the end result seems fair to Harry. Harry is on the side of good in general, but he's also willing to bend the rules to achieve what he thinks is best.

Yes, someone wanted him dead, someone had wanted him dead ever since he had been a year old ... Lord Voldemort. But how could Voldemort have ensured that Harry's name got into the Goblet of Fire? Voldemort was supposed to be far away, in some distant country, in hiding alone ... feeble and powerless ...

Yet in that dream he had had, just before he had awoken with his scar hurting, Voldemort had not been alone ... he had been talking to Wormtail ... plotting Harry's murder ... (17.105-6)

We're reminded of the old saying: it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you. Harry really is the victim of a massive murder plot. One of the things we find interesting about this passage is something else entirely, though: its style. It has this odd, trailing stream-of-consciousness quality (all of those dots). It also feels like it's pointedly reminding us of what we should be bearing in mind… You know – Voldemort? Trying to kill Harry? Remember? This passage feels like a piece of punctuation on the events of this chapter. We've had a lot of plot, and now here's a moment of reflection on what Harry's selection as the fourth champion might mean. Do these reflective passages give us a better sense of Harry as a character? How do they compare in style with other, more plot-driven sections of the novel?

Four fully grown, enormous, vicious-looking dragons were rearing onto their hind legs inside an enclosure fenced with thick planks of wood, roaring and snorting – torrents of fire were shooting into the dark sky from their open, fanged mouths, fifty feet above the ground on their outstretched necks. There was a silvery-blue one with long, pointed horns, snapping and snarling at the wizards on the ground; a smooth-scaled green one, which was writhing and stamping with all its might; a red one with an odd fringe of fine gold spikes around its face, which was shooting mushroom-shaped fire clouds into the air; and a gigantic black one, more lizard-like than the others, which was nearest to them. (19.95)

When we talk about the Harry Potter series, we often think about its larger themes: good vs. evil, prejudice, friendship, and so on. But we don't want to lose sight of the fantastic setting that makes it so memorable. In the middle of all of this grand plotting of Harry vs. Voldemort, we've got this wonderful description of four terrifying beasts. These dragons aren't frightening in the all-powerful way that Voldemort is. They're just awesome, scary lizards that would eat you if they got the chance. They represent a more contained kind of fear – the fear of man vs. large, toothy animal. So we can sit back and enjoy their entertainment value.

Harry barely slept that night. When he awoke on Monday morning, he seriously considered for the first time ever just running away from Hogwarts. But as he looked around the Great Hall at breakfast time, and thought about what leaving the castle would mean, he knew he couldn't do it. It was the only place he had ever been happy ... well, he supposed he must have been happy with his parents too, but he couldn't remember that. (20.14)

One of the things that seems to distinguish Harry's fear of the first task from all the other fear he's felt in his years at Hogwarts is that he knows exactly what's waiting for him this time. This isn't Harry blundering into Professor Quirrell or meeting Remus Lupin in werewolf form – this is no accident. There's a date and a time when he's going to have to face a dragon all by himself, and that time is growing closer and closer. Which do you think is worse: the anticipation, or the actual terrifying event itself? Would it be less frightening for Harry not to know what's waiting for him?

[Harry] stood up, noticing dimly that his legs seemed to be made of marshmallow. He waited. And then he heard the whistle blow. He walked out through the entrance of the tent, the panic rising into a crescendo inside him. And now he was walking past trees, though a gap in the enclosure fence.

He saw everything in front of him as though it was a very highly colored dream. There were hundreds and hundreds of faces staring down at him from stands that had been magicked there since he'd last stood on this spot. And there was the Horntail, at the other end of the enclosure, crouched low over her clutch of legs, her wings half-furled, her evil, yellow eyes upon him, a monstrous, scaly, black lizard, thrashing her spiked tail, leaving yard-long gouge marks in the hard ground. (20.139-40)

This physical description of Harry's fear – his "marshmallow" legs, his sense of disconnection from what's happening, and the feeling that it's all "a very highly colored dream" – really ramps up our own suspense. As J.K. Rowling describes Harry's state of total panic, we can't help but feel at least some sympathetic fear of our own. These descriptions really heighten the thrill of this section of the novel.

Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I'm afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time [...] Not a week has passed since I became headmaster of this school when I haven't had at least one owl complaining about the way I run it. But what should I do? Barricade myself in my study and refuse to talk to anybody? (24.179)

Professor Dumbledore has a point here. The problem with shame is that, when we're so embarrassed we can't face the world, we're letting the opinions of just a few people totally dominate our own choices. What's more, by disappearing, we often make our mistakes seem worse because they're the most recent things anyone can remember about us. Not that Hagrid has made a mistake – he has absolutely no reason to let the prejudiced opinions of one idiotic journalist shame him into leaving a job he loves. We can sympathize with his instincts just to be by himself at this point – but we, like Dumbledore, think it's just not that productive.

"I see two possibilities, Alastor," said Fudge. "Either Crouch has finally cracked – more than likely, I'm sure you'll agree, given his personal history – lost his mind, and gone wandering off somewhere –"

"He wandered extremely quickly, if that is the case, Cornelius," said Dumbledore calmly. (29.152-3)

Why is Fudge so terrified of admitting that Voldemort might be coming back? If you were in Fudge's position (i.e., as an official representative of the Ministry of Magic) how would you organize a response to the hints and whispers that Voldemort is coming back? What's more, how would you balance the influence of extremely powerful wizards like Dumbledore, who has no official position in government but who is also extremely influential? It seems to us that Fudge is an impossible position: yes, he's weak, cowardly, and he really shouldn't be downplaying Mr. Crouch's disappearance. On the other hand, we're not entirely clear on how much the Ministry really can do to track down Voldemort, especially since his followers seem to be everywhere in wizarding society.

And now Wormtail was whimpering. He pulled a long, thin, shining silver dagger from inside his cloak. His voice broke into petrified sobs.

"Flesh – of the servant – w-willingly given – you will – revive – your master."

He stretched his right hand out in front of him – the hand with the missing finger. He gripped the dagger very tightly in his left hand and swung it upward. (32.40-2)

Wormtail is not a strong person. He attaches himself to forceful characters for their protection: in school, it was Sirius Black and James Potter. And, after school, it's Voldemort. But if he's such a coward, how can he have brought himself to cut off his own arm for a spell to revive Voldemort? What kind of desperation or fear would lead Wormtail to do something he so emphatically doesn't want to do (with his "petrified sobs")? What do you think Voldemort promised Wormtail to make him do this?

[Voldemort] had reached the largest gap of all, and he stood surveying it with his blank, red eyes, as though he could see people standing there.

"And here we have six missing Death Eaters ... three dead in my service. One, too cowardly to return ... he will pay. One, who I believe has left me forever ... he will be killed, of course ... and one, who remains my most faithful servant, and who has already reentered my service." (33.70-1)

As Voldemort wanders around the graveyard, with poor Harry tied up at his feet, he cannot seem to stop yakking. Not only is this classic Evil Villain behavior when the villain is feeling smug, but it's also useful to build suspense for the reader. Here, we have an intriguing hint of what's to come. Obviously, the mystery of Voldemort's "most faithful servant" is going to be solved by the end of the novel. And the "one, too cowardly to return," we guess is probably Karkaroff. But is the "one, who [Voldemort believes] has left [him] forever" – is that Snape? Or is Snape still among the Death Eaters? This little speech frightens and intrigues the Death Eaters – but it also frightens and intrigues the reader.

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