"[Dudley's tongue] was four feet long before his parents would let me shrink it!"
Harry and the Weasleys roared with laughter again.
"It isn't funny!" Mr. Weasley shouted. "That sort of behavior seriously undermines wizard-Muggle relations! I spend half my life campaigning against the mistreatment of Muggles, and my own sons –"
"We didn't give it to him because he's a Muggle!" said Fred indignantly.
"No, we gave it to him because he's a great bullying git," said George. (5.13-7)
We can see both sides here: what the twins did – leaving a Ton-Tongue Toffee where dieting-and-not-happy-about-it Dudley could easily eat it – is pretty funny. And Dudley is "a great bullying git." He's been making Harry's life a misery since they were both babies. But these kinds of tricks are totally feeding into the Dursleys' paranoia about wizardry. No wonder they don't trust wizards when a magical toffee can make their son's tongue four feet long without them being able to do anything about it. We all fear things that make us feel weak or unsafe. The twins' practical joke isn't at all serious, but only because the twins choose not to do real damage – not because they couldn't. Which side do you fall on in this argument between the twins and Mr. Weasley? Is there any harm in a Ton-Tongue Toffee for bullying gits like Dudley? Or are we totally over-thinking the morals of Harry Potter?
"Don't tell me you don't know?" [Malfoy] said delightedly. "You've got a father and a brother at the Ministry and you don't even know? My God, my father told me about it ages ago ... heard it from Cornelius Fudge. But then, Father's always been associated with the top people at the Ministry ... Maybe your father's too junior to know about it, Weasley ... yes .... they probably don't talk about important stuff in front of him ..." (11.109).
Voldemort's followers (including the Malfoy family) use hatred to distinguish themselves from other wizards and to justify their own power. So a lot of the bullying nonsense that Draco Malfoy spouts when he makes fun of Ron's poverty or his father's "too junior" position in the Ministry or Hermione's Muggle heritage comes straight from the prejudices of his family. It's like a package deal – no one can support Voldemort without buying into his whole anti-Muggle, pro-pureblood fantasies too. There's strength in this position because all the followers of Voldemort are unified in their opinions. On the other hand, there's a lot of division among the people against Voldemort – after all, being against Voldemort doesn't mean being for any one thing in particular. So it's a lot harder for the good guys to organize themselves or decide what's right in fighting Voldemort. This is why the supposedly "good" anti-Voldemort side can still give rise to power-hungry wizards like Mr. Crouch or Cornelius Fudge.
[Ron] forced Hermione to show Snape her teeth – she was doing her best to hide them with her hands, though this was difficult as they had now grown down past her collar. [...]
Snape looked coldly at Hermione, then said, "I see no difference."
Hermione let out a whimper; her eyes filled with tears, she turned on her heel and ran, ran all the way up the corridor and out of sight. (18.87-9)
If you want to discuss what exactly is going on with Snape, you should check out the later books in the series, especially Books 5 and 7. Dumbledore trusts him, yet Snape is deeply, sadistically turned against pretty much everyone else who's working with Dumbledore – even to the point that he's willing to indulge in this piece of petty cruelty against one of his own students. Do you find Snape's characterization consistent? How do you explain Snape's behavior in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? And what is Snape's role in the Harry Potter novels as a whole? How is his character important to the moral message of Harry Potter?
[Rita Skeeter's] hair was set in elaborate and curiously rigid curls that contrasted oddly with her heavy-jawed face. She wore jeweled spectacles. The thick fingers clutching her crocodile-skin handbag ended in two-inch nails, painted crimson. (18.121)
J.K. Rowling is not subtle in indicating the characters that we're supposed to hate. Rita Skeeter is a great example: every detail about her appearance indicates how two-faced and cruel she is. Her "curiously rigid" hair contrasts oddly with her "heavy-jawed face" – in other words, she's trying to appear as something other than what she is. Her "thick fingers" are clutching a "crocodile-skin handbag." This description of her hands (elsewhere "large, mannish" (18.157)) indicates her strength and her toughness, while "crocodile" suggests trickery and cruelty. Even her "two-inch" fingernails are like crimson claws – not a gentle or attractive image at all. Every aspect of this woman's appearance shows that she is vicious and a liar. Appearances are occasionally deceptive in the world of Harry Potter – but not often.
Albus Dumbledore, eccentric headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, has never been afraid to make controversial staff appointments, writes Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent. In September of this year, he hired Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, the notoriously jinx-happy ex-Auror, to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, a decision that caused many raised eyebrows at the Ministry of Magic, given Moody's well-known habit of attacking anybody who makes a sudden movement in his presence. Mad-Eye Moody, however, looks responsible and kindly when set beside the part-human Dumbledore employs to teach Care of Magical Creatures.
Rubeus Hagrid, who admits to being expelled from Hogwarts in his third year, has enjoyed the position of gamekeeper at the school every since, a job secured for him by Dumbledore. Last year, however, Hagrid used his mysterious influence over the headmaster to secure the additional post of Care of magical Creatures teacher, over the heads of many better-qualified candidates. (23.32-3)
We all believe that the press is supposed to be fair and balanced, but there are plenty of ways that legitimate news stories can twist a reader's opinion about content, without that person realizing it. Rita Skeeter's articles for the Daily Prophet are great examples. Just look at the term "part-human" that Rita Skeeter applies to Hagrid. Even if that term is factually correct, the sneering edge is impossible to overlook. As newspapers struggle to find readers, articles in the real world often adopt Rita Skeeter's method of blurring the line between entertainment and information. And it's damaging, for exactly the reasons that Rowling outlines in this chapter on poor Hagrid. The damage done to Hagrid's reputation by Rita Skeeter's biased article is horrible. Are there newspapers or news agencies that you believe to be guilty of similar kinds of bias? What kinds of word choice or style can these media use to influence the opinions of their consumers?
[Hermione] Banished a cushion and it flew across the room and landed in the box they were all supposed to be aiming at. Harry looked at Hermione, thinking ... it was true that Snape had save his life once, but the odd thing was, Snape definitely loathed him, just as he'd loathed Harry's father when they had been at school together. Snape loved taking points from Harry, and had certainly never missed an opportunity to give him punishments, or even to suggest that he should be suspended from school. (26.10)
We know we've already talked about Snape in this section, so we're not going to take apart Harry's specific observations of his character here. Instead, we're going to ask: why should it be so hard for Ron to believe that you can truly detest someone but not want them to die? What's the connection between personal hatred and violence? Where do you think Snape would draw the line in his private campaign to make Harry miserable?
Harry and Ron went slowly upstairs to their dormitory. As Harry pulled on his pajamas, he looked over at Neville's bed. True to his word to Dumbledore, he had not told Ron and Hermione about Neville's parents. As Harry took off his glasses and climbed into his four-poster, he imagined how it must feel to have parents still living but unable to recognize you. He often got sympathy from strangers for being an orphan, but as he listened to Neville's snores, he thought that Neville deserved it more than he did. Lying in the darkness, Harry felt a rush of anger and hate toward the people who had tortured Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom ... He remembered the jeers of the crowd as Crouch's son and his companions had been dragged from the court by the Dementors ... He understood how they felt ... Then he remembered the milk-white face of the screaming boy and realized with a jolt that he had died a year later ... (31.17)
The next book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, picks up on a number of themes in this passage: the "good" side's vengefulness and hatred of evildoers ("the jeers of the crowd as Crouch's son [...] had been dragged from the court by Dementors") and Harry's growing, fierce personal loathing for Voldemort. But even hatred of evil people seems problematic in Rowling's moral universe. She spends a lot of time showing the bad effects of moral righteousness on wizards like Mr. Crouch or even Mad-Eye Moody. So, given her depiction of extremes on the good and bad sides of the wizarding world, how does J.K. Rowling try to humanize Voldemort? How does Rowling attempt to make him a well-developed villain? And when in the series do these efforts to deepen his character start to take place?
Wormtail was gasping and moaning with agony. Not until Harry felt Wormtail's anguished breath on his face did he realize that Wormtail was right in front of him.
"B-blood of the enemy ... forcibly taken ... you will .. resurrect your foe."
Harry could do nothing to prevent it, he was tied too tightly ... Squinting down, struggling hopelessly at the ropes binding him, he saw the shining silver dagger shaking in Wormtail's remaining hand. He felt its point penetrate the crook of his right arm and blood seeping down the sleeve of his torn robes. Wormtail, still panting with pain, fumbled in his pocket for a glass vial and held it to Harry's cut, so that a dribble of blood fell into it. (32.44-6)
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry finds a dead unicorn in the Forbidden Forest. Professor Dumbledore explains that the blood of a unicorn brings eternal life, but it's a cursed life, because killing something as innocent as a unicorn isn't a crime you just bounce back from. Continuing with that theme, we have to wonder a little bit about the terms of Voldemort's resurrection in this scene. He's being brought back, yes, but with the bones of his father and the blood of his enemy, "forcibly taken" (32.45). What kind of price might be attached to this kind of dark magic? What, exactly, is Voldemort at this point in the series – is he still human, in any sense of the word?
"We bow to each other, Harry," said Voldemort, bending a little, but keeping his snakelike face upturned to Harry. "Come, the niceties must be observed ... Dumbledore would like you to show manners ... Bow to death, Harry ..."
The Death Eaters were laughing again. Voldemort's lipless mouth was smiling. Harry did not bow. He was not going to let Voldemort play with him before killing him ... he was not going to give him that satisfaction ...
"I said, bow," Voldemort said, raising his wand – and Harry felt his spine curve as though a huge, invisible hand were bending him ruthlessly forward, and the Death Eaters laughed harder than ever. (34.5-7)
Voldemort has a real flair for the dramatic. He's definitely trying to put on a good show for the Death Eaters – and we, the readers, have to acknowledge the Dark Lord's power as well. Harry's personal resistance, his refusal to "give [Voldemort] that satisfaction," lends him the strength to frustrate Voldemort's plans. But it's not enough to truly defeat Voldemort. Voldemort is still meeting Harry from a position of power. One of the things we like about this resurrection scene is that it truly underlines how long the odds are for Harry's triumph over Voldemort. In the previous books, Harry has been in tough situations, but this is the first time that Voldemort's casual, powerful cruelty has been on display directly. And it's both intimidating and frightening – how can Harry ever win?
At the moment, Harry fully understood for the first time why people said Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort had ever truly feared. The look upon Dumbledore's face as he stared down at the unconscious form of Mad-Eye Moody was more terrible than Harry could have ever imagined. There was no benign smile on Dumbledore's face, no twinkle in the eyes behind the spectacles. There was cold fury in every line of the ancient face; a sense of power radiated from Dumbledore as though he were giving off burning heat. (35.89)
As Harry grows older (especially in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), he begins to see another side of Professor Dumbledore. Professor Dumbledore seems like an absolute model of wizarding virtue and awesomeness in the first several books – a perfect mentor for Harry. But, as the books continue, we see a darker, more human side to Professor Dumbledore too. We learn that even he can make mistakes (what??). Harry's glimpse of Professor Dumbledore's cold rage in this novel sets the stage for many more discoveries later on in the series.