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?
Now, if there's no countercurse, why I am I showing you? Because you've got to know. You've got to appreciate what the worst is. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where you're facing it. CONSTANT VIGILANCE! (14.71)
Moody starts off his Defense Against the Dark Arts classes with a demonstration of the three Unforgivable Curses. But, as he asks, why show them these curses if there is "no countercurse" (at least, to Avada Kedavra)? Practically speaking, what might "constant vigilance" mean? How should you practice it? What examples do we see if this vigilance in Harry Potter? Does Moody's principle have any application to your life? What are the costs to Moody of living this way? Is it worth it?
"So ... got any ideas how you're going to get past your dragon yet?" said Moody.
"No," said Harry.
"Well, I'm not going to tell you," said Moody gruffly. "I don't show favoritism, me. I'm just going to give you some good, general advice." (20.62-4)
Moody congratulates Harry for being honest enough to tell Cedric about the dragons. And then, claiming, "I don't show favoritism, me," he proceeds to tell Harry what he should do to get around the first task – as in, he tells Harry and not Cedric. Of course, knowledge isn't enough; Harry still has to do it. But Moody has given Harry a huge helping hand. This scene is another one of those interesting Moody moments that reads so differently the second time around. On the first reading, we believed that Moody's motives were totally good. Maybe he was showing favoritism, but Harry is our main character and we barely know Cedric Diggory, so it didn't seem to matter. Of course, on the second reading, Moody's willingness to show such strong preference for Harry in the build-up to the third task seems a lot more sinister. One thing we like about Goblet of Fire is that the plotting is inventive enough that we didn't guess the ending the first time around and we still enjoy rereading it – a rare feat.
"Ashamed?" said Hermione blankly. "But – Winky, come on! It's Mr. Crouch who should be ashamed, not you! You didn't do anything wrong, he was really horrible to you –"
But at these words, Winky clapped her hands over the holes in her hat, flattening her ears so that she couldn't hear a word, and screeched, "You is not insulting my master, miss! You is not insulting Mr. Crouch! Mr. Crouch is a good wizard, miss! Mr. Crouch is right to sack bad Winky!" (21.144-5)
From the fight between Winky, Dobby, and Hermione about Mr. Crouch, what can we tell about house-elf principles? Do you think that it's possible for a species to have its own principles? Are there principles that all humans should generally follow? What are they?
"Most of the judges," and here, Bagman gave Karkaroff a very nasty look, "feel that this shows moral fiber and merits full marks. However ... Mr. Potter's score is forty-five points." (26.211)
Professor Karkaroff barely even pretends to be objective. He's also the judge who gave Harry a 4 out of 10 on the first task, which Harry completed nearly perfectly. What is the logic behind appointing Heads of schools that are represented in the Triwizard Tournament as the Tournament judges? Of course they're going to be biased towards their own students!
"Begging your pardon, miss," said the house-elf, bowing deeply again, "but house-elves has no right to be unhappy when there is work to be done and masters to be served."
"Oh for heaven's sake!" Hermione cried. "Listen to me, all of you! You've got just as much right as wizards to be unhappy! You've got the right to wages and holidays and proper clothes, you don't have to do everything you're told – look at Dobby!"
"Miss will please keep Dobby out of this," Dobby mumbled, looking scared. (28.36-8)
We've already said our piece about the ethics of Hermione's Society for the Protection of Elvish Welfare earlier in this "Quotes and Thoughts" section. For this quote, we want to concentrate on how Hermione actually interacts with the house-elves she's trying to save. Why might Hermione be so unwilling to accept the words of the house-elves themselves? Why has she become so attached to this particular cause? And what do Hermione's efforts on behalf of S.P.E.W. show us about her character at this point in the novels?
The basin being circular, and the room he was observing square, Harry could not make out what was going on in the corners of it. He leaned even closer, tilting his head, trying to see ...
The tip of his nose touched the strange substance into which he was staring.
Dumbledore's office gave an almighty lurch – Harry was thrown forward and pitched headfirst into the substance inside the basin –. (30.24-6)
The Pensieve is an odd narrative device. It's a way for J.K. Rowling to give us direct flashbacks to events Harry can't possibly know, while still keeping the novel limited to Harry's point of view. That's why the Pensieve is a helpful narrative tool in Goblet of Fire. At the same time, we have to wonder if Professor Dumbledore had a motive in leaving Harry alone with the Pensieve. Yes, he claims that he just put it away quickly without being careful. But – Professor Dumbledore? Careless? That seems out of character. Could it be that Professor Dumbledore is intentionally leaving the Pensieve for Harry to find? If he is intentionally leaving the Pensieve to be seen, why might Dumbledore choose this indirect method of sharing information with Harry?
I told you, Harry ... I told you. If there's one thing I hate more than any other, it's a Death Eater who walked free. They turned their backs on my master when he needed them most. I expected him to punish them. I expected him to torture them. Tell me he hurt them, Harry [...] Tell me he told them that I, I alone remained faithful ... prepared to risk everything to deliver to him the one thing he wanted above all ... you. (35.68)
We have to admit, Mad-Eye Moody – or actually, Barty Crouch, Jr. – is probably the single most principled man in all of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He is absolutely, totally dedicated to Voldemort. He's willing to go to Azkaban for Voldemort. He is willing to spend a year in disguise for Voldemort. All he asks in return is the acknowledgment that he "alone remained faithful" – something that Voldemort does admit several times during Goblet of Fire. Of course, Barty Crouch, Jr.'s principles are absolutely, totally vile and insane, but he sure sticks to them inflexibly. It's not as though principles are good things to have in and of themselves; you can obviously be quite loyal to bad principles. And Barty Crouch, Jr.'s principles appear to be both pure and evil.