No matter how much Aunt Petunia wailed that Dudley was big-boned, and that his poundage was really puppy fat, and that he was a growing boy who needed plenty of food, the fact remained that the school outfitters didn't stock knickerbockers big enough for him anymore. The school nurse had seen what Aunt Petunia's eyes – so sharp when it came to spotting fingerprints on her gleaming walls, and in observing the comings and goings of the neighbors – simply refused to see: that far from needing extra nourishment, Dudley had reached roughly the size and weight of a young killer whale. (3.4)
Where Harry has been neglected all of his life, the Dursleys have absolutely spoiled their son, Dudley. Dudley's weight is only one sign (and visual proof) of how spoiled he is. The fact that Aunt Petunia knows it will cheer Dudley up to receive more than Harry does – even if it's something Dudley doesn't like, such as a grapefruit – demonstrates what a bully his parents are training Dudley to be. At the same time, Dudley's parents' indulgence does their boy no favors: they have ruined Dudley's health and allowed him to become prejudiced and ignorant. By refusing to discipline Dudley out of "love," they have actually really hurt him.
"Neville, what –?"
But an odd clunking noise sounded behind them, and they turned to see Professor Moody limping toward them. All four of them fell silent, watching him apprehensively, but when he spoke, it was in a much lower and gentler growl than they had yet heard.
"It's all right, sonny," he said to Neville. "Why don't you come up to my office? Come on ... we can have a cup of tea ..." (14.85-7).
After Professor Moody's demonstration of the Cruciatus Curse, Neville is clearly distressed, and Professor Moody approaches the kid to comfort him. This is one of those scenes that really makes us wish we could explore the world of Hogwarts beyond what's just "recorded" in the novels. In this case, we would love to know how Moody's class is different for the Slytherins. After all, Neville and Harry are freaked out by the Unforgivable Curses because their parents suffered them. But how would you show the Unforgivable Curses to a classroom full of kids whose parents have probably cast them? If the Slytherins are more at risk for becoming Death Eaters, does Moody change his "CONSTANT VIGILANCE" chant? How might a teacher encourage the Slytherins not to follow in their parents' footsteps?
I suppose I get my strength from my parents. I know they'd be very proud of me if they could see me now ... Yes, sometimes at night I still cry about them, I'm not ashamed to admit it ... I know nothing will hurt me during the tournament ... because they're watching over me ... (19.4)
Being so misrepresented would be horrible for anyone, especially since Rita Skeeter is actively lying about Harry's feelings about his dead parents. But we think that the fact that Harry is in high school makes it that much worse. He can't get away from his malicious classmates. Harry has to put up with people saying, "Want a hanky, Potter, in case you start crying in Transfiguration?" (19.7). We feel like that kind of vicious teasing is pretty characteristic of high school and nowhere else – because once you can escape high school, you have more choice about who you spend your days with.
"Why do they have to move in packs?" Harry asked Ron as a dozen or so girls walked past them, sn*****ing and staring at Harry. "How're you supposed to get one on their own to ask them?"
"Lasso one?" Ron suggested. "Got any idea who you're going to try?"
Harry didn't answer. He knew perfectly well whom he'd like to ask, but working up the nerve was something else ... Cho was a year older than he was; she was very pretty; she was a very good Quidditch player, and she was also very popular. (22.28-30)
Once more, we're moving into teen movie territory here: poor Harry and Ron are suddenly confronting this strange species of herd creatures called "girls" for the first time. It's odd to watch these characters – especially Ron and Hermione – suddenly growing up enough to deal with attraction to one another. How realistic do you find Rowling's depiction of their growing romance? How does romance make the tone of Goblet of Fire different from the previous three novels? Could the novels have gotten by without any romance at all?
"We should get a move on, you know ... ask someone. He's right. We don't want to end up with a pair of trolls."
Hermione let out a sputter of indignation.
"A pair of ... what, excuse me?"
"Well – you know," said Ron, shrugging. "I'd rather go alone than with – with Eloise Midgen, say." [...]
"Oh I see," Hermione said, bristling. "So basically, you're going to take the best-looking girl who'll have you, even if she's completely horrible?"
"Er – yeah, that sounds about right," said Ron. (22.84-91)
Ron is hilariously dense in this scene – obviously Hermione is the last person who he should be telling that he's just going to take the best looking girl he can find no matter what she's like as a person. Rowling's heavy emphasis on dialogue in her writing really makes this kind of scene work. Even though the narration never comes out and says, here, Ron is oblivious and Hermione is hurt, Rowling shows it in the way that the characters' lines bounce off one another. We get insight into both of the characters in the most efficient way possible: straight from their own words. So Rowling is definitely a member of the show-don't-tell school of writing. And we like it.
But she didn't look like Hermione at all. She had done something with her hair; it was no longer bushy but sleek and shiny, and twisted up into an elegant knot at the back of her head. She was wearing robes made of a floaty, periwinkle-blue material, and she was holding herself differently, somehow – or maybe it was merely the absence of the twenty or so books she usually had slung over her back. She was also smiling – rather nervously, it was true – but the reduction in the size of her front teeth was more noticeable than ever; Harry couldn't understand how he had never spotted it before. (23.75)
Our little Hermione is growing up! It's one of the things that's funny about watching the actors who play the Harry Potter characters growing up on screen, because it makes the amount of transition they undergo between Book 1 and Book 7 even more visual. But Rowling does a great job of evoking Hermione's gradual physical maturing, which happens so slowly that Hermione's friends don't even notice at first. Harry so rarely notices his female friend's appearance that, when he does, you know Hermione must really be looking amazing.
The Dementors placed each of the four people in the four chairs with chained arms that now stood on the dungeon floor [... There was] a boy in his late teens, who looked nothing short of petrified. He was shivering, his straw-colored hair all over his face, his freckled skin milk-white. The wispy little witch beside Crouch began to rock backward and forward in her seat, whimpering into her handkerchief.
Crouch stood up. He looked down upon the four in front of him, and there was pure hatred in his face.
"You have been brought here before the Council of Magical Law," he said clearly, "so that we may pass judgment on you, for a crime so heinous –"
"Father," said the boy with the straw-colored hair. "Father ... please ..."
Here, we see the trial of Barty Crouch, Jr. by Barty Crouch, Sr. (Conflict of interest, much?) Barty Crouch, Jr. has been convicted of torturing Alice and Frank Longbottom to insanity. He now stands before his father, begging to be released. In terms of public relations, Barty Crouch, Jr.'s youth is working for him: he's so young that his conviction damages his father's reputation forever. But, as we know from the conclusion of Goblet of Fire, Barty Crouch, Jr. is a true Death Eater and a vicious murderer, no matter how young he was when he got started. On the other hand, being in Azkaban probably didn't inspire the guy to reform. Are there crimes for which young people – or even children – should be tried as adults? Are there crimes that are so awful that they show a child cannot grow up to be good? Or does every kid deserve a second chance, legally speaking?
[Cedric] stepped over the spider's tangled legs to join Harry, who stared at him. Cedric was serious. He was walking away from the sort of glory Hufflepuff House hadn't had in centuries.
"Go on," Cedric said. He looked as though this was costing him every ounce of resolution he had, but his face was set, his arms were folded, he seemed decided.
Harry looked from Cedric to the cup. For one shining moment, he saw himself emerging from the maze, holding it. He saw himself holding the Triwizard Cup aloft, heard he roar of the crowd, saw Cho's face shining with admiration, more clearly than he had ever seen it before ... and then the picture faded, and he found himself staring at Cedric's shadowy, stubborn face.
"Both of us," Harry said.
"We'll take it at the same time. It's still a Hogwarts victor. We'll tie for it." (31.239-44)
In any other young adult novel, this would be a clear coming-of-age moment. Both Harry and Cedric are overcoming serious temptation – especially Cedric, whose house at Hogwarts has gotten very little glory over the centuries. But, instead of giving in to their "shining" visions, the two boys decide to compromise. But one of the things that we love about the Harry Potter series is that, while it's set in a school and deals with plenty of coming-of-age business, it also has much bigger fish to fry. The ordinary milestones of growing up do happen in the series, but they get overshadowed or derailed by much more serious events that keep intruding into Harry Potter's life.
The Dark Lord didn't manage to kill you, Potter, and he so wanted to [...] Imagine how he will reward me when he finds I have done it for him. I gave you to him – the thing he needed above all to regenerate – and then I killed you for him. I will be honored beyond all other Death Eaters. I will be his dearest, his closest supporter ... closer than a son ... (35.81).
Aside from the general insanity of Barty Crouch, Jr.'s ramblings, what strikes us about this passage is the terms in which he expresses his love for Voldemort. He imagines that he will "be honored beyond" all the others, that he will be "closer than a son" to Voldemort. Daddy issues, much? We can't help but remember Professor Dumbledore's memory of Mr. Crouch, Sr.'s harsh public repudiation of his son at his trial. It sounds to us like Barty Crouch, Jr. is looking for a new, better father in the form of Voldemort. Either this is proof of exactly how bad a father Mr. Crouch is, that Voldemort would look better in comparison. Or (and we think this is more likely), this is proof of how loony Barty Crouch, Jr. is, that he would seek a father figure in the least paternal wizard ever: Voldemort.
"No spell can reawaken the dead," said Dumbledore heavily. "All that would have happened is a kind of reverse echo. A shadow of the living Cedric would have emerged from the wand ... am I correct, Harry?" (36.48).
In a magical world, it seems like it should be possible to bring people back to life. But even though this is a fantasy novel, there are some things that seem just too fantastic for J.K. Rowling to allow. If you could truly bring people back to life, what real consequences would there be for people's actions in the wizarding world? Rowling's refusal to allow people to be brought back to life adds a moral weight to the Harry Potter universe. And it also makes Harry's own struggle more serious: we know that, if Harry dies at the end of the novels, he cannot be brought back. This is the real moment when we think that the Harry Potter novels shift from children's books to young adult literature: the consequences in Goblet of Fire are much darker and more severe than they ever have been in the series.
The Ministry of Magic [...] does not wish me to tell you this. It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified that I have done so – either because they will not believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, or because they think I should not tell you so, young as you are. It is my belief, however, that the truth is generally preferable to lies, and that any attempt to pretend that Cedric died as the result of an accident, or some sort of blunder of his own, is an insult to his memory. (37.51)
What do you think of the idea of protecting people from disturbing information because they're young? To what degree is it possible to defend young people – or children – from the harsh realities of the world? Where do you draw the line between what's appropriate for young people to know and what isn't? Who would you trust to make that kind of determination?