Weekly Archive
March 3, 2002 - March 9, 2002

RE: Malicious vs. mischievous

Hi, Ama.

Wow. Such timing!

You caught me at a kind of difficult time for these questions, as I'm actually working on a truly massive Percy post right now that does touch on a number of these issues -- and probably in much greater detail than anyone could possibly ever want to read about them! ;-)

But I'll try to give some short replies right now.

Ama asked:

I had trouble understanding how the twins' teasing, especially of their siblings, could be construed as malicious. It then occurred to me(!) that perhaps I just don't get your use of the word malicious.

I was using malicious to mean "with ill-will, with the intention of causing harm."

Mischievousness is quite another matter. I've no problems with mischief. I've been known to wreak a bit of that myself, from time to time.

Now, there ARE malicious pranksters, but IMHO, the twins' pranks stem from a love of mischief, not malice. They like harrassing people, and they're often inconsiderate, but malice implies intent to cause pain. I don't think the twins really have it in for anyone.

I agree with you that in general, the twins' love of pranks derives from a sense of mischief and not from malice. I do think that the twins are often insensitive, and that they therefore do often cause harm without intending to, but that is a very different thing than malice, which as you said, requires an active intent to cause pain. In CoS, for example, when Percy points out to the twins that their teasing of Ginny is really genuinely upsetting her, rather than cheering her up as they had intended, then they stop it at once. Their teasing of their siblings is not generally intended to cause real harm, and I do not see them as malicious people on the whole.

But I think that by the beginning of PoA, the twins really do have it in for Percy, and that they really are trying to get at him. Certainly by the beginning of GoF, I see genuine malice in the twins' actions against Percy.

Percy's relationship with the rest of his family has been in a steady state of decline ever since the first book, and by the time we reach GoF I see a great deal of genuine animosity there, a great deal of anger and bitterness and resentment festering under the surface of the Weasley family dynamic. What was once good-natured has by Book Four become not at all friendly; things that were previously merely sources of tension have become rather serious schismatics.

It's really not at all One Big Happy Weasley Family in GoF, if you ask me. Tensions are running very high in that household on a number of different fronts. We see it in Molly's rants against the twins (and in front of company, too!); we see it in the twins' own frustration with their family's inability to support them in pursuing the future that they've chosen for themselves; we hear it in Ron's tone every time that Percy comes up in conversation throughout the course of the entire novel. And Percy himself isn't getting along with anyone, not even his parents, who were once his allies. He quarrels with Arthur over politics, and even Molly, once Percy's most fervent champion within the family dynamic, yells at him at one point when she thinks that he's criticizing his father. Things are getting tense, and things are getting ugly, and I think that the twins' treatment of Percy reflects this.

I wrote (and Ama quoted):

I don't think it's accidental that they go after Percy on precisely the same points for which he is always being praised by their mother, or for which they themselves are always being criticized by their mother.

Ama wrote:

Percy has always been perceived as an insufferable prig.

No, I don't agree that he has. In PS/SS, he certainly shows a tendency to pomposity and bombast, but this isn't nearly as notable or as overwhelming an aspect of his character as it will become in later volumes. Nor do I see any indication that Percy's family has always perceived him as an insufferable prig. Far to the contrary: Percy's good opinion is something that Ron values highly enough for it to be presented as a major part of his triumph at the end of the novel, and Fred and George both evidently value Percy's company enough to bother bullying him into spending Christmas with them, rather than with his Prefect friends. Family or no family, I don't really think that they would have bothered to do that if they had really considered him to be an "insufferable prig."

Mind you, by the time we reach GoF—possibly even by time we've hit PoA—I think that the Weasleys for the most part have begun to think of Percy as an insufferable prig. But then, can you really imagine Fred and George trying to convince Percy to spend some quality family time with them in PoA? Or in GoF?

The relationships within that family have been changing, IMO. And not at all for the better — particularly where Percy is concerned.

But Ron, in SS, confides in Harry about having a lot to measure up to, and notes that F&G get good grades. And yet Percy was already a target way back then.

Was he really all that much more of a target than any of the twins' other siblings at that point? More than Ginny, for example? I don't know if I really think that he was. The twins don't seem to me to really start gunning for Percy in particular until sometime in CoS.

When Ron is telling Harry about having a lot to measure up to on the train, he seems if anything more envious of Bill and Charlie and the Twins than he does of Percy. The animosity which will later come to characterize Ron's entire attitude towards Percy is strikingly absent in PS/SS. I suspect that the twins' particular animosity towards him hadn't quite kicked in yet either.

So it's not Percy's academic achievements, it's his attitude, revealed by his penchant for bombast, that convinces the twins ol' Percy needs taking down a peg. And he does!

Well, if by "taking Percy down a peg" one means "making mock of him," then I'd say that this is precisely the sort of thing that actually encourages him in his penchant for bombast. The pomposity and the puffing and the self-aggrandizement all seem to be how Percy responds to feeling insecure and unhappy. The relatively content Percy of PS/SS is not nearly as pompous or as unpleasant as the secretive and worried adolescent Percy of CoS, who in turn is still more bearable than the utterly stressed-out NEWT-bound Percy of PoA. By the time we get to GoF, Percy is feeling genuinely alienated and unhappy; he has therefore become completely insufferable and unlikeable and impossible to be around.

The way I read it, Percy and the twins are caught in a kind of a trap when it comes to their relationship. The less secure Percy feels, the more he struts; the more he struts, the more the twins pick on him; the more the twins pick on him, the less secure he feels. It's a vicious cycle, IMO.

I believe if the twins really were malicious, if they had really taken their mother's words to heart, they'd have become saboteurs. Yet in GoF we never see the twins stealing and altering Percy's homework or destroying his cauldron reports; instead, they limit their pranks to childishly bewitching his badge and sending him dragon dung at work, hardly spiteful IMO.

Well, there are degrees of malice, certainly. In PoA, the twins do not, it is true, try to sabotage Percy's schoolwork or (heaven forbid!) his NEWTS. They don't torture him or murder his owl or throw him down a well either. ;-)

But the level of harrassment that we see them engaging in when it comes to the badge at the beginning of PoA most certainly did strike me as having crossed the border from the realms of good-natured teasing into the lands of genuine malice. The twins can be insensitive, true, but they are not that insensitive. They're badgering Percy into a near nervous-breakdown with their antics at the beginning of PoA—he's beside himself with agitation—and I'm pretty sure that they not only knew that, but that they liked it.

Again, I think that Molly's constant carping on the twins plays a big part here. I think that the twins are angry and frustrated with what they perceive as a lack of respect for their talents, and that Percy stands as the all-too-obvious outlet for this anger. I also think that Percy's own issues make him very difficult to like at times, and that this also makes him a tempting target. I do not see the twins as Evil. But I do think that in the last two books, there is genuine malice—by which I mean, a real desire to cause harm—motivating their actions against Percy. I do see their behavior as rather spiteful.

(And BTW, if someone sent me dragon dung at my brand new desk job at which I was very eager to make a good impression, then I think that I would most certainly consider that an act of sabotage! But I don't believe for a moment that the twins thought of it that way when they planned it out, so I agree with you that spiteful or not, they are still merely pranksters, and not saboteurs.)

I think that F&G's prank playing is a coping mechanism; like Percy's ambition and Ron's temper, it's their way of dealing with poverty (and it may very well be their way out, if the joke shop gets off the ground!)

I agree. And it is certainly unfortunate that their coping mechanism should interact so very badly with Percy's — although I tend to think that Percy's coping mechanism isn't so much his ambition per se as it is his "puffing," his assumption of that rather desperate and pathetic and utterly unconvincing air of self-importance that he seems to fall back on whenever he is feeling uncertain of himself.

Perhaps they think laughter is the best medicine and because it works for them, it will also cure everyone's ailments-Percy's bigheadedness especially, Ginny's fear is another.

I certainly believe that the twins' motives towards Ginny are well-meaning. I believe that their intentions towards Percy in PS/SS are kindly. By PoA, however, I don't really think that's the case any longer.

They may be perceived as thoughtless, but they're well-meaning too. Thus I can't see their actions as malicious and therefore make the distinction between malicious and mischievous pranksters.

Hmmm. Perhaps I'm just a bit more willing to forgive malice than you are? Even people who are on the whole well-meaning can still act with malice, and often do, particularly when they are angry. Harry himself gets quite a good number of malicious moments within the books, but he is still an exceptionally well-meaning character overall. I don't think that the twins are utterly malicious pranksters in the least. Feeding the Canary Cream to Neville, for example, may have been a bit unkind, but I don't think that it was intended that way — I don't think that it was intentionally malicious. But I do think that malice does motivate a number of their pranks—the toffee incident with Dudley leaps to mind—and that this tendency is particularly evident when it comes to their harrassment of Percy.


Posted March 04, 2002 at 12:29 am
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RE: Redeemable Fred--Neville Timeline--Ron's Birthday

A few bits and pieces, here and there...


On Fred

Debbie, forgiving George for his role in all the pranks, wrote:

So I'd like to revise the challenge to find positive Fred moments that might rehabilitate the reputation Fred has created in my mind.

I'm still amazed that you noticed all those differences between George and Fred! I must say that it never really occurred to me that there was much distinction between the two. My bad, apparently.

But if you want a redemptive Fred moment, how about Chapter Ten of Chamber of Secrets? The Gryffindor Quidditch team is preparing to go out and play the newly Nimbus'd-up Slyths, and Wood is really laying the pressure on poor Harry—"Get to that Snitch before Malfoy or die trying"—all that sort of thing. Enough to give anyone a bleeding ulcer, it is.

Fred's the one who says, "So no pressure, Harry," and winks at him.

That was pretty nice of him, I thought.


On the Neville Timeline

In response to my compromise with the Big Bang Cindy, which suggested a late winter 1980 birthday for Neville, Ali wrote:

I love the theory, but I have a slight problem with your dating of Neville's birthday. . . .The school year at Hogwarts runs from September to August - the same as the English school year. This means that all the kids in Harry's year should have their birthdays between September 1979 and August 1980. . . .So, his birthday would have had to have been no later than August 31 1980.

Hmmm. Maybe I'm a little confused. I get horribly muddled with dates, I'm afraid, especially when trying to wrap my brain around the ways that school years and calendar years intersect.

But if we declare Neville's birthday to have been in the late winter of 1980, then doesn't that still place it within the acceptable time-frame? Maybe I wasn't entirely clear on what I meant by "late winter." I meant late in the winter of 1980, not late in the year of 1980. In other words, we'd be talking either late February or early March, 1980, which I think would still make Neville the appropriate age to be in Harry's year, wouldn't it?

If we then declared the attack on the Longbottoms to have happened precisely two years later, in February or March of 1982, then this would satisfy Featherboas (which insists on seeing gaily-wrapped parcels trampled underfoot), and it would suit the Big Bang (which insists on things happening quickly), and it would make Faith happy (as Faith has consulted canon and declared her opinion that Neville was "at least two" when the attack on the Longbottoms took place), and it would gratify me as well, because oh, I just hate that rotten year 1981!

So is it settled then?

Good! I'm sure that JKR is ever so relieved that we're working out all of these pesky little details for her. ;-)


On Ron's Birthday

Catlady wrote:

Ron seems like an Taurus to me, but JKR stated that his birthday is March 1, which is Pisces. If it were March *31*, he would be an Aries, which I could believe: he has a temper.

Oh, dear. Right you are, Catlady! I did say that I was easily muddled by dates, didn't I?

Somehow I'd misremembered that as May 1, which would have made Ron not only a Taurus, but a Beltane baby as well -- which would have been very cool. But alas, no, you're quite right, JKR did say March 1st. And she's the one writing the books, right?

::grumpy noise::

We hope. mind that part, then. Sorry. My mistake.


Posted March 07, 2002 at 1:23 am
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RE: Percy, Ron, Puffskein

I wrote:

Percy's good opinion is something that Ron values highly enough for it to be presented as a major part of his triumph at the end of the novel

Amy wrote:

I don't follow this. The fact that it's emphasized by JKR means Ron values it?

No, but the particular way in which JKR emphasizes it implies (to my mind, at any rate), that we're supposed to understand Ron to value it.

This is admittedly a matter of nuance and therefore open to interpretation. But given the emphasis placed throughout the text on Ron's concerns about not being as good as his older brothers, not being able to live up to their reputation, not having a niche within his family dynamic, and so forth; and given that Percy was established both in his very first appearance and in the Christmas chapter as being prone to value his extra-familial relationships (specifically, with his Prefect friends) over his familial relationships; and given that Percy's depiction in the first book is not nearly as negative or as ineffectual as it will become later on (he is shown, for example, to be a very good leader in PS/SS, in stark contrast to his ineptitude in CoS); and given that the scene is constructed in such a way as to emphasize that each of the four protagonists is not only earning accolades, but has also triumphed in some manner highly relevant to their character-specific concerns and conflicts...

Um, yeah. Given all of that, I think that we're meant to read Percy's boasting to his Prefect friends of his familial relationship to Ron as a personal and important triumph for Ron himself. I don't think that it works very well if we don't accept that—at this point in his life, at any rate—Percy's good opinion really is something that Ron truly values.

So Percy's delight about winning his bet with Penny is important to Harry and that's why it's mentioned at the Ravenclaw match?

Nah. Percy's delight at winning his bet with Penny is just Percy being a strutting boor. ;->

But I don't think that the two situations are really comparable. They bear superficial similarities, certainly, but they don't occupy at all the same position within the narrative structures of the two novels.

Amy also said:

However, I am never going to forgive Fred for killing Ron's puffskein, or JKR for thinking that that is funny (FB). I'm praying there turns out to be another explanation. Killing someone's pet is a particularly advanced form of abuse.

Oh! (Elkins exclaims, momentarily losing all of her Edge, as well as a great deal of her Twin antagonism) But surely that must have been an accident!

I refuse to believe that the same woman who wrote PoA could fail to comprehend the gravity of killing someone's pet. And since I don't believe for a minute that Fred is that evil, I remain convinced that it must have happened due to a terrible, horrible, gruesome error of judgement, and not as a premeditated act of pet murder.

And I quite agree with you, Amy. It really isn't funny.

—Elkins, who simply cannot bear the thought of murdered pets.

Posted March 07, 2002 at 3:34 am
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RE: When did Snape's spying career begin?

Dicentra asked:

Somebody check GoF again. (I've only got PoA with me today. Does it say that Snape was a DE who turned or does it only say that he was a spy? What if he never was a DE? That would be interesting.

Cassie replied:

Well, I think we can be sure that he was a DE. Why? Because he has the Dark Mark burned on his arm.

He's got the Dark Mark, and from his reaction to Crouch/Moody in "The Egg and the Eye," he would seem to be deeply ashamed of it.

Also, Dumbledore told the tribunal that he was, in the Pensieve chapter:

"I have given evidence already on this matter. . . .Severus Snape was indeed a Death Eater. However, he rejoined our side before Lord Voldemort's downfall and turned spy for us, at great personal risk. He is now no more a Death Eater than I am."

I don't think he was lying (although like Athena, I do often find myself wondering why he chose announce it to the entire room like that).

Yeah. Snape was a DE, all right.


Posted March 07, 2002 at 12:12 pm
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RE: Neville and the Canary Creams

Kimberley asked:

Oh - while I'm at it... why do people see the canary cream thing with Neville as mean? . . . .Those of you who consider it to be mean, why is that? Did it seem like ridicule to you?

Not necessarily like ridicule, no. As you point out later, the canary cream was on a public plate, so no one was being particularly targetted by the prank.

I did see it as rather mean, though, mainly because of the way that Fred gave Neville reassurance that the custard creams really were safe. I didn't like that much.

Then, I admit that I'm not a big fan of practical jokes in general, and of food tampering in particular, so I'm probably biased. Maybe I'm just unusually squeamish and humorless when it comes to my food, but food tampering is a form of practical joking that I tend to find particularly nasty and unamusing. That bit in PoA about the Twins slipping beetles into Bill's soup...ugh. Not funny.

And Neville would seem to feel much the same way. When Fred tells Hermione that "it's the custard creams you've got to watch—" while Neville has just bit into one of the custard creams, he immediately chokes and spits it out. To my mind, that indicates quite clearly that whatever the twins have done to the sweets, he really wants absolutely nothing to do with it.

And then Fred reassures them that no, really, the custard creams are fine. Just to trick him into eating one.

And...oh, I don't know. That really does seem mean to me. Springing booby-trapped sweets on people isn't my idea of a funny joke to begin with, admittedly, but I still find that far more acceptable than reassuring someone who obviously finds the idea dismaying and distasteful that their food has not been tampered with — when in fact it has.

I also see a significant difference between simply springing a joke on someone (when you are, after all, a notorious prankster), and convincing someone to trust you...only to then spring a joke on him. The latter is meaner, to my mind, because it forces the victim to look doubly the fool: first for being trusting enough to swallow the trick to begin with; and then a second time, for being naive enough to trust in the prankster's deceitful masquerade of sincerity.

I am very protective of Neville, he's one of my most beloved characters and I hate that the trio leaves him out all the time and when McG was so mean to him about the passwords I wanted to shake her.

Yes. All of my buffoonery over his backstory aside, I, too, love Neville. I was a weird little semi-autistic space-cadet of a child myself, and so I tend to identify very deeply with him.

(Did I even once remember to bring in one of my permission slips in grade school? No. I don't believe that I ever did. Not once. I was just notorious for that sort of thing as a child. And I used to get lost a lot, too. I would get off the school bus at the wrong stop and then wander around for hours, trying to figure out where my house could have disappeared to. No, not joking.)

When I read the bit about the canary cream, I thought it was great because while Hermione treats Neville with great kindness, it also seems rather condescending to me.

Really? Oh, I'm so glad that someone else feels that way! I was beginning to think that was just me.

Yes. Hermione is kind to him, and of course he appreciates that, because really, she's the only one who is, and he doesn't have any other friends. But at the same time, I do see a certain condescension in her treatment of Neville. When she approaches him after Fake Moody's DADA class, for example, that particular way that she explains to Ron and Harry "Neville," before marching purposefully towards him—as if he's just the Cause of the Week, you know, or a chore that must be taken care of—I don't think that Neville is at all obtuse when it comes to interpersonal matters. He's well aware of the condescension. And frankly, it really didn't surprise me that he chose to try to gloss over his distress. I don't know if Neville would want to confide his family history in anyone at this point in his life, but even he did, I still don't think he'd be willing to talk to Hermione about it. She's shown him kindness and support, but not much of the type of respect that inspires personal revelation, IMO.

I'll even let you in on a little secret here. I thought that Lupin's oh-so-blatant "let's bolster Neville's confidence" was kind of condescending too, to tell you the truth. And you know how much I adore Lupin!

To me the canary cream thing wasn't Fred and George singling out a "weak" person to pick on. I think at best it was them not differentiating between "poor weak Neville" and everyone else who would be a target of their jokes, and at worst it was them putting out canary creams and Neville being the one to pick one up, meaning that they had no particular target in mind.

You know, you've got a very good point there. The fact that Neville is pudgy probably was a large part of what made the joke seem so particularly unkind to me, but of course, you're quite right: Neville wasn't singled out to serve as the target originally. And I agree with you that from Neville's own point of view, the way that his housemates generally single him out for pity and condescension (when they're not simply ignoring him) is probably only marginally more pleasant than the way that the Slytherins single him out for abuse.

So yes. Point taken. Not sparing Neville their practical jokes any more than they spare anyone else is a point in the twins' favor for me.

What's more, the incident showed Neville in a very good light, as I see it. We see that Neville is a good sport who's comfortable enough with himself despite his insecurities that he can appreciate a good joke, even if the joke is him.

I agree that the incident shows Neville in a very good light. It does show him to be a good sport, and to possess a certain generosity of spirit. I don't know if I really believe that Neville thought the joke itself all that "good," though. I didn't get the impression that he liked the idea of the tampered sweets at all. And as he couldn't himself see what he looked like as a canary, it strikes me as unlikely that the metamorphosis could possibly have been nearly as amusing for him as it was for everyone else.

But of course, once one has become the target of a practical joke, the best course generally is to laugh along with everyone else, even if one didn't personally find the joke all that amusing. After all, assuming that there was no malice intended, and nothing at all personal about the joke, then why put a damper on everyone else's fun by refusing to laugh along with them?

—Elkins, who has indeed finally learned to laugh at practical jokes even when she finds them profoundly unamusing, but who suspects that she still can't do so terribly convincingly.

Posted March 07, 2002 at 3:58 pm
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RE: Paranoia and Flying Hedgehogs

Cindy confessed to getting a little paranoid about who might be a DE.

Eloise wrote:

That's OK, Cindy. It was precisely for people like you ( and me) that I proposed the Order of the Flying Hedgehog. As I've said before, I think paranoia at this point of the game is a reasonable response. Seriously. I do. If JKR's doing her job, then we should feel as paranoid as the wizarding community in the face of the next Voldy War.

Hmmmm. Do you think that JKR wants us to be paranoid because we ought to be, or because she wants to lure us into error, only to then chastise us for it later?

It seems to me that GoF plays some very interesting games with the reader when it comes to suspicion. JKR has always enjoyed the red herring game, of course—she offers up Snape in the first volume, and Percy and Draco and Ginny and Hagrid in the second, and then Lupin and Crookshanks and the "Grim" in the third—but in GoF she really goes wild with the aspersion-casting, giving us a truly dizzying selection of suspicious people: Bagman and Crouch, and Karkaroff and Krum, and Moody and Snape (yet again!), and Fudge and...

Well. The list just goes on and on, doesn't it.

GoF is also, it seems to me, the first of the books which leaves the reader still feeling deeply uncertain about many of the characters' allegiances even after finishing the last page and closing the covers. It also gives us far more characters of complicated, divided, or otherwise indeterminate allegiance than we've seen in past volumes. Fudge, Karkaroff, Krum, Bagman, Percy, Crouch, Rita Skeeter...even Snape's allegiance is shown to be far more complicated than had been previously revealed.

The extent to which Things Are Not What They Seem, always an important element to the HB books, reaches an almost vertiginous level in GoF: even from the start, we are shown that Portkeys can look like an old boots, that Omniculars distract your attention from what's really happening in the game, that the beautiful Veela have the true faces of monsters, and that a cheerful QWC crowd can quickly become a racist mob. By the time we get to the end of the book, we've had elaborate Polyjuice masquerades, and yet more unregistered animagi, and half-giants passing as merely big-boned, and double-agent Potions Masters, and powerful Ministry officials transformed into bones, and dead characters who turn out to be alive after all...really, it's all a bit overwhelming.

Overall, the novel does seem designed to leave the reader with a sense of uneasiness, of foreboding, of indeterminacy. Things aren't nearly as neatly wrapped up as they have been in previous volumes. There are many loose ends, and many characters who seem to be headed straight for some very tough choices.

So yes. I do think that the text is encouraging us to feel uncertain and paranoid and suspicious. I also wonder, however, to what extent this might not be a kind of a trap. I find it interesting, for example, that the text seems to place a very strong emphasis on the perils of paranoia...while simultaneously encouraging us to view this paranoia as justified. There's a tension there, an uneasy ambivalence. It makes me wonder if we might not start seeing paranoia itself emerging in Book Five to take its place alongside prejudice and envy as one of the Big Spiritual Perils of the Potterverse.

Constant vigilance!

Oh, constant vigilance indeed! But let us not forget from whose mouth that sentiment was really coming all the way through GoF, shall we? ;->

Meglet wrote, regarding Dumbledore's statement to the tribunal that Snape is "now no more a Death Eater than I am":

I am sure that it is only my horribly twisted and suspicious mind that has occasionally wondered if that last sentence could possibly conceal an ironic double meaning. You know, the evil Dumbledore thing which I mostly resist believing in.

Eloise, I hereby nominate Meglet for membership in the Order of the Flying Hedgehog. She has not only confessed to secret thoughts of "Albus Dumbledore Is Ever So Evil;" she even found a nice bit of canon to back it up!

Give the lady, what precisely does one get when one joins the ranks of the OFH, anyway? (Other than a nervous tic, that is.)

Meglet also said:

Don't panic. We are very definitely told that Snape was a DE.

Indeed he was. But then later on, you see, he re-Kanted.

—Elkins, exiting at a run, while ducking rotten cabbages

Posted March 08, 2002 at 3:04 am
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RE: More Moody Madness

Leon wrote:

My question though, is why Moody worked with Harry so many times on the curses, why he worked with Harry until it was nearly guarenteed that he'd be able to resist Voldemort?

Well. For one thing, why on earth would Crouch think that Harry's resistance to the Imperius Curse would help him against Voldemort? Voldemort planned to kill Harry, not to use him as his Imperio'd tool. Crouch makes it perfectly clear that he knew this in his final encounter with Harry, when he talks about how much Voldemort had been looking forward to killing him. It likely didn't even occur to Crouch that Voldemort might decide to entertain himself by trying to use the Imperius Curse on Harry first.

It's also quite possible that Crouch didn't really believe that Harry, as preternaturally gifted with resistance as he might be, could possibly succeed in resisting Lord Voldemort's Imperius Curse. Canon seems to imply that the power of such curses depends in part on the power of the caster: in his role as Moody, Crouch tells his DADA class that even if they tried in concert to AK him, he would likely not get so much as a "nosebleed;" and judging from its effects on Cedric Diggory, Victor Krum's Cruciatus Curse, while undoubtedly an exceptionally unpleasant experience, nonetheless really didn't seem to be nearly as agonizing an ordeal as Harry, Avery, and Wormtail all found Voldemort's Cruciatus to be. To a fanatically devoted follower like Crouch, it probably seemed inconceivable that Harry's resistance would have stood up for a second against the magical might of the Dark Lord Himself.

The last time this subject came up, I offered the following list of possible explanations for Crouch's enthusiasm for teaching resistance against Imperius (section below reprinted from message #34133):

Possible Explanations:

(a) Crouch is deeply immersed in his role. The real Alastor Moody would have been pleased by Harry's talent and would have gone out of his way to encourage him to develop this skill. Crouch therefore does the same.

(b) Little Barty Crouch, the Boo Radley of the wizarding world, hates Imperius, having been himself enslaved by it for over a decade. He is thrilled to see anyone succeed in fighting it off and takes a grim satisfaction in teaching students to resist it.

(c) Crouch doesn't believe for a moment that Harry's talent at resisting the Imperius Curse will do squat for him in the long run. Voldemort plans on killing Harry, not controlling him. And even if he does decide to play with the boy for a little while first, it will not matter: Harry's resistance to Imperius will not save him, and may even bring greater glory to the Dark Lord's inevitable victory. So why on earth not teach him? And why bother to inform Voldemort of his talent in this arena?

(d) Crouch would have been an excellent teacher himself, if only his life had turned out differently; like all good teachers, he takes a genuine and instinctive pleasure in helping students to succeed at difficult tasks.

Of these, I prefer (e), all of the above.

These days, I still prefer (e), all of the above.

And why did he give Neville those books, inspiring the kid to work harder to excel.

Well, what Crouch tells Harry is that he gave Neville the Water Plants of the Meditteranean book because it included a description of the magical properties of gillyweed. He had assumed that Harry would solicit advice from his friends about how to approach the Second Task, and that Neville would then volunteer that information, enabling Harry to succeed.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's always seemed rather far-fetched to me, too, but that's what Crouch says.

Personally, though, I've got a sneaking suspicion that while Crouch did indeed give Neville that particular book as a part of his Cunning Plan, he also enjoyed encouraging Neville for many of the same reasons that he enjoyed teaching Harry how to resist the Imperius Curse. He thought that it was what the real Moody would have done. It appealed to his sense of irony. And he just plain liked teaching.

If we assume that Crouch Sr.'s ravings in Chapter Twenty-Eight of GoF ("Yes, my son has recently gained twelve O.W.L.s, most satisfactory, yes, thank you, yes, very proud indeed...") are in fact based in past reality—and I think that this is certainly what the text implies—then Crouch Jr. would seem to have been himself an exceptional student. He also displays throughout the book a strong degree of sensitivity to other people—how they think, where their weaknesses lie, where they are strong, where they are vulnerable—although he uses this talent almost wholly for sadistic and manipulative ends.

Really, he's a bit like Lupin, isn't he? Like Lupin gone horribly horribly bad.

My feeling about Crouch is that he was born to teach. It's a terrible pity, really.

Why not laugh at the feeble spawn of the parents he had killed, and leave Neville to wallow another year? . . . . It seems totally out of character for Crouch, even mascarading as Moody.

Well, it's really hard to say what might or might not have been in character for Crouch, isn't it? We can't even say for sure how much of his behavior in GoF is really him, and how much is just his Moody impersonation. Even at the very end, when he gets an entire chapter-long confession monologue, everything he says is filtered through the coercive and affect-deadening effects of the veritaserum.

We can't even say for sure, for example, that Crouch bore any particular animosity against Neville. His treatment of Draco Malfoy certainly implies that he had no difficulties with the notion of punishing children for their parents' sins, but then, from his point of view, Lucius Malfoy had gone unpunished. Perhaps he felt no similar rancour against the offspring of the Longbottoms because in his mind, Neville's parents (who aren't dead, by the way — just mad) already had "paid" for their transgressions.

Alternatively, he might have taken a genuine interest in Neville because of the role he played in the Longbottoms' fate. He's clearly curious about Neville from the very start, and while he is certainly proud of the fact that, unlike the rest of the Death Eaters, he tried to seek Voldemort after his fall, we are given no hint as to what his feelings on the Longbottom Incident itself might be. It's possible that he actually felt remorse. Certainly, there's some evidence to suggest that as a much younger (and not nearly so insane) man, he did. In his appearance in the Pensieve, the dementors seem to be affecting him much more strongly than they are his three co-defendents, and it only took a year of Azkaban to ship him straight to his death-bed. There are a number of reasons that this might have been the case. Remorse is one of the more compelling ones, IMO.

All Crouch needed was to be mediocre - teach the course book, don't cover extras, keep a low profile. Befriend Harry along the way only as much as it would help keep him in the game.

Yes, but Crouch was just a Great Big Show-off, wasn't he.

That is one thing that I think we can deduce about his real personality in GoF: that he just loved to show off. In Chapter 17, right after Harry's name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, he pushes his way into that little room off the Great Hall and then proceeds to announce his entire plan to everyone present — just 'cause he can! He never misses an opportunity to use a double-edged phrasing that, if only parsed the proper way, would give away his game. He never misses the opportunity to create a theatrical effect (much of that must be Moody, of course, or else Dumbledore would have suspected him much earlier, but I think that all that theatricality suited the real Crouch as well). And in the endgame, he just can't resist falling into that Classic Villain Error of explaining to Harry all about how terribly cunning he has been. Crouch is a show-off.

And also, can you imagine how utterly boring it must have been for him, all those years? He'd been incarcerated, one way or another, ever since the age of nineteen! And for at least a decade of that, he was not only under mental control, but also indoors and invisible and assumed dead and allowed to talk to no one but...Winky. In short, he'd been living as an Unperson, a person almost utterly without identity.

Finally freed from all that, I can't imagine that he could have borne to be "mediocre," or to have kept a low profile. I tend to see a lot of Crouch's behavior in GoF as that of a seriously deranged arrested adolescent, Cutting Loose in a big big way.

—Elkins, always happy to talk about Crouch Jr., whom she finds utterly intriguing

Posted March 08, 2002 at 1:17 pm
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RE: Neville and the Canary Creams

David wrote:

I don't remember the incident terribly clearly, but we have to consider that Neville's choking and spitting are, in fact, overacting to enter into the spirit of the joke.

That's always possible, of course, but it doesn't strike me as terribly consistent with Neville's portrayal elsewhere in the books. I could be failing to remember something, but I can't off-hand think of a single instance where Neville has played the buffoon (on purpose, that is) to entertain others, or been seen joking around with his peers in that particular fashion.

Which isn't to say that he never does, of course, nor that it wasn't what he was trying to do in that particular scene. It strikes me as far more likely, though, that the choke and the spit were instinctive "eeewwww, yuck, a tampered sweet that could do God only knows what to me" responses.

Well. Either way, he was a good sport about it in the end, and that's what counts.

As for my "semi-autistic" comment...

Semi-autistic? You know yourself best, of course, and I know little of autism, but Neville? Forgetful, clumsy, possibly disorganised, but (even semi-) autistic?

That was very poorly phrased on my part, sorry. No, I don't view Neville as an autistic type at all. On the contrary, he strikes me as quite sensitive to other people—to interpersonal dynamic—which is most decidedly not a characteristic of autism.

I myself was (incorrectly, in both my opinion and in those of subsequent doctors) diagnosed as autistic at one point in my childhood, as I had a number of classically autistic traits — none of which Neville shares. Some of the end results, however, were much the same: the apparent absent-mindedness, and the inability to deal very well with certain subjects in school, and the tendency to make the exact same mistakes (stepping onto that trick stair, for example) over and over and over again, much to the frustration and the bewilderment of others.

So while the cause was very different, the end result, in terms of others' perceptions, was quite similar, if not identical. That was all I really meant by that comment.

(And although I know that it's my own fault for having brought it up here in the first place, I really do think that if people wish to discuss autism itself any further, we should take that to the OT list.)

I wrote:

I'll even let you in on a little secret here. I thought that Lupin's oh-so-blatant "let's bolster Neville's confidence" was kind of condescending too, to tell you the truth.

David said:

Surely it had to be blatant, because Snape was blatant. Lupin's remarks, while serving the function of bolstering Neville's confidence, were primarily a rebuke to Snape, which therefore had to be administered before the same people who were witnesses to Snape's remarks.

I agree with you both that it served as an excellent rebuke to Snape, and that this was its primary intent.

What I was responding to there, however, was mainly how Harry seems to have viewed Lupin's pedagogy in regard to Neville — and therefore how we as readers tend to think of it.

In GoF, when Harry learns of Crouch/Moody's passing on Professor Sprout's praise to Neville, he thinks of it both as "very tactful" and as "something that Professor Lupin would have done." (I'm paraphrasing from memory here, so forgive me if I'm a word or two off.) The implication seems to be that Harry believes Lupin's encouragement of Neville to have been both tactful and wholly positive...and I'm not altogether certain that I believe that it really felt that way to Neville himself — much in the same way, in fact, that I'm not altogether certain that I believe that Neville's feelings towards Hermione's acts of kindness towards him are utterly positive or without a certain degree of ambivalence.

Of course, I could be wrong about that. And I am very likely to be over-identifying, projecting myself rather too much onto the character. But it does strain my suspension of disbelief somewhat to think that Neville does not notice the pity and the condescension, or that these things do not, on some level, bother him.


Posted March 08, 2002 at 3:43 pm
Plain text version