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December 1, 2002 - December 7, 2002

RE: TBAY: Crouch - C.R.A.B.C.U.S.T.A.R.D. (1 of 9)


Hey, have I ever mentioned that the Crouch family subplot is my very favorite part of GoF? Or that I absolutely adore minor characters? Or that I can get just a wee bit...over-emotional on the subject of the Bartemii Crouch?

No?

Well, now you know.

Some Crouch thoughts here, from the cheerfully insignificant (Was Crouch Sr. Dead Sexy?) to the unabashedly reader responsive (How much did Elkins hate Crouch Sr.? Ooooh, ever so much!) to the possibly even marginally thematically relevant.

Because I firmly believe that God is in the details, while relevance is usually the Devil's work, the trivial stuff got to go first.

This got long. I have therefore divided it into nine separate posts:

Part One tackles the all-important question of whether or not Crouch Sr. was Dead Sexy. Those who find this a somewhat less than compelling topic might want to consider yourself warned: there's really not a whole lot else here.

Part Two examines Crouch's political situation in the wake of Voldemort's fall and his motives in regard to the trial of the Longbottoms' assailants.

Part Three challenges Eileen's reading of Crouch as Tragic Hero.

Part Four evaluates the motives underlying his political decisions and how these relate to his narrative function.

Part Five contests the claim that Crouch saved his son from prison only in order to honour his wife's dying request.

Part Six examines his behavior in regard to his son after the QWC and takes a cold hard look at his thematic role within the text.

Part Seven concludes with a discussion of his mirror relationship with his son, his redemption scene, and his thematic function within the context of the series as a bildungsroman. It also contains some outright reader response.

Part Eight sweeps up a few stray odds and ends: Crouch's death, his sad sad life, and his possibilities as a future canonical ghost.

Part Nine discusses Winky's role in the Crouch family dynamic and expresses a few concerns over what it seems to imply about the authorial attitude towards women and the maternal role. It also defends the Crouch/Winky ship.

All of these posts are long. They are eccentric. They are personal. They are digressive. They are Turbo-TBAYed. And much of them were written long-hand in a yellow pad while I was sick in bed and running a very high temperature.

So. You have been warned.

**************************************

One
C.R.A.B.C.U.S.T.A.R.D.

On a table on the promenade of Theory Bay, Eileen has set up a quantity of little paper cups filled with a substance that might once have had its origin as seafood. A banner above reads: "C.R.A.B.C.U.S.T.A.R.D. -- It's so exciting, it'll make your eyes bulge!"

The reactions so far have been either puzzled or vaguely positive. But then Eileen hears a muffled gagging sound from her right.

"Elkins!"

"Ugh." Elkins, mounted astride a very high hobby horse, clops over to the table and looks down at it with an expression of supreme revulsion. "Oh, I just can't believe that you're still out here flogging that red herring mousse, Eileen. It's utterly revolting."

"It is not," Eileen objects indignantly. "People seem to like it. Or at the very least not to mind it all that much. Not like those Crouch Jr. apologetics that you're always trying to foist off on people from up on that horse of yours."

Elkins' hobby horse lays back its ears and bares its teeth.

"What have you got against my Crouch Jr. apologetics?" demands Elkins. "Or the horse I rode in on, for that matter? At least Melody liked my Crouch Jr. apologetics! And need I remind you, Eileen, that young Bartemius is a member in good standing of SYCOPHANTS?"

"Oh, I know that, Elkins. But Barty Jr. is...well, he's a sadist. And well...really, really evil."

"But he had so much fun!" cries Elkins passionately, gathering her reins in one hand and reaching down with the other to try to force a 'Boys Will Be Boys: Barty Junior Had A Blast!' leaflet on Eileen. Eileen sighs.

"Err.... Could I make confession, Elkins?" she asks. "Don't tell anyone I said this, okay, but I really, really love Barty Crouch Jr. I've fought against it a long time. I just didn't want to believe that serving an evil Overlord, torturing the Longbottoms, killing your father, ensnaring Harry Potter, and plotting general death and destruction for the world could be viewed as a sympathetic feature of adolescent rebellion. But in the end, you convinced me. Now I just can't help myself. I do like young Barty!"

"Well, we'll talk about that later, if you want," says Elkins with an amused smile. "But right now, let's talk about this...custard of yours, shall we? One thing that I have never been able to understand, Eileen, is how a nice girl like yourself could ever have ended up with an acronym like 'Classy, Rich, Ambitious, Bold: Crouch's Unsung Sexiness Tempts All Raunchy Damsels.' I mean, that's really rather racy, don't you think?"

"It did make me blush at first," admits Eileen, coloring prettily. "In fact, it took me months even to be able to see it appear on my monitor without having to quickly and demurely avert my eyes lest it sully my innocence."

"And now just look at you!" exclaims Elkins. "Standing right out here on the promenade, in front of Stoned!Harry and the 5000 lurkers and everyone! Selling it to the public! Handsawing it to all comers!"

"I—"

"You shameless hussy!"

"But I—"

"Don't start crying. And don't grovel."

"But it's not my fault, Elkins!" wails Eileen. "I only requested that acronym in the first place as a reaction to that horrible B.A.B.E.M.E.I.S.T.E.R., the definition of which escapes me right now, except that the second B. stood for Barty and the S. stood for sexier. The whole thing just frightened me, and I wanted to put it out of my mind!"

"Yessssss," says Elkins uncomfortably, trying to soothe her horse, which seems to have suddenly become unaccountably skittish. "Yes. Erm. Well. To be quite honest with you, Eileen, BABEMEISTER rather frightened me as well. You see, what happened there was that Tabouli overheard me making some comment about being a 'true fan' of young Bartemius, and I fear that she must have thought that I meant it in the—"

An expression of profound distaste crosses Elkins' face.

"In the, er." She coughs. "In the romantic sense."

"And you didn't?"

"No! Of course not! I readily admit that I am partial to frail, brilliant, neurasthenic young blondes, but I generally prefer for them to fall somewhere short of the psychopathic. Edge is one thing. Over The Edge is quite another. I'll take a pass on that BABEMEISTER t-shirt, thank you.

"Althooooooough," she adds, after a moment's thought. "You know, there is one thing that can be said for young Crouch as a fantasy partner..."

"Yes?"

Elkins smiles thinly.

"These days," she says. "He doesn't talk back."

Eileen eyes her doubtfully. "And this is a character you really sympathize with, is it?"

"Well, it's a funny thing, how that works. When you find yourself in strong reader sympathy with a truly wicked character, then it can sometimes be almost reassuring, in a strange sort of way, for him to meet with a very sticky end. It just feels a whole lot safer that way. After all, you know how I feel about allowing love—any of the four loves—to dictate my sense of moral approbation. Liking a character has nothing to do with approving his actions."

"I know that!" exclaims Eileen. "I do know it! And while it's true that I have become quite enamoured of the Tough and Steely Mr. Crouch, I'm not enamoured to the point of blindness. I can still go all Alexandr Solzhenitsyn on him when the situation demands it. I've conceded his iniquities, haven't I? I did so in message #44636."

"You have conceded some of his iniquities," Elkins corrects her. "But you still close your eyes to his true nature. Oh, Eileen. You have not even begun to delve the depths of that man's wickedness. Let me tell you a thing or two about that Bartemius Crouch. He—"

"Well, he could hardly be worse than his son, now, could he?" interrupts Eileen irritably. "And you like his son. So why can't you admit that Crouch Sr. really did have some very noble and redeeming characteristics? Not to mention some Dead Sexy ones? Won't you even try a taste of my CRAB CUSTARD? You know that you'll like it, if only you'll give it a try."

"I will not like it," says Elkins firmly. "It is vile."

"It is not vile. It is conveyed by the text. Look, JKR comes right out and tells us that Crouch was attractive:

Until the very end, he was extremely attentive of his looks, he was a very popular politician, and if you read all his description pieces (when he isn't ready to pop a vein, in which case Rowling reaches for the word "bulging",) he comes across as quite a striking personality. If his eyes aren't "bulging" under the stress of yet another personal tragedy, Rowling's favourite word for them is "sharp."

"You know, it's interesting that you should have brought up those bulging eyes," comments Elkins softly, glancing up at the C.R.A.B.C.U.S.T.A.R.D. banner. "You emphasize them. JKR emphasizes them. The text positively fixates upon them. It interests me very much, that."

"It does? Why?"

Elkins shakes her head. "I'll tell you later," she says quietly. "Go on with your defense."

"Well, I went through _Goblet of Fire_ and catalogued every last reference to Mr. Crouch, and I was very much surprised to discover that most of the code words for Crouch Sr. were rather attractive, contrast to Snape who gets the most hideous code words in the book. I wouldn't be surprised if this was a conscious contrast, indicating beauty is skin deep."

"So you're saying that Crouch Sr. was a spiritually ugly man?" Elkins smiles slightly. "I quite agree."

"What? Where did I—"

"You just said that Rowling contrasts Crouch's physical attractiveness with Snape's unprepossessing appearance in order to emphasize the notion that beauty is only skin deep. So presumably this means that you must recognize that Crouch Sr's attractiveness is merely superficial. That deep down inside, on some ethical or spiritual or psychological level, he is profoundly ugly."

"I...I...well, no, wait..."

"Also that his true allegiance is suspect."

"What?! How did I—"

"Snape is on the surface a Dark Wizard. He was a Death Eater, but he was secretly working against Voldemort. So if you think that JKR is consciously contrasting these two characters, then just what does that imply about your dear Barty?"

"I...I...now, you STOP that! You're twisting my words!"

"I am not twisting them. I am merely parsing them."

"You're twisting them. You're just being difficult!"

"Well," admits Elkins, with a slightly parsed smile. "Obedience has never been one of my particular virtues, Eileen."

"You're being stubborn, is what you're being. You're...you're pulling a Cindy! Refusing to concede the point, even though you know perfectly well that I'm right. You know perfectly well that Crouch Sr. Was Dead Sexy!"

"Even though he had bulging eyes, a straight part and moustache reminiscent of Adolf Hitler, apoplectic tendencies, and beauty which, as if it were not debatable enough already, still only ran skin deep?"

"Well..."

"Even though you yourself have just suggested a literary parallel with Snape that suggests that although ostensibly working for the forces of good, deep down in his heart of hearts, Bartemius Crouch Was Ever So Evil?"

"Finding a character sexy," retorts Eileen hotly. "Has nothing to do with approving his actions, any more than finding him sympathetic does. Why won't you try my CRAB CUSTARD, Elkins? Haven't you read all of my posts? Haven't they swayed you in the slightest? Look! Just look!"

Eileen steps forward, her arms overflowing with the yellowed scrolls of Crouch Apologetics Past.

"He was suave," she says. "A sharp dresser. And brilliant, too -- he spoke over two hundred languages! He had a dry sense of humour, and the ability to remain calm in even the most bizarre circumstances. He was a terrific actor, just like his son. He was exceptionally charismatic. People paid attention to him when he spoke. He had true power of command. And on top of all of that, he reminds me of King Lear!"

"You found King Lear Dead Sexy?" Elkins stares at her. "Eileen, that is just so Bent!"

"He's a proud and seemingly invulnerable man we later come to realize is in fact deeply wounded. We see him suffering both nobly and terribly. That means that he partakes of Hurt-Comfort!"

"Not to mention Comfort-Hurt," comments Cindy, who has stopped by to watch with a bemused expression on her face.

"Would you stop that!" cries Eileen. "There is no such thing as Comfort-Hurt!"

"Sure there is." Cindy turns to Elkins. "You see, Elkins," she explains earnestly. "Eileen here takes comfort in the knowledge that Crouch Sr. would not balk at hurting her."

"Slander!" screams Eileen. "How dare you insinuate such a thing? And besides, there is no such thing as... Elkins, tell her, will you? Tell her there's no such thing as Comfort-Hurt!"

"Don't be silly, Eileen," replies Elkins, choking back snickers. "Of course there's such a thing as...uh, what Cindy has chosen to refer to as 'Comfort-Hurt.' What else do you think makes Mrs. Lestrange so Dead Sexy? Or Lucius Malfoy, for that matter?"

"Just admit it, Eileen," says Cindy. "It's those jack-boots you like so much."

"You said as much yourself," Elkins points out. "In message #40543. Remember? You said, 'Elkins, SYCOPHANTS were made to worship Tough people.' You even said it in 'an impassioned, and curiously trembling voice,' as I seem to recall."

"'Impassioned and curiously trembling,'" Cindy repeats.

"I...I...well, all right then! All right! Fine! So maybe there is some appeal there. I'm a SYCOPHANT, aren't I? And we SYCOPHANTS really were made to worship Tough people, you know. It's in our contract and everything. Our knees go weak in the face of the Tough and the Steely!"

"Eileen!" laughs Elkins. "Please!"

"Well, they do. Aren't you supposed to be a SYCOPHANT, Elkins? Surely you like those jack-boots too, don't you? You were the one who first started slobbering all over the Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange, after all. So why won't you try just a taste of my CRAB CUSTARD? You loved the man's son. I assume that was at least in part because of your appreciation for his brilliance. His brilliance and his manipulative talents. Well, what about his poor father's brilliance? What about his poor father's manipulative talents? Just where do you think Barty Jr. got that from anyway? That was Point Seven of my original CRAB CUSTARD manifesto, see?"

7. Barty Jr. inherited his talent for acting from his father.

"You think that's where he learned those talents? From his father? Huh." Elkins leans back in her saddle. "Huh," she says again. "Well. I guess that is an interesting question. Where did young Crouch learn to manipulate people so well? To hone unerringly in on others' weaknesses? To exploit their vulnerabilities? To get other people to do precisely what he wanted?" She raises an eyebrow. "You think he learned all that from his father, Eileen?"

Eileen narrows her eyes. "You do know," she says, "that I don't LIKE Mrs. Crouch?"

"Like her or loathe her," Elkins says cheerfully, "you can't deny that she was formidable."

"Formidable?" Cindy looks disgusted. "Oh, please, Elkins. She was wispy. She rocks, she snivels, she faints. She wastes away. She doesn't even get a single line of dialogue. She's not Tough. She's a SYCOPHANT. She's Weak."

"Weak? You think that Mrs. Crouch was Weak? Oh, no." Elkins shakes her head. "Oh, no, no, no. No, I really don't think so. She walked of her own free will into Azkaban, where she knew that she was going to die. In misery, reliving the worst memories of her life, cut off from everyone she loved, utterly alone. She did this of her own free will. And then, on her death bed, in a milieu in which people lose their sanity, in which people forget even who they are, she still managed to take her Polyjuice Potion, every hour on the hour, right up until her death. Mrs. Crouch wasn't a SYCOPHANT, Cindy. Mrs. Crouch was Tough. Mrs. Crouch could have kicked Imperius around the block. Mrs. Crouch made her husband look like a piker! Mrs. Crouch was made of pure steel! And as for that fainting spell..."

"Yes?"

"Well, does it really seem in keeping with what we later learn the woman was capable of? Is someone who can keep on sipping at her Polyjuice Potion even while surrounded by Dementors and on the brink of death really the sort of woman who swoons in a courtroom, do you think? And honestly, now, didn't that fainting spell seem just a little bit too well-timed to you?"

"Dramatic license," suggests Eileen.

"Yes, but whose? JKR's, or Mrs. Crouch's? You know, I have a confession to make here," says Elkins, lowering her voice and glancing nervously up at the Safe House looming above the Bay on the far headland. "I was seriously tempted by Pip's Ever So Evil Mrs. Crouch."

"I thought that Flying Hedgehog made you blanche!"

"Well, she does. That's part of why I like her so much. Especially if you combine her with a Conflicted-In-Her-Loyalties!Winky. Put together, those two make for quite a devestatingly compelling little speculation. But in the end, I'm afraid that I just can't quite make myself believe in them. I do think that Mrs. Crouch was putting on an act there in the Penseive, though. I'm not quite up for Death Eating Mrs. Crouch, but I'd say that her son took after her in a lot more ways than just physical frailty."

"He didn't get her strength of resolve, though," points out Eileen.

"No. He didn't get her strength of resolve. Either of his parents' strengths of resolve, really. But then, you know, when you have someone who is an only child, a talented only child, an only child of a wealthy family, whose parents are both immensely devoted to each other, both highly invested in their child's performance, and who are both made of pure steel?"

Both Elkins and her hobby horse shudder violently. She reaches down to stroke the horse on the neck.

"It's often difficult for people with that sort of upbringing to develop any normal sense of self-assertion," she says quietly. "Or of independence. Or of individuation. Or even of identity, really. I think that the fact that Crouch Jr's parents were both so strong-willed probably had a lot to do with his dissociative tendencies. That's a family dynamic that often encourages a child to engage in some rather...indirect modes of expression."

Eileen frowns. "Indirect?"

"Indirect. Circuitous. Multiplicitous. Sly, sidelong, allusive. Kaleidoscopic. One might even say schizopathic. Somewhat schizophrenic modes of expression, Eileen. Double-edged statements. Hidden meanings. Concretized metaphor. And the tendency..."

Elkins' voice trails off. She glances out over the Bay, taking in the diverse vessels, the flying flags, all of the landmarks: the Canon Museum, the Canon College, the Weather Station, the Safe House. St. Mungos. The Garden of Good and Evil. She shivers convulsively and shuts her eyes.

"The tendency to get caught up in fantasy," she whispers. "To allow oneself to become subsumed. Subsumed into other people's desires. Subsumed into other people's personae."

She takes a deep breath and shakes her head. "Yes," she says briskly. "Yes, well. We were talking about the text here, were we not? And I do think that the text implies that Mrs. Crouch was not precisely what she appeared to be in that Pensieve scene. I'd say that young Crouch probably learned more than a little about manipulation right at his mother's knees."

"Well, maybe," says Eileen. "Maybe. But Mr. Crouch was a master manipulator as well. Just

watch how he manipulates Diggory in "The Dark Mark": down to the point where he allows Diggory to question Winky superficially, and keeps completely out of it to look objective, and then blocks Diggory from actually finding out anything."

"Why, yes." Elkins smiles appreciatively. "Yes, he was manipulative there, wasn't he?"

"And I know how much you like that sort of thing, Elkins. Everybody does. Everyone knows that you adore manipulators. So why don't you like canny old Crouch, eh? He's younger than Harry thinks he is, you know. He's described as 'elderly' when Harry first sees him, but that's just Harry's misapprehension. He's not really that old at all, especially by wizarding standards. When we see him in the Pensieve, it becomes clear that he's been aged beyond his years.

He had grey hair in GoF, for sure, but a kid like Bartemius Jr. would give anyone grey hair."

"Oh!" Elkins laughs hollowly. "Oh, ho, ho. Oh, Eileen! Eileen. My dear! I assure you." She bares her teeth unpleasantly. "Having parents like the Crouches can leave you with more than your fair share of grey hair as well. You really want to trust me on this point.

"But," she adds, after a short silence. "That is a matter for my therapist. And besides, just what is so unsexy about prematurely grey hair anyway? Grey hair is perfectly sexy in its own right!"

There is a long silence, punctuated only by the sound of crickets chirping off in the distance.

"Well, it is!" Elkins turns away, shaking her head. "Everyone thinks it's sexy when Lupin's got it," she mutters.

"Well, all right, then," says Eileen soothingly. "All right. If it isn't the hair, then what is it? Why must you be so stubborn about this? You know that you'll like my CRAB CUSTARD, if only you'll give it a try."

Elkins shakes her head firmly from side to side.

"Oh, come on," wheedles Eileen, advancing on the horse, paper cup in one hand, spoon in the other. "It's good. Just try some, won't you? Just a bite? Just one—"

"Eileen!" Elkins says sharply, trying to control her horse, which has begun to back away skittishly.

"Suave, brilliant, manipulative, ruthless, jack-booted, partakes of hurt-comfort..."

"EILEEN!" Elkins screams, sawing at the reins of her bucking, wheeling hobby horse.

Eileen hesitates, puzzled, her spoon half-raised.

"Eileen," gasps Elkins, clinging to the neck of her horse for dear life. "Eileen. You, uh, remember back when Tabouli coined that acronym for me? B.A.B.E.M.E.I.S.T.E.R? When she misunderstood the nature of my feelings for young Crouch? When she thought that it was a matter of romantic attraction? You remember that?"

"Yes?"

"Well, it wasn't. Okay? It wasn't a case of romantic attraction at all. It was a case of reader identification."

"So? I—"

"Strong reader identification, Eileen. Reader identification based on strong autobiographical congruence. Okay?"

"I..." Eileen blinks. "Oh."

"There's more than one alternative answer to the Third Task sphinx's riddle," says Elkins, now gone even paler than the horse she rides. "And one of them has strong mythic precedent. So can you please stop asking me to taste that custard of yours? Please? Because you know, if I were to do that? I mean, if I were even to think about it? If I were to so much as contemplate putting that stuff anywhere near my mouth? Even for a second?" She laughs uneasily. "Um," she says. "Well. That really would become a matter for my therapist."

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," Cindy snorts. "You feel a strong sense of reader identification with a mad, sadistic, parricidal Death Eater, Elkins! And now you're...what? Balking at a tiny bit of incest taboo?"

"As it happens, yes. I'm not that Bent. Not yet, at any rate." Elkins clutches her horse's neck, and looks at Eileen with large and frightened eyes. "I can't concede that he's Dead Sexy, Eileen," she says. "Please don't make me."

Eileen frowns. "You do realize, don't you," she says in a tight little voice, "that I have never before won an argument with you? I mean, not ever? Not once? And now that I finally have, you have the...the...the...the...the unmitigated gall to ask me not to make you so much as concede the point?"

"But I'll be sick if I try to swallow that stuff," whines Elkins pleadingly. "I just know that I will. I'll never be able to keep it down. Please don't make me, Eileen. Please don't. Please?"

Eileen exhales hard. "Well, will you at least concede that the text marks him as Dead Sexy?"

"I will concede," Elkins says tentatively. "That the text does encourage us to read him as charismatic..."

Eileen crosses her arms over her chest and scowls.

"And," Elkins stammers. "And that it doesn't rule out a reading of Crouch as...well, as, you know, as attractive. In a way. If you...you know. If you like that sort of thing."

Eileen raises one eyebrow.

"And, uh, that it does so," continues Elkins. "Not only in all of the ways that you have already mentioned, but also by its repeated allocation of sexualized subplots to Crouch."

"Yes?" says Eileen coldly. "Elaborate."

"Eileen, please, I—"

"Elaborate."

Elkins looks into Eileen's uncharacteristically Tough and Steely gaze, then quickly looks away.

"Well, all right," she says faintly. "For starters, there's Winky. The text clearly marks Winky as Crouch's wife. Crouch confides his workplace troubles to her. He allows her to intercede with him on behalf of his son. She plays the maternal intercessionary role, mitigating the harshness of his paternal discipline. She throws the memory of his dead wife against him. Ron says that she seems to love him. And her anguish at having been released from his service is repeatedly emphasized as abnormal. It isn't the usual reaction of a rejected House Elf. It's different. It's excessive. It's personal."

"Yes? Go on."

"Well, whether one believes that Crouch was actually sharing his bed with his elf, or that as you've suggested, it is a literary parallel designed to equate Winky with Mrs. Crouch, or that as Pippin has suggested, it is a parallel designed to equate the plight of the House Elves in general with those of housewives...well, I mean, no matter which approach you choose to take with this, there's just no getting around the fact that there's a sexualized subtext, is there? It's embedded in the text."

Eileen nods. "What else?"

"Wasn't that enough?" whispers Elkins.

"You said sexualized subplots, Elkins. SubplotS. Plural."

"Well...oh, all right. There's also Percy."

"Percy?"

"Yes. There's more than a touch of homoerotic insinuation to all of those teasing comments that Ron and the Twins are always making about Percy's idolization of Crouch. They all but accuse him of being Crouch's catamite, don't they? Or at least of wanting very badly to be. The tenor of the teasing does seem to imply a certain shared (if unspoken) recognition of the man's more charismatic qualities. If Crouch were repulsive, then Percy's brothers would still probably be teasing him about wanting to marry him, but the nature of the teasing would be a little different. It would have a slightly different edge to it. A different slant."

"Yes. And so?"

"Please don't make me say this, Eileen."

"And so?"

"And." Elkins takes a deep shaky breath. "And," she says, "and, well, and, and so Crouch really does seem to be getting a number of...well, of somewhat sexually-inflected subplots attached to him, doesn't he, while other characters who occupy similar roles in the text are not. Ludo Bagman doesn't have any particularly sexualized undercurrents attached to him that I've ever noticed, and neither does Cornelius Fudge. Crouch is a sexualized character in a way that other characters who perform similar functions to his in the text are not. Which does seem to indicate..."

Elkins begins to gag helplessly. She swallows hard and presses her head against her horse's neck.

"Which does seem to indicate," she gasps, eyes tearing. "That the text does at least facilitate a reading of his character as...as..."

"As Dead Sexy?"

"Well, as a sexual being, at any rate."

"As Dead Sexy."

"Possibly as possessed of a certain magnetism."

"In other words, as Dead Sexy."

"Well—"

"As Dead Sexy."

"ALL RIGHT!" Elkins screams. "All right! As Dead Sexy. IF you happen to like that sort of thing. Which I myself absolutely do NOT! Okay? Enough? Does that SATISFY you, Eileen? Are you HAPPY now?"

Eileen considers the question for a moment, then smiles.

"Yes," she says.



**************

Elkins
(who far prefers Arthur Weasley)

(continued in part two)

*******************************************

REFERENCES:

Opening TBAY scenario: HPfGU #43326

Eileen's original CRAB CUSTARD manifesto: HPfGU #37476

Crouch: HPfGU #45693, #45402, #44636, #40543, #43010 and downthread responses.

Acronyms: HPfGU #35630, #37498

Ever So Evil Mrs. Crouch: HPfGU #39573

ESE Winky: HPfGU #39102

Hurt-Comfort: HPfGU #39083 and downthread responses.

Comfort-Hurt: HPfGU #43373 and downthread responses.

Posted December 07, 2002 at 5:58 pm
Topics: , ,
Plain text version

 

RE: TBAY: Crouch -- Where Three Roads Meet (2 of 9)

(continued from part one)


Two
Where Three Roads Meet

"So," says Eileen, rearranging her small cups of CRAB CUSTARD with an ill-concealed air of insufferably smug self-satisfaction. "Now that you've conceded that Crouch Sr. was indeed Dead Sexy, what next?"

"I have conceded no such thing," protests Elkins. "I have merely conceded that the text does indeed facilitate such a reading. For those Sick and Twisted and Warped and Bent enough to take the text up on its offer, that is."

Eileen sighs. "You know, Elkins," she comments. "I really am growing inured to your habit of calling me Sick and Twisted and Warped and Bent. I hardly even notice it anymore. I hope that doesn't disappoint you too terribly much."

"It elates me," says Elkins coldly. She drops her reins to allow her very high horse to nibble at the tough sea grasses lining the promenade along Theory Bay and pulls her yellowed old copy of the CRAB CUSTARD manifesto out of her pocket. She unrolls it carefully and reads for a few moments. She frowns.

"Eileen," she says. "I'm afraid, you know, that I really must take umbrage at this...insinuation of yours that poor dear Bartemius Junior was the one responsible for the graying of his beastly father's wretched hair. I simply can't allow that to pass any longer. It really is the most vile slander imaginable, and—"

"You think that's the most vile slander imaginable?" Cindy pushes up her hat and stares at Elkins. "Wow. You must have a really limited imagination. I can think up viler slander than that standing on my head! Hey, have I ever told you about why I think Snape really left the DEs? Or about how Arthur Weasley used to cast the Imperius Curse on people? Or about how—"

"Have you really been dwelling on that throw-away comment ever since early in April?" Eileen asks, bemused.

"It's completely unjust!" Elkins says crossly. "And totally contradicted by the text. Just look!"

*************************************

On April 5, in message #37476, Eileen wrote:

How come Crouch Sr. doesn't have a cool acronym, I wondered? He had grey hair in GoF, for sure, but a kid like Bartemius Jr. would give anyone grey hair.

Heh. Well. Maybe so. Maybe so.

However. While it is indeed possible to lay many dark, dire and dreadful things at Crouch Jr's feet, his father's transition from dark-haired to gray is not, alas, one of them.

It's described as dark beforehand.

Well, now, let's be fair, shall we? Crouch's hair would seem to have started going grey somewhere around the time of Rookwood's arrest. During Karkaroff's testimony, "Crouch's hair was dark." At Bagman's trial, "Mr. Crouch looked more tired and somehow fiercer, gaunter..." By the time we get to the sentencing of young Crouch and his co-defendents, "Harry looked up at Crouch and saw that he looked gaunter and grayer than ever before."

Now, if Harry thought Crouch looked "grayer than ever before" at his son's trial, yet his hair was still "dark" at Karkaroff's hearing, then that must mean that it started to show the first signs of grey at Bagman's trial, which in turn indicates that Crouch's hair started to turn before the Longbottom Incident.

So. While I am sure that his son's arrest did indeed greatly accelerate the process, you can't go laying the blame for Crouch's evident aging all at young Barty's feet. I'm tempted to suggest that the combined stress of revelations of moles in the ministry, political intrigue in the wake of Voldemort's fall, his wife's terminal illness, and his own loss of personal political autonomy were all likely contributing factors to Crouch's gaunting and greying. His son's arrest would merely have been the icing on the cake.

******************************************

"More Crouch Jr. apologetics, Elkins?"

"I simply couldn't allow that slander to go unaddressed any longer, Eileen."

"Elkins," says Cindy. "You do realize that you've just gone to all the trouble to man the canons simply in order to provide a timeline for the greying of Crouch Sr's hair, don't you?"

"Well, I—"

"What's next, pray tell? A stirring defense of the notion that Snape's hair isn't really unwashed, just naturally oily?"

Elkins flushes. "Look," she says. "Do you have any idea what it is like being young Crouch's defender? Do you, Cindy? Do you? It. Is. A. NIGHTMARE! Okay? He's guilty of just about everything under the sun. And more than a few things that lurk in the darkness as well. He's a Death Eater. He's a sadist. He's a weakling. He's a patricide. He's dissociative. He letches after Parvati. He makes poor widdle Neville cry. He—"

"He tortured the Longbottoms," contributes Cindy helpfully.

"Allegedly tortured the Longbottoms," snaps Elkins. "Be careful."

"Oh, Elkins. Please."

"Well, he really could have been innocent of that one, you know. It's extremely unlikely, but it is possible. But my point here is that when you speak for young Crouch, you find yourself spending an awful lot of your time pleading 'guilty as charged.' So you can hardly blame me if I get a little bit excited when somebody finally hurls an unfounded allegation against the poor lad, can you? And besides," she adds defensively. "Crouch's Graying Hair Timeline is highly significant!"

"Significant? As significant as the question of whether or not Crouch Sr. was Dead Sexy, I suppose. Face it, Elkins. You have nothing to say here. All of this stuff is just useless trivia!"

"Yes?" Elkins smiles faintly. "It's interesting that you should have used that particular word, Cindy. Do you know the derivation of the word 'trivia?' It comes from the Latin. From _trivium._ Meaning 'crossroads.'

"Specifically," she adds, with a meaningful glance over to Eileen. "A very particular type of crossroads. Originally it referred to a place where three roads meet."

Eileen looks up sharply from her cups of CRAB CUSTARD. Elkins smiles unpleasantly at her.

"The Devil's in the details," she says softly. "Isn't it, Eileen."

"What?" Cindy looks between the two of them them, puzzled. "What are you—"

"The Crouch's Greying Hair Timeline," Elkins says, still smiling rather predatorily over at Eileen. "Is relevant because it speaks to Crouch's political situation in the years following Voldemort's fall. Which in turn speaks to his state of mind at the time of his son's arrest. Which in turn speaks to his motivations in regard to his son's trial. Which in turn," she concludes. "Has direct bearing on the nature of his _hamartia._"

"His what?" asks Cindy.

"His fault, his failing. The error that leads to his destruction."

"His tragic flaw," explains Eileen.

"Oh."

"And that, in turn, has direct bearing on Eileen's reading of Crouch as Tragic Hero."

"So you did read my Crouch As Tragic Hero post," exclaims Eileen. "I'd wondered."

"Yes, I did. I liked it very much. Although..." Elkins hesitates. "Well, it's rather a curious structure for a tragedy, isn't it? One in which the cathartic recognition of wrong-doing happens before the nature of that wrong-doing has yet been revealed to the audience? I mean, structurally speaking, it doesn't really hold together all that well as a tragedy, does it? We get Crouch's redemption scene before we've even learned what his hamartia is. Kind of weakens the catharsis, don't you think?"

"Well, none of those secondary meanings that you like so much in Crouch Jr's dialogue are visible on first reading either," retorts Eileen, with spirit.

"Oh, true enough. True enough. And really, I have no problem at all with readings that are only discernable on a second go-round. They're my favorite ones. But Crouch as Tragic Hero just doesn't hold together for me, because...well..."

Elkins' smirk quivers. She shifts uncomfortably in her saddle.

"Eileen," she says slowly. "Do you remember back in message #44636, when you told me:

Let me confess that I like nothing better than seeing you attack Crouch Sr. It makes me feel beleaguered and under pressure

"Yeeees," says Eileen cautiously. "I do seem to remember saying something like that to you once. Despiadado Denethor, wasn't it?"

"Yes. Well, uh, look. You really did mean that, didn't you? I mean, you weren't just saying that? You really meant it?"

"Uh-oh," mutters Cindy.

"Well, I don't know," says Eileen. "There isn't going to be vituperative language involved here, is there?"

"Almost certainly," Elkins assures her. "Vituperative language galore. Also stridency, hostility, and bile. Possibly even some spitting. I did tell you that I hadn't even begun to touch on Mr. Crouch's iniquities, didn't I? And you know how I feel about the man. I just couldn't believe that he wasn't included as an option on that 'who do you hate the most?' poll on OTC. I mean, the pathetic Cornelius Fudge? The sad sad Dursleys? That mild-mannered fellow Voldemort? And yet no Barty Crouch Sr.? Really! What on earth is wrong with people?"

Eileen opens her mouth to speak, then seems to think better of it.

"So yes," Elkins concludes. "There will likely be vituperative language. No Cruciatus this time, though. I promise. Although there may be a little bit of politics. But you don't mind a little bit of politics, do you, Eileen?"

"UH-oh," Cindy says again. "These are going to be Potterverse politics, Elkins. Aren't they?"

"But of course," replies Elkins, her eyes very wide. "What on earth could real world politics possibly have to do with Crouch's plotline?"

"Well," says Eileen after a second's pause. "I'm game. Really, there's so much to talk about here. Has anyone ever tried to sort out what was going on with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement? Too much speculation about James, Lily, Peter, Dumbledore and such things. Not enough speculation about Crouch's strategies."

"I quite agree," says Elkins, rather grimly. "So let's take a look at those strategies, shall we? Have you noticed, by the way, that the Crouch's Greying Hair Timeline contradicts Sirius' accounting of events?"

"It does?" Cindy frowns. "How does it do that?"

"Well, Sirius implies that young Crouch's arrest was a catastrophic event, doesn't he? A sudden stroke of fate, descending from the heavens to strike poor old Crouch down just when his life seemed to be going perfectly? He says:

'So old Crouch lost it all, just when he thought he had it made.... One moment, a hero, poised to become Minister of Magic...next, his son dead, his wife dead, the family name dishonored, and, so I've heard since I escaped, a big drop in popularity.'

"Yeah? So?"

"So the evidence of the Pensieve contradicts this. It shows us that the revelation of his son's involvement with the Death Eaters wasn't actually a catastrophic occurrence for Crouch at all. It was calamitous for him, to be sure. But it wasn't actually catastrophic. It wasn't a sudden blow of fate that struck him from out of the blue just when everything was going his way, as Sirius seems to imply. It wasn't anything like that. It was a last straw, not a first cause. Crouch's hold on his political power was slipping even before the Longbottom affair happened."

"You're getting all of this from the state of the man's hair?"

"No. Also from Ludo Bagman's trial. Look."

*******************************************

'When Voldemort disappeared, it looked like only a matter of time until Crouch got the top job. But then something rather unfortunate happened...' Sirius smiled grimly. 'Crouch's own son was caught with a group of Death Eaters who'd managed to talk their way out of Azkaban.'

The impression of Crouch that we get from Sirius in "Padfoot Returns" is that of a man who had the public wrapped around his little finger in the wake of Voldemort's fall. He could send a man to prison for life without even giving him a trial. He could authorize his Aurors to summarily execute those who had never been formally accused of any crime. He could authorize the use of torture, and of mind control.

And the public was behind him. Sirius says that Crouch had popular support. He claims that the people were 'clamoring' for Crouch to become the next Minister of Magic, and he suggests that what changed this state of affairs was Crouch's son's implication in the assault on the Longbottoms.

The scenes that we see in the Pensieve, however, tell a very different story. What they show us is that Crouch's popularity, as well as his hold on his power, had begun to slip even before his son's arrest.

In the first of the Pensieve scenes, Karkaroff's hearing, an eleven year war that was clearly deeply traumatic for the WW has just come to an end. Not much time seems to have passed since Voldemort's fall: there is still talk of rounding up the "last of the Death Eaters," and the Azkaban grape-vine, which will later enable Sirius to learn about the imprisoned Death Eaters' thoughts on both Karkaroff and Pettigrew, does not seem to have yet been established. Karkaroff is sorely ignorant of what has been happening in the outside world since his imprisonment: he has not learned of Rosier's death; he does not know of Dolohov's arrest.

The war doesn't seem to have been over for very long at all in this first scene, and Crouch is looking great. He is "fit and alert," his face is comparatively unlined, his hair is dark. Moody describes the decision to cut a deal with Karakaroff as if it had been Crouch's own, a decision which it is very hard to believe the head of the DMLE would still be permitted to make unilaterally in the current time period of the canon. Crouch's command over the situation at Karkaroff's hearing never falters. He comes across as a man in full control of his situation.

The next scene we see, however, shows us rather a dramatic change in Crouch's status. At Ludo Bagman's trial, the public turns against Crouch. They cut him off with angry murmers before he can even finish delivering his recommendation to the jury, and they cheer the defendent he is trying to prosecute. In the end, they effectively overturn his verdict: Ludo Bagman walks free. Furthermore, when Crouch tries to intervene:

....there was an angry outcry from the surrounding benches. Several of the witches and wizards around the walls stood up, shaking their heads, and even their fists, at Mr. Crouch.

Shaking their fists at him?

Unsurprisingly, it is also at Bagman's trial that Harry first notices Crouch's signs of age. It is here, not at his son's trial, that he first begins to be described with terms like "gaunt," and it is here, not at his son's trial, that his hair is first beginning to go grey.

This does not look to me like a man who is at the ascendant of his political career, considered a 'hero,' poised to be swept into office as the next Minister of Magic by a groundswell of popular support, as Sirius' account would lead us to believe.

This looks to me like a man who has already begun to lose the good will of the populace.

This looks to me like a man whose political star is already beginning to fall.

**************************************

"I don't think that it was his son's arrest that destroyed Crouch's political career at all," says Elkins firmly. "I think that it was peace."

"Peace?"

Elkins nods. "Crouch rose to power during the war, and apparently he did so rather...precipitously. Sirius says that 'he rose quickly through the Ministry.' Now, Crouch may not be quite as elderly as Harry initially thinks that he is, but I don't think that he was exactly a young man either. So what we are looking at here is a man whose rise to power was itself a by-product of the war. We are looking at a man who was made by the war."

"Times like that bring out the best in some people," offers Eileen.

"And the worst in others. Crouch owed his rise to power to the war, and the war seems to have treated him well. When we first see him in the Pensieve, he hardly looks worn down by all of his heroic efforts to stem the tide of Dark Wizardry, does he? He doesn't look worn down at all. He looks great. Really, Voldemort's rise would seem to have been very good to Crouch. It enabled him to seize far more power for himself than he would ordinarily have been entitled to. It allowed him to relax the restrictions on the Aurors, men who seem to have been accountable to him personally in his role as the Head of the DMLE. By the end of the conflict, it seems that he had even managed to wrest for himself somehow the right to make unilateral decisions regarding the disposition of prisoners. He is the one who gives the 'authorization' to send Sirius Black to prison without trial. He is the one who cuts a deal with Karkaroff and allows him to walk free.

"That's an extraordinary amount of power for one man to hold," Elkins concludes grimly. "Especially in a society which, as we see from the Pensieve trials, ordinarily adheres to a system of trial by jury."

"Well, you know, Elkins," Cindy says. "There was a war on."

"Yes. There was a war on. The Romans had a word for people who were granted extraordinary powers during times of war. They called them dictators. Is it just me, or is there something just a little bit...suggestive about the way that Sirius describes Crouch's popularity in 'Padfoot Returns?'"

"He says Crouch was a popular politician," Cindy says, shrugging. "And that he was a favorite to become the next Minister of Magic. What's wrong with that?"

"Not a thing. But that's not precisely what he says."

Eileen ducks under her CRAB CUSTARD table, emerging a few moments later with a copy of _GoF._ She opens it to a well worn spot and begins to read.

'He had his supporters, mind you -- plenty of people thought he was going about things the right way, and there were a lot of witches and wizards clamoring for him to take over as Minister of Magic.'

"Yes," says Elkins. "'Supporters.' 'Clamoring.' 'Clamoring for him to take over.' What does that sound like to you?"

Cindy's eyes light up. "A coup!" she cries. "It sounds like a bloody coup!"

"Elkins," says Eileen reprovingly. "Now look what you've done."

"Bloody Coup! Bloody Coup! Bloody Coup!"

"You just had to set her off, didn't you? Elkins, you know perfectly well that you're exaggerating again. Crouch wasn't Stalin, and he wasn't planning a bloody coup either."

"No," agrees Elkins. "He wasn't planning a bloody coup. If he'd really been planning a bloody coup, then he would have had his Aurors march right into Bagman's trial and arrest that pesky jury."

Cindy, her Big Paddle clutched in her hands and a wild gleam in her eyes, opens her mouth as if to speak.

"Which he did not." Elkins adds firmly. "He didn't even have them standing around looking menacing. I'm not claiming that Crouch was planning a bloody coup."

"No bloody coup?" Cindy asks, looking heart-broken.

"No. However, I do think that there are some elements of that dynamic implied by the text. He does seem to have seized for himself quite a few unilateral powers by the end of the war. People are always talking about what Crouch did. Crouch sent Sirius Black and others to prison without trial. Crouch cut a deal with Karkaroff. Crouch authorized harsh measures. It's just...well, let me just ask you this. Who was the Minister of Magic while Crouch was the head of the DMLE?"

Eileen blinks. "The what?" she asks.

"The Minister of Magic. At the time of Voldemort's fall. You know, the man in charge? The fellow Crouch was supposedly all poised to replace? Who was he? What was his name?"

There is silence.

"We could always check the Lexicon..." suggests Eileen.

"It's probably in one of the schoolbooks somewhere..." says Cindy.

"Uh-huh. Right. Okay, let's try this one, then. In Harry's day, in the time period of the canon, who is the person we see authorizing all extraordinary legal measures? Who decides to place Hagrid into custody? Who authorizes the Dementor's Kiss to be used on Sirius Black? Who gives Harry a pass on his violations of the Restriction on Underage Wizardry? Who is the person we consistently see making those decisions?"

There is another brief silence.

"Cornelius Fudge," Eileen answers, at length.

"Yes. Cornelius Fudge. Who is the Minister of Magic. And the current head of the DMLE is...?"

Cindy mumbles something about the schoolbooks.

"I'd say that the war treated Crouch pretty well," Elkins says softly. "Wouldn't you?

"But it ended. Voldemort fell, the war ended, and once that happened, Crouch started to lose his influence. We see it happening, right there in the Pensieve. We see the public turn against him at Bagman's trial. We see them shake their fists at him, and cheer on the defendent. We see his signs of exhaustion, his evident signs of aging. All of that happened before the arrest of the Pensieve Four. Sirius' account of the timeline is the account of history, but we all know that history tends to telescope events. Events get telescoped in retrospect. The Pensieve scenes show us how those events actually played out at the time, and what they show is that Crouch's career was already in trouble. It was in trouble even before the assault on the Longbottoms took place."

"Because the war had ended," murmers Eileen.

"Because the war had ended. And also because...well, JOdel touched on something rather significant, I thought, when she wrote:

Heaven only knows what Crouch's plans are for a peacetime government, but it seems fairly safe to say that no former DE likes the idea.

"I should say that they wouldn't!" exclaims Eileen.

"Well, I don't think that anyone liked the idea very much, frankly," says Elkins. "I think that the Pensieve scenes show us that even perfectly law-abiding citizens were already beginning to have some serious qualms about Crouch even by the time of Bagman's trial. People always talk about Bagman's trial as if it is just an illustration of the jury's bias in favor of a popular celebrity, you know, but I've always read it as a bit more than that myself."

"You also read it as an expression of public hostility towards Crouch?" asks Eileen.

"Something like that. Or at the very least, as a good hard yank on his choke chain. I'm sure that the jury idolized Bagman, but I also think that it was sending a message to Crouch. I don't believe that Crouch was planning a coup, but I think that his political ambitions did rather incline him in that direction, and the people in that courtroom knew it. I read their behavior at Bagman's trial as more than just an expression of celebrity worship. I also read it as a check. A jerk on the choke-chain. Maybe even as something akin to a warning."

"I've said myself that Bagman's case should never have come to trial," says Eileen slowly. "So you think the jury was warning Crouch that they weren't going to stand for any more shaky convictions?"

"Yes. I think they were conveying the message that the time for witch-hunts was over. As was the time for dictatorial unilateral powers. That they weren't going to put up with Crouch pulling those sorts of stunts anymore and that if he tried it, they weren't going to follow his lead. That instead, they would go out of their way to obstruct him."

"So you don't think that Crouch was really a popular politician at all then?" asks Cindy.

"No, I'm sure that he was immensely popular -- during the war. People love politicians like Crouch in times of war, because when people are frightened, they are willing to accept an unusually high degree of tyranny. In fact, if only they become frightened enough, then they actually embrace it. They want to submit themselves to a strong authoritarian figure. It makes them feel safe. Protected. You might even say," Elkins adds, with a small smile. "That they go all Barty Jr. in the Pensieve."

"Daddy, save me?" suggests Eileen.

"'Father, save me! Control me, dominate me, coerce me, break me, enslave me. Use your Unforgivable Curses on me. Do whatever you like with me, just don't let the scary dementors get me!'"

Elkins takes a deep breath.

"Crouch's relationship with his son," she states. "Reiterates on the personal level his political relationship with the wizarding world as a whole."

"Elkins!" objects Cindy. "Voldemort and his Death Eaters were a very real and serious threat to the wizarding world!"

"The Dementors were a very real and serious threat to young Crouch. They'd nearly killed him within the year."

"But—"

"It's a funny thing, though, you know," continues Elkins, "the way that dynamic tends to work. Once the immediate danger is past, then people do often start to feel rather differently about those they allowed to strip them of their liberties 'for their own good' while the threat was still active. They sometimes get a wee bit resentful about that. Especially if they come to suspect that their protector's motives were perhaps never really all that pure to begin with. We see that with Crouch Jr., I think. And I'd say that at Bagman's trial, we see it with the wizarding world as a body politic."

"Ungrateful little brats," mutters Eileen.

"Hating tyranny is not ingratitude, Eileen," snaps Elkins. "Hating tyranny is a moral imperative!"

Elkins' hobby horse starts violently. She clutches at its mane to keep her balance, then leans forward to whisper soothingly into its ear. After a few moments, the horse settles. Elkins straightens slowly.

"You know," she says, far more calmly now. "We've talked a bit in the past about the ways in which Crouch resembles Livius Junius Brutus, the one who sentenced his sons to death for treason. But I've always been rather partial to the other Brutus myself."

"The one who assassinated Julius Caesar?" asks Cindy.

"Yes. And...well, and actually, I think that Eileen knows precisely where this train of thought is leading me. In fact, I have a funny feeling that she's been trying to get me to follow her there for months now. Go on, Eileen. You sat an exam on the Julio-Claudians a while back, didn't you?"

Eileen nods, smiling slightly. "Brutus," she tells Cindy. "Was rumoured to be Julius Caesar's own son."

Elkins grins mirthlessly.

"Sic semper tyrannis," she spits.

Eileen eyes Elkins' hobby horse's wild eyes and bared teeth with due caution.

"Now, why am I beginning to suspect, Elkins," she says. "That you and that horse of yours came here today not to praise Crouch, but to bury him?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Eileen," Elkins replies lazily. "Why on earth would I want to do a silly thing like that? We both know how dangerous buried things can be. Don't we?"

Cindy shakes her head. "There are times when people need to submit themselves to a bit of tyranny."

"There are," agrees Elkins. "And then there are other times when they had really better not. Not if they know what's best for them. 'Harry, obedience is a virtue I need to teach you before you die.' Voldemort presents as a father figure in the graveyard, doesn't he? There's a reason that it pleased people to believe that Brutus must have been Caesar's natural son, you know. Tyrannicide and patricide are very closely conceptually linked. It seems to me that the parricide motif cuts both ways in GoF. Sometimes a little bit of parricide is a necessary thing."

"In moderation," cautions Eileen.

"In moderation. In principle. I think that the parricide motif of GoF is actually quite a bit like the immortality motif of the series as a whole. So long as it remains in the realms of the spiritual, or of the symbolic, or of the thematic, or of the abstract, then it's a good thing. It's only when you try to literalize it, to make it manifest in the physical world, that it becomes unremittingly negative."

"So you're, uh, saying that you should never try to literalize your metaphors then?" asks Cindy, glancing uneasily about the Bay.

"Not if you're in the Potterverse, no. Which we, fortunately enough, are not. But the question of tyranny and obedience in the books really brings us right back to that old question of rule-breaking in the series, doesn't it? In the HP books, the virtue of obedience is largely dependent upon the intentions of those giving the orders. Were Crouch's motives pure?"

"Yes," answers Eileen instantly.

Elkins closes her eyes.

"That was a rhetorical question, Eileen," she says. "Obviously I don't think that Crouch's motives were pure. And that's my real problem with Crouch as Tragic Hero, you know. I'm not seeing any purity of motive there."

"Why does that matter?" asks Cindy.

Eileen sighs. "Because of Nobility of Stature," she explains. "Tragic heroes possess nobility of stature, and properly that ought to apply to virtue as well as to social standing. It's the very first question on the Tragic Hero Quiz."

"And there's good reason for that," says Elkins. "It's really the question on which all the others devolve, because if you don't have nobility of stature, then it doesn't matter how many of the other criteria get filled. It still won't give you a tragic hero. So it's actually a very important question: do Crouch's choices reveal nobility of stature? Does he display any true nobility or purity of motive at all? Do you remember back in April, Eileen, when Talon DG suggested that when examining Crouch's character, we would be much better off looking at motivation than at action? He suggested that our interpretation of Crouch's character largely devolves on how we evaluate his motives in regard to his son's trial."

Eileen nods. "I remember that. It was message #37574. He made a Gulf War parallel, which I'd really better not reproduce here..."

"No, best not," Elkins agrees quickly. "Not a good time for it."

"...and then he wrote: 'some motives are more noble than others.'"

"Yes. And that's true. Some motives really are more noble than others. And if your means are bad, then your intentions had better be pretty darned pure. So what can we deduce about Crouch's motives, in light of what we have deduced about his political situation in the wake of Voldemort's fall? What was Point Five of your CRAB CUSTARD manifesto again?"

"Point Five?"

"Yes."

Eileen pulls out her own yellowed copy of message #37476 and reads aloud:

5. If Crouch had survived GoF, he would very likely have finally been made Minister of Magic. With Voldemort back, he would not have stayed silent, and people would have rallied behind him.

"Yes," says Elkins. "You know, I think you're absolutely right about that? And I think that Crouch himself knew it, too. Remember when Sirius claimed that he had developed a mania for catching one last Dark Wizard? Because if only he could do that, then it might restore his lost popularity?"

"This is turning into a 'Crouch sacrificed his son to his career ambition' argument, isn't it?" says Eileen gloomily. "Elkins, you know that's just a red herring in the plot!"

"I know that you think it is. That was Point Four of the CRAB CUSTARD manifesto, wasn't it?

4. Crouch did not sacrifice his son to his career ambition. This seems to be a red herring in the plot.

"But I am not so sure," says Elkins quietly. "I see plenty of indications in the text that Crouch was indeed in the habit of sacrificing people to his political ambitions, and that the Pensieve Four, guilty though they may have been, were indeed among the people so sacrificed, just like Sirius Black was. That his son happened to be among their number certainly did complicate things for him on the personal level -- and it also complicates things for us on the thematic level. But I think that we fall into error if we ignore what the Pensieve sequences are trying to show us about Crouch's political situation in the years following Voldemort's fall."

"Your Crouch's Graying Hair Timeline," says Cindy flatly.

"Yes, among other things. The Devil's in the details, Cindy. Important things happen at places where three roads meet. The Pensieve sequences suggest that Crouch was a war-time leader, one whose popularity was largely dependent upon the fear and paranoia of a war-time mentality. Absent that mentality, his grasp on the affection of the public begins to slip. Really, after Rookwood, he doesn't seem to have had much left in the way of big game, does he? He's been reduced to trying to prosecute hapless morons like Ludo Bagman, who are guilty of things like passing on information to old family friends. It's just sad, really. Not at all advantageous to Crouch. Not at all good for his career. Politicians like Crouch can only maintain their power for as long as they have an Enemy. Preferably one with a Capital E.

"I think that the assault on the Longbottoms must have seemed like a golden opportunity for Crouch," says Elkins. "His department was under pressure to make an arrest. People were outraged. They were out for blood. The event put them right back into a war-time mentality. We see that at the sentencing, that angry hissing mob. If Ludo Bagman's trial had taken place in that atmosphere, do you really think that the jury would have dared thwart Crouch's recommendation? Sports celebrity or no, even if all he'd been doing was innocently passing along a few papers, I think that they would have been right behind Crouch in putting him away. The text even invites the reader to come to that conclusion by pointing out that the crowd applauds Crouch's sentence upon the Longbottom defendents just as it had applauded Bagman's acquittal in the previous scene. The Longbottom case put the public right back under Crouch's thumb, didn't it? It made them want him back. And he was right there for them when they did. Just look at the performance he gave them at his son's sentencing!"

"Performance?" repeats Cindy incredulously. "You mean that eye bulging, spitting, ranting apoplectic fit that destroyed the poor man's career? He was furious, Elkins! Beside himself. He lost his temper. You're calling that a performance?"

"Are you saying that was all an act?" asks Eileen doubtfully.

"All an act?" Elkins shakes her head. "No. Not all. But—"

"I think that Elkins just wants everyone in the Pensieve to have been putting on an act," Cindy snickers. "The Crouch family pageant."

"Well, I do think that they were all putting on an act, to some extent," admits Elkins. "It was a bit of a Crouch family pageant, I'd say. Or maybe more like a Crouch family psychodrama. Charis said something quite like that once, when she wrote:

What the whole scene reminds me of more than anything else is a really bad family row blown way out of proportion and set up for public display.

"And I absolutely agree with her. But I don't think that it was all an act, not on any of their parts. I'm sure that Mrs. Crouch was genuinely distraught. I'm sure that Crouch Jr. was genuinely terrified. And I'm sure that Crouch Sr. was genuinely furious with his son, as well as genuinely conflicted, and probably also feeling rather angry with the crowd for putting him in such an awful situation. I also agree with Charis that he was 'acting to himself' to a certain extent: psyching himself up, steeling his nerve, trying to divorce his feelings from what he felt that he had to be doing..."

"That 'You Are Not My Son...'" Eileen begins.

"Sure. Absolutely. But he was playing to his audience as well. He wasn't just 'acting to himself.' Crouch was playing the crowd."

"You're just saying that because you don't like him," says Cindy.

"No, I'm not," snaps Elkins irritably. "Look. That particular expression of rage, with all of the bellowing, and the eye bulging, and...well, doesn't that entire routine strike the reader as awfully familiar? Hadn't we seen all that somewhere before? Somewhere else, long before the Pensieve chapter came along?"

Eileen nods. She flips through her copy of GoF, finds the page, and begins to read:

'And I trust you remember the many proofs I have given, over a long career, that I despise and detest the Dark Arts and those who practice them?' Mr. Crouch shouted, his eyes bulging again.

"Yes. It's interesting, that, isn't it? You know, Eric Oppen once suggested that Crouch's plan to rescue his son from prison was already forming in his mind even at the time of the trial."

"Eric Oppen is a mad subversive!"

"True, but there's usually more than a touch of method to his madness, very much like there's more than a touch of method to the Crouch family's acting skills. I don't myself believe that Crouch had already planned to spring his son from Azkaban by the time of the trial, but I can certainly see how Eric might have come by that notion. The connection between that Pensieve scene and Crouch's scene with Winky at the QWC is indeed very suggestive."

"His behavior throughout that scene is similar to his behavior at his son's sentencing," agrees Eileen. "It repeats quite a number of descriptive phrases. It's a parallel scene."

"Yes. I'd say that it's quite clearly written as a parallel scene. So what do we make of that? Mr. Crouch is really not being altogether honest there at the QWC, is he? He's being quite devious, actually. And rather blackly ironic, too, with that 'despise and detest the Dark Arts and those who practice them' speech. After all, he's scrambling all over himself to deflect attention from his Death Eater son. The one he knows perfectly well is an unrepentent fanatical devotee of Voldemort. The one he has been harboring in his own home for the past ten years. The one who has just shot the Dark Mark into the sky. The one who is lying invisible and unconscious only a few feet away, while Crouch himself does everything in his power to cover for him. You said yourself that the scene at the QWC showcases Crouch's manipulative talents, Eileen."

"I did say that," admits Eileen. "But—"

"Just look at all of the other parallels as well. Crouch looks down at Winky with 'no pity in his gaze,' exactly as he will look at his son in the dock 'with pure hatred in his face.' In 'Padfoot Returns,' the text will beg us to compare the two situations, by having Sirius Black comment that Crouch Jr. could have been in the wrong place at the wrong time 'just like the house-elf.'"

"Well, they're both scenes of denunciation, aren't they?" Cindy points out. "In both cases, Crouch is renouncing a member of his household who has disobeyed him."

"Yes, but given that the two scenes are so obviously and blatantly parallel, doesn't that almost beg us to take a closer look at what is really happening in each of them? In both cases, Crouch is not just renouncing a disobedient member of his household. He is very specifically doing so for the benefit of an audience. And in a situation in which it is very much to his own personal advantage to put on a good show of hard-line severity to protect himself: his reputation, his position, his standing, his freedom, his fugitive son. At the QWC, he's ostensibly renouncing Winky because she disobeyed him but in actuality, his motives are quite a bit more complicated than that, aren't they? We know that his motives aren't nearly as simple as they first appear, because the author later provides us with the details which enable us to recognize the extent to which Crouch was manipulating that entire situation for his own personal advantage. The extent to which he was playing the crowd. The extent to which he was acting. You yourself cited this scene as proof that 'Barty Jr. inherited his talent for acting from his father,' Eileen."

"I know," sighs Eileen. "I know that I did."

"The author provides us with the information which enables us to recognize in retrospect the extent to which Crouch's act at the QWC was just that: an act. A strategy of misdirection. And also," adds Elkins meaningfully. "The extent to which it was a sacrifice."

Eileen opens her mouth.

"As well as an attempted exorcism," Elkins adds quickly, looking at her. "I'll be getting to that in part six, Eileen, okay? Just bear with me here."

Eileen closes her mouth and sighs.

"So why does Crouch preside over a kangaroo court in the case of the Longbottoms' assailants?" asks Elkins. "Why does he allow violation of due process, conviction in the face of no evidence? Why does he behave precisely as he does at the trial? Just because he's furious with his son? Just because he can't brook disobedience from members of his household? Because he's outraged? Because he is convinced of the defendents' guilt? Because he hates dark wizardry?"

She shakes her head firmly. "No," she says. "I don't think so. That's the superficial reading, but by drawing such a strong parallel between Crouch Jr's sentencing and Winky's denunciation at the QWC, I think that the text urges us to consider Crouch's more Slytherinesque and self-interested motives as well.

"I can't agree that 'Crouch sacrificed his son to his career ambition' is a red herring," continues Elkins. "That's a gross over- simplification of a rather thematically-complex plotline, to be sure. It's hardly the whole story. But I can't see it as precisely a red herring because in fact, Crouch did have very strong political reasons to behave exactly as he did in regard to the Longbottom Affair, and the text itself encourages us to consider them: by showing us the trajectory of his post-war career in the Pensieve scenes, by drawing such a strong parallel between the scene at the sentencing and the scene at the QWC, and by giving us Sirius' comment about Crouch's 'mania' for catching just one last Dark Wizard -- to restore his lost popularity.

"That witch-hunt atmosphere we see at the trial of the Pensieve Four was exactly what Crouch needed. It was what he thrived on. His political power depended on it. The Longbottom Incident was Crouch's one great chance to regain what he had lost when Voldemort fell. And he seized it. He exploited the opportunity. At his son's sentencing, we see him encouraging that atmosphere. He's really not doing a thing to combat the mob mentality in that courtroom, is he? On the contrary, he is actively fostering it, with all of his 'crime so heinous we've never seen the like,' and his 'resume the lives of violence you had led' talk. Really, he's spurring the crowd on, isn't he? He's whipping them up. He is pandering, pandering to all of their very worst instincts, and he is doing it deliberately, because that sort of mass hysteria was the source of Crouch's personal power. That atmosphere of hatred and anger and paranoia is precisely what the likes of Crouch batten upon. That witch hunt atmosphere was exactly what he needed."

Elkins pauses for breath.

"But he overstepped," she concludes, with a kind of grim relish. "He overstepped, he miscalculated, he misjudged. And because his own son was involved, it all backfired on him. Evil oft will evil mar. Hoist by his own petard. Sic. Semper. Tyrannis."

Elkins' pale hobby horse lays back its ears and whickers unpleasantly. Eileen glances at its bared teeth and narrowed eyes, and then up at Elkins, who bears very much the same expression. She takes a few wary steps backwards.

"And Brutus was an honorable man," she says cautiously. "But so was Bartemius Crouch. You said so yourself, you know, Elkins. You did."

"Did I? Did I say that? Did I really?" Elkins thinks for a moment, then sighs. "Yes," she admits. "I suppose that I did say that once, didn't I. Well, you know, Eileen, your Crouch Sr. Apologetics are really very persuasive. Dangerously so, at times, with all of those Tough and Steely Livian parallels that I find so hard to resist, and all of that lovely meta-thinking that you do so well. They're positively fiendish, they really are. Imperius-like, in fact. And I am vulnerable to Imperius, you know. I'm even worse than the Weasleys that way."

"I sense a 'but' coming here," murmers Cindy.

"Oh," Eileen whispers back, "you sense one of those coming too?"

"But. There's one thing that they always seem to overlook. One absolutely vital aspect of Crouch's character that they never seem to touch upon, or even to acknowledge somehow. And it's a very curious omission, too, because it's a thing that strikes me as quite possibly Crouch Sr's most notable characteristic. I also feel that it is absolutely vital to the question of whether or not we can read him as a tragic hero."

"Oh?" asks Eileen. "What's that?"

Elkins smiles at her gently, almost pityingly.

"Why," she says. "That he was the most appalling hypocrite, of course."

*************

Elkins

(continued in part three)

**************************************************

REFERENCES:

Oedipus committed his act of parridice at a "trivium," a place where three roads meet.

The CRAB CUSTARD Manifesto: message #37476

Crouch as Tragic Hero: message #45402

Also referenced or cited: #37574, #37769, #37781, #43010 and many of its downthread responses, #43447, #44636, #45662, #45693.

One line of Eileen's dialogue swiped shamelessly from off-list correspondence.

JOdel's message #45662 outlines her pet "the Pensieve Four conspired to bring down Crouch" speculation. Although this theory is obviously incompatible with my own interpretation of the timeline of events, I am nonetheless exceptionally fond of it.

On How Dangerous Buried Things Can Be: for a discussion of the motif of burial (as well as parricide!) in GoF, see also message #38398.

 

RE: TBAY: Crouch -- The H Word (3 of 9)

(continued from part two)


Three
The H Word

"How DARE you!" shrieks Eileen, so loudly that Elkins' hobby horse starts and shies away, and even Cindy jumps. "How DARE you call my Barty a hypocrite?"

"Oh, come on, Eileen!" Elkins struggles to calm her horse. "You know perfectly well that he was a hypocrite. You must do, surely. I mean, everybody knows that about Crouch. It's right there on his resume and everything. 'Hypocrite.' Just one bullet point below 'Red Herring.'"

"He is not a hypocrite!" Eileen turns to Cindy. "Cindy!" she complains. "Cindy, Elkins is using vituperative language again!"

"Vituperative language?" Elkins sighs. "Oh, dear. Okay. Look. Would you prefer for me to call him 'integrity challenged?' I mean, would that help at all? Because if you like it better that way, I could—"

"CINDY!" screams Eileen.

Cindy shakes her head regretfully. "Gee, I don't know, Eileen," she says. "I don't really think that you can object to 'hypocrite' when applied to Crouch Sr. That's a bit like Pettigrew and 'coward,' isn't it? Or like Voldemort and 'Evil Overlord?' Or like Draco and 'racist?' They may be vituperative, and there may be a few brave and enlightened souls out there who leap forward to contest them, but they're hardly novel, or weird or wacky, or, uh, subversive, or anything like that. So I really do think that you're just going to have to live with it this time."

"Sorry, Eileen," Elkins says, not actually sounding in the least bit contrite. "But you didn't really think that we were going to be able to have this conversation without the H Word ever once coming up, did you? I mean, did you really think that everyone was just going to sort of tacitly agree not to mention it? Sweep it under the rug, perhaps? Like the Wizarding World does everything having to do with Voldemort?"

"Well, I—"

"Look, even Charis knows that Crouch Sr. was a hypocrite. She wrote:

Barty Crouch Sr was acting every day of his life. He was the kind of actor people can only be in everyday life: an expert of disguising his true emotions and masquerading around as something he's really not. His last decade is of course a prime example of this, though I'd say he got into the habit long before that.

"And unlike me, Charis really really liked Crouch Sr. Yet even she realizes that the man had a pretty serious, um, H Word problem."

"But—"

"I mean, Tough and Steely Livian Crouch? Crouch the Ruthless Opponent of Dark Wizardry? Crouch Who Protects the Wizarding World Even At Great Personal Cost? Crouch Who Does Not Let Any of the Four Loves Dictate His Actions? Crouch Who Despises And Detests The Dark Arts And Those Who Practice Them? That's just his persona, isn't it? It's his facade, his masquerade, his public face. But it's not really him. And as for Crouch as Brutus...well!"

Elkins chuckles. "Crouch as Brutus," she repeats reprovingly. "Really, Eileen! I mean, really, now. Really. Honestly. Crouch? Crouch, of all people, as Brutus?"

Eileen flushes to the tips of her horned helmet.

"That was his wife's fault," she mumbles.

"Brutus had a wife. She's in that painting that you linked to in your Crouch as Tragic Hero Post. The Jacques-Louis David painting, The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons. She's featured in it."

"Is she?" asks Cindy, with some interest.

"Yes. She's there on the right hand side of the canvas, the brightest part, where the viewer's eye will naturally travel first. She's with her two daughters. Weeping. Swooning. Because you see, unlike Crouch, her husband really did have her sons put to death."

"Okay, now I'm getting confused," says Cindy. "Which Brutus are we talking about here? Is this the man who assassinated Julius Caesar?"

"No," Eileen sighs. "No, Elkins is talking about the other Brutus now. The ancestor of Julius Caesar's assassin. The Brutus who put his sons to death for treason. Brutus Sr., if you will."

"Yes, Brutus Sr. Brutus the filicide," spits Elkins. "Not Brutus Jr., the alleged parricide. Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic. He drove the wicked Tarquin kings out of Rome and ended the monarchy. And he was quite the hero for it, too. But then, just when everyone was starting to feel safe, something rather unfortunate happened..." Elkins smiles grimly. "Brutus' own two sons were caught with a group of conspirators who'd managed to hide their monarchist allegiance and avoid getting purged the first time around. Apparently they were trying to find the exiled kings and restore them to power."

"Ah." Cindy nods. "Okay. I think that I'm really beginning to see what you mean about those parallels now."

"Yeah. If you know the story, then they're quite striking. I've always assumed that JKR was quite consciously and deliberately echoing the story of Brutus with her Crouch subplot. We know that she's fond of legend and myth and history, and the parallels are just far too blatant to be accidental."

"I think so too," agrees Eileen. "I said so back in April. I wrote:

The condemnation of Crouch Jr. seems to me to be a conscious analogue of the famous old story about Brutus (not the one who stabbed Caesar, but an ancestor) condemning his sons to death for their treachery.

Elkins nods. "Brutus' two sons were caught conspiring to restore the kings to power. Their father sentenced them to death for treason, thus demonstrating to all of Rome that even members of his family were not exempt from justice. He presided over their executions in person."

"Livy says that Brutus looked right into his sons' eyes while the lictors cut off their heads," Eileen adds happily, tossing her bloody featherboas over one shoulder. "And he didn't even flinch."

"Lovely," mutters Cindy.

"Brutus was Tough and Steely."

"Indeed he was," Elkins agrees drily. "If also perhaps a tad psychotic by contemporary standards. He was not, however, very much at all like our Mr. Crouch. For one thing, he actually followed through, which Crouch rather spectacularly did not. Brutus saw it done. He really did put his sons to death. What he did not do," she says. "Was to sentence his sons to death while the eyes of the public were on him, only then to turn around and smuggle them out from under the axes of the lictors to lock them away in his wine cellar one year later, when nobody was watching him." Elkins shakes her head. "Crouch as Brutus," she repeats. "Honestly, Eileen!"

"I did say that I thought that Brutus was the model for Crouch only to an extent," Eileen points out. "It's tragic irony."

"Oh, it's irony, all right. But irony to what purpose? Crouch is doing a Brutus there in the Pensieve scene. There's no question about that to my mind. No one familiar with the story could possibly not be reminded of it while reading that chapter. But that just serves to subvert Livian Crouch, doesn't it? Because later on, we realize that Crouch was just playing Brutus there. He was play-acting Brutus. He was 'doing a Brutus.' He's not a Brutus, but he plays one in the Pensieve. It's all an act. A sham. A show. Crouch was Brutus like his son was Moody."

"But—" begins Eileen.

"And there's another way in which Crouch was not like Brutus too, you know," says Elkins. "Livy wrote that the public tried to prevail on Brutus to pardon his sons. At the trial, the proconsuls were begging him to spare them. The people were clamoring for him to let them off the hook. The attendants at the execution couldn't even stand to watch them being decapitated; they wept, they turned away. Not very much like that jeering savage mob at Crouch's son's trial, that's for sure. A whole lot more like Ludo Bagman's jury, actually. Except that Brutus took a strong stand against the popular opinion. Where do we ever see Crouch doing that?"

"Well..."

"JKR's nod to the story of Brutus is certainly ironic," concludes Elkins. "But the purpose of that irony, as I see it, is to underscore the extent to which Crouch isn't really Tough and Steely Livian Crouch at all. Tough and Steely Livian Crouch is all an act. It's a red herring. It's both the author's misdirection and Crouch's own. And at the end, when it is revealed to the reader as such, that only serves to reinforce and to strengthen our appreciation of Crouch's true nature. Of the profound depths of his moral hypocrisy. In fact," she adds thoughtfully. "JKR plays much the same game with Livian Crouch as she does with Ends-Over-Means Crouch, doesn't she?"

"You don't see Crouch as representing ends over means?" Cindy asks, frowning.

"No, I do see him as representing ends over means. But I think that the text is really very underhanded in its approach there. In fact..." Elkins glances around the Bay nervously. She lowers her voice. "In fact," she whispers. "I think that JKR cheats."

"Cheats?"

"Yes. First she uses Crouch to encourage the reader to consider the value of prioritizing the ends over the means. But then she stacks the deck against that position by revealing her proponent of ends-over-means to be, in the end, a self-interested hypocrite. She subverts the moral equation by exposing Crouch as a fraud: his ends are in truth no better than his means, and by the end of the story, he's been positively mired in moral failing. And that is cheating, if you ask me. It pulls the rug out from under the entire moral dilemma. It's really terribly unfair. In fact, if I were Salazar Slytherin, I think that I'd be all set to sue J.K. Rowling! For defamation of character!"

Cindy considers the matter for a few minutes.

"You'd lose," she advises gravely.

"Would I?" Elkins shrugs. "Oh, well. What can you do? We all know what House the author would have been sorted into, don't we? Talk about ends and means! Authors are just awful that way. Those cunning folk use any means to achieve their rhetorical ends."

"Look who's writing," snaps Eileen. "You and your Crouch's Graying Hair Timeline! You and your H Word!"

"Well, I couldn't not bring up the H Word here, Eileen," says Elkins apologetically. "I really couldn't. Because the H Word is essential to how I perceive Crouch's narrative function, as well as to how I view his motives. It's the reason that I can't accept a reading of Crouch as a tragic hero. He just doesn't have any nobility of stature. Let's go back to what Talon DG said in April, shall we? About Crouch's motivations?"

********************************

On April 8, in message #37574, Talon DG wrote:

Where I think you might get discussion over Crouch's character would be over motivation, not action.

He then went on to describe the two major branches of interpretation of Crouch's motives in regard to the trial of the Longbottoms' assailants:

If he wanted to send a message to the Death Eaters ("Nobody is exempt from justice, not even my son") well then, good on him. He's setting the example at great personal cost.

But if he just wants to look "tough on crime" for political ends, and is sitting on the tribunal because it makes him look really, really really tough... well... that is more than a little on the callous side, isn't it? Not the sort of guy you want in charge, is it?

In short, is Crouch self-sacrificing or self-serving? Is he a hard-liner, or is he a hypocrite?

I think that he's a little bit of both, myself.

But mainly the latter.

I also think that this is precisely what makes analysis of his character so very complicated.

It is difficult to force Crouch into the rather confining mold of "archetypical tragic hero with a single identifiable hamartia," IMO, because he serves a number of different functions in the text, all of them on slightly different levels.

On the ethical level, he invites the reader to contemplate the moral conundrum of ends versus means. On the moral level, he stands in as an exemplar of hypocrisy. On the political level, he serves as a double to Cornelius Fudge: as Fudge exploits the peace-time mentality for his own personal gain, seeks to perpetuate that mentality when it is inappropriate for him to do so, and falls into the twin political errors of appeasement and denial, so Crouch exploited the war-time mentality for his own personal gain, sought to perpetuate that mentality when it was inappropriate for him to do so, and fell into the twin political errors of tyranny and reactionism. On the thematic and symbolic level, I read Crouch as the Devouring or Tyrannical Father: he stands for the denial of individuation and the negation of freedom of choice. And on the psychological level, he seems to me to represent solipsism, or perhaps narcissism: the inability to recognize the existence of other people as independent from oneself and ones own desires.

Unsurprisingly, this proliferation of roles leads to confusion, as people desperately try to determine precisely where Crouch went wrong. Did his error lie in sending his son to Azkaban in the first place, or did it lie in rescuing him? Was his dismissal of Winky indicative of hubris, or of a far more Machiavellian brand of ruthlessness? Is he too soft or too hard? Is he driven by his passions, or is he a scheming manipulator?

Did the blood in the unfortunate Mr. Crouch's veins run too hot or too cold?

The situation is further confused, IMO, by the fact that some of Crouch's dramatic functions are filled more by his persona than by his person. Crouch is a hypocrite who presents one face to the public, a different face in his private affairs. For most of the novel, the reader is only aware of Crouch's public face; his true hypocrisy is only revealed at the end of the book. This means that he can easily fulfill two entirely contradictory sets of narrative functions simultaneously. His role as the representative of ends over means, for example, belongs properly more to his public persona than it does to his private person; that it stands in opposition to his role as an exemplar of hypocrisy does not really matter in terms of his narrative function. That function is still fulfilled, even if in retrospect we can determine that Crouch's role as its representative was actually a red herring in terms of the plot.

-----------

Eileen's analyses of Crouch have generally taken his ethical and political roles as their starting point. Crouch, she says, is a fanatical opponent of Dark Wizardry. He is motivated not so much by personal ambition as by the desire to protect the wizarding world from Voldemort and his followers. She writes:

Nobility in tragedy also refers to virtue, however, and Crouch has that as well going for him. Tragic heroes do terrible things and Crouch does terrible things, but they have a lot of things going for them as well. Crouch is on the good side. He fights against Voldemort and protects people against him. He does this at great risk to himself.

Crouch's flaw, she says, derives from his ruthless privileging of the ends over the means.

No, the key to Crouch's character (and I'm sure Sirius would ultimately agree) can be found in PS/SS.

"Those cunning folk use any means // To achieve their ends."

Before GoF, that ethic is limited to the bad guys. GoF's moral complexity stems from the fact that Crouch Sr. is introduced to employ that ethic on the good side.

Eileen sees Crouch's _hamartia_ in his willingness to resort to extreme measures in order to achieve his goal of protection, and in his corresponding willingness to overlook the rights of the individual and to refuse to allow either love or charity to influence his actions. She likens him to Brutus, who condemned his sons to death for treason, thus proving that his devotion to the communal ethics of law and state outweighed his devotion to the far more personal ones of filial devotion and blood ties. Where Eileen sees Crouch as falling into error is in his failing to place the appropriate checks on the actions that he is willing to take to further his admirable goals, thereby riding roughshod over the rights of others.

She writes:

I see here the tragic flaw asserting itself. The belief that people should do as he disposed him, that he did not have the responsibility to treat them as people first and foremost. . . .Barty Crouch Sr. did not let love (any of the four loves) dictate his relationships with others. He used people and therein lies his downfall.

I agree that this is Crouch's great flaw. It is a failing that applies across the board, both to his public and his private personae; indeed, it may well be the one thing that unifies every one of his narrative roles. It also characterizes every last one of his "fatal errors," the poor choices he makes which lead to his destruction. If I were to try to identify Crouch's hamartia, I would have to cite his unwillingness or inability to recognize the existence of other people as independent entities, and his corresponding disregard for their volition and their autonomy.

Where I disagree, however, is in seeing precisely the same connection that Eileen has suggested between Crouch's passion for denying others their freedoms and his prioritization of ends over means.

Traditionally, as I see it, the sin of ends-over-means thinking involves the sacrifice of individual rights for the common weal, or for some other widely recognized "Greater Good." If we accept that this is indeed the cause of Crouch's hamartia, then we must propose that his motives—his ends—are the protection of the wizarding world from Dark Wizardry. In his desire to protect the WW, he goes overboard and neglects to maintain the checks to his behavior that we consider necessary to moral integrity.

Now, if this were really the case, then I would expect to see a certain pattern to Crouch's fatal errors. Ideally, the text should show us Crouch erring out of his desire to protect the WW from harm. There should be some consistency to the specific ends for which he is shown as willing to use his unacceptable (Unforgivable?) means.

But in fact, the text doesn't show us this at all. Crouch's acts of disregard for others are not taken to achieve noble or self-sacrificing ends at all, nor do they very often bring "great risk" to him in any way that he could reasonably have anticipated. On the contrary, they always seem to me to be taken to protect Crouch himself, or to bring him some other form of personal advantage, satisfaction or benefit.

--------------

Eileen listed what she sees as Crouch's fatal errors:

Crouch Sr. chooses his downfall at several points throughout the story. First and perhaps most seriously, he chooses to authorize the Unforgivable Curses on suspects. Then, there is his "I Have No Son!" which leads thematically to his rejection and destruction at the hands of his son. He then chooses to flout the law by rescuing his son from Azkaban and putting him under the Imperius curse. At last, he dismisses Winky, the only protection he would have had against Voldemort.

I think that this is an excellent list. To it, I would also add:

  • He casts a memory charm on Bertha Jorkins.

    This is a chicken which will come home to roost when Jorkins' damaged mental state leaves her vulnerable to abduction by Pettigrew. In effect, Crouch's disregard for others is what eventually leads Voldemort straight to his front door.


  • He encourages and panders to mob mentality at his son's trial by presiding over a kangaroo court, pushing for conviction in spite of there being no solid evidence against the defendents.

    This is really part and parcel of Crouch's overall political approach. It is linked both to his authorization of the Unforgivable Curses and to his denunciation of his son. I see it as leading thematically both to his son's poor choices and to Crouch's own eventual use as Voldemort's tool.


  • His treatment of his son post-Azkaban.

    His choices here are what forge his son into the blade that will eventually kill him.


---------------

I agree with Eileen that Crouch's fatal errors are all indicative of a profound disregard for the rights and volition of others.

What I don't see, though, is how they reflect the motives that Eileen has ascribed to him: the desire to protect the wizarding world, even at great personal cost. In fact, I am unconvinced that a single one of Crouch's actions are undertaken for any Greater Good at all. Rather, all of the evidence seems to me to suggest that Crouch is consistently driven by selfish motives: sometimes by the desire to protect himself and his own, sometimes by the desire to increase his own personal standing, sometimes by his desire to uphold his image -- but most often (and by far the most damningly) by his apparent need to control and to dominate those around him, to use coercion in his attempts to force others to serve as mirrors to his own ego.

********************************

"And that's my problem with Crouch as Tragic Hero," says Elkins, looking around. "I just don't see him as possessing the requisite nobility of stature. When you actually take a close look at his actions, and particularly at his fatal errors, there's always a disconnect between his public persona and his private person, between his ostensible motives and his real ones.

"Why does he play the role of Barty Crouch, Fanatical Hard-liner, whenever he is in the public eye? Why does he engage in human rights violations? Why does he encourage mass hysteria? Why does he rescue his son from Azkaban and then keep him a prisoner of the Imperius Curse for over ten years? Why does he try to erode his son's sense of self? Why does he obliviate Bertha Jorkins? Why does he dismiss Winky? In fact, none of these fatal errors has the slightest connection to any action undertaken for a greater good. They aren't the actions of someone dedicated to protecting and serving the wizarding world, even at great personal cost. Rather, they are the actions of someone dedicated to protecting and serving himself. Often at enormous cost to the wizarding world."

"Oh, I contest that assertion!" cries Eileen.

Elkins smiles wearily.

"Well...yes," she agrees. "I rather thought that you might. How else do you think that this post got so incredibly long? Don't worry. I'll defend it.

"But for now, let me just say that I think that the text does set up Crouch initially as a model of Livian rectitude, as well as a proponent of ends over means. But by the end of the novel, we've been led to the understanding that in fact, Crouch's ostensible motives were all show. He wasn't the ruthless opponent of Dark Wizardry that he pretended to be. That's the real red herring in the Crouch subplot, if you ask me: this notion that Crouch's means may have been bad, but his ends were good. Once you actually take a close look at his fatal errors, they're nearly all motivated by self-interest.

"Now, a character who consistently falls into error while acting in accordance with self-interest can certainly be sympathetic," says Elkins. "He can be likable. He can inspire pathos. He can even possess a kind of wild heroic grandeur, like some of Shakespeare's better villains do. But in order to fulfill the criteria of the archetypical tragic hero, I think that a character really needs to exhibit some degree of purity of motive, and I'm just not seeing that in Crouch Sr. I don't really know if I think that a character who is so clearly demarked as a hypocrite can serve as a tragic hero. Hypocrisy is not precisely a tragic flaw. So while I think that you can make a very strong case for Crouch as a sympathetic shades-of-grey redeemed-in-death villain, I just can't read him as a tragic hero, because to my mind, he doesn't make it over that very first hurdle: Nobility of Stature."

"But he fits the mold so well!" insists Eileen.

"Well, he may seem to," says Elkins. "At first glance. At first glance. But then, he seems to fit the Livian mold too, at first glance, doesn't he? He seems to be a Brutus. But in the end, that analogue just turns out to be irony. These patterns are placed in the text only in order to be undermined later on. They're authorial misdirection used for ironic effect. They're...well, actually, they're...they're..."

Elkins hesitates.

Eileen glares at her. "They're what?" she demands.

Elkins glances over to the CRAB CUSTARD table. She sighs.

"Red herring mousse," she says.

************************

Elkins

(continued in part four)

*********************************************

REFERENCES:

This post is continued from part two. It is primarily a response to message #45402 ("Crouch Sr as Tragic Hero"), but also references or quotes HPfGU message numbers 37476 ("The CRAB CUSTARD Manifesto"), 37574, 37769, 43447, and 45693.

Link to "The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons"

 

RE: TBAY: Crouch -- Midnight In the Golden Wood (4 of 9)

(continued from part three)

[Note: Even for a TBAY post, this one puts an unusually large number of words into Eileen's mouth for the purposes of facilitating the fictional debate. While I have at least tried to base my TBAY!Eileen's opinions in the, er, well, in the canon of her past posts, so to speak, I may well have ascribed to her here some arguments and beliefs which are not in fact really her own. If so, then I offer my most sincere and Averyesque apologies.]


Four
Midnight In the Golden Wood

An unexpected spate of winter sunlight has drawn a number of visitors to Theory Bay. Cindy has moved down the promenade to set up her own booth, where she has been doing a very brisk business in Rookwood thongs. Still no one has stopped by Eileen's table to try a bite of her CRAB CUSTARD, though, and Eileen is beginning to look decidedly put out. She pulls her Lucky Kari helmet off of her head and runs her fingers irritably through her hair.

"I really don't see how you can claim that none of Crouch Sr's actions were motivated by noble concerns, Elkins," she says, glaring at a passing couple strolling hand in hand down the promenade dressed in matching BABEMEISTER t-shirts. "That's just not fair. It's not even defensible! It's completely unjust!"

"Is it?" Elkins yanks at her reins in a futile attempt to keep her high pale hobby horse from nibbling at the bottommost edge of the CRAB CUSTARD banner. "Where do we ever see Crouch falling into error while acting out of concern for the protection of the wizarding world? Actually, he's usually putting the wizarding world at risk, isn't he? When he's not actually doing it outright harm. And he does so to serve himself."

"How can you say that?"

"Well, because it's true. Let's just take a look at his errors, shall we? Why did Crouch rescue his son from Azkaban?"

"Oh, now, come on!" protests Eileen. "Play fair, will you? I've already admitted that it wasn't very noble of Barty to rescue his son from prison. That was why I called it dramatic irony: it was an exception to the general rule. I said as much to Cindy. I told her:

I said that he never let love define his relationships. But I was wrong. Just this one time, he did. And look where that got him.

"So I've already acknowledged that he wasn't acting in the public interest there. And he wasn't acting in accordance with his usual Livian principles, either. He was acting out of love for his wife. But surely with a Bleeding Heart like yours, you can sympathize with that, can't you, Elkins?"

"Oh, that one was an exception to the rule, was it?" asks Elkins, pointedly ignoring the question. "I see. Well, all right then. How about the others? He kept his son prisoner in his own home under the Imperius Curse for ten years, even though he knew that his son was both unrepentant and dangerous. That was self-serving, and it put the entire wizarding world at risk. Why did he dismiss Winky? Well, we've a host of motives to choose from there, but every last one them is self-serving, and it was a decision that left him without the resources to continue to keep a close guard on his son. Hence, it put the entire wizrding world at risk. Then there's that nasty Obliviate charm he cast on Bertha Jorkins. An utterly self-serving action, and one that put the entire wizarding world at risk. And then—"

"But all of those errors arise organically out of his initial error of rescuing his son," objects Eileen. "Which I've already admitted hadn't anything to do with the common good."

"But those are the vast majority of his fatal errors, Eileen."

"Yes, but I'm not altogether certain that they're really his most serious ones. How about his political errors? His political errors were—"

"Motivated by self-interest," says Elkins flatly.

"Only if you insist on ascribing the worst possible motives to him! Only if you refuse to give him any benefit of the doubt! I think that Crouch's political errors were well-motivated. Even Sirius suggested as much, and Sirius really hated Barty!"

"Sirius suggested that Crouch might have been well-motivated," Elkins corrects her. "At first. Like maybe when he was still working in the mail room or something. But all right. Let's take a look at what we know about Crouch's political behavior."

Elkins takes a deep breath.

"During a time of war," she begins. "Crouch rose 'quickly' through the ranks of the Ministry until he had become the head of the DMLE. In that position, he then changed the rules to allow the Aurors, a body of enforcers who seem to have been answerable to him personally in his role as the head of the DMLE, to kill at their discretion and to use torture and mind control against the citizenry. He seized unilateral powers for himself, many of them functions which would seem ordinarily to be reserved for the Minister of Magic. These actions made him popular. He had 'supporters' who were 'clamoring for him to take over.'"

She takes another deep breath, and then continues:

"He pandered to mob mentality when it served his own political ends, as in the Longbottom case, yet he tried to counteract it when it did not, as in the Bagman case. He encouraged the public in just the kind of paranoiac and vindictive mass hysteria which also, by amazing coincidence, tends to cause people to favor leaders who happen to fit Crouch's exact political profile. He authorized 'very harsh measures' to be used against people Sirius defines as 'Voldemort's supporters...'"

Elkins pauses, frowning. "What the hell is a 'supporter,' anyway?" she demands. "We all know what a Death Eater is, but precisely what qualifies someone as a 'supporter?' Really, a 'supporter' can be just about anyone you want it to be, can't it?"

She shakes her head. "Gee, I don't know, Eileen," she says. "Now why don't I find myself believing that Crouch's motives were pure, or that he really did have the protection of the populace as his chief concern? I have no idea. I must just be a mean nasty old cynic, I guess."

"You've already conceded that he wasn't Stalin, Elkins," Eileen reminds her.

"Well, he wasn't Stalin. I'm not saying that he was Stalin. His measures never seem to have reached the level of dekulakization. Nor am I saying that he was totally power-mad. He didn't actually try to stage a coup. When his bid for power failed, he stepped down gracefully enough. But you don't have to be either a Stalin or an insurrectionist to be a seriously Evil wizard, do you? You don't have to be either a Stalin or an insurrectionist to be motivated by self-interest, or to be all too willing to harm the public that you're supposed to be serving in order to cement your own personal political control."

"But you're only assuming that he was self-interested!"

"Well, of course I'm assuming that he was self-interested! Why on earth shouldn't I? Honestly, now, Eileen, if all of the things listed above were just about all you knew about some real world politician, then would you assume that the protection of the populace was his driving motivation? That he was 'employing the ethic of ends over means for the forces of good?' That he was truly well-intended, if possibly a little misguided? That he was self-sacrificing, rather than self-serving? Really? Honestly? Because I have to say that I wouldn't. Not without some very compelling evidence pointing in that direction, at any rate. And I'm just not seeing that evidence anywhere when it comes to Mr. Crouch."

"But Elkins," says Eileen. "Crouch isn't a real world politician. He's a fictional politician in a fantasy novel. He exists in a world in which the blacks are a whole lot blacker, and the lines far more brightly drawn, than they are in our own. Just think of what he was up against!"

"'Desperate times call for desperate measures,' Eileen?" Elkins shakes her head. "But that's just what politicians always claim when they first start authorizing their enforcers to use torture and other such 'measures' against the populace, isn't it? They always say that they're doing it to stem the tide of a terrorist or an insurrectionist threat. That's just the Usual Wicked Rationalization. It's like 'the Devil made me do it!' or 'I was just obeying orders,' or 'But look at how she was dressed!' It's a total cliche. And it's also a myth: those sorts of measures are utterly ineffective against terrorist or insurrectionist threats. You don't really think that the politicians themselves believe that when they say it, do you? They don't. They know full well that those measures are ineffective. That's not why they're authorizing them. When politicians authorize things like torture, summary execution without formal charge, and detention without trial, it's never really about protecting the populace at all. That's not the real function of those things. Their function is to cement the political power of those who control their use."

"Maybe in reality," Eileen concedes. "But the Potterverse isn't reality. Do you remember what I said about the Death Eaters, back in September? I said:

You know what first strikes me about the whole set-up. The Death Eaters are every dictator's dream conspiracy. They're ordinary citizens who have infiltrated every branch of the government. They can strike anywhere at anyone. They remind me very much of the sort of conspiracies Stalin liked to pretend he was facing. Except for once, it's real. So, I really don't know who to compare Crouch to. That sort of thing doesn't really exist in real life.

"With the Death Eaters, Rowling asks us to believe in a situation that is in our world impossible. So it may not make all that much sense to try to read Crouch as a real world politician. He's not one. He was facing down a situation that one doesn't face in real life. Can you blame him if he went a little overboard?"

Elkins frowns. "Whatever happened to the Golden Wood?" she demands. "Whatever happened to 'Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves, and another among Men?'"

"That applies to real world ethics," Eileen explains patiently. "But not necessarily to real world motives, or even to real world efficiency. I've already conceded that Crouch made the wrong decisions. I did list his authorization of the UCs as the most serious of his fatal errors, didn't I? I'm just saying that you can't necessarily look to real world precedent to defend the notion that in the Potterverse, his measures might not actually have been effective, and that he couldn't therefore have sincerely believed that he was doing some good with them.

"After all," she continues. "This is a world in which magic is real. In which Phoenix tears can heal fatal wounds. In which the power of maternal sacrifice can deflect the killing curse. Things in the Potterverse are fabulous, mythic. Larger than life. So I think that we may not be expected to read too much realpolitik into Crouch's political actions. It's a moral dilemma—ends and means—drawn in broad strokes. To privilege the ends over the means to the extent that Crouch did is still morally wrong, even in the Golden Wood. But I think that we might want to consider the possibility that in the Golden Wood, at least, his means really could have genuinely facilitated those ends to which they were being applied. Barty Crouch Sr. certainly did go overboard, but I think that he had at least booked passage on the right ship."

"Well...okay," says Elkins. "But where's the canon?"

Eileen blinks at her. "What?"

"The canon. Where's the canon? I mean, if I'm understanding your reading correctly, then I can't help but feel that it is asking me to overlook an awful lot of things. First, it asks me to overlook the way that things work in real life. Generally speaking, I prefer not to throw out my real world expectations in favor of fantastical ones unless I see some evidence that it's appropriate, evidence like a pattern of genre convention, for example. But the pattern in the HP books tells me that I probably shouldn't be doing that when it comes to the Ministry and its attendent plotlines."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, much of the Potterverse is indeed fabulous, mythic. But it doesn't seem to me that the Ministry and its attendant plotlines are generally portrayed that way at all. As I read them, the Ministry plotlines are simplified, but they don't strike me as at all fabulous or politically naive. In fact, they're generally rather stunningly hard-nosed, which I suspect is one of the main reasons that the series' adult readers enjoy discussing them so much. Nothing else about the Ministry plotlines reflects political naivete on the part of the authorial voice, and that makes it really difficult for me to read Crouch's 'harsh measures' in quite as ingenuous or as allegorical a light as you suggest."

"Well..."

"And then it asks me to overlook Crouch's thematic associations."

"His thematic associations?"

"Yes. In GoF, Crouch isn't associated with motifs and subplots that deal with protection or with self-sacrifice. Rather, he seems to be associated with all of the motifs and subplots that focus thematically on issues of coercion, control, domination, and the negation of volition."

"That's meta-thinking," points out Eileen.

"Damn straight it is!" declares Elkins proudly. "And it's some right fine meta-thinking, too! Do you have a problem with meta-thinking, Eileen?"

"Me?" Eileen laughs. "Are you kidding?"

"Good. Just checking. So there are all of these thematic indications that I need to overlook as well. And then, there's also the fact that the text so firmly establishes Crouch as a hypocrite. When you look back on the story in retrospect, you see that his ostensible motives always turn out to be in some way deceptive. His ostensible motives aren't the same as his real ones. So it's hard not to draw from that the conclusion that his purported political motives, just like all of his other purported motives, were not actually what they on the surface appeared to be.

"So," Elkins concludes decisively. "I think that if we want to propose a reading that goes against all of these indications, we really need to find some evidence for it in the text. Evidence sufficiently weighty to override all of the things that are pushing against a reading of Crouch as genuinely motivated by the desire to protect the wizarding world and to serve the populace. So. Is there any?"

"Any..."

"Any evidence. Anything in the text to indicate that this time around, Crouch's purported motives and his actual ones actually did synch up? Any evidence that his political actions weren't just a case of The Usual Wicked Rationalization, but instead were sincerely well-intended means-to-achieve-ends decisions?"

There is a long silence.

"What does the text actually tell us about Crouch and his harsh measures?" Elkins prompts. "Is there any evidence that Crouch's measures were actually effective means to his purported end? That they actually worked? That they did the slightest bit of good against Voldemort and his Death Eaters?"

Eileen thinks this over.

"Well, what about Moody?" she asks. "He brought more Death Eaters to justice than any other Auror."

"Yes, and is also said to have avoided the use of the Unforgivable Curses," Elkins reminds her. "Now why would the text have gone to all the trouble to point that out, unless it wanted to lead the reader to the understanding that 'harsh' and 'effective' are not necessarily synonymous?"

There is another long silence.

"Dumbledore seems to have cared about Crouch," says Eileen. "He showed concern for him at the beginning of Book Four, after Harry's name came out of the Goblet, when poor Barty was looking so ill. His concern was only 'mild' and therefore not linked to some idea in his head that that this might be linked to Voldemort. He was worried about Crouch, the same way I feel he is worried abut Harry, Snape, and others."

"Yes, well." Elkins smiles. "Dumbledore. We can't all be Dumbledore, can we? Dumbledore seems to like Fudge well enough too, on the purely personal level. Even at the end of Book Four, when he's talking Tough to him, he still does so with a good deal of compassion. I'm sure that if Fudge were looking poorly, Dumbledore would exhibit similar concern. But we know that he doesn't approve of Fudge's political decisions. We also know that he considers Fudge to be self-interested. Blinded by the love of the office he holds, right? That Dumbledore can feel concern for Crouch as a human being doesn't mean that he ever believed Crouch's political decisions to be either effective or even necessarily all that well-intended.

"And besides," she adds, as an afterthought. "Dumbledore didn't trust Crouch."

"How do you know that?"

"He maintained his own network of spies during the war. He vouched for Snape to the tribunal only after the war had ended. So he obviously wasn't cutting Crouch into his plans during the conflict itself, which does seem to indicate that he didn't trust him very much. In fact, it's just what he seems to be planning on doing with Fudge now, isn't it? He doesn't seem to be planning on trying to get the man out of office, or anything like that. He's just going to try to work around him. Very much like he seems to have worked around Crouch during the war."

There is another long silence.

"Actually," Elkins says. "We don't have the slightest bit of evidence for the supposition that Crouch's measures ever served a single living soul other than Crouch himself, or even that he ever believed that they would. Do we."

"If it hadn't been for Crouch's measures..." Eileen begins.

"...we have no idea what would have happened. There's no evidence either way. Maybe Crouch's measures really did do some good. Or maybe they only served to exacerbate the conflict. Remember when Pip suggested that her Ever-So-Evil Death Eating Mrs. Crouch was likely the person to talk her husband into encouraging the use of the UCs in the first place? She said:

If you want your side to fight to the death...then encouraging the other side to kill/torture upon capture is a really good plan.

"Really, when you think about it, Crouch's measures could well have prolonged the conflict."

"Or they could have been the only thing staving Voldemort off for eleven years," says Eileen.

"Could be," admits Elkins. "The text doesn't tell us either way. But while we are not given the slightest indication in the text that Crouch's measures were at all useful or effective when it came to fighting dark wizardry, there is something for which we are told that they were effective. Something else. Something very important."

Elkins looks at Eileen.

"We are told," she says meaningfully. "That they made Crouch popular."

"Sirius says that! And he had a grudge against Crouch!"

"Yes, yes, Sirius had a grudge against Crouch. Who doesn't? Even I have a grudge against Crouch, and I haven't even had twelve years in Azkaban to dwell on his iniquities. But do you really doubt Sirius when he says that Crouch's harsh measures made him popular with a substantial portion of the populace? I see no reason to doubt him when he says that. 'Desperate measures' rhetoric usually does prove popular with a frightened populace, doesn't it?"

Eileen thinks about this, then slowly shakes her head.

"Oh, I don't know, Elkins," she says. "I think that Crouch's political errors really did originate from his desire to protect the world from Voldemort. He went overboard in privileging the ends over the means, but his ends were basically good. He just got carried away because—"

"Because he despised and detested the Dark Arts and those who practiced them." Elkins rolls her eyes. "Yes, yes. We know. Crouch tells us so himself, after all. At the QWC. In a public place. In front of many witnesses. When he is feeling personally threatened. And while he is busily engaged in doing everything within his power to deflect attention away from his mad, dangerous Death Eater son. His son, on whom he himself had been practicing Dark Arts for over a decade."

"Are you saying that Crouch didn't hate Dark Wizardry?"

"Well, I think that he very badly wanted to believe that he hated dark wizardry. Although for someone with such an apparent lack of scruple about the Unforgivable Curses to claim status as a despiser of Dark Arts is...well, let's just say that Crouch's self-professed hatred of the Dark Arts has always struck me as a classic case of protesting too much. I do think that Crouch wanted to believe that he hated Dark Wizardry. I think that he wanted that very badly. I'd say that he was absolutely desperate to believe that about himself. But I don't think that his primary motivations had anything to do with protecting the wizarding world from Voldemort, or from dark wizards."

"That's just because you're biased against him," says Eileen. "It's because you're a Dove, and you don't like Hawks. That's all this really comes down to, Elkins."

"No," sighs Elkins. "It's not, you know. It's really not. I do have some bias against Hawks, it's true, but that's not what this is about. Like I said before, I'm really not crazy about the way that JKR uses Crouch in regard to the ends/means question. I think that it's cheating. I'd much rather have seen him portrayed as a truly sincere and honorable proponent of ends over means. But I just can't accept him as such, partly because of all of the factors I mentioned before, but also because when I look at his political actions, I see some very troubling discrepancies. Discrepancies between how Crouch behaves when he is in the public eye, and how he behaves when he is not. And this part isn't meta-thinking. Just look at what the man does!"

==================================================

Barty Crouch, Fanatical Hard-Liner?



That's certainly Crouch's public persona. It's his reputation. It's the face that he shows to the world, and it is how Sirius, who only knew Crouch as a public figure, chooses to characterize him in "Padfoot Returns." But I see some rather interesting incongruities between the way that Crouch behaves when the public spotlight is on him, and the way he behaves when it is not.

Take Karkaroff's hearing, for example. This hearing would seem to have been closed to the general public. The cameras, so to speak, were off.

Now, Karkaroff is a Dark Wizard. He is a Death Eater. He is professing repentence, but only after some months spent in Azkaban suffering under the dementors. There's duress involved, to say the least, and his contrition does not come across as terribly sincere. Furthermore, if Moody is to be believed, Karkaroff's crimes include torture, and torture not only of Muggles, but of wizards as well. Karkaroff says of Dolohov that "I saw him torture countless Muggles and -- and non-supporters of the Dark Lord." Moody's dissatisfied mutter ("And helped him do it") strongly implies that Karkarov was not merely an accessory or a witness to these crimes. He was an active participant.

In short, Karkaroff's crimes are very similar to those which will apparently drive Crouch to righteous fury when confronted with the Longbottoms' assailants: serving the Dark Lord, torturing wizards. Karkaroff's crimes are hardly any different from the crime which Crouch will later describe as "so heinous. . . .that we have rarely heard the like of it within this court," the crime that will apparently inspire him to bug-eyed fury, to regard the defendents with "pure hatred" in his face, and to condemn them to life imprisonment with the editorial comment "Take them away, and may they rot there!"

We don't see any of that righteous fury at Karkaroff's hearing, though. Crouch cuts a deal with Karkaroff and allows him to walk free, even though by doing so he offends at least one of his Aurors, who believes that he is being too lenient. Crouch does speak to Karkaroff coldly, at times contemptuously, but he remains perfectly civil. Nor does he resort to any excessive measures in order to get what he wants out of Karkaroff. As Eileen has asked before, if Crouch were truly so prone to ends-over-means excess, then why not force Karkaroff to reveal the names of his previous confederates by means of torture? Crouch has authorized the use of the Unforgivables. Yet he does not resort to the Cruciatus Curse to wrest Karkaroff's information from him. He chooses the carrot, not the stick.

Why? If Crouch is such a fanatic, if he hates Dark Wizardry all that passionately, and if he is such a rabid proponent of the ends over the means, then why would he behave in such a civilized fashion? And if he were really so concerned with the safety of the wizarding world, concerned enough about it that he allows it to lead him into all types of moral error, then how could he allow someone guilty of Karkaroff's crimes to walk free?

Because nobody is watching him, that's why. Karkaroff's hearing is a closed hearing. The eye of the public is not upon him.

Then let's look at Crouch's relationship with Ludo Bagman. Crouch did think that Bagman was guilty of worse than stupidity. He spoke of it to Winky. Bagman's trial may even have been the turning point in Crouch's political downfall. Yet he is perfectly capable of maintaining a courteous professional relationship with Bagman and of working alongside him in planning the Triwizard Tournament. Crouch shows occasional traces of irritation and exasperation in his dealings with Bagman, but no sign at all of hatred, bitterness or rancour.

Now, if Crouch were really such a fanatic, then how could he manage this? Contrast his behavior with that of Arthur Weasley, whose loathing of Lucius Malfoy is so intense that even a childish schoolboy taunt is enough to drive him to attack Malfoy physically. Arthur Weasley is an idealogue. Bartemius Crouch is not.

Whenever we see Crouch out in the public eye, then he does indeed give the impression of being the very model of a fanatical hard-liner. But in private? When the public is not watching him? He cuts a deal with Karkaroff and lets him walk free, he accepts Dumbledore's testimony in regard to Snape (unlike Moody, who remains suspicious), and he behaves professionally and cordially towards a colleague whom he himself believes to have knowingly and voluntarily colluded with Death Eaters.

And then there are all of those people who got off on the Imperius defense.

==========================================

"Lucius Malfoy," Elkins says, ticking them off on her fingers. "Acquitted. Crabbe, Nott, Goyle, McNair—"

"Avery," Eileen reminds her.

"Yes, poor Avery," agrees Elkins. "Acquitted. Crouch Jr.'s co-defendents: the Lestranges, if indeed they be, and Fourth Man. Crouch Jr. was caught with people Sirius Black would have bet his life were Death Eaters, but who had 'talked their way out of Azkaban' the first time around, remember? So. Given a trial. And acquitted."

She pauses, then looks down at Eileen.

"You do realize, of course," she says. "That you're the one who got me started on this? Remember message #44636, when you asked me why Crouch didn't use the Cruciatus to wrest Karkaroff's names from him? And then asked me how Lucius Malfoy got off?"

"But those were supposed to be Crouch apologetics!" wails Eileen. "I was trying to praise Crouch, not to bury him! I was just trying to prove that he wasn't—"

"Wasn't Stalin. I know. But that does rather beg the question of what precisely he was, doesn't it? I notice a very interesting pattern when it comes to Crouch's violations of due process."

"That they don't exist?"

"Oh, heavens no! They absolutely do exist! But they exist specifically when it comes to cases that are notorious. They seem to happen primarily when the public is watching him. And even more specifically, they happen when the public is out for blood."

================================

When we look at the canonical examples that we have been given of the times when Crouch does violate due process, I think that we see a distinct pattern emerging.

Sirius Black.

Alleged betrayer of the parents of the Wizarding World's savior, the famous Harry Potter, to whom the entire wizarding world is out on the streets singing jubilations. Sirius Black, who even by Harry's day is still capable of inspiring all sorts of frightened sounding rumors from ordinary citizens like Stan and Ern of the Knight Bus.

Prison without trial.



The Pensieve Four.

Alleged torturers of the "very popular" Longbottoms, a crime which Dumbledore says "caused a wave of fury such as I have never known," a crime which placed the Ministry "under great pressure to catch those who had done it." All four of them seemingly young. Three of the four of them already once accused of Dark activities.

Sentenced to life imprisonment on the basis of no real evidence, after a trial held in what even the Wizarding World seems to consider to have been a kangaroo court.



Crouch's legal behavior would seem to be primarily determined by the desires of the public. When no one is watching him, he does not exhibit fanaticism or excess in his treatment of prisoners. When he misjudges the mood of the populace—as happens at Ludo Bagman's trial—he backs down without much demur. But when people are clamoring for blood, that is when he panders to them by playing the role of Bartemius Crouch, Fanatical Hard-Liner, and by throwing them sacrificial blood offerings, like Sirius Black and the Pensieve Four.

This is in keeping with his behavior overall. Everything that Crouch does is dictated by his public image.

In public, Crouch ignores his weeping wife, seems to take no notice of her even when she faints dead away right beside him, and denounces Winky with "no pity in his gaze."

In private, he cooperates with his wife's plan to save their son and accedes to Winky's pleas for clemency on his son's behalf.

In public, Crouch denounces his son, glares at him with pure hatred in his face, and howls "may they rot there!" as he and his co-defendents are being dragged off by the dementors.

In private, he rescues his son from Azkaban, even though doing so involves abandoning his wife to die in a cell and be buried on the prison grounds by dementors. He then keeps his son alive, in good health, and free from physical restraint, even after it has become clear that his son is capable of breaking free from the Imperius Curse, still able to practice magic, and still fanatically loyal to Voldemort; and even after Crouch has dismissed Winky and therefore has no one at all to help him keep watch over or control his captive.

In cases which are highly notorious or highly publicized, Crouch sends men to prison without trial (Black), brings cases before the court which probably ought never have come to trial in the first place (Bagman), and pushes for conviction on the basis of little to no evidence (the Longbottom assailants).

In cases which are not in the public spotlight, he conducts plea bargains, exonerates Death Eaters like Snape on the basis of Dumbledore's word, and presides over mass acquittals.

To the public, Crouch portrays himself as a hard-liner, Tough On Crime.

In his actual practice, he cuts deals with convicted criminals, works alongside wizards whom he believes to have served the forces of evil, and allows Death Eaters to walk free.

========================================

"Crouch wasn't a fanatic," Elkins concludes wearily. "He wasn't even an idealogue. He was a self-interested politician. He had his eye on the polls and his finger on the pulse. His hard-line Hawk persona was his public act, but he wasn't really like that at all. He wasn't a True Believer. Moody was more of a True Believer than Crouch was.

"Crouch was certainly passionate when it came to enforcing his will on others, but he wasn't nearly so passionate when it came to protecting the wizarding world. He didn't place the commonweal above his selfish interests. He wasn't concerned with the safety of others. He wasn't a devoted public servant. He wasn't even all that vehement an opponent of Dark Wizardry. That was just his persona. It was the story he told, both to himself and to others. But it wasn't a true story."

Elkins shakes her head.

"Parents need to be careful of the stories they tell," she says. "They really do. Because the person who really was a fanatic? Who really did devote himself body and soul to service to his cause? Who really did privilege it above his regard for his family ties? Who really never once allowed love—any of the four loves—to dictate his actions? The Bartemius Crouch who really was a True Believer? The Barty Crouch who played that game for keeps?"

Elkins' hobby horse snorts. She pats it absently.

"That," she says quietly. "Was his son."

There is a very long silence.

"Careful the things you wish for," Eileen murmers.

"Wishes are children. Yes. I do think that Crouch was a bad influence on his son, you know. But not because he spent too much time at the office."

"That line has always struck me as hilarious," agrees Eileen. "Considering that for almost 10 months of the year, Crouch Sr. could have got home early from the office any day, and then what? Barty Jr. was at Hogwarts, for heaven's sakes!"

"I quite agree. That really is stupid, isn't it? I've always figured that comment had a lot more to do with Sirius himself and his own feelings of regret over not being able to spend any quality time with Harry than it did with the Crouch family. I mean, honestly! Did Crouch act like a disinterested father? Does a disinterested father scream denunciations at his son? Does a disinterested father know precisely how many O.W.L.s his son has taken? Does a disinterested father risk being sent off to Azkaban himself in order to rescue a son he probably really did believe to be guilty from prison, and then keep him captive in his own home under the Imperius Curse for over ten years?"

"Disinterested parents really don't do things like that, do they?" says Eileen.

"No. They don't. If Crouch was anything," says Elkins. "I'd say that he was too interested in his son. Way too interested in him. Unhealthily interested in him. Over-involved. Over-identified. I do think that Crouch was a terrible parental influence, but not because he was disinterested. Because he was over-identified. And also because of the falsehoods that he projected about himself. Falsehoods that his son took far too seriously."

"Charis Julia says that Crouch probably never bothered to explain right and wrong to Barty Jr," says Eileen. "She suggests that he simply delivered orders and expected his son to obey them without ever explaining his rationale for them. In the ever-so-brilliant Message 37769, she wrote:

Unfortunately however this left Barty Jr not only resentful of his father's iron fist but also sadly susceptible to Voldemort's "There is no good and evil/only power and those too weak to seek it" persuasive little speech."

"Mmmmmm." Elkins shakes her head slowly. "I don't really think that I agree with that precisely," she says. "Not that I don't think that Crouch was a pretty tyrannical father, mind. I'm sure that he was. But I'm not sure that I see the same relationship that Charis does between Crouch's parenting style and his son's terrible decisions. For one thing, I don't see why we should assume that Voldemort used the exact same seduction speech with all of his followers. Was Barty Jr. really a 'power and the will to seek it' sort of person, do you think? I don't think that's quite the way his mind worked. After all, he told us what his greatest ambition was, didn't he? He told us when he was under the veritaserum. He said that his greatest ambition was to serve. To serve, and to prove himself worthy of service. In other words," she says. "He wanted to be as truly devoted to the service of some cause as his father, the supposed public servant, merely pretended to be."

"You aren't really trying to blame Barty Crouch Sr. for his son's decision to become a Death Eater," asks Eileen. "Are you, Elkins?"

"No, of course not. People have to make their own choices in the end, don't they? Not that Crouch Sr. believed in that, of course. I'm just pointing out the extent to which the falsehoods that Crouch projected about himself influenced his son's behavior, and in ways that really weren't healthy. It doesn't excuse Crouch Jr. for his bad decisions. He should have found a worthier cause to devote himself to. Much like Percy should have, actually. Or Winky, for that matter, although Winky didn't really have as much choice in the matter. Crouch Sr. didn't deserve the kind of loyalty that he inspired in others, and he didn't have a very salutory effect on those who were drawn in by his charisma, or by the lies that he told. Really, he seems to have corrupted or damaged or destroyed just about everyone that his life touched in one way or another. His son. His Aurors. Percy. Winky. Not to mention Bertha Jorkins! But most of all, the Wizarding World as a whole. Do you remember what I was saying before, about Crouch's relationship with his son?"

"You said that you thought that it reiterated on the personal level his political relationship with the wizarding world," answers Eileen.

"Right. Well, the reason that parricide and tyrannicide are so closely conceptually linked is because fathers and leaders are closely conceptually linked. Crouch had very much the same effect on his public as he did on his son, I'd say. He told lies that people believed, and the lies that he told were really very bad for them. We keep being told about how fearful and paranoid everyone was during the war, don't we? Sirius mentions it. Hagrid mentions it. Well, how do you think that they got that way?"

"Because Voldemort and his DEs were conducting a war of terror?"

"In part. But also because they were being encouraged to react that way by their own leaders. Paranoia like that is never a one-way street. The Catlady has said that the feeling she gets from accounts of the days of the war is one of ordinary people being trapped in the middle. She wrote:

Does it help to think of the Death Eaters as BEING the government? Like right-wing paramilitary death squads of RL 1980s? The situation gives me a feel for the ordinary person's caught-in-the-middle-ness, altho' in RL they were between the paramilitaries and the guerrillas, not between the military governmment's secret police and the hypothetical equally deadly agents of the few honest judges left.

"And that's how you get paranoia of the sort that Sirius and Hagrid describe," says Elkins. "Not just from a terrorist threat. It really does take two for that particular tango. And it's a harmful tango, too. A corrupting tango. We're shown the effects that Crouch's favored atmosphere of paranoia and terror had on the populace. We see it in that Pensieve scene, and we also get a nice taste of it in _PoA._ We get a real mouthful there. Paranoia. Betrayal. Old school friends suspecting each other..."

"But they were right to suspect each other, Elkins! They just weren't suspecting the right old school friend, that's all."

"Well, all right, then. Fine," says Elkins crossly. "What about Pettigrew? You want to hear what mass hysteria does to people? 'He was taking over everywhere! What was there to be gained by refusing him?'"

"Elkins!" objects Eileen. "Pettigrew is a liar!"

"Yeah, Pettigrew is a liar, and his real motivations are still a bit of a black box. But I still think it's fair to assume that he wasn't being utterly deceitful there, don't you? No halfway decent dissembler would ever have attempted to provide that as a defense. It was a perfectly suicidal statement, which leads me to believe that there must have been some degree of truth to it."

"You can't blame Crouch for Pettigrew's treachery," objects Eileen. "That's completely unfair. That's even worse than blaming Crouch for his son becoming a Death Eater."

"I'm not," sighs Elkins. "I'm not blaming Crouch for Pettigrew's treachery. Pettigrew can bear the responsibility for his own sins..."

"No he can't," says Eileen bluntly.

"I...um." Elkins laughs. "Well, er, no," she agrees. "Okay. I guess he really can't, can he? That's just his problem. But he should do. I'm not blaming Crouch for Pettigrew's act of treachery. Not completely. But I do think that in that statement of his in the Shack we are being shown some evidence of just the sort of effect that Crouch's political approach had on the populace, and particularly on people who were weak. People who were already vulnerable. Vulnerable to fear. Vulnerable to despair. Pettigrew is ultimately responsible for his own actions, just like Crouch Jr. was. But political leaders have responsibilities too, you know. Just like parents do. Especially in times of war.

"And that's one of my big sticking points with Crouch," concludes Elkins. "It's not that he was a hypocrite. I wouldn't mind that so much, honestly. And it's not that he was a Hawk, either. That's a perfectly honorable political position, even if it is not my own. No, my problem with him is that he was a war profiteer. One whose profit came in the form of political capital and personal power, and at the expense of the populace that he was supposed to serve. Not a Hawk, but a Storm Crow, someone who battened on fear and hatred and paranoia, and on public hysteria, and who stirred it up not out of honorable motives, but to serve his own selfish ends. That's something that I find really hard to forgive. Not only do I personally find it profoundly unsympathetic, but the text itself also links it quite explicitly to Voldemort. It does so repeatedly, in fact. Harry identifies the hatred exhibited by that jeering Pensieve mob as every bit as much Voldemort's handiwork as the torture of the Longbottoms. Voldemort is explicitly defined as operating by fostering hatred and suspicion between people: 'Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great.' In the HP series, the things that Crouch stood to represent are marked quite clearly as the forces of evil.

"And that's why I feel that Crouch's political errors are thematically linked to his eventual fate," Elkins explains. "That Crouch ends up in thrall to Voldemort, secretly working in his service, is dramatic irony, isn't it? Because that's not a new role for him at all. It's merely the literal expression of the role that he had always played.

"Crouch claimed to hate the Dark Arts, yet he both facilitated their use and practiced them himself. He claimed to stand to protect the wizarding world, yet he actually placed it very much at risk. He claimed to serve his people, yet he exploited, harmed and corrupted them. He claimed to oppose Voldemort, yet he actually worked to foster precisely the evils that Voldemort stands to represent.

"In GoF, Crouch's service to Voldemort just makes its final transition from the symbolic level to the literal one," Elkins concludes. "Secretly serving as a tool of evil wasn't a new role for Crouch. It was the fruition of his entire political career. He had been serving the forces of evil his entire life."

******************

Elkins

(continued in part five)

*************************************************

REFERENCES:

This post is continued from part three. It is primarily a response to Messages #44636 ("Despiadado Denethor") and #45402 ("Crouch Sr as Tragic Hero"), but also cites or references message numbers 37769, 39573, 43010 and downthread responses, 44643, 45693, and 46935.

 

RE: TBAY: Crouch -- "My mother saved me" (5 of 9)

(continued from part four)



Five
"My mother saved me."

"Crouch had been serving the forces of evil his entire life," Elkins states, from up high on her pale hobby horse. "He really was Ever So Evil, you know."

Eileen says nothing for a long time. She rearranges the little paper cups on her CRAB CUSTARD table, casts a despairing look over to the long line which has ow formed at Cindy's Rookwood thong booth, and then ducks down beneath her folding table. After a few moments of rummaging around through a small cardboard box down there, she straightens, red magic marker in one hand. She clambers up onto the table and reaching up, adds a phrase to the CRAB CUSTARD banner hanging above her display.

"C.R.A.B.C.U.S.T.A.R.D," the banner now reads. "So exciting it'll make your eyes bulge! More Dark Sexiness than even Augustus Rookwood! Try some today!"

She hops down, somewhat out of breath, and glares at Elkins.

"I'm beginning to see why you liked Brutus so much," she says. "The other Brutus, I mean. Brutus Jr. The one with a taste for parricide. And for stabbing. This is...this is just a character assassination!"

"Character assassination?" Elkins thinks about this for a moment, then smiles. "Character assassination," she repeats. "Heh. Oh. Oh, Eileen. I am only getting started. I did tell you that I hadn't even begun to touch on Mr. Crouch's iniquities, didn't I? Trust me. I have only just begun." Her lips draw back in a snarl. "I have not yet made my peace with Mr. Crouch."

"Yes," says Eileen, in a tight little voice. "Well. We all know what your bias is, don't we. But I can't believe that you actually just...just thematically hedgehogged poor Barty Crouch Sr. Have you no pity, Elkins?"

Elkins tilts her head to one side and peers down at Eileen over the tops of her spectacles.

"You told me that you wanted me to attack Crouch Sr." she reminds her. "You said that you liked nothing better. You claimed that you found it exciting. You explained that you were suckled on controversy. And you insisted that you really did want to hear me out on this subject."

"I really did say that all of that," Eileen agrees glumly. "Didn't I."

"Yes. You did."

"Can I take it back?" Eileen asks, without much hope.

"No. But if you like, we can take a short breather from Crouch's iniquities. A little break, perhaps, Eileen? A little pause?" Elkins grins wolfishly. "How about we talk about Mrs. Crouch for a while instead?"

"Mrs. Crouch?" Eileen scowls. "Oh, I don't like that Mrs. Crouch. I don't like her at all."

"I know that you don't. Would you care to explain why?"

"Well, I think my problem is that she put unbearable pressure on her husband to do something that was totally wrong. I can't forgive her that. Crouch Sr. made all his other horrible mistakes of his own volition, but she forced him into that one."

"Did she really?"

"Yes! He couldn't refuse her last request. Because he was a man of honour, Elkins. Just like you've said yourself, even if you are trying to recant that now. Wizards take last requests very seriously. The text establishes that through Harry's last actions in the graveyard. It shows us there that good people, decent people, do not deny last requests. And people with True Wizarding Pride certainly don't. They honour them. No matter what."

"Hmmmm." Elkins thinks about this. "You know, you may have a point there?"

"Of course I have a point there! Mrs. Crouch left her husband no choice. And that's precisely why I dislike her so. Let's just say that I don't like dying characters who impose last commands on their loved ones."

"No," agrees Elkins. "That really isn't fair play, is it? Ugly coercive behavior, that. Mrs. Crouch really does seem to have been a nasty passive-aggressive piece of goods. Especially if it's true that the wizarding world holds the honoring of last requests as an important part of its ethos. That would make it very coercive behavior indeed, wouldn't it? Why, it would be almost as bad as placing disobedient family members under the Imperius Curse! Or casting over-enthusiastic memory charms on your subordinates!"

"Or keeping the man that you're impersonating under the Imperius Curse and locked half-freezing in a trunk while you interrogate him for seven months?" demands Eileen angrily. "Or torturing two people into a state of irrevocable insanity?"

"Well," says Elkins, laughing. "Quite a bit less severe than that, I'd say. But similarly coercive, yes. Seems to have run in the family, doesn't it? Definitely unacceptable behavior. Although I have to say that I do find it rather more sympathetic for someone to engage in that sort of behavior in order to save a human life than I do for someone to engage in it just to protect himself from exposure as a law-breaker. Or to gratify his lust for dominion by seeking to bend his rebellious son to his will. Or to facilitate the return of Voldemort, for that matter," she adds, almost as an afterthought.

"Well, I still don't like Mrs. Crouch," Eileen says stubbornly. "She used unfair tactics to force her husband into doing something that he really didn't want to do...in the name of love. It sickens me somehow, even if she was brave to die in Azkaban like that, and did sacrifice herself for her son."

"Even if she was brave to die in Azkaban like that," Elkins repeats slowly. "And did sacrifice herself for her son." She smiles and shakes her head.

"What?"

"Coercive behavior," says Elkins. "Unbearable pressure. Something that no one with Proper Wizarding Pride could ever refuse. Not ever. Not under any circumstances. No matter what. She left him no choice. She forced his hand. She made him do it." She sighs. "Eileen," she says. "You don't really believe that story, do you?"

"What?"

"The 'last favor' story. Do you really believe it?"

"Man, these Rookwood thongs really move," announces Cindy, returning to the CRAB CUSTARD table with a smug smile on her face and a considerable quantity of galleons jingling in her pockets. She lowers herself into one of the wooden benches lining the promenade and puts her feet up. "I'm completely out. What is Elkins saying now?"

"She's trying to claim that Barty Crouch didn't really save his son from prison to honour his wife's dying request," Eileen tells her. "So typical. Elkins just doesn't want to give poor Barty a pass on a single one of his fatal errors, is what I'm thinking."

"Well, really, Eileen," says Elkins. "Have you ever paused to consider the source of that story?"

"Its source? You mean the canon?"

"No, I mean its source within the canon. Where does this idea that Crouch only saved his son to honor his wife's dying request come from in the first place? Where does it originate? How do we know that it really happened that way?"

"Well, we know it because..." Eileen begins, then stops. "Oh," she says. "Oh."

"Yes?"

Eileen closes her eyes. "We know it," she says slowly. "Because his son says so."

"Yes," says Elkins. "We know it because his son says so."

She reaches into her satchel, pulls out her own copy of _GoF,_ opens it to the right page, and begins to read:

'My mother saved me. She knew she was dying. She persuaded my father to rescue me as a last favor to her. He loved her as he had never loved me. He agreed.'

She slams the book shut.

"That," she says. "Is our only evidence for this notion that Crouch saved his son's life only because his wife put unbearable psychological pressure on him to convince him to do so. That's it. All of it. How much credence do we give it?"

"Well," says Cindy thoughtfully. "Crouch Jr. did say it under the influence of the veritaserum. And Winky was right there when he said it, too, and she didn't contradict him."

"Crouch Jr. also implies that his father never really loved him under the influence of the veritaserum," Elkins points out. "And Winky doesn't contradict him when he says that, either. Yet we don't generally believe him when he says that, do we?"

"Oh, but look," objects Eileen. "These two statements aren't really at all the same thing. Whether or not Crouch really loved his son is a matter of opinion. But that he saved his son because his wife made it her dying request is a statement of fact."

"Is it?" Elkins thinks about this for a moment. "But how would young Crouch have known it?" she asks.

"What?"

"How would he have known it? How could young Crouch possibly have known anything about the precise nature of his parents' deliberations over whether or not to save him from Azkaban? It's not as if he was privy to those conversations. He was in prison at the time. Dying. Really, anything that Crouch Jr. says about his father's reasons for saving his life has to be one of two things, doesn't it? Either it's hearsay, something that someone told him directly, or it's extrapolation from hearsay. Speculation. Deduction."

"I guess so," says Eileen dubiously. "But—"

"And honestly, it seems far more likely to be the latter to me. After all, who would have told him such a thing? Who told him that his father was only persuaded to agree to a plan to save him from prison as a last favor to his dying mother? Can you imagine his father telling him that? 'Just so you know, boy, I would have happily left you to rot in Azkaban, if only your sainted mother hadn't forced my hand with that blasted dying request of hers.' I really can't see that. Can you?"

"Well..."

"And I certainly can't imagine Winky telling him such a thing. Not unless we're willing to propose an Ever So Evil Winky, one who wants to make sure that young Crouch keeps on hating his father just as much as he possibly can."

"That Ever So Evil Winky just keeps looking better and better," mutters Cindy.

"I know," agrees Elkins. "It's just awful, isn't it? But unless we want to accept either ESE Winky or a rather stunningly brutal elder Crouch, I think that we're left with extrapolation. Extrapolation, speculation, deduction. None of which is precisely immune from bias."

"Yes, we've noticed that," says Eileen, with a pointed look at Elkins' hobby horse.

"Are you saying that Crouch Jr. was deluded?" demands Cindy.

"Deluded?" Elkins considers the question. She toys absently with her horse's mane, then looks down and begins plaiting it carefully into small tight braids. "I think," she says slowly, "that it has got to be very easy to play Good Parent/Bad Parent when one of your parents isn't even around to piss you off anymore, while the other one is holding you prisoner by means of an Unforgivable Curse. I think," she says, "that it has got to be even easier to play that game when one of your parents died in your place in Azkaban, while the other one first publicly denounced you and then, while you were screaming and struggling and pleading for mercy while being dragged off by the dementors, exhorted you at the top of his lungs to go and rot there. I think," says Elkins. "That it is appallingly easy to idolize and to romanticize a dead parent under any circumstances. But when that parent actually died in your stead?"

Elkins shakes her head. "I don't think that Crouch Jr. had to be deluded to believe what he believed," she says. "I just think that he had to be human. We already know that he thought that his father didn't love him very much. We already know that he loved his mother."

"I'm not sure if Crouch Jr. ever really loved anyone," says Eileen.

"No?" Elkins raises an eyebrow. "Well, if you don't want to ascribe to him even enough humanity to assume that he loved his mother, you still must concede that he was highly emotionally dependent on her. Sirius heard him screaming out for her in his cell in Azkaban, and there was no one he could have been hoping to manipulate by doing that. There was no one around to hear him. No one who could have helped him, at any rate. No one who cared. I doubt that he was trying to manipulate the dementors by doing that. So I think that we have to accept that there, at least, he was not acting. That was genuine. That was for real."

Eileen thinks about this for a moment, then exhales irritably. "Oh, I just hate your Crouch Jr. apologetics, Elkins," she complains. "You know, now I'm feeling sorry for the evil little brat?"

"As well you should," Elkins tells her, smiling slightly. "As well you should. Have you ever wondered how they broke the news to him, by the way?"

"The news?"

"Of his mother's death. He was dying when his father carted him out of Azkaban. That was the only reason that his parents were allowed to visit him in the first place: it was a death bed visit. Sirius saw him leaving while disguised as his mother, and he says that Crouch was 'half-carrying' him out of there. I very much doubt that he was in any condition to understand what was going on. He was probably only vaguely aware of what was happening at the time. So who explained it to him? How do you explain to a very sick young man who has just been nursed back from the very brink of death that his mother has died in his place in Azkaban, and that his father never claimed her body but instead left her there to be buried on the prison grounds by dementors?"

"I very much doubt that he cared about that," says Eileen coldly.

"No? Oh, I really wouldn't be so sure about that. There's something else that we might deduce from Cedric's last request in the graveyard, you know. We might deduce from it that proper burial is important to wizards. We learn about the disposition of Mrs. Crouch's body three times over the course of this novel. Really, she gets a lot more to do as a corpse than she does as a human being. Sirius tells us about her burial, and then Crouch Jr. mentions it not just once in the course of his interrogation, but twice. He tells Dumbledore that his mother was buried at Azkaban, bearing his appearance and his identity, and then later on, he specifies that her grave is empty. It's utterly redundant information, that. It's not necessary plot exposition for the reader, and it isn't information that Crouch Jr. needs to provide in order to satisfy the strictures of his interrogation either. It isn't directly responsive to Dumbledore's question. He's already explained that his mother was buried at Azkaban. He's already explained that his father 'staged' her funeral. Really, the fact her grave is a cenotaph is sort of a no-brainer, isn't it? It's the default assumption. It goes without saying. Yet he doesn't allow it to go without saying. Instead, he says it. Why?"

"Because he has to," says Cindy. "He's under the influence of the veritaserum, and..."

But Elkins is shaking her head slowly back and forth.

"It doesn't seem to work that way," she says. "No matter what Harry might have feared when Snape threatened him with the veritaserum, it doesn't seem to make people babble at random. Crouch Jr's testimony isn't incoherent. He really doesn't digress all that much in the veritaserum scene at all. Just about everything that he says is either directly responsive to a question he's been asked, or it is plot exposition for the reader's benefit. When he does volunteer extraneous information, it speaks to his character, to his motivations. When he does digress, it is always on a topic that has some strong emotional resonance for him."

Elkins pulls a thin red ribbon out of one pocket and begins threading it into one of the braids of her horse's mane.

"Haven't you ever wondered," she asks, "why Crouch Jr. went to all the trouble to turn his father's body into a bone and then bury it in Hagrid's garden, rather than just, say, transfiguring it to dust? Young Crouch's sense of justice was twisted. It was bent. It was warped utterly out of proportion. But there wasn't anything stunted about it. If anything, it was overdeveloped. Overdeveloped, and very badly broken. I'd say that he cared a great deal about what became of his mother's body. I think that he cared enormously about that."

"I think that he was just a twisted little psycho," Cindy says.

"Well." Elkins shrugs. "The two are hardly mutually exclusive. But all right. Let's leave aside the question of how Crouch Jr. might have felt about his father leaving his mother to be buried on prison grounds by Dark creatures under the identity of a notorious and publicly loathed convicted criminal. Let's get back on topic. Somebody had to tell young Crouch about his mother's death. Either Winky did it, or his father did. And I just keep thinking...well, how would you go about explaining something like that to a very sick teenager? Especially if he hadn't yet started shooting his mouth off about wanting to run off to restore his fallen master to power? If you didn't know yet that he was Ever So Evil? If you thought that he might actually be repentent, or at least redeemable? Seriously. How would you?"

"Well," says Eileen slowly. "I guess that all depends. Am I Winky, or am I Barty Crouch Sr.?"

"An excellent question. I'm sure that Winky would have tried to soften the blow a whole lot more. But whoever it was, I imagine that they would have emphasized the following factors."

Elkins holds up her hand and begins ticking them off on her fingers.

"Your mother really wanted to do this for you," she says. "She did it willingly. It was her idea. She absolutely insisted upon it. It was the very last thing that she wanted to do on this earth..."

"All of which was true," says Cindy.

"All of which was certainly true. But all of which, taken together, still doesn't quite add up to the story that Crouch Jr. implies: that his father had been dead-set against the idea, that his ailing mother had forced his father's hand, that she had only prevailed on her husband to relent by placing upon him the unbearable onus of a last request. It doesn't quite add up that way. But I can certainly see how if I had been Crouch Jr, then I might have come up with just that as my final answer when I sat down to do the math. Especially given what we see elsewhere of his rationalizations when it comes to his father."

"His rationalizations?" repeats Cindy, frowning.

"Yes. Have you ever taken a really close look at Crouch Jr's own account of his rescue from Azkaban? It's actually quite interesting. Look."

Elkins reaches down into her satchel of Crouch Jr. Apologetics. After a bit of rummaging, she pulls out a rather thick binder, with the words "Sympathy For The Devil: Veritaserum, A Close Reading" written across the top.

"This is young Crouch's own account of his rescue from Azkaban," she says. "With Winky's interjections and the intrusions of the narrative voice left out. It's all part of his response to the first question that Dumbledore puts to him formally: 'How did you escape from Azkaban?' Listen." She opens the binder to a marked page and begins to read:

'They came to visit me. They gave me a draft of Polyjuice Potion containing one of my mother's hairs. She took a draft of Polyjuice Potion containing one of my hairs. We took on each other's appearance....The dementors are blind. They sensed one healthy, one dying person entering Azkaban. They sensed one healthy, one dying person leaving it. My father smuggled me out, disguised as my mother, in case any prisoners were watching through their doors....My mother died a short while afterward in Azkaban. She was careful to drink Polyjuice Potion until the end. She was buried under my name and bearing my appearance. Everyone believed her to be me.'

Elkins closes the binder.

"That's Crouch Jr's own account of how he was rescued from Azkaban," she says. "Do you notice anything unusual about it?"

"His father," Eileen whispers. "Where's his poor father? His father is barely even there."

"No. He really isn't, is he? Crouch Jr. doesn't even make his father the subject of his sentences when he can avoid it. He denies his father even the grammatical role of active agent. The subject of his sentences is almost always either 'my mother' or the ever-so-evasive 'they.' 'They gave me a draft of Polyjuice Potion containing one of my mother's hairs.' Yes? Well, who did? Who actually handed him the potion to drink? What do you think, Eileen?"

"His father," says Eileen. "His father did."

Elkins nods. "If he can really remember that event at all," she says. "If he's not just going by what he was told about it later, then I'd be willing to bet that it was his father who handed it to him. If it had been his mother, then he would have said so. He can't actually lie under the veritaserum, though, so instead he uses that evasive parental plural. There is only one place in his entire account of his rescue from prison where Crouch Jr. allows his father to be the subject of the sentence. 'My father smuggled me out, disguised as my mother, in case any prisoners were watching through their doors.' He doesn't deny his father the role of active agent in that sentence, but he does smear him with that rather dubious verb. 'Smuggled.' It's as if he wants to taint his father's involvement as much as possible, to imbue it with criminal associations. His mother is the one who 'saved' him. His father just 'smuggled' him.

"And have you ever paused to consider what the very first sentence of Crouch Jr's confession is? The very first thing that he says under interrogation?"

"'Yes,'" says Cindy.

Elkins waits.

"No," explains Cindy. "I mean, that's the first thing that he says under interrogation. Dumbledore asks him if he can hear him. And he answers: 'Yes.'"

"Oh, for..." Elkins closes her eyes. "Work with me here, can't you? After that! The first thing that he says after that!"

"Oh, sorry," says Cindy innocently. "I guess I misunderstood."

Eileen giggles.

Elkins glares at both of them. "Dumbledore asks him," she says through gritted teeth. "How he came to be there. How he escaped from Azkaban. And the very first thing that he says, his very first sentence in response is: 'My mother saved me.' Don't you find that telling? If his affect weren't so deadened, one might even be tempted to call it defensive. How did you come to be here? 'My mother saved me.' His entire opening paragraph, in fact:

'My mother saved me. She knew she was dying. She persuaded my father to rescue me as a last favor to her. He loved her as he had never loved me. He agreed.'

"It all seems very much of a piece to me. Those concepts all go together: my mother was the one who saved me, my mother pressured my father into rescuing me, my father never really loved me. They are a conceptual whole. Taken together, they form a coherent emotional argument."

"A coherent emotional argument?"

"Yes. And what that argument says is: 'I didn't owe my father a damned thing.'"

Eileen nods slowly. "I've never believed Barty Jr. when he says that his father didn't love him," she says. "It seems to me like the sort of thing any immature teenager might say."

"Yes. Well, that whole dying request story strikes me in very much the same way, honestly. It seems like exactly the sort of spin that an adolescent in young Crouch's position would have put on what he had very likely been told about his mother's death. It's very romantic. It's very dramatic. It casts his mother as an absolute saint, and his father as a bit of an ogre. And it does something else as well. Something very important."

"It absolves him from gratitude," says Cindy.

"Yep. That's precisely what it does. Especially if we assume that wizards really do take last requests very seriously. If last requests can't be refused, then what does young Crouch really owe to his father for saving his life, anyway? Nothing, that's what. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. He owes it all to his mother. Who, conveniently enough, is dead and therefore in no position to place any demands on him."

"Convenient, that."

"Oh, it's very convenient. Particularly when you consider one last thing." Elkins takes a deep breath. "By the time that he is speaking under the veritaserum," she says. "Crouch Jr. has become a parricide. And while we're only guessing that wizards might have a strong belief in last requests, and while we're only guessing that they might have strong feelings about proper burial, there is something that we know that they believe in."

She waits.

"We know that they believe in life debts," says Eileen.

"Yes. We know that they believe in life debts. Awkward things, life debts."

"Don't children owe their parents a life debt as a matter of simple default?" asks Cindy.

"Awkward things," Elkins says again. "Life debts."

This time, with narrative feeling.

She sighs and presses the heels of her palms hard against her eyes.

"Crouch Jr. implies that his father only saved him because his mother prevailed upon him to do so," she says. "He says it under veritaserum, which means that it must be his truth. But his truth is not necessarily the same thing as his father's truth. And I can think of far too many reasons why it would have been his truth. And far too few ways that he could possibly have known it for sure.

"I'm somewhat reminded, in fact," she adds, "of that painting that you linked to, Eileen." She removes her hands from her eyes and glances over to Eileen. "In your Crouch as Tragic Hero post? The URL that Porphyria sent you? The one that you proposed as the Crouch family portrait?"

Eileen nods. "Jacques-Louis David," she says. "The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons."

brutus.jpg

"Yes, that's the one. Brutus' wife is featured in that painting, isn't she? She's there with her two daughters, on the right hand side, the very brightest part of the canvas. She's bathed in light. The viewer's eye is naturally drawn to her first; it just can't help but be. But she's not really the subject of the painting at all, is she? The subject of the painting is really her husband. Who is harder to see. Slower to catch the attention of the viewer. Obscured in the shadows.

"But Brutus is the real subject of that painting," concludes Elkins. "Not his wife. I don't think that saving his son from Azkaban was only Crouch's wife's error. I think that it was also his own. I think that in the end, Crouch saved his son because he wanted to."

*******************

Elkins
(who prefers The Death of Marat)

(continued in part six)

***************************************************

REFERENCES:

"This time, with narrative feeling"
In some branches of reader response criticism, 'narrative feeling' is the term used to describe those emotional reactions to the text which derive from the reader's engagement with the text's narrative, or story-telling, elements. The most common example is a reader's sense of personal identification with a fictional character.

This post is continued from part four. It is mainly a response to messages 45402 ("Crouch Sr as Tragic Hero") and 45693 ("Crouch and Winky"), but also cites or references messages 43326, 43447, 44636, 46923, and 46935.

Posted December 07, 2002 at 6:44 pm
Topics: , , ,
Plain text version

 

RE: TBAY: Crouch -- Last Orders (6 of 9)

(continued from part five)

[Apologies in advance to Eileen. This one got just a mite bit cruel in places.]



Six
Last Orders

"I think that in the end," Elkins concludes, putting 'Sympathy For the Devil: Veritaserum, a Close Reading' back in her satchel, "Crouch saved his son because he wanted to. I'm not buying that 'last orders' story. I just don't believe it. It sounds to me far more like Barty Jr's heavily biased speculation about what happened than it does like an accurate description of how that decision was actually reached."

"But you said yourself that you thought that Mrs. Crouch was putting on a performance at her son's sentencing!" Eileen objects. "You suggested that she faked that fainting spell. You implied that she was deliberately trying to manipulate her husband's emotions."

"Oh, I know," sighs Elkins. "I know. And I really do think that she was, too. But at the same time, I've always found myself wondering just how hard Mrs. Crouch really had to work on her husband to get him to agree to her plan. I find it very difficult to believe that Crouch Sr. was nearly as reluctant as his son implies."

"But Elkins," asks Eileen. "Why?"

"Well, because does Crouch Sr. really act like someone who doesn't value his son's life? For someone who was supposedly pressured into saving his son so very much against his own will and his own inclinations, he seems awfully invested in protecting him, don't you think? He seems to be willing to pay just about any price to keep him alive. And in the end," she adds grimly. "He pays it, too."

"Because he loved his wife," Cindy tells her. "And because remaining faithful to her dying wish by keeping her son alive was the only way that he had to remember her, or to honour her final sacrifice."

"And because even after his wife was gone," adds Eileen. "He still had Winky around to throw her memory in his face all the time."

Elkins thinks about this for a long moment. "Eileen," she says finally. "Tell me again about Crouch's dismissal of Winky, will you? About it being an expression of hostility against his late wife?"

"Well," says Eileen. "Winky and Mrs. Crouch both occupy the same role in the text, really, don't they? They're described in the same terms. They fill the same functions. Mrs. Crouch dies but she doesn't leave the story. The entire Crouch Sr./Mrs. Crouch dynamic is recreated between Crouch Sr. and Winky. After all, the whole 'Let him go to the QWC' is just a continuation of 'Let him switch places with me in Azkaban.' When Mrs. Crouch dies, Winky just takes over her role, doesn't she?"

"She certainly seems to. In some ways."

"Well, doesn't that suggest that in some way when he denounced Winky and released her from service, he was actually dismissing the shadow of his wife? He didn't let go of Winky because she embarassed him. He let go of her because she endangered him. Just as his wife endangered him. The two: Winky and Mrs. Crouch, pretty much killed him in the end. In dismissing Winky, Crouch is finally throwing off the control she had over his life (which is as real as the control he had over hers), and throwing off the control his wife had over him as well. So, yes, I think he was banishing his wife in some way when he let go of Winky. Not so pleasant."

"No," agrees Elkins quietly. "Not at all pleasant. Particularly when you consider how he's regarding Winky in that scene. 'As though she were something filthy and rotten that was contaminating his over-shined shoes.'"

"Ooooh, harsh," comments Cindy.

"Poor Barty," Eileen sighs.

"Yes, poor old Crouch, eh? What a life. So let me just see if I've got this straight. Crouch finally banishes this nasty disgusting feminine influence that has been endangering him all of this time. He wrests himself free from the control of these wife figures who keep exerting such a powerful and dangerous feminizing influence on him, luring him into showing mercy even when it is grossly irresponsible for him to do so, and who are also, in some sense, actively betraying him, as they take his son's side against his own. By dismissing Winky, he is striking out not only at Winky herself, but also at his late wife. In effect, he is banishing her shade. He is performing a kind of an exorcism. Is that more or less correct?"

Elkins looks questioningly over to Eileen, who nods tentatively.

"You know, I absolutely love this reading?" Elkins tells her.

Eileen looks startled. "You do?"

"Yes. I'm hopelessly enamoured of it. But only if I can tweak it a little bit. Because my main problem with it as it stands is...well, okay, so Crouch banishes Winky and with her, the shade of his late wife. He wrests himself free from their dangerous feminizing influence. So far so good. But what does he do then?"

Eileen frowns. "What do you mean?"

"Well, what's the outcome of that exorcism? See, this is my problem with this reading. It's the same problem that I have with the whole Last Orders story, actually. It's the problem that I have with 'my dying wife forced my hand!' For that matter, it's also my problem with your insistence that Winky and Mrs. Crouch were more careless and reckless when it came to Barty Jr. than Crouch himself was. You see, I just can't reconcile any of those claims with Crouch's actions after the QWC."

"His actions after the QWC?"

"Yes. Really, Crouch's decisions after the QWC are quite damning, don't you think? To my mind, they're far worse than either the decision to save Barty Jr. from prison in the first place or the decision to allow him to attend the World Cup. I can see plenty of mitigating factors for both of those decisions. But none of those factors are still in effect after the QWC. After the QWC, all of the mitigating factors are gone."

"I don't think that I'm quite seeing what you mean," says Eileen.

"Well, okay. Look here."

=============================================

People often cite Crouch's rescue of his son from Azkaban as the most serious of his errors, THE fatal error, so to speak, the action which leads unerringly and inexorably to his destruction.

While I certainly agree that hindsight reveals this act to have been a very bad mistake, I am always surprised that more people don't cite Crouch's behavior after the QWC as a far more damning example of his fatal carelessness when it came to his son.

Rescuing his son from prison was certainly a very hypocritical thing for Mr. Crouch to have done. Truly sickeningly so. I don't, however, necessarily see it as all that foolhardy. We don't actually know what Crouch and his wife were thinking when they conspired to save their son from death in Azkaban. It is possible that they might have believed that there was a chance that he really had been innocent. Young Crouch alone of the defendents in the Longbottom case had never before stood accused of any Dark activity. There seems to have been no real evidence against him, other than the circumstantial evidence of his having been caught in the company of the others. Even if he had been fingered by the testimony of his three co-defendents, this would hardly have been the most compelling evidence, given how we can imagine the Death Eaters as a group must have felt about elder Crouch, who had commanded his Aurors against them and sent so many of their number to prison. Both Dumbledore and Sirius expressed doubt about Crouch Jr's guilt. In the part of his trial that we see in the Pensieve, his co-defendents ignore his outbursts completely, while he himself insists upon his innocence to the very last.

Eileen has argued in the past that Crouch "knew" that his son was guilty, but I just don't see how he could possibly have known this. Nobody did. If Crouch "knew" that his son was guilty, then he knew it in precisely the same way that he "knew" that Sirius Black was guilty -- which is to say, he didn't. I do think that Crouch genuinely believed his son to be guilty, but he might also have been willing to concede the possibility that there was a chance that his son really could be innocent. This could have had some bearing on his decision to agree to his wife's plan to free Barty Jr. from Azkaban.

Alternatively (and, to my mind, far more likely), the Crouches could have believed that their son was, while technically guilty, not really a very hard case. Crouch Jr. was very young, after all. He was barely past the age of majority. His parents could have believed that he'd been led astray. That he'd been seduced. That he'd been an accessory, but not an accomplice. That he'd been an accomplice, but not an active participant. That all he really needed to straighten him out was one of those proverbial short sharp shocks (if one can really use that phrase to refer to a year of imprisonment in Azkaban that proved nearly fatal to young Barty and probably had a lot to do with driving him completely around the bend).

Judy Serenity once wrote:

My personal belief is that that Crouch Sr. believed his son was guilty and deserved harsh punishment, but had no idea just how devoted Jr. was to Voldemort. I don't think Crouch Sr. could possibly be expected to know that his son would help return Voldemort to power if released from Azkaban. Any parent would think "My son was under the bad influence of his friends" not "My son is the most evil creature on the face of this earth."

She also once suggested that Crouch might have envisioned sending Barty off to start a new life somewhere abroad under a new identity, before he realized that his son was completely unrepentant.

Indeed, I can see plenty of reasons why the Crouches might have thought that rescuing their son from Azkaban was not an action that would have had any terrible repercussions or placed anyone at any real risk. Crouch Jr's lack of repentence would seem to have come as an utter surprise to his father. His father did not put him under the Imperius Curse until he was fool enough to start shooting his mouth off about wanting to run off to seek Voldemort. The impression that I have always received is that until Crouch Jr. was idiotic enough to make his intentions known, his father had fully expected him to be abjectly grateful for having been liberated: duly chastened, repentent, dutiful, obedient. In short, harmless.

Crouch's decision to continue to keep his son a prisoner in his own home even after it became clear that he was both guilty and unrepentant was also unwise, but again, I can at least see how he might have managed to justify this decision to himself. His son was under the Imperius Curse. He was under guard. He wasn't going to break free. What difference does it really make, from the perspective of ensuring the safety of the populace, whether a criminal is kept prisoner in Azkaban or in his father's home? Either way, he is not capable of hurting anybody.

The decision to allow Crouch Jr. to attend the QWC doesn't strike me as all that foolhardy either, really. Crouch Jr. had been under the Imperius Curse for over ten years. Surely neither Winky nor Crouch expected that after all of that time, he was suddenly going to be able to break free of it. I imagine that they assumed that if Crouch Jr. hadn't been able to crack the Imperius as an angry young teenager, then he certainly wasn't going to be doing so ten years later, at the age of thirty, after over a decade of captivity, demoralizing treatment, and mental enslavement. There is such a thing as an institutional mentality, after all. Crouch may even have deluded himself into believing that he had finally succeeded in crushing his son's spirit, that Crouch Jr. had been cowed, broken, beaten into submission. Rendered harmless.

Crouch and Winky also probably assumed that Crouch Jr. didn't have any magical capabilities. One of the long-term effects of the dementors is supposed to be that they strip wizards of their magical powers, and the dementors had young Crouch right on the brink of death when he was saved from them. Furthermore, he hadn't been allowed access to a wand since prison. So really, how dangerous could he possibly be? What harm could letting him go watch a sporting event do to anyone?

As it turns out, none of these things was the case. But both Crouch and Winky can be forgiven for having assumed them. They were reasonable assumptions, even if they were incorrect.

But after the QWC?

After the QWC, Crouch had to have realized what kind of a threat his son represented. He must have. Crouch Jr. had proven himself strong enough to throw off his father's Imperius Curse, strong enough even to put up a bit of a fight against Winky's powerful elf magic. He had proven himself cagey enough to steal a wand from the most carefully guarded teenager in the entire wizarding world, and in front of an entire slew of witnesses -- still without getting caught. He had proven that even after near-death in Azkaban, even after over a decade of mental domination, even after a decade denied access to a wand, he was still magically capable enough to use somebody else's wand to fire the Dark Mark into the sky.

Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Crouch could have known that their son would be dangerous once released from prison. Neither Winky nor Mr. Crouch could have known that he would be strong enough to break free of the Imperius Curse when they decided to bring him to the QWC.

But after the QWC, Crouch knows the truth of the matter. His son isn't crushed. He isn't cowed. He isn't beaten, he isn't broken, he isn't bowed. He isn't in the slightest bit repentent. He is still devoted to Voldemort's cause. He is still determined to fight his father. He is still in full possession of both his mental faculties and his magical capabilities. He can kick his father's Imperius Curse. And he's not playing with a full deck.

He. Is. Dangerous.

==========================================

"Dangerous," repeats Elkins. "He's dangerous. A danger to himself and others."

"A viper at his father's bosom," murmers Eileen. Elkins shakes her head.

"Oh no," she says pleasantly. "No, no, no. He's really much worse than that, you see, because he's not just a danger to his father. He is a danger to the public at large. And Crouch Sr. must have realized that. He may not have done before the QWC, but after the QWC, he must have. Furthermore, he had just dismissed Winky, which meant that he no longer had anyone to help him control or watch over his highly dangerous prisoner. And as for that Imperius Curse of his...well!" Elkins laughs savagely. "Little Barty kicked its ass, didn't he! No Stockholm Syndrome for little Barty. Ten years of mental domination, ten years of captivity, ten years of being treated like an Unperson, and he still kicked it."

Cindy stares at her. "Elkins," she says. "Do you actually admire that little psychopath?"

"Sometimes," admits Elkins. "Sometimes I do. So. This is now Crouch Sr's predicament. He has a prisoner on his hands. His prisoner is mad, strong, clever, dangerous, and very angry. And an unrepentent Death Eater. Crouch does not have the resources to keep his prisoner safely. He no longer has Winky's elf magic to call upon. He no longer has any allies at all, in fact. He works a job. With Winky gone, there is going to be no one at home during the day to keep an eye on his captive, against whose will his Imperius Curse has now been proven unreliable."

Elkins pauses to allow Cindy and Eileen to think about this.

"So," she says. "What does Crouch do, after putting his son back under the Imperius Curse? What does he do, now that he no longer has all of these womenfolk around to lure him into endangering both himself and the public by taking foolish risks with his son? What does he do, now that he has finally banished his wife's shade and by doing so, rid himself of her perniciously Soft influence?"

There is a long silence.

"Eileen," Elkins says softly. "What would Brutus have done?"

Eileen looks down at her shoes. "Which one?" she asks.

"Either one! Come on. What would the ruthlessly hubristic Tough and Steely proponent of ends over means, the tragic hero who is dedicated to the protection of the wizarding world even when it comes at immense personal sacrifice, the man who does not let love—any of the four loves—dictate his actions, except for that one little slip-up due to his dying wife's baleful influence—an influence which he has now supposedly banished—what does that man do in this situation?"

There is an even longer silence.

"It wouldn't have had to be cruel, you know," Elkins says gently. "He could have made it humane. Far more humane than death in Azkaban, that's for sure. He wouldn't even have had to do anything, er, Unforgivable, although we know that he didn't exactly balk at that. But it wouldn't have been necessary. His son was back under the Imperius Curse. He was totally helpless. Crouch could have given him something to drink. He could have slipped something into his food. He was a wizard from a fine old pure-blooded family who lived in a big old mansion; I'm sure that he had tons of lethal stuff lying around all over the place. If Crouch had just slipped something into his son's bedtime Ovril—with steely resolve, with sorrowful wisdom, with loving regret, what have you—then Barty Jr. wouldn't even have had to suffer the terror of anticipation. It could have been quick, it could have been clean, it could have been merciful, and it could have been over. For that matter..."

Elkins' voice trails off. Cindy looks up.

"What?" she asks.

Elkins shakes her head. "No," she says. "It's ugly."

"When has that ever stopped you before?"

"Well...oh, all right. If Crouch didn't even want to see it, if he just couldn't stand to watch his son die, if he didn't even want to get dirt on his hands directly, then he still had another option. And it's even one that the text goes out of its way to draw to our attention."

"Which is?"

"Last orders," Elkins says flatly. "Barty Jr. was under the Imperius Curse. His father could have commanded his suicide. And then just left the room, if he had to."

"Ew! Elkins!" Cindy stares at her. "And you're always calling Eileen Bent?"

"It's not her fault," says Eileen, smiling slightly. "She's just had one too many Julio-Claudians."

"I'm sure that it never would have crossed Crouch's mind to do such a thing," sniffs Cindy. "We Tough people just don't think like that, Elkins!"

"Well, I don't know if it ever crossed Crouch's mind or not," replies Elkins. "But it certainly did cross his son's mind. And it crossed the author's mind as well."

"What?" Eileen frowns. "Where on earth are you getting...oh. OH!" She nods and begins flipping rapidly through her copy of _GoF_. "Oh! I know! 'The Unforgivable Curses.'"

"Yeah, the DADA lesson. Crouch/Moody really doesn't like it at all when the class laughs at his Imperio'd spider, does he? That upsets him a great deal. It's one of the few places where we ever see him lose his cool. He doesn't lose it nearly as badly as he does with Draco Malfoy, admittedly, and not half so badly as he does in the end game, when he throws his villainous little bwah-hah-hah tantrum, but he does slip there, I'd say. He loses his temper. He's really stung by that laughter."

"The poor sensitive dear," comments Cindy drily.

"And the very first thing that he says after recovering his equilibrium is...?"

Eileen finds the right page and begins to read:

'Total control,' said Moody quietly as the spider balled itself up and began to roll over and over. 'I could make it jump out of the window, drown itself, throw itself down one of your throats...'

She shuts the book with a faint shudder.

"Ugh," she says.

"Yeah. Ugh. It does make you wonder, though, doesn't it, just how stressed young Crouch might have been about that possibility? The passage implies to my mind that somewhere beneath his Imperius-induced haze, he had worried about that rather a lot. Especially after the QWC, I'd be willing to wager."

"He was inwardly flinching every time that voice in his head told him to draw himself a nice hot bath, you think?" asks Eileen, with a slightly twisted smile.

"I do. I really do. The specter of Imperius-induced suicide is never again raised in the novel, which makes it hard for me not to read that passage as in part a character touch. And am I the only person who reads a trace of remembered fear in Crouch Jr's line in his confession: 'Now it was just Father and I, alone in the house?' Winky was the mitigating influence in that dynamic, wasn't she?"

"That's just what I've been saying!" cries Eileen.

"I know, I know. But I just can't quite believe that Winky—or the woman whose role she usurps in the text, for that matter—could truly have been all that significant an influence on Crouch's behavior. Because what Crouch actually does after the QWC is this: he puts his son back under the Imperius Curse. And then he takes him home. And then the two of them continue on precisely as they were. Crouch doesn't even take the precaution of physically restraining his son, even though he no longer has Winky around to help watch over and control him, and even though he now knows that his son could break free from the Imperius at any second. He doesn't take the precaution of clapping him in chains. He doesn't put a body bind on him. He doesn't even lock him up in a room. He continues to allow him to roam freely through the house."

"Well, we don't really know that," Eileen points out. "Crouch might have locked him in a—"

"No, it really doesn't seem that he did, because when Crouch Jr. talks about his father opening the front door to Pettigrew and Voldemort that night, he gives the distinct impression of having been right there to witness it. He provides the detail of Voldemort showing up 'in the arms of his servant Wormtail.' He specifies that his father didn't have time to put up a struggle: 'It was very quick.' And when he talks about the event itself..." Elkins squirms a bit. "Well..."

"That sickening grin," says Eileen, with some distaste.

"Well, er, yes. I've never claimed that Crouch Jr. didn't have some pretty serious emotional problems, have I? He flashes that insane smile 'as though recalling the sweetest memory of his life,' which really does suggest quite strongly to my mind that he was an on-the-spot eye-witness to his father's being placed under the Imperius Curse. But that means that he must have been hanging around the foyer, doesn't it? Right next to the front door? In the middle of the night? Or maybe just trailing Father Dearest around the house, like a bored toddler. Or an imprinted gosling."

"An imprinted gosling..." Cindy muses. "Hey, Winky had bound Crouch Jr. to her physically, right? With her elf magic. So maybe Crouch Sr. had done something similar. To keep him close, you know. To keep him in sight. So you could read that as evidence that he was at least trying to minimize the danger."

"Minimize the danger? Crouch was still going into the office every day at that point in the story. Who was looking after his prisoner all day long while he was at work? He must have been leaving his son alone in the house all day long, just crossing his fingers and hoping that his Imperius Curse would continue to do the trick. His Imperius Curse that had already failed him once at the QWC." Elkins shakes her head. "If Crouch had really wanted to minimize the danger," she says. "Then he would have—"

"Oh, but come on now, Elkins," says Cindy. "You can't really expect a man to kill his own son, can you?"

"Brutus did it."

"Yes, but...with his own hands?"

"Oh, yes," spits Elkins. "Heaven forbid that Mr. Crouch should have to get blood on his own hands. That's what his Aurors are for, right? And his prison. And his dementors."

"Elkins," says Cindy quietly. "Calm down."

"I don't like hypocrites. Look, we are asked to believe that until his wife intervened, Crouch had been willing to allow his teenaged son to die of despair and self-induced starvation on the floor of a prison cell, after being driven slowly mad by dementors. That's certainly a far nastier way to go than anything that Crouch would have been likely to dish out in the privacy of his own home. Eileen has suggested that the only reason that he did not in the end allow this to happen was because his dying wife placed unbearable psychological pressure on him to convince him to relent. She has suggested that Crouch had come to believe that he had been totally wrong to give into that pressure. That he had realized that his wife had talked him into doing something that was not only wrong, but also recklessly endangering both his own safety and that of others. That he deeply regretted his decision to accede to her request, and that his resentment over this was underlying his rejection of Winky. She has suggested that by renouncing Winky, Crouch was banishing his dead wife's shade, and thus finally purging himself of her dangerously merciful influence."

Elkins takes a deep breath.

"So," she says. "If all of that were really the case, then why didn't he just get rid of the boy after the QWC? It would have been the prudent thing to do, and it also would have been the logical course of action for someone who was really Tough and Steely and self-sacrificing, and ruthlessly devoted to the protection of the Wizarding World against Dark Wizardry even at great personal cost. For heaven's sake, if he honestly couldn't bear the thought of outright filicide, then he could have turned his son over to the authorities!"

"Oh, but you can't really blame him for not wanting to take that option," objects Eileen. "He would have been facing life imprisonment himself if he'd done that."

"Yes, he might have had to face up to the consequences of his own actions. O horrors." Elkins shrugs irritably. "Oh, well. Like father, like son, I guess. And really, why on earth should we expect any better from Barty Crouch than we do from, say, Peter Pettigrew?"

"Oh, now you take that back!" cries Eileen.

Elkins smiles meanly.

"Shan't," she says.

"But you can't really expect—"

"Expect what? Expect for Crouch to behave responsibly? Expect for him to demonstate something other than criminal disregard for other human beings for a change? Well, no. No, I suppose that I really can't expect that of him, can I, because that's what Crouch was all about. Not the protection of the public. Not service to the common weal. Not opposition to Dark Wizardry. And certainly not self-sacrifice. Disregard for other people. Crouch was all about disregard for other people."

"But—"

"Disregard for other people, hypocrisy, and narcissism. This is a man who committed crimes against humanity for his own personal benefit and pretended that he was doing it because he was a ruthless opponent of dark wizardry, privileging the ends over the means, dedicating his entire life to the protection of the wizarding world and to the service of the commonweal even at immense personal sacrifice. But he won't risk prison for his crimes, he won't take the appropriate actions to protect the world from his son, and he won't even face up to his own undeniable pathology! Instead, he projects it onto the people around him. As if Winky had a thing to do with his son being able to throw off his Imperius Curse!"

"Yes, but whose stupid idea was it to bring Barty to the QWC in the first place?" demands Eileen.

Elkins shrugs. "Given how Crouch behaves after the QWC," she says. "It seems to me that he probably absolutely relied on Winky to 'talk him into' doing things like that. Just like he relied on his wife to 'talk him into' doing things like saving his son from prison. That was part of what he depended on them for, surely? To absolve him of responsibility for his own behavior? Really, saving Crouch Jr. from prison and taking him to the QWC both pale in comparison to what Crouch does after the QWC. Who was in denial about just how dangerous Barty Jr. was? Neither Mrs. Crouch nor Winky could possibly have known for sure just how strong or just how dangerous that boy was. Crouch did know. And yet he did nothing. Tell me something here," she demands. "What woman in Crouch's life was responsible for his actions after the QWC?"

There is a short silence.

"Dear, dear, dear." Elkins sniggers. "Poor old Mr. Crouch. Finally ran right out of wives, didn't he? No one left to blame. So sad."

"My God." Cindy stares at her. "You really do hate Crouch, don't you?"

"Yes," spits Elkins. "I do."

"This is beginning to remind me of Cindy's claim that Crouch wasn't truly repentent because his mission to warn Dumbledore had elements of self-interest," complains Eileen. "It's just not fair, Elkins. Crouch shouldn't have to resign himself to being murdered by Voldemort to be considered repentent. And he shouldn't have to resign himself either to life imprisonment or to filicide to be considered truly concerned about the safety of the wizarding world."

"And besides," says Cindy. "You can't really tell us that it would have made you like Crouch any better if he had been able to put his helpless Imperio'd son down like a rabid dog, can you? I mean, even leaving aside the fact that there would have been no plot if he'd done that, it's...well, it's just not like you, Elkins! You hate that sort of thing!"

Elkins blinks. She frowns.

"You're right, you know," she admits slowly. "I really do hate that sort of thing. I don't like murder. I don't like cold-bloodedness. I'm not a big fan of Toughness at all, really, or of callousness, or even of ruthless pragmatism. So ordinarily, yes, I suppose that I would find it rather sympathetic for someone to refuse either to hand his helpless captive over to be psychologically tortured to death in a hellish prison or to kill him in cold blood. But when that someone is Barty Crouch?"

Elkins' hobby horse lays back its ears and whinnies dangerously.

"When it is Crouch?" Elkins repeats. "When that someone is CROUCH? Crouch, who authorized his Aurors to use torture on suspects? Crouch, who allowed them to AK people instead of even bothering to arrest them? Crouch, who permitted his Aurors to coerce, torment and kill on the basis of nothing more than the merest suspicion of malfeasance? On their merest whim?"

"Okay, okay," laughs Cindy. "Calm down."

"When that someone is Crouch?" Elkins repeats, her voice now rising uncontrollably. "Crouch who sent people to prison for life on the basis of no evidence? Sometimes without even benefit of a trial? Who was supposedly willing to bind his son over to torment and death, so long as he didn't have to actually watch it? Because he was so very concerned about the safety of the wizarding world? So very devoted to the protection of the public? Even at great personal cost? So very self-sacrificing? You're trying to tell me that this man was squeamish?"

"Geez. Take deep breaths, will you? You're—"

"When it's Crouch?" shrieks Elkins. "When it's CROUCH? When it's Crouch, then it doesn't make me like him. It just sickens me! It is absolutely despicable!"

"Look, would you—"

"Gah! As if none of the people he sent to prison or let his Aurors torture and murder had relatives who loved them!"

"Calm down, okay? You're—"

"Men like Crouch don't have the right to be squeamish," snarls Elkins. "Men like Crouch should be getting blood under their fingernails. They should be wading in it. They should be armpit deep in viscera. They should learn how it smells."

"Okay, Elkins. Relax. It's all right. He's just a character in a children's book. A really really minor character in a—"

"CROUCH WAS JUST PLAIN EVIL!" screams Elkins, spit flying from the corners of her mouth. "I HATE HIM I HATE HIM I HATE HIM!"

There is a short shocked silence.

"Well, sure, Elkins," says Eileen reasonably. "But don't feel that you have to hold back on our account. Why don't you tell us all how you really feel about Barty Crouch Sr.?"

Elkins stares at her, her mouth opening and closing silently, then lets out a single strangled scream. Her horse screams as well and rears up onto its hind legs. Eileen yelps and dives for cover beneath her CRAB CUSTARD table. Cindy hunkers down, ducking flailing hooves, her hands tightened around her Big Paddle. Elkins spits out a word unsuitable for this list and pulls hard on her reins. Her horse screams once more, wheels, and then takes off down the promenade at a fast gallop.

Cindy straightens slowly. She stares down the promenade, watching the seagulls rise squawking out of the path of Elkins' horse.

"Was it something I said?" she asks.

Eileen peers out from beneath her table and shakes her head.

"I can't even begin to visualize that thing," Cindy mutters, still staring down the promenade at Elkins' madly galloping horse. "How can a hobby horse rear, anyway? And how can it carry its rider off like that? And surely hobby horses don't even have front hooves. Do they?"

"It's a runaway metaphor." Eileen crawls out from under the table and begins brushing herself off. "A runaway mixed metaphor. I'd just try not to visualize it at all, if I were you. It will only make your head hurt."

"Well, okay," Cindy begins. "But..." She trails off as Elkins comes cantering back up to the CRAB CUSTARD table, her high pale hobby horse now flecked with sweat and blowing hard. Elkins slows to a trot, then begins walking her horse in tight circles around the table. She drops the reins and begins rummaging through her pockets, sending stray odds and ends wafting down to the promenade below.

"Er...you all right there, Elkins?" asks Cindy.

Elkins' hand emerges from one pocket clutched tightly around a small medicine bottle. She fumbles with the child-proof cap, breathing hard, then snarls and raises it to her mouth, cracks it open with her teeth. She shakes three small yellow pills into one palm, tosses them down her throat, closes her eyes, and swallows. Hard.

Cindy and Eileen exchange glances.

"Elkins?"

Elkins raises one trembling hand to her throat. She opens her eyes and glances down to her wrist watch. Her mouth moves silently, counting, counting.

"Um." Cindy shifts from foot to foot. "Do you think maybe I should go and get Dr. George?" she whispers to Eileen.

"George? No!" hisses Eileen emphatically. "Not Dr. George, Cindy! For heaven's sake!"

"Oh." Cindy nods. "Oh, right. That. Well, in that case..."

"Have I mentioned," says Elkins calmly, one hand still at her throat, her eyes still fixed on her wrist watch. "That I really don't like Barty Crouch Sr.?"

"You've mentioned it a few times," answers Eileen politely. "Yes."

"That he infuriates me? That I absolutely despise him? That he is capable of rousing in me a sense of moral indignation unmatched by that inspired by any other character? Voldemort included? That I actually enjoyed watching him suffer while his son was tormenting him in that little room off the Great Hall right after Harry's name came out of the Goblet? That on rereading, it made me laugh out loud with pure malicious glee?"

"Yes, I believe that you have mentioned all of those things," says Cindy. "Also that he reminds you of your father."

"Yes." Elkins removes her hand from her throat. "Well," she says. "Just so we're clear on that." She looks up from her wrist watch. "At any rate...do I still have foam on my mouth?"

"A little."

Elkins nods absently and reaches up to wipe it off.

"At any rate," she says. "Crouch's actions after the QWC make it very difficult for me to believe that his wife ever had to put all that much pressure on him to get him to agree to rescue their son. He seems far too heavily invested in his son's life for me to believe that. He seems far too determined to keep him alive, and not only alive, but also free from physical restraint. No bonds. No body binds. No locked rooms. It's almost as if he secretly wants his son to escape, don't you think? It certainly doesn't reveal too much concern for the common weal, or for the public good. It's appallingly irresponsible behavior. Pathological, really. A pathological behavior pattern that he projects upon others because he can't face up to it himself. Because I do think that he was projecting onto Winky at the QWC, you know. I do think that he was trying to affect a kind of an exorcism."

"You do?" Eileen looks up.

"Yes. You've convinced me of that. You've convinced me that Crouch was projecting onto Winky at the QWC. I'm not sure that what he was seeing in her was really his wife, though. I think it far more likely that he was seeing himself."

"You think that when he was looking at Winky 'as though she were something filthy and rotten that was contaminating his over-shined shoes,' he was seeing himself?" Cindy repeats incredulously.

"I don't think that Mr. Crouch liked himself very much," says Elkins quietly. "I don't really think that he was lying, you know, when he claimed to despise and detest the Dark Arts and all those who practice them. But the Unforgivable Curses are Dark Arts, aren't they? Really," she asks. "Would you like yourself very much, if you were Bartemius Crouch?"

"Uh-huh. And who's the one projecting here?" demands Cindy.

"Elkins said before that she reads Crouch as a narcissist," Eileen reminds her. "Someone who sees others only as reflections of himself."

Elkins nods. "I do read him that way," she says. "And I think that his denunciation of Winky was in part an expression of self-hatred. But really, it works fine for me either way. Whether you think that he was seeing himself or his wife in Winky, the basic principle remains the same. After all, I'm sure that Crouch saw himself in his wife, too.

"What I can't see, though," she continues. "Is his renunciation of Winky as a successful banishment. Because really, it didn't change anything, did it? After the QWC, Crouch remains every bit as negligent as he was before. Even more so, really. So I can't read it as an exorcism. I read it as a failed exorcism. Another failed exorcism."

"Another failed exorcism?" asks Eileen.

"Parallel scenes."

"Oh." Eileen nods. "Oh, yes, I see," she says. "'I have no son.'"

"Yes. 'I have no son' was a failed exorcism, because Crouch reneged on it one year later. And its parallel, his denunciation of Winky, is also a failed exorcism, because after it, his behavior in regard to his son continues unchanged."

"You do realize, of course," Eileen says, with a slighty Malfoyish smirk. "That you're only making him more sympathetic with all of this? At least from a Bleeding Heart perspective, you are. I just claimed that Crouch fell into error due to his love for his wife and his overwhelming sense of True Wizarding Honour. But here you have him erring out of love for his son as well, a love so powerful that it overrides even the most compelling practical reasons not to continue to show him mercy."

"Love?" Elkins stares at her. "Who said anything about love? Or about mercy, for that matter?"

Cindy and Eileen both stare right back at her.

"You think that's why Crouch wanted so very badly to keep his son alive?" demands Elkins. "And not only to preserve his life, but also to allow him a kind of perverted illusion of independence? Under the Imperius Curse and kept indoors, yet never actually physically restrained? In full view of others, and yet invisible? Capable of walking right up to the front door, but never of passing beyond it? Permitted a kind of sick twisted parody of autonomy? Turned into a...a kind of a meat marionette? You think that was done out of love?"

"Well, I—"

"That's not love," snaps Elkins. "That bears about the same relationship to love as rape does to sex. I don't think that Crouch was about love, really. That's not his role. It's not his function. It's not what he's all about."

"I don't—"

"Haven't you ever noticed that there's a distinct pattern to the subplots and running motifs with which Crouch is associated throughout _Goblet of Fire?_" asks Elkins. "These are the things that touch on Crouch. The Imperius Curse. The Unforgivable Curses in general. Memory Charms. Azkaban. Dementors. Insanity. Human rights violations. Mass hysteria. House Elves. Father-son relationships."

"I—"

"Don't you see the pattern here? Crouch is connected to all of those subplots and running motifs that center thematically on the denial or negation of volition. He is connected to everything in the book that deals with these issues: control, coercion, power, servitude, domination, the loss of individual freedoms and autonomy. The negation of individuation. The negation of personal choice. That's where Crouch lives. Whenever you see Barty Crouch in this novel, there's a thematic thread dealing with that entire conceptual cluster not too far away. He's bound to those themes even more securely than his son was bound to Winky at the QWC."

"But—"

"Crouch is not about love," Elkins spits. "Crouch is about domination. Crouch is about narcissism. Crouch is about coercion. Crouch is about control. But primarily, Crouch is all about the denial of volition. And that's not compatable with love. How can you love other people if you don't even respect their right to exist as other people? Confronted with that which he chose to define as 'Other,' Crouch was only capable of two reactions, it seems. Either he tried to get it as far away from himself as possible, by renouncing his affiliation with it completely, or he tried to force it to change, to no longer be Other anymore, to instead be a mirror that would reflect him as he wished to believe he really was. Isn't that what the Imperius Curse is all about, really? It's about denying the autonomous existence of the Other. It's about narcissism: turning another person into your Mirror of Erised, forcing another to reflect nothing back at you but your own desires. It's about the negation of human individuality. The negation of freedom of choice.

"As are all of the Unforgivables, really," Elkins adds, after a moment's thought. "They're all about the negation of volition. That's the real reason that I think that they're 'Unforgivable,' you know. In the Potterverse, choice is a rather important concept."

"But—"

"I'm sure that Crouch believed that he loved his son," Elkins says. "I'm absolutely positive of that. I'm sure that he told himself that he was taking such pains to preserve his son's life not only to honor his wife's last wishes, but also because he truly and genuinely loved his son. But I'm not altogether convinced that Barty Crouch Sr. really understood the meaning of that word. I don't think that he really got that whole love concept any better than Voldemort does."

"Slander," says Eileen flatly.

"Is it? The Crouch family plotline is awfully strongly tied to Voldemort, isn't it?"

"Crouch Junior is linked to Voldemort," Eileen corrects her. "Through the parricide motif and its attendant symbolism. But Crouch Senior is not."

"Isn't he? Who is Crouch Jr's second father? His substitute father? The father to whom he dreams of proving himself worthy? Voldemort may be a parricide, but he presents as a father figure in the graveyard, doesn't he? And not just as a father figure, but as a representative of a very specific aspect of paternity? Father as Critic? Father as Enforcer? Father as Disciplinarian? Father as Judge?"

Eileen opens her mouth, then closes it.

"He presents, in fact," Elkins continues. "As a rather domineering father figure. A tyrannical father figure. A father figure who prides himself on being able to conquer death itself. Whose followers call themselves 'Death Eaters,' who is associated with the yew, whose familiar is a man-eating snake. Who demands absolute obedience from his servants, his children. Who demands that they subsume their own individual identities into his own. Metaphorically, he wants to eat them. He is oral aggression personified. He is the Devouring Father.

"And he also presents," she adds. "As a very very disappointed father. Doesn't he. Disappointed. Reproving. Injured. Betrayed by his own children. He is a father who tells his erring son Avery 'I do not forgive' and punishes him harshly for his transgressions, yet in the end spares him, declaring his expectation of receiving repayment for his clemency. Of receiving repayment on a debt. Repayment in the form of thirteen years of service."

"I—" Eileen begins.

"Why did Crouch place his son under the Imperius Curse when he realized that he was still devoted to Voldemort's cause?" demands Elkins. "Why did he keep him around even after Bertha Jorkins not only discovered him, but also overheard him saying something so damning that when Voldemort hears of it, he will return to England in full confidence that he can rely on Crouch Jr's devoted service? Why is he so determined to keep him safe from harm? Why does he remain so determined even after the QWC, when it becomes clear that his son is strong, powerful, dangerous, mad, and still unrepentent?"

"Because—"

"Not because he loved his wife," answers Elkins harshly. "Not because he loved his son. Not because he was merciful. And certainly not because he was squeamish. But because his son was still unrepentent. That's why. Because if Barty Jr. had died with his loyalty and his allegiance still intact, with his Otherness still intact, then Barty Jr. would have won. And Crouch wasn't willing to allow that. He wasn't going to let his son win. He wasn't going to allow him to be Other. Not even in death. Crouch wanted that boy to reflect him in more ways than just carrying his name. Crouch wasn't even willing to cede his son to human volition; you think that he was going to cede him to death?"

Elkins clasps her hands over each other, trying to stop their now quite violent shaking. She takes a deep breath.

"Voldemort presents as a father figure in the graveyard." she says again, very softly. "And he is strongly textually linked to Crouch Sr. Do you want to know why I think that Crouch Sr. was so terribly invested in keeping his son alive? Do you? Do you really? I think that it was because obedience was a virtue that Mr. Crouch wanted to teach his son. It was a virtue that he wanted to teach him before he died."

There is a very long silence.

"You know, Elkins," Eileen says softly, at length. "The text really doesn't invite us to equate Voldemort with Crouch Sr. nearly as strongly as it does to equate him with Crouch Jr. It is Crouch Jr. who literally serves Voldemort. It is Crouch Jr. who is explicitly compared with him, and not just by the narrative voice, either. Even by the character himself. The text may nudge us to equate Voldemort with Crouch Sr. But it outright begs us to equate him with Crouch's son."

"Oh, it most certainly does!" agrees Elkins. "That connection is made quite explicit in the text. So what do we make of that? What does that tell us about the relationship between Crouch and his son? What does it signify that Crouch and his son share the same name? That over the course of the novel, their identities are confused, reversed, conflated? What do we make of the difference between Crouch Jr's conscious identification with Voldemort and Crouch Sr's unconscious one? Between Crouch Jr's explicit allegiance and service, and Crouch Sr's implicit allegiance and service? Conscious and unconscious. Explicit and implicit. Open and hidden. What are we to make of that? What is the traditional relationship between hypocrite fathers and their rebellious sons?"

She looks from Cindy to Eileen, then back again.

"What do you think that Crouch Sr. really wanted?" she asks. "In his heart of hearts. What did he want more than anything else in the world?"

"For his wife to be alive, his son dutiful, and his family not in disgrace," answers Eileen promptly. "And also probably to be going out with the Fudges."

Elkins blinks.

"Oh," she says. "Er...right. Well, yes. Okay. Actually, I guess you're probably right about that. Okay, allow me to rephrase. What was something that he wanted very badly?"

There is silence.

"Badly enough to have a bit of a 'mania' about it?" prompts Elkins.

"Well," says Cindy slowly. "According to Sirius, he wanted to catch just one last Dark Wizard..."

"Right. To regain his lost popularity. But you have to have Dark Wizards around before you can start catching them, don't you? Crouch was a war-time politician. His wagon was hitched to Voldemort's star. When Voldemort fell, so did he. So what do you think that he might have secretly desired? What was his hidden wish? What did Crouch Sr. want that was so dreadful, so utterly unacceptable, that he would never have been able to admit to it? Not even to himself?

"Why did Crouch become so apoplectic at his son's sentencing?" demands Elkins. "Why did he react that way? What was he really seeing, do you think, when he looked down at his son in the dock? At his son, who shared his name? At his son, who stood accused of trying to restore Voldemort to power?"

"And of planning to resume the life of violence that he had led before Voldemort's fall," murmers Cindy.

Eileen stares up at Elkins. "Parallel scenes," she whispers. "You insisted on claiming that Crouch was seeing himself in Winky when he denounced her. Because you see him as a narcissist. As somebody who sees himself in others."

Elkins nods slowly.

"You see him," says Eileen. "As someone who stares at his own reflection. The mirror reverses..."

"The mirror reverses," agrees Elkins quietly.

"But that which the mirror reverses, it also always reflects."

******************

Elkins

(continued in part seven)

**********************************************

REFERENCES:

This post is continued from part five. It is primarily a response to messages #45402 ("Crouch Sr as Tragic Hero"), #45693 ("Crouch and Winky") and #46923 ("It's All Winky's Fault"), but it also cites or references message numbers 37476, 38380, 39102, 43010, 44258.

 

RE: TBAY: Crouch -- Through A Glass, Darkly (7 of 9)

(continued from part six)

Seven
Through A Glass, Darkly


Elkins sits at her computer, trying to think of how to construct the TBAY opening of part seven of her Crouch post. She tries to remember where she last left TBAY!Elkins, TBAY!Eileen, TBAY!Cindy.

She is finding it hard to concentrate. It is early morning, the time of day when it is most difficult for her to see the text on her computer monitor at all clearly. The morning sunlight casts the screen into shadow. When she looks at her computer, Elkins cannot see much of anything beyond her own reflection, her own face staring back at her from out the glass.

-----------------

"Elkins" is not Elkins' real name.

-----------------

"But this is also a misrecognition in another sense: I recognize the "miss", the gap between my self and my image, and, in doing so, I am alienated from myself. Once again, I create a self before the mirror: this time, in the sense that I stand before it, to create this uncanny double outside of myself, which is me."

—Jacques Lacan [1]

=======================================

"You see Barty Jr. as a mirror to his father," says Eileen, staring up at Elkins, who looks unusually drawn and haggard high upon her pale horse.

Elkins nods. She smiles strangely.

"Hypocrites," she says. "Really shouldn't go messing around with mirrors."

=======================================

Hypocrites should not mess with mirrors.


I see Barty Jr. as a mirror to his father, a relationship which is emphasized by their shared name. He is his father's negative: light to his dark, youth to his age, weak to his strong, reactive to his active, submissive to his dominant, receptive to his projective. To the extent that he physically resembles his mother, and to the extent that he so often seems to be playing a kind of dark rendition of the Sleeping Beauty myth—always waiting in bondage or otherwise dormant for some powerful male icon to come along to release him, to "awaken" him—we might also say that he is feminine to his father's masculine. He is his father's reflection, moon to his sun. He is Crouch's shadow self, who expresses and makes manifest those desires to which Crouch himself cannot admit.

On one level, Barty Junior is a disobedient son. On another, however, he is anything but. He is dutiful, in that he reflects his father's suppressed desires.

Crouch Sr. upholds himself as an enemy of Dark Wizardry. On the conscious level he does not want Voldemort to return. But on another level, he would like nothing better, because his political fortunes are invested in the atmosphere of hatred, fear and paranoia that Voldemort represents. Crouch's hidden desire for Voldemort's return is acted upon by his son, who consciously tries to restore Voldemort to power.

Crouch exerts his will to bend others to his own desires and to force them to subsume their identities into his own. He casts memory charms, he uses the Imperius Curse, he dominates his slaves and his children, he demands obedience. He gives orders.

His son cites as his greatest ambition the desire to serve. He subsumes his identity into that of other people: he adopts others' personae, he acts on other people's desires. He falls prey to Imperius, to dementor madness, to veritaserum. He follows orders.

Crouch used the Aurors as tools to facilitate his own rise to power.

His son impersonates an Auror in order to become a tool to facilitate another's rise to power.

Crouch authorized others to use the Unforgivable Curses; he also used them himself, but only in secret.

His son first uses them illegally, and then, as Moody, openly, with the authorization of another.

When faced with an unbearable situation, Crouch retreats into an idealized fantasy of a vanished past.

His son retreats into an idealized fantasy of a vanished future.

Crouch professes his desire to bring Dark Wizards to justice, while privately allowing them to escape the consequences of their own actions.

His son escapes the consequences of his own actions, while professing his desire to see others forced to pay for their misdeeds.

Crouch served the evil that Voldemort represents, while claiming himself to be opposed to it; eventually he is forced unwittingly to serve.

His son swore his loyalty to Voldemort, yet by unwittingly thwarting his father's political schemes, saved the wizarding world from a restoration of the evil that Voldemort stands to represent.

Crouch tells lies that he desperately tries to believe to be the truth.

His son never once accepts his own masquerade as the truth, yet even within it, remains peculiarly honest.

Crouch merely pretends to be a fanatic.

His son really is one

Crouch's son is his hypocrisy made manifest.

And Crouch himself cannot bear the sight of it. He tries to cut himself off from it at the sentencing, by denying his relationship to it. He tries to renounce it, he tries to shut it away. In the end, however, he cannot sever himself from his shadow self. Instead, he brings it back home, to keep it close yet hidden, in plain sight and yet obscured from view. Because he cannot rid himself of his other half, he tries instead to sublimate it. In his confession, Barty Jr. will say: "Then I had to be concealed. I had to be controlled." The language is suggestive. It is how people speak of their darker impulses, their forbidden desires. They must be contained. They must be concealed. They must be controlled.

But in the end, Crouch's darker impulses cannot be concealed, and they cannot be controlled. Invisibility Cloak, Imperius Curse, locked indoors, guarded by Winky -- none of it suffices. Crouch's ugly secret is always on the verge of exposure. Bertha Jorkins discovers it. It escapes at the QWC. It is nearly uncovered by Amos Diggory and Arthur Weasley.

Eventually it breaks free altogether. Crouch and his son, image and reflection, trade places. Crouch passes through the looking glass to become himself the reflection, the moon to Voldemort's sun, the secret that must be concealed, controlled, hidden from view, ultimately buried. His son emerges from the mirror to become the active agent, the image; he walks out into the light and into the world, to act in his father's stead, carrying his father's name.

In the end, Crouch Jr. becomes what all sublimated shadow selves eventually become.

He becomes the law of the mirror.

He becomes Nemesis.

=======================================

"Crouch Sr. wanted to make the world his mirror," Elkins says. "Or perhaps his hall of mirrors, an endless corridor of looking glasses that would reflect nothing but his own wishes and desires right back at him. He wanted to make the world his Mirror of Erised, showing him nothing but what he most wanted to be. But there was something very important that he forgot. Something about the nature of mirrors."

"That the mirror always reverses that which it reflects," whispers Eileen.

Elkins nods. "Mirrors are always dangerous. Broken mirrors most of all. But they are particularly dangerous for people who aren't honest with themselves. For people who try to live a lie. Who aren't what they pretend to be. They are particularly dangerous," she says. "For hypocrites. Hypocrites, and people whose motives are not pure. We learned that all the way back at the end of PS/SS, didn't we? That men with two faces would do well to stay away from mirrors?

"Oh," Elkins mutters to herself in a low rapid whisper. "Oh, Crouch should not have forgotten that. He should not have forgotten that. He really should not have forgotten that about mirrors."

Cindy and Eileen exchange worried glances.

"In fact," says Elkins. "Neither of them should have, should they? Neither of the Crouches should have forgotten about mirrors. Why didn't Barty Jr. think to look in that Foe-Glass of his? Was there something there that he couldn't face? Something that he was afraid he might see? There's a very fine line between a Mirror of Erised and a Foe-Glass, you know. Sometimes it's hard even to tell the difference between them."

"Elkins," whispers Eileen.

"'For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.'"

"Elkins, please stop this," says Eileen. "You're beginning to scare me."

Elkins blinks. "Am I?" she asks.

Eileen nods. "A little bit," she says. "Just a little."

Elkins looks down at her. "Do you want to know what scares me, Eileen?"

"I—"

"Bulging eyes. Bulging eyes scare me."

"Bulging eyes?" repeats Cindy blankly.

Elkins nods. She reaches into her satchel and pulls out her copy of GoF. She hands it down to Cindy.

"Read it," she says. "The passage is marked."

Cindy opens the book to the marked page. She looks down at it. She begins to read:

'I will be his dearest, his closest supporter....closer than a son....'

Moody's normal eye was bulging, the magical eye fixed upon Harry. The door was barred, and Harry knew he would never reach his own wand in time....

Cindy looks up at Elkins, who nods sickly.

"That's the only place in the entire novel where Moody's eye is ever described as 'bulging,'" she says. "Either of his two eyes. Ever. I know." She looks down at Cindy and Eileen, her eyes large and troubled behind her glasses. "I know," she says, in a small voice. "I checked."

There is a short silence.

"Twice," she adds, in an even smaller voice.

"Elkins—" Cindy begins.

Elkins shakes herself, then continues rapidly: "It's not a word that JKR uses to describe eyes all that often. She hardly ever uses it at all, in fact. Once to refer to Filch. Once to refer to a dragon's eye. No place else. Except, of course, when they belong to Crouch."

"Or to his son," points out Eileen.

"Except when they belong to Bartemius Crouch. Why didn't he look in the Foe-Glass? What was he afraid that he might see in there? 'I'm not really in trouble until I see the whites of their eyes,' he told Harry. And he was right about that, wasn't he? The eyes were what he should have watched out for. That's when he was really in trouble.

"'You did not conquer him - and now - I conquer you!' That's the last thing that Crouch Jr. says under his own volition, you know. In a sense, those are his last words. Conquest," Elkins repeats despairingly. "Conquest, and the law of the mirror. Crouch through the looking glass. Reversal complete. In the end, you know," she says. "In the end, he truly was his father's son. Do you know what the best thing about being adopted is?"

Eileen blinks. "The, uh. The what?" she asks.

"The best thing about being adopted," Elkins tells her. "Is that you can make it to the age of thirty, and still be able to look in the mirror without flinching."

There is a short silence.

"Well...sometimes," amends Elkins. "Sometimes you can. But that's what scares me, Eileen. Bulging eyes. Bulging eyes...and mirrors. And people who try to make other people into their mirrors. They scare me the most of all."

"And that's how you view Crouch?"

"And that's how I view Crouch."

=======================================

"If you accuse my elf, you accuse me, Diggory!"


I read Crouch as solipsist, or perhaps a narcissist: as someone who only recognizes other people as extensions of himself. I see that as his hamartia, and that also as his primary thematic role in the text. He stands for the denial of individuality and the negation of the volition of others. He stands as the agent of identity loss, the ultimate antithesis of choice. In this respect, I see Crouch as thematically tied to the House Elf subplot, to Harry's separation from his parental protections, and also to the running motif of the Unforgivable Curses, those spells which exist to strip an individual of the capacity for personal volition. Ultimately, Crouch Sr. is a personification of soul murder: he is the Dementor's Kiss.

This aspect of Crouch's character manifests itself in a number of different ways. We see it in his insistence on naming his son after himself. We see it in his apparent inability to remember Percy's name. We see it in his denial of human rights, in his fondness for the UCs, and in his penchant for casting magics of mental domination on others. He places Bertha Jorkins under a memory charm. He places his son under the Imperius Curse. He renounces both Winky and his son for the same crime: the crime of disobedience. And I think that we see it also in his obsession with his public image, his obsession with how he is perceived by others, with how he is reflected.

Crouch views other people as mirrors to himself; he looks to his reflection in their eyes to know what he truly is. When the reflection that he sees there does not match what he wants to be, he becomes angry and lashes out. He tries to banish the faulty mirror from his sight or alternatively, to force the mirror to show him as he wants so very badly to be seen.

I think that we see this in his treatment of both Winky and Bertha Jorkins. But most of all, I'd say that we see it in his appalling treatment of his son.

=======================================

"You're always going on about that," objects Eileen. "About how Crouch treated his son. What on earth was so appalling about the way he treated Barty Jr.?"

Elkins stares at her.

"Are you joking?" she asks.

"No, I'm not joking! He saved his son's life, didn't he? What's so terrible about that?"

"I'd like to know too, Elkins," says Cindy. "You said something like this all the way back in February, and I didn't get it then, either. I have to admit that being imprisoned for over a decade by your dad and a house elf isn't exactly a walk on the beach, but I also didn't hear Crouch Jr. complaining about it."

"Didn't you?" demands Elkins. "I did. In his confession, he tells Dumbledore that his father left his mother to die in his place in solitary confinement in a cell in Azkaban, reliving the worst memories of her life, and then to be buried on the prison grounds by Dementors. And his editorial comment on that? 'He loved her as he had never loved me.' What does that tell you about how young Bartemius himself must have viewed his treatment at his father's hands?"

"Crouch Jr. should be thanking his dad for bailing him out of Azkaban," says Cindy angrily. "Crouch Sr. risked what was left of his tattered reputation to sneak Crouch Jr. out of Azkaban. And how does Crouch Jr. repay the favor? By killing his dad."

"No less than Crouch deserved," snarls Elkins.

"Elkins!" Eileen cries. "How can you say that? Crouch got more than anyone deserves. The punishment exceeded the crime."

"The punishment did not exceed the crime!" yells Elkins. "It didn't even come close! It was a slap on the wrist! Parole! A furlong! A... a... a... a... a parking ticket!"

"What? What is wrong with you? Just look at what happened to the poor man, will you? To start off tamely, he lost his power and reputation. He lost his family, in different manners, his wife, his son, Winky. I mean, he just lost everything. And then—"

"Everything?" Elkins shakes her head. "No, Eileen," she says, dangerously quietly. "No. Not everything. That. Was his son. His son was the one who lost everything. What Crouch himself lost? What Crouch lost was nothing that the world would greatly miss."

Eileen stares at her. "This isn't like you," she says.

"Crouch got what he had coming to him."

"This isn't like you. This—"

"Really, Elkins," Cindy says, frowning. "What did Crouch Sr. do to deserve his unfortunate transfiguration into a bone, other than show mercy to his no-account, good-for-nothing, disgrace-to-the-family-name offspring?"

"What did he do?" Elkins repeats, her voice rising. "What did he DO? Are you serious? Did we even read the same book here? He—"

"Being under Imperius curse was a heap nicer than Azkaban," says Eileen, reading directly from her CRAB CUSTARD manifesto. "Especially since he was guilty."

"Was it? You think so? You think so, do you? Well. For one thing," Elkins tells her furiously. "Crouch Jr. wouldn't have been suffering in Azkaban for very much longer, would he? He would have been dead. Which given what eventually happened to him, would have been a mercy. But even assuming that the choice there really had been one between suffering further in prison or accepting subjugation to his father's will..."

"Yes?"

"Well." Elkins says tightly. "Voldemort gives Harry that very same choice in the graveyard, doesn't he? He tortures him, and then he tries to use Imperius to force Harry to beg him for surcease. To ask to be spared further suffering. We see Harry offered that choice: the pleasant blissful surrendering to another's hostile will, or torment and death on his own terms. And with his own volition still intact. What is easy. Or what is right. Harry chooses the latter. No, Eileen," Elkins spits. "No. What Crouch did to his son was not 'heaps nicer than Azkaban.' It was not 'heaps nicer' than anything. It was not nice at all. It was Unforgivable."

"Barty Jr.," Eileen begins crossly. "Was an ungrateful—"

"UNGRATEFUL?!" Elkins screams. She kicks savagely at her hobby horse, which snorts and charges right for Eileen's CRAB CUSTARD table. Eileen yelps and throws herself to one side, dodging the flying paper cups and plastic spoons which fly into the air as the table crashes to one side.

"UNGRATEFUL?" Elkins shrieks, reaching down as her horse thunders past to grab Eileen by her featherboas. "UNGRATEFUL?"

"Ecki..." gasps Eileen, clutching at her neck as she is dragged along behind Elkins' horse. "Elki..."

"Elkins!" Cindy says sharply. "No dragging!"

Elkins snarls something incoherent and pulls her horse to an abrupt halt. She looks down at Eileen, who is scrambling to get her legs under her and clawing wildly at her featherboas.

"No dragging, no drawing, and absolutely no throttling!" says Cindy sternly. "It's all right here in the rulebook." She waves her TBAY Rulebook menacingly in the air. Elkins narrows her eyes, then drops the end of Eileen's featherboa. Eileen falls to the ground, gasping.

"Ungrateful," Elkins repeats, glaring down at her. "Ungrateful. Have you ever given any thought to the precise manner in which Crouch chose to imprison his son, Eileen? Have you? Have you?"

Eileen coughs weakly.

"No trampling either, Elkins," cautions Cindy. "Just so you know."

"Crouch Jr. was always with Winky," Elkins says, ignoring her. "He was permitted to speak to no one else. He was to remain under an Invisibility Cloak night and day. Night. And. Day. In other words, he was compelled to sleep in it. But he was also kept in public areas of the house, wasn't he? Right out in the open, where visitors like Bertha Jorkins could hear him, where he could be on hand to witness Voldemort and Pettigrew's arrival at the front door. Public areas of the house. In full view, and yet invisible. Capable of standing at the door, but never of opening it. Allowed to hang around right in front of the windows, right in the public areas of the house in his Invisibility Cloak, but actually permitted out of doors rarely enough that it had been years since he had been outside when he was taken to the QWC. Years."

"I—" Eileen gasps, then starts coughing again.

"He was occasionally granted rewards for good behavior," continues Elkins. "Except that actually, 'rewards' isn't the word that he first thinks to use to describe them, now, is it? The first word that he uses in his confession is 'treats.' Treats," she spits. "Sometimes a single word really can speak volumes, can't it? 'Treats.' Infantalizing. Degrading. Dehumanizing, even: treats are what you give to dogs, aren't they? What you give to dogs as a reward when they sit up and beg. Even under the veritaserum, Crouch himself seems to realize that the word is far too revelatory. Too humiliating. He corrects himself almost instantly, changing it to 'rewards for good behavior.' Far more dignified, that. Rewards for good behavior are what prisoners get, after all. But it's not the first word that he thinks to use, now, is it? That word," she snarls. "Is treats."

"Well, really, Elkins," begins Cindy. "He—"

"And then," Elkins continues, now literally shaking with rage. "And then, of course, and then, and then there's that Imperius Curse. Weren't we talking a while back, Eileen, about the closest real life analogue to the Imperius Curse? I seem to remember that we thought that it would probably be drugs, didn't we? Drugs that sap the will? Drugs that render people unusually pliable? Unusually suggestible? Hypnotic agents?"

Eileen, still gulping air, nods weakly.

"For heaven's sake, doesn't this combination of factors suggest anything to anyone other than me?" demands Elkins furiously. "Am I really the only person in the entire universe who read the book this way? Presumed dead. Social isolation. Denied sunlight. 24 hour surveillance. Infantilizing language. Degrading treatment. In plain sight, but made invisible. Rewards granted for compliance -- and presumably, by the same token, withheld in response to defiance. Hypnotic agents.

"What does that combination of factors remind you of?" she yells down at Eileen, who flinches. "What does it suggest to you, O fellow lover of Solzenitsyn?"

Eileen stares at her.

"ANSWER ME!" screams Elkins, now looking quite mad. "What. Does. That. SOUND like to you?"

"It sounds like brainwashing," says Cindy quietly, from behind her.

Elkins whirls around in her saddle.

"YES!" she screams. "Thank you! Yes! That's precisely what it sounds like! Crouch wasn't just keeping his son a prisoner. He was attempting indoctrination."

=======================================

From the instant that Crouch Jr. described his treatment as his father's prisoner in the veritaserum scene, I instinctively read it as an attempt at indoctrination. Every single thing that we learn about how Crouch saw fit to keep his son seems to me to point unerringly in that direction. Imperius. Invisibility Cloak, yet kept in public view. Presumed dead. Permitted to speak to no one. Watched night and day. Denied sunlight. Denied solitude. Given rewards for good behavior, rewards which went by the degrading name of 'treats.' Encouraged to view his two captors in the dual roles of Merciful Intercessor and Strict Disciplinarian. Frankly, I'm surprised that Crouch didn't think to shave his son's head. It would have been in keeping with everything else that we hear about how he chose to treat his son after he learned that he was unrepentent, all of which reads to me like a textbook case of a direct and deliberate assault on a captive's sense of identity, on his sense of self.

Crouch kept his son in a public part of the house, in full sight and yet unseen, a circumstance that necessitated that Crouch Jr remain covered by an Invisibility Cloak at all times. "Night and day," which means that he must also have been forced to sleep in it. Why? For that matter, why was he kept in a public part of the house at all? The house elves can teleport. Winky could have helped to care for young Crouch no matter where he had been stationed, and it would have been far safer to keep him in a locked and warded room or wing, not somewhere where any visitor to the house, like Bertha Jorkins, could have stumbled across him. Crouch had a house elf. House elves come with manors and mansions, large houses. Are we to believe that he couldn't have found someplace else for his son to live, or at the very least to sleep nights? A suite without windows? A cellar? An attic?

Why was it necessary for Crouch Jr. to wear an Invisibility Cloak "night and day?" Why have him sleep in the thing? Why keep him in public areas of the house?

Crouch kept his son in a public part of the house, in full sight and yet unseen, even while he slept, in order to make him not only be invisible, but also feel invisible. To turn him into an Unperson. To erode his sense of self. To subvert his sense of identity. To break his will. To turn him into an empty shell, a receptacle ready and waiting to be filled up with whatever it pleased his father to pour back into him.

The dissociated young Crouch that we see in canon is in large part a creation of his father. The reason that he is able to assume another's identity well enough to fool even Dumbledore is because he has precious little left of his own. His father spent over a decade systematically stripping him of his own identity, trying to empty him, to make him hollow, in the hopes of filling him back up with his own essence, of turning his son into a different kind of mirror: a mirror that for once would not reverse that which it reflected, a mirror that Crouch himself would not flinch to look upon.

But he only partially succeeded. The Crouch Jr. that we see in canon is a reflective surface, and he is hollow. But the father that he has invited into himself to fill the void of his raped personal identity is not Barty Senior. Instead, it is Voldemort.

In the end, the metaphor reaches its full completion. Barty Jr. is dementor-kissed. He becomes fully hollow; he loses his very soul.

=======================================

"Don't ask me to pity Crouch, Eileen," Elkins says in a low shaking voice. "I don't pity him. The man set out to destroy his son's sense of self. Ruthlessly. Deliberately. Methodically. He forged the blade that killed him. He did it with his own two hands. It took him ten years, but he did it. He managed it in the end."

There is silence.

"But Elkins," Eileen says quietly. "He repents."

Elkins stares at her for a long, long moment, then turns away.

"I don't care," she mutters.

"He repents. He sees his sin, and he—"

"I don't care! That man tried to destroy another person's capacity for volition, Eileen! Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

"But he gets a redemption scene!" wails Eileen. "You can't deny that the text invites us to sympathize with him there, can you? Just look at what David wrote, back in Message 38368! He said:

However, I would suggest that Crouch Sr's final attempts to reach Dumbledore are a textbook case of redemption. The word originally related to buying freedom from slavery, either for yourself or for another, and then came to be applied religiously. He has seen the error of his ways and strives to make restitution. He struggles against the bondage that his own actions have placed him in, and begins to break free. If this were a Christian allegory (I don't believe it is), the angels would be rejoicing in heaven.

"Angels?" Elkins repeats incredulously. "Angels rejoicing in heaven? Oh, no." She shakes her head. "No, no, no, no, no. Some things are just not that cheaply paid for, Eileen."

"But...but...but Elkins, you love redemption scenarios. You adore Snape, you plump for RedeemedInDeath!Pettigrew, you invented Redeemable!Avery. You've even taken Redeemable!Draco out for a waltz a few times. I've seen you do it. And now you have a character who actually gets a redemption scene, right there in the canon, and you remain utterly unmoved? I just can't believe that. It's—"

"What part. Of Unforgivable. Do you not understand?" yells Elkins. "Crouch set out to destroy another person's individuality. He set out to destroy someone else's personhood. And he did it on purpose. For no other reason than the desire to make somebody else into his mirror. That is not something that I forgive. That is not something that anyone should forgive. Ever. That is simply foul. It is unspeakable. It is Anathema. It. Is. Abomination."

Cindy and Eileen both stare at her.

"And when Barty Jr catches up to his father there in the Forbidden Forest," Elkins continues, a febrile light in her eyes. "Do you think what happens next is murder? Do you think that Crouch Jr. is a parricide? He is not. He is not. He has become something more than that. Something far greater. Not murder. Not parricide. Not vengeance. Not justice. Not even dramatic irony. Something related to all of those things, but older, much older. Something older, something colder, something ancient, possibly even something sacred. The law of the mirror. Nemesis. He has become Nemesis."

"This isn't like you at all," whispers Eileen.

"Nemesis. What you get when you sow the wind. And Mr. Crouch certainly did sow it, didn't he. He sowed it well."

"But—"

"But in the end," Elkins says bitterly. "He still wins. Doesn't he. Old Crouch strikes from beyond the grave. Because you can't really kill Barty Crouch, just like you can't really kill Voldemort. How can you kill the lust for dominion? How can you kill the desire to force other people to be what you want them to be? How can you kill disregard for others? How can you kill narcissism? How can you kill the powers of coercion? How can you kill Evil itself? You can't, can you? It just keeps right on coming back. Crouch wanted to suck his son's soul right out of his body. That's precisely what he wanted to do to him. He didn't live long enough to manage it completely, but that didn't matter in the end, did it, because his literary double Cornelius Fudge just stepped right up to take his place. Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss. Crouch's literary double steps right in with his dementor in the end to finish the job that Crouch had begun. So really, in the end, Crouch won. In the end, he got exactly what he wanted for his son. Identity loss. Soul murder. Worse. Than. Death."

Elkins sits back in her saddle, breathing hard.

"Don't ask me to pity Crouch," she spits. "Don't ask me to sympathize with him. Don't ask me to like him. And don't talk to me about angels. Not unless you mean avenging angels. Don't tell me that the text invites our sympathies with him. There is nothing to sympathize with when it comes to Barty Crouch Sr. He is identity loss personified. He is soul murder. He is the Dementor's Kiss. He is Evil Incarnate."

There is a very long silence.

"Elkins," says Cindy quietly. "What is that horse that you're riding?"

Elkins blinks. "What?" she asks.

"Your horse, Elkins. What is its name?"

"It..." Elkins shifts uneasily. "It doesn't have a—"

"I could have sworn that I saw her up on that high horse during the Twins thread this past summer as well," says Eileen, frowning.

"And during a Prank discussion shortly after her delurk," says Cindy grimly. She strides towards the horse. "It has a name tag..." Elkins lunges forward, throwing herself across her horse's neck.

"No!" she cries, trying to cover up the name tag with her hands. "No! It doesn't have a name. It doesn't...Ow!" she cries, as Cindy starts slapping her hands irritably away. "Ow! Ow, Cindy! Stop that! It's—"

"HAH!" cries Cindy savagely. "I KNEW it!" She turns the name tag around so that Eileen can read it.

AFFECTIVE FALLACY

is what it says.

"Elkins!" gasps Eileen, shocked. "Get down from there!"

"No!" screams Elkins, wrapping both her arms and her legs around her Affective Fallacy. "No! No! No!"

"Elkins, how could you? You know that's one of the three Unforgivable Fallacies!" [2]

"Only in the New Criticism!" cries Elkins. "It's perfectly legal in Reader Response! Nooo!" she screams, as Cindy grabs her by the collar and begins hauling her out of her saddle. "No! No! No! No!"

Cindy tosses her roughly to the ground, then slaps Affective Fallacy on the rump.

"Go on," she tells it. "Get out of here."

The horse snorts, and then lopes off down to the beach, where a group of shippers instantly get into a shoving match over who will get to ride it next.

Cindy shakes her head and looks down at Elkins, who is curled in fetal position on the promenade, sobbing weakly.

"Hope that helps," she says.

Eileen sighs and rubs wearily at one temple. "Elkins," she says reprovingly. "You know that the Affective Fallacy Is Not Fair Play."

"But nobody can separate their autobiographical experiences from their reading of the text, Eileen," wails Elkins. "Nobody can divorce their emotional responses from their discussion of the narrative! Nobody can! It's just not possible! We all view the text through the lenses of our own personal experience. It's the only way that we can view it. Whenever we read, we're always seeing the text that way. We can see it only through a glass. Through a glass, darkly."

"Oh, I know," sighs Eileen. "I know that, Elkins. But it's generally considered good form to warn the reader about your Affective Fallacy, you know, so that—"

Elkins stares up at her pointedly, her eyes rimmed with red. Eileen blinks.

"Oh," she says.

"Left it a little late, didn't you?" asks Cindy, glancing up to the subject line blazoned across the sky.

"Not to anyone who's really been paying attention." Elkins sniffs and wipes her nose on her sleeve. "I did put the CRABCUSTARD part first, didn't I? I told you there was bias. I told you there was emotion. I told you there was personal identification. I told you there was autobiographical congruence. I played it fair. I did!"

"Well, okay, Elkins," says Eileen. "Okay. But now that you're down off of that fallacy of yours, you can't honestly deny that the text invites our sympathies with Crouch, can you? I mean..."

"Oh, of COURSE the text invites our sympathies with him!" screams Elkins. "Man gets a redemption scene, doesn't he?"

Eileen rocks back on her heels and smirks unbecomingly at Cindy.

"Told you," she says.

Cindy mutters something under her breath.

"Cindy said it wasn't a real redemption scene," Eileen tells Elkins.

"What?" Elkins shakes her head. "Oh, don't be silly. Of course it is. Althooough..." She looks up, a somewhat cruel smile on her face.

"Although," she says softly. "I could argue against Redeemed In Death Crouch, you know. If I wanted to. I could make that argument. I seriously considered it once. Back in September. I did think about it."

"Yes," says Eileen quietly. "I thought that you might have. You see, I've noticed that Affective Fallacy of yours before."

"Have you? Yes. Well. You see, if I wanted to argue against Crouch's redemption, then I suppose that I would ask you just this one little thing. Just one simple question." Elkins narrows her eyes. "Does he see his sin?" she asks. "Does Crouch ever see his sin?"

"Well, of course he—"

"Does he? Does he really? Does he comprehend its nature? Does he understand where he went wrong? Does he ever actually repent? You cited Crouch's hamartia as his refusal to recognize the autonomy of others, didn't you, Eileen? His disrespect for their independence. His refusal to treat them as people first and foremost. His belief that others should do as he disposed them."

"Yes," says Eileen. "I—"

"All right. Well, then. Are there any indications that he's actually repented of any of that in his last scene? Any indications at all? He knows that he's in trouble, certainly. He knows that the world is in peril, and that it's in some sense his fault. But does he actually comprehend the nature of his crimes? Has he come to any real recognition of where he went wrong? Has he really? All that he actually says is that he has done a 'stupid thing.' Not wicked. Not evil. Not wrong. Just 'stupid.'"

Elkins chuckles softly. "Why, Mr. Crouch still just doesn't get it, does he?" she asks. "He thinks that all that he's committed is a tactical error! There's absolutely no sign of any real recognition of the nature of his wrong-doing there at all, is there? Nope. None. Just recognition of a strategic oversight. That's not repentence. That's the equivalent of only regretting that you committed a crime because you happened to get caught.

"And then," she continues, now really warming to her topic. "And then, when you look at the words that he actually uses, at his phrasing, they reveal that even in the midst of his passion, Mr. Crouch has not truly changed. He's still speaking of people in terms that deny their individuality. He speaks of them as possessions. He asks Harry: 'You're not...his?' And then he asks if Harry is 'Dumbledore's.' And he keeps giving orders. 'Don't leave me.' 'Go get Dumbledore.' He clutches onto Harry's robes so tightly that Harry can't even pry him free. If his hamartia is the belief that people should do as he disposes them, that he doesn't have to treat them as people first and foremost, then what does his behavior actually tell us about his spiritual condition? There's actually no sign of any new-found respect for individuality there at all, is there? No sign of any new-found recognition of others' autonomy. No sign that he's given up on expecting others to 'do as he disposes them.' Really, he doesn't seem to appreciate the nature of his sin at all, does he? No recognition at all of where he went wrong. No genuine repentence. Nope," Elkins concludes, with undeniable relish. "No, Crouch died in his sin, if you ask me. Oh, he was just mired in it, Eileen. Up to his very neck in hamartia. Absolutely steeped in moral error. Positively choking on perdition."

Elkins leans back with a satisfied smile on her face and lights a cigarette. She takes a long slow drag, exhales contentedly, then looks up to notice both Eileen and Cindy staring at her. Her smile falters. She sighs.

"Nah," she mutters. "Forget it. Crouch is okay. The angels can have him."

Eileen sidles up close to Cindy. "Do you think that Elkins is aware that she's not the one who gets to make those decisions?" she asks, in a low whisper.

Cindy shakes her head. "You know, I've often wondered that myself?" she whispers back.

"Besides," Elkins adds, ignoring them. "He really is heroic there at the end, isn't he? Even I can't quite help but admire him there. From the description of his condition, the implication seems to be that he's made his way all the way to Hogwarts on foot. Fighting the Imperius Curse every step of the way. Have you ever walked from England to Scotland? I have, and I can tell you: there are stretches of Northumbria that would break anyone's spirit. Even without the Imperius Curse to contend with. And he comes so close, doesn't he? He tries so hard, and he comes so close, just to get nailed right when his end is finally in sight. I mean, it's just terrible. The poor man."

"So you do sympathize with him!" cries Eileen.

"What, at the end there?" Elkins laughs. "You mean, when he's clutching Harry's knees and begging him 'Don't leave me?' When he's slipping into memories of days when his wife was still alive and he was proud of his son? When he keeps repeating over and over again that it's all his fault? When he's staggering and drooling all over himself in his effort to deliver his warning to Dumbledore? And then when, after all of that, he still fails? Oh, for heaven's sake, Eileen! What do you think? Of course I sympathize with him! Do you think that I have no soul, woman?"

Eileen opens her mouth, then closes it.

"I truly do hate Crouch, you know," Elkins tells her earnestly. "I think that in some ways he's the most convincing portrayal of human evil, of human monstrosity, that we've yet seen in the canon. He comes across to me as real evil, not just cartoon evil, like his nutty son, or like Voldemort. But at the end there? Well, come on. You know what an appalling bleeding heart I am. I even felt a little bit sorry for Voldemort in the graveyard, you know. When he was telling his Death Eaters that his disincorporated exile had been painful?"

"You felt sorry for him there," Cindy repeats flatly.

"Yeah, I did. I know, I know. It's just pathetic, isn't it? In the end, you know." Elkins pulls herself slowly to her feet. She shrugs helplessly. "In the end," she says. "I always feel sorry for everyone."

"Even Barty Crouch?"

"Yeah, even Crouch. But I still can't quite bring myself to like him, Eileen. I'm sorry. I just can't. He has the misfortune of being associated with all of the things that I happen to hate the very most in the world. Tyranny. Torture. Brainwashing. Coercion. Narcissism. The negation of volition. Ugh. Ugh. He's just horrible. He really is. And—"

"And he reminds you of your father," says Eileen.

"Well...of both my parents, really. But, yes. That too."

Eileen shakes her head. "Elkins," she says. "Is there something that you want to share with us about your parents?"

Elkins considers the question for a long moment.

"Eileen," she says finally. "Do you remember ages and ages ago, all the way back in January, when Cindy offered me that brandy and invited me to sit back and tell her all about exactly why I hate the Imperius Curse so much?"

Eileen nods. "Yes, I remember that," she says. "You started to tell some anecdote about your parents, and then you caught yourself and made that little joke about the brandy having been—"

She blinks.

"Having been, er," she finishes slowly. "Having been laced with veritaserum..."

"I thought the brandy made people bloodthirsty," says Cindy, frowning.

"No. Not at first," Eileen says. "That came later. In fact," she continues, now staring at Elkins as if she has never seen her before. "In fact, I'm pretty sure that it was Elkins who first shifted its meaning in that direction. Just like it was Elkins who first started harping on misdirection as being..." She blinks, then ducks down beneath her CRAB CUSTARD table, emerging a moment later with an old yellowed scroll. She unrolls it gingerly. "'Misdirection,' she quotes. 'The favored pasttime of so many notable SYCOPHANTS.'"

Elkins shrugs and looks away.

"Indirect means of expression," says Eileen, still staring at her. "Sly, sidelong, allusive..."

"Yet ultimately honest," Elkins reminds her. "If also...er." She glances down to the beach, where a group of Sirius and Snape fans are now clustered around Affective Fallacy, shoving at each other while Prank runs circles around them, barking hysterically. She sighs.

"If also often notably self-sabotaging," she concludes. No," she says. "No, you know what? I really don't want to tell you about my parents. Not even under a pseudonym. Not in front of the 5000 lurkers. And not in front of God. But I really do have a serious, uh, Affective Fallacy problem, let's just say, when it comes to Crouch. Not to mention the Imperius Curse. I just hate that Imperius Curse, you know. I really do. Just hate it. I'd rather take a tango with the Cruciatus."

"Would you really, Elkins?" asks Eileen.

"I, uh..." Elkins blinks at her. "What," she says. "You mean really? You mean, uh, like really really? Like, if somebody actually offered me the choice?" She laughs uneasily. "Aw, come on, Eileen. Cut me some slack here, will you? We can't all be sorted Gryffindor, you know. And besides," she adds. "The Crouch that I identify with is the son, remember? Not the father. And he failed that test. He failed it at his sentencing. He failed it when he begged his parents to save him."

"Well," says Cindy. "He didn't actually know that he was asking for the Imperius Curse, did he?"

"Literally? No. But symbolically? Metaphorically? Thematically?" Elkins sighs. "Yeah," she says. "Actually, I'd say that was exactly what he was doing. He was asking to be spared the consequences of his actions, wasn't he? He was pleading for parental intercession, like a child. And he wasn't just behaving like a child, either; he was also asking to be treated like a child. Like someone who isn't to be held fully accountable. Children get absolved of responsibility for many of their actions, but they're also denied full freedom of choice. And isn't that the Imperius Curse right there?

"So yeah," she concludes. "On the literal level, obviously Barty Jr. wasn't actually asking to be put under the Imperius Curse. But on the metaphoric level, I'd say that was exactly what he was asking for."

"And he got it," says Eileen.

"Well, of course he did." Elkins smiles. "Dramatic irony is a double-edged sword, isn't it? Nemesis cuts both ways. It's not the wishes that go unanswered that you really have to watch out for, you know. It's the wishes that get granted. That's part of what makes mirrors so very dangerous."

"Man!" exclaims Cindy. "Mirrors really do freak you out, don't they?"

"Yes," says Elkins shortly. "They do." She takes off her glasses and begins slowly polishing them on her sleeve. "You know," she says. "Barty Jr. in the Pensieve reminds me a great deal of Peter Pettigrew in the Shack, actually. When he finally breaks down completely, and suddenly the narrative voice starts quite explicitly marking him as regressed. As infantile. He's described as an overgrown baby. Or like Lockhart, stripped of his memories and reduced to a child-like state at the end of CoS. Or like all those DEs in the graveyard..."

"...who are Voldemort's erring sons," Eileen finishes for her.

Elkins nods. "It seems to be a common affliction among the series' secondary villains, doesn't it? To fail the test of maturity? I really don't think that's at all accidental. We talk a lot on the list, you know, about the extent to which the series is a 'genre soup,' but when push comes to shove..."

"It's a bildungsroman."

"Yeah. At heart, I'd say it's a bildungsroman. And Book Four is its midpoint. It's the turning point of the entire series. It ends with the chapter title 'the beginning.' It's the point at which Harry is fourteen years old. It's the point at which we first start to see his hormones really kicking in, the point at which romance subplots begin to take on some real importance. It's—"

"Adolescence," says Cindy.

"Yes. Adolescence. Harry's parental protections fail him one by one in Book Four. His legacy items consistently fail him. His godfather Sirius has no idea what's going on, and doesn't even manage to advise him on the First Task. His enemy can see through his Invisibility Cloak. The Marauder's Map leads him astray, and eventually lends aid to his enemy as well. At the end he loses even his mother's mystical protection against evil. It's also the first book in the series which does not end with some degree of emphasis on Harry's assumption of his parental legacy. No 'only a true Gryffindor...' No 'you are truly your father's son.' No 'James would have done the same.' None of that. Instead, Dumbledore congratulates him on having acquitted himself like an adult.

"And that's why I think that the parricide motif is so vitally important in GoF," explains Elkins. "It's why I view the entire Crouch subplot as so very important, really. Because as I see it, the Crouch family subplot focuses on developmental issues that are absolutely central to adolescence, as well as to GoF as a whole. They're just everywhere in GoF, down to the detail of having a sphinx standing in as the guardian at the end of the Third Task. It's why I think that the dangers facing Harry in Book Four seem to focus so very strongly on assaults not just on his life, but also on his very identity. The Unforgivable Curses are all about identity loss, really, aren't they? Ali said something like that a month or so ago, and I agree with her. She pointed out that the UCs all deny others the right of self-determination. The Imperius quite blatantly so, the AK quite terminally so—you don't get much less in the way of self-determination than you do when you're dead—and the Cruciatus..."

"Yes," says Cindy. "What about the Cruciatus?"

"Well, I think that the way that the Cruciatus Curse is actually presented, it does as well. It seems to me that what the text really emphasizes about the Cruciatus isn't that it causes pain, but that it has the capacity to strip its victims of their freedom of volition. We hear about it being used quite specifically for purposes of interrogation. We see Voldemort use it to try to break Harry's will. The true horror of the Cruciatus as it is presented, I'd say, resides in its ability to tempt people to say or do things that they would never ordinarily say or do, things like revealing secret information, things like begging their worst enemy for death. At its most extreme, as with the Longbottoms, it seems to cause madness and amnesia. In other words, identity loss. It seems to me that the text strongly emphasizes that as the real horror of the Cruciatus Curse. Not that it causes pain, but that it subverts human volition."

"So how does that relate to—"

"To adolescence? Well, isn't self-determination the test of adolescence? Standing on your own two feet? Accepting responsibility for your actions? Forging an independent sense of self? Individuation. All of which is tied to separation from your parents. Which in turn is thematically linked to...well, to parricide. Parricide is the unhealthy version of the healthy and necessary separation of adulthood. If there's a lesson to be learned from Crouch Jr, maybe it's that when it comes to parricide, an ounce of prevention really is worth a ton of cure. I did tell you, didn't I," Elkins asks, smiling. "That a little bit of parricide was a necessary thing?"

"In moderation," Eileen reminds her.

"In moderation. In principle. So long as you keep it in the realm of the symbolic. Or...you know." Elkins grins wickedly. "Or the vicarious."

"So you read Crouch Jr. as a cautionary tale of sorts then?" asks Eileen.

"If you had my Affective Fallacy," Elkins assures her gravely. "You'd be tempted to read him as a cautionary tale too. Trust me. But yes, I do think that he plays that role in the text, to some extent. He shows what can happen to you if you fail the test of adolescence, the test of individuation. The test that Harry passes in the graveyard. Because, you know, Crouch Jr. isn't just a double to Voldemort. And he's not just a double to his father. And he's not just..."

"A double to Neville Longbottom?" Eileen smiles. "Your Prince Renunciates?"

"And he's not just a double to Neville. Ultimately, I think that he really has to serve as a double to Harry. Because you know..."

"It's all about Harry."

"Well. Penultimately. Ultimately, it's all about us, really. It's all about the reader. Fiction is a reflective surface. But to the extent that the reader is Harry, yeah. It's all about Harry. And as for Crouch Sr..."

"Yes?"

"Well, he stands for the threat to individuation, doesn't he? In large part, he represents the challenge that Harry needs to learn to overcome. So really, in some ways, he's the Enemy of Book Four.

"And that's why I feel that while the text certainly does invite us to sympathize with Crouch there at the very end, while he's manfully trying to undo the damage that he has wrought, on another level I think that the text militates against sympathy with him. Because while Crouch the man is ultimately pitiable, and perhaps even in his own way admirable, Crouch's role in the text is to serve as the representative of the forces offering the temptation that Harry must learn to resist. Crouch offers the temptation of what is easy over what is right. It is easy to surrender your will to an authoritarian political leader. It is easy to allow yourself to be dominated by the desire to serve a charismatic master, or to impress a demanding employer, or to please a strong father figure. It is easy to let your parents protect and harbour and control you. It is easy to give way to the Imperius Curse.

"But it's not right," Elkins concludes. "The text invites our sympathy for those who have to face those choices. But it doesn't generally invite too much sympathy for those who offer the easy choices, I don't think. It seems to me that in these books, the powers that actually offer the easy choices are...well, they're usually the powers of Evil."

"Speak of the Devil," murmers Cindy.

"Speak of the Devil. Both of the Bartemii Crouch are really pretty diabolical, when it comes right down to it. But somehow in the end I just can't help but sympathize far more with the son than with the father."

"Yes," says Eileen, a bit crossly. "Well. Youth will be served, I suppose."

"All too often with a side of fries," agrees Elkins grimly. "And that's the other reason. In the end, I can never seem to keep from reading Crouch Sr. as so closely allied to the Dementors. Oral aggression. The Devouring Parent. Destruction that masquerades as affection. Soul murder that calls itself a 'Kiss.' The other alternative answer to the Third Task Sphinx's riddle."

She glances up at the CRAB CUSTARD banner and shudders helplessly.

"Which brings us back to those bulging eyes," she says.

"What is your deal with those eyes?" asks Cindy.

"You said that you'd tell us about them," Eileen reminds her.

"Did I?" Elkins sighs. "Well," she says. "I found it interesting when Eileen provided a .gif to a painting in her 'Crouch as Tragic Hero' post. Because Crouch Sr. has always reminded me of a painting, too. A completely different painting. A very specific painting. And it disturbs me. It really disturbs me a great deal."

Eileen frowns. "What painting?" she asks.

Elkins shakes her head from side to side. "Oh," she mutters, as if to herself. "Oh, but it's just coincidence, surely. It couldn't possibly have been intentional, could it? I doubt anyone else sees it there. It's just me, probably. It's just..."

Down on the beach, Affective Fallacy raises its head and pricks up its ears. It shakes its mane, dodges the die-hard opponent of Redeemable!Draco who has been trying to catch it, and begins loping up the slope to the promenade.

"Elkins," prompts Cindy. "What painting?"

"The very second time I read GoF," Elkins says. "My very first re-reading, I just kept flashing on it. Every time that JKR did that thing with Crouch and his bulging eyes. And now I can't seem to rid myself of it. It's become completely intrinsic to the way that I read that plotline. It's become completely intrinsic to the way that I read the entire novel, for that matter. It's..." She blinks, then looks down at the promenade from high up on the back of her Affective Fallacy.

"Oh." She frowns. "How did I get back up here?"

"Elkins. What painting?"

Elkins sighs.

"Goya," she says. "Saturn Devouring His Son."


**************

Elkins

(continued in part eight)

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REFERENCES:

This post is continued from Part Six. It is primarily a response to messages #37476 (the "CRABCUSTARD Manifesto") and #45402 ("Crouch Sr as Tragic Hero"), but also cites or references message numbers 34232, 34496, 34519, 34579, 38368, 38398, 43326, 44258, 44636



FOOTNOTES:

[1] This Lacan quotation (and footnote) comes to you courtesy of Amy Z., who once signed off with the following:

Amy, who has a deliciously grim feeling that this thing is going to appear on the main list next week, grown to 48k and with footnotes and references to Lacan, courtesy of certain FAQers Who Must Not Be Named.

Happy to oblige, my dear. I actually know virtually nothing about Lacan, but I am always happy to yank a quotation completely out of context and then run with it. [back]

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[2] The Unforgivable Fallacies of the New Criticism

The 'New Criticism' was a highly influential school of formalist literary criticism that flourished in the early to middle 20th century. The New Critics posited that the text ought be viewed as an autonomous entity, and that historical, biographical, or sociological factors should not be considered relevant to its interpretion. New Criticism encourages a very strong focus on the text itself and frowns upon all which diverges from that focus.

The New Critics took particular issue with three violations of this philosophy. The "Three Unforgivable Fallacies" of the New Criticism are:

THE INTENTIONAL FALLACY

Confusing the author's relationship with the text, and particularly the dread "authorial intent," with the text itself.

(Gave critics a lot of trouble at one time, the Intentional Fallacy. Some job for the reader, trying to sort out what the author had really written, and what the author only meant to have written...)

THE AFFECTIVE FALLACY

Confusing the reader's relationship with the text, and particularly the emotional effect that the text has on an individual reader, with the text itself.

(You don't need the tools of literary analysis to wrest meaning from a text if you've got an Affective Fallacy.)

THE HERESY OF PARAPHRASE

The last and worst. Spoken of only in hushed whispers. Precisely what it sounds like.

(And yes. Believe it or not, they really did call it 'the Heresy of Paraphrase.')

Then, of course, the New Criticism has been dead for very nearly as long as the Author herself has. ;-) [back]