POSTS TO HPFGU
2002-2003
     
       
       

Weekly Archive
January 19, 2003 - January 25, 2003

RE: TBAY: Fourth Man Avery & Fourth Man Nott


Eileen wound her way through the crowds in the Royal George until she found the corner table where Elkins was sitting with her arm around Fourth Man Avery's shaking shoulders, murmering sympathetically into his ear.

Not for the first time, Eileen wondered if she were witnessing an expression of philos or of eros.

"I heard what happened," she said quietly, slipping herself into a seat at the table. "Are you all right there, Aves?"

Avery nodded weakly.

"He's okay." Elkins looked tired. "Cindy didn't actually lay a finger on him. But still. It wasn't very nice of her to go about threatening him now, of all times. You know how edgy he's been lately. Ever since the storm started up. How edgy we've all been." She shook her head. "I just don't understand this, Eileen. Why? Why does Cindy have it in for my Fourth Man theory? Why is she always going after Avery like this? Why?"

"It's envy," said Eileen firmly.

"But did you hear the ludicrous nonsense she came up with this time around? I mean, Dolohov? What the devil does Dolohov have to do with anything? Is Dolohov one of Snape's old friends? Does Dolohov have any connection with the Lestranges? Does Dolohov get a strangely emphasized—yet also peculiarly anonymous—cameo appearance in Book Four?"

"I know, Elkins," sighed Eileen. "I know."

"Does Dolohov have any tie-in to the main thrust of the story at all?"

"I know."

"Does Dolohov even have a reason to exist, other than to establish that Karkaroff wasn't the only Slavic Death Eater? I mean, that's his sole function, as far as I can tell. That, and to give Karkaroff yet another useless name to offer up to Crouch while the author is busy establishing just how venal a fellow Karkaroff himself really is. Dolohov is filler, for God's sake! He only escapes the GARBAGESCOW by the very skin of his teeth! And Cindy thinks that guy's going to turn out to be the Fourth Man? Really, what would be the point?"

"Elkins. I know."

"Antonin Dolohov," repeated Elkins savagely. "Hah! If you ask me, Antonin Dolohov probably died years ago. A shattered wreck. Gibbering and drooling. Sprawled on the floor of his prison cell. In his own waste."

"Elkins, please!" objected Eileen, throwing a concerned glance over to Avery, who had gone as pale as death and looked very much as if he were contemplating being sick.

"I...oh. Oh, hell. I'm sorry, Aves. I really am. But honestly! Dolohov? How could it have been Dolohov? At Karkaroff's hearing, Crouch tells Karkaroff that Dolohov was 'caught shortly after yourself,' and he doesn't say a word about letting Dolohov go. We've already established that Karkaroff had to have been in prison for some time before Crouch offered him release in exchange for information. So it just doesn't make sense, Eileen. How could Dolohov have managed to qualify as someone who 'talked his way out of Azkaban?'"

"I believe that Cindy may have had a double pardon scenario in mind for him."

"A double pardon scenario? And she thinks it implausible that Avery might have managed both to evade indictment right after Voldemort's fall and to get a pardon years after his later conviction?" She shook her head. "She finds that so terribly implausible, and yet she has no problem at all with a...a what? A Double-Pardoned Dolohov?"

"I know, Elkins. I tried to explain that to her myself."

"It's absolutely ridiculous! What's she going to do next? Finger Travers as the Fourth Man? And then she...she got it all wrong, Eileen! She tried to use the process of elimination to narrow down Fourth Man candidates, but she used the wrong starting premise! She eliminated all of the people who are free, rather than all of the people who are in prison. And then she seemingly forgot that Avery himself was in the graveyard! It's his one and only incontrovertble canonical appearance, and she forgot that he was even there?"

"I know, I know."

"It just didn't make a lick of sense! How am I supposed to counter objections that don't even make any sense? It's MC'd Neville and that blasted Egg all over again! She always does this to me! She does it on purpose! I just know it! It's all to upset me! She Humpty-Dumpties her Bangs, she refuses to Concede The Point, she engages in the most grotesque logical fallacies imaginable, and she...says these, these weird random nonsensical things..."

"She's The Cinister One, Elkins. What can you do?"

"She does it just to spite me!" cried Elkins. "I know it! She does it because she knows how much it frustrates me!"

"Forget it, will you? Let me buy you a drink."

"And she goes off-canon, and she does that just to annoy me as well! She said that Pettigrew was the one who put Crouch Sr. under the Imperius Curse, when we all know perfectly well that Voldemort was the one who did that. She's always saying things like that, Eileen. She does it just to bait me. And...and...and...and she...she..."

Elkins took a deep breath, then blurted:

"And she let Derannimer hold her Big Paddle!"

And burst into tears.

"Oh, dear." Eileen fumbled in her pocket for a handkerchief, but Avery offered his first. She leaned back in her seat and sighed. "So word of that finally got back to you, did it?"

"How could she?" wailed Elkins. "Just...just hand it over to her? Just like that? How? How? How COULD she have, Eileen? How COULD she?"

"How could I have what?"

Elkins stiffened in her seat. She looked up at Cindy, then tossed her head imperiously.

"I was just wondering," she said coldly, rising slowly to her feet. "How you could ever have brought yourself to humiliate yourself so badly by raising all of those absolutely pathetic so-called objections to FourthMan!Avery. Really, Cindy! I would have been ashamed to be caught in the Bay uttering such errant nonsense."

"Oh you would, would you?" Cindy growled. "I suppose you can offer some defense against my anti-Fourth Man canons?"

"What canons would those be again?" asked Elkins, shifting her position slightly.

Eileen found herself wondering if Elkins had even the slightest bit of conscious awareness of the way that she had just moved so as to place her own body directly in line between Cindy and the seated Fourth Man Avery.

Then it struck her.

Oh! she thought. Of course!

Storge.

"What anti-Fourth Man canons?" Elkins asked again, tense.

"The fact that Voldemort never praised Avery in the graveyard?" said Cindy. "The fact that Avery begged forgiveness and grovelled so piteously?"

Elkins stared at her. "Those are your anti-Fourth Man canons? Have you been smoking something, Cindy? Those aren't anti-Fourth Man canons. Those are Fourth Man canons! And one of them is also a Redeemable!Avery canon. You're arguing my position here. Didn't Eileen just explain all of this to you?"

"Well, I tried," said Eileen, rolling her eyes. "And to explain the difference between the acquittal and the pardon. She's just being difficult, if you ask me."

"Well, just how gullible is Crouch Sr. supposed to be, anyway?" demanded Cindy. "And why would Crouch Sr. have let Avery off the hook the first time around? He wouldn't have liked that."

"No, he really wouldn't have," agreed Elkins and Eileen.

In perfect unison.

Although in completely different tones of voice.

They each blinked, then eyed the other warily.

"But," they added, after a moment's pause. "He wouldn't have had a choice."

Again in unison. And again in different tones of voice.

There was a long strained silence.

"Go on," muttered Elkins, at length. "You go."

Eileen nodded at her. "The first time," she explained, "Crouch was forced to release Avery because he had nothing on him! Just like Ludo Bagman and the Lestranges."

"Or," suggested Elkins. "Perhaps more like Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott, and MacNair. Actually," she said, turning to Eileen. "That's the Fourth Man defense that I prefer, you know."

"It is?"

"Yes. I think that it works better that way. The first time around, he got off on the Imperius defense, just like all of those other DEs did and at the same time: right after Voldemort's fall. He was acquitted on the Imperius Defense along with Malfoy, Nott, Crabbe, Goyle, MacNair, and the Lestranges."

"But the Fourth Man couldn't have been acquitted," said Cindy. "Because Barty Jr. was caught with people who had 'talked their way out of Azkaban.'"

"If Barty Jr. had been acquitted," Elkins countered. "Wouldn't you call that having 'talked his way out of Azkaban?' He pleads with his father not to send him back to the dementors, remember? Even though he's not yet been found guilty. People awaiting trial get held in Azkaban, it seems. It's not just the wizarding prison. It's also the wizarding jail. So acquittal on the Imperius defense definitely counts as 'talking ones way out of Azkaban.'"

"I thought that he probably got out of his first spot of trouble with the law due to lack of evidence," said Eileen. "Like Ludo Bagman. And that it was his later pardon that was based on the Imperius Defense."

"Well, I guess it could be," admitted Elkins. "But I really think that it makes much more sense the other way around. The way that Fudge lumps Avery in with all of those older DEs makes me feel that he—along with the Lestranges—pulled the Imperius Defense right along with all of the others: immediately following after Voldemort's fall. I'm not really sure how effective that defense might have been later on, honestly. I have an idea that it was a lot easier to beg off on Imperius in the immediate aftermath of Voldemort's fall, when everyone was feeling all celebratory and forgiving. And of course, that would have been the incident that Fudge would have wanted to remind his listeners of—the 13-year-past acquittal, rather than the more recent pardon—because that one that happened on Crouch's watch, not on his own."

"You still haven't explained to me why you think that Crouch permitted those mass acquittals," Eileen reminded her. "If he'd supposedly usurped so much of the Minister's power?"

"Yeah, I know. I'm in the middle of that one. Give me another day or two on it, okay? I'm having a busy week. But getting back to the subject at hand, my feeling here is that the Fourth Man really didn't need the Imperius Defense to get off the hook for the Longbottom Incident. By the time of the canon, it seems to have become the common wisdom that Barty Jr. might really have been innocent. Sirius thinks so, and it isn't a notion he came by in Azkaban. He tells Harry: 'This is mostly stuff I've found out since I got out.' Sirius has been picking up his information from current opinion, I'm guessing. And maybe also from reading old newspapers. So why is it, do you think, that the current day 'Common Wisdom' holds so strongly to the idea that Barty Jr. really might have been innocent after all? The wizarding world doesn't generally seem inclined to question its own judicial system very much, does it? Fudge has poor Hagrid dragged off for some sort of vague protective custody in CoS, and nobody seems even to think to question it. Yet they're all questioning Barty's guilt. Why? Why, Cindy?"

"Well..."

"The current 'Common Wisdom' holds that Barty Jr. was likely innocent," Elkins told her firmly. "Because at least one of Barty Jr's co-defendents was later determined to be innocent. Exonerated of all charges. Pardoned. Released from prison. Fourth Man. Fourth Man Avery."

Cindy shook her head. "No, see, that's a real problem," she said. "It doesn't add up. This has always bothered me about Avery as Fourth Man. I mean, if he talked his way out of Azkaban once claiming he was under the Imperius Curse and then attacked the Longbottoms, how on earth can he claim he acted under Imperius a second time?"

"He didn't!" Elkins repeated, with more than a touch of exasperation. "He didn't claim Imperius a second time! He didn't need to! There was no real evidence against the Pensieve Four, remember? That's why both Sirius and Dumbledore thought it possible that Barty Jr. have been innocent. The trial of the Pensieve Four was a kangaroo court. There was no evidence to speak of against those defendents. Fourth Man wasn't exonerated for the torture of the Longbottoms because he was believed to have been acting under the Imperius Curse. He was exonerated because he was believed not to have acted at all. He was exonerated on the grounds of having been completely innocent of the charges against him. There had probably never been any real evidence against him in the first place, other than his relationship with the Lestranges."

"So you're saying that Avery wormed his way out of trouble not just once but twice in the space of a few months?" demanded Cindy.

"A few months?" Elkins stared at her. "Where on earth are you getting 'a few months' from? For all I know, he could have been in prison for five years before he was pardoned. It certainly wasn't a matter of a 'few months,' because that wouldn't fit in with what we know of the timeline. It had to have been well over a year between these two events at the very least. Crouch Jr. was in prison for a year before he supposedly died, and Crouch Sr. didn't get shunted out of office until some time after that. We don't really need to embark on yet another 'Fall of Voldemort Timeline' thread, do we? Or do we? Actually," Elkins added thoughtfully. "I'd be game for that. Maybe tomorrow..."

She shook her head quickly.

"Anyway," she continued. "Fourth Man only 'wormed his way out of trouble' once by using the Imperius defense. He was then arrested for the assault on the Longbottoms, convicted, and sent to prison on the basis of pretty much nothing at all. Some years later, after Crouch Sr. had fallen from power and been replaced, and after the mood of the public had turned, and after people had started to realize at last just how shoddy Crouch Sr's judicial methods had been..."

"Hold on," objected Eileen.

"...that's when the Longbottom case was reexamined, and he was pardoned. Probably by Fudge, but possibly by whomever succeeded Crouch as the head of the DMLE. He wasn't pardoned on the basis of the Imperius defense. He was pardoned on the basis of being innocent."

"Which he actually wasn't," said Eileen. "'Shoddy judicial methods,' my foot!"

"Yeah, well, Sirius Black really was innocent," Elkins snapped back at her. "Shoddy judicial methods is what I said, and shoddy judicial methods is what I meant. So the Pensieve Four were really guilty. Big deal. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

"If you two are finished bickering over that tiresome Crouch fellow," interrupted Cindy irritably. "Perhaps you can tell me this. Why didn't the Lestranges get out?"

"Because," Elkins sighed. "They confessed. More fools they."

"Why would the Lestranges have confessed, but not Avery?"

"Oh, who knows? Maybe the Lestranges were a lot more cynical and fatalistic. They figured that they were doomed to life imprisonment no matter what they said or did, so they might as well be Good Terrorists and claim responsibility for the attack, while Fourth Man was less resigned and held out in hopes of an acquittal. Or maybe Eileen's theory holds, and the Aurors used a UC to force a confession out of the Lestranges, but never bothered to do the same with Avery because they no longer needed to: the Lestranges had already implicated him as part of their confession, and that was all they felt they needed. Or maybe the Lestranges were loony fanatics and the Fourth Man wasn't. Who can say? It's all speculation, really. There could be any number of reasons why some of the defendents in that case might have confessed, while others continued to insist upon their innocence. Just look at young Barty, for example. He never confessed."

Eileen muttered something under her breath about spoiled brats and favoritism.

"Well, okay," said Cindy. "What do you make of this, though? The Fourth Man theory cannot be true, because Avery was not a Cruciatus specialist!"

There was a very long silence.

"Come again?" asked Elkins, at length.

"Avery was not a Cruciatus specialist. You see, the DEs were all divided into specialties, and..."

"They are? Says who?"

"Well, Mulciber was an Imperius specialist, wasn't he? That implies that they specialized. And so far in the canon, we always only hear about DEs using one particular Unforgivable Curse. Dolohov and Karkaroff were torturers, so they must have been Cruciatus guys. Wormtail used the AK on Cedric Diggory. He blew up those Muggles. Oh, yeah, Wormtail is a Killing Machine — an Avada Kedavra specialist if I ever saw...what? What are you laughing about?"

"Nothing," snickered Elkins. "Nothing. I'm just...no. No, sorry. Sorry. Here." She forced herself back under control. "Here, Cindy. A canon for you."

Cindy blinked. "A canon? Are you serious? For my 'the DEs all specialized' theory? The one you find so very risible?"

"Yeah, sure. Why not? Here it is: Krum was Karkaroff's student, and we know that Krum knew how to use the Cruciatus. He used it on Cedric in the maze, during the Third Task, while under the influence of Barty Jr's Imperius Curse. I don't think that the Imperius Curse can enable people to cast difficult and powerful spells that they haven't already learned, do you? So there you go. More evidence for Karkaroff as a Cruciatus Specialist."

"Oh." Cindy blinked again. "Thank you."

"You're very welcome. Never let it be said that Elkins is ungenerous with her canons. So you were saying?"

"I was saying that the DEs specialized. The Slavs go in for torture, and Wormtail's a killing machine, and Barty Crouch Jr—"

"Could manage all three of them," said Elkins firmly.

"Only on spiders. Not on people. Anyone can curse a lousy spider, Elkins! But the only curse that we actually see him use on people is the Imperius."

Elkins stared at her.

"You're arguing that Barty Crouch Jr. was an Imperius specialist," she said flatly.

"Yup."

"If that's true, then that has got to be the most pathetic thing about him that I've heard yet. Cindy, Barty Crouch Jr. had all the Imperius resistance of a gnat. Neville Longbottom could probably have kept him under Imperius!"

"So? That just means that he was an inept Imperius Specialist. It doesn't mean that he wasn't one. When do we ever hear about him using any other Unforgivable?"

"Err....the Longbottoms?"

"Besides, Cindy," objected Eileen. "Crouch Jr. KILLED his father!"

"Ah." Cindy smiled. "But we don't know how exactly Crouch Jr. killed his father, do we? He only tells us that he 'killed [his] father."

"You think he hit him over the head with a blunt object a few times?" asked Eileen in disbelief.

"It's possible."

"No," said Elkins suddenly. "It's not. It's not possible."

"No? Why not?"

"Because...because he just wouldn't have done it that way. Not like that. He just wouldn't have!"

"What?" Cindy looked at her in disgust. "Whyever not?"

"Because that would have been crude, Cindy. Brutish."

"Oh. I see." Cindy snorted. "That would have been a crude way for him to murder his poor exhausted remorseful unarmed weakened-by-fighting-the-Imperius-Curse father who had saved him from prison and preserved his life at all costs. I see. It all makes sense now! Because Barty Jr. would never do something so impolite."

"Yeah," agreed Eileen. "Barty Jr. only did things like torturing his father for Voldemort's amusement to prove his loyalty to the age's most evil Dark wizard, which of course is not in the least bit brutish or crass."

"He would never have done it that way," insisted Elkins, looking as if she were about to cry. "Not like...not like that. Not with so little finesse. That would be like...it would be like telling an outright lie, when instead you could twist around the truth! It wasn't the way he did things. It would have been aesthetically displeasing to him."

"Aesthetically displeasing to him?"

"Barty Crouch Jr. did NOT murder his father by braining him with a blunt implement!" yelled Elkins.

"Yeah, right." Cindy snorted. "Eileen?"

"No, she's right," said Eileen stolidly. "Because Barty Crouch Sr. did not die by being bludgeoned in the head with a blunt implement."

"You're daft," said Cindy. "Both of you. But okay, so maybe it wasn't a blunt implement. But—"

"Cindy," Elkins interrupted her. "Even if we are willing to accept this, uh, 'The DEs all specialized in a particular UC' theory of yours as a given..."

"Are you?"

"No, of course not. But even if I were, then explain something to me here, will you? How do you know that Avery was not a Cruciatus specialist?"

Silence.

"Well, come on," said Elkins. "You said that it was a big canon. A grand objection to Fourth Man. 'Avery is not a Cruciatus specialist.' So? Why do you say that? Where's the canon?"

"The canon," said Cindy. "Is that if Avery had really been a Cruciatus specialist, then he wouldn't have screamed so loudly in the graveyard, when Voldemort hit him with that—"

"Uh-huh. And Barty Jr. was an Imperius specialist, right?"

More silence.

"That's rather what I thought," said Elkins coldly. She turned back to Eileen. "I don't know how he died, Eileen, but I just know that it wasn't by being bludgeoned over the head with a blunt object. I'm sure of it. It would be all wrong. It's...it's the way that a thug would do it. It's something that..." She spared a sidelong glare at Cindy. "It's something that only the sort of person who carries around Big Paddles would do."

"Or something that someone who smashes other people's Big Paddles would do?" gritted Cindy.

"Oh, did that nice young Derannimer not smash your Big Paddle, Cindy?" snarled Elkins. "Did she treat it gently? Did she coddle it?"

"Ahem."

They both whirled around to stare at the woman standing rather shyly to one side.

"Allow me to introduce myself" the woman said, pulling a rubber duckie from her bag. "I am Ginger, new to these shores, but wanting to float my tiny theory." She gestured towards the Duckie. "I call him TNT, for Third Nott Theory."

"Nott?" asked Elkins, with interest. "You have a Nott theory?"

"Yes. He has been a pet of mine for some time, and in my lurking moments, I have found your Fourth Man hovercraft to be floating in similar waters. Indeed, I almost abandoned him and requested permission to climb aboard."

"You're always welcome," said Elkins numbly. "But...what's your alternative? You think that Nott could be the Fourth Man? Elkins turned to Cindy. "Now you see, Cindy?" she said. "This is an alternative Fourth Man theory that at least has a bit of promise. At least Nott has a child at Hogwarts. He has some tie-in to the plot. Dolohov, indeed!" She turned back to Ginger and smiled. "I've often thought myself that Nott has some promise as an alternative Fourth Man candidate," she said. "In fact—"

"Oh, no." Ginger shook her head. "Not that Nott. His son. Hence 'Third Nott Theory.' You see?"

"Err..."

"Look," said Ginger reasonably. "Nott in the graveyard was described as 'stooped.' That usually implies elderly, so he would not likely be the Nott in Harry's grade's father."

"So, you're proposing that the Nott in the graveyard is actually the Nott kid's...what? Grandfather? Grandfather Nott? And his son was the Fourth Man?"

Ginger nodded. "The Nott in the graveyard, when his master passed him, he said 'My Lord, I prostrate myself before you...' which made me think he talks like a lawyer..."

"Oh, absolutely!" agreed Elkins cheerfully. "I quite agree. Don't you, Cindy? Go on, Ginger."

"And so TNT was formed," Ginger announced. "One of the four in the Longbottom trial is describes as 'a thickset man who stared blankly up at Crouch'. Suppose this fourth man was the son of the one in the graveyard. His father may have told him to stare blankly, realizing that the trial of the four together was a loss, and hoping to free him later with his flowery words, either begging Imperious, or shock at being accused of such a crime. Crouch Sr. was moved aside into his current department, and the father approached Crouch's successor and won his case. This man would have sat in Azkaban waiting for his release, been of a weak constitution, and died an unremarkable death, thus being neither eulogized as 'dead in the service', mentioned with the Lestranges, or expected to show up."

Elkins nodded slowly. "You know," she said. "I really like this one? I like it a lot. You've managed to produce a 'dead Fourth Man' scenario that still satisfactorily explains why the Fourth Man doesn't get praised in the graveyard. He doesn't get praised because he is disgraced...but he's also dead. That's very nice indeed, and it also explains why elder Nott is so squirrely in the graveyard. I've always loved Nott and Voldemort's little exchange in the graveyard scene, you know. It's my favorite bit of black humour in the entire series. It cracks me up each and every time, it does."

"It does?" Eileen frowned. "Why?"

"You know, I have no idea? It strikes me as hysterically funny, yet I've never quite been able to articulate the reasons why."

"But how can a dead Fourth Man Bang?" asked Cindy.

"What if the fact that Nott is in Harry's grade is not the significant part?" demanded Ginger. "What if what is significant is that this Nott is in Neville's grade?"

There was a short silence.

"Go on," said Elkins.

"Neville was sorted shortly before Nott, and being greeted by his new house, would not have paid any attention until Parvati was sorted, joining him at the Griffindor table. We have oft wondered why Gryffs and Ravens have no classes together. We have also wondered why Nott has been silent."

"So you're proposing that young Nott's narrative function might be for his or her existence to come as a nasty shock for Neville, then?" asked Elkins. "That makes sense. After all, surely Neville knows the names of all of his parents' torturers. Even if we don't know for sure who that Fourth Man was, Neville probably does. And he is an inattentive sort, isn't he? You think that perhaps he's not yet realized that he's at school with the child of one of his parents' victimizers? That maybe he'll learn this in Book Five?"

Ginger nodded.

"You know, this actually works!" Elkins exclaimed. She beamed at Ginger. "Ginger," she said. "Ginger, do you know what you've done here? You've actually succeeded in getting around the big problem with all of the other alternative Fourth Man theories! See, the problem with most non-Avery Fourth Man theories is that they hardly ever have anything to do with Neville. And that makes them all pretty implausible, because if the Fourth Man is ever going to be reintroduced in the canon, then he'll have to relate to Neville in some way. There would be no point, otherwise. It's one of the reasons that I think that Avery fits the bill so well, in fact -- because Avery is an old school friend of Snape's, and Snape and Neville's plotlines are so obviously intertwined. Snape and Neville have unfinished narrative business with each other, just like Neville and his parents' torturers have unfinished business with each other, and just like Snape and his surviving school chums have unfinished business with each other. I firmly believe that those plot threads will be tied together in future canon. The Lestranges will almost certainly be involved in that. The Fourth Man might be, and if so, then it's very tempting to assume that he's going to be Avery, precisely because Avery does share the Lestranges' relationship to Snape. Most of the other Fourth Man candidates people have suggested don't have that advantage.

"But yours does, doesn't it? You've just tied it together by suggesting a relationship between Neville and the yet unknown youngest Nott, rather than tying it in with Snape."

"I am still speculating on the youngest Nott," Ginger admitted. "Innocent bystander keeping a low profile? (Silent Nott, Holy Nott) Perhaps a girl with whom Neville may come into contact in a pre-OWL study course?"

"But what about Ginny/Neville?" objected Eileen suddenly.

"I don't like Ginny/Neville," Elkins said flatly. "I like Ginny, and I like Neville. But together? Oh, that just makes my teeth hurt, that does. But you know, Ginger, I've often wondered about young Nott as well? You see, I really am desperately hoping that somewhere in this series we're going to see a child of a Death Eater who isn't just yet another chip off the old block. Young Nott could fit that bill quite nicely. And it would be even better if young Nott's father turned out to have been one of the Longbottoms' torturers, wouldn't it? Because, I mean, it just doesn't get any more villainous and evil and wicked than that, does it?"

"From your mouth to God's ears," murmured Eileen.

"Oh, Yellow Flag!" objected Cindy. "We haven't even seen this Nott kid in the canon yet. We don't even know if young Nott is a girl or a boy!"

"We hadn't heard of Cho or Cedric either, until PoA," Elkins pointed out. "Yet they both wound up rather important, right? And besides, NiceKidRavenclaw!Nott-New-Friend-Of-Neville does have Bang potential, Cindy. You have to admit it. You know," she concluded. "This is the first non-Avery Fourth Man theory that has ever worked for me? I still think that Avery has a better claim to the position, personally. I'm not prepared to abandon the hovercraft. But I do concede that Dead Fourth Man Third Nott has a lot going for him."

"I have wanted to float my duckie since my arrival," Ginger said. "But I wanted to know if it is seaworthy, and I ask you, if you please, to point out any holes in its rubber."

Cindy snickered.

"Well, I don't see any," said Elkins. "It looks water-tight to me. But I'm sure that someone will think of something. They always do, you know," she sighed. "Even when their objections make no sense. They still always do."

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

Elkins

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

 

RE: Imperio'd Neville Longbottom


Galadriel wrote:

At the recommendation from another site, I re read CH 14 of GoF to investigate a little more into Neville's role in the series. It does seem to me that Moody/Crouch DID have the opportunity to not only give Neville the book about the gillyweed, but to also place Neville under the Imperius Curse while in his office.

I've seen this speculation before, but I've always found it a little bit difficult to understand, myself, primarily because I just can't imagine what on earth Crouch/Moody's motivation would have been in placing Neville under the Imperius Curse.

Seriously. What would have been his purpose in doing this thing? It would have been taking a very big risk, to be sure. If anyone had found out, it would have compromised his cover and jeapordized his main mission at Hogwarts: to make sure that Harry got transported to that graveyard for Voldemort's rebirthing ritual. For me to believe that Crouch would have risked his cover in this fashion, I feel that I need to see some very compelling reason for him to have wanted or needed to be able to control Neville Longbottom in such a fashion.

And I just can't think of one. The only reason that I can possibly imagine that Crouch would have wanted an Imperio'd Neville would be so that he could have control over someone very close to Harry Potter. But if this were the case, then why Neville, of all people? Wouldn't Ron have made a much better choice?

Also, if Crouch had Neville under the Imperius Curse, then why wouldn't he have used that control to make sure that Harry learned about the gillyweed from Neville, as per the original plan, rather than having to fall back on Dobby's indiscretion? Surely once he realized that Harry did not, in fact, seem likely to ask Neville for help with the Second Task, then he would have used his control over Neville to force the information on Harry? Caused Neville to make some passing comment about the uses of gillyweed in Harry's hearing some day in the common room?

That's certainly what I would have done, at any rate, if I had been in Crouch Jr's position, and if I had been controlling Neville with the Imperius.

I don't think that Neville got Imperio'd during that little tea session with Fake!Moody. I do dearly wish that we knew what did transpire, though. I confess to an unwholesome curiousity about that particular meeting. If I could choose one "off-screen" scene in all of canon to have witnessed as a fly on the wall, that particular scene would almost certainly be the one that I would pick.

If you recall, Neville behaved strangely after that meeting.

Neville was behaving strangely before that meeting. His odd spat of aphasia, so suggestively reminiscent of the Memory Charmed Mr. Roberts from the QWC, takes place before he is ushered off to Fake!Moody's office. It would seem to have been that demonstration of the Cruciatus Curse that set him off, not whatever transpired during Tea With Fake!Moody.

When Harry runs into Neville again in the dormitories, after his Tea With Fake!Moody, on the other hand, Harry thinks that Neville seems to be behaving more normally than he was before. He does, however, also note that Neville's eyes are red: Neville would seem to have been crying. And, of course, he also did not sleep that night.

Personally, all that I think really happened to Neville there in Fake!Moody's office was that he had a nice long chat about his poor mad Auror father, whom Moody would surely have known personally. As, of course, would Barty Crouch Jr. Although in a somewhat different context. ::small but twisted smile::

If you accept the idea that Neville may be operating under some form of memory charm, however, then other possibilities for what might have transpired do start suggesting themselves. If Crouch/Moody had reason either to suspect or to knew that Neville was in possession of some information about the night of the assault on his parents, then he might have taken the opportunity to do any number of things: he might have tried to determine just what Neville knew or remembered; he might have cast a memory charm "reinforcement" on the poor lad; he might have tried to evaluate the nature of any mental magics under which Neville was already laboring.

The Imperius Curse, though? I just can't see that somehow. What would have been its purpose?

Star Opal asked:

BUT as far Imperius goes, well I have a question: Does a curse continue to function after the caster is dead or incapacitated? He's been soul sucked - which is worse than dead, just a shell.

I don't think that the Imperius Curse survives the death—or the soul-death, for that matter—of its caster.

When Voldemort was disincorporated, his Imperius victims are said to have snapped out of it — like coming out of trances. Even if one believes that all of those people were faking it, I still think that this implies that the Imperius Curse is known not to survive the death of its caster. I can't imagine that it would be any more likely to survive the soul-death of its caster.

So if Crouch Jr. really did ever put any Hogwarts students under the Imperius Curse, I'd say that they would have been freed when he got the Kiss.

Alex wrote:

I have often wondered if Neville was tortured too? Why is he so bad with magic? Did he witness his parents being tortured? Is he scarred and that is why he can not do magic well? Did they put some kind of memory curse on him dimming his mind so he would not remember something?

Many people have speculated here in the past about the possibility that Neville might have been tortured along with his parents, or that he might have witnessed his parents' torture that night, or that he might have been placed under a memory charm. Or sometimes, all of the above. ;-)

For this past spring's spate of memory charm speculations, you might try the threads linked to in the HA entry on Memory Charmed Neville:

http://www.hpfgu.org.uk/faq/hypotheticalley.html#memorycharm

—Elkins

Posted January 22, 2003 at 3:20 am
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RE: Real characters & persuasive argument


Amy wrote:

It's not a matter of affection for the characters (there's no arguing that point, as affection for characters is as irrational and indefensible as affection for real-life people), but of supporting your argument with the full range of evidence.

But, but, but...

But if you are trying to explain why you reacted to a given text in a particular way, then why on earth would you present evidence that had nothing to do with what you were trying to explain? I don't understand this at all. Wouldn't that be a rather odd thing to do, really?

If what you are trying to convey, for example, is "Ron and Harry strike me as really inconsiderate. Their behavior upsets me a great deal when I read the books. Here are some examples of the sorts of things they do that have made me feel this way," then why on earth would you cite things that hadn't made you feel that way? I mean, that would just be downright weird, wouldn't it? I would certainly find it strange. If nothing else, it would make ones post utterly incoherent.

As Ebony said:

Why would I point out all of Ron's very good characteristics in an essay in which I am speaking about why I do not like the idea of him with Hermione, when such evidence is tangential to the topic?

Yes, precisely. Why would one? I see no reason why one would want to do that. It's not a matter of sneaky rhetorical ploys, as some people seem to be implying. It is simply a matter of coherence and of relevance.

Amy wrote (about Eileen's message #50164):

. . . in either case it takes more than a citation of their inconsiderate moments to make the argument. At least, that's what it takes if you want to convince me.

I believe that the problem here may be that you have misconstrued the intended argument of both Eileen's and Ebony's posts. If you look back to Eileen's original post #50164, for example, you will see that she wrote this sentence (set apart in a paragraph of its very own, in fact, as if for emphasis):

But I don't expect anyone to concede that either Ron or Harry is as flawed as I read them.

In other words, she was never trying to "convince you," or anyone else, to consider these characters as inconsiderate as she does. She went out of her way to make that explicit. Very explicit.

What she was trying to do was to explain her reader response. (She was also trying to make a point about the Affective Fallacy in the process: namely, that the reader's own personal gut emotional reaction to certain characters in the story should not necessarily be assumed to be shared by the other characters in the story.)

Similarly, as Ebony implied in the paragraph I quoted above, she too was trying not to convince, per se, but to explain. To share her experience. To explain her position. To use written language for its intended purpose. To communicate something. Something about herself. Something about how she as a reader interpreted this particular text.

What I guess I'm finding upsetting here is the vague feeling that I get from this thread, a feeling that so long as a reader's response is sufficiently idiosyncratic (which is only to be expected: after all, there would be very little point in bothering to set forth ones reasons for having a universal response to a text, would there?, which as I read it, was precisely a large part of Eileen's point) and sufficiently powerfully expressed (which one would think we would value on this list, but which sometimes it seems that we don't), that it is therefore held to be in some way invalid, or even unfair. Dishonest. Naught but sophistry. Unfair use of rhetoric.

Now, what is this reminding me of? Certain words and phrases seem to be coming back to haunt me somehow. . . .

Over-analyzing the text. Strident. Over-stating the case. Misreading. Not how one "should" interpret the text.

Not Fair Play.

Why, what is this strangely familiar odor, wafting by on the breeze?

::sniff, sniff::

Ah! I have it!


Smells like Twins spirit.


—Elkins

Posted January 22, 2003 at 4:13 pm
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RE: Ron and the Trouble with Veela


ladyofmisrule2000 wrote:

Hi, all!

Does anyone have any theories as to why Ron seems to be affected to a greater extent by the veela than Harry is?

Two possibilities leap to my mind.

First, Ron might be more vulnerable to mental magics in general than Harry is. Harry has a freakish ability to resist the Imperius Curse, while we see Ron suffering from the lingering after-effects of one of Crouch/Moody's in-class demonstrations even after DADA class has ended. Those tendencies could apply across the board to all magics of mental domination or influence.

Second, it could be because Ron is more physically mature than Harry. Harry is small for his age, and it seems to me that Ron started showing an interest in girls (and mildly dirty jokes) rather earlier than Harry did as well. I see signs of Ron taking some romantic interest in Hermione as early as CoS. I don't see any signs of Harry taking the same sort of interest in a girl until PoA. It seems possible to me that on the dead basic physical level, the two boys could just not be at quite the same stage of puberty, which I imagine might have rather a noticable effect on the extent to which lads of That Certain Age respond to the veela.

—Elkins

Posted January 22, 2003 at 7:36 pm
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RE: Real characters & persuasive argument


Amy:

Let's take a really, really obvious example instead of a subtle one like whether Ron and Harry are on balance inconsiderate idiots. Let's say someone is trying to explain ( not persuade anyone else) that Snape strikes her as a particularly kind person.

Amy, I think that you are still misunderstanding the nuances and subtleties of the conversation that had actually been taking place, before it became diverted into a defensive exchange over whether people's readings are a by-product of the long wait for OoP, whether people were or were not "trashing" characters, and so forth.

This really frustrates me, not least of which because I feel that the arguments of the posters were themselves rather badly mischaracterized—dare I even say "flattened?"—by this digression.

As I read it, the exchange between Ebony and Eileen up to the point at which the conversation became diverted by the bone-picking and trashing objections, could have been paraphrased like so:

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

Ebony:

I don't see how Hermione could ever countenance a romantic relationship with Ron, because he has said such very horrible things to her, things that are just so mean and inconsiderate that I believe they must have hurt her feelings terribly. If I were Hermione, the things Ron has said would disqualify him from my consideration, because I would have been so hurt by Ron's statements before the Yule Ball that I would never be able after that to think of him as a romantic partner. That's why I just can't see R/H.

Eileen:

Yeah, I agree with you that the things Ron said there were horrible, and they would have upset me a great deal too, if I had been Hermione. But you know, Harry also strikes me as a really mean and inconsiderate person? Just look at how he treats Neville, to take only one example. Really, when I read the books, I am always struck by how unkind both of these boys are. If I knew Ron and Harry in real life, I would consider both of them to be such mean and inconsiderate people that I wouldn't even want to be friends with them, far less to date them. I'd be more interested in Neville. Yet Hermione herself obviously doesn't feel the same way. She is friends with them. She really does like their company, in spite of the fact that they act like such jerks.

This leads me to the conclusion that Hermione isn't bothered by the same sort of behavior that would bother me. It also leads me to believe that Ron's comments probably don't upset her all that much. You see, just as I know that other readers' emotional reactions to these characters are not the same as mine—most readers do not consider Ron and Harry to be inconsiderate jerks, nor would I wish to try to convince them to share my reading—so I can realize that Hermione's emotional reactions to Ron and Harry are likely not the same as mine.

I therefore don't find it at all difficult to believe that Hermione could consider Ron a potential romantic partner in spite of all of those inconsiderate statements. I would feel differently, sure. But then, by the same token, I wouldn't want to date Harry either. And besides, I am not Hermione.

Amy:

I think that the fact that we've been waiting so long for OoP has had an unfortunate effect on the nature of our discourse. It makes me sad when people trash the characters. When you cite Ron and Harry's inconsiderate behavior without offering up examples of their kind and generous actions, you flatten out the characters. Furthermore, it is not a persuasive argument. If you want to convince me that Ron and Harry are inconsiderate, then you need to do better than that. It makes me sad when people treat fully realized and three dimensional characters as shallow renditions of good or evil.

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

Do you see the problem here?

For one thing, I don't think that the argument you were addressing was the argument that either poster was trying to make. In fact, one of the posters in the original exchange went out of her way to specify that her intent was not to persuade others to share her emotional response to Ron and Harry. Indeed, the fact that different individuals differ in their emotional responses was part and parcel of her argument: "The things that bother me about Ron and Harry's behavior don't even bother other readers, so why on earth should I assume that they bother Hermione?"

Now, admittedly, Eileen's rhetorical methods are sometimes a little bit sly, so perhaps people simply didn't take her meaning. Ebony's post, on the other hand, I thought was very straightforward. Yet I felt that people's responses flattened out both of their arguments by responding to them as if they were just "Ron Is Ever So Evil" posts, or somesuch.

It is frustrating to me. There were nuances and subtleties to that exchange that went well beyond the question of whether or not Ron (or Harry) are inconsiderate twerps. To address these posts as if they were simple hortatory pieces on the nature of Ron and Harry's character therefore struck me as not only somewhat disingenuous, but also as a rather serious mischaracterization. An over-simplification. A "flattening," if you will.

About Ebony's original argument:

I don't think it's a sneaky rhetorical ploy; I think it's unconvincing. As I read arguments about why Ron and Hermione wouldn't be a good couple, I'm thinking about each of their good qualities and the interactions between them that suggest possible good couplehood.

Well, in that case, then surely the reason you find Ebony's argument unconvincing has nothing to do with "trashing" characters, does it? What you're saying, if I've got you right here, is that you aren't the sort of person in whose mind being hurt by someone's statements might automatically disqualify that person for consideration as a romantic partner. You would be willing to overlook having been hurt, if there were many positive experiences outweighing those incidents in which you'd been hurt. And you believe that Hermione is far more like you than she is like Ebony.

Or is it perhaps that you just don't accept the premise that Hermione was really all that badly hurt by Ron's statements to begin with?

You see, I'm not even sure what your actual objection to Ebony's argument is. But whichever of the possibilities it is, why not say that, rather than complaining about the fact that Ebony had such a strong negative reader response to Ron's pre-Yule Ball comments? Since we all seem to agree that ones emotional responses to the text and its characters are highly subjective and ultimately personal, then why not address the canon argument that derives from that reader response, rather than taking issue with the reader response itself?

No one is going to convince me that Snape is kind without dealing with the evidence to the contrary; no one is going to convince me that Harry is on balance inconsiderate without doing the same.

That's perfectly reasonable. However, there are plenty of things people sometimes want to discuss other than the rather basic questions of "Is Character X brave/unkind/inconsiderate/etc."

Not every discussion of these books comes down to an argument over character. I think that it really cripples our ability to discuss the canon when someone's negative reader response to a character can not even be cited on route to making a wider point without the conversation immediately becoming diverted. It's frustrating, that, because it reduces every single conversation into "How DARE you say such a thing about Character X?"

We see this all the time on the list, IMO. Someone suggests that Lupin exhibits classic non-compliance behavior in regard to his Wolfsbane Potion, and the response is "How DARE you say that Lupin is bad?" Someone suggests that if Moody is the 'Good Auror,' then just imagine what those Bad Aurors must have been like, and the response is "How DARE you insult Moody?" Someone says that she doesn't care for the Twins because they behave like bullies, and it's "How DARE you say that the Twins are pure unadulterated evil?"

Someone makes a rather sophisticated argument about the dangers of the affective fallacy in shipping arguments, and the response is: "Why must everyone always be trashing the characters?"

I just find this so disheartening. It constrains the debate. It makes it virtually impossible to make any argument that involves an even tangential reference to a popular character's bad qualities. It enforces a (to my mind very strange) expectation that fictional characters themselves are entitled to some sort of due process, as if literary discussion itself were a court of law in which the characters are standing trial for their crimes.

I wrote:

What I guess I'm finding upsetting here is the vague feeling that I get from this thread...that so long as a reader's response is sufficiently idiosyncratic. . . . it is therefore held to be in some way invalid, or even unfair.

Amy asked:

What did I write that makes you think I was saying so?

I was perhaps unfairly conflating your comments with Petra's comments about rhetorical ploys. If you did not mean to make that argument, then I apologize.

I believe that where I saw it in your post was as the subtext to the claim that certain types of discussions or arguments are in some way a by-product of a lack of new canon:

We're like the Donner Party at this point. After two and a half years without fresh meat, we're reduced to cannibalism--not eating each other but munching on the characters we've got stashed in the hold.

There really is a very insulting implication lurking around the edges, IMO: namely, that you believe that others' arguments are based in an artificial, unnatural, or in some other way over-ratiocinated reading of the text. The subtext that I always read into statements of this sort (which I do realize may not have been your intent) is: "The reading you are proposing is not instinctive or natural. It only came about due to the long wait between volumes, rather than deriving naturally from your engagement with the text. It is therefore in some sense dishonest."

It did not surprise me that both Ebony and Eileen responded rather defensively to that statement. I would have done so as well. In fact, I did respond defensively to it, even though it was not even one of my own arguments being so attacked.

Well. Not this time, at any rate.

—Elkins

Posted January 23, 2003 at 3:42 pm
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RE: Polemic, real characters, and real *people*


Pippin wrote:

I think there are two different styles being used on the list, which results in confusion or unfulfilled expectations.

Absolutely agreed! In fact, this conversation is beginning to remind me very much of a discussion I had with a housemate a while back over Naomi Wolf's _The Beauty Myth._

Now, _The Beauty Myth_ is a book that I like, and the reason that I like it is because it is written with such passion, and such skill, and such rhetorical force. It makes extreme statements, and it makes them with courage. It does not vacillate, and it does not waffle. It is not wishy-washy. It is not balanced, it is not careful, and it is not fair. It does not try to see both sides of the argument. That is not its purpose. It is at base a work of polemic, and I personally think that it is a very enjoyable one.

My housemate, on the other hand, disliked this book intensely, not because he disagreed with its basic premises (he did not), but rather, because he felt that the book's "case" was weakened by the fact that its author was in places extremely sloppy with her facts and figures, by the fact that she was not careful to qualify her statements, by the fact that she did not give any attention to the other side of the argument, by the fact that the work is not "fair."

This bewildered me, frankly, because I know that my housemate is very fond of many other works of polemic and apology. I therefore could not understand why he should have been so bothered on those grounds. After a long and mutually frustrating discussion over this, we finally came to the realization that the reason for our disparate readings of this text had really been rooted in our expectations. My housemate had sat down with the book expecting it to be a kind of academic social science text. He had therefore been reading it with the expectation that it would present certain types of material (facts, figures, statistics), and that it would then analyze this data in a very particular way.

I, on the other hand, had sat down with this book with the understanding that it was a book-length essay. I had therefore been reading it in a frame of mind which recognizes polemic as one of the acceptable—and, indeed, expected—forms of discourse that the narrative might take. Unsurprisingly, therefore, I was in the end pleased with the work, while my housemate was taken aback and disappointed.

Literary analysis is in part such an interesting field, IMO, because it incorporates quite a wide variety of narrative approaches. There are people who do things like tallying up the number of occurrences of specific words in texts and compiling concordances of them. These people are engaged in literary analysis.

Then there are books like William Empson's _Milton's God,_ which launches an all-out attack on the character of God in Milton's "Paradise Lost" -- and in the process, attacks quite a number of aspects of standard Judeo-Christian theology as well. This book is a work of polemic. It is also a work of literary analysis.

And then there are works which fall somewhere in between these two extremes: Stanley Fish's _Surprised By Sin,_ for example, which evaluates "Paradise Lost" neither through concordance nor polemic, but instead, by proposing a very particular interpretation of reader response to the text. This, too, is a work of literary analysis.

I think that it is important for us to bear in mind that polemic has its place—and a very well-established place, at that—in discussions of works of literature. Literary analysis is not a court of law. We are not judges, and the characters are not on trial for their lives. There is no onus upon us to be "fair" to fictional characters, or to give both sides of an argument over their qualities either equal weight or equal hearing.

I also think that we might want to keep in mind that the discussions taking place on this forum are conversations. They have more than one participant. This even further reduces the onus on any one person in a thread to try to cover all sides of an issue, or to give equal time to various interpretations of the text. We are having a conversation here, not drafting a constitution.

All that said, there are rules of "fairness" that I do think we try to engage in. We try not to be rude to real people. We try not to utilize ad hominem attacks against our fellow list-members. We try not to insult real human beings, people who are made of flesh and blood and bone, people who have feelings that can be hurt.

Fairness to the characters, though? Sparing the characters' feelings? Refraining from saying mean things about them? Giving them the benefit of the doubt?

I see no moral obligation to do any such thing. The characters are not real, but fictional, and they can no more be hurt by anything that we say on this forum than my desk chair can be. I am therefore often taken aback by statements that seem to draw conclusions about people's relationships with other people based on their favored style of discussing a text.

Amy:

I suppose the disagreement between us may come down to the fact that we may speak differently about real-life people.

But fictional characters aren't "real-life people!"

I think that the disagreement here may actually come down more to the difference between literary and fannish reading practice: in other words, between the conception of the fictional characters as constructs, and the conception of them as real people.

These are slightly different ways of viewing the text. Both of them are valid, and nearly everyone engages in both types of reading simultaneously when they sit down to enjoy a story. We also usually engage in both types of thinking on this list when we sit down to discuss the story.

Usually...But not always. And that's when we get into trouble.

Interestingly enough, the "trouble" nearly always starts up when somebody expresses a negative opinion about a popular character.

Funny, how that works.

I am not going to use the Dread "M Word" here , but it does seem to me that this distinction—between reading practice which accepts the characters as constructs and that which insists on treating them as real people—has been coming up frequently of late, perhaps because shipping arguments seem to bring it out in people.

So Maria, for example, says that she did not like Cho Chang. She felt a strong sense of dislike for her, and on reflection, realized that this was probably because she didn't care for Cho's narrative function in the story.

Now, this is a perfectly valid—and, indeed, very common—reason for a reader to feel a strong sense of dislike for a fictional character. It is, in fact, precisely the same reason that Eileen cited a while back for feeling such a strong dislike for Bartemius Crouch Sr's dear departed wife.

Yet when Maria said this, she got responses which implied that her reader response was somehow "unfair," that it was unjust to "hold Cho accountable" for her own narrative function in the text. The argument here, if I have it right, is: "It's not Cho's fault that she serves a function you don't like!"

Okay. Now the thing about this is that in real life, it is indeed very unfortunate when people dislike or speak badly of people they do not know based on the "functions" they fill, or based on other people with whom they associate them. That's prejudice, right? It's unjust.

Cho Chang and Barty Crouch Sr., however, are not real people. They are like real people, in that they can come to feel so very real to us that we start responding to them with the same depths of emotion that we ordinarily reserve for genuine human beings, but at the end of the day, they are fictive constructs. It is therefore perfectly "fair" to feel a liking or a disliking for them on account of the narrative functions that they play in the story, or because they remind us of people we have known in real life, or because we simply do not like their "types."

Cho and Barty and Ron and Harry and Remus are not being "maligned" by such reader responses. How can they be? They have no feelings which we the readers can hurt. To the extent that they can be said to exist as "people" at all, they exist on a different plane of reality than we as readers do. To the extent that they can be said to have "feelings" at all, those feelings can only be hurt by the people who exist on the same plane of reality that they do -- in other words, by the other fictional characters. Cho and Ron and Harry and Remus Lupin (whether Ever So Evil or not) can all hurt each other. But we the readers?

Nah. We can't touch 'em.

We can, however, hurt each others' feelings.

Accusing other people of rhetorical dishonesty is an effective way of doing this.

Another is expressing the opinion that other people's ways of discussing or responding to literary characters must in some way reflect upon how they treat real people in real life.

—Elkins

 

RE: Polemic, "cannibalism," and Common Wisdom


Amy:

I don't believe I ever said that Eileen did nothing but flatten the nuances of Ron and Harry. But I did think she flattened them, and that was the bit I was interested in. If it isn't the bit Eileen is interested in, or you are interested in, or anyone else is interested in, please skip my post. I won't be offended.

Yes, okay. Fair enough, and I'm sorry if I misunderstood your intent. I hadn't understood that you were attempting to pick up on one aspect of the discussion and focus solely on that aspect. From where I was sitting, I guess that it looked more like a "shaddup" then like a "let's talk about this other thing for a while," probably because last August's Twins thread has left me unduly sensitive to "shaddups." I'm sorry that I mischaracterized your intent.

But as to the actual topic that you wanted to discuss:

Why then is cannibalism on the rise, if indeed it is?

If it is on the rise, then my guess is that it is because the purpose of a strongly-stated polemic attack on a character or position is to provoke the reader into questioning long-cherished assumptions about specific aspects of the text.

"Long-cherished" is the relevant term here. It takes a while for the "common wisdom" about characters within a fandom to be established in the first place. Absent that sort of consensus, there is little incentive for anyone to write a polemic, because there is no weight of "common wisdom" against which one is aware of having to push.

Pippin, for example, writes about Remus Lupin in such harsh terms in part, I imagine, because she is aware that there is already a long-standing consensus within the fandom about this character, one which stands in opposition to her own reading. What the HELL: Hey, Everybody Loves Lupin. Right? Well, Pippin doesn't. But she knows full well that just about everyone else does, and so she recognizes that if she wants people to grant a hearing to her argument, then she is going to have to make a really strong case for it. Otherwise, nobody will pay her any attention at all.

Similarly, back in August, I was asked why I was being so unfair as to point out the Twins' bullying characteristics, while "letting Draco off the hook." Well, how interesting would it be to talk about Draco's bullying characteristics? We all know about them already, don't we? It is established common wisdom within the community that Draco Is A Bully. The Twins' bullying characteristics, on the other hand, are not widely discussed in the fandom. Any post which aims to point them out must therefore take a strong tone, while the fact that Draco is a bully can safely be referred to in passing.

Are we likely to see less polemic in the immediate wake of OoP's release? Yes, possibly, because it will take a while for the consensus over the "accepted reading" of newly introduced characters and plotlines to be established, and absent that consensus, there is far less social need for polemic. On the other hand, possibly not. After all, how did the fandom's "common wisdoms" get formed in the first place? Well, from what I've seen in the archives of this list, many of them came about because people finished GoF and immediately began to state their feelings about the book's characters and events -- and to state them in no uncertain terms.

—Elkins

 

RE: What's fairness (or the factual/fictional divide) got to do with it?


Amy asked:

Am I being paranoid, or are you talking about me?

Errr...do I get to say 'neither' here? Or is that cheating?

We've hurt each others' feelings here, obviously, and I'm very sorry. I did not mean to imply that your statement about how we speak to real life people was an ad hominem attack, although looking over my post, I can see how of course it must have read that way to you. That was not precisely my intent. I was using that quote as a launching point to discuss the difference between two types of reading practice and did not realize how in context it would come across as if I were setting it forth as an example of deliberately hurtful behavior.

The distinction that I wished to make between "fairness to characters" and "fairness to real people in real life" was mainly prompted by the Cho Chang thread, in which a poster's attempt to explain why a fictional character's narrative function had inspired in her a sense of dislike was likened, in rapid succession, both to racial prejudice and to real world misogyny.

Now, perhaps I am overly sensitive, but I found this exceptionally upsetting to read. My feelings were hurt by it. I could only imagine how it might have felt to the person against whom it had actually been directed.

I also thought that it was very much relevant to the distinction between how we evaluate fictional characters (do we cut them slack? do we give them the benefit of the doubt? are we forgiving of their flaws? do we try to avoid using hurtful or judgmental language when we talk about them? do we hold them responsible for things that are "not their fault?") and how we treat real people in real life, which in turn seemed to me to tie in to the issue of whether or not polemic writing is acceptable or desirable on this list.

This topic has, of course, come up on the list in the past. I note that I was not the only person here uncomfortably reminded of last summer's Twins thread. I'm not going to repeat my shpiel about the difference between how we talk about fictional characters and how we talk about each other again. It's all in message #43272.

As it happens, I do see a connection between these two issues -- as I believe you might yourself, Amy, as you did make mention of your own preference for "viewing the characters as real people" in one of your posts on this thread. The connection that I perceive is that I imagine that those who engage very strongly with the characters as "real people" likely find polemic directed against them far more upsetting to read when it appears on the list, just as I think that most people of good will and kindly dispositions probably find polemic rather painful to read in real life when it is directed against people they happen to know personally.

I suppose that what makes me uneasy is that when the boundaries between the fictional world and the real one get blurred, then that is when we start seeing statements that IMO cross that line into the realm of ad hominem. It is the reason, for example, that shortly after my delurk on this list, I was accused of being the sort of person who lets the terrorists win. *g* It is the reason that this past summer, those who defended Draco Malfoy were accused of being racist and "unconscionable." It is the reason that somebody can be accused of hypocrisy for verbally attacking a fictional character while also expressing the belief that verbally attacking real people is unkind behavior. These are statements that come about when people fail to draw that distinction between fictional characters and real people.

So, for example, we can see this, from Petra Pan:

So, how can such dislike be explained? Or justified? To have a strong opinion, positive or negative, about people we barely know is the definition of prejudice after all.

You know, the older I get, the more forgiving I am of those who prejudge. It happens - we are mere mortals who are still works in progress. It's what we CHOOSE to do once we recognize our own prejudices (be it racial or otherwise) for what they are that is truly telling of who we are.

Disliking Cho Chang on the basis of her narrative function within the text is akin to racial prejudice?

I can't help but feel that if this is true, then many of us must be very bigoted people indeed. After all, Eileen has expressed a dislike for Mrs. Crouch on the basis of her narrative function. I have in the past expressed virtually synonymous feelings about poor Mrs. Longbottom: a woman we have never even seen, for heaven's sake, and know absolutely nothing about!

I have also expressed my profound dislike for Lily Potter, while yet acknowledging that she could be (and I profoundly hope will be!) redeemed in my eyes in the future, should JKR ever decide to give her something more to do in the text than to serve as a rather ickily (IMO) idealized maternal icon.

(And what can we say about those who abuse poor blameless Tom Bombadil? :-D)

I do not believe that these reader responses reflect a bigoted or misogynist nature. There is a profound and significant difference between how people approach a work of fiction and how they approach real people in real life.

I suppose that given that there seemed to be a lot of these sorts of statements floating about the list this week, it was difficult for me not to draw the conceptual connection between the blurring of the fictional/factual divide and the concerns you expressed about polemic being directed against the characters, particularly when these concerns seemed to be combined with a suggestion that how we treat people in real life might have some bearing on how we talk about the characters of the canon. I did not mean to suggest that you had attacked anyone, and I'm sorry if I gave that impression. But I do see the two phenomena as related, because both seem to me to be blurring the line between fictional and factual, which in turn often leads, IMO, to situations in which people feel themselves to be under attack not merely vicariously—as when a beloved character comes under fire—but personally.

In real life, for example, I do not favor statements like "So-and-so is an inconsiderate weasel!" I think them rather unkind and ungenerous. They do not accord the person so described much in the way of charity, or of benefit of the doubt. I would certainly never call someone Ever So Evil! I don't even believe that people can, properly speaking, be "evil." I view that term as better applied to actions than to men.

When it comes to fictional characters, however, I am perfectly willing to use that sort of language, because I don't really view fictional characters as people who need to be granted the benefit of the doubt, if you see what I mean. They cannot be harmed by their readers.

So it does make me extremely uncomfortable when I feel that the relationship between reader and character is being equated with the relationship between person and person. It hurts my feelings, because it makes me feel as if I am being accused of being ungenerous or uncharitable or unkind or bigoted in real life. It makes me feel constrained from expressing myself, because it implies to my mind that I should not be speaking of the characters in a manner in which I would not speak of a real person who was not present to defend himself -- which doesn't leave me with very much freedom, honestly. It also makes me feel very nervous and twitchy and paranoid, not least of which because precedent suggests that when I see this happening, the very next thing that is going to happen is that someone will be hurling some dire ad hominem or another in my general direction.

—Elkins

Posted January 23, 2003 at 9:35 pm
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RE: Neville in Herbology


Tanya wrote:

It seems to be universally agreed upon that Neville excels in Herbology. However, the only canon I remember seeing that supports this statement is that which comes directly from Crouch/Moody's mouth. If I remember correctly, Professor Sprout herself never mentions Neville's skills at all, not even once. Nor do I remember Rowling ever writing any scenes in Herbology that even hints towards Neville excelling in it.

Kathy offered:

At the end of the book (page 307 in the scholastic paperback edition) Harry and the rest of the students get their exam results. JKR writes that "Even Neville scraped through, his good Herbology mark making up for his abysmal Potions one." This suggests that Neville has a history of success in Herbology and is clearly his best subject.

We also get reinforcement of this idea even before Crouch/Moody's tete-a-tete with Neville in GoF. When Neville raises his hand in DADA class to volunteer the name of the Cruciatus Curse, we are told that:

The only class in which Neville usually volunteered information was Herbology which was easily his best subject.

So no. I don't think that Crouch Jr. was making it up.

Besides which, his plan wouldn't have been a very good one, would it, if Neville hadn't been genuinely interested in Herbology and at least reasonably competent in it? Only an interested student would have bothered to do out-of-class reading voluntarily, and Crouch's plan depended on Neville having read an entire book -- or at least far enough into it so that he would possess the information about gillyweed which Crouch hoped that he would later pass on to Harry. And indeed, when Harry runs into Neville in the dormitory after his tea with Crouch/Moody, Neville seems to be quite absorbed in that reading.

So I'd say that he's both genuinely interested in and reasonably skilled with Herbology. "Excelling" I don't know about. But it does seem to me that he's probably pretty good at it.

Kathy also wrote:

IMO, I believe that Neville's skills in Herbology may come into play later on in some future plot or sub-plot.

It wouldn't surprise me. JKR does seem to have been setting it up for some time now -- since the first volume, in fact. And I agree with you that Neville is likely to take a more center stage in future volumes.

Some people on this list have suggested in the past that Dumbledore designed the obstacles to the Philosopher's Stone very consciously as a test not only for Harry, but also for his friends. Some of them have cited the Devil's Snare obstacle as evidence for the supposition that Dumbledore fully expected Neville to be accompanying the Trio on their quest when he designed the barriers. The Devil's Snare, they claim, was tailored to Neville's particular talent, just as McGonagall's chess set was tailored to Ron's.

I'm not sure if I really believe that one, myself. But it's a neat theory.

Star Opal listed a number of ways in which Neville is brave. Mainly a "me too" on those, except to add one that she left out:

Neville is an adolescent boy who wears fuzzy slippers.

Without shame.

That's courage.

Star Opal also wrote:

So that's why I'm particularly amazed by Neville when Harry ditches him to go to Hogsmeade (PoA ch 14). He never brings it up to Harry. Never says anything to Harry, we don't even see him again till ch 16 IIRC.

Yes, and that's another way in which Neville has real courage. He puts up with an awful lot of abuse without complaining. He never reproaches Hermione for casting that Body-Bind on him at the end of PS/SS. He doesn't go squealing to a teacher when Draco harasses him in the corridors. He never objects to being punished (and rather harshly, too) for leaving his list of passwords lying around where they could be found in PoA, even though as we later discover, he did not leave them lying around where just anyone could find them. They were stolen from off of his bedside table by Crookshanks. Neville does not whinge.

He also refrains from pressing his company on Harry, Ron and Hermione, even though he seems to have no other friends. The only place we ever see him pressing his company on Harry is in that scene in PoA, right before Harry ditches him to go to Hogsmeade, and one could argue that the only reason that he is willing to do so there is because he has reason to believe that Harry, whose real friends are all away and who has no one else to talk to, might welcome a bit of companionship.

Stoicism isn't a very flashy sort of courage, perhaps. But it is courage.

James wrote:

I am not sure Neville's mother is even named, except as Mrs. Longbottom or Frank's wife or some similar formula.

Nope, she has no name. She wasn't an auror, either, as surely if she had been, then the defendents in the Pensieve scene would have been standing accused of abducting and torturing two aurors, rather than an auror "and his wife?"

Rather irritating, that, isn't it? Yet another nameless martyr mother, taking her place alongside the unnamed Mrs. Crouch and Tom Riddle's equally unnamed mother.

::sigh::

—Elkins, who is really just so very tired of JKR's faceless martyred maternal figures

Posted January 24, 2003 at 11:31 pm
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RE: Flesh of Servant, Hand of Silver (mild TBAY ref)


Cindy got all excited about the Gleam again, and in what seemed to be an attempt to lure the MDDT out of retirement *g*, she quoted Eric Oppen, who once wrote:

Could one of the side-effects of "flesh of the servant, willingly(?) given" in the ritual to re-body-ize Voldemort be to give _Wormtail_ some sort of power over Voldemort?

Think about it...part of Wormtail is now a big component in Voldemort's new body. We've already seen that the magical "law of similarity" applies in the Wizard World, what with HP's and V's wands being unable to fight each other because they each contain a feather from the tail of the same phoenix. Might this not apply even more strongly between V-mort and W-tail?

You know, if I were Voldemort, I'd be a little worried about that, sure. (In fact, if you buy into the MAGIC DISHWASHER theory, then Voldemort ought to be really worried about that!) Sympathetic magic does cut both ways, after all.

But if I were Voldemort, I'd be even more worried about that hand.

Because sympathetic magic does cut both ways. After all.

See, people are always stressing about the damage that Wormtail's "silver" hand might do to Lupin, but as I read it, the thing isn't really made out of silver at all. It's just silver in color. It's silvery.

In fact, it seems to me to be formed out of that Special Silvery Wizarding Soul Stuff (tm). You know, the stuff that's in Dumbledore's Pensieve? The stuff that forms the sigil that Dumbledore shoots into the air to summon Hagrid in GoF? The stuff that actually forms ones patronus?

Yeah. That stuff.

Now, I'm not altogether sure what that stuff is. But I don't think that it's exactly impersonal stuff, if you know what I mean. It seems to me that whenever we see the silvery stuff show up, it's always in relation to something rather spiritual, something deeply intrinsic to the wizard himself.

I don't think that having a right hand gifted to you by an evil dark wizard and formed from his very own Special Silvery Wizarding Soul Stuff (tm) is at all good news, spiritually speaking. Especially when you willingly sacrificed your own right hand to bring said evil dark wizard back to power. I'd say that you're looking at some seriously bad symbolical mojo when you are then granted such a thing as a reward, when that has become your right hand. I don't think that silvery hand can possibly be good for the state of Wormtail's soul.

But I think that in the end, it just might prove even worse for Voldemort's health.

—Elkins

 

RE: SHIP: Reading With Hindsight, D/H, Hermione's role in Draco's future development


Heidi wrote:

This, of course, leads me to the "meta" question I always have about SHIPping. I read the books individually - in other words, I read PS, and had to wait for the release of CoS, then the release of PoA, then GoF and am, of course, still waiting for OoTP. And it took involvement in the fandom for me to see that Ron had a crush on Hermione in GoF - and I still can't see it anywhere before that.

Huh. It's an interesting meta-question, to be sure.

I first read the books right after the release of CoS.

I thought it clear that Ron had a crush on Hermione in GoF, but it had not occurred to me before then. Looking back on it now, I do see signs of that interest beginning in CoS, but it's "reading through hindsight," as it were. It did not occur to me at the time, and it is only in retrospect that I interpret certain events in CoS and PoA as indicative of romantic foreshadowing for Ron and Hermione.

As for Draco, I do think that he has a crush on Hermione, but this reading was only suggested to me post-GoF, by the conversations of adolescent boys on whom I was eavesdropping at my workplace. (Is that as pathetic as it gets, or what?) As with Ron and Hermione, I now see signs of it beginning in CoS. But again, this is reading through hindsight. I didn't notice any such indications before GoF.

I do find Draco's behavior towards Hermione suggestive of a certain immature and ambivalent crush-y fascination. I find it interesting that in all those scenes when he's pestering and harassing and baiting Ron and Harry, he so very rarely addresses Hermione. He very rarely speaks to her at all, in fact, and when he does, I think that he does come across like a rather disturbed and nasty little boy who has a bit of a crush on a person he knows he's supposed to want dead.

"Oh very funny," Hermione said sarcastically to Pansy Parkinson and her gang of Slytherin girls, who were laughing harder than anyone, "really witty."

Ron was standing against the wall with Dean and Seamus. He wasn't laughing, but he wasn't sticking up for Harry either.

"Want one, Granger?" said Malfoy, holding out a badge to Hermione. "I've got loads. But don't touch my hand, now. I've just washed it, you see; don't want a Mudblood sliming it up."

Nasty, yes. Very nasty. But surely a proper little pure-blood shouldn't have initiated a conversation with her at all? Far less gone to all the trouble to cross those carefully established gender lines along which the Slyth/Gryff conflict had been being conducted right up to that point?

I read a twisted little crush there, myself.

I don't think that we're ever going to see D/H in canon. I do find myself suspecting, though, that if JKR does have a Redeemed!Draco scenario in mind, then Hermione very likely will have an important role to play in that plot development.

In fact, even if we don't see a Redeemed!Draco scenario, I still think that Hermione is going to have a part to play in Draco's role in future canon, as I do think it likely that JKR plans to give him some further development in the upcoming volumes.

For one thing, if the author were ever to grant Draco any degree of self-reflection (which she really is going to have to do, one way or another, I think, because whatever narrative utility Draco in his current state ever had as a peer rival for Harry has pretty much been exhausted at this point in the series), then Hermione would be the obvious hook to hang that on, not least of which because of our main characters, she is the one who is Muggle-born. In many ways, the DEs as a group are far more firmly established as her antagonists than they are as Harry's.

Harry's enemy is Voldemort himself, and it is with Voldemort himself that he is both most strongly textually linked and ultimately concerned. Voldemort's mionions serve only to deliver Harry to his final showdowns with Voldemort in these books. when the novel ends with a Voldemort confrontation (as it does in all of them so far save PoA), then Harry winds up facing Voldemort himself and Voldemort alone. Even at the end of PS/SS, Quirrell is shoved out of the way in the final conflict, allowing Voldemort and Harry to face each other unimpeded.

Ron and Hermione, on the other hand, strike me as more strongly pitted against the DEs -- and particularly against the Malfoy family. Draco is in many ways established more as Ron's enemy than as Harry's. Both Malfoy vs. Weasley and Draco vs. Hermione take center stage in CoS. In GoF, it is Hermione who receives Draco's ambiguously stated gloat at the QWC, and it is Hermione who is pitted against Rita Skeeter (who is textually linked to the Malfoys by virtue of receiving her information from Draco). At the beginning of GoF, JKR goes out of her way to establish Lucius Malfoy's revulsion towards Hermione at the QWC, just as she went out of her way to show him responding to the Grangers as well as the Weasleys at the beginning of CoS.

I find all of this very suggestive, particularly in light of what seems to be a developing R/H ship in GoF. What it suggests to my mind is that in some way, the Malfoy family is being textually established as the designated enemy for both Ron and Hermione.

But surely that would be redundant, wouldn't it? What would be the point of aligning Malfoy vs. Ron and Malfoy vs. Hermione?

Well, the obvious answer, to my mind, is that Ron and Hermione are not in fact going to wind up in precisely the same relationship to the Malfoy family. There will be some subtle difference in how the drama of those interactions will play out.

A Redeemed!Draco or BlowsHisChanceForRedemption!Draco or even a BetraysOurHeroes!Draco scenario in which Hermione plays the supportive/sympathetic/sucker role, while Ron plays the antagonistic function, does seem a likely possibility to me.

Especially since, as Heidi wrote on a different thread:

1. Hermione has occasionally been more concerned with What Is Right than How Her Friends Feel (the firebolt, for example) - thus, if someone on the Bad Side like Draco put up a pretense of Moving Towards Good she would likely be the first of the three to be willing to give him a chance, which could lead her into a trap if Draco turned out to be Not So good After All.

Yup. She keeps Lupin's secret for him. She founds SPEW. She holds no truck with the wizarding world's prejudices. She flouts the Common Wisdom. She's a sucker for lost causes.

As, you know, am I.

—Elkins