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HPfGU #51687

The Dullest Redemption Subplot Ever -- Draco the Nutter

RE: The Dullest Redemption Subplot Ever -- Draco the Nutter


Errol wrote:

*g* I got your point Elkins, and I agree that nothing Draco has done makes him "irredeemable", or indeed vile enough to require drastic redemption. A tiny repentance will do.

Yes! Yes! An itty-bitty redemption. A teeny-tiny redemption. A wee, twee, bite-sized lady-like redemption!

However, at this point in time he does have some things to repent of, including his bullying attitude and his lack of empathy.

Oh, definitely. He's been a very nasty boy, I grant you that. Unpleasant little creature. Sort of like myself at that age, actually, which may be why I always feel this strange urge to defend the rotten little twerp.

Urge to defend or not, though, I still can't quite find an Empathic!Draco in the text. I squint hard at the page, I cross my eyes a little bit...but I just don't see him there.

Mind you, I don't have any difficult in taking Heidi's approach and reading the QWC and Train gloats as warnings. That's dead easy for me: even on first reading, that QWC scene struck me as very bizarre, and as unsettlingly ambiguous as well. But even when I do that, I still don't find myself reading him as possessing anything in the way of empathy. When I parse those lines of dialogue as veiled warnings, I find myself interpreting their subtext as: "I'm important! I Know The Score! You should all listen to me! I can help you! 'Cause I'm a Malfoy, dammit, and that means that I am Ever So Important!"

Which, er, isn't exactly empathy. It's 'pathy' of a type, to be sure -- maybe even of several types. It's certainly pathetic. One might even call it a wee bit pathological. It's even slightly sympathetic (or it is to me, anyway, but then, you know, I was pretty darned spoiled myself as a child, which likely allows me to relate to such things better than perhaps the author really expects me to). But empathic?

No. I wouldn't call it that.

If on the other hand, Draco is aware of what he is doing and has consciously taken a stand at his father's side, he is well on his way to needing...umm, redemption! ;)

Definitely.

It's so hard to reconcile all of Draco's "my fathering" with his actual behavior in regard to his father, though, isn't it? Has Draco Malfoy ever once obeyed his father's wishes?

Seriously. Has he? As far as I can tell, every single thing that we know for sure that Lucius has ever told his son to do, Draco has immediately gone and done the exact opposite.

In CoS, we learn that Lucius told Draco to feign affection for Harry Potter. Draco made the most half-assed attempt to befriend Harry imaginable -- and then lost no time at all in making his antipathy towards Harry Potter known to all of Hogwarts.

We also learn that Lucius Malfoy told his son to "keep his head down" in regard to the entire Chamber of Secrets business. Therefore, naturally, when the first signs of the business begin, Draco pushes his way to the front of the crowd, just to make a spectacle of himself by screaming Voldemortian rhetoric at the top of his lungs in front of half the school.

In Borgin and Burke's, Lucius tells Draco not to touch anything. The instant that his father isn't looking at him, Draco immediately, indeed almost deliberately, resumes touching things.

Lucius obviously wants Draco to apply himself to his studies. Do we ever see him doing so? Err...well, maybe he's studying up a storm in the Slytherin common room. Maybe. Mainly, though, what we see him doing in the classes he shares with Harry is goofing off. He doesn't pay attention in Hagrid's CoMC class. He uses his injury as an excuse to slack off in Snape's Potions class.

Really, I'd say that quite possibly the best hope for Draco's future spiritual well-being is that we have so far in canon never once seen him obey a single one of his father's direct orders. Indeed, although he certainly does give the impression of wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, he nonetheless always seems to go out of his way to do precisely the opposite of what Lucius tells him to do.

Strange, isn't it?

Is there any real indication in canon whether Draco has done so or not? It can be argued both ways I guess.

Yeah, I think it can be argued both ways, and (as I mentioned on OTC a while back, in fact), I always find myself fence-sitting on this particular issue. I just don't know quite what I think of it. It would be far less irritating to me, I think, if I felt convinced that it was meant to be as intriguingly ambiguous as it is. Sadly, though, I often feel that Draco's portrayal is just, err...

::looks both ways, lowers voice to a whisper::

A little bit inept.

I agree with you Elkins. Wanting to do an evil deed, or having the temptation to do evil is not Evil in of itself. But I read Dicentra's comment as evil intent - and in my naivety I put that as having given in to that want and to fully intend to do evil, willingly.

Oh! Oh, okay, I see what you mean, I think. You mean something along the lines of if you point the gun at someone and pull the trigger because you really genuinely want to kill them, then you don't get off the hook (in any moral sense) just because you were so pathetically lame that you forgot to take the safety catch off first?

Yeah, okay. I can agree with that. I'm just sitting the fence, I guess, on whether I think that certain classic Dracoisms—saying that he hopes that Slytherin's monster will kill Hermione, for example—really indicate that he's got enough inner malice to want to really kill someone. I tend to just read lines like that as bored, spoiled, whiney kid talk, so it always startles me somewhat to be reminded that others took them so very seriously. It really just would never have occurred to me to read such lines that way.

Then, I think that I tend to read Draco as rather less deeply malevolent than many people here do, probably due to the fact that it seems to me that when he's at his most beastly, then that's also when he always seems to me to be acting somewhat deranged, as if he's cracking under some type of rather severe mental strain.

But that leads us to MadMadMad!Draco...

I wrote:

Although really, he often strikes me as far more in danger of a nervous breakdown than of becoming Ever So Evil in the classic sense.

Errol asked:

Hee! How so Elkins? I see Draco as a strong character, evil or not. I wouldn't make him a candidate for a nervous breakdown...I'd be interested in your diagnosis!

A strong character? Really? That's funny, because he always strikes me as really incredibly weak. I wish that I could see him as a stronger character, honestly. I think I'd find him a lot less annoying that way.

Let's see. Well, first off, I don't see Draco as having very much in the way of emotional resilience. He's not just a coward; he also seems to be somewhat prone to hysteria. He fled screaming from that scene in the forest, for example. Even Neville, who is canonically established as not only quite timid but also as very easily flustered, was able to keep his head enough to send up the flares when he had been frightened. Draco, on the other hand, just went completely to pieces. Two years later, he showed the same failure of nerve on the train, when confronted by the dementor. We know that he is proud and arrogant, and that his family holds the Weasley clan in utter contempt, yet he fled into the train compartment occupied by Fred and George. That had to have been a rather serious failure of nerve, I'd say. For Draco to have done that, I think that he must have been seriously panicked.

He doesn't recover too well from trauma either. Long after the Bouncing Ferret incident, he's still jumping and blanching at even the sound of Moody's name. "Twitchy little ferret," yes?

He loses his temper easily. Although he verbally provokes others all the time, he can't stand being verbally provoked himself. Not only can't he take what he dishes out; he actually loses his head over it. He flushes, he blanches, he shrieks; he spits out racial epithets; he goes for his wand. His emotional control would seem to be virtually nil.

So I do see him as rather unstable, I guess. Mainly, though, what interests me about that aspect of his character is that it often seems to be at its most pronounced when he is also on his very worst (and most "Junior Death Eater-ish") behavior.

When he pushes his way to the front of the crowd to deliver his gloat over the writing on the wall in CoS, for example, he is described in oddly febrile terms, "cold eyes alive, his usually bloodless face flushed." Perhaps this is meant to convey merely sadistic excitement. To me, though, it always reads like he's tottering on the brink of his own sanity. His demeanor at the QWC, while the Muggle-baiting is going on, is similarly peculiar, and even slightly reminiscent of Snape: he is ostensibly relaxed, even nonchalant, but there's a strange intensity to his dialogue and "his pale eyes" are "glittering." During the train scene at the end of GoF, of course, his smirk "quivers," and he seems to stammer over his line.

It's just odd, it is. I don't think the boy's quite in his right mind, myself, and I do find it interesting that when he seems nuttiest is always also when he's being the most horrid. Whether this is just JKR's way of indicating that the Voldemortian ethos is a kind of madness, a cultural mass hysteria, or whether she means to depict Draco as internally conflicted is something I'm not quite sure about.

I do wonder, however, about an author who would describe a character's smirk as "quivering" without meaning to give the impression of some degree of ambivalence or latent conscience.

But I don't see him as becoming ever-so-evil in the classic sense either. I compare him to what Tom Riddle would have been like at the same age and find Draco curiously lacking in initiative to perpetuate evil.

Heh. Yes, well. The chapter title "The Writing On the Wall" is certainly suggestive, isn't it? Maybe that's what Draco was really reading in that graffiti, scrawled in blood behind Filch's poor petrified cat:

"You have been weighed in the balance. And found wanting."

—Elkins

Posted February 05, 2003 at 12:59 pm
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References:

deathtocapslock: CoS Chapter 8

*Percy begins the chapter by making sure his little sister isn't sick, thereby showing his ambitious and traitorous character, which cares nothing for home or family.

*Fred and George have been nobly spying on the Slytherins. Interestingly, the Slytherinswere not actually spying on the Gryffindors in the previous chapter, though the mere possibility that they might have done so proves their evil and unsportsmanlike behaviour.

*Nearly Headless Nick demonstrates the admirable Gryffindor trait of passive-aggressively demanding attention so that he can vent his woes....

static_pixie: On Draco, Work...and then more Draco

I've decided that Draco is Simba, and not only because it would make Snape Zazu and that thought makes me laugh harder than it should. But, like...can't you just see Draco singing "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", like, with Pansy as Nala? That's always the song I think of when I think of him, despite the fact that Disney is actually sucking the soul out of evil at this point. The story doesn't really follow, but young Simba, young Simba. Is Draco. :)

Also, that would make Bellatrix Ed. :D

Ummm...there has to be a better point to this entry...

sistermagpie: Special treatment

Happy birthday westmoon!!

I've been following a rather long discussion about Harry's getting special treatment in the books, and have something to say about it (pause for expressions of shock). It has gotten into a good area, I think, which is the idea of people resenting special treatment regardless of the reason for it. Think, for instance, about children with serious diseases and their siblings. I believe it's generally understood that. . . .

hp_essays: Dragon of Bad Faith: Draco Malfoy and Existentialism

Preliminary notes:

1: I feel a little weird posting about this, because it seems to be an enormously important factor in Draco's characterization and his likely future development, as well as an overall clue to the interpretation of the series, yet nobody seems to have noticed it. I haven't read all the HP essays out there, either in print or online (because my days are not, in fact, thirty hours long), but I have read a lot of them, and not one of the ones I've read mentions this. Which surprises me, and makes me wonder if I'm seeing things. But even if I am seeing things, my hallucinations are amusing me no end, and hopefully they will amuse someone else too.

2: This is going to be in several parts, because it grew exponentially and has been eating my brain for, ooh, about a week now. I expect to be able to post part 2 tomorrow, at which time I should have an ETA for further instalments. . . .

sistermagpie: It practically gallops...

I was reading through some essays today--can you believe I've never read "Draco Malfoy is Ever So Lame?" ::sigh:: Me neither. It's great. Anyway, I came across another post of Elkin's that struck me as even more interesting given OOTP (which it was written before) and the recent discussions we were having here about Gothic Lit. The incest ones. Incest is common trait in Gothic families like the Blacks and the Malfoys. So is madness. That's why it was so interesting to read Elkin's essay on Draco the Nutter.

Now, one of the main points of Elkin's essay, which is fascinating, is the question of whether JKR intends for Draco to come across to her/us as he sometimes does. Is it just poor word choice? A case of JKR going overboard with her description? Or....

biichan: Dude. Give me a big helping of THAT theory

I think I am in love with the kick-ass arguing powers of skelkins. No, I know I am. *grins*

Feast upon the lovely theoretical products of a most deranged mind. . . .