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HPfGU #52259

TBAY: Barty Jr., Consummate Screw-Up

RE: TBAY: Barty Jr., Consummate Screw-Up


In an abrupt break from narrative continuity. . . .

"Didn't you say last night Elkins that you always like it much better when it turns out that people screwed up big time than you do when it turns out that they were actually being very clever and getting things right all along?" Melody asked.

Elkins looked up, smiled, and nodded.

"Doesn't Barty Jr. fit that clever bill rather nicely though?"

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Well, he is clever (and I do realize that that's a big part of why you like him so much, Melody), but I also see him as rather striking for the extent to which he screws things up (which is a large part of why I like him so much). He's not really much of a criminal genius at all, if you ask me. He doesn't really get a whole lot of things right. I mean, let's take a look at his nasty, brutish and short life, shall we?

First off, he became a Death Eater. That's screwing up right there, I'd say, especially when you consider that he had all the practical advantages: wealthy and influential parents, good connections, academic talent, blandly inoffensive looks. Entering into compacts with Dark Wizards is always screwing up, if you ask me, but in Barty's case, you can't even explain it on pragmatic grounds: unlike the giants, for example, who may have had very good cause for supporting an insurrectionist agenda, Barty was well-positioned to benefit from the status quo.

Second, assuming that the Death Eaters didn't take minors or schoolboys, he probably accepted the Dark Mark only a matter of months before Voldemort went down. If that. (Myself, I always like to imagine that it was only a matter of days, but that's just because I'm seriously Bent.) Assuming that he left school in June of 1981 (for the reasoning behind this timeline, see posts 39828, 47294), he would have become a Death Eater around four months before the event at Godric's Hollow at the most. I rather suspect that it was even less time than that, as I imagine that given whose son he was, he would have been very carefully vetted before being ushered into the inner circle. So we're looking at the most appalling timing here. Seriously Bad Timing.

Nonetheless, he did avoid getting exposed as a Death Eater after Voldemort's fall. Lucky devil! So what did he do? Did he keep his head down and just try to get on with his life? No, no. Of course not! That would have been sensible. No, instead he started hanging with the crazed fanatics. Naturally. And then he got himself arrested. Invisibility Cloak Left Behind At Scene Of Crime? Wrong place at the wrong time? Actually innocent, and framed by one of his father's political enemies? Under the Imperius Curse (dig that theory, btw, Eric!)?

Well, there's no way to know for sure. But no matter how you spin this, I'd say that it qualifies as a Bad Mistake.

He didn't have the requisite fanaticism to stand up to the dementors. The Woman Assumed To Be Lestrange wasn't on her death bed after a year of replaying her worst memories. I think that her fanaticism probably helped to sustain her, just as Sirius' knowledge of his own innocence did. So in Barty, we're looking at someone who wanted to be a fanatic, but who wasn't even really very good at it, when push came to shove. Sad, sad, sad.

Once again, though, he has the luck of the devil. His parents rescue him from prison. Choice opportunity for him, yes? He could have started a new life, perhaps. Or, he could have feigned gratitude and compliance long enough to put his father off his guard, and then run off to try to bring back Voldemort. Either one of those two actions would at least have shown a bit of competence. But instead, what does he do? He actually lets his father know that he's all set to run off and find Voldemort -- and he gets himself Imperio'd for all his pains. Pathetic.

After a decade of slavery, he starts managing to resist the Imperius from time to time. He succeeds in keeping it a secret from Winky. So far, so good. So what does he do at the QWC? He kicks that Imperius, and he's outdoors, there's a crowd, there's already the distraction of the little DE parade going on...I mean, we're talking chance of a lifetime here. So how does he exploit it? Does he seize this opportunity to make his great escape? Take advantage of the situation to try to break free of Winky, and then flee into hiding?

Err...no. No, see, instead what he decides to do is to shoot the Dark Mark into the sky, thus alerting everyone to his precise location. Yes, so clever is our Barty that within minutes of casting his Morsmordre, he's been triangulated upon by a bunch of Ministry guys and stunned into unconsciousness. He only avoids going right back to prison because his father covers for him. And then he winds up right back where he started: under the Imperius Curse, and his father's prisoner. I mean, really now! This is hardly a criminal mastermind we're looking at, is it? He can't even cast a single spell without getting caught! He's perfectly hopeless!

He can't throw off the Imperius a second time. He needs to be rescued by Voldemort. And then we get to the Cunning Plan -- which isn't even his.

Okay. First, he and Wormtail botch their abduction of Moody badly enough that there's a commotion. They only get away with it by the skin of their teeth.

Then, his mission to ensure that Harry wins that Tournament is constantly on the brink of doom. Barty's skating on thin ice throughout the entire novel, really. He needs to resort to a rather desperate 'Plan B' to get Harry through the Second Task, and even then, he only succeeds through the dumbest of luck. Harry very nearly sleeps through the thing, for heaven's sake!

He nearly gives himself away with Bouncing Ferret. He nearly gets caught out by the Marauder's Map. He nearly gets caught killing his father. He plays his part a bit too well by teaching Harry to resist the Imperius Curse. In fact, Eileen has argued, and I think that I'm forced to agree, that his behavior as "Moody" is in some ways utterly reckless. He shows off, he seeks out old companions, he gives other people clues to his real motives. He is not careful.

And that Third Task was also an awfully close shave, wasn't it? In spite of all of his efforts, in spite of taking Fleur out of the running, in spite of that breathtakingly vicious "Imperio Krum Into Crucio'ing Cedric" ploy, Cedric still comes thiiiiiiiis close to taking the trophy. And wouldn't that just have pleased Voldemort no end!

And finally, there's the End Game. Ah, the End Game. He breaks his masquerade by dragging Harry out of Dumbledore's sight. Then he takes Harry...where? Why, to his office, of course! The very first place that Dumbledore is likely to go looking for him. He is so consumed with explaining how terribly cunning he's been that he not only fails to look into his Foe Glass; he also somehow fails to notice that his would-be victim keeps stealing glances at said Foe Glass. He can't even manage to kill a helpless, traumatized, unarmed fourteeen-year-old boy. Not even after drugging him first! Instead, he degenerates into bwah-hah-hah Villain Mania and then gets himself, in rapid succession, stunned, spurned, exposed, veritaserum'd, interrogated, bound, and Dementor Kissed.

Yes, he is clever, in his way. He has a quick wit and an agile mind, and he's just killer with all of those sly double-edged comments. He's also one heck of an actor. But at the same time, I can't really say that I view him as all that competent. In fact, he strikes me as rather notably self-sabotaging. It seems to me that whenever he's in danger of actually getting away with something, he finds some way to shoot himself in the foot. To me, he comes across very strongly as someone who on some deep and fundamental level really doesn't want to succeed.

In short, he's a screw-up.

—Elkins

Posted February 14, 2003 at 5:37 pm
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