HPfGU #52640

Hermione, Knowledge and Blackmail

RE: Hermione, Knowledge and Blackmail

Amy wrote (about Hermione's plan to silence Rita):

How is she going to enforce this rule? Blackmail-- she'll "spill the beans" on her being an unregistered Animagus if she doesn't keep quiet for a year.

Back in December there was an interesting thread about Hermione's decision to engage in blackmail, started off by Porphyria, who drew a parallel between Hermione's treatment of Rita and Snape's of Lupin, and then asked (in message #47912):

Isn't this worrisome, since a pair as boisterously reckless as Fred and George worry about using blackmail? Didn't the subplot of Fred, George and Ludo Bagman indicate that blackmail in the Potterverse is wrong from many people's point of view?

I was thinking about this, and it occurred to me that the Twins/Bagman subplot is not the only place where GoF hints at the perils of blackmail.

'But Bertha Jorkins heard Winky talking to me. She came to investigate. She heard enough to guess who was hiding under the Invisibility Cloak. My father arrived home. She confronted him.'

— GoF, Ch. 35

Why precisely did Bertha Jorkins "confront" Crouch about what she had heard? My own instinctive reading of this line was that Bertha Jorkins had attempted to blackmail Crouch, a reading which also led me to suspect that she had been planning something very similar when she agreed to go for that pleasant evening stroll with Peter Pettigrew in Albania. It was only later that I learned that most people had not read the line in at all the same way.

But whether or not we are meant to read a blackmail attempt in the above phrasing, the fate of the unfortunate Jorkins certainly does seem to me to touch upon the particular dangers inherent in conflating knowledge or information about others with power over them.

Ironically, it is a failing to which Rita Skeeter herself would seem to be prone. She does not merely distort the truth. She also ferrets out real truths, truths which she often uses to discomfit others. There is indication that she is not merely a glory-hound; she also revels in the sense of personal power that she gains from knowing that she possesses hidden information about others, even (or perhaps especially) when it is information that she chooses not to reveal.

'I know things about Ludo Bagman that would make your hair curl...'

Rita in fact does not tell Hermione what she knows about Bagman's past. Why? Because her malice does not extend that far? To me, the impression is rather that she takes active enjoyment in possessing information that others do not. It is the mind-set, if not the actual crime, of the blackmailer.

Given that Rita does seem to me to be established quite firmly as a nemesis for Hermione in particular in GoF, I find myself wondering if we are likely to see this emerge as a temptation for Hermione herself in the future. Hermione is proud of her ability to root out knowledge that others cannot find. We see her struggle briefly with this in PoA. She does not in fact betray Lupin's secret to Harry and Ron, no. But she cannot quite resist making it quite clear to them that she has figured something out about him, something which they themselves have not. Her particular type of pride-in-information is apparent not only to the other students, but also to the staff. Not only children, but also the adult Snape, refer to her as a "know-it-all."

probono wrote of Hermione, back in December:

She's been accused of meddling in things that she shouldn't (see below), so is this the one that backfires?

By Snape: "Keep quiet you stupid girl. Don't talk about what you don'tunderstand."

And Skeeter: "Sit down, you silly little girl and don't talk about things you don't understand."

Yes, that is interesting.

Is Hermione being set up for a fall here?

Rita Skeeter is a ticking time-bomb, to be sure, but I find myself wondering whether the ramifications of Hermione's blackmail plot might be even more serious than that. "Only knowledge, and those too weak to seek it?"

I wonder if GoF's repetition of blackmail-inflected plotlines might not be giving us a foretaste of precisely which, of the many faces of the temptation of power, we might be seeing Hermione forced to confront in the future.


Posted February 21, 2003 at 12:51 am
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idol_reflection: Hermione Granger

Hermione Granger
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
Fandom: Harry Potter
Character: Hermione Granger
Author: Kia
Spoilers: Book One to Five

Note and disclaimer: Hindsight is always 20/20. What today appears to be difficult decision, becomes the easiest of choices tomorrow when you know the consequences of your choice. The same rule applies to the characters in novels - you should reserve judgement until you finish the book. Hermione's story isn't finished and that makes her a difficult character to be judged.

Hermione Granger is without question the most important and visible female character of the Harry Potter books. Harry met her first ....

no_remorse: Hermione Granger

I've finished this puppy! *insert happy dance here* Will fix stuff tomorrow....