POSTS TO HPFGU
2002-2003
     
       
       
HPfGU #52684

Blackmail Revisited - Fred, George, & Hermione

RE: Blackmail Revisited - Fred, George, & Hermione


I wrote:

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.

Greicy asked:

What do you mean by "temptation of power" Elkins? Do you mean bad temptations? Temptation does usually mean something bad, but I hope she doesn't go bad! =(

Yes, I did indeed mean bad temptations. I used the word "temptation" there though, rather than, say, "seduction" or "corruption," because I don't think that Hermione is going to go bad either. ;-)

I do think that she will have to face temptation, just as Harry both has and will.

Bboy wrote:

Since the subject of Rite Skeeter has come up again, so has the subject of Blackmail, but I think many people have a warped idea of what Blackmail is. Blackmail is a crime of theft; a form of stealing.

Blackmail says, give me what I want even though it doesn't belong to me, or else. Fred and George aren't saying that. Fred and George are saying give us what rightfully belongs to us, or else.

Legally speaking, that simply doesn't matter. If somebody owes you money and you try to retrieve it from them by threatening with them with some form of public exposure, rather than through the official channels, then that is still an actionable offense. At least, here in the US it is. And from Fred and George's exchange in the Owlery, it would seem that the exact same legal rules apply within wizarding Britain:

"--that's blackmail, that is, we could get into a lot of trouble for that--"

"--we've tried being polite; it's time to play dirty, like him. He wouldn't like the Ministry of Magic knowing what he did--"

"I'm telling you, if you put that in writing, it's blackmail!"

"Yeah, and you won't be complaining if we get a nice fat payoff, will you?"

--GoF, Ch. 29

Of course, the wizarding world's "official channels" are corrupt, and Fred and George have no proof of their verbal agreement with Bagman, which is why they feel forced to resort to blackmail in the first place. These factors certainly do make their decision sympathetic. They do not change the fact that they are engaging in the legal crime of extortion.

I would also say that unlike many other canonical examples of law-breaking, the authorial voice here strikes me as ambivalent on the subject of what the Twins are up to. Their actions are to my mind portrayed neither as wholly positively as the illegal use of the time-turner to rescue Sirius and Buckbeak at the end of PoA nor as wholly negatively as Lucius Malfoy's use of threats and extortion to force the Hogwarts Board of Governors to support his political agenda.

As I read the Twins' blackmail attempt, the text is setting it forth as rather "grey." On the one hand, Bagman cynically and deliberately stole their savings, and what other options do the Twins have, really? On the other, Fred and George's behavior towards Ron when they are interrupted in their discussion, the concerns Ron states elsewhere in the novel about how he worries that the Twins' financial concerns renders them vulnerable, and the fact that the plotline is in fact resolved not by the success of the blackmail attempt but instead by Harry's act of generosity all combine to lead me to read the blackmail subplot as rather ambiguously presented.

What do you think the purpose of all of this reiteration of the concept of blackmail might be? It does seem to be a bit of a recurring motif in GoF, don't you think?

—Elkins

Posted February 21, 2003 at 6:10 pm
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References:

dietwinsdie: Links to Elkins's Posts on the Twins

Links to Elkins's Posts on the Twins
Fred and George, the Bullies You Do Know...