Saeva (saeva) wrote in hp_essays,

Disaffected: A Remus Lupin Essay

I'm re-posting this on request of eilanhp, along with my Harry essay. Some of you may have already seen it either on my old journal vesania_aeterno or on the community badficsupport. For those of you who haven't, enjoy:


Disaffected: An Exploration of Remus J. Lupin

I've debated on whether or not to do this essay because, essentially, it has little point except to say, using big words, "Lookit! I was right about Remus's characterisation all along, ha!". At least, that's how it would have begun. However, over the last few days I've seen many reactions to Remus's (relatively small) role in the Order of the Phoenix and what I've seen, for the most part, perplexes me. There seems to be the consensus that Remus disapproved of Sirius and James's actions in Chapter Twenty-Nine but that, due to the fact he had a fear of being rejected by his only friends, he was too afraid to say anything. This, given every single thing we've seen of Remus Lupin, makes absolutely no sense to me. So, what follows is my analysis of the character of Remus Lupin based on canon and the extrapolations thereof, and why such analysis proves that Remus was not afraid but indifferent.

To start off with, Remus J. Lupin is not a particularly easy character to read. He hasn't had a great amount of exposure in canon and what we do have is mostly designated part of a role, such as Professor Lupin v. Remus. Additionally, unlike, say, Professor Snape or, as of Order of the Phoenix, Professor McGonagall, Remus rarely, if every, seems to display any emotion. People seem to have taken this as a lack of characterisation or a symptom of shyness, however I think it's easily one of the most blatant character clues we have about Remus and, combined with what else we see and know, cannot be concluded as shyness at all.**

What his actions do display tells a very different story than that of a shy, nearly timid boy who's afraid of upsetting those around him and inciting rejection. Frankly, Remus is secretive and manipulative, controls everything around him, has little to no deference for authority, and has a very dry wit with a morbid sense of humour to boot. This is not a timid boy afraid of himself and his surroundings. This is not a good man, morally responsible and wanting to do the right thing. This is a realist who has gotten the bad end of things in life and, even through these experiences, comes out strong and fully in-control in the end.

Even from the very first scene in which we see Remus interacting with others, he is in control. In this case he has been cast as an 'authority figure' by his mere presence on the Hogwarts Express. However, for those of you who remember substitutes, new authority figures rarely ever command authority. Remus does. Not immediately, but he uses his almost blase attitude and pleasant demeanor to put the children at ease and get them to do what he wants (eat the chocolate, calm down) after a harrowing experience. Not only that but in the presence of dementors he himself remains focused and in command. Given the obviously horrible memories he must contain (the deaths he's lived through, the 'betrayal' of Sirius, the transformations each month) this can't be a simple task but he makes it look as if it is.

Moving on from the first scene, once Remus arrives at Hogwarts he quickly assimilates himself into the society. Within a space of two days the vast majority of the school likes him. Not only the Gryffindors, but the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs as well. We're never shown what most of the Slytherins think of him, but assuming they're not all classist snobs like Draco Malfoy and his little gang (which I think is a safe assumption) most of them probably liked him too. The staff, save Severus Snape, also seems to like him. Remus works to be likable, to be pleasant, to be what everyone wants. Now, that begs of question of, if this is true then why is the conclusion that Remus is afraid of upsetting people false? That's simple: we see multiple times that he is *not* afraid of upsetting people. In fact, one could argue that the biggest threat to his safety and continued presence is Severus Snape, who knows that he is a werewolf and seriously dislikes him. It would make sense, were he afraid of rejection and upsetting people, that Remus would be extra careful in not upsetting Severus. However, the opposite is true. Remus takes every opportunity he has to subtly (and not so subtly) needle Severus.

Take the Boggart class, for example. Remus chooses a student, Neville Longbottom, to demonstrate a new spell they are learning. Severus, who is present, berates Neville's ability and intelligence and warns Remus against allowing him anywhere near a wand. Someone who is interested in avoiding conflict would wait until Severus has left the room before telling Neville to go ahead, especially given it is a defining trait that Severus *despises* public criticism and as Remus attended school with Severus he would know that. Remus *chooses* to ignore that fact. Then, once Severus has left, Remus discovers that Neville's worst fear is Severus himself. At that point Remus, who we know was a co-worker (in the Order) with Neville's parents and therefore has very likely at least met Neville's grandmother, suggests that Neville picture his grandmother's clothing on Boggart!Severus. This would be humiliating for any figure, but given how prideful Severus is and how obsessive he is about his authority over the students, and given that how incompetent he finds Neville, this is adding insult to injury. There is no way Remus wouldn't have known that the story of Severus in a dress with a vulture hat would quickly be passed around Hogwarts and how that would upset Severus but he did it anyway. This is especially risky given that not only does Severus know his secret but Severus is the only person available to him that is capable of brewing the Wolfsbane Potion, which helps him keep his mind on the night of the full moon.

We also see that he uses his sense of humour as an effective tool for manipulation. Pranking Peeves wins the heart of the Gryffindor class, for example. When the children on the train at the beginning of PoA aren't eating the chocolate Remus gave them to counteract the effect of the dementors he jokes that he hasn't poisoned the chocolate. This also shows awareness of how he might be perceived due to his shabby looks. Later in PoA when Harry asks about the dementor's greatest weapon (going off of one of Remus's earlier comments) Remus states: "They call it the Dementor's Kiss," said Lupin, with a slightly twisted smile. "It's what dementors do to those they wish to destroy utterly. I suppose there must be some kind of mouth under there, because they clamp their jaws upon the mouth of the victim and -- and suck out his soul." (pg. 247, PoA. U.S. Paperback edition). Remus's sense of humour, as a whole, seems to be decided morbid and carefully used. This is not a man who says things unintentionally.

These is just two examples of Remus's ability to manipulate, complete lack of respect for authority, and slightly twisted sense of humour. Our other examples of his behaviour are more insidious, though perhaps less colourful. As a teenager, whom was appointed prefect and therefore supposed to be an authority figure, Remus manages to avoid responsibility and/or buck authority higher than his at least three major times. All three cases are much more severe than simply dressing Snape in a vulture hat. The most minor of these actions is in Chapter Twenty-Nine of the Order of the Phoenix, in which Remus complete ignores his friends viscously bullying Severus Snape and continues to read his book instead of intervening, even once another classmate, Lily Evans, does attempt to intervene. As shown above, Remus doesn't seem to have a problem upsetting people and as shown earlier in the chapter, during which he tells James to be quiet, he hasn't a problem telling his friends what to do when he feels it necessary.*** This leads to the conclusion that he *chooses* not to intervene. The second action is more serious. There is no way that James, Sirius, and Peter could have kept attempting to become animagi from Remus for three entire years, let alone any reason why they would want to. In fact, if we're correct about the dates in which they discover Remus is a werewolf in second year, as it's stated they've known for three years when they become Animagi in their fifth year****, and the animagi lessons aren't given until their third year and even then do not mention that being an animagi would make one immune to being infected as a werewolf, then it's even reasonable to think that Remus himself might have suggested it. At any rate, he must have approved of it. The final act is by far the worst. It shows either a complete lack of good judgement or willful ignorance of such. Remus states that he spent many full moons wandering around Hogwarts and Hogsmeade with his friends in animal form. That, in fact, there were nearly fatal incidents once or twice and that they laughed about them afterwards*****. He does seem to recognise how idiotic those actions were in retrospect, but that does not negate they did them. Not to mention that in Order of the Phoenix he plays off other such irresponsible actions as the normalcy of being a teenager. He shows no more remorse for any of those things than Sirius Black does. All of that, especially as one of the incidents directly involved Severus and the two others were contributing factors in Severus nearly dying at the hands (or claws as the case may be) of Remus in wolf form cast his later interactions with Severus in a more sinister light. His needling moves from working against the unfair, hypocritical professor in defense of the downtrodden to merely a pattern of behaviours, a way of acting towards Severus in general. And, again, throughout the needling, he manages to stay in favour of the vast majority of the Hogwarts population and generally be considered a very nice bloke.

Except that Remus isn't particularly nice. He is pleasant, certainly, there is no contesting that, but there is a distinct difference between pleasant and nice. After all, there is his withholding information that he has every reason to believe is vital in the protection of Hogwarts. There is the rather low-blow of using Harry's obligation to his parents' memory as a manipulator. There is the blatantly two-faced action of which he defends Harry in front of Severus but, as soon as Severus is gone, berates Harry for Harry's behaviour in bucking authority******. The very fact that he is able to be that two-faced while still maintaining a pleasant demeanor, notes the difference. Nice is genuine. Pleasant is not. That, of course, is all besides his treatment of Severus. While Severus is neither innocent nor particularly reasonable, Remus's behaviours surely make it worse and from every indication we have Remus is the sort of person who is self-aware enough to realise that.

Then, of course, there is Remus's behaviour in the Shrieking Shack in Prisoner of Azkaban. Throughout the scene, even as he is being outed as a werewolf, something he has every reason to fear, and recollecting the painful transformations of his youth, Remus is in control, calm, and collected. Even when he discovers that he has been gravely mistaken about the entire cause of the last twelve years of his life, he remains unflustered. He merely processes, accepts, and moves on. And even when he is telling a man he believed, until a mere half an hour earlier, to be a victim of a heinous betrayal and murder, that he should have *known* that Remus and Sirius would kill him, he does so coolly. He states: "You should have realized," said Lupin quietly, "if Voldemort didn't kill you, we would. Good-bye, Peter." (p. 375, PoA, US Paperback edition). There is no rage, as Sirius and Harry display (the latter displaying rage towards Sirius when he believed him guilty), just a calm, quiet certainty and cold-blooded murder.

Of course, all those behaviours are in complete concurrence to Remus's other, less sinister, behaviours. Remus is a man who is completely in control of the situation around him. Not only does he lead the situation in the Shrieking Shack (he is the one that convinces Sirius to calm down and explain and convinces Ron to give him a rat and then, once the situation is diffused, puts people into order so that they can return to the castle) but he displays the same qualities in Order of the Phoenix. In Chapter Five, during which they have dinner, an argument arises, the contention being whether or not Harry should be allowed information. Sirius, who is strong-willed and stubborn, argues that he should. Molly Weasley, who is easily as strong-willed and stubborn, argues that he shouldn't and it quickly becomes a shouting match that no one is willing to intervene in, even when dragged in (see Mr. Weasleys' non-committal answers). No one, that is, except Remus who says: "Molly, you're not the only person at this table who cares about Harry," said Lupin sharply. "Sirius, sit down." (p. 90, OotP, US Hardback edition). Both Molly and Sirius comply and then Remus adds: "I think Harry ought to be allowed a say in this," Lupin continued. "He's old enough to decide for himself." (see note immediately above). That decides it. Then, in the drama that follows concerning the rest of the children and whether they will be allowed to stay, Sirius's mother's portrait is upset and Remus leaves to deal with her. However, "It was only after he had returned, closing the kitchen door behind him and taking his seat at the table, that Sirius spoke." The conversation continues, with Harry asking questions and the group doing the best they can to answer them, when Sirius allows information Molly does not find acceptable to slip. Molly immediately attempts to end the conversation but is met with argument. However, then Remus speaks up, first saying no and then explaining why he said as much. The reaction is this: "Sirius half-shrugged but did not argue. Mrs. Weasley beckoned imperiously to her sons and Hermione. One by one they stood up and Harry, recognising defeat, followed suit." (p. 97, OotP) It's fully clear that throughout the scene Remus is in control of the decisions. That he is, effectively, the authority on site.

This isn't even the first example within Order of the Phoenix that has Remus taking charge of a situation. Remus is, if not the leader of the guard to pick up Harry in Chapter Three, then at least its co-leader and its ambassador. Remus spends most of the scene directing people, including Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, who would seem to have authority, and answering Harry's questions, making certain that Harry remains calm. Nor is it the last example. Throughout the book Remus seems to have a hand in many of the situations, using his ability to calm down Molly, control Sirius, and make certain that Severus and Sirius do not kill each other. Not only is this an example of Remus's ability to dominant a situation without appearing controlling, but it also shows his people skills. That alone debunks the idea of Remus being shy or even reserved. Shy implies that one is avoidant of something, whether it be interpersonal interaction or responsibility or control, and Remus never shies away from any of these things. Even when he doesn't become involved, he isn't avoidant. For example, he doesn't avoid responsibility, he merely chooses when and when not to exercise it.

Choosing when and when not to exercise it is merely one of the many actions Remus takes to protect himself. In fact, it could be argued that every action Remus has taken, from not revealing Sirius was an animagus to frowning at James and Sirius ambushing a teenage Severus, protects himself in some manner. He has no problem lying, manipulating, or purposefully omitting things in order to further his own cause and protection. The single exception to this personality of self-preservation is, unsurprisingly, Severus Snape, whom he all but flat-out taunts; and even this action could be seen a preemptively self-protective in that, because Severus is so hated by the students, needling him in front of the students will garner Remus acceptance.

Now, all of this is not to say that I believe Remus is a cruel person or an evil person (though the latter is highly subjective), because I don't. I merely believe, for the reasons stated above, that Remus is a manipulative and secret person, with little or no respect for authority. Honestly, this makes him a more interesting and realistic person, in my eyes, because of his condition and how that has affected his life. I am not saying that he is incapable of caring about people because he does seem to care about both Sirius and Harry; merely that, if push came to shove, he wouldn't put others above himself. This is, truthfully, a rather common human trait. What makes it so pronounced in Remus is that he is so under his own control and self-contained that he understands how to use it to his advantage; and that he is willing to do so. Remus is, in effect, cold-blooded (in the sense that he is very matter-of-fact): that is his defining trait. However, that is not, by far, his only trait. He does, for example, go out of his way to reassure Harry in Chapter Three and Chapter Four of OotP, he helps Harry with the Patronus, and he makes certain, once the job is done, that everyone is as well as could be expected (e.g. reassuring Ron about the fact that Scabbers shan't be hurt if the rat is not, in fact, Peter Pettigrew). I'm merely saying that there is a fine line between doing what one wants because one can and doing what one finds necessary for the benefit of everyone and Remus continuously toes that line. Personally, I find nothing wrong with that but it's a far cry from the personality often assigned to Remus by fanon, the personality of a timid, giving boy who is consistently thinking of others. That is the personality I hope I have debunked with this essay because I think it's far time it was debunked.
**[Side note: This will not make sense to non-Buffy fans of the second and third season but to use a parallel, Daniel "Oz" Osbourne is laconic and emotionally reticent, yet no one would suggest he is actually shy, would they?]
***"How think are you, Wormtail?" said James impatiently. "You run round with a werewolf once a month --" "Keep your voice down," implored Lupin. (pg. 643, OotP)
****"It took them the best part of three years to work out how to do it." and "Finally, in our fifth year, they managed [to become animagi]." - Remus (pg. 354, PoA)
*****"And there were near misses, many of them. We laughed about them afterwards." - Remus (pg. 355, PoA.)
******"I don't want to know how [the map] fell into your possession. I am, however, astounded that you didn't hand it in...And I can't let you have it back, Harry." (pg. 289, PoA. and "I am no longer a teacher, so I don't feel guilty about giving you back [the map] as well." -Remus [pg. 424, PoA]

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?

- Andrea.

Post- script: Oh, and for those of you who are new to the community and thus might not have seen it, you may be interested in my other Remus essay focusing on the personality consequences of having a chronic childhood illness here.
Tags: characters:remus lupin
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