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01 August 2006 @ 12:24 pm
Defending Dumbledore, Part I: Loyalty and Manipulation  
Perhaps I came at the question of Dumbledore's goodness or badness from a rather naive point of view: there appears to be a really large amount of debate as to whether Dumbledore is good, evil, or manipulative. I've spent more time reading some of the work. I've been troubled by some of it; Dumbledore does seem a little "shady" at times, I've always thought that. But evil? Or even manipulative? Let's see if we can take a look at Albus Dumbledore's actions and see if we really do find a good, wise old wizard who occasionally makes a monumental mistake, rather than an evil old man who intentionally manipulates children.

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travisprinzi on August 3rd, 2006 12:06 am (UTC)
This is, I agree, a pertinent question. I'm having a brain fart as to where that particular text is located. Can someone direct me there?
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travisprinzi on August 3rd, 2006 02:12 am (UTC)
If that's the case, I'm not sure why this is really such a point against Dumbledore. Wouldn't you use your best friend instead of your favorite teacher?
felicitys_mindfelicitys_mind on August 3rd, 2006 03:48 am (UTC)
"Where I am completely stuck: why don't the Potters use the Greatest Wizard of All as their Secret Keeper?"

I always saw that as a demonstration of James Potter's deep trust in Sirius and his unwillingness to hurt Sirius by switching over to Dumbledore, not as a reason to question Dumbledore. After all, the Potters had made Sirius Harry's godfather; they trusted him with their son's life, so of course they would trust him completely with their own lives.

As we read in Snape's Worst Memory: "Harry had the distinct impression that Sirius was the only one for whom James would have stopped showing off." (OP28) This is a clear hint that Sirius had enormous influence over James.

The Potters did trust Dumbledore because they were using the Fidelius Charm on Dumbledore's advice. From what McGonagall said, it appears that Dumbledore offered to be the Secret Keeper after James and Lily had chosen Sirius:

"Naturally," said Professor McGonagall. "James Potter told Dumbledore that Black would die rather than tell where they were, that Black was planning to go into hiding himself . . . and yet, Dumbledore remained worried. I remember him offering to be the Potters' Secret Keeper himself." (POA10)

James's trust in Sirius was complete, so not only was that a reason for the Potters to have faith in Sirius, but because Sirius was James's closet friend and practically a brother, James would not have wanted to hurt Sirius by suggesting that the Potters use Dumbledore instead.
travisprinzi on August 3rd, 2006 04:53 am (UTC)
Thanks! I *knew* I had just read that somewhere, but I couldn't pinpoint it for the life of me.

The reason remains, however - makes a lot more sense to entrust it to best friends. Even more, you can't make a play that will force Dumbledore into hiding. Becoming the Potter's secret keeper did just that for Pettigrew. They couldn't have affored Albus in hiding because he was keeping a secret during VoldWar I.
felicitys_mindfelicitys_mind on August 3rd, 2006 04:58 am (UTC)
Well, I don't think Albus would have needed to go into hiding since he was the only wizard Voldemort was afraid of and no one would have been able to catch him or force him to reveal the Potters' hiding place. The same couldn't be said for Sirius because Sirius didn't have the same degree of power.

But I do think the Potters chose Sirius because they trusted him completely and after choosing him, wouldn't want to seem to be saying that Dumbledore was MORE trustworthy.
felicitys_mindfelicitys_mind on August 3rd, 2006 05:00 am (UTC)
I should have added that Dumbledore didn't need to go into hiding after hearing the prophesy for the same reasons that he wouldn't have needed to go into hiding had he been made the Potters Secret Keeper--no one would have been powerful enough to capture him and get the information out of him.
travisprinzi on August 3rd, 2006 11:20 am (UTC)
Good point, good point. Either way, the argument about trusting your best friend still stands. Suspicion of Dumbledore is not needed to justify trusting Sirius, James's best friend, instead.
focusf1focusf1 on August 2nd, 2006 10:54 pm (UTC)
I spend half my life defending the enigma that is Dumbledore so thank you for this essay.

I especially liked your thoughts on the Harry filter and a new point you brought up from JKR's PoV: the fact that would she write a hero's tale with the hero being the most grossly misled character with regard to his mentor in the entire series? I doubt that very much.
Navigating Changing Seas: Dancing_FeltonWatsonkoloagirl on August 7th, 2006 09:39 pm (UTC)
I'm arriving late into the conversation, so please pardon :)

Unquestionably, Dumbledore values loyalty to himself. This strikes us as being a tad arrogant, perhaps.

I can't think of anyone who does not value loyalty, whether that's in the line of friendship, teamwork, marriage (ex., the Weasleys), family (ex., the Malfoys), or servitude (ex., the Death Eaters).

What can be said about Dumbledore is that he does not mandate or expect loyalty to him. Expect loyalty among the Order of the Phoenix to the Order, its cause, and its fellow members? Yes, certainly, but that is much different than holding the expectation of demonstrating loyalty to himself.

If anything, the selection you quote re: Harry being Dumbledore's Man offers evidence that Dumbledore is both humbled and touched at Harry's declaration loyalty to him.

By contrast, if you fail to show loyalty to Voldemort, you're probably playing that classic by The Supremes in your head -- o/~ Got nowhere to run to, baby... Nowhere to hide! o/~

As the hero emerges after 6 years under the tutelage of the wise old man, is it realistic to think, from a storytelling point of view, that he has emerged identifying himself "through and through" with a manipulative, lying, scheming man?

If he's been brainwashed, yes, that's a realistic deduction. However, McGonagall offers early evidence to the contrary by saying that, while Dumbledore wields the power to exert certain tactics against fellow wizards, he is too honorable to do exercise that power.

By that token, Dumbledore holds both the role of Hogwarts Headmaster and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. As the saying goes, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. If Dumbledore has maintained the trust of his fellow Wizengamot members over time and, likewise, has maintained the collective trust of the Hogwarts Board of Governors and the parents of Hogwarts students, it stands to reason he is not hoodwinking Harry. Does that mean people agree with him all the time? They clearly don't. However, I would point out that during the instances in which Dumbledore is removed from his posts on the Wizengamot and at Hogwarts, there came to be evidence that supported his reinstatement, either as the result of dirty dealings within the Ministry or by Lucius Malfoy.

Notice I'm agreeing with you that Dumbledore is trustworthy. I think, though, that the arguments you make have room for stronger support and less indirect inference / speculation.
travisprinzi on August 7th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
Notice I'm agreeing with you that Dumbledore is trustworthy. I think, though, that the arguments you make have room for stronger support and less indirect inference / speculation.

Agreed! My point was to take a thematic look at the topic, critiquing the Manipulative!Dumbledore arguments by looking at it through the lens of certain themes. I agree entirely that there is much stronger support in the very plot details of the books themselves, a few of which you mentioned.
Navigating Changing Seas: Dancing_FeltonWatsonkoloagirl on August 7th, 2006 10:03 pm (UTC)
Part II
Dumbledore sending a kid who'd known nothing about magic until just 9 months ago to face the most terrible Dark Wizard in a long time. But let's get something straight - stories like this are about the underdog. And J.K. Rowling's being a postmodern writer increases that theme exponentially. It just might be possible that with Albus Dumbledore, she has written a character that actually believes children are more capable than adults give them credit for. Wasn't it he who said, "Old age is foolish when it underestimates youth"? (HBP-26)

Thank you for bringing up this particular argument. If Dumbledore didn't believe in Harry's capability at a young age, or if Dumbledore somehow obstructed Harry from completing certain tasks, where would that leave the overall story?

Part of what attracts young people to Harry, nay, to the stories as a whole, is that he faces adversity and overcomes great odds despite his own doubts in his abilities. What better than for that teenager to have a capable adult who demonstrates confidence in you? Especially after a life among the Dursleys.

Furthermore, Harry manages quite well to get into situations that Dumbledore either does not advocate or prefer Harry should face / undertake. Tom Riddle's diary? Lucius Malfoy's influence. Brewing polyjuice potion to sneak into another House's common rooms? Hermione's influence. Deciding he needed to take out Sirius Black? Harry's own indignance for what he mistook to be Sirius' role in his parents' death. The Triwizard Tournament? Crouch, Jr.'s influence -- and we know that Dumbledore's extremely alarmed at the dangers the tournament poses to Harry. Leading a group of fellow students to rescue Sirius at the Ministry? Voldemort's influence, after Dumbledore had insisted that Harry take Occlumency lessons to prevent such a situation from happening.

Is Dumbledore flawed? Yes, and he recognizes that he is, that he has made multiple missteps in trying to help Harry despite numerous calculations and contingency plans. But Dumbledore is not at direct fault for the dangers Harry faces; there are many other people who are equally, if not more culpable for that.

Wouldn't these stories be incredibly boring, trite, and unrealistic if all the adults, especially Dumbledore, tried to protect Harry from every scrape and bruise or if they didn't allow him the freedom to fail, to learn from mistakes, and to grow up?