I have to get something off my chest. I’ve been letting this build up for a long time. Finally, I just have to say it.
Dumbledore was 110% right to be secretive with Harry. All the time.
There, I said it. Do you want to know why? The man has gotten too much hate for too long because he didn’t hand Harry every single answer he needed right away. But here’s the thing: Harry would have been in a much worse position if he had.
After some light research, I have come to the conclusion that if Dumbledore were a Muggle he would have been as revered in developmental psychology as Jean Piaget. Maybe. They may have done brunch a few times. Anyway, he knew what he was doing.
J.K. Rowling stated in a 2003 interview with MSN, “Dumbledore is a very wise man who knows that Harry is going to have to learn a few hard lessons to prepare him for what may be coming in his life. He allows Harry to get into what he wouldn’t allow another pupil to do, and he also unwillingly permits Harry to confront things he’d rather protect him from.” I think a lot of Dumbledore’s wisdom can also be applied to psychology if it was not already derived from some light Muggle reading he had on his desk.
According to the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, the psychological development of the adolescent includes the development of beliefs, values, and what individuals want to accomplish in life. Adolescent development can be broken down into three major categories: early, mid, and late adolescence.
During early adolescence, typically the range from 11 to 13 years old, the primary concern of individuals is to make use of their newly acquired logical thinking skills and ability to make rational judgments. Cool. Does anyone remember Harry’s totally rational thinking outside of the Shrieking Shack when he overheard the [misinformed] story that Sirius betrayed his parents? Super reasonably, the 13-year-old decided to go after a man who managed to escape a wizard prison and kill him. This totally would have been a great time to talk about Horcruxes, right? “Oh, by the way, Harry, I think this diary you stabbed with the Basilisk fang last term was actually an object used to preserve Voldemort’s soul. There’re a few more we need to find.” Without hesitation, Harry would have spun off in a whirlwind of curses trying to eliminate Horcruxes with no further information necessary. “What did you say about this one, Professor? Don’t touch it?! Oh. Too late for that…”
Moving into mid-adolescence, in the range of 14 to 15 (getting really mature here), the individual becomes more adventuresome and experiments with different roles to find their relationships with themselves, groups, and the opposite sex. They begin to grapple with the ideas of their parents and develop self-dependence. Ah, yes. The hormone-filled year of the Yule Ball. J.K. Rowling knew exactly what she was doing throwing a school dance in during the trio’s fourth year. Well played, Jo, well played. While Harry was indeed thrust into the Triwizard Tournament against his own will, can anyone truly claim he did not absolutely revel in it? Flying around dragons, escaping the clutches of mermaids, and fighting through a ridiculous maze for the ultimate prize of fame and glory. Yeah, he totally hated it. This would have surely been the perfect time to bring up those pesky Horcruxes. “Sorry, Professor, but you’re going to have to worry about that yourself. I am a little busy figuring out what this stupid egg is for. AND I don’t have a date for the Yule Ball yet. Seriously, you could not have told me this at a more inconvenient time.”
Now, going on 15 when Harry was developing a sense of responsibility and looking for a place in society may have worked out better. But then Dumbledore wouldn’t have been giving Harry the space he needed to develop those traits. Remember, this is a stage when individuals are challenging the beliefs of their parents and other adult figures; the less Dumbledore impresses upon Harry in this time, the less he has to disagree with him on. Harry was forming his own opinions, and in the process he formed Dumbledore’s Army and provided realistic Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons for his friends. A necessary arrangement in the grand scheme of things.
The final stage of development, late adolescence, characterized by anyone 16 and older, is when individuals have a better sense of identity and their place in society. At this stage in their life, they typically have a consistent view of the world and have distinguished between their fantasies, realities, and aspirations. At this stage in their life, they know what they want to do and are probably already working to achieve it. After witnessing the death of Sirius in the Department of Mysteries, Harry’s goal in life was set. The death of his parents set the tone for his entire development, but the trauma of experiencing a loved one’s tragic death in his adolescence gave Harry a purpose. I believe that is why Dumbledore chose to introduce Harry to the Horcrux mission in his sixth year. He was [almost] ready for it.
However, Harry still had a lot of growing up to do. David Elkind presents the theory of adolescent egocentrism, which asserts that adolescents go through a stage of self-absorption. During this stage, individuals are only able to see the world through their own perspective. Harry spent almost his entire sixth year at school fixated on Horcruxes and badgering Dumbledore to take him to find more. Dumbledore recognized that Harry needed to slow down and fully understand his mission from all vantage points before jumping headfirst into it. He prepared Harry by showing him his acquired memories related to Voldemort in the Pensieve. Harry didn’t understand it at the time because he was so enveloped in the destruction of Horcruxes, but these trips down memory lane became imperative to Harry’s search later on.
Another consideration for Dumbledore’s secretive nature would be Harry’s abandonment issues. Harry lost his parents as an infant, a friend at 14, his godfather at 15, and Dumbledore at 16. We saw Harry’s reaction to seeing his parents in the Mirror of Erised. He longed for their company. Could you imagine if Dumbledore had given Harry the Resurrection Stone outright? He would have turned it thrice in his hand and slipped into the madness that befell the Second Brother. Instead, Dumbledore chose to hide the Stone and encrypt the Golden Snitch with a message for Harry: “I open at the close.” Dumbledore actually set things up perfectly for Harry to learn on his own when he was ready. Harry didn’t need Dumbledore to tell him “The Tale of the Three Brothers”; he needed to learn the significance of the Deathly Hallows. By piecing the story together, Harry understood his visions of Grindelwald and Gregorovitch. If Dumbledore had simply sat down with Harry one day and told him the story of Death, he would have quickly logged it away into an unused corner of his mind.
When Harry meets Dumbledore at King’s Cross station, he discovers that he is not angry with Dumbledore at all. He has been frustrated for months over a search he felt ill-prepared for, but coming face-to-face with the man who “failed” him proves to have a different effect. Harry realizes that everything Dumbledore did was for the right reasons.
That is why I have been frustrated for so long with fans who hate on the old Headmaster for his “poor timing” with information sharing. Dumbledore knew exactly when the best times would be to lead Harry to an answer and when to allow Harry to come to conclusions on his own. Yes, many people died while Harry was trying to figure things out on his own. But who would have lived if Dumbledore had revealed these secrets to Harry at the wrong time?
It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
Hate on Dumbledore all you want, but I think Dumbledore made the right choices when it came to Harry.
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