What Is the Point of Argus Filch?
We don’t actually know that much about Argus Filch. We know that he’s an unpleasant individual to be around, that he’s a Squib, that he loves his cat, and that he’s the caretaker of Hogwarts. It’s this last fact that intrigues me. What exactly are the duties of a caretaker, and why does Hogwarts need one? In most respects, it seems like Hogwarts could easily function without Filch. So I decided to go through the list of duties we see Filch perform in the books and determine whether or not he’s necessary.
First is cleaning. We see Filch clean quite often, usually mobbing up snow or mud. On the surface, this makes sense. Part of taking care of the castle is keeping it clean. However, there’s no way Filch can be solely responsible for this. For one, there’s just no way one man can clean a castle that size by himself. This discrepancy is explained by the house-elves, who do help clean the castle. Of course, this begs the question of why not just have the house-elves do it all. They clearly don’t need instruction or supervision to do so, and they can likely clean a lot faster then Filch. Why is he being forced to mop up floors that the house-elves could clean with a snap of their fingers?
The next duties are ones Filch seems to particularly relish: the punishment of students and confiscation of banned items. No one can argue that Filch doesn’t enjoy this part of his job, but is he necessary? Yes, all schools need to have some form of discipline, but everything that Filch does to uphold that discipline is also easily done by the professors. We’ve seen professors patrolling the hallways at night after curfew, not to mention the fact that they can also call upon the portraits and ghosts to help. We saw Professor Lupin confiscate the Maurader’s Map. The only thing that Filch does differently is that he threatens physical violence, which isn’t really necessary. So once again, Filch seems to be rather redundant.
So why is he there? It’s possible that he was hired out of compassion and pity, much in the same way Hagrid was. It’s very likely that it’s difficult for Squibs to find jobs. It’s easy to see Dumbledore making that offer; although, it is slightly bizarre that he would choose to offer it to a man who so clearly hates children. Or is there another reason why Filch was hired on? I do have one theory.
There’s one more duty we see Filch perform in the books. He restores the portrait of the Fat Lady. And by all accounts, he does so perfectly. Anyone who knows anything about art restoration knows that it’s complicated and difficult work, and Filch doesn’t even have the aid of magic to help make it easier. That means that he’s just extraordinarily talented. Furthermore, this act of restoration fits well with his title of caretaker. A castle as old as Hogwarts must have hundreds of artifacts and paintings that require upkeep. And with work that delicate, it would make sense to trust someone with great training and experience instead of just delegating the work to the house-elves.
If this is his actual responsibility, then I wish we had gotten to see more of this side of Filch in the books; although, I understand why we didn’t. With a story this expansive, not every side character can be fully explored. I am still wondering why Filch has to clean the floors though. It seems slightly demeaning, and I can’t see him offering to do it on his own. However, he likely did volunteer for disciplinary duties.
Overall, when it comes to the duties we see Filch performing most often, he is entirely superfluous. However, it’s possible his true purpose lies in art restoration, which actually would be necessary for Hogwarts. Perhaps that’s why he dislikes the students so much, given that many of them have a penchant for destruction. I imagine young wizards and old art are a terrible combination. Perhaps one day, we’ll see J.K. Rowling expand on Filch’s character. But for now, it’s just fun to speculate.