Comparing Characters to Real People

by Kathleen W. 

After reading Bob Sindeldecker’s column and his article Osama Bin Voldemort and George W. Fudge, I felt like I had to respectfully disagree. First of all I just want to point out how unlikely it is that JKR would intentionally tie her characters to American politicians and media. To say that Dumbledore is in any way tied to John Kerry, who was an unknown senator from Massachusetts when OotP was published, is not only laughable but also incredibly conceited. And don’t even get me started on the Sinclair Broadcasting analogy.

The truth of the matter is that it is really easy to compare the characters in Harry Potter to real people because at first glance they are such universal characters. There’s the hero, the villain, the brain, the gossip, the weirdo, the klutz, etc. etc. I could easily compare the Harry Potter characters to any number of people and make valid points based on any number of viewpoints. The beauty of Harry Potter is that the characters, like real people, aren’t pigeonholed into one role. JKR has again and again shown us the fallacy of forming an opinion based on one point of view without first getting all of the facts. Quirrell seemed to be an inconsequential nobody in PS/SS and Moody appeared to be one of the “good guys” in GoF. Both of those characterizations proved to be wrong since they were both in league with Voldemort.

In a real world analogy, every piece of intelligence that we had showed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The question was whether we should act on that information or be like Fudge and maintain the status quo and ignore any potential threat. One might argue that we didn’t have enough information to act. When you honestly think about it, did Fudge really have enough information to act? He had the word of an old man and a teenager. Was that really enough to justify causing wide spread panic in the wizarding community? We believed that Voldemort was back because we saw it through the Harry filter. Blair and Bush believed that Saddam was a threat because they were privy to information that we STILL don’t know about. We’re still getting conflicting reports about what Saddam had (i.e. 300 tons of missing explosives) and how well the UN inspectors were really doing their job (i.e. oil for food scandal).

There’s also the fact that the villain and hero roles can change based on your point of view. The biggest example of this is James Potter. In the first four books James was painted as a heroic figure but in OotP we get an entirely different point of view. In “Snape’s Worst Memory” James is portrayed as a bully who picks on the hero of the chapter, Snape, simply because he was bored. In the same way at the end of OotP the hero, Draco, and his two friends are attacked by the villain, Harry, and his six friends on the Hogwarts express and hit with so many hexes and jinxes that they resemble gigantic slugs by the time it’s all over (864, OotP). It’s easy to cast the people you like as the heroes and the ones that you don’t as the villains, but time will tell if you’re right or not. And sometimes there isn’t any heroes or villains, just people trying to do the best that they can with the information they have.