Albus Dumbledore as the Typical Antihero
Albus Dumbledore makes some questionable choices in the Harry Potter books. On the one hand, Dumbledore always protects his students and tries to inspire the best in them. On the other hand, Dumbledore works alongside Gellert Grindelwald and doesn’t tell Harry about the prophecy right away. These facts make Dumbledore neither a hero nor a villain. Dumbledore fits best in the antihero category, a main character who lacks traditional heroic traits.
Antiheroes don’t always make bad choices or have evil intentions. Antiheroes are often misled pessimistic characters. Since they deviate from stereotypical heroes, they can be more interesting to read about. Some of my favorite antiheroes are Jessica Jones, Han Solo, Sherlock Holmes, Holden Caulfield, Geralt of Rivia, Jay Gatsby, and Veronica Mars. These characters all have one thing in common: imperfections. Dumbledore is also an imperfect character: He seeks power, values his own self-interest, and uses his intellect to get whatever he wants. Dumbledore never goes over the line to become a villain; in fact, he breaks his relationship off with Grindelwald due to his fear of becoming evil and self-serving. Dumbledore, like many other antiheroes, is selfish but not to an evil degree.
I’ve always liked Dumbledore as a character; I think he’s the greatest mentor wizard character created since Gandalf. However, I acknowledge his failings. I never thought of Dumbledore as the hero of the Harry Potter books, and to think of him as such is to ignore his strengths and weaknesses as a character. No one will deny that Dumbledore is a finely written character, but part of the mastery of his character is due to J.K. Rowling’s willingness to expose his weaknesses as well as his great acts. Dumbledore sets out to do the right thing because of the mistakes he makes as a young man. When he loses his sister, he realizes his greatest weakness is his thirst for power. I admire that Dumbledore makes a great effort to curtail this weakness. Instead of becoming Minister, Dumbledore seeks to help students at Hogwarts. Despite his longing for power and influence, Dumbledore tries to help people.
Antiheroes commonly possess traits like helplessness, greed, and ambition – traits usually associated with villains. However, antiheroes are also imperfect compared to heroes. Antiheroes are as beloved as heroes – if not more so – because antiheroes are more relatable. Whereas traditional adventure heroes never make mistakes, antiheroes make mistakes and learn from them. In this way, antiheroes are more human. Dumbledore makes plenty of mistakes. For example, Dumbledore makes a mistake in trusting Grindelwald, ignoring Harry during Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and not seeing how depressed Sirius is. Dumbledore’s mistakes come from his own ambition. He is so focused on attaining power or making all the decisions that he doesn’t communicate with those closest to him. Since Dumbledore fails to communicate adequately with Harry, Harry just assumes that Dumbledore is treating him poorly by ignoring him. Dumbledore tries to give up power, but his selfish instincts persevere. Dumbledore believes he is always right, so he believes his idea of ignoring Harry is a sound one.
Another similarity Dumbledore shares with antiheroes is a tragic backstory. Antiheroes are often born from an upsetting past experience. However, it’s that terrible experience and their reaction to it that leads to them becoming flawed characters. Jay Gatsby is born into poverty and the love of his life marries someone else, Veronica Mars has a best friend who is murdered, and Geralt of Rivia is sold as a child. For Dumbledore, he loses his sister and struggles to take care of his family. When Dumbledore thinks Grindelwald caused his sister’s death, Dumbledore is devastated. Dumbledore ends up losing two people he loves: his sister and his friend. Since Dumbledore’s choice of friends causes a tragedy, he is forever impacted by the event. Since Dumbledore knows only tragedy and grief, he can’t become an idealistic and hopeful hero.
Despite his struggles to remain a good wizard, Dumbledore is continually tempted by his self-serving personality. However, he does succeed in defeating Grindelwald and sacrificing his life so that Snape can remain a double agent. Ultimately, Dumbledore gives his life just as heroes do in the Harry Potter series, and this makes him an antihero worth admiring.