Re-evaluating Dumbledore on a Reread

The first time I read the Harry Potter novels, I saw Dumbledore as this infallible, perfect figure. A powerful wizard who could do no wrong and knew the best thing to do in every situation. However, now as I am rereading the novels and examining them more critically, I am beginning to see that Dumbledore, as clever and as brilliant as he might be, is also flawed, just like every other person or being in the story.

My biggest critiques are in some of the choices that he makes and some of the events he allows to happen in each book. In the Philosopher’s Stone, it was implied at the end of the novel that he almost meant for Harry and his friends to find the Stone, knowing that Voldemort or someone working for Voldemort was desperately trying to find it. Whether he knew Harry would come face to face with Voldemort in some form, I don’t know, but I feel like he should have tried harder to stop them from seeking the Stone or at least made it known to Harry that he trusted Snape. Even if Harry and friends didn’t go after the Stone, Quirrell/Voldemort would have just been standing there in front of the mirror or Erised until someone came.

In the Chamber of Secrets, if a cat and a ghost get petrified, you can deal. However, if not one, but four students get petrified, I feel like the school should probably have put on the brakes much earlier to figure out how to get rid of the Basilisk, especially knowing that a student died 50 years previously by the same reason. It’s only once Ginny was taken that they decided to close Hogwarts. So, it’s unfortunate that the Wizarding World has a higher tolerance for risk and pain. But of course, there would have been no plot had the school closed much earlier.

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In the Prisoner of Azkaban, once Sirius Black had found a way to enter the school, there should have been a much larger effort to seal all entrances. I also understand that the Ministry put the dementors at Hogwarts to deter Black, but I’m surprised Dumbledore didn’t try harder to prevent this, especially with the knowledge that Sirius broke out of Azkaban, which is swarming with dementors, so are the ones around Hogwarts going to affect him?

The fourth and fifth novel are where I really started to question the decisions Dumbledore makes. In the Goblet of Fire when Harry is chosen as a champion, Dumbledore seemed to have a keen interest in how things would play out as opposed to thinking, “Hmm… this tournament might be dangerous for a 14 year old boy” and “How did his name even get in there?” In addition, the fact that there was nothing preventing an older student from putting Harry’s name in the fire goes to show that even the most brilliant wizards mess up. What happens when a person breaks a binding magical contract is also not addressed. Of course these kinds of loopholes had to exist to drive the plot forward, but still. I also questioned this decision because it was known that in the past champions had died, and that the tasks would be difficult even for advanced students. I get that Dumbledore sensed that Voldemort was gaining strength and that he wanted Harry to gain some skills and see how this boy, who has shown to be brave and talented thus far would grow, but I feel like there are other ways this could have occurred without putting his life in danger.  

Finally in the Order of the Phoenix, so many errors and confusion could have been avoided if Dumbledore had told Harry in the beginning that he believed there was a connection between Harry and Voldemort and that Dumbledore did not look at Harry because he did not want Voldemort knowing about his plans. I also think he should have started the Occlumency lessons much earlier. He didn’t need to tell Harry about the Prophecy early on. Granted, I can’t fault Dumbledore for refraining from telling Harry the exact Prophecy. First, who wants to tell a teenager who has already had a rough upbringing and is constantly dealing with intense battles everyday that either he must kill or be killed to end this war? I remember just knowing prophecy, but with rereading Order of the Phoenix and seeing how Harry is feeling after Sirius dies, this Prophecy hits hard because it is so dire. When would be a good time to tell Harry this?

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At the end of this novel, he does admit that he is flawed, which reduced the amount of frustration I was feeling towards him because he recognizes it, too. And having spent such a long time distancing himself from his early ways with Grindelwald, it makes sense that he wants to be seen as conquering the Darker side of magic, but I think certain decisions could have been thought out a bit more.

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2 thoughts on “Re-evaluating Dumbledore on a Reread

  1. I think some of these questions about Dumbledore’s choices are raised in Deathly Hallows. The scene at Bill and Fleur’s wedding where Harry tries to figure out whether any of the rumours he’s heard about Dumbledore are true is an interesting one. Maybe something else to consider is that Dumbledore, like Harry, has an identity he never asked for (I think it’s Bill and Hermione who, at different points in the book series each describe him as “the only one You Know Who was ever scared of”). Maybe there’s an essay in there somewhere? Anyway, great post, and thanks for following, I hope you find some things to enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting. And yeah, I figured there was more to this than what I knew. The last time I read Deathly Hallows was several years ago and I knew there was probably more in that book that would better flush out this post. I will certainly try and return to this post once I read more about Dumbledore and that book.

      Liked by 1 person

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