SEPT / OCT 2013: BY CAROL STARKEY
Lord Acton first said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Professor Umbridge of the Harry Potter series presents an excellent example for that phrase. We first meet her when Harry is brought before the High Court. Though toad-like in her appearance, her honeyed voice masks a desire to get what she wants, no matter the cost.
As the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, she quickly makes it known that even Hogwarts is not safe from her prying fingers. Before long, the Minster of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, appoints her High Inquisitor and she does everything she can to rule the school. Instead of letting the teachers and Dumbledore enforce the rules, she constantly finds new things to ban. If someone challenges her power, she finds a way to make that person pay. When Harry challenges what she teaches during class, she forces him to write with a pen that uses his own blood to engrave a message on the back of his hand. She became High Inquisitor because Professor McGonagall dared to contradict her authority. And when Marietta refuses to utter another word after being branded a sneak, Umbridge shakes the girl to get the truth from her.
Umbridge looks for those who are weaker than she is. She constantly acts as if Hagrid speaks barely passable English as a way to fire him. She makes fun of Professor Trelawney and enjoys the woman’s distress and fear when she fires her. Part of the reason Malfoy and his friends admire Umbridge so much is that they are finally given free reign to act as they want. They can treat those who are like them favorably and take points away from those who oppose them. They are even encouraged to use curses against Harry and his friends.
Quick to be offended, Umbridge’s voice grows high-pitched and sweet to hide her growing anger. Though her desire for power and control is limitless, her abilities are rather mediocre. She can’t reverse Hermione’s jinx on Marietta, nor can she clean up the swamp the Weasley twins leave behind when they quit school. She expects Snape to instantly create a potion that takes a month to brew. Many students suffer “Umbridge-itis” when around her and she is unable to find the cause. With such lackluster magical abilities, it becomes obvious that she rose to power through nothing more than guile and manipulation.
What makes her such a loathsome person, though, is that somewhere deep inside of her is some good. She is able to produce a Patronus, something Death Eaters can’t do since that is the opposite of what they stand for. To produce a Patronus, you must have some good inside you, and if Umbridge truly did, that means she knows the difference between right and wrong and chooses to do what is wrong. Even her wand indicates her true nature: a short wand often reveals a stunted, or undeveloped, emotional nature.
Umbridge acts despicably toward all who stand up to her, and this is what makes the ending of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix so satisfying. She pays for her hatefulness, cruelty, and bigotry in a way that makes the reader cheer. To top it off, Dumbledore, in a show of his always-good nature, rescues her. But she never thanks him; instead, she continues to hate those she does not understand.
For not actually being the main villain in this novel or indeed of the series on the whole, Umbridge is a nasty piece of work. She claims to love the rules but all she loves is power. In the end, though, all that power led to her demise. Her life is a vivid picture of how unlimited power will lead to total destruction. She tries to destroy the lives of those around her, but ends up destroying herself. ♥
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Starkley lives in the beautiful state of Connecticut. She has a husband, three daughters and numerous pets. She works part-time while working and going to school. She loves to write, read, and take pictures of life around her. Her blog is updated infrequently, but she hopes to change that after she graduates. She’s a Christian, and hopes that ultimately her life will point to him. She also blogs.