Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #19: The Lives and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

Much of the action of Deathly Hallows is the peeling of the onion to get to the truth about Albus Dumbledore and his relationship with Harry. We learn with Harry (and everyone else) a lot of information about the late headmaster that is true from Rita Skeeter in The Daily Prophet and in her book. These facts even shorn of the Skeeter/Ministry spin are still very disturbing. What we learn on the travels, from Aberforth, and from the Pensieve and Severus’ memory don’t do much to reassure us about Dumby’s personal history, his intentions and his methods. “Secrets and lies” are his natural currency, it seems; using people his forte. And yet Harry willingly sacrifices himself in The Forest Again and is happy to see and speak with the man in King’s Cross. What is Ms. Rowling telling us, if anything, about sacred cows and authority figures? About understanding and judging others? What is your final verdict on Albus Dumbledore as a person and wizard?


  1. david3565 says

    I think the final determination is that Dumbledore did the best that he could. Many of those difficult choices were while fighting a war, a situation where the choice is often divided between bad and worse.

    What happened in his youth does not terribly bother me. He made personal mistakes that resulted in dire consequences he never intended, but by all indications, he learned from hard lessons and changed. He never again dabbled in dark magic. He befriended persons–Dobby, Hagrid, Lupin, Maxime, Snape, etc.–that other people would never have trusted. He offered Draco Malfoy sanctuary. He always supported muggle rights. He did things that put his life and reputation on the line when he didn’t have to. He never again sought power or notoriety, though his accomplishments in magic still brought him fame.

    Aberforth said he got many people killed. True, but those that were killed were soldiers in a war. And like any general, he used the troops at his disposal. That is the nature of violent conflict, as is seen by body count of DH, where DD was nowhere to be seen.

    “‘Secrets and lies’ are his natural currency, it seems…” Sun Tzu said that, “All warfare is based upon deception.” He was hiding his plans from a hostile enemy, not from his friends and allies, though it may be, by necessity, obscured from them as well. Is it any different from a government classifying secrets to hide them from enemy nations?

    The two most troublesome choices were with Harry and Snape are inter-related. Yet it should be remembered that when DD laid down his final plan, he let Harry let finally know all the details, gave him the final choice, and provided a means to return back to life. Viewed in this way, he didn’t betray Snape’s trust, though he didn’t do it in the way anyone expected. And it should be remembered that Harry would have gone to fight LV with or without DD’s plans, knowing full well that the risk of death was very high. Harry volunteered knowing that much.

    He wasn’t flawless and perfect. He wasn’t without his weaknesses. But he never sought the pedestal and he would have been the first to tell people that he was only human (which he did do on more than occasion). Yet I believe that he was deserving of much of the reputation he acquired, taking into account that he always struggled against his frailties.

  2. Travis Prinzi says

    My response is going to be predictable, perhaps. I think I’m a bigger fan of Dumbledore than ever having read Deathly Hallows, and I was going in quite prepared for disappointment.

    Dumbledore turned out to be a very flawed man who, I believe, learned from his mistakes (for the most part). The biggest question is whether or not he could have implemented his plan in a more open way, letting both Severus and Harry in on more information than he did. I don’t think it would have worked if he had, but I could be wrong. In any case, he wasn’t simply keeping his own secrets and manipulating people – he was keeping his word to Severus Snape. There’s no way he could have blown the plot open without telling Harry his reasons for trusting Snape, and to do that, he would have had to break Snape’s confidence.

    But I’m getting caught up in plot points. Harry proved himself to be Dumbledore’s man. Even in head to the forest, he “pulled a Dumbledore,” so to speak – he gave Neville instructions, expecting Neville to trust him and follow them, but he gave him no information. If Dumbledore’s a creep, Harry became one, too.

    Aberforth was right about Albus’s actions as a teenager. He was wrong about the older Dumbledore. Aberforth was bitter, unforgiving, harboring continued anger towards Albus for what happened to Adriana. When it came right down to it, with the information about Albus’s past in hand, Harry argued for Albus and against Aberforth. The potion in the basin had caused Albus to relive his worst nightmare, his greatest regret: the death of Adriana. Albus was a changed man because of it, and he stayed far, far away from anything that would reignite that temptation in himself. Instead, he became the symbol of goodness, the one who did not fear death, the model Harry needed in order to become the man that could stand in front of Voldemort and face the killing curse on behalf of the Wizarding World.

    I planned to get a post up on Albus tonight, but it’ll have to wait till tomorrow. I’ll link it here when I’ve finished.

  3. I thought giving Albus feet of clay was brilliant. Not only did it explain his absolute faith in Severus by establishing his own prior act of absolute contrition and belief that personal change is possible, but lent credibility to his character. He become more nuanced by his imperfections and establishes his humanity as one on par with Harry (as well as Snape.) I thought it interesting that he was not martyred in his death, that it was Harry who became the rally point for the resistance movement, and suspect it was the unfavorable information learned after his death that kept him from taking over this position.
    Frankly, I prefer the flawed Albus. His past only enriches him, makes him a better leader and more human and humane.

  4. esoterica1693 says

    Dumbledore was certainly a master of the half-truth, of not saying everything, of withholding information for his own reasons, and of treating people as instruments and objects. I am trying to think of a place where he actually actively *lied*, though. I’ve just re-read the Harry-Dumbledore chat at the the conclusion to _Phoenix_, and it’s very carefully written. Nothing he says actively contradicts what he knew/suspected to be the case. It’s another case of narrative misdirection. Harry, and thus we, *assume* that what the prophecy means is that if Voldy is to be defeated, it must be b/c Harry murders him, and that that’s the outcome AD and Harry are hoping for. But there is nothing actually on the page to say that it can’t be “that Voldy must murder Harry.”

    Perhaps the tear on AD’s face at the end of that chapter in Phoenix isn’t just b/c he knows he has just laid a terrible burden on Harry by telling him of the prophecy, but also because he knows exactly what it is that he left unsaid–that Harry must sacrifice himself deliberately.

    JKR’s writing of AD is in fact the hardest part of the book for me by far. I adored his character up til this book. Even cutting him every conceivable benefit of the doubt in DH, as above, still yields a much murkier character than I’d like to see. The loss of a pure Dumbledore is one I feel more keenly than many of the other deaths in the book….

    Perhaps Phoenix was not only Harry’s nigredo, but somewhat the same for AD? From the end of Goblet to the beginning of Prince we see very little of him and all we know is that he’s w/drawn from Harry. What if that was b/c he was not only trying to avoid Voldy spying on him, but b/c he was wrestling w/ himself over Harry’s fate? If I were in the process of sentencing someone to death, or at least the risk of it, someone I loved, I don’t think I’d want to be around them either.

    I think a lot of the evaluation of AD’s character depends on just how sure he was about the effect of the Harry-blood Voldy took which gave rise to the “gleam of triumph.” If he was sure that it meant that Harry could survive his self-sacrifice so long as Voldy was still alive when Harry died, then I think he is less culpable. If he didn’t know that, if he thought Harry would probably die, he’s a pretty nasty piece of work and I would be furious w/ JKR.

    The other major question mark hanging over his character to me is his attempt to use the Resurrection stone when he finds the ring horcrux. Even though his motives are much less impure than as a teen, still, you’d think he’d have learned to stay well away from a Hallows if he could. Unless part of its Horcrux-curse was similar to the Potion from Hell and addled his mind w/ guilt and grief before he even put it on–causing him to fall to a temptation he would have resisted if he were in his right mind?

    His lack of forthright truth w/ Snape in explaining why it had to be Snape that killed him rather than letting Fenrir or someone do it was again a case of a half or quarter truth. It was essential that Snape do it to keep the Wand in the right hands, as well as to cement Snape’s cover. Actually I think asking Snape to kill him was perhaps almost worse than letting Harry know a sacrificial death could be helpful–especially if Snape’s killing him damaged Snape’s soul.

    I wonder if the Sorting Hat ever thought of putting Albus in Slytherin? And what acts of courage did he ever perform to make him worthy of the tie to Gryffindor? Snape was in many ways more courageous. Indeed perhaps they do Sort too young.

    Overall I still come out thinking that Dumbledore had much more good than bad in him, and a fair amount of love, and while he may have still been manipulative and secretive, it was for a Greater Good that was truly Good, unlike the so-called Greater Good he pursued as a youth. But maybe I just can’t deal w/ the fact that my hero has fallen…

  5. EmmaReader says

    The big shocks for me were definitely the revelations about Dumbledore. What he did in his youth, his hubris and his dabbling with Grindelwald in finding the Deathly Hallows, did not bother me that much, since it had happened so long ago and since it made his character richer for having been through his own temptations. He had appeared to have learned from his mistakes.

    However, the chapter on Snape’s memories showed us several examples of recent, what I would call, ‘failings,’ such as:
    1. His use of Harry in the war (long term from Harry’s birth until right now).
    2. He did not seem to be remorseful about having to (or thinking he had to) use Harry to defeat Voldemeort. His indifference was disturbing. Whether or not it was true indifference or just looked that way is unclear to me from what is in the text.
    3. He tried on the ring sometime in the beginning of HBP, so he was still too weak to dismiss his old temptation to acquire the Deathly Hallows.
    4. His seeming indifference to Snape’s sufferings and feelings.

    Snape’s memories are not the end of the book, though, so this was not the last word on Dumbledore, and there are certainly piles of evidence to show Dumbledore’s humanity and compassion already in canon, so…

    I was relieved in King’s Cross when Dumbledore admitted some of his failings and declared that Harry was the better man. I agree. I think Harry outdid them all in the end with his willingness to walk right into Voldemort’s camp and sacrifice himself for all of them. (Maybe there are others who would have done this, but Harry is the one who was put up to the task and he did it.) But King’s Cross redeemed Dumbledore for me, at least partly, because he was able to look back on his flaws and show Harry that he understood them and now understands himself and Harry better. (My disappointment about Dumbledore sending Harry to his death is not gone, though. I’m not sure the text reveals whether he thought for sure Harry would die or that there is some chance he would live even after Voldemort ‘killed’ him.)

    Final Verdict: as a person, he’s better than most but not as good as our hero.

  6. If indeed Harry died a Christlike death which provided protection against the Dark Lord, and resurrected as well, then we have a little allegory in which Dumbledore is the father/ God. The bible is clear that God purposed that the Christ (His son, whom he loved) was to endure suffering and die for others. It may seem harsh that Dumbledore knew what must happen to Harry, even that he arranged it to be so, but it also had to be a willing choice on Harry’s part for the “deep magic” to have it’s intended effect. Those of us who are believers in that redemptive “magic”, understand that God’s purpose for our lives will include suffering and growth and yes, sacrificial love, and that God’s plans are not always for our comfort, but for our growth and always for the greater good. God sees the whole plan, and so did Dumbledore.

  7. For me, the “Deconstructing Dumbledore” plotline was one of the best in the book. I thought she handled it very well, and I think it left Dumbledore a better character, although a more flawed person.

    Ultimately, I read Aberforth’s accusations as true. Dumbledore never, despite all their one-on-one conversations, told Harry the full truth and let Harry make an informed decision to proceed. Instead he manipulated Harry’s situation to lead him to the desired actions. To my mind, this entirely shows what Dumbledore admitted: he was far too tempted by power, and by the tools of power – lies, manipulation and secrets. I don’t think that Dumbledore’s remorse for his actions in King’s Cross was at all feigned or unnecessary!

    Ultimately, Harry showed that he was indeed the better man, in that he forgave, loved and trusted Albus, even after he learned that he had been manipulated. And of course, he demonstrated that Albus need not have deceived him, because he walked willingly to his death once he knew the truth.

  8. I think that the case that was made comparing Snape to Machiavelli’s Prince would fit Dumbledore better. I will agree with esoterica1693 (see above) that placing him in Slytherin would not have been a mistake.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  9. John Madill says

    Like many brilliant people Dumbledore doesn’t know how to fit in. He has no contempories his age. His conversations are with other illuminaries through letters. He is lonely, self absorded and secretive very much like Tom Riddle except he has family yet family contact eludes him. The first time he meets a contemporary in Grindelwald and he is able to open up and share ideas it backfires. Then Ariana dies and Aberforth wakes him up. He learns an important life lesson brilliance doesn’t equate wisdom. Wisdom is acquired through experience, often the experience of failure. By first admiting than accepting mistakes you learn and grow beyone them. But as he intellectulizes everything instead of emotes he only partly understands what he has done and can only modify his behaviour by keeping his temptations in check and working for the greater good. It’s sad actually that he isolates himself further and after giving sage advice to Harry when Harry is staring at his parents in the Mirror of Erisead he succumbs to that same tempation which costs him his life. If he had been able to feel loved instead of understanding the concept on an intellectual level but understanding the concept is not the same as giving and receiving love he might have been able to reach out to Tom Riddle. At least Snape feels some kind of love even if it is warped and one sided. Dumbledore seems to feel something for Harry but I don’t know if its love. It takes Aberforth to acknowledge that Harry wasn’t given a choice in Dumbledores quest for the greater good but alas he seems to have finally got it when he says, “I crave your pardon, Harry. I have known, for some time now, that you are the better man” Dumbledore, Snape and Voldemart are 3 parts of the same coin, Dumbledore following his own advice makes the right choice for the greater good but it is Harry who is the whole person, his ambitions are modest, he is loved and he loves and he is part of a community, something the other 3 never accomplish. It is only now as I write this that I see the connection between the 3, now that we know Dumbledores past. If anything it makes him more human.

  10. esoterica1693 says

    I’ve now re-read all relevant sections of DH multiple times, and very closely. I think I have largely come to terms w/ how JKR has written AD, and no longer feel like I’ve “lost” him. I definitely don’t think he’s culpable for using Harry–I don’t think he “used” him at all. I basically follow Travis Prinzi’s arguments in his latest Dumbledore post. His actions wrt Snape are somewhat more problematic, but we don’t have enough of Snape’s side of the story in the last chapters to really judge. Making the Unbreakable Vow seems to have been the point at which he gave final assent to Dumbledore’s plan, despite his later agonizing on the edge of the Forest.

    The one bit which I have had the hardest time coming to terms w/ is Dumbledore’s susceptibility to temptation w/ the Resurrection Stone so late in his life. I’ve written about that in comment #13 to Travis’ post here:

  11. JordanMary says

    Melanie wrote: “we have a little allegory in which Dumbledore is the father/ God.”

    In all respect I have to disagree. I DO believe that there are strong Christian themes throughout the whole Harry Potter series, but I think trying to make this into a Christian allegory is a bit like pushing the proverbial square peg into a round whole. The allegory falls with respect to Dumbledore.

    Dumbledore’s flaws coming to light was THE most interesting part of the book. But those flaws mean that he cannot play the role of God. Even in an allegory God would have to be all good. IF you are looking for a biblical figure, I believe Dumbledore is more like a Moses that anything else. After all, he leads the people to the promised land (a world without Voldemort — through Harry’s obedience), but because of his sins is unable to enter it himself.

  12. Two explorations of the character of Albus Dumbledore: The first allegorical and the second more literal.

    1. Dumbledore as “faith” itself
    I think to face bitter disappointment in the character of Albus Dumbledore and to overcome that disappointment in the end is an overt part the journey that JKR wanted each of us to undertake with Harry in DH.
    In contrast to the ubiquitous discussions of Harry as the Christ figure in the wake of DH, I’d like to build on something already pointed out in an essay on this very forum – Harry Potter as a representation of the Everyman. Harry’s journey is the Everyman’s journey in the sense that each and every person in this world grapples with conceptions of ‘faith’, ‘destiny’, and ‘grand plans’, whether it is in the form and format of organized religion or not. “Growing up” means realizing that understanding and inner peace about the greater truths of life cannot be told or taught, but must be sought for one’s self.
    Dumbledore always seemed to represent understanding and truth. He was the overseer: ever present even in absence, Harry’s guide to illumination throughout six books and, though not corporeally present, in the seventh as well. Harry has faith in Dumbledore, and it is made obvious by references to Harry’s loyalty throughout the books (this is most obvious in HBP and later on in DH, but it is also present throughout the earlier books, for example, when Fawkes appears after Harry defends Dumbledore to Voldemort in COS).
    Then the reader and Harry are thrown a crushing blow. Albus Dumbledore – who has been our security and our faith in Harry’s destiny, protection, and safe passage through the labyrinthine grand plot – is reduced to nothing more than a mere, flawed human who made his own monumental mistakes and whose struggles up to the point of HBP seem to have been part of his own plot with no regard for poor Harry. Harry (along with the reader) becomes completely disillusioned. He loses faith, and we lose faith with him.
    Through Harry’s quest in DH, however, he comes to an understanding that, in a sense, “resurrects” Albus Dumbledore through a new, subjective understanding of his own. Not in the physical sense because Dumbledore is certainly dead (as are all of Harry’s and our misconceptions of him as being flawless and all-powerful), but in the metaphorical sense. On the one hand, Harry finally uncovers the ultimate truth about Dumbledore. Dumbledore was a wise man from whom Harry was able to learn infinitely, but who did not (and could not) give him what he had relied on him for: Truth and understanding. Dumbledore never gave Harry the whole truth (in fact, Dumbledore never gave anyone the whole truth, as we know from the ‘need-to-know-basis’ operations of the Order of the Phoenix to when we later find out, in The Prince’s Tale, that Snape never knew about the Horcruxes). On the other hand, Harry’s affection for Dumbledore comes through the end of the story stronger than ever because Harry accepts Dumbledore for what he truly was (a brilliant man, but a man nonetheless), and accepts that, while he did not learn truth and understanding from Dumbledore, he still did learn important things from him. The most important of these things was that truth cannot simply be given – it is earned and learned by one’s own, to use metaphysical terminology, being and becoming.

    2. Dumbledore and the circle of history: predestination or free will?
    For quite some time I have suspected that the writings of Jorge Luis Borges have been influential on JKR’s Potter series. Lurking through forums and researching on my own, I began to find coincidences such as Borges’ Labyrinth themes repetitively popping up in Harry Potter, or Borges’ Ficciones story entitled ‘The Sect of the Phoenix,’ or the fact that Borges wrote a Book of Imaginary Beings not entirely unlike Ms. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. These, of course, could be coincidence. After DH, however, there is a better case than ever that Borgesian undertones resonate from the pages of Harry Potter. It is this statement that leads me to a second, even more interesting element to the complex character of Albus Dumbledore: the theme of repetition in history, and man’s role (free will or determinism?) in that repetition.
    “Well then, I think the answer is that a circle has no beginning.” (Luna, 587).
    In particular, there are two examples of historical repetition and the battle of free will over determinism in the lives and deaths of Dumbledore/Harry that can be compared to the themes of Borges’ stories ‘The Circular Ruins’ and ‘The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero.’
    The Circular Ruins is a story about a wizard who desires to dream a boy in his own image, a “soul worthy of participating in the universe” that could “ascend to the level of (an) individual.” The wizard strikes a deal with the god Fire to bring the boy of his dreams into creation, but the wizard is later tormented by the fact that the boy is destined, “not to be a man, but to be a projection of another man’s dreams–what an incomparable humiliation.” The wizard abandons the plans and in the end finds himself engulfed in flames, realizing, as he doesn’t burn, that he too is merely an “appearance dreamt by another.”
    Themes of this story echo in the lives of Dumbledore and Harry because Harry’s situation is a repetition of Dumbledore’s, except that Dumbledore himself, due to his love for Harry, breaks the circle. Through unfortunate circumstance (though admittedly quite different from those of Harry) Dumbledore lost his mother and father. In his eager earnestness to change the very circumstances that caused his mother’s and father’s deaths, he himself witnesses and feels responsible for the death of an innocent, his sister Ariana. Fast forward and enter Harry, our young hero whose parents were wrongfully taken from him and who, through circumstance and his own desire to destroy what took his parents, witnesses and feels responsible for the death of Cedric Diggory. Dumbledore has prepped, educated, and groomed Harry for the fate he knows Harry must face, giving the appearance that Dumbledore feels Harry is predetermined to do so. Dumbledore, however, grows to care very much about Harry through the course of his education at Hogwarts. Rather than teaching Harry that he is destined through the prophecy to face Voldemort, Dumbledore instead teaches Harry the importance of choice and free will: “He understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high” (Half Blood Prince, 512).
    The case of the deaths of Dumbledore/Harry is a continuation of the theme of historical repetition and predetermination vs. free will. In Borges’ The Traitor and the Hero the coveted leader and hero of an Irish rebel group is discovered to have betrayed secrets of his group to an enemy. Together with the young man who discovers his secret betrayal, the hero contrives a plan of his own death, which will make him a martyred hero and fuel the group’s rebellion to success. In the story, the hero receives multiple warnings of the scheme on his life (including a reference to a tower that is reminiscent of another Lightening Struck Tower we all know so well), but walks to his death knowingly anyway. The story is said to be Julius Caesar all over again, as history is just a series of repeating themes. In Deathly Hallows, of course, we learn that the figure of Albus Dumbledore, our conceptions of whom are tarnished by the “life and lies of Albus Dumbledore,” has plotted his own eminent death with Severus Snape. Dumbledore walks willingly into the death trap, but is faced with the knowledge that he would have died due to the Horcrux curse, regardless of the circumstance. Harry, likewise, walks to what he has always considered a predestined fight to the death against Voldemort in The Forest Again. Instead he is given the choice (notably by Dumbledore) to stay and go “on,” or to return and face Voldemort again, this time on a level playing field.

    We all know that it is a no-brainer for our boy. Even still, Harry was given an advantage Dumbledore did not have: a choice, or free will. Did Dumbledore find redemption from his past in accepting a predetermined fate so that Harry could have this choice?

  13. Well, I think this certainly isn’t a Christian allegory, mostly because the allegorical form is too rigid for what Rowling does with these characters from book to book. But this unveiling of Dumbledore certainly makes it more understandable why Rowling would say “obviously, Dumbledore is not Jesus.”

  14. bookworm says

    I found it so interesting that throughout the series of books we are able to watch Harry go through the painful process of discovering that although his parents and Dumbledore were great people( youngest seeker,popular,greatest wizard of all time, etc), they had their flaws. It is a necessary step in growing up that allows us to to see the people we love as human and not compare ourselves too harshly to the “perfect people” in our lives who have all of the right answers. It is especially hard when those people have died. Harry never got the opportunity to argue with his parents or rail at Dumbledore. JKR handles this nicely when she allows Harry to see the Snape memory of James treating Snape so cruelly. It bothers him to the degree that when offered the same opportunity to witness this event again, he chooses not to listen in. I think the same sort of thing is happening with Harry’s view of Dumbledore. We are able to follow along as he discovers the painful reality that Dumbledore was at one time in his life selfish, arrogant, and a bigot. What makes this powerful to me is that Harry is allowed to see that Dumbledore recognized these flaws in his own personality and therfore changes his life. I think it also allows Snape to be a more sympathetic character when we may have doubted all along that he would never be able to fully leave the Dark Side. He specifically implores Harry to “look at me” in all of the memories he gives Harry as he lay dying. I think he wants Harry to know that though they had their differences, the one thing they had in common was their love for Lily. Maybe he wants Lily’s eyes to be the last thing he sees in life? Anyway, I think the point I want to make is that Harry learns that good people can also have the capacity for darkness and dark people can also have the capacity for goodness. The hard part is allowing yourself to look beyond the obvious and not judge people for past misdeeds.

  15. My use of the term “little allegory” was intendedly defined as using concrete symbols to represent abstract ideas, in this case only in a portion of the story. ( Is intendedly a word? It ought to be.) Maybe instead of phrasing this as a “little allegory”, I should have said “little representation”. I believe Tolkein, Lewis and the rest of the Inkling writers of their time would have said passages like this draw the reader into Christian themes and symbols, thereby “baptizing the imagination”. (I learned this from John Granger’s books.)
    So, having my imagination thusly baptized, and in that frame of mind, I saw a parallel between the way Dumbledore “uses people” (which seemed apalling to me when I first read it), and the way God has a purpose for each of us. He steers us through pain and suffering and he knows what will happen to us, yet he loves us. His plans may not be fully understood, but we trust that they are for the greater good.
    Anyway, that was where I was coming from. As to the humanizing of DD in previous chapters, it is truly compelling! I love how many layers of meaning there are in every thread, from alchemy to literature, to myths and legends. Mostly, I appreciate how human and real it really is. To weave so much into every chapter and have it evolve into a cohesive world is genius.

  16. nelsonholly says

    Something to keep in mind in the discussion about “Dumbledore using Harry” is that Harry’s part in the struggle is a) unique and b) pivotal. Harry doesn’t have a choice, any more than the king on a chessboard has a choice to step off the board and take up raising bees at Innisfree. Even with 100% knowledge and understanding of the situation, he can’t say, “Nah, I’d rather take a degree at SUNY and go into mutual funds.”

    So then Dumbledore’s job is to give this unique person appropriate training and support so that when he passes through the inescapable final trial with Voldemort, there’s some hope that he can defeat V and perhaps even survive. This is the single best outcome — the tree of choices for Harry is severely pruned, and bears only one possible fruit.

    After the crisis — well, that’s a different matter.

  17. esoterica1693 says

    This isn’t really about AD’s character per se, but it doesn’t fit neatly anywhere in the 20 Questions…
    I think one of the huge interpretive keys for the series is at the end of PS/SS, when AD explains how he put the Stone in the Mirror. p. 300 American ed.:
    “You see, only one who wanted to *find* the Stone–find it, but not use it–would be able to get it, otherwise they’d just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir.”

    This is reiterated in that key conversation on p 511 of HBP:
    “In spite of all the temptation you have endured, all the suffering, you remain pure of heart, just as pure as you were at teh age of eleven, when you stared into a mirror that reflected your heart’s desire, and it showed you only the way to thwart Lord Voldemort, and not immortality or riches. Harry, have you any idea how few wizards could have seen what you saw in that mirror?”.

    This is the reason
    a) that Harry got the Stone and defeated Quirrellmort in Bk 1;

    b) that AD prevailed over Grindelwald in their duel in 1945 and won the Elder Wand–the Elder Wand respected his intent;

    c) for AD’s manner of death, in that his wanting to *use* the Resurrection Stone was the first stage of his downfall; (I wonder if, as he said the words above in HBP, AD was looking at his blackened hand and whispering to himself, “how few wizards–not even me.”);

    d) that Harry was able to overcome the Elder Wand and possess it in the final duel w/ Voldemort.

  18. Dumbledore as the Old Testament revelation of God? Harry the New Testament fulfilment of that revelation: God become human to bear the sin of the world? Snape’s reaction to the reality before Harry is not unlike many who refuse belief because “God can’t be that cruel”? There are remarkable parallels but not one-to-one allegorical identities here.

  19. Who Dies in Harry Potter? Not God!,9171,1642885,00.html

    According the article, “Who Dies in Harry Potter? God,” (link posted above) written by Lev Grossman and published in TIME Magazine, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series aligns more with modern secular and atheist ideas and books than classic Christian based ideas and books (such as C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” series and J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy). I disagree.

    If anyone wants any evidence of the presence of Christian themes in Harry Potter they should read the book “Looking for God in Harry Potter” by John Granger. Apparently Rowling is a professed Presbyterian. Separate from that, her books are chalk full of Christian themes. Even if she did not insert them on purpose, they came out. That’s something that I find just amazing. The Bible tells us that even nature declares God’s glory. I’m finding more and more that the great story found in the Bible also declare’s God’s glory in numerous secular accounts/stories that don’t even try to bring up Christian parallels. It’s just like how we find that Christian morals are often universal morals.

    It seems to me that Lev Grossman has a habit of making things out to be anti-Christian or against the existence of God. I believe he has a right to state what he believes, but I also must state that I disagree with what he has asserted. In his article, “Harry Potter’s Last Adcenture” he says that finding out that Dumbledore has faults cancels out any image we may have of a God in the series. Actually, the fact that Dumbledore has faults parallels what the Bible tells us about human nature. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. While in earlier books Dumbledore seemed a fatherly figure, finding out that he has faults as a human wizard goes along with this teaching we find in the Bible. No one is perfect.

  20. Arabella Figg says

    There were four important portents in Phoenix and Prince about Dumbledore as he was revealed in DH.

    In Phoenix, Dumbledore tells Harry 1) he’s not as angry at him as he should be, 2) that because he is more brilliant than others, his mistakes are bigger and 3) that he cares for Harry too much. In the cave, 4) DD seems to be reliving a terrible incident in his life for which he shows horror, pain, remorse and a desire to die.

    After reading Rita Skeeter’s interview of her DD book in Chapter 2, Harry realizes he’s never known DD, that he’s perceived him, as kids do about adults, as someone sprung as is from nowhere.

    Wisdom is not attained without foolishness. We must remember that DD was only 18 when he engaged in juvenile, bad plots with Grindelwald and his sister was killed. I believe his entire life afterward was lived as a repentence for these errors. He understood his own weaknesses, realizing how powerful they were, and turned from them. This is maturity. But turning from personal weakness doesn’t mean one won’t be tempted again and he was…and he failed…and both he and others paid a terrible price.

    The revelations about DD in DH were disturbing and surprising… yet not altogether surprising given the four clues. It was horrible to read how Harry was a matter-of-fact pawn. Yet DD loved him. How could these things reconcile?

    I’ve never been a commanding officer ordering people into battle or certain doom, so I refrain from judgment. I do think DD was pretty torn up about it though. We only saw his talk with Snape. We never saw his private tears…except the one at the end of Phoenix.

    I think I need a kitty in my lap for awhile…

  21. chuckGleason says

    I do not see Harry as a “matter-of-fact pawn.” The challenge facing Dumbledore was to shepherd Harry into adulthood ending up with the maturity & heart so that he would embrace his sacrificial role. He could not afford to tell him too much to soon or too little too late.

    Had Harry been merely a pawn I don’t think the result would have been the same. I think Dumbledore played his role well, the role he believed he must play for the good of all, his strengths and flaws combining to guide Harry to the point of decision.

  22. Arabella Figg says

    Well, chuckGleason, I agree with you. I think I was wrong on this point and you’re right. Thanks for the better view.

    Kitties clap paws…

  23. Late to the party, my apologies. Many wonderful discussions on this site (thank you!), but as the whole Dumbledore ‘tarnishing’ seems to be the most controversial/interesting to folks, and certainly holds great interest to me, I shall address it alone (as I am indeed late).

    First, as it seems to form part of the discussion here, I do not think allegory is an accurate way to describe Rowling’s works. Allegory, atleast in my understanding of it, goes beyond symbolism to direct correspondence between characters (it may or may not be a one-to-one correspondence). For example, though both are clearly Christian works, the Chronicles of Narnia are allegorical, but The Lord of the Rings is not. I don’t think anyone, even the most ardent atheist, would deny that Aslan is essentially Christ (Lion of Judah, anyone?). However, Tolkien intensely disliked allegory, and no character in LotR can be said to correspond solely and directly to anyone (not even Sauron to Satan– Sauron is a lesser evil, the Father of Evil in Middle Earth being Morgoth, if I recall correctly). Rather, as, I believe, in the Harry Potter series, they use symbolism. I personally find symbolism richer, more subtle, and more suitable to complex characterisation.

    but enough of that! (‘ear ‘ear!)

    It occurs to me that much of the beauty of HP, and especially within DH, is that we finally see the secret sacrifices, particularly of Dumbledore and Snape. Their actions remind me a lot of Christ’s admonishment, Matthew 6:1-6, quoted next (apologies for length):

    “(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites 2 do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

    Snape’s secret sacrifices are made quite clear in The Prince’s Tale; it is heroic. However, Dumbledore is in much the same boat. He is not going undercover as a Death Eater. And yet, when I finally pieced together the entire tale, I believed he made essentially the same choice Snape did– self-denial for the greater good. Dumbledore’s imperfection has a serious bent towards powerlust. Imagine spending over a century struggling with such a great impulse to sin in the area of power, being offered so many times a position of great power. It is indeed a terrible burden to feel so strong a desire for what cultivates the worst in one’s character. To me, that makes it even more heroic.

    Another serious question is whether he used everyone. I cannot deny that there is some element of manipulation. However, I do not think that necessarily means it is wrong, particularly in the case of Harry. Although he apologises for it in OotP, I do not think he was wrong to withhold information from an 11 year old boy. It is a very parental instinct– what is appropriate for a seventeen year old and what is appropriate for a seven year old are vastly different from each other. Additionally, in a world where the darkest wizard around is a skilled legilimens, it is an additional protection– both for Snape and Harry. That Dumbledore is extraordinarily perceptive of what may come, and is able to arrange things so that they serve the overall goal could as easily be called good management skills as deception and slyness.

    I think the existence of a flawed Dumbledore is a beautiful commentary on sin and redemption. That the ‘greatest wizard’ of the age, the most outspoken defender of Muggles, ‘Mug-bloods’, and magical creatures, et al., was at one point basically the magical equivalent of a Nazi (ideologically atleast) is a message of hope to all burdened by their own inclinations toward sin. Dumbledore is essentially a convert. Thus even a soul blackened by hate/prejudice can yet be saved– which is also probably why Harry seemed rather keen to offer Voldemort the chance to repent (he mentioned it several times as I recall).

    anyway, it’s getting late, and I’ve been puzzling over this so long I’m not sure it makes sense anymore. 🙂 great discussions all!

  24. esoterica1693 says

    “That Dumbledore is extraordinarily perceptive of what may come, and is able to arrange things so that they serve the overall goal could as easily be called good management skills as deception and slyness. ”

    Good point. I remember attending a conference on management for church professionals and at one point we were given an instrument which ‘sorted’ us into 4 groups according to leadership style and motivation. Several of us ended up in the quadrant of folks who were motivated in part by ‘power.’ (This was b/4 the HP phenomenon else I’m sure we would have joked about being called Slytherins….) We were rather uncomfortable about this (all the moreso b/c we were almost all women), until the leader reframed it for us. She said, “What if the instrument used the term ‘influence’ instead of ‘power’? We all want to have some influence on how things turn out, that’s why we’re in leadership.” We talked more along those lines and eventually we managed to not feel guilty about ending up in that quadrant.

    When Albus was hanging around w/ Grindelwald, they wanted to make people do what they wanted *by force*. If he had gone into the Ministry he would have had access to so much power he would have in essence been able to force people to do things as well. But after his ‘conversion’ he didn’t use force–he used persuasion, loyalty, intelligence, and charisma, but *always* gave people a choice. Unlike Harry and even McGonagall, he never resorted to Imperius even when he could have easily rationalized it. (Not that I blame either of those two for using it, but I simply point out the contrast.) I think he even meant for Snape to have a choice about killing him. He did describe it as “doing him a favor,” and on the Tower said, “Please.” He understood it as a request, not a demand. He also made sure that Harry always understood the choices he had, and that he felt genuinely free to make them.

    I also think that, while his Supremacy views as a young man cannot be explained away as being of no moral consequence, we have to remember his sister was tortured into insanity by Muggles and his father died in Azkaban for (understandably, perhaps) killing those Muggles. Before the age of 17 he’d lost his father and essentially his sister as a consequence of Muggle prejudice and the Wizarding Secrecy situation and then his mother dies as another indirect consequence of the same incident. This does NOT *excuse* his early allegiances but does give some context for them.

    JKR opens DH w/ that quote from [i]The Libation Bearers[/i] whcih is a play about revenging one’s father’s death. It could apply just as easily to the young Dumbledore as to Harry’s commitment to overthrow LV.

  25. I think you’re right to point out the context of Dumbledore’s early views– much as Dumbledore pointed out the context of Voldemort’s to Harry in HPB. To hate/dislike a person for wrongful deeds is understandable, but not virtuous– by giving Harry the opportunity to understand Voldemort, Dumbledore gave him a chance at virtue, loving one’s enemy, and it paid off when Harry offered the chance for remorse. I think this is also why Harry was able to forgive Snape and Dumbledore. 😀 Gotta love how virtue spreads! It’s also why Harry was able to find peace with the fact that people he knew disappointed him in some ways– thus his children’s names (James, Albus Severus)– and yet could still be good people.


  26. Coppinger Bailey says

    I have several thoughts about Dumbledore that I’m going to break into a couple of posts here & under the Narrative Misdirection thread, I think.

    The first thing I’d like to ask other folks is whether or not you read the young Dumbledore’s quest for the “Deathly Hallows” as somewhat akin to a wizarding-world version of a Holy Grail quest.

    When the trio learn about the Hallows from Xeno Lovegood, he uses “quest” in his description of the “sign of the Deathly Hallows”: “One simply uses the symbol to reveal oneself to other believers, in the hope that they might help one with the Quest.”

    My interpretation on a first reading (through Christian lenses, I must say), is that as a young man Dumbledore sought articles that, when put together, make one a “master,” “conqueror,” or “vanquisher” of death. Is this not similar to the powers attributed to the Holy Grail? One of Dumbledore’s middle names is Percival, after all.

    Maybe those of you who have posted here have already accepted this parallel as a no-brainer. Sorry if I’m being dense. I wanted to bring up this question because I think it is key to understanding how Dumbledore came to his own tragic understanding of his biggest personal weakness.

    Dumbledore was a “believer” and a “quester” as a young man, but he was blinded by his own selfishness & arrogance, and he based his rationalizations on the tragedy of his younger sister’s abuse. Only when his sister died, and perhaps at his own hands, did Dumbledore realize his failings.

    But he did recognize his failings & put a very fine point to them, never allowing himself to be placed in a position of power. And after this terrible experience as a young man, Dumbledore had a strong grasp of how “pure of heart” a true seeker must be. It is this understanding that infused his training of Harry and not a manipulative, “for the greater good” strategy. I agree very much with Nzie’s characterization of Dumbledore as a convert & a portrait of sin and redemption, as well as the comments on the importance of secret sacrifices in Deathly Hallows.

    Reading Dumbledore’s experiences in this light makes Harry’s choice of horcruxes over hallows and Dumbledore’s exchange with Harry at King’s Cross that much more poignant to me. At Shell Cottage after Dobby’s death, Harry stares out the kitchen window and feels “closer, this dawn, than ever before, closer to the heart of it all” (pg. 483). He contemplates Dumbledore and sees him in his imagination, with his fingers “pressed together as if in prayer.” He asks the Dumbledore in his mind if he is meant to know about the hallows, but not to seek them, and if this was his great challenge, “to know, but not to seek” (pg. 483). Harry intuitively knows that the hallows are real and that he has owned one of the three all along and that the second is inside the snitch Dumbledore gave him. Harry has to come to terms with his own mission, despite knowing that Voldemort has set out to find the third hallow.

    At King’s Cross, Dumbledore admits to Harry that he (Dumbledore) was never fit to unite all the hallows, that he was unworthy. Dumbledore explains to Harry that he (Harry) is the “worthy possessor of the Hallows” because Harry used them to enable his own self-sacrifice. Only a true master of death does not seek to run away from death (pg. 720).

    Dumbledore may not, in the end, have been pure enough of heart himself to master the Hallows, but he became Harry’s master teacher. Without Dumbledore’s wisdom, protection, & guidance, Harry would have had no life at all to speak of. Although revealed to be not the infallible character many of us had imagined from books 1-6, Dumbledore’s previous guidance fulfills this critical role for Harry in Deathly Hallows.

    Harry’s struggle to trust Dumbledore despite his doubts in him, as well as Dumbledore’s use of Snape to assist Harry, are the 2 major sources of angst that I had in my first reading of Deathly Hallows. But upon more reflection & re-reading, I am coming to understand these issues more in the light of the challenge Dumbledore faced in protecting Harry and helping him rid himself of that piece of Voldemort within him.

    I am confident that Dumbledore did not use Harry “for the greater good.” As for Severus, that’s another issue, and I’m just starting to get handle on that one. I’ll just have to end for now by saying that Dumbledore’s & Severus’ relationship is no doubt the most complicated and critical of the story, but my initial response is that Dumbledore was as open and consistent with Snape as possible without betraying the goal of protecting Harry. I’ll try & spell that out more in a later post on this thread.

  27. If you go over to you will find a lot of people who are absolutely livid over Dumbledor’s behavior, some almost going as far as saying that he was worse than Voldemort, as the latter never pretended to be anything other than what he was, while Dumbledore wore tha mask of virtue.

    Not that I believe that myself, mind you, but a lot of people seem to.

  28. I was re-reading relevant bits of DH this morning, and I noticed a couple of things about Dumbledore’s words and behavior that I found interesting.

    One was that he said he was only permitted to possess the least of the Hallows. Take that comment seriously, in conjunction with the tombstone epitaphs, and it gives a pretty clear intimation of Dumbledore’s spiritual orientation.

    The other was that when he was telling Snape about the need for Harry to die in order to definitively kill Voldemort, he kept his eyes closed. I think it’s possible that he was doing so in order to conceal from his powerful Legillimens interlocutor his hunch, suspicion, hope that Voldemort’s use of Harry’s blood would in fact allow Harry to survive. It seems to have been necessary for Voldemort’s defeat that Harry should go whole-heartedly into sacrifice, and so he concealed his hope from the man he was trusting to communicate the necessity of that sacrifice to Harry.

  29. rosesandthorns says

    Something occurred to me not long ago. If I remember, John, you wrote in one of your previous books on HP (forgive me if I am wrong and am remembering some other author) that in each book of the HP series (or at least books one to four) at least one person was revealed to be bad instead of good, and one was “good” instead of “bad.” (Book 1: Snape-Harry thinks he is “bad,” but he is really “good,” Quirrell-Harry thinks he is “good,” but he is really “bad,” for example.) For the longest time I couldn’t think which good person turned out to be bad in DH, but then I realized it must be Dumbledore, whose “bad” past is revealed. Possibly a gross simplification, but …

    Anyway, I really did love learning about Albus’s “not-so-white” past. You can truly see how this great wizard used the mistakes of his past to become who he was in the future; but also how he kept some of the weaknesses (indeed, his weakness for the stone finally and truly destroyed him.) Harry is the better man indeed!

    I think Rowling is making a point that it truly is our choices that define who we are. Even one who has severed their soul and made a horcrux or horcruxes has a choice to repair their damaged soul by being remorseful/repentant, though not without great cost (I think Hermione says the pain can destroy a person).

    One interesting part of the book is when Aberforth confronts Harry about his brother sacrificing people for “the greater good” and it is Harry (who seems to still have some doubts about Dumbledore) who says that sometimes people have to think of the greater good. Clearly, “the greater good” is still important, it is just that a young Dumbledore got the concept wrong by thinking that the greater good meant ruling over muggles (exalting SELF over OTHERS), and an older Dumbledore realized the greater good meant sacrificing one’s self for others (exalting OTHERS over SELF).

    The older Dumbledore realized the importance of OTHERS over SELF: He knew that Lily sacrificed herself for Harry and the power this brought, and Dumbledore himself “sacrificed” himself by having Snape kill him (sparing Draco from murder; putting Snape firmly in Lord Voldemort’s “good books” so Snape could be the perfect undercover agent and protect the children of Hogwarts; plus keeping one person – Snape – alive to tell Harry that final truth that allowed Harry to defeat Voldemort once and for all.) “The gleam of triumph” way back in book 4 was when Dumbledore realized that maybe Harry’s eventual self-sacrifice would not be in vain, and that Harry could survive it. I think this had to be the final “nail in the coffin,” so to speak, that showed Dumbledore the true value of OTHERS over SELF, that self-sacrifice gives something to the one who sacrifices as well.

    Obviously, the older Dumbledore would have given anything to have realized this when he was younger and before his family was broken by death and regret. This Dumbledore, who feels remorse and regret over Arianna, can later see the same remorse and regret over Lily that Severus feels. Plus, with the evidence of Snape’s Patronus (a great way to ascertain one’s inner heart, I must say), Dumbledore can also be certain of Snape’s true loyalties.

    Dumbledore is certainly more complex than the readers would have guessed from previous books, and I have to take my hat off to Rowling for his portrayal in DH.

  30. esoterica1693 says


    I too am struck by AD’s self-sacrifice on the Tower and how it may have fit in w/ his own journey of understanding. While it wasn’t on the scale of either Lily’s or Harry’s sacrifice, as he knew ‘death was coming for him as surely as the Chudley Cannons would finish at the bottom of this year’s League’ (!), and he had lived a long and full life, it was still loving, other-directed, sacrificial, and saved at least one life. I have to think/hope that as AD’s soul flew from that Tower that he experienced some degree of healing for the pain he had always felt, so keenly expressed even so recently as his hallucinations in the cave.

    I also wonder if his making Harry watch his death served a larger purpose than keeping Harry safely out of the possible duels. Whether intentionally or inadvertantly, Harry ended up witnessing AD’s self-sacrifice. He didn”t fully understand it as such at the time, but once he had seen Snape’s memories, he did. AD was asking him to walk to his own death, but he had seen AD do something similar himself. Perhaps that, on some deep level, eased his sense of betrayal and made his later forgiveness of AD come easier. AD may have been right in saying Harry was ‘the better man,’ but AD was certainly not that far behind him by the time he died.

  31. a late response to this post by Elkhound:

    “… you will find a lot of people who are absolutely livid over Dumbledor’s behavior, some almost going as far as saying that he was worse than Voldemort, as the latter never pretended to be anything other than what he was, while Dumbledore wore tha mask of virtue…”

    I have recently become more aware of this phenomenon in modern culture of an exaltation of pseudo-honesty, as if being honest about being a horrible person somehow makes it acceptable (which I know you yourself were not saying, Elkhound, but were quoting others about). It seems a ‘gift’ of the reality-tv culture, where folks can defend being terrible people to a solo camera, with phrases like, “I never pretended to be X” as if a lack of decent shame over one’s faults somehow makes them less unacceptable.

    It’s so odd to me, perhaps even moreso as someone who has employed the ‘fake it till you make it’ method for building virtue. That is to say, I have noticed that I lack x-virtue, and I know I’m just not going to have it all of a sudden, but I won’t get it by not acting in a way consistent with the virtue I wish to build. And to be miffed because someone wishes his sins to be private, especially given that he spent the rest of his life penitent for them, just seems uncharitable. I can’t imagine, also, that to explain the sins of 130 years prior to a child one’s trying to prepare for a difficult task that one was a nasty elitist along the lines of the fellow who murdered his parents is effective or kind.

    in short, those folks are, to my thinking, uncharitable and ridiculous.. they would, I’m sure, wish for folks to be more forgiving of their vices than they are of Dumbledore’s.


  32. Any students of philosophy here? Anybody care to tackle the idea that Dumbledore’s life is a cautionary tale about ethical utilitarianism? I’m thinking of his lifelong temptation by the Greater Good idea.

  33. I’m not sure in what sense JKR spoke of Dumbledore as being Machiavellian (during the book tour this week). If it’s in the extreme sense, then I’m disappointed. It’s drawing people away (in my opinion)from the idea of a Father figure and an unfolding plan for a son to die. If it’s political, then I can certainly see that in the sense of working for the “greater good.” Do you see Dumbledore as Machiavellian?

  34. Have we got a link to this comment?

    Curious John

  35. JohnABaptist says

    The quote was in the MTV interview John has posted here:

    In the interview, Lady Rowling specifically brings up the conversation where Snape accuses Dumbledore near the end of DH:

    “Although [Dumbledore] seems to be so benign for six books, he’s quite a Machiavellian figure, really. He’s been pulling a lot of strings. Harry has been his puppet,” she explained. “When Snape says to Dumbledore [toward the end of ‘Hallows’], ‘We’ve been protecting [Harry] so he could die at the right moment’ — I don’t think in book one you would have ever envisioned a moment where your sympathy would be with Snape rather than Dumbledore.”

    While I don’t agree with all of the Philosophy of Machiavelli, I must admit that Dumbledore is a case in point of Machiavelli’s precept that the Morality of a Ruler or Commander must of necessity be different than that of common men.

    Dumbledore has precisely protected Harry so that Harry might die at the appointed hour. Any common man that “fattened his son for the slaughter” would rightfully be labeled a hideous monster, yet we read in Holy Scripture:

    John 18:11:”Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” [KJV]

    Jesus baldly states that His death warrant was signed by the Father, and by no one else.

    Jesus knew that His Father’s will was that He suffer a terrible death. Knew that this Holy Will was adamant in spite of all these pleas:

    “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42 KJV

    “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” Mark 14:26 KJV

    “38Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
    39And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Matthew 26 KJV

    So what was the moral thing for our Heavenly Father to do? As a Christian, I personally thank Him for staying the course for it resulted in the redemption of my own personal soul.

    But as a father myself, I do not see how I could ever have done that, even in a situation where the death of my first born would save the life of all my other children…I fear I would have descended into a state of moral paralysis from which I could not have freed myself–and that would be very immoral.

    So yes, Dumbledore, like God, was Machiavellian, that is to say both Dumbledore, the symbol, and God, the signified, followed a different morality than that of common men. But it was not an IMmorality, rather it was the morality of one given charge over many who can not spare the favorite at the expense of all the others.

    The problem with Machiavellianism, and the concept of the “Greater Good” is that it is a slippery slope. It becomes all too easy to slip into the broad immoralities that fill much of Machiavelli’s detailed discussions and advices to the princes of the world. This was Dumbledore’s fear regarding the “Greater Good” concept.

    Or so I read it.

  36. My opinion of Dumbledore is that he did a lot of messed up things, but he did most of those things to save the Wizarding world. That guy had a lot of pressure riding on his shoulders and everybody was counting on him, of course he made hard choices. BUT, there are some things that really bug me about him. I think he was a genuinely good person, or at least tried to be, but he didn’t know how to be in a conventional sense. Most geniuses are insane and Dumbledore is no exception, in a mostly good way but most geniuses are insane. That being said he’s done a lot of bad things but what human doesn’t screw up. The only issues I really have with Dumbledore are letting Harry get abused and the way he treated Snape so bad, he’s as foul as all heck for that, and all his secrecy was damaging. But I think he’s a mostly okay, if extremely f-ed up guy.

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