Goblet of Fire: ‘Mad-Eye Moody’ & ‘The Unforgivable Curses’ (Chapters 13-14)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Chapters 13-14

Mark True statements with a “T” and False statements with an “F.” Please share your thoughts on these two chapters in the com boxes below!

1. _____ Harry, Ron, and Hermione gather bubotuber puss in Herbology before Care of Magical Creatures class with Hagrid. They try to feed the Blast-ended Skrewts the frog livers they love without getting burnt, blasted or blood sucked.

2. _____ Hermione decides the best way to protest the slavery of house-elves is not by refusing to eat and wasting away. She eats as fast as she can at every meal instead and goes to the library to get away from being a part of “the slave scene.”

3. _____ Ron asks, “Can I have a look at Uranus too, Lavender?” and Professor Trelawney assigns “a detailed analysis of the way the planetary movements in the coming month will affect you, with reference to your personal chart.”

4. _____ Draco Malfoy reads the Daily Prophet article about “Arnold” Weasley “having rushed to the aid of ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody” aloud to embarrass Ron. Draco and Harry trade insults and Draco attacks Harry when his back is turned.

5. _____ To Ron’s great pleasure and Professor McGonagall’s horror, Moody turns Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle into white ferrets that he bounces up and down stairs.

6. _____ “Mad-Eye” Moody performs the three “Unforgivable Curses” on three spiders. Neville is horrified by the Cruciatus Curse. Moody says about it, “Only one known person has ever survived it, and he’s sitting right in front of me.”

7. _____ To make it up to Neville, Professor Moody gives him a book on Magical Plants of the Mediterranean. Neville sleeps well that night, snoring away.

8. _____ Harry and Ron use their “old Divination stand-by” to get through the over-sized Divination homework and predict a series of gruesome deaths and unfortunate events. Harry’s last is his own “death by decapitation.”

9. _____ Hermione has been in the library preparing the materials she needs to organize the Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare (S.P.E.W.). Harry and Ron join up as Secretary and Treasurer, respectively. Free the house-elves!

10. _____ Sirius writes Harry that he is “flying north immediately” in response to Harry’s letter about his scar-alarm going off at the end of the summer. Harry is excited about the possibility of seeing his godfather again.

Discussion Points: These are the big Mad-Eye Moody chapters of canon — even though it’s not the real Mad-Eye! Having met the real thing in later books and witnessed his heroic death in Deathly Hallows (well, the rescue and burial of his signature anatomical device post mortem), what is striking about the Alastor we meet in Goblet of Fire, especially in these chapters? Think about the three things Professor Moody does here with Malfoy, his opening class, and with Neville afterwards; what is Ms. Rowling trying to do? Does she succeed or fail in this?


  1. 1.F 2.F 3.T 4.T 5.F
    6.F 7.F 8.T 9.T/F 10.T/F

    #9: They are enlisted but “sign up” is ambiguous; was it willing or not?
    #10: ‘Excited’ usually means ‘happy’ but can just mean ‘stimulated.’ Harry isn’t happy about Sirius’ return but he is excited enough about what he thinks was his mistake that he cannot sleep.

    What Ms. Rowling seems to be doing in these chapters is present a character, Mad-Eye, she knows from her back-story work and plotting of the later novels in the guise of another character, Barty Jr., impersonating the first. This is an exercise in caricature, consequently; Crouch has to be presenting Moody as he thinks everyone thinks of Moody so he is believable. Ms. Rowling, though, is obliged to have him play this part so we can see hints of the Death Eater under the Polyjuice mask. The scene with the dancing ferret and faux-Moody’s delight in torturing a Malfoy and confronting Severus are masterful plays of entendre.

    Ms. Rowling has been accused of having lost her way in Goblet by at least one BNF I know because the rip-off-rubber-mask ending seems forced. I have heard it said this cliched ex machina ending a la Polyjuice is evidence of what Ms. Rowling has said was a breakdown in her storyline that she had to fix in a hurry because of her deadline for the book (at the time of that writing, you’ll recall, she was producing a book each year).

    There may be something to that. Maybe one of the TLC interlocutors will ask Ms. Rowling a question about this in the PotterCast. I rather like the ending of Goblet because (1) the shock of it reinforced the postmodern message of Ms. Rowling’s misdirection (“don’t believe what you think; things and people aren’t what they appear on the surface”) and (2) re-reading the book reveals no little artistry in her use of a character who is two important characters simultaneously. Reading these two chapters and noting what is Moody caricature, what is Crouch peeking around the edges of the mask, and what part of the caricature is important for understanding Moody (CONSTANT VIGILANCE!) is an exercise in appreciation of Ms. Rowling’s attention to detail. If this was a “rush job,” it doesn’t show in these two chapters. What we learn about Neville, Moody, Crouch, Jr., and Hermione (S.P.E.W.) has been telescoped magnificently into the story-line which is moving forward apace.

    Your comments and correction, please!

  2. JohnABaptist says

    I can’t give any credence to the theory of a “rush-job,” “rip-off the mask” ending. There is too much hidden in the names to allow for that theory as I see it. Consider the following:

    In the next big gulp of chapters plus one we should get to Chapter 17, “The Four Champions”, when we hear for the first time, the rather unusual first name of Mad-Eye Moody–Alastor. People are perpetually misreading that name (even our illustrious John Granger misspells it “Alaister” on page 19 of “Unlocking Harry Potter, Five Keys for the Serious Reader”) but it is specifically spelled “Alastor” in the text.

    Alastor is the beginning of the title of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s first commercially successful poem (c.f. here) “Alastor: Or, the Spirit of Solitude” wherein the protagonist lives a life of all-out, total commitment to the search for Love which leaves him a total physical wreck, broken, crushed but unbowed, dying alone covered in leaves on a forest floor at the scene of his final crash. (Hmmm? Sounds kind of like the final fate of the authentic Mad-Eye in DH, no? And by the way, note the similarity of the last half of Shelley’s title to “Fruits of Solitude”–Penn’s work quoted in the DH epigraph.)

    But if you double-check that epigramic quote from St. Augustine you make an interesting discovery. Shelley gives the quotation from the second sentence of the first paragraph of Book III of the Confessions as (in translation): “Not yet in love, but in love with Love, I sought what I might love, in love with loving.”

    Which sentiment makes a great artistic whole with the rest of Shelly’s poem, but only at the cost of a deception! Shelley has elided, without showing an ellipsis, an entire phrase in the middle of St. Augustine’s sentence–the epigraph has a hollow core!

    Restoring the full quotation only adds to the mystery, as what Shelley ripped out was the phrase “…et secretiore indigentia oderam me minus indigentem…” [and out of a deep seated want, I hated myself for wanting not.] In removing this phrase, Shelley removed the core concept upon which St. Augustine would have said he built the rest of the Confessions, and indeed, the rest of his life upon–the need to fill this inner “want” or cavity with Christ.

    So, by name and association, we have a character who looks very much like Mad-Eye Moody, but who has a “hollow-core”. And who might fill that core?

    St. Augustine tells us that he struggled with this very question until he was able to find guidance in Plato. Although St. Augustine never named any specific work of Plato’s as the most useful to him in this regard, quotations from Plato in St. Augustine’s work, as a whole, come mostly (by a ratio of around 5 to 1 to the next competitor) from the Dialog: Timaeus.

    If one checks the Gospel of Mark (10:46-52) one discovers that Bartimaeus means bar (son of) Timaeus, and that Jesus healed his blindness. Taking the Greek into English (probably by way of Latin) yields Bartimus–the very creature “crouching” inside Alastor, and indeed indicates this to be the “son” and not the “father”.

    Hmmmm? Let’s double-check the arithmetic. Looking at the last names, we start with Moody. How to relate to Crouch?

    Well in the City of Edinburgh, the only building on the famous Royal Mile that is still being used for the purpose for which it was originally constructed is the Carrubbers Close Mission. This building was erected when the American Missionary Evangelist, Dwight L. Moody raised the sum of 10,000 pounds Sterling in donations, and dedicated it all to the construction of this building to carry on God’s work in perpetuity.

    By contrast, today in Edinburgh, American Evangelists arrive via the “miracle” of television through the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Of the sums of money collected from the Edinburgh area by this ministry, there is currently no evidence of any permanent, enduring investment being returned to the local community. Trinity Broadcasting Network, incidentally, is wholly owned and controlled by the Crouch Family, and yes, there is a Crouch, Jr.

    All the above could be Purely Coincidental Of Course (remember my Peacocks, John?) But it surely looks to me like Rowling planned it that way.

  3. JohnA,

    That is a stunning and stunningly esoteric line of reasoning you’ve got there. Might well be true, a la Keyser Soze.

    I was one of the proponents of the last minute Mad Eye / Barty Jr. merge theory. My reasoning went thus: as the DADA teacher, Mad Eye provides useful instruction to Harry, as useful as Lupin’s, the year before. Would Barty, even pretending to be Mad Eye, have done this? This was, afterall, the trainig which helped Harry defy Voldemort at the end of the book.

    Approaching it from the author’s perspective, if she had always written Mad Eye as an imposter, would she have made him such a valuable teacher? I’m thinking of the other DADAs and how she presented them. Not a bit of information which would help you against a Dark Wizard. The only exception is Lupin, who turned out to be one of the good guys.

    My reasoning then proceeded that JKR had initially written Mad Eye as Mad Eye, but then for plot reasons – her initial choice for who rigged the contest just couldn’t carry through with the mission – decided to put him in the bottom of a trunk and bring in Barty Jr. In the meantime, however, she had written some very good scenes of him teaching the Unforgivables, which she could not bear to scrap.

    This line of reasoning begs the question: who was the initial candidate? One of Mundungus, Karkaroff or Krum would have been my guess, but that doesn’t answer the question of why they couldn’t carry through.

    There are other, far-fetched theories which only true conspiracy fans could go for. One possibility is that originally the contest was rigged by Snape – acting for Voldemort but really acting for Dumbledore for Machiavellian reasons. But JKR decided she couldn’t write Dumbledore that manipulative, and backed off.

    There is another way of looking at the question. What would have been different if Mad Eye had not turned out to be Barty Jr? If a disposable, secondary character had rigged the contest? The outcome would have been the same. But a large element of “nothing is as it seems” would have been lost. As it stands now, GoF has two clmaxes: the graveyard scene and Barty’s revelation, and the second one is as interesting as the first. Dramatically, it works.

    So I’ve given up on the last-minute rewrite theory.

  4. JohnABaptist says

    reyhan, you posit: “My reasoning went thus: as the DADA teacher, Mad Eye provides useful instruction to Harry, as useful as Lupin’s, the year before. Would Barty, even pretending to be Mad Eye, have done this?”

    An exceeding good question!

    My counter argument would be to observe that Barty is a very egotistical, and very young, Death Eater. To my mind, his thinking would have been: ” I remember the great boring lectures I used to doze through in this class. Let me show these young fools what real lessons ought to be like. I’ll show them how this subject should really be taught!”

    It would, I think, never occur to Barty that any of the “children” in the class would have the capability to ever challenge him, let alone threaten Voldemort in anyway; therefore, he saw no harm is currying the admiration of the class. Indeed, he had been shut away from real affection, admiration and adoration for so long, it probably felt like an opiate to him, driving him to seek ever more of the same.

  5. JohnA

    What’s confounding the issue here for me is Brendan Gleeson’s acting. Marvellous actor, Mr. Gleeson, everything that Mr. Gambon is not: totally engaged with the actors around him, making a meal of his lines, giving each word its full impact, lumbering, crashing through and totally owning his surroundings.

    Anyways, in the Unforgivables scene, the single eye with which he affixes Harry is very aware, as if he knows exactly what he’s loooking at: the boy who defeated Voldemort by living.

    But putting that aside, while your explanation makes sense logicially, I don’t think that was how the author developed that scene. I think what happened there is that JKR just wrote a very effective scene illustrating the power of the Unforgiveables, using as a teaching device a scarred, half-mad warrior who scoffs at the rules of what is and is not permissible in a classroom.

    Ask yourself, how is that scene the most effective: if the teacher is Barty Jr, or if it’s Mad Eye.

    I think JKR wrote the scene for Mad Eye, either forgetting that he was Barty, or just because it worked better that way.

  6. JohnABaptist says


    Let me second, third and fourth your applause for Gleeson’s performances to date.

    However, following your request to ask myself how the scene is most effective, I have to say it is most effective because of Gleeson’s presentation of “a scarred, half-mad warrior who scoffs at the rules…” Which is who we think Mad-Eye is as at that point.

    However subsequently we discover:

    1) Mad-Eye wasn’t as mad as we thought he was. There really was someone after him the night the garbage bins danced.

    2) Mad-Eye in the subsequent volumes is an absolute stickler for rules who would never, ever, break one (bending is of course another matter). Even when it is freezing and everybody wants to cut a corner on the flight to Grimauld Place, Mad-Eye does it by the book.

    3) It is, therefore, no accident when in DH Mad-Eye is finally killed, no one else under his command dies. Mad-Eye has drilled them too thoroughly–Constant Vigilance! Endless instructions! Right up to the instance they kick-off. In the end, it is only Mad-Eye who intentionally took the weak link with himself who is killed in action.

    So to me, a fortunately un-scarred, and perhaps only quarter-mad, warrior from a now distant conflict, the scene only works if it is Barty Crouch hiding in there; for only Barty would introduce the element of callous disregard for rules that makes the scene work. (But, I must grant also that J.K. Rowling is not a warrior from any conflict, in so far as I know, and therefore her outlook on the motivations and actions of the military/auror/warrior class may be quite different than mine.)

    Nonetheless, in my eyes, while the real Mad-Eye might well have taught the same lesson, he would have secured written approval from Dumbledore, counter-signed by two other Professors before proceeding on such a non-standard course.

    So, I guess we will simply disagree on this one and wait to see if future revelations from on high shed more light on the subject. Nevertheless I had great fun discussing the issue and hope you did as well.

    With highest regards.

  7. JohnA,

    I hadn’t considered it from that perspective.

    You are absolutely right: the man who insists that everyone under his command follow the rules exactly during that doomed flight is not the same man who Cruciates the spider (or turns the deserving Mr. Malfoy into a ferret).

    However, I work for a branch of a para-military organization, and I know that the same people who follow the drill exactly during action are quite capable of playing free and loose with the rules which they consider non-sensical. Now discipline is not quite what it might be, but that might be true as well for the Aurors.

    But yes, great fun discussing what I consider one of the highlights of the book – and movie.

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