Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Analysis of Major Characters
Harry is accurately dubbed the “Chosen One” by the Daily Prophet, as it is Harry Potter’s unfortunate responsibility to destroy the evil Lord Voldemort, according to a prophecy made by Professor Trelawney and brought to Lord Voldemort by Severus Snape. Although Harry has never shied away from his destiny, bravely and repeatedly attempting to thwart Voldemort, he is nonetheless frustrated by his inability to have a normal school life. Harry is not a perfect wizard and certainly not the strongest student at Hogwarts. Often, Hermione has to help both Ron and Harry with their class assignments, and neither casts perfect spells. Instead, Harry’s strength lies in his conviction, his loyalty, and his ability to ask for help. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, readers see Harry slowly maturing into a young man, as evidenced by his romantic relationship with Ginny Weasley and his increasingly loyal connection to Dumbledore.
As strong as Harry may be, he still suffers greatly from the unspeakable horrors of his past. Both of his parents were murdered by Voldemort, and those closest to him often feel the fire of his birthright. Consequently, Harry is frightened by the thought of becoming close to anyone or anything else. His loving parents James and Lily, his godfather Sirius Black, and his hero Dumbledore have all died while trying to protect him. Ultimately, Harry realizes he must sacrifice his newfound love for Ginny Weasley to prevent her from ending up like his other loves.
Many at Hogwarts have reason to fear Severus Snape, a reformed Death Eater now teaching at the school, who skulks around, sneering and hissing at Harry Potter. Even though Harry and his friends despise Snape, Dumbledore continues to trust him implicitly, dismissing Harry’s stories about overhearing Snape plotting with Draco and insisting that Snape is completely trustworthy, an irreplaceable member of the Hogwarts staff. Harry’s father, James Potter, was also at odds with Snape, and members of the Order of the Phoenix suggest that Harry’s inherent dislike of Snape was inherited from James. Harry is appropriately devastated when he learns that Snape and his beloved Half-Blood Prince are one and the same.
Although Harry sees Snape’s shiftiness as black and white, Rowling is purposefully vague about Snape’s true allegiances. Although Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince features a pointed scene in which Snape makes an Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa Malfoy, promising to protect Draco and take over his Dark duties, if necessary, there are still signs that point to Snape’s allegiance to Dumbledore. Moments before Dumbledore is murdered, Dumbledore freezes Harry, presumably to prevent him from stopping Snape. Likewise, Dumbledore appears to be stalling Draco until Snape can arrive, after specifically requesting that Harry call for Snape and not Madam Pomfrey— making it seem possible that Dumbledore wishes for Snape to be his killer. When Harry chases after Snape, Snape prevents Harry from casting any death spells, but once again does not try to kill Harry himself. Snape is an extremely complex and multi-faceted character.
An unlikely candidate for a teaching position at Hogwarts, Horace Slughorn is a strange, hopelessly self-serving professor. Although Slughorn’s intentions are usually good, and his behavior is almost always harmless, he has extreme difficulty seeing past his own needs and desires. Occasionally, Slughorn’s greediness works out for the best. When Draco sends a bottle of poisoned Mead intended for Dumbledore, Slughorn keeps it for himself. Ron ends up getting sick from the drink but is saved by Harry, and Slughorn inadvertently prevents Dumbledore from being poisoned. Slughorn maintains a small group of potentially influential wizards (known as the Slug Club) that he romances with parties and special meetings. However, if a student is of no particular use to Slughorn, as is Ron Weasley, he gives that student no attention whatsoever. Slughorn is usually unable to remember Ron’s name, but he is quite attentive to Harry and Hermione, whom he considers important and potentially useful to him.
As later revealed in Dumbledore’s Pensieve, Slughorn was the first to tell Voldemort, then a Slug Club member and Hogwarts student named Tom Riddle, about Horcruxes. Slughorn was obviously embarrassed by this memory, as it implicated him as being far too carefree with the students he considered the most potentially powerful. Slughorn concealed and changed the memory but eventually gives up the real one, sacrificing his own reputation with Dumbledore to help Harry avenge his parents’ death.
The name Albus is the Latin word for white, which suits Albus Dumbledore perfectly. Not only is his long trademark beard a snowy white, Dumbledore is also a good wizard, wholly committed to white magic, standing firmly against the Dark Arts. As headmaster of Hogwarts, Dumbledore is openly dedicated to using his powers to serve the greater good. Consequently, Dumbledore is self-sacrificing and benevolent, ready to risk his own life to preserve the happiness of others. When Harry and Dumbledore reach what they believe to be Merope’s locket, Dumbledore insists that Harry pour the entire basin of potion down his throat, no matter how much he may protest. Likewise, at the close of the novel, Rowling leaves the possibility open that Dumbledore has, in fact, insisted that Snape murder him to save Draco from becoming a killer.
Dumbledore appreciates Harry’s strong, unwavering heart and often lets Harry get away with things he might discipline other students for. Unsurprisingly, Dumbledore was offered and refused the position of Minister of Magic three times, because he prefers to work at Hogwarts and is clearly not enticed by promises of empty power. Unlike most members of the Wizarding community, Dumbledore will freely speak Lord Voldemort’s name. When Dumbledore is killed by Snape, his funeral is attended by students, teachers, Ministry officials, giants, merpeople, and various other human and nonhuman mourners. The diversity of the crowd speaks to Dumbledore’s welcoming, nonjudgmental nature.
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