Ineffective and Biased
Dumbledore is usually considered the altruistic, kind, and wise headmaster of Hogwarts. With a solution for every problem, and a wise speech for every moment of doubt. His twinkling blue eyes, half-moon spectacles, crooked nose, long beard, and eccentric behavior are clearly the antithesis of the black-robed, hairless, red-eyed, lipless, and cruel Voldemort. But is Dumbledore as good a headmaster as has been claimed?
In HPatPS Dumbledore allowed both Harry and Snape's lives to be placed into jeopardy. Not to mention the lives of the other students and teachers of the school. He knew what Quirrel and Voldemort were up to, knew what the intrepid trio was trying (though incorrectly) to prevent, and knew that Snape was both going after Quildemort and trying to protect Harry at the same time.
Some have said that none of the parties involved were ever in any real danger, that Dumbledore was watching, etc... But they clearly were in danger many times. If Hermione had not knocked Quirrel over, Quirrel's spell would have succeeded in throwing Harry from his broom, either maiming or killing him. The troll that was let in could easily have killed Hermione if Harry and Ron had not stopped it, something even Dumbledore could not have predicted would happen. Quirrel could have killed Snape at some time during the year if Voldemort decided that he either a: was interfering too much, or b: was a traitor anyway and deserved death. This would not have been difficult, since while Snape is a capable wizard, Voldemort even without a body has far more knowledge of the Dark Arts. Fluffy could have killed Snape, he succeeded in tearing Snape's leg up quite badly and one can bet that Snape's escape from the dog was only a narrow one. The tasks to get to the Philosopher's Stone could have killed the trio. The Devil's Snare could have crushed them, the troll could have killed them, Snape's test could have poisoned them... At the end of it all, Quirrel could have killed Harry. Even if Dumbledore had known that Quirrel could not touch Harry, he could have just Avada Kedavra'd him (why didn't he?). And yet, Dumbledore only aided them in ending up in these situations.
A common theory is that Harry is the only person that can kill Voldemort. Either through a prophesy or from being the Heir to Gryffindor or from his link to Voldemort. Regardless of whether it IS true or not, Harry had no ability to kill anyone in his first year, even IF he was so inclined. In Harry's fourth year, Crouch Jr himself said as Moody that even Harry's whole class saying AK at him at the same time wouldn't give him any more than a nosebleed. The best curse Harry would have known in his first year would have been no more than a simple jinx, as he displayed later in the dueling club when his choices of curses to use on Malfoy were little more than jokes. Besides, why would Dumbledore leave the task of killing someone to an eleven year old boy? Wouldn't he want to spare Harry that sort of burden of guilt?
All of this could easily have been prevented if Dumbledore had intervened. It has been repeated many times that Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard alive and is thus the only wizard Voldemort ever feared. Why then, did he do nothing? Even if he couldn't permanently kill Voldemort, he could easily have defeated Quirrel, who would present no challenge to him, and used some form of magic to contain or seal away Voldemort. It was possible to do, because otherwise the ministry would not have had so many aurors still hunting for Voldemort. If he had done something, Snape would have been spared a year's worth of constant worry, both for his own safety and the safety of the trio, whom despite his dislike of them, he clearly wishes them no physical harm (except maybe a good throttling for Harry). If he had done something, Harry, Ron, and Hermione would never have entered harm's way. If he had done something, Voldemort would never have made his return in GoF, since there would have been no Voldemort to return.
If he had done something.
Let's move on to Chamber of Secrets. In this book, Dumbledore did not know who was opening the Chamber of Secrets, but he surely knew who was, indirectly in the very least, responsible. Tom Marvolo Riddle. He knew that Tom had done it fifty years previously, and would be the only person to know the location of the Chamber. Surely he would have had the wits to come to the conclusion that Voldemort had probably possessed another person as he had done with Quirrel and decided to reopen the Chamber. Granted, that would have been an incorrect assumption, but it would have been the most logical thing. He must have known that it was a Basilisk, since Hermione, a second year student, was able to figure it out. Students were attacked one after another and yet again he did nothing beyond having teachers and prefects do patrols and guide students from class to class. Something that had absolutely no effect.
One person on a message board asked me what could Dumbledore have done? The thing was traveling through the pipes, Harry wasn't telling him what was going on, he didn't know where the Chamber was, etc... But, there was plenty he could have done. Since he most likely knew that the thing was a Basilisk, he could have simply bought or used magic to create roosters. Hagrid's were killed for a reason, and if he placed his own all throughout the castle, and made sure that they were heard by the Basilisk, the creature would have been killed. Silly as the idea may sound, it's true. A rooster's crowing is fatal to the Basilisk. He also could have asked Myrtle for details about how she died. She could have told him about the yellow eyes that killed her, and where they were. A search of the girl's bathroom would have exposed the engraving of the snake on the pipe, and a bit more work would have probably allowed them entry to the Chamber. Ginny's life would not have been at risk, and Harry would not have almost died.
IF he had done more.
Prisoner of Azkaban... In this one, our dear headmaster thought along with everyone else that Sirius was after Harry, and would stop at nothing to kill him. In this one, Harry and co's lives were not often in danger, except from the Dementors and Lupin the Werewolf during the final chapters. Something that cannot be blamed on Dumbledore. However, while he did allow the Dementors onto the grounds, and took a decent amount of steps towards protecting the students, he did not do all he could to prevent Harry from being in danger. He knew that Harry possessed and often used his invisibility cloak (after all, Dumbledore gave it to him) and that Harry and co had a habit of snooping around at all hours. He could have seized the cloak, which while it would have made our bespectacled hero angry, it would have made it more difficult for Harry to wander. Or, in the very least, he could have just sat Harry down, told him the situation right from the getgo and given him a veiled warning to obey the school rules and remain on the grounds during the day and in his dorm at night or else face expulsion. Harry would not have been willing to risk ending up with the Dursleys year round just to sneak into Hogsmeade. While this would not have been the kindest way to do it, his job first and foremost is to ensure the safety of his students, not to keep them happy.
Finally, in Goblet of Fire, it was known by Dumbledore that someone on the grounds wanted Harry dead. He knew Harry did not put his name in the Goblet, and that none of the older Slytherins would have wanted a Gryffindor to have a chance at becoming school champion over one of them. Dumbledore knew it was one of the adults, and that if it was none of his own teachers, it had to be Karkaroff since there were no other possible suspects. He trusted Maxime, and Ludo Bagman never had the chance to put Harry's name in. Yet, he did not try to pull Harry out of the contest as Karkaroff and Maxime had wanted. No matter whether Harry was supposed to compete or not, he knew Harry was too young and that his skills in defending himself were not up to par with the other champions. Harry's life should have had more importance than a magical binding contract. Surely Dumbledore's powers could have been used to supercede a silly little magical Goblet?
Another thing is that Harry told Dumbledore about his dream right before the final task. He told Dumbledore that Voldemort was now able to use a wand and was planning on feeding Harry to Nagini. Wouldn't Dumbledore then have realized that Voldemort was behind Harry being one of the champions? That something was going to happen soon? Wouldn't he have taken greater care in watching Harry, or in pulling him from the contest and having someone else take his place? Since there must have been at least one time in previous competitions where a champion was unable to compete, it must be possible to at least alter the task so that there would be less danger, or even cancel it. Anything to prevent the loss of life.
Last but not least, was Barty Crouch Jr. Mad-Eye Moody was an old friend of Dumbledore's, so his behavior and habits must have been well known. Snape worked for Dumbledore and had been a student at Hogwarts, so his habits and personality must have been well known too. Yet, Dumbledore failed to notice that Moody was a fake and the struggle that was going on between Moody and Snape right under his own crooked nose. Crouch, while a good actor and fairly knowledgeable about Moody's habits, could not possibly have been able to fully imitate Moody, or learn everything that Moody knew when he only had a short time before the school year was to start when he took his place. There must have been many times during the school year that Crouch made minor fumbles that were not caught by Dumbledore. Such as when Crouch explained as he entered the Forbidden Forest that Snape had told him where to come. Shouldn't Dumbledore have realized that Snape at that moment would never have run to Moody, told him what had happened, and then not come himself? Surely he had noticed Snape's fear of Moody, something that even a few of the students had noticed. Yet, he did not. Because of this, he was unable to prevent Cedric's death, Harry's suffering, and Voldemort's return. Something that will definitely be only the beginning of a long list of deaths to come.
All of this, because he did not act when he could have. I suppose he is only human, and that not all possible solutions present themselves immediately. But he is Headmaster, his job is to protect the students, and he had that chance in the first book, even if it was possible that he did not in the following three. I may be proven wrong, since the series is hardly finished and we are all waiting to find out what Dumbledore is about to explain in book five when he says "It is time for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything." Until then, though, I stick by my belief that Dumbledore could have prevented a lot of suffering and deaths (not just Cedric's, but also Frank Bryce, Bertha Jorkins, Crouch Sr, and Crouch Jr who is worse than dead now) if he had done something when he could have. Now, onto the second part of this analysis. (A long one, eh?)
I know many people will say that there's no possible way that Dumbledore is biased at all, that he's DUMBLEDORE and that he's probably the least prejudiced character in the books. He isn't, though, and he shows repeatedly that he is biased for Gryffindor and against Slytherin. Right from book one on.
In HPatPS, he allowed the Slytherin students to believe that they had won the house cup, allowed the to cheer their victory which is something that all of the four houses work hard for each year, right before taking it away from them. They had won fair and square, and the totals had already been counted, when Dumbledore decided to alter it to place the victory in the hands of the Gryffindors instead. Even if he had added the points before the winner was decided, it still would not have been fair, since while Harry and co risked their lives to stop Voldemort, that is not something that any of the other students had the knowledge or opportunity to do, or even been something that they were expected to accomplish. That was not something that should have won the intrepid trio the house cup. Neville should never have received any points whatsoever since what he did was not anything worthy of house victory, but rather something of personal growth. Dumbledore also showed no disapproval to the rest of the school's joy that Slytherin had lost, he actually seemed quite pleased and was smiling over it. Clearly not a good trait in a Headmaster.
Chamber of Secrets shows even more of his anti-Slytherin bias. When Harry told Dumbledore of the Sorting Hat's desire to place Harry in Slytherin, Dumbledore remarked that Harry had many of the qualities that Salazer himself wanted in his students. While this may seem like a non-anti-Slytherin comment, he shortly thereafter said, "Yet the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor. You know why that was. Think."
To which Harry responded, "It only put me in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, "because I asked not to go in Slytherin . . . ."
"Exactly," said Dumbledore, beaming once more. "Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Harry sat motionless in his chair, stunned. "If you want proof, Harry, that you belong in Gryffindor, I suggest you look more closely at this..."
In this excerpt Dumbledore implied that Slytherin was the wrong choice, the 'bad' house that Tom Riddle chose, and that Gryffindor was the right choice, the 'good' house, that Harry chose. He did not say that either choice would have been equally as good, or that both have their good traits and faults, he only said that Harry was right to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin.
Later on, he commited the same act of bias he did in the first book of handing the house cup to Gryffindor by awarding Harry and Ron 200 points a piece when a school trophy for special services would have been sufficient. Again, the work of the other students was shot down by something they had no power over. They could not have stopped the Basilisk, since none of them were parselmouths and it was against school rules to snoop around anyway. Their work did not matter to Dumbledore, not only the Slytherins' work, but also that of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. Hmm... I wonder why the Slytherins were so eager in that book to have Dumbledore replaced?
In Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore still allowed the anti-Slytherin sentiments to flourish. He hired the strongly anti-Slytherin Hagrid who believes that there wasn't a dark witch or wizard who didn't come from Slytherin, he showed no disapproval and made no attempt to stop Lee Jordan's obvious show of anti-Slytherin comments whenever there was a Gryffindor vs Slytherin match. In fact, McGonagall, who's head of Gryffindor house, showed more disapproval than Dumbledore, etc... I could also go into the revelation we get about Snape's grudge, but that's for the essay Deep Resentment (coming soon).
During Goblet of Fire there was less in the way of anti-Slytherin bias directly from Dumbledore, though that was probably because there was less Slytherin vs Gryffindor in that one due to the lack of House Cup and Quidditch cup. The anti-Slytherin attitudes of the school are detailed in the essay Cunning Folk (also coming soon).
With this essay (yes, I'm wrapping it up ^_^) I have made an attempt to put a different view of the headmaster forward, the side of him that is not immediately apparent but is still there nonetheless. I don't hate Dumbledore, I just think there is more to him than that simple altruistic side that has been shown so far. I've always thought that people seemed to show Dumbledore as being too perfect, kind, wise, etc... In my personal opinion much of this is simply JayKay progressing as a writer, since the handing of the house cup to Gryffindor in the first book and giving Harry and Ron 200 points each in the second have always struck me as rather hackneyed and, well, like poorly done attempts to add a bit of victory to the hero's ending (disclaimer: please don't kill me for dissing the endings). Whereas, in GoF, Harry clearly does not get handed the house cup for escaping Voldemort and winning the Triwizard Tournament. But, that's a subject for another essay (besides, I'm beat... It's 2:41 a.m.) -_-
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