The Moral Ambiguity of Albus Dumbledore

I would like to preface this post by stating that I have no advance knowledge of the Harry Potter series.  I have read the series once and seen the movies a few times. This makes me in no way an expert on the world of wizards and witchcraft that J.K. Rowling created.  So everything I say is speculation based on my limited knowledge and some research I have done.

I have long since been confused by the hero status that Dumbledore holds in the eyes of many fans.  Many fans praise him and even Rowling herself has defended him against haters describing him as “the epitome of goodness.”  However, Dumbledore was making questionable choices since the beginning and as the series went on I grew considerably more concerned for the children left in his care.

The main thing that I want to discuss here is the fact that he essentially created an army of children to fight a very adult war.  Yet no one even blinked at this. Throughout Harry’s time at Hogwarts, he is forced to face extreme danger with little to no help beyond his friends, who are also children.  Harry and his friends are essentially being conditioned and trained by Dumbledore to eventually face Voldemort. All because of a prophecy, Dumbledore forces these children to grow up far beyond their years and fight for the greater good even though they are barely adults themselves.  I am not the only one that holds these opinions, in her master’s thesis entitled “The Ethics of Albus Dumbledore: A Critical Discussion of Professor Dumbledore as a Moral Leader and Ideal in the Harry Potter Series.” Lisa Therese Olsen writes,

Dumbledore has watched him and let Harry test his own strengths, as he often did. This may also have been a very smart and calculated decision, because if Dumbledore would have told him right away, as a little child, perhaps Harry would have run the opposite way. If Dumbledore had told him to and forced Harry into a certain role, the role of chosen one and not let Harry seemingly choose it by himself. There is no certainty that Harry would have selected to fight Voldemort and choose the right instead of the easy.

From book to book, Dumbledore leaves Harry to face increasingly dangerous situations and the only advice he gives are vague philosophical statements that in no way lead to an answer.  In every single book, Dumbledore manipulates children that trust him to have their best interest at heart and molds them to be the soldiers he needs them to be. At the end of the series at the Battle of Hogwarts, the older students are called to take arms (or wands in this case) and fight, possibly to the death, in order to save the wizarding world.  Yet he is hailed a hero and Harry even ends up naming a child after him.

N.K. Jemisin also has a similar element in the series.  The Fulcrum takes orogene children away from society and trains in order to create an army that will defend the better good.  These kids are brainwashed to think and completely believe whatever they are taught in the Fulcrum. Jemisin often writes about being “Fulcrum trained” and how it creates tunnel vision.  Orogenes are forced to use their powers only in the way that the Fulcrum teaches them and as we find out, in the end, the focusing and “gaining control” limits their power.  These kids are forced to conform to what the Fulcrum want them to be and if they don’t obey they are sent to nodes to essentially die in every way except the physical. When readers learn about the Fulcrum instantly we are lead to see it as slavery and oppression.

So, where do we draw the line?  We can’t call one man a hero and the other evil.  They are both manipulating children, taking away their free will, and forcing them to do what a “greater” power says is the right thing.  The only difference between the Fulcrum and Dumbledore is the way the authors have set them up. In the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore is described as fighting for the betterment of the wizarding world and J.K. Rowling herself defends him.  While in the Broken Earth Trilogy, the Fulcrum is set up to be the bad guy and meant to represent oppression.

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