Minerva McGonagall

All posts tagged Minerva McGonagall

A Lesson from Prof. McGonagall

Published October 4, 2013 by A. Featherquill

Professor McGonagall on blowing up the Covered Bridge:

Neville: Let me get this straight, Professor. You’re actually giving us permission to do this?
Prof.McGonagall: Yes, Longbottom.
Neville: Blow it up? Boom?
Prof.McGonagall: BOOM!
Neville: Wicked. But how on earth are we gonna do that?
Prof.McGonagall: Why don’t you confer with Mr. Finnigan? As I recall, he has a particular proclivity for pyrotechnics.
Seamus: I can bring it down!
Prof.McGonagall: That’s the spirit. Now off you go.

Hogwarts must be having a celebration today to remember the birthday of its former headmistress, professor, and student, Minerva McGonagall. To share in this joyous event, I will devote this post to discuss what I find admirable in Professor McGonagall.

In the series, we have seen her as a strict but well-loved professor who is brave enough to protect her students against danger and to stand up for her ideals even against authorities. Her wisdom and magical ability coupled with bravery make Prof. McGonagall a truly powerful witch, a great mentor, a reliable ally and a tough enemy.

When Harry first saw her, he had the impression that she was not someone to cross. Indeed, Harry was right. Prof. McGonagall practiced discipline and would not tolerate stupidity, foolishness, and reckless rule-breaking. She would not hesitate to deduct house points from Gryffindor when her students merited it. This manner earned her the respect not only of her students but also of her colleagues.

Among all the professors, McGonagall may be the best in enforcing laws because she understands well the essence of the rules implemented in Hogwarts. Thus, she knows when to enforce the rules and when to bend them. This attitude will be the highlight of my discussion today.

Often, people are caught between two poles – the daring ones may have the tendency to break the law even when the occasion calls one to follow it while the goody-goody group may end up following rules by the book even when it’s already necessary to break them.

I have to admit that judging when to follow and when to break rules may be tricky. One just has to learn as one matures.

While I believe that experience is still the best teacher, having role models, even fictional ones, does aid the learning process. For the issue at hand, I believe, we can learn from Prof. McGonagall.

Let me begin the analysis by providing examples of her strict enforcement of rules.

Once, when Ron and Harry came late to their Transfiguration class, she jokingly suggested transforming one of the two so that at least one of them can arrive in time for class. She may have often spared Harry and his friends from punishment during life-or-death situations but, in this particular case, there is no urgent threat happening. It may have been more beneficial for Harry and Ron if they have arrived in time for class and have been present for the whole period.

Another instance wherein she punished a foolish act is when Neville Longbottom wrote passwords on pieces of paper which later on got lost. The situation: Hogwarts administrators and staff, believing that Sirius Black is after Harry Potter, are doing everything to secure the school. It is reasonable for her to be alarmed that Neville, by writing down the passwords of the Gryffindor common room, unknowingly betrayed the security of the school. There is no rule saying students must not write down the passwords. However, the school is asking the cooperation of the students in the implementation of security. Neville’s loss of the pieces of paper went against the aim of the security measures. She might have wondered if writing them down was really the last solution available. Most likely, she had thought of other ideas for a solution. This could explain her irritation on Neville’s carelessness.

But, when Harry rode a broomstick without supervision in order to catch Neville’s Remembrall, McGonagall, instead of punishing the boy, recommended him to be Gryffindor’s new seeker. Analyzing the situation, Harry’s action had been motivated by care for Neville. Also, Harry hadn’t damaged anything. Given these facts and the more pressing need of Gryffindor to find a seeker, she has viewed the act as something dismissable.

When Dolores Umbridge, acting under the orders of the Ministry of Magic, tries to control almost all aspects of life at Hogwarts, McGonagall has repeatedly countered the officer. She defended Sybill Trelawney, stood her ground inside her class, and argued that Potter could still be an Auror. She once implied that Umbridge was not being a competent teacher and, in another occasion, openly voiced out her view that Umbridge’s style is “medieval”.

Again, she has attempted to dismiss rules, in particular that of the Triwizard Tournament, when Harry’s name suddenly came out of the goblet. She said, “To hell with Barty and his rules” and later on argued, “What? Offer him up as bait? Potter is a boy! Not a piece of meat.” Sure, the tournament’s rules have to be honored as it involves a contract between three wizarding schools. Yet McGonagall has given more importance on taking care of the welfare of Harry who seems to be a target of an evil plot.

Finally, during the Battle of Hogwarts, she ceased from enforcing measures to take care of the school grounds. In fact, she instructed Neville Longbottom and Seamus Finnigan, along with Cho Chang, to blast the Covered Bridge in order to prevent other attackers from getting further into the castle. The priority here, one can infer, is preventing greater damage and delaying the Dark Forces.

In all the scenes mentioned above, McGonagall’s character remains consistent. As I have argued earlier, she knows when to follow rules and when not to. Yet, the more important challenge is to define what guides McGonagall’s judgment, to dissect her criteria in making decisions, and, finally, to determine what rules are for her.

It seems to me that McGonagall takes the following into consideration:

1. The circumstances. Is it an ordinary day or do the times call for extra care or unusual measures? Is there an urgent issue that needs to be addressed?

Thus, she would scold late comers on a typical school day but will forgive them, even protect them, in life-and-death situations. It makes sense that in The Goblet of Fire she pleads to not let Harry compete in the Triwizard Tournament and in doing so challenges the rules of the game.

2. The nature of the rules. What are the rules in place? Are they reasonable? What values do these rules safeguard?

Seeing the flawed reasoning of Umbridge and the Ministry, she counters their efforts and protects those unfairly discriminated and punished by their unreasonable laws.

3. The motivation of the agent of action. What is the intention of the agent of action? Why did the person react that way?

Also, thinking that Ron and Harry only came to the aid of Hermione who thought of fighting the troll all by herself, she gives the two boys 5 points each but attributes the reward for “sheer dumb luck”. In this scene, we see her chastising her students but at the same time giving them due acknowledgement.

4. The action itself. Is it necessary? Did it solve any problem? Or did it only make matters worse?

I think this criterion is the reason why she scolds Neville for his careless act of writing down the passwords and eventually losing the copies. While Neville had not sacrificed the security of the school intentionally, his writing down of the passwords is not the last and only solution to his problem of forgetfulness. Indeed, had Neville been more focused on remembering the passwords, writing them down may not even be necessary.

5. The parties (to be) affected by the action. How will they be affected by the action? Is it fair for them to be affected in such a way?

When she lets Neville and Seamus blast the Hogwarts bridge, she allows part of the school to be destroyed even before the Death Eaters get to it. Hogwarts as an establishment is the aspect being sacrificed in this situation. But McGonagall seems to be right in this judgment because the school will be turned into a battlefield in just a few moments anyway. Also, by allowing this action, lives will be sacrificed. But these are the lives of those people who want to kill for the wrong reasons. Stopping these people seems necessary. The act then becomes self-defense.

Based on this explanation, what are rules for McGonagall?

It seems to me that, for her, rules are there to safeguard the welfare of people and, to put order in place, so that people will remain safe. Thus, she enforces them strictly in normal days. But, in special cases, she bends them in order to follow the essence of setting up rules. When the rules become a trap that brings harm instead of keeping people safe, she will not be afraid to break them.

I hope we can learn from the wise judgment of Prof. McGonagall because this skill can help us care for the people around us. It can help us be agents of other people’s growth because we will know when we should reprimand them and when to protect them, when we should teach a lesson and when to appreciate their goodness despite the seeming misbehavior.

With this lesson from our birthday celebrant, I will end my post. But, of course, not before I say, “Happy Birthday, Prof. McGonagall! Thank you for another significant lesson you have imparted to us.”

Stay Magical,
A. Featherquill

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My HP Character House Pride Honor Roll

Published September 8, 2013 by A. Featherquill

Just a few days ago, Pottermore held the House Pride week. The determined and ambitious Slytherins conquered the world on September 2 while the intelligent and creative Ravenclaws celebrated their individuality on September 3. The bold and daring Gryffindors painted the online community red…and gold on September 4. Finally, the just and humble Hufflepuffs showed their pride on September 5.

The House Pride week has likely inspired the Pottermore members (a.k.a Hogwarts students) to help make their respective houses win the 4th House Cup which will be awarded on September 12.

While everyone is in competition mode, I will take on a different route by remembering that, at the end of the day, the four houses must act as one.

We’ve seen it in the Battle of Hogwarts in The Deathly Hallows. Even non-Gryffindors had to be brave. Non-Ravenclaws had to muster all their wits and talents to outsmart their foes. Slytherins had to find their inner Hufflepuff and realize that they had to side on what’s fair and good.

To celebrate the greatness of each house and how the ideals of each make one a better wizard and contribute to a better Hogwarts, I will list down 10 characters who exemplified their house traits well at critical moments and another 5 who embodied not only the virtues of their house but also of other houses. Enjoy reading!

10 characters who exemplified their house traits well:

1. Cedric Diggory (Hufflepuff)
Cedric has shown his fairness many times during the Triwizard Tournament. While some students joined Draco in his campaign against Harry’s being an extra Hogwarts champion, Cedric remained nice to Harry. He gave Harry a tip on how to figure out the second task and, instead of taking the Triwizard Cup for himself, preferred to take it with Harry.

2. Molly Weasley (Gryffindor)
“Not my daughter, you B****!”

The epic line she said to Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort’s most obsessed and, in my opinion, one of the scariest and toughest Death Eaters.

Bellatrix has done a lot of damage: tortured Neville’s parents to madness, killed Sirius, tortured Hermione (good thing she escaped!), killed Dobby…

Mrs. Weasley must be really brave and bold to end this Death Eater’s life and call her – in her face – a b****.

3. Luna Lovegood (Ravenclaw)
If not for her, Harry may not have found Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem on time. This girl does know things that most do not.

4. Garrick Ollivander (Ravenclaw)
Every student must know Mr. Ollivander, the maker of fine wands. His passion for the art of wand-making reveals his being a Ravenclaw. He can tell the owner of a wand by examing it and seems to have memorized who has which.

This knowledge may have been abused by Voldemort, but Mr. Ollivander redeems himself by telling Harry that the allegiance of Draco’s wand has changed. This info will help Harry figure out that he is the master of the elder wand.

5. Minerva McGonagall (Gryffindor)
In the final movie, she protects Harry from Snape and duels with the latter. In the absence of a headmaster, she takes charge.

6. Ron Weasley (Gryffindor)
Who will ever forget his sacrifice during the living wizard’s chess? Ron proves that age doesn’t hinder one from being brave.

7. Severus Snape (Slytherin)
This half-blood truly did everything to prove his worth. His old Advanced Potion-Making book is a proof of his determination to be a great wizard. Plus, we’ve seen him work to land his dream job, the Defense Against the Dark Arts Post, after many disappointments.

8. Remus Lupin (Gryffindor)
He takes on a dangerous mission which leads him to face Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf who bit him. Facing the reason for your sad predicament is already difficult. Even more so when you have to spy on him and eventually ask him and his pack to ally with the good side.

9. Neville Longbottom (Gryffindor)
From standing up to his friends in the first book/movie to standing up to the Dark Lord. Remembering his moment in the final movie and in the 7th book still makes me feel high and giddy. I think no one needs any more convincing why it’s so courageous.

10. Harry Potter (Gryffindor)
This entry is so obvious. I really hope you are not disappointed, but I feel the need to acknowledge Harry’s bravery. Just because he’s the protagonist does not mean we have to exempt him from lists like this. Anyway, walking towards your death for the good of all really takes a huge amount of courage.

5 characters who also embody the virtues of other houses:

1. Intelligence: Hermione Granger
“It’s Wingardium LeviOsa, not Wingardium LevioSA!”

Hermione is the only one to execute that charm correctly at first try. Also, the only student to raise her hand for Snape’s every question during their first class. Intelligent and always prepared, Hermione is the brains of almost all of the trios plans. She may be in Gryffindor, but she can easily pass off as a Ravenclaw. No wonder the Sorting Hat had a hard time deciding where to place her.

2. Bravery: Severus Snape
Pretending to Voldermort that he’s spying on Dumbledore while really spying on the Dark Lord for the Order of the Phoenix is not a job for the fearful and the weak. I think Harry is right in telling his son that Severus Snape is probably the bravest man he has ever known.

3. Fairness and humility: Remus Lupin
His shabby robes and demeanor may conceal the intelligence that Remus Lupin has. But check his description in Pottermore and you’ll learn how brilliant he has been even as a child. He has been called a competent teacher by no less than Prof. McGonagall. Yet despite his ability, he has remained humble.

In his class, he reassures and encourages the underdogs to do better. Sometimes he even goes out of his way to teach them. Prof. Lupin will surely not brag about it, but we have to credit him for teaching Harry the Patronus Charm which has become the boy’s most mastered spell ever.

4. Ambition: Cedric Diggory
This may come as a surprise, but, after much reflection, I think it is not wrong to say that the fair and humble Cedric has ambition and determination. He is a prefect, a seeker, and one of the Hogwarts champions for the Triwizard Tournament.

That he has qualified or tried out for all these positions means that he does have some ambition for himself. Cedric proves that having ambition does not always go with being aggressive and sly.

5. Everything: Albus Dumbledore
Dare disagree? Dumbledore’s wisdom had been Harry’s guide for most of his growing years. He was the reason why a werewolf like Remus had the chance to enroll in school. He acknowledged Neville’s bravery even when it was not yet that obvious. When he was younger, he had been fascinated with Grindelwald who may have mirrored a secret thirst to show his brilliance to the world. But, as an older man, he sacrificed his life in order to prevent Voldermort from realizing his dark plans.┬áIndeed, no one represents Hogwarts better than a famous headmaster.

There you go! I’m sure you have other ideas in mind, too. Feel free to share them by commenting on this post.

Stay magical,
A. Featherquill

P.S. Continue showing your house pride by adding more points to your house in Pottermore.

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