Of bullies and tyrants (Part I)

Note: This article is part of the series ‘Is Harry Potter A Series For Kids?’

Bullying is something which many of us have faced in our lives. Bullies, they exist everywhere. In so-called high societies and also in lowest of low classes. Especially in today’s age  of internet, a bully could be anyone… That cute guy who sits besides you in class or your newest bestie or that creep who harasses you as you walk back home. Internet provides anonymity. There are countless faceless strangers out there who love to bully and intimidate people. It gives them a sense of power when they see that their victim is scared of them.

There is a thin line between teasing and bullying.Teasing is something which all of us indulge in. The basic intent of teasing someone is having fun and not intimidating or making that person uncomfortable. Bullying on the other hand is making fun of someone with an intention of making that person feel bad or purposely saying or doing something that makes the target uncomfortable.

Internet defines bullying as “Use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something.” 

‘Knew!’ shrieked Aunt Petunia suddenly. ‘Knew! Of course we knew! How could  you not be, my dratted sister being what she was? Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that – that school – and came home every holiday with her pockets full of frog – spawn, turning teacups into rats.I was the only one who saw her for what she was – a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!…’                                                                      – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry has faced several bullies throughout all the seven books. His uncle, aunt and cousin bullied him since he was a baby. Initially we all thought that maybe Petunia did not like her sister Lily and she was jealous of the fact that their parents seemed to favor Lily more than her and so she was reluctant to accept Harry as her own. But in the chapter The Prince’s Tale we realize that Petunia was jealous, jealous of the fact that  Lily was a magical child who could go and attend Hogwarts whereas she herself could not. Lily was special and she was not. It was jealousy that made her bully her sister’s only son. Sister, who she perhaps very deep down in her heart loved and was actually sad that she had died.

While growing up she and Lily had been best of friends, who stood up for each other, who faced that Snape boy together. Lily clearly adored her older sister and Petunia was  extremely possessive about Lily. But it was Petunia’s stupid jealousy that ruined such a beautiful relationship.  Instead of accepting the fact that she was not magical and feeling happy for her sister, she convinced herself that Lily was a freak. She did not have the guts to face  the reality and so she buried all her love and affection under the negative feeling of hatred. So it was jealousy that made her bully and trouble Harry.

Uncle Vernon was a muggle i.e. he came from a world where no magic existed. He only knew that his wife had a sister who was magical and that any mention of that sister upsets his wife.He had no connection with Lily and since he did not know Lily at all, he did not have any reason to hate Harry. So why did he bully Harry? I think the reason was that he feared Harry and his powers. I think he was afraid that if Harry was allowed to remain happy and free, his magical abilities would flourish and  could become  a threat for him and his family. So he tried to keep Harry as miserable as possible, hoping that would squash magic out of Harry. So all in all it was fear that made Uncle Vernon a bully.

And Dudley? He grew up in a household where a child was constantly bullied and troubled. He had seen his parents  trouble and taunt and punish his cousin Harry for no apparent reasons. He grew up with the assumption that it is OK to bully people. He grew up with the assumption that bullying is the only way in which  you can assert power and show your strength. So Dudley became a bully because no one taught him that it is a wrong thing to do.

I believe this is what Prof. Dumbledore was referring  to when he uttered the following sentences.

“Dumbledore paused, and although his voice remained light and calm, and he gave no obvious sign of anger, Harry felt a kind of chill emanating from him and noticed that the Dursleys drew very slightly closer together.
“You did not do as I asked. You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you.”
― Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Half – Blood Prince)

To be continued…

For the second part of this article click here.

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