Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 40

Chapter three is another short chapter but we get to see a bit more of Harry’s new lifestyle at the Dursleys’. Caleb came up with a really interesting question for you all.

When things aren’t looking good for Harry in terms of being able to go to the Quidditch World Cup, he deliberately name-drops Sirius to blackmail Vernon into letting him go.

Harry really starts to stand up for himself here with the Dursleys, with the ability to “threaten” them with the idea of Sirius. Would this have been possible without that crux? Would Harry have found that confidence without something with which to push back at the Dursleys?

Let us know your thoughts below and they just might be read out on the next episode of Alohomora! 

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  • HallowsMaster97

    Hmmm, this is a tough one Caleb.

    We do see Harry growing slightly more rebellious as the series goes by, for example, in PoA Harry literally did walk out on Vernon and Petunia. However, one could argue that Harry wasn’t thinking clearly because of his anger.

    I believe that Harry needed help to gain the confidence which he shows in this chapter. It was only because of Sirius that Harry was able to bring all his books and other school stuff into his room. The fact that he was allowed to study magic and contact Ron and Hermione helped a lot in building his confidence and raising his self esteem. Of course, all of that was only possible because Harry threatened the Dursleys with his murder convicted godfather. I really don’t see any other way that Harry could have gained this confidence without Sirius.

  • VoldiPhil

    A tricky question, indeed

    I think there are various reasons for Harrys enhanced confidence. On the one hand he simply gets older. He is now a 14 years old teenager and he is not afraid of the Dursleys at all, like he maybe was in book one or two.
    On the other hand Harry is in a very comfortable position. He is in contact with his friends, with Hagrid, Ron, Hermione and Sirius. So although he lives with the Dursleys over the summer he is still connected to the magical world.
    Nevertheless the fact that he can threaten the Dursleys with Sirius also helps him to gain confidence. It is simply his guarantee that the Dursleys don’t treat him (too) unjustly. He had a comparable guarantee before the Dursleys knew that he isn’t allowed to use magic in the vacation.

  • Jane

    I think Harry would have been able to find that confidence to stand up fully to the Dursley’s, but not until later in the series i think. By having someone that is there to look after him and only him, helped Harry to gain the confidence that he needed to be able to feel that he could stand up to the Dursley’s without being punished to severely. If Harry did the exact same thing in telling Vernon that he would go to the Quidditch World Cup without mentioning Sirius, he would have most likely been sent to his room without being allowed to leave. But having Sirius there to back him up, the Dursley’s felt that they need to let Harry do his thing or else face the wrath of his “evil, murdering, godfather”.

  • Jake Pontzer

    I think the growth of his confidence has come from his acquisition of friends and his own development over the last few years. I don’t even think he would have had the guts to threaten his uncle with Sirius if he hadn’t had some confidence to begin with.

    So I think we can thank his social acceptance at Hogwarts for this confidence more than anything/

  • Mischief Managed

    I think that Harry would have eventually stood up to the Dursleys without this crutch. However, I don’t think he would have at the time that he did. When he stands up to Vernon and brings up the Sirius thing, his main goal is “get permission to go to the world cup with the Weasleys”. Bringing up this veiled threat of Sirius is the best way to ensure that Vernon lets Harry go. I think, had it not been for Sirius, Harry would have tried the same approach he did last year when attempting to get his permission letter for Hogsmeade signed.

    However, Harry is getting to that age where kids start to question authority and be more bold in their speaking out against parents/teachers/other authority figures. So, I do think that Harry would have stood up to the Dursleys, eventually, without Sirius. Even if Vernon had said no to Harry going to the Quidditch World Cup, I have no doubt that Harry would have left when the Weasleys came to get him. He’d be free of the Dursleys and have until the NEXT summer to deal with the repercussions. I don’t think the promise of some kind of punishment nearly a full year in the future would have been nearly enough to keep Harry from standing up to the Dursleys and leaving for the World Cup.

  • Rebecca Haynes

    Here are a couple of my thoughts:
    I think a lot of this has to do with Harry’s growth and maturity. He is truly a teenage by the time Goblet starts and therefore cannot be as easily pushed around by the Dursleys. Also after all he has been through, especially at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is much more confident and the Dursleys cannot possibly seem as intimidating as they did at the before Harry went to Hogwarts. Facing the man who betrayed your parents is far more difficult than dealing with blustering Uncle Vernon.

    Also, I think that in the moment the threat of Sirus was a convenient solution to Harry’s dilemma. However, had he not been able to use Sirus I believe he would have still found another way to talk Vernon into letting him go, or would have just left on his own and taken the Knight Bus. It was not so much the knowing that he could threaten the Dursleys with Sirus that gave him the confidence, as much as it was having met Sirus. Sirus, combined with the Weasley parents and also to a certain extent Dumbledore, gave Harry the knowledge and confidence that he was being looked after and taken care of, and that he wasn’t somehow going to be abandoned at the Dursleys. Which is not how he felt in Chamber of Secrets when the Dursleys locked him up.

  • CarrieAnnaBanana

    Good question.. I tend to think though that Harry has had a pretty good amount of confidence from fairly early on. If he didnt, he never woulda gotten past Fluffy! What he has now though is a bargining chip. As is mentioned in other comments, we do see a confident Harry use this tactic before with the Dursleys. At the end of book 1 he says that he wont tell the Dursleys he cant use magic outside of school in order to have an easier summer, and again in book 3 he promises to go along with Vernon’s St Brutus story with Aunt Marge in order to get his Hogsmede slip signed.
    I believe that if Sirius wasn’t a factor, Harry would have found another “threat” and it probably would have gone something like this: “I’d better get back to writing to one of my parent’s best friends who likes to check up on me, see if I’m happy.. Did i mention he’s a warewolf?”

  • Nikki

    If we rewind back to before Harry knew anything about Hogwarts and before he knew he was a wizard, he was pretty much under the heel of the Durselys. If he’d never found out about his magical powers, I’m sure he would have remained as a meek person, afraid to stand up for the Dursleys. His ability to perform magic sets him apart from them, which begins to give him confidence during his summer vacations with them under the threat of using magic on Dudley, until of course they find out that he is not allowed to use magic outside of school. Even so, I believe that he needed this push, something to prove to him that he was special, in order to give him the later boost of confidence with Sirius and Harry’s blackmailing toward the Dursleys. Without Black as a crux, I believe Harry would still have had the confidence to stand up to the Dursleys, as this confidence was already building up prior to GoF, but Harry would have needed to find some other way to keep the Dursleys off his back. Perhaps some manipluation about how he didn’t get in trouble for blowing up Aunt Marge the previus year, and that he has some special status with the Ministry of Magic.

  • FeatherSickle7662

    I think that with Harry being a teenager this ‘attitude’ per se is obviously a factor in his new found confidence. I think perhaps if Sirius had not been in the picture, Harry would have been able to find another outlet to ‘threaten’ the Dursleys. He could have perhaps told them about how he had a werewolf for a teacher or perhaps let them know he was on a first name basis with Fickle Fudge as I like to call him, and that Fudge told him he was now allowed to use magic outside of school. If Harry didn’t have these things, I think perhaps he would of had a bit more of a boost in snarkiness than before, but most definitely not as much as the way Joann wrote it.

  • Mary Egan

    While Sirius is a good blackmail chip to have in his back pocket, I think a lot of this could be chalked up to Harry growing into a teenager. He’s fourteen now and that’s when talking back/attitude usually starts to show up in kids. So, although the whole Sirius thing might be what pushed Harry to be more courageous/gutsy when talking back to Vernon, it might just be a puberty thing. Either way, I love sassy!Harry.

    Also, Harry has now been out of his cupboard, out of number 4 Privet Drive, and has realized there’s a whole, wide world out there — and a wizarding world, to boot! With that knowledge, the Dursleys probably don’t seem as scary or intimidating as they did when Harry was 11 years old living in a cupboard under the stairs. Now that he’s been on his own and has even defeated Voldemort (albeit, in various diminished states of being), he’s feeling more confident with his aunt and uncle.

  • Rebecca Haynes

    Another thought, how Vernon chose to deal with the letter was very different than in previous books. When the letters from Hogwarts arrive in Sorcerer’s Stone the Dursleys immediately prevented Harry from reading the letter, and even in Chamber of Secrets they did not imagine that anyone would be nervous (as the Weasleys were) if they didn’t hear from Harry from over a month.

    However, at this point even though Harry does not talk about his Hogwarts life it must have become clear to them that Harry had a life in the wizarding world and people he was connected to, the Weasleys had already helped him escape, and ministry wizards showed up to fix Aunt Marge. Vernon could have just thrown the letter out, but he knew that this, “dumpy sort of woman,” would likely cause issues for the Dursleys if she was unable to contact Harry, and the last thing he wanted was fully grown wizards showing up on his door and turning them all into pigs. This already gave Harry a crux in his conversation with Vernon, even if Sirius had not been involved.

  • FawkesFan

    Like you said in the podcast, Jo seemed to gain confidence in herself and her storytelling in GoF. I think this confidence spilled over on to the pages and into Harry. Also, Harry has had to endure way more than any 14 year old should have to and so I think this also gives him confidence to stand up to the Dursleys. I mean what could Vernon do to Harry compared to Voldemort? Sit on him? For these reasons I don’t think Harry needed the threat of Sirius. That was just the icing on the CAKE! (pun inteneded)

  • eriseddream

    Harry did not need the threat of Sirius in order to stand up to the Dursleys, however I believe that Harry enjoyed using it against them. At 14 Harry has been through so much and been faced with many a menacing presence. I think that the reality of how futile Vernon’s threats are and how little power and influence they have over him have dawned on Harry at this stage. There was really no question of whether the Muggles would “allow” him to go to the World Cup. The Weasleys were coming regardless. Harry just used the ominous threat of a murderous over protective father to torment the Durselys, much like they have tormented him in the past. It’s revenge time!

  • Mike Rohrssen

    I think this growing up of Harry started when he walked out of the Dursley’s after he blew up Aunt Marge. It was the first time he really stood up for himself, and plus he was able to gain access to the wizarding world by himself via use of the Knight Bus. I’m pretty sure that Harry would have been able to get to the Burrow regardless of whether or not Vernon gave permission. I think the use of Sirius as a crux is just something to let the Dursley’s know that he does have other people that care about him, since they have always seemed to question if he’s had that at school.

  • RaRaRavenclaw15

    As everyone is pretty much saying here, I think the reduction in Harry’s fear of the Dursley’s is the byproduct of his getting older. However, in regards to the actual question being posed, I don’t think Harry’s confidence is based upon his having Sirius to use a threat. I think Harry has already gained a lot of confidence throughout the last three books by being at Hogwarts where he has people who care for and love him and where he is good at things other than being quiet and running away from Dudley (Quidditch, Defense Against the Dark Arts, etc).

    I think he would have still stood up to Uncle Vernon even without Sirius to use as a threat because of this ever-growing confidence. Whether he would have been as successful without the “my godfather might show up and hex all of you” argument is less certain.

  • CentaurSeeker121

    I really do like this question. It is because of Sirius that Harry has everything he needs to do all of his homework in his room. Also, Dudley is forced to go on his diet Harry immediately sends letter to all of his friends and they manage to save him by sending him “real food” so he does not go hungry. I think that this helps him realize even more that he has people in the magical world that care for him which I somehow think that it helps boost Harry’s confidence. Plus, by this time (as has been mentioned before) Harry has already gone through several events that no kid his age should have to go through. I am sure that having to face Uncle Vernon is probably a lot less scary than say having to face dozens of dementors and having to hear your parents’ dying voices.
    I also agree that while dropping Sirius’s name does make for a good blackmailing chip that he didn’t necessarily NEED it, it was just the icing on the cake. The Dursley’s know that ever since Harry’s 11th birthday he has somehow found his way to Hogwarts no matter what they’ve had to say about the subject. Hagrid comes to get him on his 11th birthday in book 1 even though the Dursley’s tried to prevent him from reading the letters. The Weasley’s came to his rescue in book 2 even after they put bars on his window. He blows up Aunt Marge and walks out in book 3 and now here we have the Weasley’s preparing to come and get him regardless in book 4. I am sure that even if Harry did not have the, “my godfather will hear about this” crux he could have come up with something. The simple mention that Arthur Weasley worked for the wizarding government might have been enough with there being no need to mention in exactly what department he worked in may have worked on its own. I also think the whole, “oh by the way I happen to have this friend who just happens to be a Werewolf” and the whole, “do you remember my friend Hagrid the GIANT?” thing would have worked too (I do not think the Dursley’s would have needed to know that Hagrid was only half-giant.)

  • MrMagic24

    I personally don’t feel that Harry’s confidence in rebelling against the Dursleys is due to Sirius. Sirius is simply the specific threat Harry uses- however, Harry himself is the one with growing resistance. His threatening to use magic on the Dursleys in the past served the same purpose- yet I never believed Harry was given strength from the possibility of turning Dudley into a pig, or from the threat of doing it. Instead, both the threats of magic and Sirius represent Harry’s cleverness as he made the most of his unfortunate situation. The threats he used specifically don’t seem that important, and could have been replaced by a variety of things.