Podcast Question Of The Week – Episode 88

The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of a vital importance – sure, but what is Umbridge up to?

Hem, hem. Excuse me, I have a toad in my throat.

In this chapter, we officially meet Ministry of Magic Senior Undersecretary to the Minister Dolores Umbridge – who has just been appointed as the new DADA teacher. She gives quite the “illuminating” speech to staff and students alike. What was the speech to accomplish? Whom was she most speaking to? What did she expect to get out of it, if anything?

Leave us your response below & we just might read them on the next episode of Alohomora!

  • JeffDowning

    The speech was directed at the staff,albiet in an indirect manner, to let them know that Hogwarts will not go unchecked by the MoM. Umbridge was most certainly giving a message to Dumbledore and his loyal staff, while at the same time trying to engender obedience of the students to the Ministry. She is a bureaucrat who worships the cult of personality that is Cornelius Fudge, which blinds her to the fact that her sycophantic message is falling on deaf ears…aside from Filch, of course.

    • WingardiumedPhoenix

      I can agree in the most part, however, umbridge doesn’t only ‘worship’ fudge, but has utter belief in the idea that the MoM holds power, that the ‘fudge cult’ (if that’s what you want to call it – I don’t particularly agree) is superior to those that wish to hold a different belief.

      • JeffDowning

        I am not trying to say Fudge is a cult leader, but that Umbridge has created this “cult of personality” around him. Her dedication is to the MoM; Fudge is the head of the MoM; therefore her unfettered dedication is to Fudge. She is willing to act to serve him, even when it might put others at risk or be illegal. Her unfaltering dedication to do what she believes that Fudge would want, leads her to act in a horrible manner.

  • WingardiumedPhoenix

    I believe that Umbridge was speaking to Dumbledore, primarily, but as an extension, his school. Her message was a warning, even a threat, that the ministry was in charge and would go to all measures to keep it looking that way.

  • harrypotterfan101

    I think, because she was working for the Ministry of Magic, she was trying to introduce some of their ideas to the staff and students. She was mostly speaking to the staff, and she was trying to get the staff to agree with her so they would back her up.

  • Hufflepug

    The most powerful part of Umbridge’s otherwise bland speech was the simple fact that she interrupted Dumbledore to make it. She may be a toad of a person but she’s not stupid, which leads me to believe that she knew what interrupting the headmaster meant and did it to imply that she and the Ministry were at least equal to him in terms of power, so in that sense the speech was directed mostly at him. As for the students, she wanted to try to discredit Dumbledore in the eyes of those who still believed him by showing that he wasn’t the only voice of authority at the school. But I think all her speech *actually* did for most students was show that they would definitely, definitely not become “good friends.”

  • silverraven

    I believe that Umbridge was most definitely speaking to the staff about how she will not be over rule by anyone not even the headmaster and how the ministry as the control now not them. She does it in font of the student to truly show how much power she got instead of say, doing it in the staff room. She knows most of the student will not listen or care about what she saying but it does show them that she is not to be messed with.

    So this hole speech is purely a power play for Hogwarst politics.

  • AccioPotassium!

    There are two different meanings behind Dolores Umbridge’s speech, which was directed towards the two opposing ideas about the current state of the wizarding world. Her first demographic was the students of Hogwarts who did not believe in the second coming of the Dark Lord. She wanted to comfort these students by ensuring that the Ministry of Magic is on their side, and that the Ministry would protect the students from the radical ideas of her fellow staff members at Hogwarts. The second demographic is mostly directed towards the school’s faculty. She wanted to make sure that they knew that the Ministry of Magic is always watching them, and that the ministry would not accept any illegal activity from the headmaster.

  • thegiantsquid

    Umbridge is awful, so I immediately wanted to attack her for being a selfish jerk, but then I remembered the discussion about her and casting a Patronus. Patronus casting requires purity of heart, and Umbridge genuinely, sincerely, wholeheartedly believes she is doing the right thing. She is addressing the student body to perpetuate the idea of the Ministry being the ultimate, competent authority in these confusing times, and the indirect slights toward the school administration stems from her genuine belief that they are wrong and trying to spread propaganda in the student body. She usurps Dumbledore’s speech as a way of demonstrating the authority of the Ministry over the authority of Hogwarts and Dumbledore, but Dumbledore’s polite reaction almost nullifies this intention. I am sure that she hopes that the other professors with rally with her by sticking to the “facts” of the matter and showing that the Ministry is really stepping in and “caring” about the education there, though how she says this is interesting. I noticed on this read through that she begins her speech with very positive (though probably revolting-sounding) statements to the students about how they’ll all be friends. I think she sincerely believes this. I think she really believes that her teaching career will be a huge success and that the students will like her for restoring order. After she says this, her voice takes on a “dull learned-by-heart sound” and she makes the textbook speech about Ministry involvement in wizarding education. Why does she sound this way, I wonder?
    I think Umbridge is much more complex than I’ve previously considered, and I’m interested to learn more about her in this read through and the Alohomora! discussions.

  • WizardorWhat

    I think we might be giving too much credit to Umbridge in assuming that the speech was her idea. I think that the speech has been instigated by Fudge as his message to Dumbledore, the staff, the pupils, and (indirectly) the parents and thus the wizarding world. Up until the speech, for all anyone knew, Umbridge was just there as a DADA teacher in the face of Dumbledore’s inability to find a suitable candidate. Umbridge’s speech establishes a few things for the very first time:

    a. that she’s more than a DADA teacher, that her mission is to change the fundamental direction of the school.
    b. that she’s not there in a personal capacity – she’s there to represent the Ministry/Fudge,
    c. that the ministry are interfering at Hogwarts.

    Why would she/Fudge want this to be established? Two reasons. Firstly, since they want the kids to spy for her, they needs to establish her credentials as a senior ministry operator (otherwise, what’s the point in them coming to her with anything). Secondly, she wants staff to obey her – again, this needs her to have credentials beyond being a mere stand-in teacher.

    People have rightly pointed out that she threw down the gauntlet by interrupting Dumbledore’s speech. I think that she did this to emphasise that she was opposed to Dumbledore, and that she had authority of her own.

    • Olivia Underwood

      Hit the nail on the head here, Umbridge is not giving a speech, she’s giving a warning. It’s an open threat and intimidation tactic and I think is purely aimed at Dumbledore. She didn’t need to persuade or gain anything here, she was purely making her presence known, or rather the Ministry’s presence in Hogwarts known and like you said, exploiting this image to the public. She’s Fudge’s front man (or er woman) and this speech is pure gold for power-hungry Umbridge at this stage.

  • GingerPuff

    I agree with most of what’s said regarding Umbridge’s motivations so far, but I have one additional perspective: I think this speech has a lot to do with her own ego. We see later in the book that she accuses McGonagal of wanting to be ‘Deputy Headmistress and Undersecretary to boot!’ which to me makes it clear that she places a lot of value on her own position: it is one of the ways she defines herself and she’s very pleased with it. In short, I think she’s swinging her ‘wand’ around showing not only her own authority but her sense of self-righteousness.

  • Mama_Slytherin

    I believe her speech was directed at the staff mainly, but the ultimate reason for it was simply her personality coming into play. She is very self-important and I think she honestly assumed that as a new staff member and being her of all people she deserved the lime light and time for a speech. In her mind, if she started out the year by being “dominate” over the other staff and even Dumbledore (by interrupting) she would have the upper hand and place of importance. Almost like how a dominate dog will demand that the “lower” dogs around them roll over and show their belly or give first spot over for food/play. This was Umbridges way of letting everyone – staff and students – know that she wanted them to roll over. I think she expected it to work, and in her mind she thought it did. Hence her rather surprised attitude when not everyone just rolls over and praises her awesomeness.

  • QuibbleQuaffle

    I agree that a lot of the speech was directed towards the teachers, but I do think that also she was setting herself up for the students as a new authority figure to replace Dumbledore. I don’t think Fudge and Umbridge ever planned on letting Dumbledore remain in control of Hogwarts in the long term. With many students and their parents believing Dumbledore’s mad or lying Umbridge knows she has a weak point to shoehorn her way in to a position of power. She also knows that many students will have parents who’ll work for the ministry and therefore know her either in person or by reputation. We know that lots of students like Marietta Edgecombe and Cho Chang (and Ron by Percy) are later warned to keep in Umbridge’s good books, and I get the feeling that Umbridge would have at least some sort of idea of the extra authority her reputation at the ministry could earn her over the students. And in the long run if the ministry’s plan is to get rid of Dumbledore and reinvent Hogwarts it’ll be easy if she has support of students and also the parent governers and stuff

  • PuffNProud

    First, I think that there are a few things we need to consider – the Ministry and in particular Fudge are politicians and obsessed with quashing the opposition and controlling the message. Dumbldore is a perceived threat and opposition to Fudge. Taking away his headmastership is the only thing he couldn’t do to Dumbledore by himself, after having removed his order of merlin, wizengamot appointment, etc and disparaging him in the Daily Prophet. Second, Fudge has essentially been controlling the message through the Prophet, parent to student. Umbridge’s appointment is meant to support both of these goals – gather evidence to remove Dumbledore and further control the message, but this way from students back to parents. Thus, Umbridge’s speech is meant to both ingratiate herself to the students and staff (I believe she has no intention or desire to be friends with the students, they are means to help her gather evidence and gain her end) and to let anyone know that going against her is going against the Ministry and by association, Fudge.

  • Silverdoe25

    I agree with several other comments that Umbridge’s speech was meant as a first step toward subjugating Dumbledore’s authority in the school. On page 211 of the hardcover US edition, it talks about the reaction of the teachers, how no teacher had ever interrupted Dumbledore before, and how this new teacher obviously didn’t know how things were done at Hogwarts.

  • dustcharm

    I really do think that speech she gave was all, or at least mostly, for Dumbledore. I think that knowing what we do about how Fudge is worried Dumbledore is trying to take over, and that Umbridge is essentially his puppet, I think Umbridge was making a statement for Dumbledore. She interrupts him so he knows she will be having some high authority in this school. I think that was half of her message in itself. I suppose it also makes a statement to everyone else too, though, because it’s saying something like “I’m so important that I can interrupt the Headmaster, so you should recognize my authority.” She gives this silly little speech to make the statement that the Ministry does have authority further in Hogwarts and will be interfering, as Hermione summarizes. She’s telling Dumbledore, and the other teachers for that matter, that there will be change.

    But I have also said in the forums that I think much of Umbridge’s actions are for her own gain and that I think she is a very self-serving person. This, coupled with the fact that she truly believes what she is doing is the “right” thing, makes for a dangerous combination. I think she enjoys being in charge in the school because she can help squash out these ideas that Voldemort has returned, because this is a problem for the Ministry, and Umbridge does not want the Ministry being torn apart. I think she has big plans for what she’d like to do in the Ministry, and she’d be justified, of course, because she’s part of the government. But she needs to help discredit people like Dumbledore and even Harry, who might have the ability to put a wrench in her plans.

  • Andrew Handel

    The speech Umbridge makes is more of a warning shot at the feet of Hogwarts. The staff is all there as are the students so it seems that this is as much of a dictation to them that magic run rampant will not go unpunished.
    I think the speech was also more “illuminating” because of the fact the Ministry has been so uninvolved especially where Hogwarts is concerned due to the past Fudge’s adoration of Dumbledore. Never in the series has the Ministry been so forward and intrusive in a way that will hinder the wizarding world. They have always maintained a stance of minor annoyance but no harm no foul, now they are stepping toes and they have sent Umbridge as the general to lead charge.
    She is also trying to create an authority that was never really there during the residing of Fudge, because they would like the students to remain loyal to the Ministry and not of the school. We know that Fudge has become paranoid and believes Dumbledore to be creating an army to over throw the Ministry for power with these students. He is trying to establish a credited foothold in the school and Umbridge seems like one of the only people in the current administration who isn’t afraid to push against Dumbledore.

  • Resonant Curse

    I quite agree with all the points of view, but I also think that Umbrige wanted to speak to the students, and begin to settle a relation between her and the students.Remember that she was saying “I am very very much looking forward to getting to know you all and I’m sure we’ll be very good friends!”. And she reuses the word “friend” in the next chapter when she said : “If someone is alarming you with fibs about reborn Dark wizards, I would like to hear about it. I am here to help. I am your friend.” She is trying to make the students feeling confident, to spy them. (And that works very well with Marietta and the DA)
    That rejoins AccioPotassium opinion.