image

Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 91

It’s one of the philosophical questions of Potter this week, that old Good and Evil debate raging on, this time focussing on one of our most difficult characters:

Sirius says that “The world is not split into good people and Death Eaters,” but we want to know whether Umbridge would make a good Death Eater. Would Voldemort even want her to be involved, or is she too egotistical and ambitious to work well as a subordinate? Is she truly a ‘bad guy’, and if so, what does it mean if she’s not fighting for Voldemort’s side?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and tune in to episode 92 to see if your ideas are discussed on the show!

  • she is, indeed, a bad guy….i mean, duh :) but, i agree…if she were enlisted as a death eater she’d either attempt a coup, or be executed by Voldemort in a verrrry short amount of time. I personally think she has a chemical imbalance: She blatantly enjoyed the pain of others in a way that made the dark lord seem downright tolerable. She’d never be a true subordinate for long; she was working without Fudge’s or the schools interests in mind after one measly semester. I agree with Sirius’ quote: the world isn’t divided into just good people & death eaters….there’s a whole sick center in between. It’s like prisoners that kill child molesters when they arrive in jail. If Voldy didn’t take her out, another death eater would kill her.

  • internetmaster1 .

    There’s something every Harry Potter fan or even just those reading or watching it have to understand: Sirius is right. It means you don’t have to fight for Voldemort to be evil. You don’t have to be a death eater to be evil. What Umbridge means and a lot of other characters means to the Harry Potter universe is that they’ll do everything to follow the rules of the Ministry of Magic. The Ministry of Magic trough the years has become corrupted and a lot of witches and wizards kept working. And there are a lot of those characters there, they’re almost as evil as the death eaters. To me their way of thinking is even worse than the way death eaters think. Because they convice themselves that everything is in order, that the ministry of magic is in control of everything, that everyone should follow these horrible rules. And what’s even worse their way of thinking can be very much clouded or they can know that the dark wizards are in control. But it doesn’t matter because they’ll still be working for the ministry of magic. There a lot of characters that took years to admit that Voldemort was back and he’s pulling the strings behind their backs. If you don’t admit voldemort is in control you can be even worse than a death eater. A fool can be really dangerous to the magic world , even if they don’t follow voldemort steps. And Umbridge is one of the most evil characters out there, not because of death eaters, not because of Voldemort. But because she wants to have ORDER. And what they call order is a very bad thing.

  • DisKid

    I think Umbridge’s problem is she likes to be the one who is in charge and she also does not want to be the one to directly murder anyone. Being a death eater would require she not only torture people, she’d have to murder them as well. She seems to love torture, but I don’t think she cares for murder so much. She’s different from Bellatrix who sadistically loves to torture, then she’ll kill you. Umbridge only tortures. Her reasons for that, I have no idea. She would also be in submission to Voldemort. I don’t think she likes the idea of doing whatever her “master” tells her to or even having a master.

    In other words, I think she’d be a terrible death eater. She’d have trouble with murder and she’d probably get herself killed by Voldemort by wanting to overrule him.

  • I actually don’t think Umbridge would ever want to be a Death Eater. She seems to believe that the highest power in the world is the Minister of Magic, whoever the Minister of Magic may be at the time. The show has discussed previously Umbridge’s ability to produce a Patronus and a certain “pureness” of character that this ability seems to suggest. She believes wholeheartedly in the Minister and whatever the Minister believes in. If the Minister believes Harry Potter is telling horrible lies and must be stopped, then he must be stopped in any way possible (even if she has to do it in a way that the minister might not approve of). If he believes that muggleborns steal magic and have to be punished, then she’ll happily join the cause.* Voldemort, however, isn’t Minister of Magic, so she would never do anything for him or lower her position in the world to be a Death Eater, when she’s Senior Undersecretary to the Minister (even if the Minister is not-so-secretly a puppet for Voldemort).

    *nb: Until I started laying out my thoughts for this question, I always assumed that Umbridge had always been working, to steal another character’s catchphrase. for the Greater Good. Her Greater Good. In this book, it’s revealed that she hates “half human” creatures and this seems to align well with her job as the “head of the muggle-born registration commission” in Deathly Hollows, however, she buys the locket to fake her “pure blood” lineage sometime between the end of the 5th book and the summer after the 6th book. She would’ve been far prouder of her “Selwyn” (“The S stands for Selwyn”pg 261 of the US ed. Deathly Hallows) ancestry, and far more prejudiced against Hermione in Order of the Phoenix, if she’d always felt so strongly about full-human blood purity. Her actions in the 7th book are indicative of someone jumping on the bandwagon, but if she’s not directly in support of Voldemort, one can only conclude that she’s jumped onto the bandwagon of… the new Minister.

    • DolphinPatronus

      I think your first comment here says it all. She has no problem sneaking behind her bosses’ backs to do what she wants the way she sees fit & not only would that not fly with the Dark Lord it would without a doubt get her killed. Voldemort wants all the power & authority he’s not going to share it with her. Heck, even the people he has in positions of higher authority take orders from him even if it is by means of an Unforgivable Curse.

  • Hufflepug

    Anybody who is willing to torture children is truly a bad guy (I hate to get all moralistic but we can probably all agree on this), so there’s no doubt about that part of Umbridge’s character. But I don’t think she’d make a good Death Eater because she would never be devoted to Voldemort enough. We’ve seen him kill people for not putting their entire lives into his cause and he only ever praises those whom he sees as his most loyal followers (Wormtail, Malfoy, Snape, etc.) Umbridge, on the other hand, is almost a complete avatar of the Ministry so her opinions throughout the series change exactly as the Ministry’s do, from denying Voldemort in this book all the way to overseeing Muggleborn trials in Deathly Hallows. Voldy wouldn’t fly with that wishy-washiness. I think she’s the kind of person that could easily be brainwashed into becoming a Death Eater had her past been a little different but by this point in her life the Ministry has already taken over her mind and so she’s more inclined to follow their corruption than Voldemort’s. If she HAD become a Death Eather, her ambition would have gotten her killed very quickly.

    Also, regarding Eric’s comment about her wearing Slytherin’s locket, she didn’t know that it had part of Voldemort’s soul in it. She might have known that it was important… maybe… but it was more of a symbol of her pureblood heritage that she probably wanted to rub in the Muggleborns’ faces.

  • SpectacularlyHypothetical

    I always thought that Umbridge represented “the banality of evil”. The phrase was coined by philosopher Hannah Arendt after witnessing the trial of high-ranking Nazi Adolf Eichmann who seemed, at least to Arendt, to be the most mundane of individuals whose evil acts were driven by the requirements of the state and orders from above. Umbridge’s ordinariness is stressed throughout Order of the Phoenix, she is not a witch of any particular skill, and she is actually rather boring. She has a fondness for pink (according to Pottermore a distinctly un-magical colour) and cutesy pictures of cats, these both have stereotypical associations with femininity and save a double purpose of hiding her unpleasant inner personality, but also associate her with boringness and ordinariness.

    Here is a woman who is not a psychopath or mentally unstable, she is a woman who does not question. She believes what she is told by “authority” and will operate within the parameters set by such authority. Her setting the dementors on Harry at the beginning of OotP is perfectly in step with this outlook, she heard Fudge’s need for a way to discredit Harry, she acted and it didn’t matter how illegal or immoral it was, it was an order (or as good as).

    I do not think that Umbridge actually enjoyed the acts of emotional and physical abuse she inflicted on others for their own sake (as Voldemort does). What she enjoys is the carrying out of what seems to her to be her duty. I think Umbridge is not a psychopath (one who enjoys inflicting pain and suffering on others) but a sociopath (one who is not aware of the suffering she inflicts upon others).

    So in answer to the question, I think Umbridge could make a serviceable Death Eater, as long as she was confident she was following authority. In DH we see her essentially becoming a Death Eater in all but name, she behaves exactly as a Death Eater would, because that is the law.

    • I’m not quite sure her “evil” acts were requirements of the state. All of the very sadistic things she does, her quill, using crucio on Harry, sending the Dementers, were done without the approval or knowledge of Fudge. She does enjoy them, too, when she’s about to use the Cruciatus Curse, Harry notices a”nasty, eager, excited look on her face” (US 746). With all of those acts, if she’s not acting outside the parameters of her authority, she’s certainly stretching them.

      I think this is a wonderful theory, though, and I love that you’re making another connection between WWII and the second war in the Wizarding world. Even though she does like doing all of these horrible things, none of the belief systems she’s working for are her own. She’s just a woman who gets caught up in all of these horrible politics, sadistic though she is on her own terms. I wonder what she would have been like if somebody like Dumbledore had been Minister. Would she have taken on his views of peace and tolerance? Would she have pursued “tolerance” by being violent to those she perceived as intolerant?

  • AccioPotassium!

    If we examined Professor Dolores Jane Umbridge‘s character, we would find that she has many of the qualifications for this radical movement. Dolores Umbridge already believes in some of the Dark Lord’s ideologies about blood, and she has deeply held beliefs about the inferiority of half-breeds. She is shown to be completely loyal to those in a higher position of power. This holds true even with overwhelming evidence of the contrary that the movement is wrong. Dolores Umbridge will go to great lengths to complete the orders of the dictated power, and will gladly step over traditional guide lines to complete such tasks. She has a strong desire to gain power in the wizarding world, and she has no problem with inflicting torture or soul death among her enemies to acquire such a powerful position in government.
    So with the given evidence, I think she would have been a great Death Eater.

  • WizardorWhat

    To me, the Death Eaters are characterised by a belief in racial superiority, a fascination with dark magic, and a mixture of ruthlessness and sadism. I think that Umbridge has all of these, but not to the same extent as the Death Eaters, which I suspect is why she is very much in the second tier of Voldemort’s regime in the 7th book.

    The chapter in which we learn most about Umbridge is chapter 32 of OOTP (‘Out of the Fire’), when she talks to herself and deals with the ‘moral’ quandary of, having caught Harry in her fireplace, deciding whether or not to torture him. She starts off by just asking him to whom he was speaking – and he refuses. Her next step is to ask Snape to give her veritaserum – and Snape refuses. Only then does she consider the use of the cruciatus curse, and backs down when Hermione offers to tell the truth. Her explanation for using the cruciatus curse is that the ends justify the means, and that she has no other choice. She clearly remains uneasy with it, speaking quietly, ‘moving restlessly’, and leaving the door open for one of the kids to spill the beans and save her from the need to torture Harry.

    I think that this reveals a lot about how she thinks. Her philosophical outlook is a mixture of a big personal commitment to the ministry de jour, and racism – I think she believes in both of these whole-heartedly, and is willing to do anything to pursue them. However, we also see that she doesn’t use dark magic except as a last resort. Thus she doesn’t gratuitously torture Harry. I think it’s also notable that she doesn’t put Harry into ‘detention’ (read slice open his hand) as a first resort – and in fact she doesn’t often give him detentions (I think only two or three times) – though each time she does it she does it for a week. This is what sets her apart from the Death Eaters – willing to be unpleasant, and willing to pursue dark ends though she is, she does her best to use what she sees as proportionate means, and seems to shun gratuitous evil.

    That said, it’s also clear that she enjoys inflicting pain. We see this in Harry’s ‘detentions’, and when she’s considering using the cruciatus curse, we’re told that ‘[t]here was a nasty, eager, excited look on her face that Harry had never seen before’. Perhaps, had Voldemort’s regime lasted longer, she would have developed this sadistic side of her personality, abandoned her restraint, and become a full-blown Death Eater.

    • GinnyWeasley002

      All wonderful points, WizardorWhat! The one thing that always convinced me that Umbridge was just as — if not more — evil than some of the Death Eaters was the fact that she even CONSIDERED the Cruciatus Curse as a 3rd resort. Though we have been a bit desensitized to it’s use over the books, it is Unforgivable. When I first read this as a young teenager I was horrified that she would threaten it.

      You say that she never uses dark magic except as a last resort, however, I see that not so much as her having a MORAL dispute with dark magic, but as her trying to keep up her cover. We do know that the ministry is very corrupt, however, it certainly wouldn’t look good for her to be using an Unforgivable on a student, nor could school officials and ministry officials tolerate it, hence her flipping over Fudge’s picture and saying: “What the minister doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”

      I firmly believe that it is only her desire to work within the system (and push the limits to the maximum and beyond) that kept her from more consistent use of dark magic. Do you kind of get what I’m saying? Anyway, again, fantastic post! I had never considered her in that light before!

      • WizardorWhat

        I suppose it depends on whether you think (as I do) that she was talking to herself in Ch 32, or whether she was speaking to the students around her (DA members plus her Inquisitorial Squad). If she’s speaking to her audience, then it could be that she always wanted to torture Harry but wanted to appear reluctant. But I see it as an attempt to resolve her own personal quandary.

        My main reason for believing that is that, as you say, she’s committing an offence which if detected will get her sent to Azkaban for life. This isn’t something which you can say ‘well the ends justified the means’ about and avoid trouble. Attempting to explain her actions to the public/her supporters therefore won’t achieve very much. I suppose, however, that she might be counting on a Crouch-style tolerance of dark magic in pursuit of Ministry goals, but that would be a hell of a gamble.

        • GinnyWeasley002

          That is a very good point! I really had had no idea previously that she was such a complex character. I tend to see black and white, so I love the chance to talk to fans like you that help me see the gray!

          I could see it both ways, honestly. She seems plenty twisted to have always wanted to torture Harry (and in fact, in a slightly more legal and slightly less painful way, she already HAS been torturing Harry, and, according to the book, she was quite eager about the opportunity for Crucio), but maybe it is just because she’s so set in her ways, and is therefore determined to do whatever it takes to achieve her ends, even if it means potential Azkaban.

          At this point, I do believe that Umbridge PROBABLY had enough influence that she could potentially avoid a major scandal, but, as you said, that’s not a risk most people want to take. Perhaps she was merely rationalizing to herself why she was doing it, not necessarily to satisfy her moral aversion to torture, but rather to rationalize how she might escape Azkaban, not to try to convince her audience, but to convince HERSELF that she really IS important enough to cover it up. That’s kind of how I see it: that she was trying to justify the potential consequences of her actions.

          Because, on a basic level… MORALLY, how much of a difference is there really between making a child carve words into their hands vs. full-on cruciatus? What do you think? Thanks so much!

  • WizardorWhat

    As to whether her ambition would preclude her becoming a Death Eater – I think that Umbridge’s temperament is ideal for Death Eating. Like Josh Lyman in the West Wing – she doesn’t want to be the guy, she wants to be the guy the guy counts on. Something I find a bit disconcerting in the Potter books is that lots of these characters exist, and they’re mainly female with male ‘guys’. We see this relationship between Fudge and Umbridge; Dumbledore and McGonagall; and Voldemort and Bellatrix. I note, however, that the servility of the relationship is much less acute between Dumbledore and McGonagall, demonstrating perhaps that Dumbledore is the best of all of these men, and (as Sirius put it) that you gain the best measure of the man by looking at how he treats those below him in the pecking order.

    The problem Umbridge would have in becoming a Death Eater is that Voldemort already has Bellatrix. I could imagine Umbridge developing as much animosity with Bellatrix as she had with McGonagall, and with Bellatrix rather more talented and rather more murderous, I could see Death-Eater-Umbridge coming to a sticky end. Best avoid playing with fire.

    • GinnyWeasley002

      Oooh… Great point about Bellatrix! I’d never thought about that!

  • cracked_cauldron

    I definitely think that she has the makings in her to be a Death Eater aside from the required allegiance to the somewhat spontaneous and evolving rule of Lord Voldemort. The fact that there is no governing charge besides his, within a rule – free environment, makes the Death Eater pledge less likely for Umbridge. I see her more as a mediocre villain, inferior to Lord V and yet above the standards of the wizarding community.

  • I believe that she wouldn’t be able to cope with not having any authority or say in the matter.Voldemort needs them to be compliant servants, not to offer up new ideas so that they can sit down and discuss the best way to kill Harry Potter. It’s not a democracy. He simply expects them to carry out the tasks that he sets them. Umbridge would not be comfortable with this, as we see how she feels she needs to act on her own and send the dementors after Harry. She feels she needs and deserves to have a say in everything.

  • dustcharm

    I’m going to take from some of my posts on the forums on this.

    I love this question because, as evident by my comments all over the forums, I think Umbridge is a fantastic character. She’s a terrible person, and definitely the “bad guy” but that makes a great character for a good story. And she’s all too real. She is much more realistic than someone like Voldemort in some ways, which makes her particularly scary. There really are people in the world who are like her – think they are doing the right thing, but in reality, they are just cruel people. But that’s not the point of the question…

    I have stated before that I think she loves power, and she loves to be the one wielding the power. But I’m not sure she wants to be the one with the highest power. I’m not convinced she wants to be the one ultimately responsible, like the Minister. I think she wanted to be the one to interrogate the Muggleborns in book 7, rather than leaving that job to someone else – but it’s the Ministry, ultimately, that’s responsible for that. (As I imagine Umbridge sees it, anyway. ) She’s just doing the job she was given, after all. And she is do deeply deluded that she thinks she is right, and doing the right thing. That’s what’s scary. It’s not as simple as knowing what she does is just cruel, because she thinks these people are so in the wrong that they deserve it.

    As I’ve said before, I think everything she does is very calculated and very self-motivated. Every move she makes has a purpose, and it furthers her own goals, not the goals of anyone else. Even being the High Inquisitor at Hogwarts. On first glance, that doesn’t seem high-ranking enough for her as she’s not within the wizarding government. But if she wants to change the Wizarding world for her purposes, what better way to start than the school through which children enter Wizarding society? And there, she has a certain level of autonomy, and she can do what she wants. She gets to participate in discrediting Dumbledore and Harry, who are a threat to the credibility of the Ministry she works for. It’s perfect.

    I think Umbridge likes to be on the side of the powerful who agree with her, and who will give her the power to do as she pleases. The power to do what she believes is right with Muggleborns and half-breeds. And she does it by woking within the government, as if it all being government work justifies it. Very scary.

    But to get at the center of the PQOTW, I don’t think she would make a good Death Eater. She, I think, wants more autonomy than Voldemort would really give her. Her attitude of doing what she wants regardless of the intent of her boss won’t work (that whole “What Cornelius doesn’t know won’t hurt him” thing). Voldemort wouldn’t stand for that.

    She is the “bad guy.” Something that was discussed in the forums is that it is not necessary to actually have the Dark Mark on your arm to be ultimately fighting for that same cause. She can still be fighting for Voldemort’s side even if he hasn’t accepted her as an official Death Eater. And I don’t think Voldemort would want her as a DE, in his inner circle, but maybe sees that she’s a great person to do his bidding from inside the Ministry. But yes, I tend to think she wants too much autonomy to make a good DE. But not being a DE does not mean she’s not fighting for Voldemort’s side.

    Sorry – I can never get away with a short post on Umbridge… :)

  • RavenScientist

    We all know that Umbridge has a huge issue with accepting “half breeds” because, in her eyes, they don’t have the traits or intelligence of a full human. This reminds me a lot of Voldemort’s entire belief system. Voldemort does not like “half wizards” or any wizard that is not “pure-blood” because, in his eyes, these people lack to proper background and are not worthy of doing magic. I think it would be really easy for Voldemort of convince Umbridge that “half wizards” are not worthy to practice magic. She practices this in the last book where she helps weed out the non pure-bloods at the ministry. I think Umbridge would be a good death eater because she would believe in the cause and do anything in her power to win the war. Now, with that being said, I think she have to figure out where she stands in the death eater ranks. She would definitely step on a few toes and anger some people with her sense of independence. However, I think after her first punishment for crossing boundaries, she would quickly learn to fall in suite and learn to obey the rules of her master. Overall, I think she is truly a bad guy and she would make a wonderful death eater for Voldemort.

  • Silverdoe25

    Umbridge is narrow minded, a bigot, and is only truly interested in gaining power and authority for herself. She’s a horrible, horrible person, but wouldn’t last 10 minutes as a Death Eater. Her first “hem, hem” around the table in Malfoy Manor would have been her last… The worst thing about Delores is that she doesn’t view herself as evil, just ambitious.

  • GinnyWeasley002

    As it is made clear in the case of Regulus Black, Draco Malfoy, and countelss others, one does not consort with Voldemort on their own terms. Even his most trusted Death Eaters never REALLY had control, they were never privy to the Dark Lord’s plans in their entirety, and the couldn’t ditch whenever they wanted. Regulus payed for his “cold feet” (as Sirius puts it) with his life.

    Umbridge isn’t like that, at all. She likes to be top dog. She wants — no, she NEEDS — to be in total control. With all of her throwing around the name of the minister, when he outlives his usefullness, she simply turns his portrait upside down and says “What the minister doesn’t know, won’t hurt him.” Voldemort would never tolerate a servant like that. The one thing that ALL the Death Eater’s have in common (aside from being evil), is that they are desperate. Every move they make is out of fear of the Dark Lord. Umbridge is a horrible, terrible, person, but I couldn’t see her frilly pink style and “Hem, hem,” going over well with the Death Eater crew. She likes to work from within the system. If she’s helping Voldemort meet his goal, all the better, but she likes to manipulate and torture the masses in broad daylight. The Death Eaters would cramp her style. She is pure evil, but she’s NOT death eater material.

  • Umbridge would be a terrible Death Eater. She wouldn’t kill or anything like that. No. She likes physchological affects. She’s a lover of watching people for what she believes is right.
    Umbridge would get all the half bloods, muggle borns and blood traitors to write mundane lines, before submitting them to the dementors. She wouldn’t kill, she wouldn’t use unforgivable curses at all. She’ll tear them apart mentally. Whilst this is the quality of a Death Eater, she doesn’t pocess any other Death Eater-esqué trademarks. She prefers a back seat where she can be a sheep and manipulate her power behind the scenes.

    • GinnyWeasley002

      But, in Deathly Hallows, what was happening to the muggleborns that she condemned? Weren’t they going to a pretty awful fate? I really need to re-read DH again, so forgive me if I’m wrong, but they seemed pretty terrified of being sentenced as a Mudblood. Umbridge was the one doing the sentencing. Though I do 100% agree with you, I think that, at least by DH, she was willing to make sacrifices. However, I do not think she would ever be capable of PERSONALLY killing anyone. She’s definitely more into psychological trauma. Maybe she would unleash a series of events that would end in death, but I don’t think she would actually cast the killing curse.

      However, she was willing to use an Unforgivable on Harry later on in OotP, so…

  • froggyhpmb3

    I think that Umbridge would not make a good death eater as someone said on last week’s show. However, I don’t agree with the reasons stated as to why. The hosts said that Voldemort wouldn’t want Umbridge as a Death Eater; she is too ambitious, too willful, too able and willing to undermine Voldemort’s authority as she does with Fudge. We see in Half Blood Prince in Slughorn’s memory that Tom Riddle had a following with him even at school made up of the “weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating toward a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty”. Umbridge could probably fit into all three categories so why wouldn’t Voldemort want her as a Death Eater?

    I think it has to do with reasons from both Umbridge and Voldemort (not that I’m suggesting they’ve sat down and talked this all out).

    Umbridge clearly promotes the pureblood agenda when she is in her element as Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic in Deathly Hallows and even prior to that. She wants to advance the pureblood cause but she wouldn’t want to align herself publicly (or privately) with a violent and extremist terrorist group. For one, it wouldn’t be good for public image, jeopardizing her lucrative position, but it would also cause her to risk being sentenced to Azkaban if discovered. Also, despite being Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Umbridge has never shown a predilection for the dark arts nor does it appear she is particularly gifted in wielding them. Throughout her classes she never shows us an example of her performing actual dark arts spell work in front of the students. When she encounters the centaurs in the forest she performs the Incarcerous spell which appears to work but is just not the right spell for the situation seeing as the entire centaur herd charges her and take her away into the forest. Dumbledore later strides into the forest to rescue her so it appears she is incapable of the magic or skills of persuasion necessary to enable her release. Another example would be the Weasley fireworks or the swamp in the hallway and how she isn’t capable of taking care of these things. Despite her obvious approval for Voldemort’s beliefs, she is not willing to be so extreme and is not an ideal candidate for Death Eater-ship.

    Voldemort would probably not be too upset with having her as a follower which is where I disagreed with you on the podcast. Having someone under his control in the ministry is clearly one of his goals later on in the series. I think Umbridge would be a good candidate for that if he saw the opportunity. It is just as well for him though, to not do so. Her perfect role, in Voldemort’s view, would be to do exactly what she does, working for him without knowing she is doing so. Without any form of coercion, it seems, Umbridge willingly rounds up muggleborns and puts them on trial in Deathly Hallows. She is spreading Voldemort’s pureblood message and power without having been told to do so (we assume having never been told otherwise). An ambitious person is no threat to Voldemort. He knows he is more powerful than anyone of them and has the followers to prove it. Umbridge shows that she is more than willing to follow someone who is in power. Despite her unauthorized and willful attempt at performing the Cruciatus curse on Harry, she does so in order to obtain information for the ministry, an act Voldemort might even appreciate because she is using any means necessary to serve her institution. Voldemort would be able to keep her in check much more so than the ministry or Fudge would have.

    So, while Umbridge is not the standard Death Eater candidate, her overall character traits such as skill or desire, I feel, are not the reasons why she would not be a good one. She might have made an adequate Death Eater had she shown any desire to do so, but not in the traditional way. I assume all Death Eaters have their own roles in Voldemort’s hierarchy and not every Death Eater is expected to perform the same tasks. Perhaps, Voldemort would not need her to be in his inner circle, perhaps he wouldn’t even mark her at all. Her Slytherin trait that would make her a bad Death Eater or what caused her never to seek out a position as one, is in fact one we know Slughorn to possess. I think fear for her position in society prevents her from wanting to stick out her neck out too far. She wouldn’t be willing to align herself with them and would be to afraid for her own safety to do so.

  • TrevorTheTurtle

    She is kind of a Voldemort agent in Deathly Hallows. If we believe Lupin, everyone knew Voldemort was Minister in all but name, and she was more than happy to work for the ’cause’, definitely not there as a hostage like a lot of Ministry workers were. I’m not sure if Voldemort would take her based on her abilities, she would probably not try and join so that she can keep her options open like she always has, but if she did join, she’d be a good soldier, so to speak. Umbridge is not dumb, she knows who she was working for, dummy-in-denial Fudge who doesn’t notice anything, it’s one thing to go over him, quite another with Voldemort.

  • kj rowling

    I think that the biggest reason that Umbridge would be a good asset for Voldemort is her connections at the ministry and now Hogwarts. She uses the minisrty as her source of power to get what she wants at Hogwarts. Therefore, if Voldemort wanted to get to Hogwarts, Umbridge would be the perfect path to get there. She could be easily be put under the Imperius Curse and influnece everyone around her (like she does anyways) due to her authority from the Ministry, but actually get done what Voldemort wants done. Since she works so close with Fudge as well, he could easily get inside the mind of the Ministry through him as well.

  • Olivia Underwood

    Here’s the thing with Umbridge. She’s on par with Voldemort but in a completely different way. She’s the bad guy, for sure, but underneath all the politics and speeches she gives, she’s not really on anyone’s side. She’s only interested to pursuing her own greed and hanging onto the little power she has. There is no real goal or ambition here I think but a OCD-like thirst for control. Sirius is right, but I think his quote means good guys and bad guys. Umbridge is a chameleon which means she would willingly become a deatheater or under secretary or whatever ONLY if there was something she would gain from it. She doesn’t believe in anyone but herself, having no loyalties but to herself and this is why I think she is by far one of the most dangerous and unstable characters in the series and on an equal level in some ways with Voldemort, compared to say Bellatrix Lestrange. I constantly battle with myself wondering who is the most horrible character and I will admit, sometimes Umbridge does win.

  • SpinnersEnd

    The bottom line: Umbridge is power hungry. And I think that’s the number one reason she could never be a Death Eater (although I think she’s well qualified to be one).

    She chases power so zealously, that she will do whatever it takes to maintain that power. She’d turn on the the right hand because the left was offering more power. If offered a position as a Death Eater, she’d turn on Voldemort and his followers the moment it looked like the tide of the war was turning.

    That being said, I do believe Voldemort used her spectacularly. He recognized her need for power and played to that when he took over the Ministry of Magic. He used her to round up those he though unworthy and keep those who threatened him on an uneven playing field.

    While she may not have sworn her allegiance to Voldemort, she was a Death Eater in every way but in name.

  • Older potter fan

    Although I read these books as an adult they are still classified as “children’s or young adult.” I teach middle school and one thing I confront is the idea of right and wrong, context and consequences. When my students write shorts stories their bad guys are all bad, and their good guys are all good. When we discuss history in light of current events, students have a hard time understanding the mind set of others with a different worldview. We become more aware of motives, history, context, and the good and bad in all people as we grow past childhood into adulthood. I think it is genius for JK Rowling to put this statement here at this point in her book. Harry is the age of many of my students. He wants to know who is with him and who is against him, but the answer is more complicated than that. He is not the center of the universe even if he is the center of this story. People have motives and world views beyond his experience; Unbridge seems to have a world view that government authority is always right and should be supported above all else. To question that undermines her since of stability. We find this in history when people claimed they only killed -think Nazi or Communists revolutions- because the authority told them to, or they punished the voices of decent because their plan for communal economics needed a clean start. Umbridge is a bad guy in every since of the word, but the death eaters were not the only bad guys.

  • Moonflower

    Dolores Umbridge might be the most despicable character in literature, but I don’t see her as a Death Eater. She’s completely devoted to the Ministry, and so she repeatedly denies the existence of Voldemort, conforming to the current Ministry party line. I don’t think she’s pure evil, or pure ambition – just loyal and proactive to a fault in support of a horrible administration. Later, as Head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, it’s probable she didn’t associate her assignment with Voldemort at all, not being in his inner circle. She never expressed an ambition to be Minister, and her takeover of Hogwarts was meant to serve the Ministry’s aims, not her personally. She exploited that her power because that was expected – possibly demanded. Have you ever tried to write policy? It’s difficult…so while I hate her intensely, I have to laugh as I picture her drafting those ineffectual ‘Educational Decrees’ in her desperate attempts to regain order.

  • loony_lauren

    Umbridge was a slytherin, which means that she probably has a higher potential of being cunning and ambitious. She is pretty high up in power, and may have been cunning to gain Fudge’s trust in order for her to be able to use that power for her own twisted reasons. Voldemort may desire her at first, for reasons such as having a spy in the ministry or for getting information from Voldemort’s enemies, as she shows her ability to extract information well in the later chapters. But I think Voldemort would eventually kill her off after she used her cunning abilities to climb the ladder in death eater ranks and began to go off on her own because she thought herself and her ideas to be more important than the wishes of Voldemort. This being said, I do not believe that Umbridge would want to be a death eater in the first place. She likes being in charge, and loves her role of “Hogwarts High Inquisitor”. She likes titles for herself that mean something, that show her utmost importance. She would never take a role as someone who will always be second in command or less with no chance of being the top shot.

  • loony_lauren

    You can almost compare Umbridge to Wormtail. Wormtail is a survivor, and chooses to support the person that can offer them the most protection. On the other hand, Umbridge is ambitious and power-hungry, and supports the person that can offer her the most power, and Fudge does this by basically giving her control of Hogwarts, or making her feel like she is in control. This is more power than Voldemort would probably offer Umbridge, and while I do not think Umbridge has a problem with Voldemorts values, she would not join him because of this reason.

  • Ravenclawesome

    I have a hard time picturing Umbridge as a Death Eater. Of course she’s not a likable, or even a good person, but I can’t see her working for Voldemort. A lot of what she does for the Ministry or while she’s at Hogwarts, she does because she thinks it’s “right” (whether or not we see it that way is another matter). Sure, she’s power hungry, but I don’t think she’s trying to destroy the entire Wizarding world like Voldemort is. The Death Eaters, at Voldemort’s command, are trying to “cleanse” the Wizarding world, and seek power and control. Umbridge is just devoted to the authority of their unyielding, often corrupt government (almost in a similar way as Percy Weasley…) and she will do whatever it takes to uphold the lies that the government is enforcing (ironically, one way she pursues this is by carving “I must not tell lies” into the back of Harry’s hand). Umbridge is corrupt and is wrong in most of her actions, but not in the same way the Death Eaters are.

  • Older potter fan

    Ok this is not the question but you mentioned it in a recent podcast and I want to comment on it. I think Deloris made the detention quill, that uses the students own blood, when she was given the post at Hogwarts. My guess is that she was punished in a similar way, corporal, leaving a mark, harshly, until she agreed with her punisher, as a child. Often the more abusive punishments are give out by people who had similar punishments given to them. She believes she is right, and she does think that she is serving a higher purpose. Her justification would be the same a the US governments justification of water boarding; at least in her own eyes. She is so blinded by wanting to do what she sees as the “greater good”. A false belief, a belief in a false “god”, in this case the right of the ministry, can lead people to do deplorable things. And fully justify it in their own mind. I guess this does relate to the question of the week.

  • DidoPriam

    Umbridge very well could have been a Death Eater, but I also think that she would have been able to serve him just as well on her own without the title. I think that we have forgotten what exactly Umbridge was doing when she was thinking of going over Fudge. She was going to torture Harry. If Umbridge was a Death Eater she would not have to “go over” Voldemort to torture someone. He would be perfectly happy with her methods of getting results. I also do not believe that she would have killed Harry at any given time, Death Eater or not, because she is simply not the type to do her own dirty work. This would also be satisfactory to Voldemort because she would never go far enough (kill Harry herself) in order to make Voldemort angry. She may torture, violate rights and send others (dementors) but she would never do the actual deed.

    Umbridge has a very weak and deficient character and the length of her wand confirms this. When these types of people are presented with a power of any sort it is not unusual for them to get out of control with their own mad desires to succeed. People of weak character desire authority so that they can make themselves feel powerful over their underlings.

    However, I do not believe that she would try to seize power from Voldemort. That is just so silly to me. For one, she would be much too frightened of him to even consider the possibility. I mean seriously, if she was going to for real take power from Voldemort she would have to dual him for it. Who in their right mind except Dumbledore and Harry would take it upon themselves to challenge him and expect to live? Granted, Umbridge may not be totally balanced, but the answer here is obvious, would never happen. She values her own life much too much to do something that dumb. Secondly, she may be ambitious, but she’s not THAT ambitious. Her weak character allows for just enough power to be able to make other’s miserable for her own amusement, but as long as a leadership position like the Minister was not thrust into her lap, she would be perfectly happy sadistically ruining other people’s lives and torturing.

    Umbridge would also be able to serve Voldemort without being a Death Eater because she just follows the leadership of the time. When it was Fudge, she was happy to focus only on Dumbledore and Harry because that’s what Fudge was most worried about. (By the way, more evidence that the take-over-power-from-Voldemort-Umbridge would never happen is that she was extremely preoccupied with retaining Fudge’s power. She would do the same for Voldemort.) When Voldemort took over the ministry through the other wizards, she was more than happy to comply with the new philosophy of the day considering she was just as intolerant as he was. Umbridge could have been a Death Eater but I think she would have been happier to stay out of that circle because they are the type that get dirty. She would rather direct her mayhem from a nice, safe office.

  • ANiceSlytherin

    I think as much as we hate Umbridge, she is certainly a different kind of evil. Umbridge is trying to uphold a very conservative form of the law, only practicing the theory of magic without having to use magic. Deatheaters I believe would very much want to practice the spells in class like they do in the 7th book on “misbehaving” students. Umbridge would not make a good Deatheater because as mean and evil as she is, she is still on the extreme opposite spectrum as they are. She would never support lord Voldemorts practices or blatant disregard for the law (although we have seen that straight from Umbridge ironically). I think the only thing they might agree on is blood status and harsh punishments.