Acceptance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

In the third Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and his friends mature into teenagers, and the series itself also matures noticeably in both depth and tone. The series continues to mature in multiple ways in book four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Goblet of Fire is the longest in the series so far, with this book having grown to be twice the length of its predecessors. Harry and his friends also grow within the novel. The main plot of Goblet of Fire concerns the resurgence of an event known as the Triwizard Tournament: A magical contest that was “first established some seven hundred years ago as a friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry… generally agreed to be a most excellent way of establishing ties between young witches and wizards of different nationalities…” (Rowling 187). This competition between Hogwarts, Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in France, and the Northern European Durmstrang Institute is designed to teach students to accept and befriend other cultures, a theme which splinters off into other subplots, and results in the story further maturing by exploring these themes of acceptance.

One of the very first examples of learning to accept others in Goblet of Fire can be found in Hermione and her efforts with the Society of the Promotion for Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.). After witnessing how heartlessly Winky the house-elf is abandoned by her master, Hermione does research on the history of house-elves, and learns that they are treated as slaves, Hermione commences S.P.E.W. in an effort to end what she sees as the mistreatment of house-elves. With S.P.E.W., Hermione aims include“[securing] house-elves fair wages and working conditions…changing the law about non-wand-use, and trying to get an elf into the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, because they’re shockingly under-represented.” (Rowling 224-225). S.P.E.W. gains zero support from anyone at Hogwarts, including the very house-elves she was attempting to liberate. While Hermione is correct in noting that the unpaid labor system is imperfect, as it is very easy for wizards to abuse their own house-elves, Hermione does not take the personal and societal views of the house-elves into account. As Hagrid tells her, “‘It’d be doin’ ’em an unkindness, Hermione,’ he said gravely, threading a massive bone needle with thick yellow yarn. ‘It’s in their nature ter look after humans, that’s what they like, see? Yeh’d be makin’ ’em unhappy ter take away their work, an’ insulting’ ’em if yeh tried ter pay ’em.’” (Rowling 265). The house-elves residing in Hogwarts find Hermione’s crusade insulting, but she fails to listen when anyone reminds her of this. According to Luisa Grijalva Maza’s article “Deconstructing the Grand Narrative inHarry Potter: Inclusion/Exclusion and Discriminatory Policies in Fiction and Practice”, Hermione “fails to ask the elves their own opinion of their needs” and her failure to do so is a sign Hermione is succumbing to “the view that house elves are inferior in that they areincapable of constructing their own meanings of freedom and happiness, in this way reinforcing the superiority of her newly adopted magical human identity” (Maza 431). The introduction of such a complicated theme in this novel shows how much the series has matured since its last mention of house-elves. Although Hermione does not give up on S.P.E.W.’s mission by the end of the novel, it is implied by the text that Hermione’s actions are unnecessary and unwanted, and S.P.E.W. should try harder to accept the opinions of house-elves and actually work together with them when it comes to their goals of betterment.

Another example of acceptance is seen in Ron and his behavior towards women when it comes to the Yule Ball. As the Yule Ball approaches, Ron works harder and harder to obtain a date. However, he does not view the girls he wants to ask as people, rather seeing them as accessories that will make him look better at the dance. As Hermione eloquently explains, “you’re going to take the best-looking girl who’ll have you, even if she’s completely horrible…” (Rowling 394-395). Ron, growing increasingly desperate, attempts to ask Hermione, to no avail:“Well- you can come with one of us!” “No, I can’t,” snapped Hermione. “Oh come on,” he said impatiently, “we need partners, we’re going to look really stupid if we haven’t got any, everyone else has…” “I can’t come with you,” said Hermione, now blushing, “because I’m already going with someone.” “No you’re not!” said Ron. “You just said that to get rid of Neville!” “Oh did I?” said Hermione, and her eyes flashed dangerously. “Just because it’s taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn’t mean no one else has spotted I’m a girl!” (Rowling 400)Ron does not see Hermione as attractive or desirable, and in his eyes, this means no one else would possibly be able to see her that way either. Ron is insistent about Hermione lying about her date, and seeing her with Victor Krum is the only thing that makes him finally admit she was not lying. He then becomes extremely bitter and refused to have any fun at the ball. It is only after Hermione exclaims in a fit of rage “next time there’s a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!” (Rowling 452). Ron is barely able to respond to this, and at this point he realizes that Hermione actually has feelings, and starts to accept girls as actual people instead of objects.

Finally, examples of acceptance are seen in the behaviors of the half-giants of the story, Hagrid and Madame Maxime. In the wizarding world, Giants are seen as dumb savages. Due to this prejudice, half-giants are widely discriminated against. According to “Improving Cultural Competence” by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, people who are discriminated against have different ways of dealing with it and seeking acceptance. Madame Maxime, when confronted about her status as a half-giant, vehemently denies it, taking the Conformity approach. Those who conform are said to “places considerable value on characteristics that represent dominant cultural groups; may devalue or hold negative views of own race or other racial/ethnic groups” (Improving Cultural Competence). This is exactly what Madame Maxime does, claiming she simply has “big bones” (Rowling) and constantly denying that she is anything other than the dominant cultural group. Hagrid, on the other hand, takes the Integrative Awareness approach when he is outed as a half-giant by Rita Skeeter. Those who chose Integrative Awareness are said to “have developed a secure, confident sense of racial/cultural identity; maintains pride in racial identity and cultural heritage; commits to supporting and appreciating all oppressed and diverse groups” (Improving Cultural Competence). This is clearly Hagrid attitude about his race, as evidenced by the quote “I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.’ An’ he was right” (Rowling 406). These are two very distinct methods for gaining acceptance within a community, but the novel seems to imply that Integrative Awareness is better, as Maxime makes up with Hagrid offstage, reuniting after she tried to conform and lied about her giant heritage.

Acceptance is a major aspect of growing up. As Harry and his friends learn more about acceptance throughout Goblet of Fire, the more they seem to grow and mature as people. One of the oldest, wisest, and most mature characters in the entirety of the Harry Potter series, Professor Dumbledore, is often revered as one of the most accepting people to ever exist in the wizarding world. In stark contrast,the incompetent Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge refuses to accept the truth about Voldemort’s return or to accept any “dark” creatures as possible allies. Dumbledore has this to say to Fudge when he shows his true colors as a prejudice fool: “You are blinded by the love of your office, Cornelius! You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognise that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!” (Rowling 708). Fudge is not accepting of people who differ from him, and that is why he ultimately fails as Minister of Magic. The more one learns about accepting others and accepting one’s self, the more one is able to grow as a person.i