Why Draco Malfoy is one of the Most Underrated Characters in ‘Harry Potter’
Unarguably, one of the most fantastical and magical series introduced in the past two decades is the Harry Potter series. These books are unique not only because of the vast magical world imagined and created by J.K. Rowling; but also because the series can flood readers and viewers with emotion. By way of similarity to ourselves, we identify with characters and their journeys as they grow. Readers and viewers see significant character development, especially for the main characters. However, there are peripheral characters in Harry Potter whose journeys are often forgotten, one being Draco Malfoy. Many remember him as the skinny blonde shouting “my father will hear about this!” but being constantly overshadowed by Harry left Draco’s story neglected by the audience. A thorough analysis of Draco’s past shows the struggles of breaking from the grips of evil to show that he is, in fact, a character who deals with almost as much turmoil as “The Boy Who Lived”.
Draco’s Privileged Years
Draco Malfoy was born as a wizard into a privileged, pure-blood, wealthy family on the brink of Voldemort’s rise. His parents were active supporters of Voldemort’s movement to cleanse the magical world of non-pure-blood magical folk, and they inflicted these beliefs upon Draco as soon as he was born. With Voldemort’s demise after attempting, but failing, to kill the baby Harry Potter, his followers formed a strong resentment towards Harry, “The Boy Who Lived”. By the time Draco reached the age to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, him and his friends, by diffusion, also had an intense, learned hatred towards Harry 1.
Upon arriving at Hogwarts, he was sorted into Slytherin House, along with his friends, and as his parents Lucius and Narcissa were. Slytherin House was founded in the belief that the magical world should exist of pure-bloods exclusively, and that non-pure-bloods were not to be trusted. As a result, Slytherin House consisted of only pure-blood students with a similar mindset. Before Harry arrived at Hogwarts to start his first year, Rubeus Hagrid, one of Harry’s most trusted friends explained that “there’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin” 2, seemingly foreshadowing Draco’s fate. Slytherin House acted as an agent of socialization, outside of his parents, that further fostered his pro-Voldemort mentality. Draco was surrounded by peers that condoned a pro-Voldemort attitude, thus making it easier to form a hate group against Harry and his friends. By his first year at Hogwarts, Draco embodied the anti-Harry, pro-Voldemort mindset that his fellow Slytherins had.
Draco as a Bully
As Harry Potter and friends settled in at school, Draco represented the “anti-Harry” well. He became Harry’s rival by bullying him and purposefully finding Harry in troubling situations. Draco proceeded to torment Harry’s friends and caused rivalries with the Gryffindor students. He even went so far as to shame Hermione for having non-magical blood by taunting her with demeaning names. In their third year, he teased Harry’s intense fear and susceptibility to Dementor attacks and in their fourth year, mocked Harry for his participation in the Triwizard Tournament at which the end resulted in the return of Voldemort, only known by the Death Eaters and Harry Potter.
These years at Hogwarts showed little depth to Draco’s character; his blind hatred for Harry rendered him superficial and one-dimensional. Nonetheless, Draco’s unchecked behaviour was no doubt accepted by his friends, his family and any other Voldemort supporters at Hogwarts. Clearly empowered by this, he became exceptionally good at consistently bringing anguish to Harry and his friends. Draco was the leader of anti-Harry movements at Hogwarts.
Draco Becomes a Death Eater
At the arrival of Harry and Draco’s sixth year at Hogwarts, Voldemort takes Draco under his wing to become a Death Eater. By definition, these are followers of Voldemort that inflict pain and fear to non-pure-blood magic folk or non-compliers. They prove their loyalty and support through aggression and scare tactics, and by the age of 16, Voldemort desired Draco to become one. His assigned mission was to kill Dumbledore, and in his multiple attempts to do so, his true feelings are unveiled. He exclaims “I haven’t got any options! I’ve got to do it! [Voldemort]’ll kill me!” 3 as the pressure builds to carry out his assigned tasks.
These failures turned the confident, privileged pure-blood supremacist into a brooding, anguished teen. Draco’s fixation to complete his task stopped him from what he had done the earlier five years at Hogwarts- tormenting Harry. Though Draco becomes a Death Eater, his morals do not align with what Voldemort desires, and he faces serious internal conflict. He elicits instinctual behavioural and emotional responses such as fear, loyalty to his family and obedience to a person of power. Draco’s prophesied role of being Harry’s tormentor becomes insignificant, and as he takes on the unimaginable stress of Voldemort’s demands, he becomes a multi-faceted individual governed by human instinct.
The next year, Draco redeems himself for the earlier years of harassment by saving Harry’s life. When Harry, Hermione and Ron are captured by Death Eaters while attempting to hide from Voldemort, Hermione hits Harry with a Stinging Jinx. This hex temporarily disfigures his face, making it difficult to recognize Harry or his famous scar. When taken to Malfoy Manor, Draco’s childhood home, Draco is asked to confirm the identities of each Ron, Harry and Hermione. Knowing well that it is them (as he was the one to torment them the past six years) he does not positively confirm their identities.
For whatever reason (likely atonement) he provided Harry and his friends some time to escape, narrowly missing death. After this incident, possibly to reciprocate Draco’s kindness at Malfoy Manor, Harry saves Draco from death twice at the Battle of Hogwarts. These two characters who once used to rival each other become the ones who save each other’s lives.
In content written by J.K. Rowling on Pottermore, after Voldemort and the Death Eaters’ annihilation, Draco marries a witch raised similarly to himself, her parents both followers of Voldemort 4. The couple raises their only son in a loving, caring, non-oppressive environment, opposite from both their upbringing. Draco learns acceptance and equality of non-pure-bloods and though his parents do not approve, Harry does. In the epilogue of the last book in the Harry Potter series, Harry and Draco see each other 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. They exchange “curt nods” 5as they send their children off to school at Hogwarts. Their pleasantness towards each other indicates that Harry and Draco have overcome their complicated past; a sign that Draco has become respectable.
And with that brings the close of Draco’s dramatic journey. Draco Malfoy, underestimated by his audience and overshadowed by Harry, becomes a likeable, and even respectable character years after he leaves Hogwarts. It would seem that Harry Potter as the protagonist should represent hope, decency and survival for humanity, but Draco Malfoy embodies these same characteristics- years after Harry does- but undergoes it no less. Draco becomes a symbol for overcoming the power of negative influences, a power-hungry tyrant and constant conditioning to overcome what he was prophesied to be by his parents, himself, his friends, and Harry; his autonomy breaks through barriers, not easily done by others. Whether meant to or not, he is loved by readers and viewers through his struggles. Draco’s personal journey embodies what it means to be truly good in a world where darkness and terror seem to reign.
- Rowling, J.K. Draco Malfoy. Pottermore. Pottermore Limited. Web. 06 July 2016. ↩
- Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Print. ↩
- Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic, 2005. Print. ↩
- Rowling, J.K. Draco Malfoy. Pottermore. Pottermore Limited. Web. 06 July 2016. ↩
- Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Scholastic, 2007. Print. ↩
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