Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oh the Villainy: Dolores Umbridge

In some stories, a good villain is just as important as a good hero. Someone whose guts you can hate, who makes the hero's life as hard as it can possibly be, and whose demise you ultimately root for.

Everyone knows the villain of Harry Potter's story: the Dark Lord himself, Voldemort. And what a terrifying antagonist he is.

But I actually think there's a villain in the series that I hated even more than He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. That's right: I'm talking about the power-hungry, hair-bow-wearing, cat-plate-collecting UPPER MANAGEMENT NIGHTMARE, Ms. Dolores Umbridge.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is one of my very favorites of the series. I actually love the risk J.K. Rowling took by making Harry a bit unlikeable. He's moody and irascible...but he's also 15 and saddled with a terrible burden. It makes absolute sense.

And then there's Dolores Umbridge. I hated her and her greedy, underhandedly unfair ways. I despised her cruel (and painful) punishments for Harry. When she succeeded Dumbledore as headmaster and her decrees got more and more ridiculous, I think I got physical hives. And I don't think I ever cheered as loudly during a book as when the fabulous Weasley twins gave her her comeuppance (thanks to a box of fireworks and their wicked sense of humor).

In her way, I think Umbridge is a scarier villain than Voldemort. Why? Because she seems so much more real. Voldemort is a dark wizard who is so evil, he doesn't even look human anymore. But Umbridge's flaw is ultimately a very human one: she seeks ambition and power above all else. And, unfortunately, I think we all see and hear of people, some in great power, whose failings are exactly that.


  1. Oh yes, Umbridge is horrible. I think I may have met her clone in real life.

    ~Amanda Hoving

  2. Oh man. I HATE HAT HATE Umbridge. I remember having a hard time in book 5 in a few points because I just couldn't stand her and I so badly wanted someone to get her good. I too cheered heartily when Fred and George got her :)

  3. I totally agree. I loathed Umbridge, and felt as frustrated as Harry & Co. did when she kept being such a jerk!

  4. Amen to all of the above... book six was my fav, five is down the list, but still a good read.

  5. Oh, yes, Umbridge is absolutely horrible. I actually think she's one of Rowling's most vivid creations and makes a great point (via Sirius Black, who tells Harry that the world isn't divided into good people who are good and bad people who are bad. There are shades of grey, as embodied by Umbridge).

    (Umbridge also features in one of my favourite chapters of the series: Career Advice with Professor McGonagall.)