By Nadia M
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we see Draco
Malfoy transform from bully to victim as he became a Death Eater. Though being
the son of a Death Eater meant protection, he realizes too late that being a
Death Eater himself is not what he expected. In his own house, he watches
innocent people get tortured and killed. Sometimes, he has to torture others
himself. His resentment towards the Death Eaters and his fear of Voldemort make
for a miserable situation, providing Draco with plenty of reasons to move to
the good side, or at least help the good side.
What reasons would Draco have for helping out the good side? And
why aren't these reasons enough to motivate him? He has several opportunities
throughout Deathly Hallows to do the right thing, but cannot bring
himself to do it.
It is clear from the beginning of Deathly Hallows that
Draco does not like murder and torture. He is highly disturbed by Charity
Burbage hanging from the ceiling, while the other Death Eaters are not.1
This contrast of Draco to the rest of the Death Eaters immediately establishes
that he is different, that he suffers from a conscience. He does not think and
feel like the other Death Eaters do. Through one of Harry's visions, we see
Draco being forced to torture Rowle.2 Most Death Eaters
willingly torture because they like it. Draco does not want to torture anyone,
as shown by his "gaunt, petrified face" Harry sees in the vision.
Voldemort not only forces Draco to torture people, but he
humiliates Lucius and Narcissa.3 Draco used to be proud of
his family's status, but now they are the joke of the Death Eaters.4
He used to brag about his family and their wealth.
new Slytherin Seeker, Weasley' said Malfoy, smugly. "Everyone's just been
admiring the brooms my father's bought our team."
gaped, openmouthed, at the seven superb broomsticks in front of him.
aren't they?" said Malfoy smoothly. "But perhaps the Gryffindor team will be
able to raise some gold and get new brooms, too. You could raffle off those
Cleansweep Fives; I expect a museum would bid for them." 5
In Deathly Hallows, the Malfoys are considered an
embarrassment to the good side and Death Eaters alike. Voldemort took away the
pride Draco's family gave him.
But his life as a Death Eater is not a new thing. He has been
suffering through this for a long time. Draco begins to regret being a Death
Eater in his sixth year. Voldemort sets Draco the difficult task of killing
Dumbledore, largely as a way to punish to Draco's father.6 Draco's
mission is not going as well as he thought it would. He has already made two
failed attempts to kill Dumbledore.7 Draco is growing upset
and even turns to Moaning Myrtle for comfort:
Malfoy was standing with his back to the door, his hands clutching either side
of the sink, his white-blond head bowed.
crooned Moaning Myrtle's voice from one of the cubicles. "Don't ¦ tell me what's
wrong ¦ I can help you ¦."
can help me' said Malfoy. His whole body was shaking. "I can't do it ¦. I can't
¦. It won't work ¦ and unless I do it soon ¦ he says he'll kill me¦." 8
This scene that Harry overhears reveals to the reader several
problems that Draco is dealing with. "No one can help me" shows that Draco
feels isolated and hopeless. This makes sense because he is working on this
mission in secret. None of his peers, while they may help him, have the huge
responsibility that he has. At first, Draco boasts about being a Death Eater
and having such an important task from Voldemort himself.9
But now, as this task is more difficult than he imagined ("I can't do it¦.I can't¦.It
won't work"), it has become a burden. He cannot talk about his stress with
Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy, or his other Slytherin friends. Draco fears that they
would think him to be weak. He also has a bigger fear at hand. Voldemort will
kill him if he fails to kill Dumbledore ("And unless I do it soon ¦ he says he'll
Draco feels lonely and endangered as a Death Eater. Instead of a
protector, Voldemort has become his enemy. Draco is only loyal to the Death
Eaters out of fear, not true allegiance. Therefore, he has no real connection
to them and no reason to trust them. By the time the Death Eaters and Voldemort
move into his house, his resentment towards the Death Eaters and Voldemort has
been building up for almost a year.
In Deathly Hallows, Malfoy Manor has been made into
headquarters for Voldemort and his followers. He cannot get away from Death
Eaters; they are always around. His home has been taken over by people who rule
with fear. Draco is uncomfortable in his own home, which Harry can see when he
is captured and taken to Malfoy Manor.10 The Death Eaters
have taken over his house like they have taken over his life.
Draco's distressing situation should have been enough motivation
to help out the Order. Then there is the fact that it was so easy to at least
help Harry, Ron and Hermione. Draco is responsible for identifying them to the
Draco?" said Lucius Malfoy. He sounded avid. "Is it? Is it Harry Potter?"
can't be sure' said Draco. He was keeping his distance from Greyback, and
seemed as scared of looking at Harry as Harry was of looking at him.
come here, look properly! What do you think?"
saw Draco's face up close now, right beside his father's. They were
extraordinarily alike, except that while his father looked beside himself with
excitement, Draco's expression was full of reluctance, even fear.
know' he said, and he walked away toward the fireplace where his mother stood
Draco, isn't it the Granger girl?"
maybe ¦ yeah."
look at him, isn't it Arthur Weasley's son, what's his name”?
said Draco again, his back to the prisoners. "It could be." 11
He wants to protect them, but he is also heavily oppressed by the
Death Eaters. He fears punishment so much that he does not realize that he
could get away with it. He is going through an internal struggle before he
answers ("I can't ’ I can't be sure') and he wants to escape the whole
situation by walking away from them and towards his mother. After more pressure
from his father, he gradually and reluctantly agrees that it is Harry, Ron, and
Hermione he sees. He still has his back to them, though. His reluctance to give
them away is shown in his body language. He could have defiantly argued that it
was not them. He is the most trusted to know what they look like. He did not,
though, because he is scared to defy the Death Eaters, even though it is likely
he could have gotten away with it.
Although the fear of Voldemort and his followers is motivation to leave
and help the good side, it is also what keeps him there. He lives in fear by
staying a Death Eater, but he cannot face his fear of leaving the Death Eaters.
Draco must do everything Voldemort tells him to because Voldemort has had the
threat of death hovering over the Malfoy family since Lucius failed to get the
prophecy in Order of the Phoenix.12 Voldemort could
kill Draco. He could kill his family as a punishment to Draco.
Draco is torn between his fear of punishment of the Death Eaters
and his desire to no longer be a Death Eater. Like Dumbledore says in Goblet
of Fire, Draco has to choose "between what is right, and what is easy."
13 While Dumbledore's words are powerful, Draco is just not a
strong enough person to follow this advice. He has led a sheltered life until
he becomes a Death Eater, where he is emotionally tortured. He is not brave
enough to get past his fear of Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
Draco's first opportunity to help the trio is fairly risky,
considering he is with several Death Eaters, including his parents. But during
his second opportunity, when he is ordered to get Griphook from the dungeon, he
is alone. He does not have Death Eaters surrounding him, making him scared.
But he did not do anything to help the prisoners. He still did not
have the courage.
hear someone scuttling down the cellar steps; next moment, Draco's shaking
voice spoke from behind the door.
back. Line up against the back wall. Don't try anything, or I'll kill you!" 14
Despite the fact that he is alone, Draco still does not dare to
help the good side. He is on a specific order from his father to go and get
Griphook from the dungeon.15 His mind is focused on obeying,
so he is more afraid than usual. Another opportunity to do the right thing
arises for Draco, but he cannot overpower his fear of Voldemort.
Draco has immense motivation to help the good side. He does not
share the cruel attitude of the Death Eaters and resents being surrounded by
Death Eaters. He just wants himself and his family to stay alive and well. When
he is presented with the perfect opportunity to help the good side, he is too
scared of being punished by Voldemort and the other Death Eaters. He is not a
brave enough person to overcome the immense fear that Voldemort instills in his
followers as well as his enemies. To Draco, the need for his family's
well-being and keeping alive far outweigh the consequences of doing the right
thing for the good side.
So, Draco decides again and again to stay a Death Eater. He
succeeds in keeping himself and his family safe and he is free from the Death
Eaters when Voldemort dies. His lack of courage does not have severe
consequences. However, it is up to the reader to judge Draco's actions. How
does Draco feel as an adult? Does he feel guilty for not helping the good side?
Or just grateful that his cowardice was not more consequential?
Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 3.
Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 108.
Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 112
Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 33.
Ibid., Deathly Hallows, 457.
Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 34.
Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 724.
Ibid., Deathly Hallows, 467.
J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.