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REPHRASED: J.K. Rowling has said that "all of her main characters, except for Voldemort, can be considered redeemable." Based on the following examples, was Draco Malfoy redeemed in the series, either fully or partially? Supplemental information about Draco can be reviewed at Accio Quote (a quick read).

Consider:

  • Draco spends the first five books regurgitating Death Eaters propoganda striving to become one; once he becomes a Death Eater at sixteen, a new reality sets in for Draco, and he finds he can't handle it (not unlike Regulus Black). At the end, he is not seen supporting Voldemort, but rather sitting with his parents in the Great Hall.
  • Draco spends all of year six attempting to kill, or figure out how to kill, Albus Dumbledore, on the orders of Voldemort; he ultimately chooses not to kill Dumbledore, even though Voldemort has threatened to kill Draco and his family if Draco fails to perform the task.
  • Draco facilitates the entry of the Death Eaters into Hogwarts; however, when talking with Dumbledore on the ramparts of the Astronomy Tower, he expresses upset that Fenrir Greyback was given passage into the school, where his friends reside.
  • Draco is seen in one of Harry's visions torturing fellow Death Eater Rowle; however, Harry notes how "gaunt and fearful" Draco appears while doing this, and hears Voldemort telling Draco to perform Cruciatus (I'm assuming it's Cruciatus) on Rowle or else face Voldemort's wrath himself.
  • In Deathly Hallows, when the trio is captured by Fenrir Greyback and the Snatchers and taken to Malfoy Manor, Draco does not identify Harry to Bellatrix, Lucius, or the other Death Eaters. It seems logical Draco knew it was Harry, as Ron and Hermione were with him, undisguised and not under the effects of a stinging jinx, as Harry was.
  • In Deathly Hallows, Draco hunts down Harry in the Room of Requirement as Harry is looking for the Ravenclaw diadem Horcrux and holds Harry at wandpoint, demanding return of Draco's hawthorn wand that Harry took from Draco before escaping Malfoy Manor; on the other hand, he attempts to prevent Crabbe from trying to kill Harry.
  • In Deathly Hallows, the Malfoy family is ultimately seen abandoning Voldemort's side and seemingly just pull out of the fight altogether.
  • In the epilogue scene of Deathly Hallows, Harry and Draco give one another a tacit nod, but do not speak.

Draco Malfoy did horrible things; he also seemed to re-think some of his choices. Do the above canon-based examples demonstrate no, partial, or full redemption on Draco Malfoy's part?

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    Hi Slytherincess, I've slightly edited your question so as not to encourage documented answers — “why do you think so” invites “I think” answers not based on any evidence, and those aren't very interesting. I recommend reading What kind of questions should I not ask here? in our FAQ; this question is fine, but you'll see what we try to avoid here. – user56 Dec 4 '11 at 0:22
  • @Gilles Thanks for the heads up! I'll remember this in the future and will review the FAQ :) – Slytherincess Dec 4 '11 at 0:26
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    This is not answerable without a precise definition of "redeemed" – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 4 '11 at 14:46
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    @Slytherincess - sorry, way too vague. Deliverance from what specific sin? Salvation by which religon's standard (hint: works differently even between Judaism and Christianity, never mind Wicca or whatever the hell JKR world uses for religion). Atonement as judged by whom? Some people consider one good thought as redeeming. Some consider a tangible result (Anakin killing Emperor). Some consider an eye for an eye as the precondition. Some consider certain things almost/completely beyond redemption. As I said, unless you provide precise definition, everyone can have their own opinion. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 4 '11 at 19:18
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    @Krumia - It's "Hermione". Hermione did jinx Harry's face, but not Ron's or her own, so Draco would have easily been able to tell who they were, and then subsequently made the leap that the third person with Ron and Hermione was Harry. – Slytherincess Sep 20 '14 at 1:15
39

Redemption: The action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

Lets take a look a the the progression of Draco Malfoy throughout the books:

  • Books 1 - 5 : Ignorant, bigoted, selfish, spoiled. Draco lives a life of no consequences, anything he does wrong will be corrected by his father's money and / or influence.

  • Book 6: Suddenly his father is in prison. The protective bubble of a consequence-free life is shattered, and he is given a seemingly impossible task which will literally destroy his family if he fails. He is afraid of this new world.

  • Book 7: Things are becoming worse and worse for the Malfoys. It becomes obvious to Draco that Voldemort doesn't care about anyone. He begins to realize his family (and friends) are important to him, and that they won't be safe under Voldemort. Therefore he starts to change, he doesn't reveal Harry Potter, he tries to save his misguided friend (Crabbe). At the end the Malfoys defect from Voldemort's army, choosing family over (assumed) power.

I think this illustrates a lot of growing up that Draco experienced in his last two years in the books. He realized that friends and family (relationships) were important, at least important to him, and were more important than the supposed power under Voldemort.

Voldemort had no concept of family, friends, or love. All of his associates (with perhaps the exception of the insane Bellatrix) followed him out of fear, not out of admiration or affection. How long til Voldemort saw his lieutenants as potential threats? Along the same lines is a quote from Gandalf:

[Speaking of Sauron]...and he does not share power.

Draco and his family realized there was no future in Voldemort's world (a world of perpetual evil). So they had to turn away from it.

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    While these events do mold Draco's character from the "simple villain" he is in the early books to a more complex character, the key personality trait of the character - that of the spoiled selfish brat - remains. Draco's acts are always ultimately selfish. At the same time, he's never very mature about making them; they are always very short-sighted, and his parents always seem to figure directly into the choices he makes. – KeithS Dec 21 '11 at 21:36
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    His actions went from selfish and incredibly dangerous to selfish and less harmful. He began to see the effects of his actions on others, and did not relish in bringing harm to others. That is a form of redemption, even if it is soaked with guilt and self-loathing. – Zoot Aug 27 '12 at 13:49
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    @KeithS Not identifying the trio at the manner and his actions afterward in regard to anything he did against the explicit wishes of V all required courage he had not previously had. No he isn't courageous enough to stand up and fight directly, but V has Draco's family in his hands and yet Draco still makes decisions not to just do as told without any thought. While I agree, he still isn't a model of self sacrifice, courage and admirablity, I disagree his acts were still totally selfish or parent directed at the end. – balanced mama Jan 28 '13 at 18:52
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    I don't think Bellatrix is the only Death Eater who followed Voldemort out of admiration rather than fear. At least Barty Crouch Jr. supports him in a way that's no less fanatic and self-sacrifical than Bellatrix. – leftaroundabout May 14 '15 at 22:08
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    How dare you call me insane?! – Bellatrix Feb 27 '18 at 2:03
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He redeemed himself by not ratting on Harry Potter in the Malfoy manor--- it's voluntary, it's against his own self interest. What more do you want from the guy? Switching sides openly? Voldemort would take retribution on his parents. Because of family loyalty, a full redemption was never realistic, I think he redeemed himself as much as the circumstances allowed. To be fair, he's never killed anyone, so he never had much to redeem anyway.

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    Hi Kirsty, welcome to the site! This is a simple but undeniable argument; +1. – Tynam Jan 26 '13 at 23:15
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    He also would have been killed. And you're absolutely correct. He didn't want to be part of more death and if that's not redemption to some it's still certainly noble or they're just biased (which I no doubt believe there are many). Doesn't mean he's 'nice' but he's a better person than he was and he even disappointed his parents by marrying someone 'less pure'. – Pryftan Jun 20 '18 at 23:19
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Back in Book 4, Draco had warned both Harry and Ron to get Hermione away from the Death Eaters, who were terrorizing the Quidditch World Cup camp.

He harbored guilt and remorse for the attack on Katie Bell.

He refrained from killing Dumbledore.

He refused to snitch on Harry at the Malfoy Manor.

Although he demanded his wand back from Harry during the Battle of Hogwarts, he also tried to stop Crabbe from killing Harry.

In the end, he and his family chose to reject Voldemort.

As far as I'm concerned, he redeemed himself, due to the choices he made. I don't expect or demand some major grand gesture.

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    Thanks for the concise answer -- I think it's been long enough since I asked this question for me to say that I also think Draco redeemed himself in the literal sense of the word. As J.K. Rowling has said, though, none of this makes him a nice man, though. So while I think he redeemed himself in the end, I'm not nearly as convinced that he himself was an honorable person. Thanks for the answer! :) – Slytherincess Jun 14 '14 at 2:31
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I'm sorry I don't have citations for this, but I don't think I'd easily find passages that give Draco's state of mind. Also, unfortunately, I still haven't had my copy of the book The Deathly Hallows returned to me (lent it to a relative a week after it came out and I finished reading it), so I only have vague memories of that book and the two final films to go on.

He was never fully redeemed.

Redemption involves not just realizing what one has done that caused damage or hurt others, but actively working toward making reparations or improving the situations of those one hurt.

While I think, at first, he was doing as he did because it was what his parents told him to do and what he thought he should do, later he was acting on his own free will and seemed to enjoy taunting others and hurting people for the feeling of power.

But when it came to actual murder, he began to realize it was wrong. He wanted to stop. Yet he continued acting for the Death Eaters.

In the end he sees it is wrong and, while he stops doing bad things, there's no indication he ever made any effort to reach out and help the good guys or to make any kind of reparations.

So he was started down the dark path, but made the choice to continue it, and when he realized it was wrong, he stopped down that path, but did not turn around and actively return to a good path by trying to undo any damage he had done.

What we say tells people who we think we are, what we dream of doing tells people who we want to be, but our actions tell people who we are. Draco's never, through actions, actively worked for redemption.

  • And exactly what did you expect him to do - defy Voldemort? He'd have been killed and his family too if they hadn't gone in hiding. And then what? He'd not be alive to 'redeem' himself. I like your final paragraph though! I would agree he didn't fully redeem himself but he did certainly some - as best he could given the circumstances. – Pryftan Jun 20 '18 at 23:16
3

Apologies for trolling, but I'm going to act the devil's advocate and argue that Malfoy was, indeed, redeemed - despite the fact that within my own moral philosophy, he absolutely wasn't. But there's a pretty good logical argument in favor of this conclusion.

How did Malfoy redeem himself? Similar to the way Anakin Skywalker did. He executed a series of choices/actions which, combined, were absolutely required for Harry to have survived and won over Voldemort - as in, without Malfoy, it's not at all certain that Harry would have won, at least before much greater casualties:

  • He disarmed Dumbledore.

  • He lost a wand to Harry - in combination with the latter, ensuring that Harry was the true master of the Elder Wand

  • He got into Hogwarts at the end of the last battle, bringing his buddies - and Crabbe cast the Fiendfyre spell that destroyed the Ravenclaw Diadem Horcrux.

  • He got into Hogwarts at the end of the last battle, thus ensuring that Narcissa Malfoy, in her drive to make sure he'd be OK, lied about Harry being dead (which was rather critical - had the Death Eaters realized that he was alive, they might have killed him themselves; OR wouldn't have brought him to meet the Hogwarts defenders where Neville had a chance to kill the last Horcrux, Nagini.

So in the end, since he personally hadn't done all that much evil (he let Death Eaters into the school so they could kill Dumbledore, but as noted, he was instrumental in Harry surviving (and he didn't kill Dumbledore himself); so things balance out.

  • And I meant it as far as trolling - if TangoOversway didn't post his answer, I would have ALSO posted the competing answer convincingly arguing that he wasn't "redeemed" - using a different definition of redemption. Which is why I voted to close the question. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 4 '11 at 19:57
  • Interesting points, but does an action that wasn't voluntary count toward redemption? If I'm doing my best to win a fight and lose, but my losing in the long run helps someone do something wonderful and just, does my unintentionally losing mean I'm doing something just when I intended to do something unjust? (It's quagmires like this that led to me voting to close this -- but my vote didn't show up, for some reason!) – Tango Dec 5 '11 at 3:51
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    Malfoy were not aware about the rules of Elder Wand ownership, so I would not classify that as "redemption". Not even Dumbledore was expecting that the Elder Wand would transfer to Malfoy. I don't think such coincidences would be considered redemption in any definition. – Lie Ryan Jan 27 '13 at 8:58
  • @LieRyan - the answer presupposes that redemption does NOT require conscious goal of redemption. See Skywalker, Anakin :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 27 '13 at 14:45
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    @DVK: I'm not a Star Wars fan, but the little that I know about Anakin is that he consciously and deliberately goes against his original goal to save Luke, which I agree might be classified as redemption-worthy act. However, if I understand your definition of redemption correctly, you think that if an evil-doer research to create a bomb to destroy the whole world accidentally ended up creating a source of infinite energy that cannot be turned into a weapon, that act would redeem the evil-doer even if he never intended/wanted to do any "good". I think that is an odd way to define redemption. – Lie Ryan Jan 27 '13 at 18:47
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In Goblet of Fire, Draco also demonstrates a genuine sense of humor. He makes a joke--sarcastic as it was--about the Blast-Ended Skrewts.

There seems to be a thing in Britain that nobody with a sense of humor can be all bad, and that lacking a sense of humor is the only unforgivable failing.

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