Aunt Marge's Big Mistake
Synopsis: Matt Allair
Notes and links: Steve Vander Ark and Michele L. Worley
US hardcover edition: pages 16 - 30
UK hardcover edition: pages 18-28
UK paperback edition: pages 23 - 38
31 July - 6 August,
In which Aunt Marge comes to visit
and her taunting drives Harry to
inflate her, then gather his belongings and leave Privet Drive
without permission to visit Hogsmeade.
Interesting facts and notes about the text of this chapter:
As we'll see, this chapter provides Rowling with a prime opportunity to talk
about one of her favorite themes: that prejudice and intolerance and
self-centeredness are very, very bad things indeed.
Aunt Marge is all of these things
rolled together into one large, mustachioed package, complete with an
evil-tempered animal alter-ego with a violent name whom she treats far better
than the humans around her. This chapter is great fun to read and
Marge's comeuppance is delicious and perfectly
suited to her: a woman whose sense of self-importance is inflated far beyond
reason is herself inflated and ends up bobbing about on the ceiling, turned
harmless and helpless and utterly laughable. In the next chapter we learn
that the remedy for this is "puncturing." How wonderful. Too bad
we don't get to hang around the Dursleys to see this done.
They were watching a brand-new television, a welcome-home-for-the-summer
present for Dudley, who had been complaining loudly about the long walk
between the fridge and the television in the living room.
"... The public is warned that Black is armed and extremely dangerous.
A special hot line has been set up, and any sighting of Black should be
At Dudley's fifth birthday party, Aunt Marge had whacked Harry around
A few years later, she had turned up at Christmas with a computerized
robot for Dudley and a box of dog biscuits for Harry.
On her last visit, the year before Harry started at Hogwarts, Harry had
accidentally trodden on the tail of her favorite dog. Ripper had chased
Harry out into the garden and up a tree...
...we've told Marge you attend St. Brutus's Secure Center for
Incurably Criminal Boys...
Ripper was lapping
noisily in the corner. Harry saw
Aunt Petunia wince
slightly as specks of tea and drool flecked her clean floor.
Aunt Petunia hated
"Oh, I've got Colonel Fubster managing them," boomed
Aunt Marge. "He's retired now,
good for him to have something to do..."
...lunch on the third day...
"You see it all the time with dogs. If there's something wrong with
the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup --"
At that moment, the wineglass Aunt Marge was holding exploded in her hand.
Only last summer he'd gotten an official warning that had stated quite
clearly that if the Ministry got wind of any more magic in Privet Drive,
Harry would face expulsion from
Harry got through the next
At last, at long last, the final evening of
Marge's stay arrived.
...Uncle Vernon brought out a bottle of brandy...Aunt Marge had
already had quite a lot of wine...
The cupboard door burst magically open as he reached it.
Characters introduced in this chapter:
Characters returning in this chapter:
Characters mentioned in this chapter:
Settings and locations introduced or returning in this chapter:
Settings and locations mentioned in this chapter:
Exceptional character moments:
Dudley Dursley, who spends
most of his waking hours eating and watching television, could be
the poster child for childhood obesity and for couch potatoes.
When Uncle Vernon says,
"Lunatic could be coming up the street right now!"
after hearing the news report regarding Sirius Black, he has no idea
that in less than a week this would be true. Foreshadowing?
Harry is definitely developing a teenager's attitude as illustrated in the way
he speaks to Uncle Vernon. Harry agrees to behave during Aunt Marge's visit
if she behaves during her visit.
Aunt Marge tells Harry that if he had been dumped
on her doorstep that she would have sent him straight to an orphanage.
Harry was bursting to tell her that he would rather live in an orphanage
than with the Dursleys. If the Dursleys had sent Harry to an
orphanage, he would have ironically grown up the same way as Tom Riddle.
Harry knows this from his encounter with Riddle the year before.
The information in the note that Dumbledore left with baby Harry on the
Dursleys' doorstep prevented this from happening. If Harry had grown
up in an orphanage, he would have had yet another similarity with Voldemort.
Dumbledore had to have known this and would have rather had Harry endure
eleven years of bad treatment from the Dursleys than to share something
else in common with Voldemort.
Aunt Marge obviously tends to drink to excess resulting in intoxication.
Many people tend to see their own faults in the faults of other
individuals. Marge is no exception. After way too much wine and brandy
during dinner, she (of all people) has the nerve to tell Harry that his
parents were killed in the car accident because they were drunk. Perfect
example of "the pot calling the kettle black" on Marge's part.
Verbal irony at its finest.
Aunt Marge would make a very good Voldemort supporter if she were a
witch and not a Muggle. She like the Malfoys have a real problem
with not being a pureblood. She makes this clear when speaking about
dog breeding. "Bad blood will out," she tells Petunia.
Aunt Marge considers one of the basic rules of good breeding is:
"If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something
wrong with the pup-"
When Harry finally snaps after enduring a week of Aunt Marge's
insults toward him and his parents, his emotions get the best of him.
Harry having never felt so angry in his life never goes for his wand
or utters any curses; the magic just seem to emanate from him. Harry
just "blew up" because he could not take Aunt Marge's nasty
comments any more, and appropriately enough Aunt Marge blew up, too.
Harry knows too many curses from his previous two years at Hogwarts, so
why did his emotions choose to inflate Aunt Marge? Could it be that
this happened because he spent the summer watching Dudley continue
to balloon in size?
inflating Aunt Marge
Links and Resources:
". . . The public is warned that Black is armed and
extremely dangerous. A special hot line has been set up, and any
sighting of Black should be reported immediately."
Reporter on television
"She was the nosiest woman in the world and spent most of her
life spying on the boring, law-abiding neighbors."
Description of Aunt Petunia
". . . we've told Marge you attend St. Brutus's Secure
Center for Incurably Criminal Boys."
Uncle Vernon to Harry
"Bad blood will out."
"She deserved what she got."
"I'm going. I've had enough."
We are given no hint of the days of the week, so we'll go
with supplying Y13
with the dates from the actual calendar of the summer of
See also Timeline of
Dudley Dursley, which received a lot of information thanks to this
Marge arrives shortly after breakfast
Harry's 13th birthday
at lunch, Marge's wineglass explodes
dinner at which Marge becomes inflated and
Harry flees number four Privet Drive
Harry joins Vernon, Dudley, and Petunia for breakfast
in the kitchen (around 8 or 9 o'clock?). All are watching the new television
as a news program announces a warning of an escaped convict, named Black,
who is "armed and highly dangerous."
Vernon mentions picking up Aunt Marge, whose train
is due at 10 o'clock. Marge is Vernon's sister and is due to stay for a
week. This comes as a very unpleasant shock to Harry as Marge is his least
favorite Aunt. She has a history of being cruel to Harry, while spoiling
Vernon barks three conditions to Harry while Marge is visiting. First, to
keep a civil tongue. Second, that there's to be no 'funny stuff', no magic.
Third, Vernon has told Marge that Harry attends St. Brutus's Secure Center
for Incurably Criminal Boys, Harry has to play along.
Harry is stunned by this development, while Vernon gets his coat to leave,
Harry remembers the permission form. Harry strikes a bargain with Vernon,
as well as a touch of blackmail, he'll agree to the conditions if the form
is signed. Vernon agrees if Harry 'toes the line' for the week and
sticks to the St. Brutus story. Vernon leaves.
Harry goes to his room, hides all evidence of his wizard life, has Hedwig
leave and follow Errol to the Weasley home for the week.
Soon Marge arrives with Vernon, hugging Dudley while planting a twenty-pound
note in his hand. She throws her heavy suitcase at Harry, winding him. Marge's
dog Ripper is by her side. Harry escapes upstairs with the suitcase.
Harry comes back downstairs to the kitchen, to find Marge served with tea
and fruitcake. Ripper is given some tea while Marge mentions that Colonel
Fubster is watching over her twelve other dogs. Marge starts to harass
Harry while he plays along to attending St. Brutus's.
Marge continues to harass and provoke Harry, who ignores her. During lunch,
she comments, "You mustn't blame yourself for the way the boy's turned
out, Vernon. If there's something on the inside, there's nothing anyone can
do about it." Harry has to remind himself to control his temper
when Marge's glass explodes. Vernon and Petunia are alarmed, Harry leaves
nervously reminding himself about the form and not to get in trouble again
with the Ministry through any illegal use of magic like the summer before
6 or 7 August,
The Dursleys, Aunt Marge and Harry have a fancy evening dinner. After dessert,
Vernon offers Marge some brandy when she starts to make comments about Harry
again. She repeats a similar 'poor breeding' comment directed at Harry, when
she starts a more insulting comment about Petunia's sister and the
'no-account, good-for-nothing' father of Harry's. Harry feels the anger begin.
Harry starts to lose his temper when he speaks up and debates with Aunt Marge
about how the Potter's died. She stops speaking and starts to inflate like a
balloon, rising to the roof. Vernon seizes one of Marge's feet when Ripper
appears and attacks Vernon's leg.
Harry, realizing he must be to blame, races out of the dining room. He makes for
the hall and the downstairs cupboard as it magically bursts open.
Harry heaves his trunk out to the front door.
Harry races upstairs, grabs his hidden books and birthday presents, grabs
Hedwig's cage, races downstairs as Vernon appears, bellowing to him to
'put her right'. Harry opens his trunk, takes his wand and points it at
Vernon, telling him to 'stay away, she deserved it' as he opens the door.
Still fuming, Harry tells Vernon 'I'm going' as he exits the Dursley home.