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This is an on-going debate between my husband and I stemming from our viewing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this weekend.

In OOTP, Umbridge really appears to be more of a misguided yes-man who is fully convinced that Harry and Dumbledore are trying to use scare-tactics to grab Fudge's position as Minister of Magic.

Fast forward to Deathly Hallows I (?), and her intentions appear much more malicious. At this point, she's aware of Voldemort's return and rising influence, yet she has Mad-Eye Moody's eye in her office door (or is this only in the book? I haven't had the opportunity to re-watch DH I or II yet). Either way, does this make her a death-eater? Or just stupid?

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up vote 17 down vote accepted

I agree that Dolores Umbridge is very much a "company yes-woman" and she toes the party line without deviation as a Ministry of Magic employee. Whether she's overtly malicious or not, I'll let you decide.

  • Umbridge engages students in what can only be called sadistic detentions, where she forces them to write lines with a quill that uses the student's own blood as ink and simultaneously carves the sentence onto the back of the student's hand, causing permanent scarring.
  • Umbridge refers to the Centaurs as "filthy half-breeds" and attacks one of the Centaurs with a painful spell after he shoots an arrow her way (on her provocation). If a teacher in our world called a child who's part African-American and part Asian a "filthy half-breed", would you find that benignly "misguided"?
  • Umbridge derives pleasure from emotionally hurting Professor Trelawney by both sacking her from the Divination post and attempting to have her removed from the Hogwarts grounds, which has been Trelawney's home for over sixteen years.
  • She "drugs" students so regularly with Veritaserum that she depletes Snape's entire Veritaserum stock. In "Potterverse", it is forbidden to give students Veritaserum, yet Umbridge relies on it as an information-gathering tactic.
  • Umbridge physically assaults Harry by slapping him across the face after she catches him, Ron, and Hermione trying to use her Floo in her office.
  • Umbridge is preparing to cast the unforgivable Cruciatus Curse on Harry in order to get him to give her information, saying "What Cornelius [Fudge] doesn't know won't hurt him."
  • Umbridge is happy to send Dumbledore to Azkaban without the benefit of a trial first following her discovery of Dumbledore's Army.
  • Umbridge refuses to believe Cedric Diggory was murdered by Voldemort and even goes so far as to punish Harry with her sadistic quill for him daring to contradict her.
  • Umbridge expresses the sentiment that she "really hates children", which isn't exactly a quality found in an exemplary teacher!
  • Umbridge relishes her power and abuses it openly and cruelly.

Dolores Umbridge is not an innocuous Ministry drone who is simply acting as she believes her boss wants her to. Her cruelty and sadism is autonomous to her work for Fudge.

My opinion? She's sadistic and dangerous. And I didn't even begin to touch on her antics in Deathly Hallows I, since your question was about Order of the Phoenix specifically.

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I think this is a very concise run-down of Umbridge's character. Guess, for her, it wasn't much of a stretch to go from "Umbridge" to "death-eater". – Meg Coates Feb 27 '12 at 21:32
Well, enjoying that bloody incompetent half-wit's sufferings after the half-wit kept gleefully declaring Harry's death for years seems to be a POSITIVE trait. – DVK Dec 15 '13 at 2:22
I believe JKR is on record as saying there's not much to choose between Umbridge and that madwoman Bellatrix Lestrange. – rand al'thor Jul 4 at 23:56

One influence is that they Harry and friends take the locket from Umbridge. I don't remember if the locket was being worn in OoTP, but it would explain how one could move from Misguided to Sinister.

DH1 makes it clear that the locket (or at least Horcrux) seems to bring out the darker side of a personality.

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+ 1 for mentioning the locket influence, hadn't thought of that, would + more if I could! – AidanO Feb 22 '12 at 11:31
@AidanO. - thanks for the comment :) – Andrei Freeman Feb 22 '12 at 12:22
+1. Good theory, works well . I don't think Dolores has the locket in OoTP - the locket is stolen by Mundungus Fletcher and sold to her fairly recently prior to DH-Pt-1 I think. – iandotkelly Feb 23 '12 at 0:53
@AndreiFreeman - not QUITE. The locket and her personality mesh. – DVK Feb 24 '12 at 1:05
@DVK - I did say "Darker", not more vicious or evil. – Andrei Freeman Feb 27 '12 at 2:26

A not unreasonable interpretation of Dolores does not have to accept the binary alternatives of Evil vs Stupid. I think a reasonable interpretation of what she represents is something distinct from either: bureaucratic conformity. Bad does not have to be manichaean; there are degrees and multiple dimensions of badness. Some people are faithful followers of Voldemort, others are too foolish to recognise Voldemort and some are merely advocates for whoever is in charge.

Umbridge is like a parody of the third group. She doesn't demonstrate a clear ideology but will adapt to whatever ideology is currently running the show.

In the real world she would be the worst sort of bureaucrat, following whatever rules existed no matter how dumb and unreasonable or unjust. Many evil human regimes rely on such followers to enforce and sustain their rule. They don't believe, they just conform.

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She isn't a death eater but rather someone at the Ministry who is pretty much always suspicious of every action of Albus Dumbledore and The boy who lived of course.

In 7th book pretty much the entire ministry is taken over by the Death eaters when they kill the Minister but still she isn't a deatheater she works for the Ministry rather. I don't remember anything in the book suggesting she is a death eater.

She is quite sadistic in which they share the same Death eater traits but not one of them!

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Dolores Umbridge isn't misguided, or just blindly following the words of the leaders. She was a part of the judicial body and drafted many anti-creature laws, including the anti-werewolf legislation that hindered Remus Lupin's job search. She had her own agenda and she did institute it. Her position as Senior Undersecretary allowed her the political clout she needed to push her ideals. Many of these ideals were those that aligned with death eater's beliefs, making her a sympathizer, as shown later. The open return of Voldemort would put her position at stake; Fudge's administration would be under fire and therefore her position would be threatened. Potter and Dumbledore turning the wizarding world on its head with the return of the Dark Lord would topple her comfortable world that she's worked so hard for. The fact that she routinely questions school children with truth serum, which I'm sure is illegal somewhere, points to her ability to ignore the law. That she says she's going to crucio information out of Harry, then puts the picture of Fudge that is on her desk onto its face, shows that she isn't just defending or siding with Fudge. She's acting separately from him on her own twisted agenda.

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She's not a Death Eater as far as officially serving Voldemort, but she does hold pretty much similar political views (blood purity wise) - hates "half-breeds", "mudbloods" etc...

She's basically Lawful Evil on alignment chart, whereas most DEs would be Neutral Evil or Chaotic evil.

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