It comes as a surprise to no one that Harry Potter's time with the Dursley's was truly abhorrent. They treated the poor boy like dirt and seemed to revel in making him as miserable as possible. Many fans believe that Dudley was the boys biggest tormentor growing up, but in this article, we want to step back and look at Dudley's actions from a more compassionate angle.
Fear not dear Potter fans of the internet, we are not excusing the actions of the young Dudley Dursley. However, in this article, we will be taking a look at them from a more empathetic place and trying to understand what could have lead to such things. And who knows? Maybe along the way we might discover a possible redemption arc waiting in the mud.
10 He Didn't Realize The Impact He Was Having
It could be very well possible that Dudley had no idea that he was truly hurting his cousin. There are a number of reasons for this (several of which will be explored in greater detail further down in this list.) The first being the fact that mistreating others was all he ever knew as it was the only example given to him by his parents.
Or perhaps he thought it was a bit of a game that he and his cousin were playing growing up. Or maybe he simply was too dim-witted to realize that his actions had consequences as he was taught to see other people (especially Harry) as things and not people. And, by consequence, did not realize that Harry even had feelings that could be hurt until the Dementor attack made him see his cousin as a real person.
9 He Tried To Make Up For It
Though his bullying is rather inexcusable, it is important to note that it came to an immediate end following the Dementor attack in the fifth book/film. This incident caused Dudley to question his relationship with Harry, his own actions, and whether or not the things that his parents had taught him about how to treat others were actually the correct ways of navigating the world.
Other characters who committed similar offenses in their youth are often granted redemption arcs by the fandom, but Dudley is often left out of such things.
8 He Would Have Been Punished Otherwise
Though we are not excusing Dudley's behaviour, it is important to note that it is very likely that doing so was his only choice. The Dursley's were so set on treating Harry like a festering pile of garbage that Dudley's later attempts at kindness were done in a rather secretive and sneaky matter.
It is quite possible that Dudley tried befriending his cousin at a small age but that behaviour was quickly corrected and he was taught that this boy was beneath him and a friendship between them would not be tolerated due to the fear of Harry's filth (Petunia's sentiments, not ours) rubbing off on her ickle Diddy-kins.
7 He Was Dealing With His Own Issues
Every bullied child in the world was told, at some point in their childhood, that kids are mean because they are insecure. They are simply projecting their own pain onto you and their words rarely have anything to do with you at all.
The books tell us that Dudley is a very large child with an obsessive mother and parents that verbally abuse all that wander onto their property. It is quite possible that Dudley himself could have been the target of similar levels of cruelty had he not gotten ahead of the game and become the perpetrator rather than the victim.
6 He Didn't Know What Was Going On
Now, it is important to note that people should be kind to each other; regardless of what is going on in their lives. One does not get a free pass to be mean just because someone has a rather good life and one should not avoid being a jerk just because someone is having a bad day- they should avoid being a jerk because it was wrong.
However, Dudley had no idea the extent of misery that Harry was struggling with. He did not know anything beyond what his parents told him. And his parents told him that Harry was a rotten freak that deserved to be treated like dirt.
5 He Was Rather Dim-Witted
Now, there is nothing wrong with being rather dim-witted. Intelligence does not make a person superior to another. However, it is worth noting that Dudley was a rather dim-witted fellow and it is quite possible that he did not understand the true consequences of his actions.
Look at it this way. His parents rewarded his cruelty, they were cruel themselves, and his friends encouraged his sour behaviour. This taught Dudley that being mean was a good thing and that other people were punchlines (and nothing more.) Being rather dim-witted, he probably never questioned the ethics of his actions.
4 He Was Simply Following His Parents' Example
Simply put, Dudley was raised by two of the biggest bullies around. He watched them treat Harry (and the rest of the world) with nothing but absolute contempt and absorbed such things into his own developing personality.
It is also worth noting that he was rewarded for being cruel to Harry. When raising a small child, it is important to never laugh at a behaviour that you do not want to encourage in the child. For if they get a laugh for doing so, they are going to want to repeat the action as much as possible to receive that positive reinforcement. When a young Dudley was cruel to his cousin, his father encouraged this by applauding such things. Teaching him that this was the way to treat others.
3 Draco Got A Redemption Arc
Draco and Dudley are not that different (though a young Draco would be very insulted if he heard himself being likened to a muggle) if one really gets down to it. Both of them are young boys who were raised by men who believe them to be superior to other people and that Harry is an acceptable target (in fact, they are even encouraged to go after the boy!)
If we can forgive Draco's antics as him not knowing any better and simply spouting off the same hateful rhetoric that he absorbed at home, then surely we can afford Dudley the same kindness as both boys, once they realized the error of their ways and that they wanted to be nothing like their fathers, did their best to make amends with Harry.
2 There Are Far Bigger Villains In The Series
Though all injuries do leave marks, even the smaller ones, it is important to note that, within the context of the Harry Potter canon, there are bigger fish to fry. Now, that does not mean that we fully excuse everything that Dudley did.
However, some fans have put his childish actions on par with that of Lord Voldemort and, truth be told, that is a bit unfair. Especially considering the redemption arc we have given both Draco Malfoy and James Potter for similar behaviour.
1 He Was Just A Kid
In the same way that we have written off the boorish behaviour and actions of Mr James Potter due to his age, it is only fair that we consider showing Dudley Dursley the same kindness. Yes, he truly did torment Harry whilst they were growing up together. However, he was just a kid and once he was old enough to understand the consequences that his actions were having, he cut that nonsense out rather quickly.
Children do not inherently have empathy, it is something that is taught. And without any positive example of such, it can be difficult for children to develop such things on their own (especially when their poor behaviour is outright encouraged.) But once Dudley began to understand what Harry was going through and began to see Harry as a person, he did make an effort to become a better person. And that growth is something that should be acknowledged.