Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Dudley Dursley
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character|
|Eye color||Watery blue and piggy|
|Related Family||Vernon Dursley (father), Petunia Dursley (mother), Harry Potter (cousin), Marge Dursley (aunt)|
Dudley, being a child, grows throughout the series. He starts as a monumentally fat infant, grows to be a monumentally fat child, goes on a diet and starts building muscle, and ends up to be one of those horrible hulking tough lads.
While Dudley's birthday is never explicitly given a date, we believe it to be some time in June, shortly before school ends, as Harry's punishment after the events at the zoo in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was "his longest-ever punishment. By the time he was allowed out of his cupboard again, the summer holidays had started". At least one web site puts it on 23 June.
Role in the Books
We hear that Dudley is the only child of Vernon Dursley and Petunia Dursley, and that in their opinion, there is no finer child anywhere. Offset against this, we have the observation of Minerva McGonagall, who protests Albus Dumbledore's decision to leave Harry with these, "the very worst sort of Muggles." McGonagall has seen Petunia taking Dudley out for a walk and has seen him hitting her, demanding candy.
Ten years later, we see the Dursley house again. We are told that there are lots of pictures of Dudley, a monumentally fat child, where previously there had been lots of pictures of a monumentally fat toddler. It is Dudley's birthday, and Petunia tells Harry to be extra careful cooking breakfast, she doesn't want anything to spoil her Dudley's special day. When Dudley comes down to breakfast, he is outraged that there are only 37 gifts for him; last year he had gotten 38. To defuse the explosion, Petunia promises that they will buy him two more gifts. Dudley eventually works out that this is 39, and this satisfies him. Shortly, though, Mrs. Figg phones to say that she can't take Harry for the day, as she has broken her leg. Vernon and Petunia decide that they have to take Harry with them on Dudley's outing to the zoo, as they can't trust him alone in the house, and Dudley starts to throw a tantrum at this. He is interrupted, though, by the arrival of Piers, his friend, who is also going to the zoo. Dudley doesn't want Piers to see him crying, so that effectively is an end to his resistance.
At the zoo, Harry manages to get a lemon ice when the vendor assumes that all three of the children will have something, and Vernon, to keep up appearances, must buy Harry something as well; and later, Harry gets nearly all of Dudley's dessert (a "Knickerbocker Glory") when Dudley complains that it is too small and Vernon gets him a second one.
In the reptile house, Dudley quickly goes to find the biggest snake in the place, and bangs on the glass to try and make it move. When it doesn't, he goes away disappointed. Harry finds that the snake understands him, and while he is talking with it, Piers calls Dudley and Vernon to come and look at it. Dudley, waddling up at speed, hits Harry in the ribs, and Harry falls on the floor. Much to everyone's amazement, the glass in front of the snake vanishes, and the snake escapes, telling Harry it's off to Brazil. Dudley claims that the snake almost bit his leg off, and Piers says he was almost squeezed to death, but the worst is that Piers, calming down a bit, says Harry was talking to it. This results in Vernon locking Harry in his cupboard under the stairs for a week.
When we next see Dudley, school vacations have started. Dudley and his gang often come over to visit, and Harry does his best to stay hidden during these episodes, as Dudley, with Piers, Dennis, Malcolm, and Gordon, have settled on hitting Harry as their favorite pastime. Harry looks forward to the end of summer vacation, as Dudley is going to Vernon's old school, Smeltings, while Harry is going to be going to Stonewall Comprehensive. (Note to US readers: Smeltings, presumably a "public" school, is what is called a private school in the US, while Stonewall, a comprehensive school, is what would be called public in the US.) While Vernon and Petunia get all teary-eyed over the sight of Dudley in his Smeltings uniform, Harry is hard-put to restrain his laughter.
Dudley is in his school uniform the next morning at breakfast. When Vernon tells him to fetch the mail, Dudley tells him to have Harry do it; when Harry demurs, Vernon tells Dudley to poke Harry with his stick. Harry, seeing that Dudley is all too ready to do so, fetches the mail and finds the first of what will be a large number of letters for himself. Before he gets to open this one, though, Dudley calls out that he has received a letter, and Vernon pulls it away from him. Reading it is evidently a serious shock for both Vernon and Petunia, but they refuse to let either Harry or Dudley read it, despite their demands.
On returning home from work that day, Vernon tells Harry that they are moving him from his cupboard to the smallest bedroom at the house, the one that has been to date used to store all of Dudley's broken and disused gifts. Dudley is angered by this encroachment on his domain, and Harry can hear him bawling even with his new door closed.
The following morning, another letter arrives for Harry; Dudley, sent to get the mail, retrieves it, but is not allowed to read it.
The following morning, Vernon sleeps across the front door as the mailman arrives, delivering several more letters for Harry. Vernon then stays home, and nails up the letterbox. Dudley can only watch in horror as Vernon's antics to prevent the delivery of these letters grows ever more irrational. He clearly fears that his father has gone insane, and Petunia, who alone understands the reason for his actions, cannot explain.
Vernon's irrationality comes to a head on Sunday, and results in them driving off into the wilds of England. They end up in a ramshackle house, built on a rock out at sea, after Dudley has complained about missing one of his favorite television shows. Here, after a wholly unsatisfactory dinner, Vernon and Petunia take the one bed, and Dudley sleeps on the couch, leaving Harry with one threadbare blanket on the floor. Harry, looking at the watch on Dudley's pudgy wrist, recognizes the arrival of his eleventh birthday.
This is how they are found by Rubeus Hagrid, "keeper of the keys and grounds at Hogwarts", when he bursts in at midnight. Dudley, apart from being petrified at this huge and woolly man breaking into their house, and trying to hide behind his parents, plays little part in this scene; he does twitch a little when Hagrid dumps a half-dozen sausages onto a plate and hands them to Harry, but Vernon forbids his taking anything from Hagrid, and Hagrid says that Dudley doesn't need any more feeding up. When Vernon, resisting Harry's going off to Hogwarts, calls Albus Dumbledore a "crackpot old fool," Hagrid loses his temper, and pointing his umbrella at Dudley, charms a pig's tail onto him. Panicked, Dudley, Vernon, and Petunia retreat into the bedroom. Hagrid says that he had meant to turn Dudley into a pig, but he was already so much like one that there wasn't much left to do.
The next we see Dudley, it is the day that Harry is to take the Hogwarts Express. Vernon agrees to take Harry to London to catch the train, saying they had to go to town anyway to get Dudley's tail surgically removed. Harry shows his ticket to Vernon, who knows that there is no platform nine and three quarters. Vernon takes him to King's Cross Station, gets all his goods onto a luggage cart, and points at platforms nine and ten, showing him that there is no platform nine and three quarters, then gets back into the car and drives off. Harry sees that all three of the Dursleys are laughing.
On Harry's return from Hogwarts, we see Dudley and Aunt Petunia in the background, looking terrified. Harry comments to Ron that he's going to have fun with Dudley this summer, because the Dursleys don't know that he's not allowed to do magic.
On Harry's birthday, Vernon is preparing for what he expects to be a major sale, entertaining a very important client in his home. He starts off by assigning everyone duties. Dudley's initial job is to greet Mr. and Mrs. Mason at the door and offer to take their coats; and then to be sycophantic in the lounge while they are waiting for dinner, and to offer an arm to Mrs. Mason on the way in to dinner. Harry's role, of course, is to be up in his room, utterly silent, and pretending he isn't there; but listening to Dudley planning to suck up to the Masons, he again has trouble refraining from laughing.
Harry is then told to stay out of Petunia's way while she is cleaning. Sitting out in the backyard, Harry sees something in the hedge looking at him; while he is trying to figure out what it is, Dudley waddles over and starts taunting him about not getting any birthday cards from his "friends at that freak school". Harry tells Dudley that he's thinking up the best spell to set the hedge on fire; when he starts reciting nonsense words under his breath, Dudley runs off to tell Petunia. In retaliation for having threatened to use magic, Petunia sets him a large number of cleaning tasks, while Dudley lolls around and eats ice cream.
Dudley does not interact significantly with Harry before Fred and George Weasley arrive with Ron in their father's flying car, and the book ends as Harry walks off the platform at King's Cross, so we don't see Dudley directly again in this book.
The Dursleys, while they cannot prevent Harry from receiving messages from other wizards, are still against his doing magic, so they have locked his spell books and school gear away under the stairs in the cupboard where Harry used to sleep. However, when Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley go out into the street to admire Vernon's new company car (in loud voices, so that the neighbours will know about it also), Harry takes the opportunity to pick the lock on the cupboard and take enough of his stuff upstairs so that he can do his homework. We see him initially doing his homework under the covers late at night, to the sound of Dudley's distant, grunting snores.
Dudley had been complaining about the long walk from the kitchen to the television in the living room, so the Dursleys had bought a new television for the kitchen, and Dudley had been sitting in the kitchen all summer, eating continuously, with his five chins wobbling. When Vernon announces that his sister Marge will be arriving, Harry is dismayed; Marge has repeatedly shown favoritism to Dudley over Harry, at one point allowing her dog to chase Harry up a tree, and then leaving him up there until midnight.
Vernon continues, saying that there will be some ground rules set. Dudley looks away from the television; he enjoys seeing Harry chastised more than watching TV. But while Harry protests at the requirements – he cannot mention his school, instead he must say that he attends St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys – Harry's reaction is not interesting enough to Dudley to keep his eyes away from the television, and he returns to watching that as Harry follows Vernon out to the front room and makes a deal with him about how he is to remember the nonsense he's supposed to tell Aunt Marge.
When Marge arrives, she throws her suitcase at Harry, and gives Dudley a hug. Harry knows that Dudley only puts up with her affections because he gets paid for it, and sure enough, Dudley is clutching a new £20 note (US: about $30) when he breaks away from the hug. During her visit, Marge keeps buying expensive gifts for Dudley while silently challenging Harry to say anything. Possibly because he is being so monopolized by Marge, Dudley stays largely out of our story until Harry, having received as much verbal abuse as he can stand, flees the house.
At the end of the book, we again see Vernon waiting for Harry to return, but if Dudley has come with him, Harry doesn't notice him.
Dudley's end-of-term report card from Smeltings had caused some consternation. While Vernon and Petunia could dismiss his bad grades and the accusations of bullying, the school nurse had mentioned that Dudley was seriously overweight, and the outfitters at the school did not have uniforms in his size. Thus, he had been put on a very controlled diet; and as a matter of family solidarity, the entire family, including Harry, had perforce been placed on a diet also. Breakfast was a quarter grapefruit each, which Dudley augments by sneaking Vernon's away from him when he goes to answer the door and Petunia is busy with the kettle. Harry, of course, has resources that Dudley does not know about; he had sent a plea for help off with Hedwig, and had received a goodly supply of treats back from Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid. Harry is able to tease Dudley about how filling breakfast was, and Dudley can't make any reply.
The Weasleys have tickets to the Quidditch World Cup, and have invited Harry and Hermione to go along with them. They agree to pick Harry up at five o'clock the next day, and Harry is packed and ready by noon. It is five thirty before they finally appear, and when they do, Arthur Weasley arrives by means of the Floo network to the Dursleys' boarded up fireplace. Hearing the noise behind the wall, Dudley waddles out of the lounge and into the kitchen as fast as he can move, holding his hands over his behind. The fireplace becomes very congested, with Arthur, Fred, George, and Ron in it; Arthur blows the wall apart to make an exit for his family. Vernon and Petunia are in a panic, and cannot respond to Arthur's attempts at conversation. Fred and George go off upstairs to collect Harry's trunk; the sound of them dragging Harry's trunk down the stairs scares Dudley back into the lounge. Hiding behind his parents, he watches as Fred and George prepare to return to the Burrow, and as a bag of sweets falls out of Fred's pocket. Fred rapidly gathers them up, then takes off through the fireplace, followed by George with Harry's trunk, and Ron. Harry says goodbye, and steps towards the fireplace; Arthur stops him, amazed that the Dursleys have not even said goodbye. Under what he perceives as a threat (Arthur's wand), Vernon grudgingly says goodbye, but as Harry steps towards the fireplace, he hears a gagging sound: Dudley has found and eaten one of the dropped sweets, and his tongue is now a foot long and still growing. Pandemonium erupts, with Dudley gagging, Petunia trying to yank this growth out of Dudley's mouth, Arthur attempting to reassure everyone that he almost certainly knows how to cure this, and Vernon attacking Arthur in any way he can. Harry departs, finding himself in the Burrow. Fred and George immediately ask him what had happened. When Harry replies that Dudley had eaten it, there was a great burst of laughter in the kitchen, and Harry realizes that Charlie and Bill are there as well. The Twins explain that the sweet was a Ton-Tongue Toffee, something that they have been working on.
Shortly, Arthur appears, infuriated, asking what they had given him, and reporting that Dudley's tongue was four feet long before his parents would let him reverse the charm. He demands to know why they had given that to Dudley. Fred and George protest: they hadn't given it to him, they had dropped it, and he had grabbed it himself. Arthur angrily refutes that, saying that they knew he was on a diet, and that this sort of thing was what strained Wizard-Muggle relations. The twins reply that they hadn't done this to Dudley because he was a Muggle, they had done it because he was a great bullying git, and Harry confirms that he is that. While the twins do apparently catch a serious scolding from their mother for this infraction, that is the last we hear of Dudley before school time.
While Uncle Vernon is waiting for Harry at King's Cross at the end of the book, Dudley is not present.
During the summer, Dudley, now grown muscular and having discovered a passion for boxing, apparently has taken to working the street with his cronies and seems to be torturing the neighborhood kids. Harry spots him as a meeting with his cronies breaks up, and knowing that he will be locked out of the house if Dudley gets home before he does, heads home with him. During this short walk, Harry taunts him, knowing full well that Dudley was terrified of Harry's magical capabilities. Dudley then mentioned things that Harry had muttered in his sleep during nightmares. Harry threatens him with his wand, but before he can do anything but point it at Dudley, Dementors appear. Dudley goes to pieces and Harry uses the Patronus charm to fight them off. On their return to Privet Drive, Dudley claims the Dementor's effects were caused by Harry. Harry is nearly thrown out of the house by Vernon Dursley, but a Howler, sent to Petunia, evidently changes her mind, and they decide to allow him to stay. However, Vernon starts locking him in his room again, except for bathroom visits. He remains there until one night when Vernon and Petunia, with Dudley in tow, go out, and Harry is rescued by a group of wizards, the Advance Guard, who take him to the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.
Dudley is mentioned during Harry's Occlumency lessons; memories of Dudley riding a new bike and bullying Harry are glimpsed.
At the end of the book, Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley are at King's Cross to meet Harry on his return from school. They are confronted by Alastor Moody, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, and Arthur Weasley, as Harry, Ron, and Hermione look on. Moody, the leader of the group, is telling Vernon that they are interested in Harry's well-being and will be keeping an eye on how he is being treated. Dudley has nothing to contribute here; like his parents, he is scared of this collection of fully grown wizards, and simply tries to hide himself as best he can.
Harry's time at the Dursleys' is quite short this year, with Dumbledore arriving after only a fortnight to take him away. Before he leaves, though, Dumbledore has some very harsh words to say to the Dursleys about how they are raising Harry. He does say that they had done a better job with Harry than with Dudley. Dudley's contribution during this period seems to be limited to frightened squeaks and attempts to hide behind his parents.
Harry steps into a cold cup of tea outside his bedroom door as he goes to the bathroom to clean an injury he has received, and he believes that this is Dudley playing a trick on him. Dudley, however, shows his real feelings towards Harry when he reveals that he doesn't think Harry is a waste of space, and that he would miss Harry in his absence. Although this seems very faint praise to Dedalus Diggle, who is present to assist the Dursleys in making their escape, Harry recognizes this for a marked change from his earlier treatment of Harry, and makes Harry re-assess the meaning of the tea outside his room – perhaps it was a peace offering from Dudley? While we are never told the full reason for Dudley's change of heart, it is probably the result of Harry's saving his soul from the Dementor attack two years previously.
Having discovered his skill at boxing, Dudley is evidently able to stick to it well enough that he manages to lose a significant amount of weight over the course of a year. Our impression is that he will always remain stocky, and likely will have to fight a weight problem all his life, but he seems to have the willpower to bring his weight down at least once.
Dudley is spoiled and self-indulgent. Before he takes up boxing, he is a couch potato who overeats and has become obese. Once he is forced to start losing weight, he uses his new-found strength to beat up smaller children. He bullies his parents with tantrums and whining to get what he wants, lies to them about what he is doing, and has little concern for the feelings of others.
Relationships with Other Characters
Dudley is a bully, and has been since the first book, where it is mentioned that Harry is his favorite punch-bag. Like all bullies, when faced with someone who might be stronger than he (e.g. Rubeus Hagrid, Arthur Weasley, Albus Dumbledore), he runs away.
Dudley's role in the story is relatively minor, despite the amount of control he seems to have of the Dursley household. Harry will be faced with a large number of enemies, of varying strength, over the course of the story arc, and Dudley, despite Harry's being forced to live with him, seems to be no more than an irritant. Even in the first book, Harry seems to be able to attack Dudley verbally; it is clear that Dudley has not vanquished Harry, except in certain limited areas. Harry, of course, cannot stand up to Dudley physically, but is quite clearly his mental superior. It is interesting to note that Harry seems to dread the arrival of Aunt Marge, whose attacks on her very occasional visits are largely verbal, much more than he concerns himself with Dudley, with whom he must live.
Much of Dudley's role seems to be one of contrast. The Dursley family treatment of Harry is apparently designed to show how children can be abused through neglect by those who are nominally taking care of them, while Dudley seems to be an example of how children can be abused through overindulgence. Professor Dumbledore comments on this in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, in fact, pointing out that while the Dursleys had done a bad job raising Harry, they had done a worse job on Dudley. While the author clearly does not condone either extreme, it seems that she has deliberately portrayed the results of overindulgence as being significantly worse than the results of privation.
- In the first chapter ('Dudley Demented') of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dudley and Harry are attacked by two dementors. Dementors suck all the happy memories out of their victims, leaving them with nothing but their worst experiences. Dudley, during the attack, cowers and shivers and shows all the symptoms of someone being attacked by (or being near) a dementor. So he is reliving his worst memories. However, he is favoured enormously by his parents over Harry, let alone anyone else and they spoil him greatly. So... what is Dudley Dursley's worst memory?
At one point, the author mentioned on her web site that some character would, late in life, develop unexpected magical talent. No information was given about who this person would be, though it was later noted that "late in life" clearly meant "after eleven years of age", as that is the point at which a child becomes eligible to enter Hogwarts. If a magical talent were to appear after that point, the person having that talent would be crippled through not having had the chance to have the talent properly nurtured and educated. We have to assume that the cutoff age was selected to avoid leaving frustrated near-wizards floating discontentedly among the Muggle population. No late-developing magical talent was evident in the final book of the series, however, and the author later noted that the plot line had changed since her earlier statement, and the late-blooming wizard was no longer required.
We mention this because there was some speculation among the fan population that Dudley would turn out to be the unexpected wizard. This would have utterly horrified his parents, of course, but might have made Harry's life easier. Supporting this, we have the fact that Dudley was evidently affected by the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, while we had been told earlier that Muggles could not sense them. This is, however, the only trace of magical ability we ever see from Dudley, and it is by no means conclusive; there are varying opinions as to whether Squibs can perceive Dementors, and it is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that Muggles can at least sense Dementors in a general sort of way.