There’s only one person at Hogwarts who is hated more that Severus Snape, loathed more than Peeves the Poltergeist, and feared more than the Whomping Willow. His name is Argus Filch and he’s the caretaker at the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Filch is one of the harshest adults working at the school and the kids really, really hate him. On several occasions the characters in the book make their fear and loathing pretty apparent, making him out to be an ornery stickler for the rules on the reader’s side of things.
But why is Argus Filch such an ass? What you may not know is that the janitor working amongst magic children is in fact a Squib.
Imagine living your entire life without hands and imagine that you also suffer from a disease that makes it impossible for you to have artificial limbs replace them. It would be a pretty frustrating life, wouldn’t it?
The entire world around us is based on the ability to use your limbs to do… things. Eating, drinking, washing, driving, building, wanking, whateverhaveyou it’s something you need and Argus Filch is the magic world’s equivalent of a person with a disability, but he’s at an even more significant disadvantage.
A blind man could learn spells, a witch without a voice could learn how to do unincanted spellcasting, a man without any limbs could magic himself a whole new set of them, and a witch with Tourette syndrome would be the most dangerous woman alive.
In The Chamber of Secrets after some muddy Quidditch training, Filch brings Harry Potter to his office to cuss him out for tracking dirt through the halls. Inside his office, Harry discovers something called a Kwikspell book.
As a Squib, Filch is unable to do magic… yes, you heard right he’s unable to do magic. That means he can’t use spells, he doesn’t have a proper wand, and he certainly isn’t able to use a broomstick. That means he’s magically uneducated, he’s certainly disenfranchised, discriminated, and d…eviated…, and it definitely explains why he hates kids.
Think about it, he lives and works in a place that’s dedicated to giving magical children a better life. Born to magic parents, he was once destined to live such a life, but as a Squib he’s considered almost worse off than a Mudblood (by the pure-blooded magic jerks).
That’s going to make you hate kids and anyone who discriminates against the magically challenged. Hell, there are enough examples of Squibs being discriminated against that there should be a freaking support network to help them. Screw S.P.E.W., we need a Society for the Promotion of Squib Welfare, (upon further research there is actually something called the Society of the Support of Squibs that was established by Idris Oakby, a suspected Squib).
As we’ve seen with wizards like Neville Longbottom and Merope Gaunt (though she was just thought to be a Squib), reactions to people who are unable or fairly poor at using magic range from being unpopular to, as Marvolo Gaunt put it, “You disgusting little Squib, you filthy blood traitor!”
Squibs live in a world where magic is the only thing that makes you an actualized human being. Without magic you are unable to do even the smallest of things in the magic world. There are no jobs outside of breeding strange cats and janitorial stuff available to you, and some poor wizard could do that job better than you!
It’s like living in our modern-day society with a disability and being structurally deprived of opportunities. It’s not something that you can fix with an artificial limb or a walking stick, but rather you’ve been given your lot in life and you’re stuck with it.
It means your family hates you, you are unable to work, and you’re unable to get any better at something you can’t even do in the first place. With all of those challenges ahead of Argus Filch you would expect him to be understanding of less fortunate people and hate those who discriminate against others.
So, why the hell does he side with High Inquisitor Dolores Umbridge?!
This is something that has always frustrated me about Argus Filch. In the Order of the Pheonix, Filch supports and blindly follows a woman who would likely see him thrown out of magic society because of his disability. You’d think he’d hate her, but he loves the pink-wearing devil.
Well, let’s think about it a little. What does Dolores Umbridge offer to Filch?
Umbridge gives Filch the ability to live out all of his fantasies in sadistically punishing students. Sure, that’s a pretty surface level look into their relationship, but it goes a little deeper than that.
The High Inquisitor, aside from being a character designed to be hated by the reader, is one of the vilest people in the magic world. She’s vile because she hates half-breeds, she’s vile because he hates Mudbloods, and she’s vile because she hates Squibs.
Well, although that’s never really said, you can assume that someone on a discrimination trip like her would probably hate a group of people in the magic world tainting their magic blood. If anything Squibs would most likely be on the top of Umbridge’s list of people who need to be euthanized for the sake of the betterment of society.
Now that might be a little harsh, but you need to understand she doesn’t exactly have the best policies towards half-breeds. So why would Argus Filch promote someone who is enabling the ideals of the Minister of Magic? She’s the instrument through which the Ministry is essentially ensuring that Hogwarts students will go into the wizarding world unprepared, and that is the rub.
By enabling Umbridge to circumvent the education of magic students, Filch is propagating the very system that holds him down in society. It’s in that where he finds true satisfaction making the students as disabled as he is. He also gets a bit of satisfaction from punishing students.
Through this desire to punish these young magical minds, Filch is embarking upon a masochistic exercise of his own. He hates the young students and by punishing them, i.e. stringing them up by their thumbs in the dungeon, but he also hates what they represent: a future generation of young, magical minds.
Imagine him seeing someone like Harry Potter.
Once upon a time, Filch could have been like Harry. He could cast spells, use brooms, and do what witches and wizards are supposed to do. Instead he spends his days chasing down ghosts and cleaning up after students who hate his guts. Is it any wonder that he would take any opportunity to have full reign to punish students?
His demeanour and attitude toward young students says worlds about ol’ Flich and that’s what makes it so hard to get away from the fact that’s he’s just an ornery old sod. Filch is a lot like that one racist guy/girl you know, but they’re also super racist against their own kind making them seem even more stupid. It makes you wish there was a younger version of Filch around that could help give us some perspective.
In fact, there is such a soul (because he’s dead) in the world who was able to succeed even if he was a Squib. Angus Buchanan lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Born to a famous Wizarding family native to Scotland, he was the first Squib to ever be sorted into a Hogwarts house and eventually went on to become one of Scotland’s most famous rugby players. He even wrote a book about his life a Squib, which probably helped Idris build awareness of Squibs in the Wizarding world.
Although he was ostracized from his family, Buchanan was able to live a relatively normal life in the Muggle world much like Molly Weasley’s cousin who works as an accountant. There are more examples of Squibs like Marius Black and others who were able to live and thrive even with the societal factors held against them. Magic is part of their lives, but they don’t begrudge others who are able to cast spells.
I guess the question is why has Argus Filch fallen through the cracks?
As a fixture of the school, Filch has been at Hogwarts even longer than Albus Dumbledore himself and somehow is rehired every year. Perhaps a magical curse keeps him trapped in the school or perhaps he just wants to be in a place that rekindles his hope of one day being able to perform magic.
Maybe he’s kept around as a kind of reminder of how unfortunate Squibs are and how they are supposed to be pitied by others. Even though being a caretaker is one of the hardest jobs at any school, kids often look down upon them and maybe Dumbledore uses Filch to get kids to aspire to do more with their lives. Dumbledore is a bit of jerk.
Regardless, he’s one of the more complex character in the series only because there’s so little known about him. Filch may be an old bastard, but he’s one that seen the best and the worst the Wizarding world has to offer just by sweeping the halls of an old castle.