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There were relatives of their victims among the Hogwarts students, who now found themselves the unwilling objects of a gruesome sort of reflected fame as they walked the corridors: Susan Bones, whose uncle, aunt and cousins had all died at the hands of one of the ten, said miserably during Herbology that she now had a good idea what it felt like to be Harry.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I don't quite understand the phrase "the unwilling objects of a gruesome sort of reflected fame". How should we understand it correctly?

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Working backwards through that phrase

  • reflected fame means they became famous because their relatives were well known.
  • a gruesome sort of reflected fame means the death of their relatives was unpleasant.
  • the unwilling objects of a gruesome sort of reflected fame means they did not want that fame.

A complementary situation could be, say, the son of movie stars, famous because of who his parents are, and loving the attention it brings.

  • How can 'objects' describe persons? – dan Mar 18 at 10:10
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    Consider the phrase "she was the object of my affections". The word "object" does not just mean "thing". As in subjectobject. – Weather Vane Mar 18 at 10:11
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Quite a lot is packed into that phrase:

  1. The students have obtained a kind of fame.
  2. The fame is reflected in that it is really the victims who are famous, not the surviving students.
  3. They were unwilling, they didn't want this fame.
  4. The fame was of a gruesome sort because it derived from tragedy and horror, not some positive achievement.

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