“She wouldn’t even stay alive for her son?”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “Could you possibly be feeling sorry for Lord Voldemort?”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price
Rowling often portrays her characters as multi-faceted, capable of good just as much as the not-so-good. Their flaws are highlighted together with their strengths.
Voldemort, however, is a major character that is portrayed only as evil, which seems remarkably simplistic. Why is Voldemort just evil? Is there any good in him?
The most obvious reason is that he comes from a bad family. Much of Voldemort’s personalities later in life mirrors that of his family members whom he has so much disdain for. Like his uncle, Morfin Gaunt, Voldemort displays an ease for violence. Like his grandfather, Marvolo Gaunt, Voldemort possesses a misplaced sense of arrogance; he is better than everyone else just because his lineage. One can also point out that this sense of arrogance is much present with Tom Riddle Sr, Voldemort’s father, who speaks lowly of the ‘old tramp called Gaunt’. This probably explains Voldemort’s stratospheric levels of arrogance. Lastly, like his mother, Merope Gaunt, Voldemort manipulates people to get what he wants. Merope is obsessed with the handsome muggle, Tom Riddle Sr, and has no qualms using something as deceptive as a love potion for so long on the poor muggle boy. Even when she finally stop giving him the love potion, she did so thinking that she can manipulate him to stay for the unborn child.
Looking at that family that Voldemort came from, it should not surprise us that Voldemort turns out to be as evil as he did. Who can the child Voldemort possibly learn from about love and good, when his own father deserted him and his laboring mother was so defeated from life that she has no strength left in her to save herself for her unborn child? Certainly, one can argue that Voldemort became evil because his family is bad.
But so are many of our families. Dysfunctional families are common in our society. Very few of us can say we come from a good family. Are we all doomed to be just evil like Voldemort?
“But… Why did you…?”
“Leave?” Sirius smiled bitterly and ran a hand through his long, unkempt hair.
“Because I hated the whole lot of them: my parents, with their pure-blood mania, convinced that to be a Black make you practically royal… my idiot brother, soft enough to believe them…”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
There comes a point in one’s life when we have to realise that we cannot blame our family for who we become. While they remain very much a part of who we are, our destiny remains in our very hands. Who we want to be is decided not by our family background, but by our very own heart.
Voldemort may be born into a bad family, but he embraces evil readily, even from a very young age. Voldemort went to levels of evil that his family probably would not. He is evil because he chose to be.
So for those of us who may not have the family that we have always wanted, remember Sirius who chose to turn away from his family’s discriminatory practices. Remember Dudley who chose to accept Harry as family despite his parents not doing so. Remember the Weasley twins who work their way to riches despite coming from a poor household. And above all, remember Harry Potter, the boy who embodies the power of love despite knowing nothing but neglect and abuse from the family that he grew up in.
You become who you choose to be.