Chick Literal

In Defense of Lord Voldemort

I’m going to have to beg your forgiveness this week – not just because you did read the title right = and I am about to attempt to defend one of the most unambiguously evil literary figures of all time.  No, I’m asking your forgiveness because my column is called “Chick Literal” and Harry Potter is not, strictly speaking, chick lit so much as it is a children’s fantasy series.  However, it was written by a woman and I’d venture to say a lot of women enjoyed the books/movies, so if we could call it close enough for this week, I’d be grateful.

Now, onto the more important things, like why on earth I am attempting to defend someone who is, without a doubt, horrible.  Let me say that I certainly do not defend any of Voldemort’s actions.  Kidnapping, torture and killing are never acceptable under any circumstances.  What I’m defending here is Voldemort’s motivations.  Fundamentally, these motivations aren’t very complex; he states them very clearly in the first book: “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”  The message of this book, and the next six, is to refute this statement and show that Voldemort’s greatest weakness is his inability to understand love.

While this is all well and good for a children’s series, I think that in real life, Voldemort might actually be closer to the truth of things.  While these books and many others (not to mention movies, songs, and the entire greeting card industry) would have us believe that love does triumph over all, I can’t shake the feeling that in reality, everything boils down to power.

I have anecdotes in spades about relationships where the woman has seemingly handed over her wants, needs, dreams, last name and ultimately, her power on a silver platter, all in exchange for a diamond ring and some vague promise of companionship and security.  I know too many women who have moved across the country for the sake of a husband’s job, who have remained devoted and faithful and who have stayed at home and raised children at the expense of their own professional ambitions, while their men Don Drapered about*, spending too many hours at work, flirting with too many other women and continued living their lives like single men.  I know there are exceptions to this rule; I know there are relationships that are balanced and fair, or ones where women are the breadwinners, but these are not relationships I’ve personally witnessed.  Of the relationships I do see, I’ll be the first to admit that as someone who isn’t in any of those relationships, I can’t do anything more than speculate on the balance of power.

The only thing I can draw from is my own experience, and that has been that love is not some magical force that invokes safety and protection, as it does for Harry Potter.  For me, looking back on my last two relationships, I can pinpoint the exact moment that the balance of power shifted out of my favor, and it was the moment the word ‘love’ came into the picture.  The first time around, I was the first one to say “I love you” and I spent the rest of the relationship regretting it.  I thought saying the words would be owning up to something powerful, but ultimately, it felt like admitting a weakness.  It was tantamount to saying “I am the one with the stronger feelings” and suddenly we both knew it, which left me at a disadvantage.  Suddenly I was no longer being showered with promises and affection, I was looking for jobs and planning my future around where he wanted to go, while he forged ahead with his life exactly as he’d planned it, just assuming I’d follow along.  The second time around, I thought I’d learned my lesson and vowed not to be the first to say the words, but it turns out, the only thing worse than being the one to say “I love you” first is being the one who wants to say I love you and has to try and find a way to get the other person to say it first.  The ultimate result is the same; you both know who the weak one is, and I was once again left scrambling for leverage in the relationship, and finding I had none. Once again, I was left making plans and altering my future to make it match with someone else’s, except it turned out that someone else didn’t really care if I fit into his future or not.

So I can see why Voldemort focuses on power and doesn’t waste his time on a gamble like love, and he lives in a world where love can invoke a lifetime of magical protection.  I live in a world where love just seems to open you up to getting hurt.  Love is the thing everyone told you was worth changing and compromising for, but it doesn’t work if the person on the other side of it won’t change or compromise.  Power, on the other hand, is something you can get all on your own through hard work and dedication, and doesn’t require someone else to feel the same way to make it legitimate.  What you do with power once you have it makes all the difference in the world, which is where my defense of Voldemort ends, for power, once acquired, can (and should!) be used just as easily for good, rather than evil.

*I have seen exactly two episodes of Mad Men, so my actual knowledge of Don Draper is limited to those.  It is possible he turns out to be a dedicated husband, but I get the general impression that this is not the case.

Image via EBC Faculty Blog

  • Amanda Bergeron-Manzone

    You are correct, he is not dedicated at all.

  • Rachel Jenelle Babb

    You put into words how I feel exactly. My relationships have gone the same way. And though I might be blissfully happy with my tendency to cater to his dreams and decisions…it can only be if he is also willing to care about mine. I’d settle for a guy to just ask what I want…but that never happens lol. Well I guess it did once, but it resulted in an immediate breakup due to my not sacrificing everything and following him out if state.Ya as if when finally asked what I want it is obvious that it is the ever horrifying question on which my relationship outcome rests. Alas.

  • Heather Ripley

    Reducing the “power of love” to who says/wants to say “I love you” first is one of several fallacies in this piece. If, as you say, power is something you can get all your own with dedication and hard work (which is not always and not completely true), then why do you find yourself stripped of it in your relationships? For some reason, you’ve set up those three words as your white flag, but they need not be.

    As to Voldemort, he was a very smart guy, but clearly he didn’t have all the answers. His notions of power and relationships maybe had some kernel of truth but were mutated by greed, hate, and hypocrisy. His motivations merit as much admiration as his actions – none.

  • Melissa Rae Brown

    Love and relationships need to have room for compromise. Deciding that yes, yes you are willing to move here or there for someone you love is not equivalent to losing your power. If you are hell bent on being the one in “power” in a relationship, well, then you aren’t being a very good partner. In love you have to be willing to give as well as take.

    I think lack of love and compassion and the heartless ambition for power is one of the world’s biggest problems.

  • Rebecca Lynn

    Um. Points missed: Voldemort is never interested in romantic love. The love he lacks, the love that is his ruin, is the humanitarian love for people just because they are people. His motivations are not power over romantic love; they are domination, akin to the motivations of Hitler. The only character who is really moved to fight and survive by romantic love is Snape. Despite his disdain for most every person around him, his romantic love for Lily keeps him in the game and on the right side. Even Harry is not driven by romantic love. The love he has for people, even Draco his arch-enemy, is what separates him from Voldemort. The lack of love Voldemort has is not remotely admirable. You can’t just take Voldemort’s motivations out of context to fit an agenda.

    • Samantha Collie

      Very good point Rebecca. I felt this article was a bit….personal for the author and not really about Voldemort at all? Or maybe it’s just me reading into it too much.

  • Christine A. Miller

    People with power are remarkably lonely. Or rather, they have dozens of people around them to serve their needs and flatter them, but they never know if it is because they are nice guys and naturally attract wonderful people or whether these are sycophants looking to ingratiate themselves and catch any driblets of power that fall from the sleeves.

    I have been in love more times than I can count and had several long term relationships as well, the last one of 30 years. I would say “I know everything there is to know about love” but that is preposterous because love is always new and always teaches things unimaginable. Now that I am looking at things from the other side of life (certainly not the other end, as I plan to be here for quite a while yet) I see that no relationship is perfect. You seem to be thinking in romantic terms: love conquers all, etc. Or , if it were really love, we would be compromising, not moving to where he needs to go.

    Love is a marathon and not a sprint. You have heard that before. But what does it mean. I think it has something to do with when you get to the top of the mountain top, the place where you can say “I love you” and probably mean it, there is actually no other way to go but down. There might be some kind of plateau up there, but face it, mountains have small tops and the unprepared, who gauge the success of their love by the “happily ever afters” they see on the big screen, slide right on down, complaining every inch of the way. Well he never, Well she always, etc.

    And ultimately, you forget all those good and special moments that were what really being with another person was all about. You forget what it means to have someone who knows you and loves you for yourself. That is a priceless thing. But it’s not a mountain top thing. It’s a thing which cuts through fantasy and lust and sorrow and luck and just about any other etc. you can recall from your own happier days.

    Power has none of that. Nobody knows you for yourself, let alone loves you. Including you. You don’t even know you for yourself. All you know is what to do with you and how to do it. It’s true that power is neutral (in theory) that it can be power for good as well as power for evil. But power for good is Love. That is what is left at the end, the strongest of all forces, the force that never fails. And in fact, the force that held you together when you came to the end of your road–quite likely that was love too. Part of love is longsuffering. It shouldn’t be, but this isn’t a perfect world, netiher outside my window or inside my heart.

  • Katie Gossett Conway

    Two things, (1) The title is deceiving, in that this article isn’t really about HWMNBN at all, but really about the author considering romantic love a weakness. (2) The authors bitterness is apparent, which kinda dampens the article. Rather than blame her weakness on romantic love maybe she should blame it on her choice in men? As a military wife, I gave up my career to raise my children and follow my husband around the country, but I don’t see myself as the weak partner. It may seem like I’m the one that gave up a lot, but my husband gives up time at home, his friends, watching his children grow up, and spending time with his wife. A real marriage is about equal give and take, about making choices and sacrifices to support eachother. Maybe if Tom Riddle had grown up in a happy household with parents in a supportive marriage, he wouldn’t have developed such an apathy and hatred of mankind in general.

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