The development of various psychological theories is closely connected with fictional characters studies, since the literature has always been considered a great source of study material for psychologists and psychotherapists. One of the first researchers to pick up this approach was Sigmund Freud (1965) who employed Oedipus and Hamlet as illustrations for his theory of specific sexual desire for mother, which little boys and girls feel. Freud himself explained his choice of Oedipus as following:
His destiny moves us only because it might have been ours — because the Oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him. It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father. Our dreams convince us that this is so. (p. 296)
This tendency was followed by Carl Gustav Jung who introduced another psychoanalytical category, an antipode of Oedipus complex – Electra complex relating to a girl’s desire for her father. Some famous fictitious heroes have also inspired the creators of psychological socionics, a study of psychotypes, which are named after their brightest representatives – famous people alongside with such prominent characters as Don Quixote and Hamlet. Thus, never existing people, who have come to life due to writers’ imagination, are still of great interest to modern psychological investigators. Their study cases make psychology and related fields of research go forward and fill in blind spots in the study of human mentality and behavior.
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The personality of Voldemort, a character of J.K. Rowling’s series Harry Potter, has been chosen as an object of analysis for this research paper. He is a Dark wizard and the absolute villain of the novels who is juxtaposed by Harry Potter himself.
Voldemort (his real name is Tom Marvolo Riddle) is the most powerful Dark wizard of all times and the only son of Tom Riddle, an ordinary man, possessing no magical abilities (Muggle) and Merope Gaunt, a witch. Besides, one of his maternal ancestors is a famous Salazar Slytherin, one of the mighty wizards of the past, a founder of school of witchcraft and wizardry Hogwarts and an advanced Dark magic user. The romantic affair of his parents was not desirable for both families and there is even a supposition that Merope was using some love potion to keep the man she loved undividedly.
Tom Riddle aka Voldemort never knew his parents or other relatives. He was born in a labor house. His mother died few minutes after childbirth and had tome only to give a name to the newly born baby. Little is known about Voldemort’s early years. None of his relatives from both sides ever claimed him. He was sent to an asylum where he proved himself as an unwanted person because he was scaring other children. Tom felt his magic abilities very early and, though nobody told him he was a magician, learnt to control them and use for his own purposes, mainly to scare and torture other asylum children.
When Tom got to know he was a wizard, he was not surprised very much and still pleased because this news perfectly matched his concept of his own significance. He went to study to Hogwarts where he felt like home for the first time. His halo of a talented orphan was very helpful to create him a reputation of a clever, modest, hard-working, and undoubtedly promising student. However, not many people knew or suspected that Tom Riddle was not as nice as he seemed. In fact, he was selfish, wicked, arrogant, manipulative, and merciless – he did not hesitate to experiment with a mortally dangerous basilisk, which ensued in the terror for the whole school and death of one of the students. Tom also used his simple-minded beast-loving co-student as a shield to his experiment, which led to that student’s exclusion.
The very specific feature of his character – will to power – became obvious when he was a teenager and gathered around himself a group of devoted followers – a prototype of Death Eaters community. High school was also the period when he first demonstrated interest in immortality, which then resulted in creating several Horcruxes – Dark magic artifacts which provide a sort of backup after physical death to their owner.
Adult Tom Riddle, who had not become Voldemort yet, was a really double-faced, treacherous and merciless person. His interests were fully concentrated in the powers the Dark magic could give him. To master some tremendous Dark arts he had undergone several terrifying transformations that changed his body and his face to now a forever snake-like. He always chose radical measures, namely murder, to get rid of people who bother him or prevent him from reaching his goal. He cold-bloodedly killed his Muggle father and his new family, his grandfather, and an old lady who owned a precious artifact he wanted to possess, not to mention hundreds of wizards and Muggles he killed just for fun. Being so selfish and obsessed by his own personality, Voldemort did not hesitate to use the darkest magic, which tore his soul into pieces to create seven ‘ties’ which could be used to resuscitate him in case of death.
Thinking of himself as of an absolutely invincible magician, Voldemort was dramatically surprised to find out from a prophecy that a boy who could challenge him would be born to a family of wizards in the late July. There were two options for him to choose and he chose the same half-blood boy as he was – Harry Potter. He succeeded in killing his parents, but failed to murder the boy himself – his killing curse stroke back and he lost his body. For a dozen of years he was hiding and the year Harry Potter first went to school made his first attempt to come back, using the body of a Hogwarts teacher, but he failed. Voldemort kept trying and later managed to gain his body again, which meant returning to power. He summoned his Death Eaters again and this time he was determined not only to enslave Muggles and control wizards, but also to beat Harry Potter who, as he still believed, was the only person able to challenge him. His malicious mind was fully concentrated on this problem and, again, on the ways to amass more power. He secured another part of his soul inside his familiar snake and focused upon finding an unbeatable wand, which, however, was never helpful against Harry Potter. The same vicious, not loving anybody and refusing to repent, he died from his own killing curse. This time he perished forever because there were no Horcruxes to rescue him as they all were destroyed by Harry Potter and his friends.
Voldemort from Freudian psychoanalytic perspective
Sigmund Freud developed a theory of psyche structure, according to which any personality comprises three basic constructs – id (instinctive aspects of personality; unconscious level), ego (manifestation of reality principle; conscious level), and super-ego (moral aspect of personality; conscious level) (Hjelle & Ziegler, 1992). If we apply this concept to Voldemort’s personality, it becomes obvious that this character’s psyche practically lacks the super-ego component. All his deeds are dictated by his ego, he has got no moral values shared by the community – only those developed by him for himself, which could hardly be called proper moral values.
Freud stated that there were two basic human instincts – libido (drives a human to sexual satisfaction) and death drive (drives a human to death and self-destruction). In Voldemort’s psyche these instincts interact in a curious way – his libido is closely connected with the drive to death. On the one hand, he gains satisfaction, which is close to sexual, from destroying other people; on the other hand, he is absolutely afraid of his own death and non-being. This conflict leads to psychological repression of the threat of death by creating Horcruxes aimed at keeping their owner alive.
Being an orphan, loved by nobody and having no emotional contact with his parents, Voldemort suffered from a kind of disorder in his psychosexual development. Let us presume he has passed two initial stages – oral and anal, but he is sure to get stuck in the phallic stage and never moved forward. There is evidence that his Oedipus complex has never been naturally dissolved; instead, he did the most unnatural thing – he killed his father. Also, at this stage he started feeling a very powerful castration anxiety, which seems to follow him during all his life. We do not know for sure but we have enough evidence to suggest that those ‘terrible mutations’ (which resulted into his snake-like look) as a part of digging into the deepest layers of Dark magic could have affected his penis as well. J.K. Rowling has often described Voldemort’s voice as ‘high’, which might associate with a fact that an unnaturally high voice possessed by a mature man is a feature of castration. Besides, his castration anxiety was expressed with his special attitude to phallic objects – his familiar snake, which he was taking care of and which was a Horcrux hosting a part of his soul as well as the Elder wand, which he desired to possess because it was considered unbeatable. He was deprived of both things, which surely meant castration. Moreover, these two phallic objects were loaded with some additional meaning: the snake was his last living Horcrux and the wand was his only hope to defeat Harry Potter. Therefore, deprivation of these objects meant death for him. If we combine these two conditions, we’ll get the evidence that for Voldemort castration meant death.
To sum up, Voldemort’s psyche appears to be a clear illustration to some ideas from psychoanalytical theory. His motives and behavioral patterns perfectly make up a perfect study case for a Freudian theory.
Voldemort from Jungian perspective
According to Jungian analytical psychology and in reference to our present-day society, Voldemort can be classified as a Shadow archetype (referring to unconscious opponent of the consciousness), as his personality is opposed to morality rules of the humanity. Jung (1955) construed, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” (p. 131)
Voldemort’s psyche is namely a shadow. However, in the earlier stages of his psychological development Voldemort made successful attempts to develop his own persona (a poor talented orphan who needs support and protection), which he could use as a kind of ‘shield’ to the Shadow growing inside and threatening to suppress all other aspects of his personality. Jung describes inventing a persona as the initial step on the way of developing a personality. However, in Voldemort’s case the traditional male order (Persona, Ego, Shadow, Anima, Wise Old Man) breaks, and his personality formation process stops at the Shadow stage. He cannot love anybody except himself; that is why his psyche lacks the notion of anima and he prefers power to wisdom. This explains why his personality remains incomplete – without the notion of Wise Old Man archetype (the evidence for this is that he has always ignored Albus Dumbledore’s views and opinions).
Being a Shadow himself, Voldemort still has got another Shadow – that of his own psyche, represented in the personality of his absolute antipode Harry Potter. According to Jung (1995), “Shadow personifies everything that a person doesn’t accept in himself, and goes on appearing in his conscious again and again.” (p. 139) That mysterious connection between Voldemort’s and Harry Potter’s minds perfectly represents the mechanism of interaction between psyche and Shadow. The latter is supposed to come in dreams and irritate the dreamer, while for Voldemort the connection between his and Potter’s minds was rather painful.
To sum it up, from the Jungian perspective, Voldemort’s personality can be interpreted as a manifestation of a Shadow archetype in the collective unconscious, which, in its turn, interacts with another Shadow archetype in his individual unconscious.
Taking into account everything expressed above I can claim that Freudian theory of psychoanalysis is more capable to describe the personality of Voldemort. This is due to the fact that many events, which strongly affected his personality and were to have important consequences in the future, took place in his childhood, namely during the initial stages of his psychosexual development. Thus, the character of this development gives the clue to Voldemort’s mature psyche.
Jungian theory helps to identify Voldemort as an archetypal villain, a Shadow in the collective unconscious. This theory helps explain the nature of relationship between Voldemort and Harry Potter, Voldemort’s subconscious Shadow, but does not give detailed explanation of Voldemort’s reasons and behavior.
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