As someone who studies Psychology, I have come to understand that the knowledge gathered from this rather fascinating field may be used to analyze various aspects of popular and classical literature. Being an avid reader with a fervent passion for the Arts, this has fueled my habit of critically inspecting diverse literary works with the aid of psychological theories. I usually am interested in analyzing the characters present in a novel and Lord Voldemort, from the Harry Potter series, is one who never seizes to amaze me.
The Harry Potter series happens to be one of my favorite works of creative writing and J.K Rowling’s character, Voldemort, is one I always examine with the aid of Freud’s psychosexual theory of development. This theory attempts to highlights the various stages a child progress through in order to become an adult and Freud often suggests that the failure to successfully complete a stage may result in serious consequences later in life.
To understand this character through this perspective it is of utter most importance to look back at the characteristics of his childhood. Tom Riddle, the young and not yet deviant Voldemort, was an orphan who was gifted with extraordinary magical abilities; thus qualifying him to be part of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He spent his early years in an orphanage, where his days were miserably spent and where he lacked in parental love, or any other type of love in general. Due to the presence of such environmental circumstances the Dark Lord’s development was interrupted, preventing his unconscious from gaining all of the dimensionality which it was meant to display.
Freud would probably claim that Voldemort’s life in isolation prevented him from overcoming the Oedipus complex, an important stage of one’s psychosexual development. The Oedipus complex is a conflict in one of the early stages of development where one develops a sexually driven attachment to one’s mother and hatred towards one’s father. As an orphan Tom Riddle was incapable of creating any sort of attachment to his parents and was then unable to overcome the Oedipus conflict. Therefore resulting in the inhibition of the development of his ego and superego. According to Freud individuals’ subconscious are composed of the id, ego and superego and these forces dominate one’s actions. The id represents uncontrollable drives and desires, the superego is the self-critical conscience and the ego mediates the tension between the id and superego.
As Voldemort’s ego and superego were never properly developed during his childhood he does not hold the same types of moral standards that others deem to be appropriate. Instead he is far more concerned with satiating the desires of his id.
It is quite interesting to see that this theory is not the only one which may be suitable to investigate Voldemort’s personality traits. I believe that Karen Horney’s neurosis theory, which is also based on psychoanalytic beliefs, brilliantly portrays him through her definitions of neurotic needs. From the list which she created we may see that he relates to the neurotic needs for prestige, personal achievement and perfection. His behaviors mirror this perfectly as he is always attempting to convince everyone that he is the most powerful wizard in existence and he uses aggressive means to get his point across. Horney would qualify this as the coping techniques which he has chosen to use to satisfy his excessive needs.
It is marvelous to see how these theories connect with this persona that Rowling has created and it is easy for us to see that her genius is well reflected in her work. One could only wish to able to create characters who are just as incredibly rich as hers.