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Movie Quote Monday – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

What are your thoughts on this one?

Voldemorte:  There is no good and evil.  There is only power and those too weak to seek it.

That statement stood out for me when I first read the book.  It intrigued me, and it would pop into my mind every now and then over the years.  For a long time, I wasn’t sure whether I agreed or not.  Now I’m thinking that, like most things, it’s truth depends on who you are, on your viewpoint.

I really think Voldemorte believed it, that it wasn’t about being evil; it was about exercising his power.  As a child, he had no power to control his family situation.  He had no control over what happened to him.  But as he grew, he realized that he did have power over other people; he could make them afraid.  Heady stuff, the ability to instill fear.

The people in that mindset may not believe they’re evil; they may believe that it’s their right to treat people abominably (see: slavery, Hitler, Attila the Hun, Vlad the Impaler…).  I don’t remember Voldemorte inflicting pain for its own sake, for his own amusement.  His actions always had a purpose.  Often it was to ensure that his enemies and followers knew that he was to be feared, that he was in control.  In his mind, to eliminate an enemy or a threat or even a nuisance was his right, and even a necessity.  If your house is infested with ants or mice or flies, you don’t eliminate them because you’re evil.  You eliminate them because you are more powerful than they are, because it’s necessary to do so for your own comfort and well-being.  Voldemorte saw his enemies, and even his followers, as nothing more than ants or tools.  He wholeheartedly believed in his superiority and every other being’s expendability.

I had already decided to post this quote when Girl on the Contrary got me thinking about Bellatrix Lestrange.  This character would  inflict pain for her own entertainment; she enjoys being mean and nasty.  Some people simply get a kick out of kicking others.  There is a certain amount of power in being able to push people around without the fear of recourse or consequence, but I don’t believe that achieving power is her motivation.  If that were so, she could have killed Voldemorte a long time ago and taken over.  She doesn’t, because that’s not her personality.  Her comfort zone is to serve under a master who allows her the safety and freedom to be a bad person.  He is both her permission to be evil, and her guarantee (through his power) that there will be no consequences.

It scary to imagine a world without consequences.  Personally, I believe that more of us would go bad than we probably think.  Post-apocalyptic movies and books often rely on the battles between the “good” and “bad” bands of survivors to drive the action, and that’s not based on nothing.  In real life, we need look no further than the comment sections on YouTube to see the truth of how cruel and ugly people are comfortable allowing themselves to be when there are no consequences.  Anonymity creates an environment where you can unleash your inner nastiness without having to see the damage it does, and without the recourse of guilt.  The same thing happens when people riot or loot.  People who loot on their own are called thieves.  But people, who wouldn’t otherwise smash a window and steal, find safety in numbers.  They allow themselves to do “evil” things when they think they can safely get away with it.

I believe that there is more power in constraint and self-control.

So, I do believe that there is good and evil.  I believe we have both tendencies inside us, and we have the power to choose which side of that fence we walk on.  I do not believe that power equals stepping all over everyone else; I disagree with Voldemorte there.  In fact, I would argue that the power of good is stronger and more reliable than the power of evil.  Voldemorte’s power relied on other people, on whether they could be manipulated or controlled or eliminated.  No matter how vile he was, there would be certain people over whom he could never have power.  That made his brand of power weak, because it was not entirely within his control (look how many times he was thwarted).  Harry Potter’s power was inside him.  It was the power of sacrifice and commitment, friendship and love.  And it was the power of courage.  Harry didn’t need to rely on anyone else to access those things from inside himself.

Items of Interest:

I Might Be Bellatrix Lestrange by girlonthecontrary

Concerning the Problem of Evil by Matt (Well Spent Journey)

Don’t Read the Comments by Mind Margins

Uncommon Decency and the Southern Man by Wayne (Real Southern Men)

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I believe people choose their power. One might use their ability of humor to put ppl at ease while another might judge ppl to death to make themselves feel more superior.

    January 24, 2012
    • That’s a good point! I’m pretty sure I don’t have any power :). But all kidding aside, I agree with you. It’s interesting that there are so many people out there whose only sense of power is in how low they can cut down others. I’ve certainly been guilty of those thoughts and words like, “I would never do that!” It’s the basis of all gossip, really, that feeling that you are superior to whoever you’re talking about.

      January 24, 2012
  2. Nice analysis, especially of the weakness in Voldemort’s power. To paraphrase the old saying, the best way for evil to thrive is for good men to do nothing.

    January 27, 2012
    • That’s very true. You made me think about how, when Voldemorte did not succeed in eliminating Harry through magic, he tried to get Harry to do nothing. He tried to persuade him that it would be better for the rest of the people (to end the war) if Harry would just give up. That’s interesting.

      I think a lot of people do nothing (myself especially included), out of fear or just not knowing what we can do.

      January 29, 2012
  3. I guess he really believed it, thats why he became so powerful.

    January 29, 2012
    • I had to think about that for a little bit, because you made me wonder about a few things.

      First was the reasons people seek power. I think (of course I know this is a fictional character, and I’m creating my own fictional analysis of his backstory), that Voldemorte wanted to have power because he was so bitter. He started out in the world with no power, and his mother was clearly weak (and he knows that’s why he was in an orphanage). His father, on the other hand, had the power of money and position. He also had the power of assumed superiority, and the power that came with not being in love with someone who loved him. He had the power to destroy his wife. He had the power of not caring what happened to her and their son. It’s just occurred to me that Voldemorte maybe inherited that personality trait of selfishness from his father.

      Voldemorte wanted power over others, certainly, and he desired to have the power over death, in particular.

      The second thing that you’ve put in my mind is the question of whether or not people like him would continue on their chosen course if they really believed they were evil. Of course, the answer is yes. We see plenty of evidence of that in the real world today. But it’s an interesting thought, and it makes me contemplate just how differently we can be from each other and how many different ways there are to see the world. There are many people out there who do bad things and enjoy it. But there are lots of people out there who do bad things and don’t think they are doing anything wrong. What makes them see the world from that point of view? Then again, what makes me see the world from mine?

      January 29, 2012

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