Would Voldemort Have Had the Same Fate If He Were Raised in a Loving Home?: Nature vs. Nurture in the Wizarding World
In chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry and Dumbledore use the Pensieve to travel back to Dumbledore’s first run-in with (then) Tom Riddle.
Young Tom grew up in a depressing orphanage, surrounded by Muggles who did not understand the signs of his magical abilities and – in fact – were scared of him because of what he could do.
Dumbledore believed that Merope Gaunt, Tom Riddle’s mother, eventually used a love potion to ensnare Tom Riddle, Sr. They were soon married, and when Merope freed Tom from her forced love, he left her despite her pregnancy. Tom Riddle, Sr. never loved Merope, and at that moment, Voldemort lost a large portion of his chance at a normal life.
Tom Riddle’s mother died hours after giving birth to him:
‘Merope refused to raise her wand even to save her own life.’
‘She wouldn’t even stay alive for her son?’
… ‘Could you possibly be feeling sorry for Lord Voldemort?’
‘No,’ said Harry quickly, ‘but she had a choice, didn’t she, not like my mother -‘
‘Your mother had a choice too… [Merope] was greatly weakened by long suffering and she never had your mother’s courage…’ (HBP 262)
Before she even knew him, Tom’s mother had given up on him. It’s hard to blame her: She lived a life filled with suffering, and she wasn’t even 20 when she died. Thus, Tom was raised in the same place where he was born and where his mother had died. Both Voldemort and Harry hadn’t really known their parents and were isolated and unloved by their guardians. But then why are their stories so different?
Was Lily’s love and sacrifice for Harry the defining factor of his fate? If Merope had put her son before herself, would Voldemort have lived a life similar to Harry’s?
It’s hard to place blame on – or give praise to – the mothers of these two children. It simply comes down to your opinion on the nature vs. nurture debate. If you ask me, none of us become who we are solely by nature or solely by nurture. You cannot pinpoint who a person will become through their biology nor can you establish who a person will become through the way that they were raised.
Voldemort’s family had a long history of hatred toward anyone that was less than pure-blood, but since he never knew them, why did he adopt their ideas? At 15 years old, Voldemort opened the Chamber of Secrets. At just 16 years old, Voldemort murdered his father and paternal grandparents, framing his mother’s brother for their deaths. Where did Voldemort learn such hate? Where did he learn to despise half of who he was?
Not all Slytherins are hateful, bloodline-obsessed, and murderous. It can be argued that Harry was raised in an even more problematic “home” than Lord Voldemort. Harry’s family hated him. He himself was abused, neglected, and ignored. But Harry had heard of Slytherin’s reputation and knew immediately that he did not want to take part in it. Harry, who had every right to be as hateful as Voldemort, chose to focus on the good in his life. Harry loved Hogwarts just as Tom Riddle did, but he knew of its importance for all young witches and wizards, not just pure-blood ones. Harry and Voldemort both received a fairly equal amount of “nurture,” but Harry’s nature pushed through. Harry had no desire to hate: His mother had died in love, and he chose to honor that.
Both wizards followed their ancestors’ examples. I think that if Voldemort had discovered an ancestry of love and respect, he would’ve had a better chance at a normal life.
Voldemort was obsessed with who he had been, who he was, and who he could become. Harry, however, wanted to be the best that he could be, but he didn’t ask for the life that he got. He didn’t want the fame and attention, and he especially did not want the heartache and suffering that came with it. Neither Harry nor Voldemort knew that they were wizards until the age of 11, but they chose their different fates. They observed their parents’ examples (in the only ways that they could) and acted upon them.
So would Voldemort still have had the same fate if he were raised in a loving home? Voldemort’s nature played a large part in who he became, but he chose hate over love. He ignored the home that he was given, both in the orphanage and at Hogwarts. He was nurtured less than any child should’ve been, but he was inherently evil. He allowed his nature to take over the life that he was given. And as Professor Trelawney prophesied, unfortunately, things had to happen as they did.