Harry Potter: Jealousy as Poison to Love
Love, the acceptance of death, protection and unveiling of mysteries are the constantly reinforced lifeblood of JK Rowling’s seminal series. But underneath the vein of love, given a blunt, transmutative and literal magical power, later books delving into domineering and sadistic personalities portray the corruption and negative expression of human feeling in another more sinister human feeling we experience and deal with. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Petunia and Merope Gaunt all suffer jealously in a way that offers lingering discomfort and threat, the feeling and how it makes them spiteful, dangerous and alienating loved ones akin to the Unforgiveable Curses invoking such fear, arguably much more than a fantastical fictional beast.
Jealously again and again shows itself as a spoiler of opportunity and the cause of many woes spanning generations, something I noticed makes increasing presence and pressure within Rowling’s narratives. Jealousy is not only one of the rare wholly negative sensations, it corrupts impulses and leads to thoughtless, even violent or abusive action.
From childhood this greatest seeds of spite as we see in Petunia spying and later insulting her deceased sister, Snape hurting her in turn and unthinkingly reflecting the misplaced aggression of his hated father. Merope’s domination and narcotically induced rape of Tom Riddle Sr goes a long way to literally conceive Voldemort, such a horror remains almost uncomfortably unstated and totemic of the worst impulse of misplaced desire.
The desperate individual hurts themselves repeatedly, and there are so many sad layers to Merope’s small character that the additional fact that she caused her own hollowing out, living besotted and obsessed and wresting the man she wanted but neglecting to live for the sake of a son who could have been entirely different and passing with as much ceremony as the rest of her family. Even before one is born, much as the sacrifice and devotion marks one as defended, there always was and is an almost equal spite and maliciousness, dark magic, which is expressly tied with negative, vicious and ill-intended emotions and for twisted ends.
A small, but very pertinent term Voldemort uses in his only mention of sexual affection is to say Snape ‘desired her’ in relation to Lilly Potter, and this speaks to his interpretation rather than the love given great sentimental and potent magical power than the protagonists strongly believe in. His own conception, by counterfeiting desire within his father, and if he considered it at all likely thought it was a bleak thing of want and lust seals his darker fixation on emotions. It also likely amplifies his cold-hearted and spiteful eugenic notions, that in place of love or attachment that comes from people who are fascinated and altruistically devoted to each other there is the pursuit of blood and family grandeur. It is more grandiose, but sadly and villainously sterile.
Reverence by Voldemort -and his acolytes who also give little genuine affection even to their actual relatives bearing supposedly noble blood- is given to the conveniently long dead such as Slytherin who lay too far away and would have been seen as rivals were they actually living. Voldemort possesses envy for the artefacts, but no regard for his living uncle and the pit that the Gaunts made by if anything even failing their own standard. Not only were they malicious ungrateful malcontents, they offend the notion of ancestral reverence by living in squalor and not living up to the ideal or preservation of the cunning and ambitions that literally define Slytherin and those associated with his House.
Compassion and appreciation would fill the void that envy simply replaced with a dissatisfied avarice for more items. More people to control, more trinkets. When given context that Voldemort considers ‘desire’, his ‘love’ or appreciation of things in a material and jealous context makes sense when we read about his slightly more polite book personality in comparison with the films. If nothing else, he clearly did regard Slytherin, Hogwarts, its founders and the cunning artefacts they possessed with great affection. But the possession of them is an undercurrent. He cannot admire without ownership, and this material craving erodes his hold on followers also because there simply is no controlling and dominating the every will and whim of their personality (save perhaps Bellatrix Lestrange; whom he calls ‘Bella’ and probably regards as a ‘beautiful’ living trinket (in keeping with the Italian word).
The envy Snape had for Lily Evans is perhaps the largest example of this theme on a meta level, because throughout 7 novels his affection for her is only expressed in the last fifth of the final book; but his hatred for James, and present-day loathing for Harry overrides and dominates his character. Everything he does in the present, 13 years after the couple are dead and the bullying of his son resolve around the person he loathed, corrupting what he swore and the possibility if he concentrated on the positive emotion of love rather than envy tainting him.
It is difficult to reconcile the reality of what one does, and while there is an underlying motive underneath, much like friendship and love being the result of mundane effort, in the day-to-day, the same is true of our rivalries and hates. It is really becoming of someone so able, to not refute the darksome and unpleasant nature his tormenters ascribe to him? Is the man not ultimately above the taunting of boys? Evidently not.
This sense of possessiveness, to be denied an item has the illness of trapping one in the past. Perhaps unintentionally, it mirrors Riddle’s covetousness, explicitly noted to be a hollow and thieving thing, history and trinkets filling the void never filled by commonality or understanding. The suffering and flaw is partially a reciprocal one, an outcast makes themself so even if this is a difficult fact to admit to.
Does Snape’s sacrifice play a pivotal role? Yes. Is it a touching tragedy? Also yes. But that lonely death, his last moments are written to demonstrate a kind of greed, ironically demanding that he see Harry’s eyes in something like objectification. Like his mother, the choice of unfulfilling life seems to have cemented Snape in a doom of Spinners End, all that ability constricted. It’s the even darker mirror of Dumbledore, academic brilliance and magical might lacking the basic human closeness of like minds most of us are fortunate to naturally have.
Love redeems, but within these stories the shadow of this argument is that our envy, our hunger to possess and resent what is not ours leaves in the shades of solitary obsession and unfulfillment forever.
By J.W.H. Hobbs