What is perhaps strange about the Harry Potter Series is that both the antagonist and the protagonist are like two peas from the same pod. They are individuals who are similar in so many ways – have a twisted past, absent parents, loyal friend circles and a legacy to fulfil. They each had a story within them. Yet, it is their choices that make them starkly opposite of each other.
A protagonist like Harry Potter and an antagonist like Tom Riddle (or as famously known as Lord Voldemort) are a rare combination – especially when occurring in the same story.
One of them became the greatest hero of all times. The other became the most feared villain of all time.
The Uncanny Similarities
The hero and the nemesis were connected in so many ways – their wands shared the same core, their minds were connected with an undeniable barrier and Harry’s blood ran in reincarnated Tom’s veins. Their connections were mind-baffling.
This made each character an extension of the other.
Rowling definitely created Harry more empathetic than Tom. On finding out about his parents, Harry feels a great sense of pride about the sacrifices his parents made for him and for the wizardry world.
On the other hand, when Tom finds out about his parents and the circumstances of his birth, he loses his sanity. It is perhaps the final straw and the turning point of his life. If Tom had a less twisted past and a better set of parents, maybe… just maybe, his part of the story would have been different.
But then, we would not have Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter.
The Protagonist and the Antagonist
Tom Riddle enjoyed all the attention he gained over the years, good or bad. He knew he was special and quite different from the wizards of his age. Rowling created his character to love fame and to achieve glory at the cost of others’ misfortune.
This is what set Harry apart from the antagonist. Harry’s loss made him value life.
The thirst for unquenchable power drove Tom to rage. It is Tom who gave baby Harry the scar on his forehead – a consequence of a failed attempt to end the baby’s life.
And because of this unwanted scar; Harry gained a lot of attention from the wizardry community. He attracted unwanted problems from friends and foes, when all he wanted was a simple life. Deep down, Harry valued his friends and longed to blend into the crowd.
Voldemort, on the other, was a power greedy, attention-seeking, ruthless wizard who stood exactly opposite to the hero of the story.
As Albus Dumbledore says in the second book, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
The Heart of the Hero
Rowling stressed the importance of love through her story.
Harry was born out of love and had the ability to love. Tom was born under different circumstances and did not have the courage to give or accept love. It was his mother’s love that saved Harry’s life and it was the lack of it that causes Tom’s downfall.
Because of Harry’s ability to empathize with Tom Riddle, Harry could relate to the trauma that Riddle had been through while growing up. That is what gave Harry power over Tom and caused Tom’s demise.
Rowling taught us that the creation of a sinister force to a story that stands opposite to the protagonist is essential. But what is more essential is that there has to be an undeniable realistic connection between the antagonist and protagonist, which draws the readers to the story.
The Real Life Antagonists
We, at some point in our lives, cross paths with the antagonists of our lives. Sometimes they are in the face of bullies or people who simply despise us for who we are. Such people are hard to ignore, because of their repeated attempts at kicking us down.
We lose, we cry, we shatter in a thousand million pieces. But at the end of it all, we manage to find the strength within ourselves to move on. With or without those broken missing pieces.
But isn’t that the most beautiful part of being a human?
Can you think of someone similar to you who turned out differently because of the choices they made?
We look forward to hearing your stories in the comments.
About the author
Fareeha Arshad is a forager of meaning, a reader by passion, a writer by choice, and a scientist by vocation. The Arab born, confused Desi lives on the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia with her parents and siblings, where she spends most of her time studying, teaching, writing or cooking.