Gilderoy Lockhart and Tom Riddle: More Alike Than We Think?

J.K. Rowling’s second installment of the Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, returns readers to Hogwarts for yet another turn of events. The Chamber of Secrets is said to have been opened again, and Harry finds himself at the center of suspicion. Chamber of Secrets is unique from Sorcerer’s Stone in that it shows just how wizards and Muggles are alike. While in Sorcerer’s Stone, readers were introduced to the Wizarding World, Chamber of Secrets shows the Wizarding World is not much different from the Muggle world; they share the same human flaws, desires, the same tendency to want to distinguish themselves from others–i.e., the bigotry towards Muggle borns. This is the first book in which this bigotry is introduced, and it continues to play a significant role in the rest of the series.

One character that particularly stood out to me in this book is Gilderoy Lockhart. We all remember Lockhart–that charming, handsome, self-absorbed wizard who manages to capture the attention of seemingly every witch, who even has Hermione Granger convinced. But, Gilderoy Lockhart is much more than just an arrogant, annoying (former) Hogwarts professor. Lockhart is an embodiment of pride, a pride that could be argued is similar to Tom Riddle’s pride. Initially, Lockhart’s pride seems the most silly, the most harmless, the most foolish form of pride. When Lockhart is first introduced, he appears nothing more than a self-absorbed wizard with good looks but not much wit. When Harry returns to Hogwarts, Lockhart assumes that Harry flew Mr. Weasley’s car to school simply to receive more publicity, more fame. He constantly gives Harry tips on becoming famous and handling fame, believing that Harry finds these bits of advice valuable and ignorant to Harry’s true thoughts on Lockhart. He tells Harry, “Gave you a taste for publicity, didn’t I?…You got onto the front page of the paper with me and you couldn’t wait to do it again” (91)*. He mistakenly believes that Harry is giving out signed photos (after Malfoy announces it loudly when Colin Creevey asks for one) and is “deaf to Harry’s stammers” as he gives Harry more advice, claiming to have “covered up” for Harry so that “[his] schoolmates won’t think [he’s] setting [himself] up so much” (98). In addition to Harry, Lockhart appears quite oblivious to his colleagues’, as well as the other (mostly male) students’ attitudes toward him.

However, Lockhart does share similarities to Tom Riddle. Although Lockhart’s desire is simply fame and recognition, and although he does not quite wish for invulnerability to death and absolute power, as Tom Riddle does, Lockhart goes about attaining his desires in a way that is harmful to others. Like Riddle, Lockhart has no reservations about harming another wizard in a way that is permanent, simply for the sake of self-preservation. In the chapter titled, “The Chamber of Secrets,” Harry and Ron learn that Lockhart did not actually do the things he claimed to have done in his books; he simply took credit for what other wizards did and cast a Memory Charm on them. He tells Harry, “My dear boy…My books wouldn’t have sold half as well if people didn’t think I’d done all those things” (297). Moreover, Lockhart is perfectly willing to cast Memory Charms on Harry and Ron simply to preserve the reputation he so carefully created for himself. Although a Memory Charm is not as severe, not as evil as the many Killing Curses Tom Riddle has cast on many people, Lockhart’s intent behind the Memory Charms are the same as Tom’s intent behind his Unforgivable Curses: to exercise complete and absolute control over another, for the sake of fulfilling a selfish desire. Lockhart has forever damaged people’s lives through Memory Charms, and he feels no remorse for it, because his only concern is his fame and his reputation. Like Tom Riddle, Lockhart will go to great lengths, will damage other human beings beyond repair, in order to get what he wants. Both Lockhart and Tom Riddle disregard the lives of others, disregard the consequences of their actions toward others, because their primary (and perhaps only) concern is the accomplishment of a selfish goal. For Tom Riddle, it was ultimate power, invulnerability. For Lockhart, it was fame. In this sense, he is much like Tom Riddle because he regards the lives of others as nothing more than obstacles getting in the way of his desires.

Moreover, both Lockhart and Tom Riddle meet their demise because of a blindness caused by their great pride. When Lockhart tried to cast a Memory Charm on Ron using Ron’s broken wand, the charm backfired, hitting Lockhart instead. Lockhart’s fervent desire to remain famous, to keep his reputation, caused him to overlook Ron’s damaged wand, which would not have performed the charm correctly. Likewise, at the end of the series, Voldemort’s demise comes from an oversight–he is mistaken about the true owner of the Elder Wand, and just like Lockhart, the Killing Curse he casts at Harry rebounds and hits him instead. In the Chamber of Secrets, Tom Riddle, gleeful that he has beaten Harry, forgets that Fawkes’s tears have healing powers; thus, Harry defeats him by stabbing the diary with a basilisk fang. For Lockhart and Tom Riddle, their pride was a primary cause of their downfall. It was the root of their actions, which ultimately led them away from what they each sought most. The actions of both Lockhart and Tom Riddle are motivated by pride, that causes them to disregard the lives of others, to underestimate others, and ultimately, to overlook details that bring about their downfalls. Their desires are motivated by pride; Riddle and Lockhart feel a sense of entitlement toward their goals. Lockhart and Riddle are alike in that they are motivated by the same type of pride, and their actions cause similar kinds of irrevocable damage to other human beings simply so that they can further attain their selfish goals.

In Chamber of Secrets, pride is often what differentiates the likable, good characters from the evil ones. Lucius and Draco Malfoy are unlikable because of their pride and disdain toward others whom they consider below them. Tom Riddle and Lockhart are unlikable for the same reasons–for their lack of humility and their belief that they are entitled to absolute power and, in Lockhart’s case, fame. Lucius Malfoy, his son Draco, Tom Riddle, and Lockhart are all afflicted by their own pride, which ultimately gets the better of them. In Chamber of Secrets, the theme that resonates with readers (at least, with me) is the dangers of pride, a very human flaw. Wizards, with their ability to do magic and accomplish miraculous feats with their spells, are no more immune to pride than Muggles are. What distinguishes good from evil (for lack of a better word), or likable from unlikable, are not degrees of magical talent, but rather, humility as opposed to pride. Just like in Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets shows that greatness comes not from magical ability, but from virtues such as humility, bravery, and selflessness (which, when you think about it, are all one and the same).

*All direct quotes taken from the Scholastic edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling.

Social Media Brings About #SocialChange

Seeing as my last few posts have been mainly about e-books and digital publishing, I decided it was high time to shift gears and explore other aspects of digital writing. That isn’t to say I’ll stop posting about e-books and digital publishing–the field of digital publishing is so multifaceted and ever-changing, that it’s impossible for a bibliophile like me to ever stop reading and writing about that. But for today, a certain trending topic on Twitter has recently caught my attention. Most of us are very familiar with Twitter. We use it on a daily basis, tweeting about subjects ranging from #homework to #ladygaga. But perhaps most of us haven’t thought of Twitter as a vehicle for bringing about social change, as a way to bring attention to social issues.

This is exactly what happened in the case of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who was accused of being a part of the Islamic Jihad militant group and was taken prisoner in Israel. Upon being arrested, Adnan went on hunger strike to protest his imprisonment, which was based on Israel’s controversial policy of detaining suspected Palestinian militants for long periods on end, with no charges against them. Adnan was on hunger strike for over two months, until it was finally agreed to have him released on April 17.

But what brought about this decision? A couple of weeks ago, the case of Khader Adnan was relatively obscure and had not been covered by mainstream media, such as news channels. In an effort to bring this story much-needed attention, a group of cyber activists decided to resort to social media. They set up Twitter hashtags and tweeted at least once a day using those hashtags, in the hopes of having a hashtag become a trending topic on Twitter. The hashtags included the prisoner’s name, #KhaderAdnan, and other phrases such as #respect4Khader, #dying2live, and #HungerStrikingfor65Days. Eventually, the activist group did, indeed, achieve their goal, with the hashtag #KhaderAdnan becoming a trending topic on Twitter. The trending topic inevitably caught the media’s attention and triggered the whirlwind of coverage, and subsequently, the decision to release Adnan.

Adnan’s story is just one example of the capacity for social media to bring about social change. Social media has many purposes, and while we may mainly use social media tools such as Twitter to post vintage photos of our dog or tweet about what a rough day we’re having, social media has a substantial role to play in bringing attention to issues we are passionate about. Moreover, we use writing to bring attention to these issues. Social media tools encourage the spread of ideas through the written word (sometimes combined with other media)–except that that written word reaches a much larger crowd. Social media is much more than an outlet for posting our arbitrary thoughts or talking about what we’re doing–it’s an outlet for voicing our opinions on things that matter to us. Social media has an ability to connect users from various locations and time zones and allow these users to have one big, unique conversation (or, a book club–see my “A Perfect Marriage: Social Media and Books” post below), and we have the means to take advantage of this ability and use it to shed light on topics we feel deserve attention. Tools like Twitter, although viewed by some as a mere website people use to idle their time away, is something that, when used for social change, can yield real results. This is one of several stories where social media users have used social media tools to enact change. It’s time we looked at social media as a means to have our voices heard, as a tool that plays a substantial role in society.

“When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.” –Mark Zuckerberg