?

Log in

For · the · appreciation · of · Merope · Gaunt


Merope and Choice

Recent Entries · Archive · Friends · Profile

* * *
Apologies, but it really took me THIS long to figure out why fandom's repeated chorus of "She RAPED him!" annoys me. She did; I know she did, there's no denying it. But it wasn't until this discussion thread that I realized the exact source of my discomfort with the case of Merope Gaunt:

http://community.livejournal.com/lv_hg_betrayal/55829.html?thread=164373#t164373

enchantedteacup: Yes, I originally thought that the similarities between Harry and Tom to begin with and the differences (from fate to begin with) in how they end up basically implied that JKR made Tom evil from the start, but the original differences kind of play a large role in why one turned out "good" and the other "bad"; choices are big, but some outside force is there too that decides what choices someone gets to make in the first place.

[Me] YES INDEED. It drives me mad that Merope is attacked for what she did when her basic choices were

1) Hitch a ride off Tom Riddle
2) Die

She knew no-one; she had no talents as far as we could see; she wasn't terribly attractive; she had no money; from the behaviour of the official sent out to check up on the Gaunts, nobody from the Wizarding World gave a monkey's about her welfare or was willing to take her in. This is why I do not think it implausible to argue that her only choice, if she wanted to survive, was to hitch onto Tom Riddle.

And in the end she was so ashamed of what she did that she committed passive suicide anyway. But, really, what else could she have done if she wanted to live? It really gets me that Merope's actions are presented as some sort of evil from which the fruit could only have been wicked. People who do wicked things to survive should not be judged in the same way as those who do wicked things for material profit.

--------------------

When you think about it, the case of Merope brings up the problem of Rowling's philosophy. "It is our choices that determine who we are": yes, but suppose you have no real choices? Suppose the only way you can survive involves having to hurt another human being?

In a sense it's brave of Rowling even to tackle this scenario; unfortunately, as soon as she's written it, and made it clear that Merope was at least partly spurred on by adoration of Tom Riddle, she then implies that Merope's actions were in fact evil by

1) getting Merope to commit passive suicide out of shame
2) giving Merope a child who is "born psychopathic"

It's an impossible dilemma. I can't excuse Merope's actions, they were selfish, but I think it harsh to condemn her as evil when one considers the situation she was in. Maybe we should ask Rowling what Merope should have done to ensure her own survival without ruining another person's life. Who knows, we might find that the Wizarding World had a Battered Witches Refuge! They were such a common feature of life in Britain in the 1920s, after all... :)
* * *
* * *
[User Picture]
On August 11th, 2006 09:39 am (UTC), scarah2 commented:
Die?

How so?

She could have left home. Even without proper education I'm sure she could have worked in a wizarding pub, or in the transportation industry, something like that.

she had no talents as far as we could see

We saw her with the power to make the object of her affections fall in love with her. I would say that's pretty powerful.

from the behaviour of the official sent out to check up on the Gaunts, nobody from the Wizarding World gave a monkey's about her welfare or was willing to take her in.

He was there to investigate a specific crime that had nothing to do with her.

Maybe we should ask Rowling what Merope should have done to ensure her own survival without ruining another person's life.

Run away; take a job in a pub?
On August 11th, 2006 10:51 am (UTC), threeoranges replied:
She could have left home. Even without proper education I'm sure she could have worked in a wizarding pub, or in the transportation industry, something like that.

But that gets into the "she should have the strength to seize her destiny" argument, and eighteen years of being abused saps not only one's energy but one's faith in fellow humanity. Asking a wounded thing like Merope to pull herself up by her own bootstraps and go get a job in a pub is perhaps asking a bit too much. She doesn't seem sociable enough for that, and certainly in the Wizarding World unskilled jobs such as "glass washer" must be easily solvable by some spell or other, no need for an actual employee to do it. (The transportation industry would be better for her, I agree - not so much contact with people - but again, how would she know of these options? Who's there to tell her? Couldn't have been much of a Knight Bus in the 1920s: it obviously never came for her.)

We saw her with the power to make the object of her affections fall in love with her. I would say that's pretty powerful.

She can certainly do potions, but from what we saw in the flashback it looks like her wand magic is pretty useless. She can hardly be blamed for accepting her father's and her brother's judgement of her when it's all she knows. Because of those constant taunts of "Squib!", it must never have occurred to her that she could derive an income in the outside world from her potion-making. As far as she knows, she really is "useless".

He was there to investigate a specific crime that had nothing to do with her.

So if one actually sees abuse going on during the course of one's official duties, one should ignore both abuser and victim? Really?
[User Picture]
On August 11th, 2006 11:02 am (UTC), scarah2 replied:
But that gets into the "she should have the strength to seize her destiny" argument, and eighteen years of being abused saps not only one's energy but one's faith in fellow humanity.

She could and did have the strength to seize her destiny. She happened to choose to do so in a way that violated the rights of others.

but again, how would she know of these options? Who's there to tell her?

Same way Loretta Lynn knew about the Grand Ole Opry and Abraham Lincoln knew about the White House?

So if one actually sees abuse going on during the course of one's official duties, one should ignore both abuser and victim? Really?

In the Potterverse? Happens all the time. How many people knew the full disclosure about Harry's situation? At the very least, Dumbledore and Fudge, two very powerful men.
On August 11th, 2006 11:53 am (UTC), threeoranges replied:
She could and did have the strength to seize her destiny. She happened to choose to do so in a way that violated the rights of others.

Yes, she did. But the alternative was what? Merope doesn't have the social skills to function in the outside world, unskilled jobs must be pretty rare in a world where a spell can do basic tasks in a heartbeat, and social security isn't an option as far as we can see. True, you can say "She should have picked herself up by her bootstraps and gone to find work" but this is an abused person we're talking about, and abused people have internalized that abuse to the extent that they genuinely don't believe they're worth anything. I don't think it fair to judge them by the standards of normal people.

Same way Loretta Lynn knew about the Grand Ole Opry and Abraham Lincoln knew about the White House?

Oh right, Loretta and Abraham were abused children living in basic wooden shacks with no friends or indeed contact with the outside world? I never knew that! ;) I still say that if the Knight Bus had existed in the 1920s, it would have come to help her. Since it didn't, it couldn't have existed and hence she couldn't have found work there.

In the Potterverse? Happens all the time. How many people knew the full disclosure about Harry's situation? At the very least, Dumbledore and Fudge, two very powerful men.

Yeah, but Harry still got saved from an abusive childhood at an age where he still had enough spirit for that rescue to make a real difference. So "happens all the time" - no, not all the time. Not in Harry's case, it didn't.

It seems to be the trend in the WW that if you don't have someone to scratch your back for you, you're screwed. (For example, Harry, Remus and Hagrid owe their school days and employment prospects directly to Dumbledore's intervention and protection.) Merope doesn't have that crucial person to help her, but she knows she needs someone, and in her desperation she manipulates the man she adores. I am arguing that this action was spurred by desperation, and hence should not be judged as "wicked" as the behaviour of, say, Romilda Vane.
[User Picture]
On August 12th, 2006 01:58 am (UTC), scarah2 replied:
True, you can say "She should have picked herself up by her bootstraps and gone to find work" but this is an abused person we're talking about, and abused people have internalized that abuse to the extent that they genuinely don't believe they're worth anything. I don't think it fair to judge them by the standards of normal people.

Lots of people were abused, and many of them went on to become productive members of society. I don't believe it's fair to them to expect that they can't work and don't know the difference between right and wrong.

Loretta Lynn's childhood home. Nail a snake up, and you've just about got it.

I still say that if the Knight Bus had existed in the 1920s, it would have come to help her. Since it didn't, it couldn't have existed and hence she couldn't have found work there.

The Knight Bus only comes if you put up your wand arm. She musn't have done that.
[User Picture]
On August 11th, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC), joraina replied:
She could have left home. Even without proper education I'm sure she could have worked in a wizarding pub, or in the transportation industry, something like that.

Living in a household with deranged, seriously psychotic family members, I doubt she really would know how to find and maintain a regular job.

I speculate - and as far as I know, this is true - she probably never left the area around her house her entire life previous to the death of her family. Given the way she was treated, I can only assume that she knew nothing about how to live in the real world - or how to function as a normal, sane member of society.

I'm not surprised that she turned to so-called witchcraft to ensnare Tom Riddle. It was, of course, her choice to do so. And of course it was wrong. However, I don't think that she knew any better; for what kind of morals could one possibly learn growing up in that household?
[User Picture]
On August 12th, 2006 02:03 am (UTC), scarah2 replied:
so-called witchcraft

What about it is "so-called?"

This is what Dumbledore has to say on the subject: I do not believe that her magical powers appeared to their best advantage when she was being terrorized by her father. Once Marvolo and Morfin were safely in Azkaban, once she was alone and free for the first time in her life, then, I am sure, she was able to give full rein to her abilities and to plot her escape from the desperate life she had led for eighteen years.

So, according to his research, she had magical powers, freedom, and time to plan.
* * *
[User Picture]
On November 21st, 2006 03:08 am (UTC), sampaguita_blue commented:
I'm sorry that this response comes so late... it's just I haven't checked this community in a while...

But, you know, I'm bothered by the same "she raped him" chorus for a different reason. What bothers me is that all we have to go on is Dumbledore's conjecture and speculation as to how Merope was even able to have a relationship with Tom.

I'm not saying that she didn't have a little magical help, but I don't think it would be too outlandish to think that she might have used magic to make herself look more attractive-- and passed it off as something as simple as cleaning herself up and getting a haircut... Nor would it be that outlandish to buy the fact that he thought he could use her as a submissive little sycophantic bride, and that her true magical colors shone and he freaked out.

But, I also agree with everything you've said... assuming that Merope actually did drug Tom with a potion.

*shrugs*

* * *
[User Picture]
On June 13th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC), maynardsong commented:
Didn't Dumbledore say at one point to Harry not to judge her too harshly, that she had suffered long enough? I think Dumbledore had sympathy for her, as did Harry to some degree. We're meant to sympathize with her, I think.
* * *
[User Picture]
On September 13th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC), maynardsong commented:
JKR said Voldemort's story would have been different had Merope tried to survive. Furthermore, she has *Dumbledore* tell Harry "Don't judge her too harshly." It hardly seems like JKR is condemning Merope. That's all a case of fan dumb, from where I'm standing.
* * *

Previous Entry · Leave a comment · Share · Next Entry