Voldemort, Boethius, and
the Destructive Effects of Evil
JENNIFER HART WEED
The Dark Lord Voldemort viciously murders Harry Potter’s parents before turning his wand on Harry himself. Miraculously surviving the attempt on his life, baby Harry is placed in the custody of his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, who subject him to an indifferent and abusive childhood. In one instant, Voldemort changes the course of Harry’s life forever. Harry suffers the loss of his parents, while Voldemort seemingly is benefited by the absence of the Potters. Even worse, Voldemort continues living a life filled with malicious activities.
If one takes a closer look at Voldemort’s life after he murders the Potters, however, it becomes clear that he receives something other than the benefit of having two less wizards to oppose him. A physical transformation occurs in Voldemort that is both deforming and frightening, which seems to be the result of his evil actions. While Voldemort’s deformities cannot ease Harry’s suffering, they can provide some assurance that Voldemort is negatively affected by his misdeeds.
The view that evil actions have a destructive effect on an evildoer has a rich history. Indeed, such a view is found in the writings of the fifth-century philosopher Boethius.1 According to Boethius, an individual determines his character by virtue of the
1 The self-destructive nature of evil is not an exclusively Christian idea. One
can find similar observations about evil in the writings of Aristotle and Rabbi
Moses Maimonides, for example.