AN UNCOMFORTABLE COMPARISON: SEEING MYSELF IN TOM RIDDLE
By David Russel Mosley
Word Count: 699
Rating: G (suitable for all audiences)
Summary: The author sees himself in the character of young Tom Riddle.
Every time I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I am struck, rather uncomfortably, by certain similarities between myself and boy-Voldemort.
When Dumbledore shows Harry his memory of first meeting ten-year-old Tom Riddle, we see not only Voldemort’s nascent secretive and domineering side, but also his desire to be unique. Dumbledore telling him he was a wizard only confirmed what he already knew about himself: that he was special. I am very much afraid that had Dumbledore walked through my door when I was child and told me I was special, I would have believed him in an instant.
I don’t know whether it had to do with being adopted, being raised as an only child (despite having half-siblings and adopted-siblings), but I was always ready to believe there was something different about me.
This manifested itself in many ways. For quite some time it manifested itself as hypochondria (not any formal kind). I was always ready to believe that I was ill and with something rare. Maybe it would even kill me and then I’d get to find out what people really thought of me. In Junior High I played the eponymous Tom Sawyer in our production of the musical based on Twain’s famous work. I was always drawn to the funeral scene. I longed to know what people really thought of me; who might be in love with me but unwilling to say it; who regretted being mean to me. Later it led me to contemplate suicide and write about it in notebooks on bus trips. I would leave the notebook open nearby someone, usually a girl, to get her attention and her sympathy.
Just as often, this side of my sickness would lead me to rebuff advances to make me feel better. There are images trapped in my brain of the things friends and others (again, mostly girls) would do to try to get my attention, to make me feel better. But these I must leave aside.
The other way this desire to be special manifested itself was through delusions of grandeur (again, not in the formal sense). In elementary school I would imagine a young girl climbing to the top of a jungle-gym – which we, at the height of scatological humor, called The Toilet . She would get stuck or begin to fall and I would courageously run up and catch her. When films like The Lion King came out or when I read certain stories, I would always imagine myself the hero, righting wrongs and wooing women.
Later it made me think I was particularly bright, but misunderstood. My stories didn’t win writing competitions in school, but I knew I was a better writer. I always hoped I would get bumped up a grade because I was deemed too smart. The summer between Junior High and High School when the Freshman AP English teacher (Mrs. English) called my house asking me to join her AP class rather than the slightly lower College Entrance had me in a euphoric state for most of the summer. I am sure all of this made me insufferable to both friends and family. Especially since I did, at times anyway, excel. Because at times I was, ever so slightly, extraordinary. Thank God Dumbledore never showed up.
And this, I think, is the difference between Harry, Riddle, and myself.
Harry needed Hagrid to tell him, not so much that he was special, but that he wasn’t nothing, which is what his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin had essentially taught him. Riddle needed reminding of his commonness. He rejects his birth name both because of its commonality – “There are a lot of Toms” he says at one point – but also because it associates himself with his “common” (albeit rich) muggle father.
By having neither Hagrid nor Dumbledore, and by truly failing, I learned the humility Riddle never did and Harry didn’t need to. And so, while like Voldemort I was, and often am, ready to believe that I am different, that I am special, my life has done a decent job of reminding that, thankfully, I am no one particularly special, at least not in comparison to others. All praise be.