Is anyone born evil?

“Voldemort, a raging psychopath, devoid of the normal human responses to other people’s suffering.” – J. K. Rowling

Tom Marvolo Riddle. No one can deny that Voldemort was evil though the question I’ve always wondered is: was he born this way? As I see it there is a magical solution and a scientific solution, but first the term psychopathy needs to be specified.

Psychopathy is a genetic Antisocial Personality Disorder, and a psychopath is a person who is often very intelligent and can therefore, with great success, be highly manipulative. They don’t have the ability to feel empathy, guilt or remorse but can learn how to mimic these emotions to trick people around them in order to gain their trust. The psychopath can in fact be very charming and charismatic but underneath they are cool and calculative. Because most psychopaths are intelligent they’re often well educated and their plans organized. They have a disregard for laws and view the world as their playground and people around them as chess pawns to manoeuvre to their liking.

A magical solution

If Merope really loved Tom Riddle Sr or if it in fact was a strong infatuation is hard to say. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Dumbledore speculates that it is love, however for all we know she never got to know Tom Riddle or spent any real time with him before he fell under her spell (or love potion) so how could it be true love? A much more likely answer is that she would have seen him as a get-away; a handsome and charming prince on a white horse who was going to rescue her from her abusive father and brother. Some argue that Voldemort is devoid of love due to the way he was conceived, on “manufactured love,” and it only makes the theory stronger if we go with the assumption that Merope never truly loved Tom Riddle Sr.

A scientific solution

Anyone reading the characteristics above knows that Tom Riddle, aka. Voldemort, fits the bill perfectly. Being a genetic disorder the question – if he was born this way – is already answered. That, however leads us directly to another question: with it being a genetic disorder could an argument then be made that the boy was doomed from birth and can therefore not be blamed for how he turned out? After all, a psychopath is unable to change (due to them not being able to feel guilt or remorse) so even though Dumbledore’s famous words – “it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” – are true, how could he have chosen differently?

A study from 2016 shows that a parent can spot psychopathic tendencies at age 2, and the environment start to be able to tell by age 3. Furthermore the author expresses a belief that parental and environmental input can help to correct this behaviour if both are aimed at helping the child to connect emotionally to other people.
To determine whether a child shows signs of psychopathy psychologists use a DC (
Deceitful-Callous) Scale. All of Tom Riddle’s behaviour traits as a child matches the five items found on the DC Scale. It is like Mrs Cole from Wool’s Orphanage tells Dumbledore before he meets young Tom Riddle: “Billy Stubbs’s rabbit… well, Tom said he didn’t do it and I don’t see how he could have done, but even so, it didn’t hang itself from the rafters, did it?” She always suspected Tom and knew he was different from the other children, and not in a good way.

Tom Riddle, of course, already knew that he was different from the other children at the orphanage. When meeting Dumbledore for the first time he is highly suspicious of him, thinking he is to be taken to an asylum. He sounds like bad things happen to those who try to force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. I wonder if he, himself, has wondered if he was going mad. Discovering you’re magical and not insane must be a huge relief. In Riddle’s case it confirms and enforces his feeling of superiority.


So are a psychopath evil? It depends on where they are on the PCL-R Scale. A potentially dangerous psychopath will score 30 or more on the scale, and it depends on how you define evil. Evil can arise when a person put other people into a category where it is acceptable to harm them or cause them pain, or feels entitled due to their ideology. This happens frequently during war (and why people were fine with having slaves), but a person can also dehumanise those around him or her by feeling superior; others don’t matter and that person will have no problem using other people as their pawns only to dispose of them when they no longer have a need for them to stay around. This is all that Voldemort is, and that Tom Riddle was handsome and could be charming at will didn’t help those around him who so easily got caught up in his web.  


Tom Riddle was absolutely born evil and if it only was Merope’s heritage that did the trick or if Tom Riddle Sr had some traits too is tough to say. It is therefore up to you to ponder and decide whether, in his case, Dumbledore was wrong in saying that “it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Is anyone born evil tom

Could Tom Riddle really have chosen differently?
Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments down below.


5 thoughts on “Is anyone born evil?

  1. Great article!! I’m highly interested in this particular aspect of the human psyche.

    I also believe that he was born evil, for the reasons you suggested, and couldn’t have chosen differently because he couldn’t FEEL any differently.
    I alluded to this in my last post, in a blurb where I said his demeanour is “the results of a terrible, most unfortunate, unavoidable start in life.” Of course, I‘m referring to how he was conceived under manufactured “love”, and how he didn’t stand a chance of being good.

    And, I am of the opinion that Merope did not in fact love Tom Riddle, but was just infatuated with his image, and “drugged” him to fulfil her own fantasies. She also never understood what real love was, having never received any of it herself.


    1. Thank you! Also, I agree, though I’ve always found it scary that some people are unable to change simply because they find themselves “perfect” as they are. I think many underestimate how much we have learned and changed from making mistakes, and that psychopaths generally don’t and therefore always will behave a bit off.

      In terms of Merope: I just never bought the whole her being truly in love with Tom. Just like I don’t believe in love at first sight. Infatuation and lust, yes, but not love. I do firmly believe that she saw him as a get-away, and that she thought that he was her only chance of becoming a mother, having the life she never had and always wanted.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Charlotte Louise

    Great post! I found your view extremely interesting. I definitely agree that he was born evil. Obviously choices people make have an impact as well but for many and in particular this case, he had no other choice x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s