Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Merope Gaunt
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character|
|Related Family||Morfin Gaunt, Marvolo Gaunt, Tom Marvolo Riddle|
Merope Gaunt is the mother of Tom Marvolo Riddle, the sister of Morfin Gaunt, and the daughter of Marvolo Gaunt. She is not a pretty woman at all: 'Her hair was lank and dull and she had a plain, pale, rather heavy face. Her eyes stared in opposite directions.' She wears ragged clothing and is always abused by her father, because of the relative weakness of her magical powers.
Role in the Books
We see Merope only through the recorded memories of various wizards, and the ensuing discussions with Professor Dumbledore. When we first see her, she is eighteen years old, and keeping house (more or less adequately) for her father and brother. She was in love with the Muggle Tom Riddle. Shortly afterwards, her father and brother are sent to Azkaban for attacking the wizards who were to bring Morfin to the Ministry for a hearing concerning his attacking a Muggle with magic. Merope, left to her own devices, used a love potion to trap Riddle into marriage. When she became pregnant, she apparently stopped using the love potion, possibly under the misconception that as she was bearing his child, Riddle would really love her without the use of potion, or possibly because the pregnancy weakened her magical abilities. Once freed of the effect of the potion, however, he realized what had happened, abandoned her and returned to Little Hangleton. There, he told the town that he had been hoodwinked and taken in. Merope never tried to improve her life after being abandoned by him, living on in London, on her own and in poverty. Shortly before giving birth, she sold her only possession, a priceless locket which was one of the family heirlooms, and which could be traced back to Salazar Slytherin. She gave birth to her son in a Muggle orphanage and died after she named the child Tom Marvolo Riddle.
Largely lacking in physical strength or magical ability, she still has sufficient strength of character to stand up to her father and brother in the matter of the muggle Tom Riddle.
Merope's character was severely weakened by the abuse of her father and brother. She often had trouble with magic growing up, being terrorized by her father, and living in harsh impoverished conditions making her vulnerable to negative feelings about her magic abilities. It is likely that her apparent magical weakness was in part because she was untrained. It is unlikely that Marvolo, with his distrust of the Wizarding hierarchy, would have allowed either of his children to attend school.
As a result of this, Merope's self esteem was quite low; she apparently believed that the only way she could be loved was through a love potion. As noted, she was quite unattractive; it is possible that this assessment of her romantic chances was accurate.
Relationships with Other Characters
Most villages in England will have a manor house, and the resident will be the local important person; often referred to as "the lord of the manor" though not necessarily nobility. Tom is the son and heir of the local lord, and Merope is hopelessly in love with him. Her brother and father abuse her quite harshly for daring to fall in love with a Muggle. This abuse from her family has left her feeling very unsure of herself.
It is clear to the reader that Merope was faced with a wretched home situation. In even the very short time we see the entire family together, we note that Marvolo and Morfin both treat Merope very brutally. We also see that Tom Riddle treats the girl he's riding out with much more gently than anything Merope has ever known, It is not surprising, then, that Merope should fall in love with Tom, if only because he was possibly the only Muggle who had ever dared to go near the ugly, scary Gaunt shack while she was living there. The abuse she receives at home predisposes her to escape, and any passing man could be her ticket out; it is unfortunate that the Gaunts had isolated themselves from the Wizarding community, because that resulted in the only available man being a Muggle, an impossible match in the eyes of her father and brother.
Though Merope did fall in love with, and eventually marry, Tom Riddle, the child she had with him seems to have developed into someone who hated Muggles as much as Merope's father and brother. We can't, of course, know if her selection of Tom was love, or a combination of infatuation, woolly romantic thinking, and rebellion. We do know that, as Merope died shortly after giving birth, Tom Marvolo Riddle's eventual character would not be influenced by Merope's feelings about Muggles.