So, I’m listening to the confrontation between Tom Riddle and Harry in the chamber of secrets
and probably what’s striking me the most is the way Tom assumes, implicitly, that everyone who meets him will find him charming and impressive
He talks about becoming Ginny’s best friend, her confidante, the holder of PARTS OF HER SOUL, as if it was a bit of a hassle, but ultimately quite easy. He talks about persuading Professor Dippet that Hagrid was guilty, and describes the effect of his own self-presentation as if it was obvious that one of the most powerful people in the wizarding world should do whatever a 16 year old asked: “Tom Riddle, poor but brilliant, parentless but so brave…”
And he makes one remark about someone his narrative didn’t work on: “I don’t think Dumbledore liked me as much as the other teachers did.” He’s so confident in the effect of his own narrative, his shiny charm, that he’s genuinely surprised and a bit confused at not everybody buying it.
And, like, the thing is: we see Voldemort when he’s not doing so well, for most of the series. We see him, largely in moments of crisis: autocratic, cruel, utterly without loyalty to anyone but himself. And inside, he’s definitely all those things. But he’s also so charismatic - so good at faking empathy, too - that all sorts of people end up giving him their souls, literally or otherwise. Think about the range of people attracted by Tom Riddle, whether as a schoolboy or a Dark Lord: Slughorn, Ginny Weasley, Lucius Malfoy, Peter Pettigrew, Bellatrix Lestrange, etc. Those are some hugely different people with genuinely conflicting interests! and yet he plays them all, he acquires all of their trust and admiration, and then when he’s done with them they die, but the others keep following him because that’s how good Tom Riddle is at making people love him
It’s incredibly difficult to perform to so many different audiences, simultaneously, and almost never fail. I think Tom Riddle is so good at using people because he uses himself. He doesn’t exist outside the narratives he performs. He feeds on the reactions of others. No one sees through him because there’s nothing to see. He says it himself: “Voldemort [an absurdly dramatic pseudonym, lets be real] is my past, present and future, Harry Potter”
Tom Riddle: consummate identity manipulator, holy shit