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Old August 8th, 2007, 2:34 pm
Fleur du mal  Female.gif Fleur du mal is offline
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Join Date: 24th July 2003
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Re: Narcissa Malfoy: Character Analysis

to add a bit of food to the discussion

Originally Posted by wikipedia - Erich Fromm

The cornerstone of Fromm's humanistic philosophy is his interpretation of the biblical story of Adam and Eve's exile from the Garden of Eden. Drawing on his knowledge of the Talmud, Fromm pointed out that being able to distinguish between good and evil is generally considered to be a virtue, and that biblical scholars generally consider Adam and Eve to have sinned by disobeying God and eating from the Tree of Knowledge. However, departing from traditional religious orthodoxy, Fromm extolled the virtues of humans taking independent action and using reason to establish moral values rather than adhering to authoritarian moral values.

Beyond a simple condemnation of authoritarian value systems, Fromm used the story of Adam and Eve as an allegorical explanation for human biological evolution and existential angst, asserting that when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they became aware of themselves as being separate from nature while still being part of it. This is why they felt "naked" and "ashamed": they had evolved into human beings, conscious of themselves, their own mortality, and their powerlessness before the forces of nature and society, and no longer united with the universe as they were in their instinctive, pre-human existence as animals. According to Fromm, the awareness of a disunited human existence is a source of guilt and shame, and the solution to this existential dichotomy is found in the development of one's uniquely human powers of love and reason. However, Fromm so distinguished his concept of love from popular notions of love that his reference to this concept was virtually paradoxical.

Fromm considered love to be an interpersonal creative capacity rather than an emotion, and he distinguished this creative capacity from what he considered to be various forms of narcissistic neuroses and sado-masochistic tendencies that are commonly held out as proof of "true love." Indeed, Fromm viewed the experience of "falling in love" as evidence of one's failure to understand the true nature of love, which he believed always had the common elements of care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. Drawing from his knowledge of the Torah, Fromm pointed to the story of Jonah, who did not wish to save the residents of Nineveh from the consequences of their sin, as demonstrative of his belief that the qualities of care and responsibility are generally absent from most human relationships. Fromm also asserted that few people in modern society had respect for the autonomy of their fellow human beings, much less the objective knowledge of what other people truly wanted and needed.

Fromm believed that freedom was an aspect of human nature that we either embrace or escape. He observed that embracing our freedom of will was healthy, whereas escaping freedom through the use of escape mechanisms, was the root of psychological conflicts. Three main escape mechanisms that Fromm outlined are automaton conformity, authoritarianism, and destructiveness. Automaton conformity is changing one's ideal self to what is perceived as the preferred type of personality of society, losing one's true self. The use of automaton conformity displaces the burden of choice from the self to society. Authoritarianism is allowing oneself to be controlled by another. This removes the freedom of choice almost entirely by submitting that freedom to someone else. Lastly, destructiveness is any process which attempts to eliminate others or the world as a whole to escape freedom. Fromm said that "the destruction of the world is the last, almost desperate attempt to save myself from being crushed by it" (1941).


Erich Fromm postulated five basic needs:
  • Relatedness - relationships with others, care, respect, knowledge;
  • Transcendence - creativity, develop a loving and interesting life;
  • Rootedness - feeling of belonging;
  • Sense of Identity - see ourselves as a unique person and part of a social group.
  • A frame of orientation- the need to understand the world and our place in it.
Fromm's thesis of the "escape from freedom" is epitomized in the following passage. The "individualized man" referenced by Fromm is man bereft of "primary ties" of belonging (nature, family, etc.), also expressed as "freedom from":

"There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual . . . . However, if the economic, social and political conditions . . . do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality in the sense just mentioned, while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom." (Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom [N.Y.: Rinehart, 1941], pp. 36-7. The point is repeated on pp. 31, 256-7.)

[bold print by myself]
I know, it's a lot, and here's even more

Originally Posted by wikipedia, excerpts on Narcissism

It is also worth noting that the individual expressions of grandiosity or arrogance vary with the person's value system. A person will generally attempt to display superiority as they define it.
  • Overreacts to criticism, becoming angry or humiliated
  • Uses others to reach goals
  • Exaggerates own importance
  • Entertains unrealistic fantasies about achievements, power, beauty, intelligence or romance
  • Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Seeks constant attention and positive reinforcement from others
  • Is easily jealous [11]
  • Has a sense of entitlement
  • Is interpersonally exploitative
  • Lacks empathy
  • Displays arrogant behavior
  • Displays haughty behavior
and finally...

Originally Posted by Erich Fromm, 'Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

Narcissism can be described as a state of experiencing only the own person, their body, their needs, their feelings, their thoughts, their property, anything belonging to them, perceiving only their own as fully real, whereas everything not connected to them or their personal needs is not a matter of interest, doesn't possess a full reality and is only perceived on an intellectual level, emotionally it lacks significance and colour. [...] A narcissistic personality therefore shows severe defects in their ability to judge and discern, and their capability for objectivity. [...]
When others injure the person's narcissism by indifferent/derogatory treatment, criticism or showing him up because he said something wrong, when they beat him in competition or offend him in numerous other ways, the narcissistic character usually reacts with intense fury or anger, whether they show it or not. [...]
...exaggerated admiration for their parents or own children, and they don't mind showing these feelings because they perceive them absolutely positive, as loyalty [...]
... group-narcissism if not the individual person, but a group is concerned... Occasionally, the consensus of a small group can suffice to create an own 'reality', in extreme cases two persons can be enough already...

[translated from German edition (1974) into English by myself]

So - I know, I know, it is terribly much. I don't quite know what to make of it myself, but it is a fact that JKR only derived from her own naming pattern in Narcissa's case because she had this name in her head right from the beginning. You know anyone who's called Narcissa except the one in the book? Exactly. She must have got that specific name for a reason.

I think the quotes don't relate to Narcissa only, but to the entire Malfoy family. Don't some of the points remind you of Draco? However... I thought that in a way, HBP and DH do illustrate Narcissa's 'journey' in some ways, from the utterly self-centred (and the 'self' in her case is the group-narcissistic kind, thus including her family, IMO) to a somewhat lesser egocentrical being, more capable to interact with others, as her successful 'collaboration' (if you can call it like that) with Harry shows.

Where did Narcissa start? I think we should come back here to a remark that Quirrel made in PS, I think he wasn't the only one hearing that from Voldemort. 'There is no good and evil, there is only power (and those too weak to seek it).' That's a sentence one can subscribe to, and it is rather convenient to believe it, too. If there's no good and evil, but only the ever-lasting struggle for power, you either go for that power, or you perish - it justifies everything you do as long as you do it for yourself.

We hear from JKR that Narcissa, though never a Death Eater herself, sympathised with Lucius' ideas, and Lucius is the epitome of a power-hungry opportunist, and incidentally also one who's rather good in achieving it - until Voldemort's comeback, that is. So we can say, there was a time when Voldemort had her loyalties. But that runs out in the moment when he starts acting against her family (I don't mean Draco's assignment, but the moment at the latest when Lucius was punished for losing the diary).

When she goes to Snape - what must have been going on in her mind? She cares for mothing and nobody there, as she says herself, only for Draco. She draws Snape into a situation where he shouldn't be - Voldemort would consider his behaviour as treachery, too, if he knew it, and if Dumbledore wasn't dying anyway... But this isn't the mment to discuss Snape, all that is significant is that she means to instrumentalise him in order to save her son (and boy, she's got my full sympathy there).
And why should she care for Snape, or Bella, or Voldemort in the first place? They all disqualified themselves in her point of view - V. because he sends her child on that impossible mission, B. because she supports V. in that idea, and S. - he's V.'s 'most trusted follower', too. These people are breaking into her world and try to take away her greatest treasure, her child. They've cost her a husband already. And Narcissa in a way seperates from them; by cursing Bella, by 'betraying' Voldemort, by using Snape for her own plan.

When Narcissa finally 'meets' Harry - what is she presented with? Yes, that kid has humiliated her son, has cursed him, has even accidentally got him killed, almost. But what she knows about him, too, is how he saves people thoroughly unconnected to himself (Griphook), spares them (Stan Shunpike), and how he is REALLY good in standing up to/escaping from Voldemort. Voldemort is the opponent Narcissa can never overcome herself, but Harry at least has a theoretical chance (and seeing him survive Avada Kedavra again might have dispelled the last doubts on the subject). With Voldemort in power, Narcissa and her loved ones don't have a chance to survive on the long run, and she knows it. So if there is anything she can do to prevent that, she's bound to act on that impulse, even if that means helping someone she's considered as her personal enemy for a long time, in the 'the enemy(Harry) of my enemy(Voldemort) is my friend' kind of sense.

Pooo *wipes forehead* I know, that was long. Sorry. I'd just be interested what others think about this.

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