Friday, 28 May 2010

Harry and Hermione, Harry Potter (Themed Week Day 5)

Like Holmes and Watson yesterday, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger of J.K. Rowling's famed Harry Potter novels, are not an emblem of your typical love story. For a start, as most of you will no doubt know, they don't even end up together and at no point do they ever get together (though that's not to say other characters don't suspect it, or that I didn't want them to. I did. Oh, I did.) Whatever their ultimate choices, when I read these books, and re-read them, it's always Harry and Hermione I come back to.

 Earlier this week, Nina commented on my post about Emma and George Knightley, pointing out that while Knightley steering Emma the right way strikes the reader as appealing, a female character steering a male protagonist seems to make her come off as 'saintly'. 

This comment struck me as very ironic, partly because I was already planning to write about Harry and Hermione today, partly because Nina's right (how many times in the books are we told that Hermione is very by-the-book, very good for trying to do the moral or right thing), and partly because I rather think the Harry/Hermione relationship is very much like the Emma/Knightley one.

Think about it. Just as Knightley makes Emma better, so does Hermione make Harry better. Harry, lovely as he is, has a temper, is impetuous, and he does tend to fall off the path. Eight times out of ten (the other two being reserved for occasional bits of wisdom from Lupin, Dumbledore or Sirius), it's Hermione who steers Harry back on track, who reminds him of what is right, and logical, and practical, and she's the moral compass by which he grows up and fights by. What's even more suggestive is that, like Emma, Harry might feel resentful of the truth offered by Hermione, but he almost always comes to understand that she was right and he follows her advice. Ultimately, I think any Harry Potter fan knows that if it hadn't been for Hermione a thousand times over, Voldemort would still be rampaging about and Harry would be dead.

Moreover, like Holmes and Watson, Harry and Hermione are equals. I always found it interesting that the one subject Hermione doesn't do as well in at school (Defense Against the Dark Arts) is the one Harry excels in. It's as though, if you were to fit these two together like a jigsaw, they'd be able to cope with anything; they are each other's foils (the one spontaneous, the other logical) and they compensate for each other's weaknesses.

What struck me further about these two is the fact that they are somehow elevated above the rest of their peers and most of the novel's characters. It is striking that over the course of the series, Hermione is the only person who never fails Harry, who never walks out on him, who never fails to follow him into whatever he does, even if he asks her not to. Even when she disagrees with him (see the climax of Order of the Phoenix), she'll help him. Even when Ron, her apparent 'love' and eventual husband, gives her an ultimatum (he as good as says 'I'm leaving, and he's staying. So who's it gonna be, eh? Him or me?' - see Deathly Hallows), she sticks by Harry. Good grief, she even makes her own parents forget her existence so that she can protect them and fight by Harry's side at the same time.

And Harry is by no means unaware of the sacrifices she's made for him or of her unique status in his life. Hermione, though, bless her, she doesn't know it, is given the single greatest compliment Harry offers anybody in the entire series. No, it's not the way he repeatedly talks about how clever she is.

He says he loves her. Yes, he says 'I love her like a sister' to Ron, so it's not the pinnacle of romance. But whoever said it had to be? I find it immensely touching that Hermione is the only person Harry ever states, aloud, that he loves.

Towards the end of Deathly Hallows, as he prepares to go meet wicked old Voldy in the woods, Harry also reflects silently on the people he loves, and, shock horror, Hermione is the first he thinks of.

Conflict, drama, sacrifice, loyalty, a moral compass, keen protective instincts (see the photo for further evidence of what's already clear in the novels), and two characters on equal footing who are set apart in some way from the other characters. And even, dare I say it, a certain chemistry that always flashes out at me when I read scenes in which these two argue and steadily step closer and closer together... 

For a pair that were never portrayed as romantic, Harry and Hermione seem to fit almost everything that I look for in a memorable and effective literary relationship.

Is it any wonder, then, that when I think about the relationships in Harry Potter, or even of fictional relationships in general, this is one that truly stands out for me?

What do you think?


  1. I saw the title and went - *sigh* HHr? - but you just gave one of the most effective arguments for that ship that I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot). Nice point with Hermione being the only one Harry says aloud that he loves and you're totally right that the wizarding world would be screwed without Hermione Granger. I still prefer Ron/Hermione, though, I think JK develops that interest nicely.

    What are your thoughts on Harry/Ginny, out of curiosity? I thought it was just a little too neat the way the four of the (the three plus Ginny) worked out.

  2. Haha, I was somewhat of a rabid Harry/Hermione fan when the books were still coming out! But I was never really anti-Ron and Hermione, it was obvious that pairing was always in the works.

    As for Ginny, well, I personally found that ridiculous. You're totally right - it was a little too neat!

    It seemed to me that it was just a convenient way to make one big happy Weasley family. Ginny never appealed to me as a character, simply because she never contributed much to the story or to Harry's development, and she never seemed worthy of him.

    I think that's why certain relationships appeal to me and others don't. I can't invest in a fictional relationship if I don't think the two characters are worthy of each other.

  3. I always thought Harry and Hermione should have been a couple, but now that you lay out like that, I can see how their relationship is just as strong as a romantic one, it's just different. It reminds me of Gary Hobson and Marissa Clark on the tv show Early Edition. She filled the same role for him, and I never saw them as a couple.

  4. Mary, I think that's a great point: a pair doesn't have to be romantic to be the most effective relationship of the story. I haven't seen Early Edition, but it sounds like it plays on a great kind of relationship! :)

  5. To be honest, I'm not a Harry Potter kind of gal, but I loved reading your take on the relationship!

  6. Fair enough, Talli, and thanks for reading!

  7. Sangu, I'm in complete agreement with Talli. Great post as always.
    The twins from the Harry Potter films live in my home town, they're really sweet boys.

  8. I dropped out of the Potter series at book 3...
    Your case is interesting but I can't say anything about it. And sorry, I'm not picking up the rest of the series to find out for myself what you're talking about. : j

  9. Ah, Alesa that is a shame! As a Potter fan, I'd say you're missing out.

    But as I also know plenty of people who gave the books a try and didn't like them, I'd say you're probably best off forgetting about them entirely! :)

  10. I think Harry and Hermione have always thought of one another as siblings, but you do hit on many of the reasons their relationship is so great. I would probably say Dumbledore is Harry's moral compass in the truest sense since Dumbledore is Harry's true father figure, but it's true that Hermione is Harry's conscience. Dumbledore even mentions this in the last book, during the King's Cross chapter, that he expected Hermione to temper Harry's impetuous nature. Hermione learned very early on that she was going to have to play a certain role in Harry's life, and she accepted that and rose to the task.

    But don't you think Harry and Hermione get along a little too well? They don't make a lot of sense to me romantically. Hermione is a bit of a mother figure to Harry, and conversely, she thinks of him as someone to be protected (and often indulged). It's true that they understand each other pretty thoroughly, but it does compromise a certain amount of intrigue.

  11. Great post. Personally, I like that Harry and Hermione were never romantic -- for all the reasons you stated, Sanju! I think the fact that Hermione refused to walk out on Harry (and their quest) with Ron shows her strength of character. If she had a romantic interest in Harry then the strength and fortitude she showed would seem diminished by alternate motives.

    As for Harry and Ginny, I agree with you that it didn't feel fulfilling because Ginny had never contributed much to their escapades. I would have preferred Harry and Luna Lovegood. Or at least Neville and Luna! Luna was such a great character and showed wisdom and insight in a way that Ginny never did. It's interesting that Rowling, who is a master of creating colorful, lovable characters chose to make Harry's love interest rather bland.

    And did anyone else HATE that scene in the 6th movie where Ginny ties Harry's shoelaces? It was so demeaning.