Why we like Hermione Granger: an essay

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pretty1.pngHere's a great essay on why Hermione is such a great character:

JK Rowling's women are a strange bunch. Given that the most pivotal characters are, in the main, men, the women seem to be stern (Petunia Dursley, Minerva McGonagall), benignly mad (Sybill Trelawney, Luna Lovegood) or vile (Aunt Marge, Dolores Umbridge, Bellatrix Lestrange, Rita Skeeter, Narcissa Malfoy… I could go on). The more mundane are either unbearably giggly (Lavender Brown, Cho Chang) or suffocatingly mumsy (Molly Weasley). And this from a woman! Hang on, I knew I liked JK Rowling for a reason…

Among the handful of exceptions, however, is the one character who comes closest to being an autobiographical creation of the author: Hermione Granger.

Hermione's character fails to sound particularly appealing on paper. The class swot, whose greatest fear is academic failure, she's also been known to lecture the boys about their habitual rule-breaking, report strange occurences regardless of how unpopular this makes her and she may even have muttered the words “I told you so” from time to time.

However, she's also startlingly intelligent, instinctively brave and loyal and also the focus of much of the humour in Rowling's later installments. Her comments about women and relationship are undeniably sage; the advice she gives Harry about how he should have handled meeting up with her right after a date with Cho Chang is worryingly accurate. Although she is prone to getting emotional, and a book doesn't go by without her having an all-out row with Ron, this only serves to make her more realistic as the burgeoning relationship between Hermione and the youngest Weasley boy (who is in no way good enough for her) becomes more and more obvious to everyone but him.

The young Miss Granger does suffer for her intelligence, being labelled an “insufferable know-it-all” by her own teacher and even resorting to time travel to try and fit in all her lessons. But she doesn't give in to criticism and she's aware of her own shortcomings, deferring to Harry when someone is called upon to train the Hogwart's fifth years in Defence Against the Dark Arts. She knows he's more instinctively competent with a wand in this subject (having had rather more practice than most), so she sticks to what she does best, organising the lessons and keeping them a secret in her own crafty way. She's also the unfailing voice of human kindness, being laughed at and belittled by her own closest friends for attempting to fight for the rights of house-elves.

Better still, Ron's attraction to Hermione and Harry's liking and respect of her are not predicated on her good looks. While she scrubs up prettily for the Yule Ball, she's generally unconcerned about her big bushy locks and makes only a small concession to vanity by fixing her slightly protuberant front teeth (but, then, her parents are Muggle dentists). It's her academic brilliance and flashes of steel backbone (as well as her full-on bitchslapping of Draco Malfoy) that win her friends.

If children (and adults like me who believe in reading a good selection of everything, no matter who it's aimed at) are going to be obsessively reading a particular series, it's important to know that there's at least one female character worth emulating. Rowling once sadly commented that in the many letters begging her not to kill off Harry, Ron, Dumbledore or Hagrid, there were very few asking her to spare Hermione. I, for one, am effectively writing that letter here. Long may she live!