Thank you, Hermione
Catherine Owers | Thursday, October 29, 2015
This semester I’m taking a class on children’s literature. It’s great; I’ve never loved being an English major more. Our syllabus is arranged somewhat chronologically, so we’ve started the semester reading Gulliver’s Travels and will end the semester with Harry Potter. I’m expecting it to be a very enjoyable last week of classes.
As we began the course, the Harry Potter series quickly emerged in our discussions to be a general favorite, which was no surprise. I was intrigued, however, to see how often Harry Potter continues to be referenced in everyone’s comments, including my own. Of course I knew the series was wildly popular, but I never realized how deeply it shaped our generation’s conception of childhood literature. Furthermore, I discovered that I have never really stopped to examine why I love the series so much.
I can’t remember the first time I read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” but I think I read the first few books in the series after my older sister bought them. Thanks, Elizabeth. I owe you big time. Regardless of when it happened, at some point I fell in love with the series without realizing it. I do remember eagerly awaiting the publication of the latter books in the series, and I definitely preordered Deathly Hallows. I may have possibly locked myself in my room until I finished that glorious, maddening, wonderful and emotionally exhausting final book. Now, with all seven books published, I annually engage in re-reading marathons over the summer or during winter breaks.
Having established myself as a bona fide Harry Potter devotee, I guess I should return to the question — why do I like the series so much?
Some people love Harry Potter for the complicated and satisfying plot, other people praise Harry Potter for its exaltation of friendship, love and self-sacrifice. And I love the series for all of these aspects, and more, but I believe a large part of my affection for the series is due to Hermione Granger.
Aside from providing us with some of the best lines of the series (“I hope you’re pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killed — or worse, expelled.”), the female protagonist gave us the idea that girls could be intelligent, could have the same adventures as the boys and be interesting, complicated people. Hermione is a multidimensional character with her own passions, like campaigning for the rights of oppressed minority groups, and shortcomings, like being a bit of a know-it-all.
Maybe these are simple qualities, but I don’t believe they were ever really articulated in children’s literature the way J.K. Rowling did through Hermione Granger. Jo March, Dorothy Gale, Laura Ingalls, Lucy Pevensie, and Nancy Drew served as important role models in my book-filled childhood, and in many ways Hermione is a culmination of the best in these girls. She’s the fictional character I most want to be friends with; she’s the fictional character I want to be.
So, thanks, Hermione. Thanks for reading Hogwarts: A History, for punching Draco Malfoy, for confounding Cormac McLaggen. Thanks for showing us that books and cleverness have their uses, but they can never trump friendship and bravery.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.