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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Across The Pond and Beyond (Part 2) - Deconstructing Hermione Granger

Of all of the characters in the Harry Potter series that have appeared in the seven volume set of novels (and believe me, there are quite a few of them), there is one that I seem to identify with more than any other character.

So, without hesitation, let's get right to it.

This is Hermione Granger, as played by British actress Emma Watson in the various movies that have been made in correspondence with the books, and as you can see, this character has a lot of qualities and layers to her. She's mostly filled with positive qualities, but she also has some flaws to her, as most people do. As I said before, there are a lot of things that I have in common with Hermione Granger, and I'll touch on these points as I come across them.

I already did an entry on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but in that entry, I mostly dealt with a blog entry that was plot driven. In this edition, I wanted to make this a character driven entry, because I firmly believe that in order to tell a fantastic story, you have to have fantastic characters. Hermione Granger happens to be one of those characters that have helped make the Harry Potter series a huge success.

So, let's get the basics out of the way first, and with these basics, it would seem as though we have nothing in common right off the bat. Hermione is female. I am male. Hermione is a wizard. I am not. Hermione attends a school for wizardry known as Hogwarts. I attended a high school filled with people who used to tease me and bully me.

You know something, Hogwarts doesn't sound too bad right about now.

Of course, if we were to look at Hermione through the shallow end of the pool, it wouldn't exactly be an accurate characterization. No, in order to find the real similarities between Hermione Granger and myself, we're gonna have to dig a little deeper.

When Hermione was born, she was not born into a wizard family. Her parents were non-magic using dentists (otherwise known as Muggles), and while they appeared not to understand the gift that Hermione had, still loved her all the same. And, right off the bat, we have our very first comparison towards Hermione and I. No, I certainly don't know how to use magic, but I did feel as though sometimes my family didn't understand me as well as they could have. That being said, I know that they were as supportive as they could be in regards me, and while not exactly ideal, I could accept it.

When Hermione Granger was created for the Harry Potter series, the concepts stemmed quite heavily from the personal experiences of the author, J.K. Rowling. While it wasn't initially her own intention to make Hermione a character that was just like her, the end result ended up being more like the author than she even realized, albeit an exaggeration. When Rowling was younger, she recalled that she was a little bit of a know-it-all in her youth, but that beneath it all, there was always that little hint of insecurity and fear of failure.

In many ways, Hermione Granger is the exact same way. In lessons at Hogwarts, she always seems to be the first one to hold her hand up in class, and she always seems to know all the answers. She was always the one who could come up with logical solutions to any sort of problems, and her brain power has helped her get out of tricky situations along with her friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.

Yet, Hermione was also quite insecure about herself. In the first movie, until she befriended Harry and Ron, it wasn't all that uncommon for her to be wandering around Hogwarts alone. She tried to make out as if it didn't bother her, and instead acted as though she knew everything about anything as sort of a defense mechanism to show everyone that she had everything together. Instead, it sort of made Hermione a lonely sort, who really wanted friends, but didn't know what to do to get them. She also was somewhat a bit on the jealous and insecure side whenever someone else did better on a test or a task than she did, because for the longest time, she was under the impression that her brain power was all that she had.

And you know something...that sounds really familiar. Because I was the same way.

There were a couple of labels that were assigned to me when I was in elementary school. As much as I despise labels, and what they stand for, I need to talk about them in order to express my point.

One label that I was given was that of the weird kid, and well, I can't really confirm or deny that label because everyone has their own definition of what weird is. The other label that I was given was that of the 'smart kid'.

I can remember when I was younger, kids would crowd around my desk to ask me how to spell certain words, and how to solve basic math problems like what 7+3 equaled. It was okay at first, except that I spent so much time 'helping' my classmates that my own schoolwork kind of suffered in expense. But, I remember not caring because when they needed help with homework, they acted kind and treated me like an equal. Of course, on the playground, the reaction was quite different.

I also remember being just like Hermione (and to a lesser extent, J.K. Rowling herself) because I was always the first person to raise my hand, and who knew the answers. I'm sorry to say that at times, I could be quite obnoxious with my answering abilities in my elementary school classes (which could explain why some people didn't like me in those days, but such is life, I guess).

I can understand why people found Hermione to be ignored by her peers. She did kind of act as if they were beneath her. Looking back on my elementary school days, I could probably see myself doing just that, but again, as an eleven year old boy, sometimes you aren't even aware that you're doing it until someone points it out. But just like Hermione, I think I sort of used that as a defense mechanism in a way. Because I noted that when I was helping my classmates with schoolwork it was the only time I wasn't picked on, I sort of made every effort to try and use that to my advantage because I thought it was the only way that the teasing would stop. It was a futile effort, but I thought it was worth trying.

I think in Hermione's case, she too used her brain power and her superiority complex as a defense mechanism to prevent people from finding reasons to intimidate and hurt her. Some of the more snobbish students of Hogwarts (Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson, and well, pretty much anyone sorted into Slytherin house, really) had rather misguided and closed-minded thoughts about wizards born into 'muggle' families, and they even went so far as to call them the rather offensive name of 'mudblood'. And as much as Hermione tried to put on a brave face, you could tell that label really bothered her. I could be totally wrong in my assessment, but I'd like to believe that Hermione gave off the impression that she was, at least, more book smart than that of her peers as a way to protect herself from being hurt.

The only thing is that by doing this, she really was hurting herself. Kind of like I was hurting myself by being the same way. Though I would also like to think that both of us learned that lesson as we grew older.

And, this nicely ties into the next thing that Hermione Granger and I both have in common.

You see, Hermione Granger really let comments made by other people really get her down. Between Draco Malfoy insulting Hermione by calling her mudblood at every given opportunity and having most of her classmates mocking her, Hermione showed that she wasn't as strong as she let on. In the first book, she was deeply hurt by the comments, and ran into a washroom to have a good cry. It was there that she was cornered by a troll who wanted to attack her. Had it not been for Ron and Harry coming by to fight off the troll at that moment, who knows what might have happened to Hermione?

After that incident, Hermione began to see Ron and Harry in a new light. Grateful that they risked their own lives to save hers, Hermione immediately developed a friendship with both boys, and in turn, Ron and Harry apologized to her for the way they treated her.

As a result of this, Hermione shows extreme loyalty to both Harry and Ron throughout the entire book series. And I am more or less the same way. As someone who had difficulty finding sincere friendships growing up, when I do find them, believe me when I say that I am extremely loyal to those friendships. That's not to say that we don't get into little disagreements every now and then. We do. I could list the number of disagreements and scuffles that Hermione got into with Harry and Ron (especially Ron), but I would need a whole blog posting for that one. Hermione is very protective and loyal towards her friends, and would do almost anything for them. Of course, it helps that Harry and Ron both treated Hermione with respect and kindness (although in Ron's case, it took a while to develop).

Though there are some minor differences in the personalities of Hermione and myself. I personally hated having to do homework, and would purposely try to get all my assignments done in class so I didn't have to work on it at home (for reasons that are way too deep to get into in this blog entry). Hermione, on the other hand, loved homework to the point where she was the only one visibly upset when Dumbledore canceled all final exams after the events in the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Although Hermione did manage to give Harry and Ron the information needed to slay the Basilisk before she became petrified by the beast (she later recovered).

Hermione's brain power and intelligence has greatly helped Harry and Ron immensely. It really all came together in the third book of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. With Hermione's Time-Turner device, she managed to save the life of a mystical creature known as a hippogriff, whom Hagrid affectionately called Buckbeak. She also managed to clear Sirius Black's name by exposing Peter Pettigrew as the man who tipped Voldemort off about the location of Harry's parents, who were slayed by the evil wizard.

For a teenage girl, Hermione certainly did a lot, didn't she?

By the fourth book of the series, we can launch right into another comparison. When Hermione discovered that the house elves were being treated cruelly by some of their owners, she founds a group known as the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (or S.P.E.W.) to gain basic rights for the elves. In a way, I've sort of done the same thing by wanting to try to stop bullying in schools, just because of the experiences that I went through in school, and because I don't want anyone else to have to experience that. I am very much into wanting respect for every individual regardless of skin colour, economic status, sexual orientation, and size, because to me, those things don't define a person. In the case of Hermione Granger, I know she feels exactly the same way.

There's one final comparison between Hermione and I that I kind of want to talk about in conclusion to this particular entry. We're both alike in this way to a point.
During the events of the fourth book of the series, Hogwarts has been chosen as the location of the Triwizard Tournament, and as a result, wizards from all over the world have been chosen to compete in the tournament. Of course, Harry Potter happens to be one of those wizards competing, but another person who happens to be in the tournament is Viktor Krum, a Quidditch prodigy from Bulgaria. Almost instantly, Viktor is attracted to Hermione, and it appears as though the feelings are mutual. He even agrees to be her date for the Hogwarts Yule Ball. It's actually interesting to see that Viktor and Hermione kind of act uncomfortable with each other at first, not because they don't like each other, but because both of them are so incredibly shy. I get the impression that both of them really liked each other, but for whatever reason couldn't admit that they did. In some ways, I can relate to this, because I always had crushes, but never once acted on them for fear of rejection. Let's just say that my self-esteem wasn't all that positive back in those days.

Once Hermione got over those butterflies and got to know Viktor (and vice versa), they found that they had more in common than they thought. Viktor was so smitten by Hermione that he even asked her to go away with him to Bulgaria. Of course, Hermione politely declined the offer, as she wanted to finish up her schooling at Hogwarts, and in hindsight, it was probably a good choice for her, as she ended up falling for someone else...someone she ended up fighting with at the Yule Ball...

And, well, I guess that's all I have to say about Hermione Granger, who ended up being a lot more like me than I thought.

No wonder she was always my favourite character in the serial.  Well-rounded, intelligent, and surprisingly headstrong.  Qualities anyone would be lucky to have, really.


  1. You are a brilliant writer! Love yout stuff! So neat that you wrote about my facve HP character, Hermione Granger!

  2. My absolute pleasure, BuffyTheSlayr! I enjoy putting together this blog very much. Hermione was always my favourite character as well, though I do like Neville Longbottom as well.

    I'm a sucker for underdogs, what can I say? ;)