Hermione Granger is a household name as one of the characters in Harry Potter, the popular young adult series written by J.K. Rowling. The series is about the boy who lived but readers learn even more about the strength of women. Since the publication of the books and the creation of the movies, the internet has been filled with lists and articles to this effect. Many of these point to the lessons Hermione teaches women of perseverance, the power of knowledge, and the importance of courage and loyalty.
Through her writing, Rowling has altered the way a generation views appropriate behavior for young women. Not only can she be intellectual, caring, and hard working, she can be strong, brave, and logical. When considering the gendered nature of these words, a greater appreciation of the impact of Rowling’s work emerges. Courage, strength, loyalty, and logic are words commonly associated with masculinity. Literature and movies often depict the hero as a knight in shinning army who encompasses all of these traits or the unsuspected man who develops them along the way. Rowling’s characters show that it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, anyone — especially young women — can be a warrior who embodies all of these and many other traits, both positive and negative.
Hermione described herself as “Highly logical which allows me to look past extraneous detail and perceive clearly that which others overlook,” in Deathly Hallows Part 1. Her application of logic as well as perseverance are just some of the signals sent that looks and manners aren’t everything. As what could be considered a side effect to Hermione’s natural state, she captured the attention of Viktor Krum, who expressed her time in the library was attractive. Ultimately, to Hermione, their friendship was in efforts to build international magical cooperation and his status as a famous Quidditch player had little to do with anything. As the years progressed, Hermione also straightened out her priorities and frequently reminded Harry, through word and action, that being clever wasn’t enough.
Alongside logic and quick wit one of Hermione’s greatest strengths was compassion. From the creation of SPEW to the wiping of her parents memory, she was never afraid to take a stand for others even at great personal cost. Many people point to the punch Hermione gave to Draco Malfoy in the third movie as female empowerment. I would suggest that walking away from her family is even more powerful. She embarked upon a journey that she knew would be difficult and dangerous and, in an effort to spare her parents grief, left no trace of herself behind. Even during her greatest times of suffering she placed the well being of friends before her own. Even after months of fighting with Ron she never left his side in the hospital wing and stayed with Harry when all hope was lost in Deathly Hallows. Hermione endured with grace and exhibited that loyalty and bravery should not be gendered.
From the moment Hermione is introduced she is established as a “know-it-all”. She experiences rejection from her peers in part due to the priority she placed on academic success. Her years at Hogwarts are dotted with experiences that indicate smart and confident girls are viewed as overbearing and are disliked by adults and peers. Professor Snape would frequently reprimand her and showed favoritism to the male students in his own house. She was frequently praised as the brightest “witch” of her age even though she outperformed all of the students in her year. As if it wasn’t enough to be considered an outcast for her bookishness in the early years she was mocked for her appearance.
It wasn’t until the Yule Ball that Hermione was recognized as beautiful by her peers. Although much of her story promotes equality and female empowerment the treatment of her physical appearance furthered that a females looks garner a greater discussion than males. Hermione’s alongside other female’s appearance receives greater attention than their male counterparts. She even altered her appearance magically in order to feel more accepted. Furthermore, Ron’s lack of recognition of her femininity suggests that it was more acceptable for her to be “one of the guys”.
Research suggests that in order for women to succeed they must be exceptional. However, Hermione may not be considered exceptional in every aspect of life, but gifted in particular areas. Her imperfections establishes her important position as the attainable role model.