by Penny Linsenmayer
"We could have all been killed -- or worse, expelled."
"An' they haven't invented a spell our Hermione can' do" (Rubeus Hagrid)
"But everyone knows that... .Everybody knows about Harry and You-Know-Who."
"Aren't you two ever going to read Hogwarts, A History?"
Physical Description and Background Information
Harry and his new-found friend, Ron Weasley, first meet Hermione Granger on the Hogwarts Express as they journey toward their first term as students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Described as having lots of bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth, Harry and Ron's first impression of Hermione is that she is a bossy "know-it-all." She has brown eyes (despite the perception by some members that the Warner Brothers artists have painted her as a blue-eyed blonde). She allowed Madame Pomfrey to shrink her teeth down to a more normal size after an accident in Potions class during GoF. The pronunciation of her name caused debates among fans until the issue was settled definitively by Rowling in Goblet of Fire: Her-my-uh-knee.
Rowling revealed in an October 2000 chat that Hermione's birthday is September 19th. Members have debated whether Hermione is 10 months older or 2 months younger than Harry (born 31 July 1980). Without further evidence in later books or a definite answer from Rowling, the question remains unanswered. This question bears on whether magical children receive their letter of admission to Hogwarts in the calendar year in which they turn 11 years old (even if the 11th birthday falls after the beginning of the fall term) or whether they only receive the letter after their 11th birthday (even if they turn 12 not long after starting the fall term). See "Hogwarts" FAQ for further discussion of this question.
The group's members have debated whether Hermione could be an ethnicity other than Caucasian and whether she might be Jewish. Most members have concluded that she is likely a Caucasian Briton and unlikely to be Jewish based on the books' current evidence. Hermione's parents are both dentists. This group's members perceive that Hermione is probably from a middle-class family, possibly from a middle England county such as Oxford or Berkshire.
Could Hermione have some sort of family relationship with Harry Potter? Most members have rejected out-of-hand the notion that Hermione could be Harry's sister (placed with the muggle Granger family): too "Star Wars-ish." While it is possible that Harry and Hermione are second cousins or first cousins once removed, it seems too genealogically implausible to some members.
Character and Personality
Although their initial impression is that Hermione is a bossy "know-it-all," Harry and Ron soon forge a lasting friendship with Hermione Granger.
"There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them."
Hermione definitely is described as having a "shrill voice" and bossy attitude in the beginning sections of SS. But, even as SS progresses, her attitude and personality begin to change. "Hermione had become a bit more relaxed about breaking rules since Harry and Ron had saved her from the mountain troll, and she was much nicer for it." She continues to scold her friends for certain transgressions now and again (taking Mr. Weasley's flying car in CoS for example), but she's not above bending or breaking rules that further what she deems legitimate ends. She still has bossy moments, even as late as GoF.
Several members have continued to view her as initially painted in SS, arguing that she needs to "lighten up." By contrast, others argue that she has grown tremendously over the course of the series thus far and bears little resemblance to the swotty insecure "know-it-all" that Harry and Ron first met on the Hogwarts Express. As one member noted, she begins thinking "outside the box," leaving her "comfort zone of books and rules." She begins to use her bookish knowledge to help her friends and bend some rules in their fights against evil, putting all her intellect to practical use. She also exhibits some common sense "street smarts" from time to time, as when she wheedles Hagrid with flattery into telling them which professors had placed enchantments on the Philosopher's Stone.
Has she relaxed so much that she might jeopardize her otherwise excellent chances at becoming a Hogwarts prefect? Will her friendship with Harry and Ron (and her knowledge of their activities) cause a conflict of interest for her if she does become a prefect? Some members have countered that James Potter was Head Boy, yet described as a rule-breaker by former professors.
Hermione's Intelligence: Why is She in Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw?
"You're the cleverest witch of your age I've ever met, Hermione." (Remus Lupin)
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (page 346)
The overriding impression that most readers have of Hermione is that she is intelligent, studies hard and receives high marks and academic praise. However, her intelligence is debatable in the sense that some members perceive that she clearly has above-average innate intelligence, while others believe that she achieves superior marks by supplementing her average or slightly above average innate abilities with long hours of studying and hard work. Many members say she has both innate magical ability and above-average intelligence. One member has suggested that she overcompensates to make up for her lack of natural abilities.
Those who believe that she has above-average intelligence have stressed that Hermione needs more than just "book smarts" to receive top marks in her courses at Hogwarts. The majority of Hogwarts classes and exams appear to require students to demonstrate quite a bit of practical application of knowledge; mere regurgitation on essay questions and other rote memorization will only take a Hogwarts student so far. She seems to have a healthy mix of "book smarts" and "common sense."
She is a very grounded logical and analytical thinker. She was skeptical from the beginning that Draco Malfoy could be Slytherin's Heir in CoS. This same logical thinking wins her Professor Trelawney's criticism in PoA. Hermione is skeptical about Divination from the beginning, and it's not much of a surprise to many readers when she eventually walks out of the classroom. She is scorned by her peers from time to time for being "too logical" (and, in their minds, insensitive) (such as when she attempts to show that Trelawney did not predict the death of Lavender's pet rabbit or when she attempts to use logic to explain the Crookshanks/Scabbers problems). Her analytical skills are praised by Professor Moody (Crouch-as-Moody) as he tells her that her mind works "the right way" to be an Auror. She employs logic in trying to unravel the various mysteries that they encounter in GoF. She uses these same skills to solve the Rita Skeeter mystery in GoF.
It is implied that she achieved the top marks in her year for her first year. Because of comments and praise from her professors (such as Lupin's quoted remark above), many assume she achieved the same top marks for her year in each year thereafter (although final examinations were cancelled at the end of CoS).
The emphasis on Hermione's intelligence has led many to wonder: if she's so intelligent, why was she sorted into Gryffindor House rather than Ravenclaw House ("where those of wit and learning will always find their kind")? A number of members have concluded that Hermione must value bravery and chivalry and other Gryffindor characteristics over intelligence and book-learning. See "Hogwarts" FAQ for further discussion on the variables that may play into the Sorting process (abilities, character and desires/choices). One member commented that Ravenclaw has nothing new to offer Hermione; she will study hard regardless where she was sorted. By contrast, she has achieved great personal growth in Gryffindor. Another member noted: "I think Hermione is very bright and that she has a great love of learning. But she's not just book smart, she often uses her knowledge in the service of others, to help them, to right wrongs or fight injustice. And these are the aspects that she values in herself and how she sees herself, so this is why she is in Gryffindor."
Is She an Insecure Braggart?
A number of members have expressed their belief that Hermione is driven to over-achieve academically because of fundamental insecurity. They maintain that she has an obsessive fear of failure (when it saw Hermione, the boggart did turn into a professor who told her she'd failed all her courses after all). One member has argued strongly that Hermione has tendencies toward Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Some members interpret her propensity to answer questions in class as evidence that she is a braggart, arguing that she doesn't give anyone else the chance to answer questions or make comments.
Others have countered that volunteering the correct answers in the classroom and achieving high marks does not make Hermione a braggart. She does indisputably enjoy receiving praise for her academic prowess in the classroom. She smiles or "flushes with pride" when professors praise her. However, she does not seem to call undue attention to her successes (that is, she isn't heard telling others her marks and asking about their own marks in comparison).
One member commented that "Hermione just likes to "know" things and thinks that everyone else does too." Others believe that her academic success could be driven as much or more by ambition than insecurity. In response to the assertion that she prevents other students from answering questions in class, some members have argued that it is ultimately the responsibility of the professors to insure that every student is given an opportunity to answer. They also argue that Hermione shouldn't have to squelch herself from speaking up in class ("What so Hermione should censor herself so that the boys, oops, other classmates don't feel bad and have a chance to answer the questions?" said one member).
Is She a "Strong" Female Character?
In January 2000, online news magazine salon.com featured an article criticizing the Harry Potter series for its "male-centeredness." The author (Christine Schoefer) is extremely critical of Hermione's portrayal, likening her to a typical Hollywood "damsel in distress." The author says that Hermione is regarded by Harry and Ron as a "wet blanket," and adds her agreement, noting that with "her nose stuck in books, she's no fun."
Rowling has responded to this general criticism (if not that specific piece): "'I completely understand Hermione and I really love her and I don't want to depict her as a feisty little . . . .' She breaks off and then starts to mutter, 'It irritates me. It irritates me. What irritates me is that I am constantly, increasingly being asked 'Can we have a strong female character, please?' Like they are ordering a side order of chips. I am thinking 'Isn't Hermione strong enough for you?' She is the most brilliant of the three and they need her. Harry needs her badly."
Our members have for the most part sided with Rowling's analysis of Hermione's character and its strengths. While some have argued that the series doesn't contain as many strong female characters as it might, most everyone is in agreement that Hermione does qualify as a strong female character. The author of the salon.com piece certainly minimizes Hermione's contributions to the final results in each of the novels. Our members have pointed out that Hermione was integral to the ending results in each book. Without Hermione, Harry might not have solved the potions logic enchantment guarding the Philosopher's Stone. Without Hermione, Harry and Ron might not have eliminated Malfoy as the Heir of Slytherin and focused on other clues. Without Hermione, Harry and Ron might not ever have learned that the Chamber of Secrets contained a basilisk. Without Hermione, Harry would not have had a time turner or the opportunity to rescue Buckbeak and Sirius. Without Hermione, Harry might not have known some of the spells and charms that enabled him to escape Lord Voldemort in the graveyard in Little Hangleton.See also the rebuttal to Schoefer's article in salon.com on 3 March 2000, in which the author says of Schoefer: "perhaps she missed that Hermione, not Ron, was the last to leave Harry's side in the first and third books."
Is Hermione male-identified? Does she derive her self-worth from her male friends and successes within a male-centered environment? Or, as some members have noted, is it instead possible that the readers don't know about Hermione's relationships with other women as a result of the limitations of Harry's point-of-view? The readers may not be privy to them, but it's possible that Hermione has mentoring sessions with Professor McGonagall, late-night gab sessions with her female dorm-mates, a warm relationship with her mother, a blossoming friendship with Ginny Weasley and other positive female influences within her life.
Although the readers are limited by Harry's point-of-view in the stories, it is strongly implied that Hermione has developed a mentoring relationship with Professor McGonagall. She excels in all her courses, but her best subject appears to be the one taught by Professor McGonagall: transfiguration.
What might her future hold? What sort of career might Hermione choose? Is she the type woman who might choose to stay home with children, even for a brief period of time?
Other Strengths and Weaknesses
Hermione demonstrates unwavering loyalty to her friends. She also has spirit, spunk and backbone, as most aptly illustrated when she slapped Draco Malfoy in response to his taunts about Hagrid.
Hermione is also very responsible and practical. This sense of responsibility can lead her to take actions that can be misinterpreted as interference into the affairs of others. For example, when she tells Professor McGonagall about Harry's receipt of the Firebolt, she takes this action out of concern for his safety and responsibility but the boys clearly believe she should have minded her own business. Harry does later (after he has the Firebolt back) admit that Hermione was "only trying to help."
By GoF, Hermione is revealing that she has a strong social conscience and that she is inclined to take an activist role in rectifying social wrongs. It does seem she will need to curb her tendency to over-do things, however, as it became increasingly clear in GoF that she was disregarding the desires of those she was trying so hard to protect. Hermione has no tolerance for bigotry or prejudice in any form.
She's been praised for her compassionate nature and her kind thoughtful gestures (she's "unfailingly" kind to Neville for example). One member has noted that she clearly "models compassion" to Harry. She's a highly principled person, with a keen sense of "right and wrong." As she tells Ron at the end of PoA when he asks why she didn't tell him or Harry about the time turner, "I promised I wouldn't tell anyone." She knows how to keep a secret.
Hermione appears to be a very perceptive person, attuned to the needs and emotions of others around her. She is sensitive to Harry's disappointment that he cannot visit Hogsmeade during the first Hogsmeade weekend. She was calm and reassuring to Hagrid regarding his problems with Buckbeak. Hermione was perhaps the only person to notice and act on Neville's keen distress while Professor Moody was demonstrating the Cruciatus Curse in class. She recognized that Harry had not entered himself into the Triwizard Tournament and was astute enough to realize that he might need to lean on a friend and take a walk the next morning. Sirius notes that Hermione is a good judge of character. Is she really a good judge of character, or has her judgment been unreasonably hyped?
Hermione has developed a self-assured dignity and maturity by GoF. She is self-confident enough to keep her Yule Ball date a secret and to transform herself from a "nerd girl" into a stunning young woman for this occasion. She has the social courage to stand up on behalf of her friends and to challenge wrongs.
She seems very disdainful of "hero-worship," particularly in GoF. She's very critical of Viktor Krum in the beginning as she initially perceives that he likes the attention he receives from admiring females. She also appears to dislike Fleur Delacour for similar reasons (that Fleur goes out of her way to attract male attention). Hermione appears to be outraged when her male best friends seek out the most "beautiful" dates they can get (or when they pay attention to girls based solely on appearances).
Hermione certainly let her ambition (or insecure desire for academic achievements, depending on your perspective) get out-of-hand during her third year at Hogwarts. While some members criticized Hogwarts (McGonagall in particular) for allowing Hermione to take on too heavy a load, another member pointed out that this was a good way for Hermione to learn her own limitations.
Hermione has a tendency to worry far too much and to let her worrisome nature come across as meddlesome bossiness. Her worries led her to inform Professor McGonagall about Harry receiving the Firebolt, which led to unnecessary strife with her best friends. She exhibits the same tendency when she threatens to tell Professor McGonagall about the Marauder's Map. She has perhaps an overdone respect for authority figures ("We attacked a teacher….We attacked a teacher ….Oh, we're going to be in so much trouble.") She also sometimes appears nervous and tense during times of danger. Harry also correctly perceives that her reaction to the news that his scar had been hurting him would be to panic and worry excessively.
Some have criticized Hermione as being too much of a "superstar." She's smart, and as seen in GoF, she can change her appearance enough to make a dramatic entry to the Yule Ball, to the surprise of her peers. Others have argued that taking pains with her appearance for that one special first date doesn't detract from the fact that Hermione is, from all appearances, very practical and down-to-earth (confessing to Harry the next morning that she'd never take that much trouble with her hair on a day-to-day basis). The group's members have also speculated that Hermione might be "over-done" in the HP fanfic universe (where one can find stories in which she is depicted as the love interest of virtually all the male characters).
Members have debated whether the characters might have any parallels with the "Marauders" (Harry's father and best friends). Which Marauder would Hermione most closely parallel? Most members concluded that she is most like Remus Lupin (intelligent, hard-working), while others paired her more closely with Sirius Black (bright and unswervingly loyal).
Hermione and Romance
Does she have as yet unrevealed romantic feelings for Harry? Is that why she kissed him at the end of GoF? Does she instead return Ron's obvious romantic interest? Or, does she have no romantic interest in either of her best friends? While it seems clear-cut to many people that Ron has interest in Hermione (even though he doesn't know it yet) and Harry has yet never expressed any interest in her, Hermione's romantic interests are debatable. The fandom is deeply divided on this issue. While some fans profess to be "no-shippers" ("they're just kids!"), scores of others are deeply devoted to one "ship" or another (the "H/H" (Harry/Hermione) and "R/H" (Ron/Hermione) ships being perhaps the two most popular and vocal ships. See "Potential Romantic Pairings" FAQ for further discussion points and relevant messages on this topic.
Is Hermione a "Surrogate" within the Series for J.K. Rowling?
Jo describes herself during her childhood as a "pudding-faced child with glasses, a snotty, swotty little kid" who was quite insecure (she has ascribed many of her own traits from her childhood to Hermione Granger's character, including Hermione's social activism). "The character of Hermione is Rowling as a young girl: hard working, bookish, a worrywart. Rowling says she was painfully swotty, with NHS spectacles and short, short hair. She claims that she loosened up a bit later on, but I'm not so sure about this. At times during the interview she is nothing short of earnest, especially about her work. She defends Hermione pretty fiercely, too. 'My American editor says that I am mean to her because she is me. But I don't think that I am mean to her. I love her dearly.'"
Rowling has also said that Harry "must have a lot of me in him, although Hermione is a more faithful portrait of me when I was younger." She seems to have a soft spot for Hermione, the character who has so much of Rowling's own personality. Commenting on her first meeting with screenplay writer Steve Kloves, she says she just "melted" when Kloves told her that his favorite character was Hermione.
Members have debated whether she merely bears a strong resemblance to Rowling or if she is indeed Rowling's "surrogate" in the series. Is she the "heroine" to Harry's "hero" or just a strong female character who bears a startling likeness to Rowling?
5. Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire ("GoF"), pages 182 and 418-19. For previous discussions of this issue, see Yahoo Messages #2082, 2084, 2086, 2087, 2094, 2107, 2109, 2111, 2114, 2123, 2125, 2126, 2127, 2133, 2207, 2318, 2344, 3671, 3872, 3878, 3895, 3973, 4068, 4082, 4085, 4086, 5277, 5310, 5864 and 6324; and Yahoogroups Messages #609, 615, 621, 623, 624, 634, 641, 653, 654, 657, 661, 664, 669, 670, 671, 773, 775, 781, 787, 795, 1914, 1915, 1916.
6. AOL chat with J.K. Rowling, 19 October 2000 (see Yahoogroups Message #4106).
8. Yahoogroups Messages #6947, 6981. One member interpreted her "brown" appearance after summer holiday in PoA as possibly indicating Caribbean ancestry (PoA, page 55). Others assumed that this appearance meant she'd been sun-bathing in southern France on holiday.
13. SS, pages 148 (warns Harry that flying against Madame Hooch's instructions will get them all into trouble), 154-156 ("overhears" Malfoy's duel challenge to Harry and Ron and waits on them in the common room to try and talk them out of wandering around at night), 161-162 (bad temper, lecturing mode), 164 ("bossy know-it-all"), 166 ("So, I suppose you think that's a reward for breaking rules?").
16. Yahoogroups Message #4909.
18. Yahoogroups Message #4923.
19. SS, pages 190-191 (sets fire to Snape's robe hem to break his "curse" on Harry); SS, page 273 (puts the body-binder curse on Neville); CoS, pages 160-166, 213 (Polyjuice Potion idea); PoA, page 177 (fixes Harry's glasses during a Quidditch match); PoA, pages 198-199 (urges Harry to turn in the Marauder's Map but says "of course" she won't report him); PoA, pages 326-327 (retrieves Harry's Invisibility Cloak); GoF, page 365 (grins guiltily when Harry reminds her that she helped him figure out to get past the dragons for the First Task).
25. Yahoogroups Messages #1488, 1495, 4998, 6201, 6206 ("It would take a prodigious amount of work to exhibit the kind of scholarship that Hermione does without having some natural smarts. Besides, that kind of work ethic would put her in Hufflepuff"), 6238, 6248, 6250, 15206.
34. Yahoogroups Message #15199.
38. Yahoogroups Message #4909.
39. Yahoogroups Message #15181.
41. Yahoogroups Message #2490.
49. Yahoogroups Message #3494.
57. GoF, page 125 (she tells Ron that it's people like him who "prop up rotten and unjust systems" out of apathy), pages 135, 138-139, 141 (speaks out on Winky's behalf); page 433 (she'd guessed that Hagrid must be a half-giant but notes that prejudice against the giants is nothing more than bigotry).
59. Yahoogroups Message #3460.
60. Yahoogroups Message #2131. See also CoS, page 131 ("A promise is a promise").
62. She kept secrets about what caused her to turn partially into a cat in CoS, she kept Lupin's secret until absolutely necessary, she kept the secret about her time-turner, she (along with Harry, Ron and Dumbledore) kept the secrets about Sirius, and she keeps her counsel about her Yule Ball date.
69. GoF, page 316 (dignity regarding the Skeeter article about her and Harry); page 404 (she stands up to Malfoy with wit and grace), page 513 (she demonstrates a self-confident reaction to the latest Skeeter tabloid piece).
72. Yahoogroups Messages #4747, 15230, 15376 (she's jealous of Fleur because Fleur represents the "anti-Hermione"), 15608 (she has no respect for Fleur and it isn't necessarily tied to feelings of jealousy over Ron's reactions to her). See also GoF, pages 248-249, 252-253, 339, 404.
79. GoF, page 21; page 129 (very concerned about Harry when she recognizes the "Dark Mark"); page 358 (clutching her face in anxiety during the First Task); page 573 (overly anxious about Harry's safety).
83. Yahoogroups Message #5191.
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