The Book Meme Challenge: Favorite female character
Okay, I’m putting up the shield-wall, as I reckon this shall expose me to the fiery arrows of criticism. Where, you shall ask, are Penelope, Phaedra, and Beatrice? Or Cordelia, Miranda, Galadriel, Luthien? Whither wended Waelstowe, Wendy Darling, or the Wife of Bath?
Otherwhere, I’m afraid.
Unlike male characters, who would necessarily be in some relation to me – a savior, a king, a love interest, a chum, some mysterious combination thereof – my favorite female character has, more often than any other female in literature, made me say to myself “I want to be that girl.”
Even Katherine Climpson and Amelia Peabody don’t make me think that quite like Hermione Granger.
Yeah, yeah, cue the sighs for my lack of imagination, etc.*
But hear me out. Hermione arrives at Hogwarts a bucktoothed, friendless Muggle-born, saddled with a name that troubled readers unfamiliar with the daughter of Helen (not to mention her first date). Through her friendship with Harry and Ron, we come to understand who she is and how she interacts with everyone – and watch her grow up into a powerful heroine with the closest friends, who set themselves against Dark wizards even when defeat seems inevitable (to them, not the reader, I will admit).
Hermione learns easily, but instead of lazing about (as I surely would have done), she works even harder, reading more and more about the world she’s entered and learning spells years before her fellows. Polyjuice Potion at age 12? Sure, getting the ingredients was tricky enough – but to brew it properly so that it works perfectly for Harry and Ron? That’s simply impressive.
But even at age 11, Hermione knows that this world full of magical conveniences is also full of dangers, and is aware that books will not bring her happiness, or even necessarily success. Though she initially puts a great deal of faith in the authority of books and her professors, she comes to understand that the world goes not well, that various parties are grubbing for power where they can find it, and that she must be attentive lest some corner take advantage of her trust.
Her growth is not without angst or pain; she and her friends fight occasionally, Rita Skeeter targets her for gossip-column attack, she gets dragged into physical discomfort and battles for staying by Harry’s side, she bears a good deal of the weight of planning where to seek the Horcruxes, and her parents grow ever further from her as she becomes more firmly entrenched in the world of magic. But her bravery, determination, and love for her friends see her through, moreso than her books and magical power.
In many ways, Hermione has been both my means of entering the wizarding world, and my lens for examining reality in a different light. I want to study the way she studies, develop new skills with intensity like hers, understand how to plan for contingencies as she does, and stand boldly in the face of darkness as she stands with her friends.
*If reading posts about HP make you throw up your hands in disgust, I have two or maybe three things to say to you:
1. Deal with it;
2. I didn’t want to write the exact same thing for days 16 and 25, so Hermione is featured here rather than…erm…someone else;
3. The more I read, the more I may come to like other female characters. I am fond of Lizzy Bennett, after all, and some of the rest. But for some reason it feels like the women who aren’t relegated to the background come very close to being Mary Sue types: beautiful, strong, without weakness or flaws. I may admire the aesthetics of such ladies but cannot relate to them. Hence Luthien not appearing here.