Anyone who has grown up reading fiction as I have has obviously heard of the famous Hermione Jean Granger. She is the kind of character written in a way that you can love, or maybe even hate, but definitely not ignore. Immortalized on paper by the most beloved author of this generation, and played on screen by none other than Emma Watson, this character is, in the truest sense, iconic. But what really makes this character stand out in the sea of fictional characters? We have no dearth of smart, independent women in the fantasy genre. So, what makes Hermione click for people across generations?
Here is a list of things that make Hermione the strong female protagonist that she is:
- She isn’t physically perfect
Hermione isn’t the plastic princess that burdens our bookshelves more than we’d like to admit. She has “rather large front teeth” and “bushy brown hair”. The moment a reader, especially the little girl who is the target audience of the series, reads these descriptions, they can’t help but relate to her on a subconscious level. Maybe you don’t have that kind of teeth, or you don’t share her hair colour or texture. But you know how it’s like to be imperfect.
She isn’t a protagonist who has silky blonde hair and large blue/green eyes. She isn’t physically strong. She isn’t that girl in the books who everyone, including the protagonist is dying to date. She’s just a little kid who looks exactly how an eleven-year-old is supposed to look like, and that makes her instantly likeable
- She is proactive
The one trait that separates a likeable character from an unlikeable one is proactivity. The more active a character is, regardless of whether they are good or evil, the more readers will vouch for them in the long run.
Hermione is one of the most proactive characters in the series, not just in terms of the plot (let’s face it, the plot wouldn’t move an inch without her) but also in terms of the character itself.
It was a source of annoyance for the other characters in the books. In fact, regardless of the noble cause, I found the whole idea of SPEW pretty cringe-worthy. The SPEW plotline didn’t really serve the main plot much, but the one thing it did was tell us a LOT about Hermione.
She was immovably on the side of equality and justice. She didn’t care what others thought of her, and followed her own beat, even if others kept discouraging her not to. She’d rather make a fool out of herself and stand for a cause, than do nothing at all and stare in the face of blatant cruelty.
The fact that she chooses to sit in a corner and knit those sweaters shows her grit, and even if we as readers find it silly initially, it is exactly the thing that we love.
SHE DOES THINGS HERSELF.
Not to mention, Hermione is shown as smart, but she isn’t a born genius. She is written to be hard working, someone who earns the title of being the Brightest Witch of her Age.
She isn’t just naturally smart; she is willing to study till her back breaks and is willing to go back in time for the sake of education. And that is the proactivity that makes her stand out. She realises that you can’t sit around and wait for things to come your way. You need to learn to go out and get them.
She doesn’t have any of it in her blood; in fact, she is far from it. She is a Muggle-born, or as she likes to put it, a “Mudblooda proud of it!”. She actively decided to take up the mantle of the popular swear-word just to prove a point: she was Muggle-born and took fierce pride in it, and no number of slangs would stop her from unapologetically being herself.
- She drives the plot forward
As mentioned earlier, the plot wouldn’t move an inch without Hermione constantly taking charge of the situation. Let’s face it, Harry and Ron were both nitwits at times. Granted, Harry did exhibit leadership qualities, but from where I see it, Harry focused more on just the bravery part of the trio. And the selflessness. But that is for another post.
Hermione, on the other hand, was a fierce leader who was mostly, if not always, the driving force behind the story. Her thirst for knowledge and curiosity was the main source of information throughout the series: from discovering the basilisk to randomly throwing in little titbits of information vital to the story (like the little exposition on Mandrakes and the one on werewolves), Hermione was the walking talking library of the story. But her usefulness wasn’t limited to bookish knowledge.
She was the one who took charge (once again) of the situation when Umbridge and her minions plagued Hogwarts, and she was the one, not Harry, who formed Dumbledore’s Army. Moreover, she used her competent sense of magic to curse the list of the DA members to reveal any traitors, a plot device that paid off later in the book.
Such examples of her bravery, wit, and general badassery are scattered throughout the books, from the moment in Philosopher’s Stone when she solved the riddle to get to the Stone, up till Deathly Hallows where her expert knowledge helped them cast protective charms around each of their campsites. Hermione was the voice of reason, the woman who had the reigns, the heroine beside the hero.
- Her Role in the Golden Trio
The best part about Hermione was that despite the fact she was the female protagonist in the book, her relationship with the male protagonist remained strictly platonic. That kept the reader from getting distracted from the main plot at hand, and also served as a strong voice for people who believe firmly in platonic love.
Hermione is Gryffindor for her bravery, Ravenclaw for her brains, and also a strong candidate for one of my favourite houses: Hufflepuff.
She believed in Harry when no one did in Goblet of Fire. She helped Hagrid with the Buckbeak Case, even when Harry and Ron forgot about it. She genuinely felt strongly for house-elves, and treated them with respect, despite everyone telling her that house-elves themselves didn’t want it. No doubt, she understood how it felt like to be a second-class citizen all her life, considering she was a Muggle-born, and never wanted anyone else to feel that way. Her empathy and soft heart made her one of the most important aspects of the Golden Trio. Ron and Harry knew that they wouldn’t last two minutes without her and acknowledged that multiple times throughout the course of the series.
She was not just the Brain of the team, but also the Heart, and that was probably her most important asset.
5. She is flawed
J.K. Rowling realised that a good character is a flawed one, and not just physically. They had to be written to be more than physically real; they had to FEEL real. Which is why despite giving Hermione a great number of positive traits, she did not give her ALL of them.
Hermione wasn’t good at Quidditch, because of which she was constantly teased. Hermione would have felt pretty fake if she was an amazing person, extremely intelligent, and also athletic. I’m not saying it’s impossible to be all of the above, I’m just saying that on a general basis, it’s not very common to be such an all-rounder.
She was also a little narrow-minded (as narrow-minded as she could be while being a witch) which led her to disagree several times, sometimes rudely, with Luna.
She was also someone who often lost her cool in a crisis situation. Her hands often trembled (slashing Ron in Deathly Hallows) and she even forgot to use magic (when trapped by the Devil’s Snare) when she was under pressure (Reason why some would argue Harry is a better leader than Hermione).
She is also described as slightly boring (in comparison to Ron), owing to her nerd-like behaviour, when it was only Harry and Hermione during a chunk fire Goblet of Fire.
However, all things considered, Hermione was one of the realest characters I have read about so far. She had all the makings of a strong, independent female character without it ever feeling forced. She served as a role-model to my ten-year-old self, and some of her qualities continue to inspire me today. Rowling may have created several things we should applaud her for, but in my opinion, Hermione Granger is her most valuable triumph.