Cal (calanthe_b) wrote in hp_essays,

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Hermione essay.

Hi, all! This is my first post here; I wrote this essay in my own journal some time ago, and a couple of people including eilanhp suggested that I post it again here, so here it is, in a slightly rewritten, less ranty form...

Since the publication of Order of the Phoenix, I've seen far too many facile and inexplicably hostile discussions of Hermione--it seems that now the poor girl can't do anything without it being the springboard for a lot of hostile criticism. I wrote this essay in response to something I read on, I think, a friend's friendspage, in response to the, to me, incomprehensible claim that Hermione's Christmas gifts to Ron and Harry in OP somehow show that she is the one who has the 'emotional range of a teaspoon', because they're thoughtless...

Needless to say, I disagree. I think the Christmas gifts are a very interesting element of OP, if a minor one, and Hermione's are the most interesting of the lot. And I think there's a great deal of thought indeed--if most of it subconscious--behind those gifts.

Harry's Christmas gifts in OP are personalised. He's drawn on his knowledge of character and interests to find things he thinks people will like--Arthur Weasley's plugs and fuses, for example. His gift to Hermione is the same. He's obviously been paying enough attention to her interests to either register the name of a book she has said she wants, or be able to work out that New Theory of Numerology is the sort of book she'd be interested in based on other information--and he cares enough to get it.

Ron's present to Hermione is, awkwardly, at one and the same time depersonalising and intrusively personal. It's depersonalising because it reduces Hermione to the status of Generic Girl (Qu: What do you get A Girl for a present? Ans: Flowers, chocolate, perfume). It's intrusively personal because it makes a groundless claim that Ron and Hermione have the sort of relationship in which someone can give another person one of those generic gifts and have to be a real gift. It imposes a kind of pressure to respond to that claim.

Hermione's gifts to Harry and Ron, on the other hand, are mostly impersonal, but not thoughtlessly so. They're impersonal for a reason: whether consciously or otherwise, they sending a message.

In an odd way, the enchanted diaries Hermione gives Harry and Ron stand in for Hermione herself. They represent what she appears to see as her function within the Trio--organisation, the provision of knowledge, reinforcing the value of schoolwork, and chivvying the boys into keeping up to standard. Or perhaps, more accurately, they represent the role she feels that the boys cast her in, because the gifts contain no overt element of her intense care for them (manifested in, for example, her welcome hug and her shattered relief at Harry's acquittal, her insistence throughout the book at standing up to a furious Harry despite her well-established dislike of conflict, her matter-of-fact gentleness in response to Ron's distress over Percy's letter)...

And they are identical. Combined with the fact that the gift represents Hermione herself, they therefore constitute a very direct statement that Hermione considers her relationships with the two boys to be identical in kind--no closer than friendship and concern--and that she wants them to stay that way.

So, impersonal, yes--whether deliberately or subconsciously chosen to be so. Thoughtless, no. As to proving that Hermione is the one with the 'emotional range of a teaspoon', the mere fact that she feels the need to give a gift like this when in the past she has given highly personalised gifts (Harry's broomstick-servicing kit, for example) signals that she is, at some level, aware of pressure from the boys (Well. Okay. From Ron.) to differentiate between her relationships with the two of them, and is uncomfortable with it, and is trying to find an indirect but unmistakeable way to signal that she has no intention of doing so. Once again, in the emotional stakes, she's actually streets ahead of them. For starters, she's aware enough of her own feelings not to let herself be pressured into doing something that the book spends a lot of time making it clear to us that she doesn't want to do, just because she's a girl and it's what girls, in life and in literature, are supposed to do.

Well, there it is--I hope you find it interesting...
Tags: characters:hermione granger

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