JULY / AUG 2013: BY RACHEL SEXTON
Friendship is a conspicuous element of a lot of children’s and young adult literature. Given the fact that social development is an important part of maturing into an adult, this is hardly surprising. If readers are lucky, they’ll get entertaining and realistic portraits of friendships. One particular pop culture-changing book series goes further than that, though. The Harry Potter series uses the bond between the three lead characters as one of the major illustrations of a central theme of the story: that love is a powerful force and can be actively used against evil.
The audience obviously follows title character Harry Potter who finds out he is a hereditary wizard at age 11 and heads off to learn at the prestigious boarding school of magic, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On his way there, though, he meets two students who will become his best friends: Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
Harry meets Ron in a compartment on the train to Hogwarts. It’s Ron who becomes his best friend. Ron’s humor is a defining trait and a good foil for the serious nature of what Harry will endure. Ron comes from a large, cash-strapped family, so after Harry buys them the entire contents of the train snack trolley, the two become almost inseparable. Harry is swiftly ingratiated into the warmth of the entire Weasley family. The boys’ interaction is excellently developed by J.K. Rowling over the seven book series. Through physically grueling adventures, they stay beside one another. In the fourth book, Goblet of Fire, when they are 14, Ron and Harry have a fight typical of what teenage boys would do in a magic-heightened world. Ron reaches his breaking point with Harry being the focus of all the excitement. They do repair their friendship fairly quickly and their loyalty remains to the end. Even when Harry is attracted to Ginny, Ron’s sister, in Half-Blood Prince and his trepidation about Ron’s reaction is at it’s highest, there’s never any real danger that the boys’ connection will be irreparably harmed. The closest they come to truly losing their relationship is during Deathly Hallows, the final book, when the negative influence of one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes causes Ron to turn his back on the trio’s quest to defeat Voldemort for good. Ron eventually returns, and the audience can feel just how completely these two will be friends their entire lives.
Hermione Granger is also introduced on Harry’s first train ride to Hogwarts. She immediately establishes the intellectual role she’ll play in his life. As Harry’s best female friend, she often gives him advice on personal matters, aside from being his fierce supporter in all the conflict that comes his way. She has a maturity the boys must catch up to, so she never really falls out with Harry in the way Ron does. There is a period in the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban, when her strict adherence to the rules gets Harry and Ron angry at her, but they realize their error later, and it’s Harry who makes up with her first. There’s also various moments throughout the story when Hermione’s pragmatism butts heads with Harry’s tendency to act the hero first and ask questions later, but they are never fractious enough to endanger their bond. By the final book, Harry says Hermione is “like my sister” and we have no doubt that she’ll be Harry’s closest female confidante (well, aside from his future wife) for the rest of his life. Interestingly, as the screenwriter for the film adaptations of the Harry Potter series, Steve Kloves, has pointed out, Harry is Hermione’s best friend but she isn’t Harry’s best friend. There’s another angle to the interactions between these three that makes up for that, though.
Ron and Hermione have a different relationship from what exists between Harry and Ron or Hermione and Harry. Though Hermione and Ron are friends with each other after Harry and Ron save Hermione from a troll during their first year at Hogwarts, the pair soon exhibits the classic signs of a couple fighting to cover up their attraction to each other. Hermione was by herself crying after one of Ron’s insults when she got cornered by the troll and that dynamic between them never changes. Bickering continues between them steadily as they grow into teenagers, and the audience can tell what the outcome of this subplot will be long before hormones even enter the picture. Jealousy at interest from other people, beginning (spectacularly) in Goblet of Fire and most evident in Half-Blood Prince, adds to their differences in personality to create a rocky road for them. They fight much more with each other than Harry does with either of them. Rowling brilliantly progresses their growing connection from 11 to 17 years old, so that the long-awaited first kiss between them in Deathly Hallows is one of the highlights of the entire story.
These three people grow up and go through so much together that the exciting plot would be enough for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to be forever linked in the annals of literature as the Golden Trio of friendship. But there is so much more than that. During an early skirmish with Voldemort in the fifth book, Order of the Phoenix, Harry is briefly inhabited by the Dark Lord’s spirit. He is able to cast Voldemort out of him by filling himself with an emotion that is alien and distasteful to that most evil wizard: love. Aside from the memory of his parents, Harry’s bond with Ron and Hermione is the biggest component of happy emotion for him at that point in his life. This is so emotionally affective and thematically enriching that readers of the Harry Potter series today know without a doubt that future audiences will also come to think of Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the same breath. ♥