Imperfections Blur the Lines Between Reality and Fantasy
This editorial was written for an essay contest at the Harry Potter Festival at Chestnut Hill College.
by Sarah P.
Walt Disney, one of the world’s greatest innovators, once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” Humans dream about the impossible daily. Everyone, at one point in their life, imagines how having powers beyond those of a normal human being, or more specifically, a muggle, would change their everyday life. These thoughts are not mere coincidences between the imaginations of Muggles; seeking happiness and enjoyment from life is part of our human nature. The thoughts Muggles have about a magic-filled world provide positive feelings, proving that what Walt Disney said is true; the impossible is an exciting concept for people to think about and explore.
The Harry Potter series in particular provokes many “what if” thoughts about ideas and concepts beyond the reality of the Muggle world. “What if I am a witch/wizard who is destined to receive a Hogwarts letter,” asks anyone who has ever come in contact with the stories of Harry Potter. The world in which Harry Potter lives sparks the imaginations of people by revolving centrally around the concept of magic while tying into the modern world. The magical universe presented in the stories of Harry Potter differs from our universe only slightly, giving the mind full freedom to imagine magic as a reality. The character Ronald Bilius Weasley, otherwise known as Ron, from the stories of Harry Potter written by J.K. Rowling, shows that witches and wizards are not all that different from muggles and brings the realm of wizardry to life in the imagination of the readers.
The main trio in the Harry Potter stories includes Harry “The Boy Who Lived” Potter, Hermione “The Smartest Witch of Her Generation” Granger, and Ronald “Harry Potter’s Best Friend” Weasley. Although the name Weasley comes with a preconceived notion in the wizardry realm, Ron is the easiest character to identify with of the trio. He does not have a celebrity status when he first enrolls in Hogwarts, nor does he possess an above average intellectual ability, thus making him the most relatable character to the average reader of the series. Throughout the series, his actions display that he is just like any teenage boy, or person in general. He makes irrational decisions and experiences many common faults that all humans must endure as he goes through his years at Hogwarts.
The entire Weasley family not only plays an essential part in Harry’s journey throughout the series, but also an essential part in shaping Ron’s behavior. Being the sixth child of a poor family, Ron is not in any way spoiled. In Ron’s first real conversation with Harry, he says to him, “Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal…You never get anything new, either, with five brothers” (99). Being the youngest brother, he feels pressure to live up to the expectations set by his older brothers. All of his Hogwarts supplies are hand-me-downs, including his wand and his robes. In today’s world, many people experience these same circumstances. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not have the money to buy a lot beyond their basic needs and a few extra treats, and anyone with an older sibling can relate to Ron and how he feels pressure to live up to the standards his brothers set: both socially and academically.
Although Ron is the youngest brother, he is not the youngest sibling. His younger sister named Ginny brings out his brotherly side. Over the course of the series, Ginny becomes romantically involved with a few different boys, much to Ron’s displeasure. On one specific occasion, when Ron finds Ginny and Dean kissing, an argument quickly escalates between the two Weasleys. The argument resulted from Ron being overprotective and Ginny being fed up with Ron’s overbearing nature, leaving a thick animosity in their relationship. That was not the only time Ron acted on his emotions. He often made irrational decisions based on how he felt, as many people do.
Ron, being a typical teenage boy, makes split-second decisions that lead to crazy, impulsive behavior. In most cases, he has good intentions, but he goes about achieving his goals the wrong way. In the second book of the series, Ron’s father’s enchanted car causes a lot of problems for Ron. In the beginning, Ron flies the enchanted car to Privet Drive to free Harry from the Dursley’s house. He knows the Dursleys do not care for Harry properly, which prompts him to plan a rescue mission with his brothers, Fred and George. The mission is successful in that they safely rescue Harry, but Ron and his brothers are reprimanded by Mrs. Weasley for doing something so risky and dangerous. However, the second time Ron flies the enchanted car, the results are not what he had planned for. When he and Harry get stuck outside Platform 9 ¾, he suggests taking the enchanted car to Hogwarts, believing there is no other option since they were unable to get to the Hogwarts Express. Ron and Harry end up crash-landing the car into the Whomping Willow, leading to the two of them almost being crushed by the tree’s branches as well as almost being expelled from Hogwarts.
Even with his tendency to act in the heat of the moment, Ron can think rationally and make life saving decisions. One of the first decisions of this kind that he makes is during the life-sized game of Wizard’s Chess created by Professor McGonagall. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are forced into playing this game in order to get to the Sorcerer’s Stone. Ron is the one who manipulates the pieces in the game to make their side win, even though the choices he makes are at the expense of his personal welfare. Ron not only exemplifies a protector of his friends and sister along with a stereotypical teenage boy living in a large family, he has many characteristics that are common to everyone, even if they are characteristics that people do not want to admit to having.
Ron has lived in his brothers’ shadows throughout his childhood. When he becomes best friends with Harry and Hermione, two more people are added to the list of those who overshadow him. Harry is the only person to ever survive the killing curse, and Hermione has wisdom beyond her years. Ron becomes jealous of Harry, and when Harry is chosen for the Triwizard Tournament, Ron feels cheated. He had expressed that he wished to be entered into the Goblet of Fire, regardless of the age limitation. Harry being chosen set off all of Ron’s unexpressed jealously and resentment towards Harry and his fame, and, for a short time, halted their friendship. Even though the readers wish for Ron to stay friendly with Harry and not be mad at him for something he had no control over, not sympathizing with Ron is virtually impossible. He has lived his whole life up to this point trying to be as good as his brothers, and now he feels his best friend is going behind his back just to achieve the fame and fortune associated with the prize of winning the Triwizard Tournament. Everyone feels jealousy at one point or another, thus, regardless of what side is right, everyone can understand both viewpoints in the dispute because everyone understands the unpleasant emotions jealousy causes.
Being a part of the trio that saves the world doesn’t automatically make a person courageous and fearless. Ron, throughout the series, expresses his fear of spiders, a common fear for many people (wizard, witch or muggle). When Ron and Harry must go and visit Aragog, Ron is no less than terrified of the visit. Ron also reacts the same way as most muggles would when he is trapped by Devil’s Snare. The logical thing to do when caught by something is to struggle and break free, and that is exactly what he tried to do. Hermione, luckily, knew relaxing was the key to escaping Devil’s Snare. Hermione saves Ron’s life in many cases, but she causes just as many internal struggles for him.
After Harry, Hermione, and Ron’s horcrux search seemed to have hit a dead end, Ron became agitated. They had been living in the woods for weeks with little progress on their actual goal, while not knowing how their friends and families were faring. The little progress that had been made contributed to Ron’s agitation because when he wore the locket the trio had discovered, the horcrux’s magic made him believe that Harry and Hermione were becoming romantically involved. Throughout the series, Ron’s feelings toward Hermione grow to the point where he falls madly in love with her, yet he does not admit to himself that he feels anything until the last book in the series. These hidden feelings, along with his jealousy towards Harry and the constant feeling of being overshadowed, intertwine to cause Ron to feel as though Harry once again gets what he wants by winning over Hermione’s heart. This immense feeling of betrayal and defeat added with the given circumstances results in Ron temporarily leaving Harry and Hermione to go back to his family. Once again, not sympathizing with Ron even the slightest is hard because everyone knows the struggle that comes with wanting to be good enough.
Ron’s experiences help the readers make the realm of wizardry real for themselves. Ron is the key to connecting the wizard world to the muggle world. His journey shows the humanity of the witches and wizards that connects them to the muggles. The Weasley family represents the idea that anyone can attend Hogwarts by portraying the school as something other than a boarding school for rich students. Everyone knows someone like Ron. His personality is stereotypically common and relatable, and his irrational side sparks the imaginations of those who wish to have fun with magic beyond practical purposes. When Ron deals with the emotions that, in general, people do not want to admit to feeling, he is showing that witches and wizards are human too; they aren’t perfect, pristine creations. Bringing the imperfections of our world into the wizardry realm makes the fantasies of real magic come to life as the line between what is and is not real thins.