Hermione Granger and the Importance of Friendship
Hermione’s brief estrangement with Ron – and by association, Harry – during Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was indicative of the importance that she placed on her friendship with them. I recently came across an article on Bustle titled “Why This Hermione Granger Quote From ‘Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone’ Still Makes My Blood Boil” in which the author took issue with this passage from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:
Hermione’s lip trembled and she suddenly dashed at Harry and threw her arms around him.
‘Harry – you’re a great wizard, you know.’
‘I’m not as good as you,’ said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.
‘Me!’ said Hermione. ‘Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery and – oh Harry – be careful!’
According to the article, the quoted extract did Hermione a disservice because it downplayed her importance in the story. However, my interpretation of this quote is that, rather than diminishing her importance, it was a pivotal character moment for Hermione. J.K. Rowling used this moment to convey to the reader that although Hermione has a bookish and logical personality, she values friendship and bravery over everything else.
We first meet Hermione when she enters Harry and Ron’s compartment on the Hogwarts Express in Sorcerer’s Stone. Although we’re introduced to the wizarding world through Harry’s eyes, in many ways, Hermione’s enthusiasm for that world is more relatable. As someone who had been raised in the Muggle world, Hermione’s reaction to finding out about Hogwarts is one of elation. Unlike Harry, and other Muggle-borns we encounter throughout the series, Hermione applies herself more diligently to her Hogwarts classes – and it shows.
Hermione takes a more dedicated approach to learning magic. She’s a voracious reader and finds comfort and a sense of belonging in books and academia. Hermione immerses herself into Hogwarts because, like Harry, it provided escapism for her. Similarly to Harry, Hermione probably didn’t have many Muggle friends, if any, growing up. This becomes more apparent as the series progresses. She spends less time with her parents, and Rowling doesn’t allude to any friendships that she might have had outside of Hogwarts.
The Bustle article mentions that Hermione “could live a quiet life if she really wanted to. But she doesn’t, because she’s Hermione-freakin’-Granger and she has to stand up for the abused and downtrodden.” This is completely true. Hermione doesn’t have to save Harry and Ron’s lives in every book or stand up for the rights of house-elves, but she does so because she’s morally principled and wants “to do something really worthwhile” (OotP 29). We see a glimpse of Hermione’s compassionate nature early on in the series. In fact, when we first meet her, she was helping Neville find his toad, Trevor.
The perception I got from Hermione in Sorcerer’s Stone was that she’s introverted. This is based on her telling Harry and Ron, on the Hogwarts Express, that she only came into their compartment “because people outside are behaving very childishly, racing up and down the corridors” (SS 6). Even before she became friends with them, Hermione seems to intuitively gravitate toward Harry and Ron because all three of them were, in a way, outsiders. Since Hermione didn’t have many Muggle friends growing up, her intense eagerness to embrace everything about Hogwarts likely stemmed from wanting to make a fresh start.
Accordingly, when Ron describes Hermione as a “nightmare” and states that “she must’ve noticed that she’s got no friends,” (SS 10) Hermione reacts the way she does – retreating to the girls’ bathroom to cry – because she’d tried so hard to fit in at Hogwarts. This also explains why Hermione buys and grows so attached to Crookshanks after finding out that “no one wanted him” (PoA 4).
So when Hermione told Harry that friendship and bravery were more important than books and cleverness, I didn’t perceive it as J.K. Rowling downplaying “Hermione’s importance.” Rather, it demonstrated that Hermione was a true Gryffindor, and this was such a powerful character moment because it showed her affirming that she belonged not only in Gryffindor but also at Hogwarts and by extension, in the wizarding world.