By Eric Bowling
release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling's epic Harry
Potter Saga is complete; this, in turn, gives us readers the position, in a
critical perspective, to consider the whole story together. The view of the
series as a whole has presented this particular writer with a conundrum - plot
holes that have entirely swallowed up a mother and father in a literary world
obsessed with family. Whatever happened to the Grangers? Just as Ron and
Harry's families are of crucial importance both to the plots of the books and
to the characters themselves, Hermione's unnamed mother and father and her
relationship to them is integral to the character we know. As much as literary
paradigms can be used to create suppositions as to the characters'
inner-workings, the plot holes that J.K. Rowling purposefully wrote into her
stories to maintain a sense of balance can leave those looking for the kind of
depth exemplified in other relationships in the Harry Potter series
strong thematic aspect of the Harry Potter series has been its
dichotomist main character structure. Harry, being the everyman, serves as the
eyes of the reader. We do not understand what is going on any more than Harry
does at any given time. We grow with Harry physically, mentally, and
emotionally. In classic Greek terms, Harry's psyche ’ composed of Dionysian and
Apollonian halves1 ’ is personified and manifested by his two
best friends, Ron and Hermione.
book The Birth of Tragedy, Friederich Nietzche discusses this ancient
Greek concept that suits Ron and Hermione well: a dramatic Apollonian ~
Dionysian dichotomy. The Dionysian side, named after the god of wine, party,
and disorder, Dionysus, is opposed to the Apollonian side, named after Apollo,
the god of order, civilization, and logic. In Harry Potter Hermione
Granger represents the Apollonian half of Harry's world and Ron Weasley
represents the Dionysian side. Naturally, these sides are constantly in
conflict, until such a time that the two come together to create the zenith of
drama in a dramatic story. This connection is one of the strongest themes in
the series and can perhaps allow the reader to read a little more into the
unwritten parts of Rowling's series.
from a magical family, Ron Weasley is more familiar with magic than Harry is.
He represents the Dionysian portion of Harry's mind- the excitement and wonder
of the (Wizarding) world and the wondrous things one can do in it ’ even if
sometimes they break traditional rules. As an extension, the Weasley family
represents the Dionysian ideals of hearth, heart, celebration of nature, chaos,
and home. The Weasleys become a surrogate family for Harry when he first began
to understand who and what he is.
the Apollonian ideals of logic, rules, and order is Hermione Granger. She is
"Muggle-born", a witch or wizard with non-magic-wielding parents. She is
familiar with the Muggle world, which shows its cruelty through the actions of
the Dursley family as they attempt to reign over Harry with rules, punishments,
and oppression. While Hermione is little like the Dursleys, she does embody the
ideals of laws and order through her actions and personality. While Ron is more
free-spirited and easy-going, Hermione is loath to bend a rule and has studied
about Hogwarts and Witchcraft and Wizardry before any first year student.
there are moments when each of Harry's friends act outside of the set
dichotomy, these conditions break down in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
Prince. Hermione sheds her ideals of order and rules by jinxing Cormac
McLaggen to help Ron get on the Gryffindor Quidditch team,2
when she opts to leave school to aid in Harry's quests, and throughout the book
as she is consumed by her jealously and feelings toward Ron. Ron changes as he
accepts the responsibilities that Dumbledore's death places upon Harry and, in
turn, himself to finish the hunt for the Horcruxes and help his best friend
destroy Voldemort. The two classic forces, Dionysian and Apollonian, merge in Deathly
Hollows, illustrated by the relationship of Hermione and Ron.
worlds ultimately must come together. Beginning with Harry Potter and the
Goblet of Fire, the cruel rules of the world begin mixing with the
fascinating and effulgent aura of the magical world. Cedric Diggory, then
Sirius Black, and then Dumbledore are all murdered right in front of Harry's
face, each death thrusting in deeper and deeper a psychic doweling that
inexorably binds the two worlds together, so that, by the beginning of Deathly
Hallows these spheres have merged. As it is most evident in Half-Blood
Prince, Voldemort and his forces have brought the fight to the Muggle
world, causing horrible damage and death. The magical wonderment of the
Wizarding World and the controlled and unforgiving world of Muggles has blended
into one, leading to the highest and purest drama in the series.
still, even though these worlds have merged in Deathly Hallows, there is
still something missing from the whole on Hermione's part. Something is missing
from the previous six books that could have made her character even stronger.
This is the obfuscation of one crucial group of characters in the Harry
Potter universe that is overtly strange and disconnected. Hermione's
unnamed parents are rarely mentioned in the books and only seen very briefly in
written3 and visual form in the book and movie versions of Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. We know for sure that her parents are
both dentists,4 vacation in France5 and go
skiing on winter holiday,6 but precious little else.
their appearance at Diagon Alley in Chamber of Secrets it can be
suggested that Hermione's parents are involved enough in their daughter's
magical life to go with her to buy her school supplies.7
While they may be accepting, in other ways they are not supportive, as her
parents prefer that Hermione fix her teeth with Muggle braces rather than with
a spell.8 This could simply be seen, though, as a parental
imprinting of good, conservative values upon Hermione which she so stridently
displays in the first five books of the series, and not discriminatory against
the Wizarding world per se.
It can be
validly argued that the Granger parents' point of view is not necessary in the
narrative construct of the series. J.K. Rowling herself said of Hermione's
parents at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Sunday, August 15, 2004:
I have deliberately kept Hermione's family in the
background. You see so much of Ron's family so I thought that I would keep
Hermione's family, by contrast, quite ordinary. They are dentists, as you know.
They are a bit bemused by their odd daughter but quite proud of her all the
readers, as Muggles, know how bad and good the Muggle world can be because we
live in it. Since we know less about the Wizarding world, the point of view of
the Weasley family is narratively more important to catch the reader up on the
new world they encounter. The Weasleys are connected to many of Harry's wondrous
discoveries about the Wizarding World- Floo Powder, the passage to the Hogwarts
Express at Platform 9Â¾, The Flying Ford Anglia, The Burrow (an introduction to
wizarding home life) and The Quidditch World Cup (the biggest sporting and
social event in the Wizarding world). When Harry comes of age and he can taunt
his unrestricted magical skills, he is visiting the Weasleys' home in Deathly
Hallows.10 Because we know how Muggles live, it is
logical, then, that J.K. Rowling would not delve into her family and domestic
life anywhere near as much as she does with Ron's family.
family is very important in the Harry Potter series. It is perhaps the
greatest theme in the series. Harry is joined to his parents, James and Lily,
compared to them physically repeatedly throughout the series. Ron is connected
to his family and the Weasleys' travails provide the lion's share of the human
familial connection in the series. At the end of Deathly Hallows, J.K.
Rowling provides an epilogue involving the families of the grown Harry, Ginny,
Hermione, and Ron, showing that the characters' futures were prosperous,
expressed through their children. The reader knows much more about the families
of some minor characters than we do about Hermione's: Frank, Alice, Algie, and
Augusta "Gran" Longbottom; Sirius, Regulus, Bellatrix, Andromeda, and Narcissa
Black; Ted and Nymphadora Tonks; Barty and Barty Crouch Jr. These are all
family relationships we know more about than the one between Hermione and her
holes are most obvious in Hermione's introductions in Harry Potter and the
Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix,
and Half-Blood Prince, when Hermione more or less appears amongst the
Weasleys with little or no explanation whatsoever. At the end of Prisoner of
Azkaban, which sets up many of the early plot elements in Goblet of Fire,
there is no mention of Hermione attending the Quidditch World Cup with the
Weasleys.11 It can be assumed that she came to be with the
Weasleys at her own request, or Ginny's request to have a fellow girl friend to
spend time with, or a combination of both. The lack of explanation at the end
of Prisoner of Azkaban can easily be forgiven, if rectified in Goblet
of Fire, but no explanation is concretely given then, either. Nor is there
any reason given in Order of the Phoenix why Hermione spends so much of
her time over the summer at
obviously convenient for her to be there for plot purposes, but as before, no
ironclad reason is given for her appearance when many simple reasons could have
been given: her parents went on vacation and she didn't want to go; she wanted
to be close to Harry; Ginny invited her; etc.
Later in Order
of the Phoenix, Hermione does offer some insight when she arrives at
spend Christmas with Harry, Sirius, and the Weasleys:
"What are you doing here?" asked Harry... "I thought you were
skiing with your mum and dad."
"Well, to tell the truth, skiing's not really my thing' said
Hermione. "So I've come for Christmas... Anyway, Mum and Dad are a bit
disappointed, but I've told them that everyone who's serious about the exams is
staying at Hogwarts to study. They want me to do well, they'll understand."
is literally, literarily, the most we ever hear in a single passage about
Hermione's family besides J.K. Rowling's own comments outside of her written
texts. The feelings of Hermione and her parents are made clear in the above
passage from Order of the Phoenix, as is Hermione's dedication to her
friends. Little passages such as this one do much to illuminate not only
Hermione's character, but also the nature of her relationship with her parents
’ or the lack thereof. The fact that Hermione spends her winter breaks and most
of her summer breaks with the Weasleys ’ and away from her parents ’ while
convenient for the plot of the story, offers nothing but contradiction and
confusion when their relationship is considered realistically.
Hermione's parents wanted to spend more time with her, why did they choose to
go skiing instead of a family activity that their daughter would have wanted to
do? Is Hermione's bossiness and pursuit of academic perfection at Hogwarts an
attempt to preserve at any costs the order and structure of the one world she
feels she can identify with? Hermione is a character of great purpose and will-
but what is never really explained or hinted at is the reason for her
particular behaviors. From plot-to-plot, book-to-book, many of her motives are
rather obvious, but the deeper, more personal aspects of Hermione's
personality- information that can be gleaned from her relationship with her
parents- are doggedly elusive.
spurs the inquisitive reader to ask the types of questions of the character,
and, in turn, her parents, which they have or can have answered already from
text about Harry, Ron, and their families. Possible answers that, even if
revealed in the smallest of doses, could be potentially informative of Hermione
and her parents for die-hard Harry Potter fans. For instance, why do we not see
or even hear about Hermione's parents in Prisoner of Azkaban when she
arrives at the Leaky Cauldron? Was she shopping with her parents before and
they left her with the Weasleys? How well do the Grangers know the Weasleys?
Are they so trusting of their only daughter that they are willing to entrust
her well-being (in what to them is a strange and increasingly dangerous world,
since she had been petrified the year before) to a family they know so little
of? Or maybe they do know the Weasleys? To what degree?
questions open many intriguing plot elements that could have added extra
dimension to the character of Hermione that would have opened her beyond her
relationships to Ron and Harry, just as Ron and Harry's relationships with
their own parents is crucial to their own characters. Exempting the examples
listed above, what were Hermione's parents feelings toward the Weasleys? Were
they not increasingly concerned for their only daughter as the danger of
Voldemort's return became ever deadlier? Perhaps she tells her parents very
little about what happens at Hogwarts, other than her good grades? We know that
she tells them about Harry:
"I've also modified my parents' memories so that they're
convinced they're really called Wendell and Monica Wilkins, and that their
life's ambition is to move to
which they have now done. That's to make it more difficult for Voldemort to
track them down and interrogate them about me ’ or you, because unfortunately,
I've told them quite a bit about you... Wendell and Monica Wilkins don't know
that they've got a daughter, you see." Hermione's eyes were swimming with tears
Hermione tells her parents some things, and the emotional strain she feels
demonstrates that she has a deep emotional connection to her parents, but this
provides at best a quick salve, not a panacea to the situation, as the reader
still has no idea what Hermione's parents reactions to what she has told them
are. Unless she told them everything at once right before modifying their
memories, they have been hearing about Harry for at least six years. It is also
easy to assume from the previously cited scene and the rest of the series that
Hermione, while secretive about some things, is an open person with Harry and
Ron. She does not melodramatically bare her soul, but she is always a person
who speaks her thoughts with her best friends.
with her careful nature, perhaps wishes then to shield her parents from certain
portions of the increasingly dangerous Wizarding world? Without any supporting
exposition or dialogue, however, we can only guess as to what the nature of
Hermione's relationship with her parents is. Or, perhaps, the Grangers, both Muggles,
feel that they are so out of their element that they can never understand the
Wizarding world? Having their only daughter suddenly become "different" ’ a
difference that literally takes her to another, secretive world ’ alienates
Hermione from her parents? This would be a very likely explanation as to why
Hermione finds refuge with the Weasley family. Once again, we have little
evidence to construct any kind of social narrative about Hermione's
relationship with her parents.
the Apollonian construct, which is shared by the overly-strict, Muggle-world
Dursleys, who attempt to dominate Harry completely with their oppressive rules
and logic that refuse to acknowledge the existence of pseudo-scientific ideas,
is it possible that Hermione's parents also symbolize the view of the Muggle
world as strict and oppressive? Then, much like Harry, she finds refuge in the
Wizarding world, and ends up spending most of her life there. Does Hermione
adopt Crookshanks ’ a cat that nobody wanted ’ because she felt some
camaraderie with him? There is much that could be said about these decisions,
especially since she comes from a pure Muggle family. Sadly, the little plot
holes build up.
the establishment of facts about Hermione's parents, other than a few cursory,
almost passing remarks, important in some way? This author is not arguing that
Hermione's parents should have been brought deeper into the storyline of the
Harry Potter novels, to become more involved. J.K. Rowling shows that she can
do a great lot with very little; this has been proven recently with her
800-word long "card" prequel involving Sirius and James. The density and
complexity of her writing is extraordinary, the detail minute and inherently
expressive. She can do much with a few lines, and yet she dedicates very few to
Hermione's parents. If you were to take the questions I ask above concerning
Hermione's relationship with her parents, and apply them to Ron or Harry's
relationship with their parents, would not the reader be able to answer them
with certain confidence ’ whether deduced or inferred ’ from Rowling's texts?
magic, things may be fixed at the flick of a wand. As much as she puts in her
books, J.K. Rowling loves to spring new information on fans, so an answer to some
or perhaps all of these questions may appear at any moment in an interview or
on Rowling's web site. The author's upcoming release of a Harry Potter
Encyclopedia also may also put stoppers in these plot holes. Perhaps the
yet-to-be-released movie adaptations of Half-Blood Prince and the
two-part Deathly Hallows will use the audio-visual language of the
filmic storytelling process to correct these plot holes. A particularly moving
scene can be made in Deathly Hallows when Hermione must alter her
parent's memories and send them into hiding in
Voldemort. The mature meticulousness of this act ’ first, the talent and skill
to alter memories, and second, to make all the arrangements on her own for her
parents to go live a new life as other people ’ show how much Hermione loves
her parents. Even a goodbye scene where Hermione hands the plane tickets to her
parents ’ who have no idea who she is ’ and gives them a tearful hug goodbye
(perhaps forever, if she were to die) would do much to show their relationship
and put all these questions to absolute rest.
Rowling is right in wanting to obfuscate the intimate details of Hermione's
family. To go into the detail she does on Ron's family, or Harry's, would
possibly provide us with too much information, which could confuse readers. It
is this writer's opinion, however, that in her attempts to be mysterious, J.K.
Rowling has blocked an important conduit that provides valuable insight into
one of the main characters of her series. Analyzing the juxtaposition of the
themes of the different Muggle and Wizarding worlds can perhaps lead us to some
answers, but giving so little information does a great disservice to Hermione
throughout the Harry Potter books on an intrinsic level of storytelling.
Taken into a literary "ecumenical" perspective, however, one that takes the
entire series as a whole into consideration, the purposeful plot holes that
J.K. Rowling has constructed to serve the story on one level prevents analysis
on a deeper level.
s.v. "Apollonian and Dionysian."
Half-Blood Prince, 232.
4. Ibid., Chamber
of Secrets, 56-57.
5. Ibid., Sorcerer's
6. Ibid., Order
7. Ibid., Chamber
of Secrets, 56-57.
8. Ibid., Goblet
of Fire, 405.
Rowling official site, "Edinburgh Book Festival Interview."
Deathly Hallows, 113.
Prisoner of Azkaban, 430 & 434.
Order of the
Deathly Hallows, 96-97.
Official Site, "News:
J K Rowling at the
(accessed 28 June 2008).
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Potter and the Order of the
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
The Free Encyclopedia,
s.v. "Apollonian and Dionysian." Wikimedia http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Apollonian_and_Dionysian&oldid=219638950