Monday, December 5, 2016

Harry Potter and the Ties That Bind

Bonnie Wright (left) as Ginny Weasley and Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
It's been nearly three years since JK Rowling tweaked fans, by suggesting she got it wrong, and Harry Potter should’ve married Hermione Granger. Hermione and Ron, she says, have ultimately incompatible relationship needs, and would’ve ended up in the Wizarding World’s equivalent of couples counseling. Fans reacted, as they consistently have to Rowling’s dribblings of post-story revelations, with a mix of joy and horror suitable for US Magazine cover stories.

I disagreed with Rowling’s read when she first revealed it in early 2014. Harry’s feeling-oriented worldview would, I believe, clash horribly with Hermione’s more studied, cerebral approach. Where Hermione meets challenges by hitting the books and striving to learn more, Harry greets setbacks by charging ahead, Thomas Edison-like, and learning from his mistakes. So a Harry/Hermione marriage would’ve imploded anyway. But I still think Harry married the wrong witch.

Harry Potter should’ve married Luna Lovegood.

Bear with me here. Consider how Harry met his future wife, Ginny Weasley. While crashing at the Weasley cottage to avoid the increasingly autocratic Dursleys, Harry glimpses Ginny through a door. They never speak; she largely flits beneath his notice, while his legend looms so large that she’s dumbstruck and unable to say hello. Thus at first, they pass like two ships in the night.

During his later school years, Harry pursues a string of short, remarkably chaste romances with his schoolmates, most simply perfunctory nods to his coming-of-age while the real epic continues in the foreground. His arrival at Ginny, fairly late in his schooling, happens without much prologue; there’s little sense of what drew them together, unless you count mutual attraction (in the films, they’re both very pretty. Their children will be a supernova).

Rupert Grint (left) as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Okay, that’s fine. It’s a children’s series, and we don’t expect complete psychological realism. Except experts and fans have pored over these books in ways that make the Bible look underexamined, so perhaps this important subplot deserves more consideration. Because I’m not persuaded, from the evidence at hand, that this relationship will have sufficient staying power to transcend whatever happens after the Wizarding War is over.

Throughout the series, Harry keeps returning to the Weasley cottage in hopes of participating in a family. Harry’s desire for a family has driven much of his life’s narrative; he forges the Harry/Ron/Hermione troika in a train compartment because he’s desperate to belong somewhere. He prefers Gryffindor over Slytherin because he’d rather be unified by a cause with people he loves, than engage in strong politicking for the rest of his educational career.

Ginny, meanwhile, is drawn to Harry as a hero. As a young girl, she’s dumbstruck by his legend; as a young woman, she kisses him while he’s serving as general of Dumbledore’s Army. So Harry wants a family, while Ginny wants a hero. Harry marries the only Weasley daughter, basically to marry into Ron’s family, while Ginny marries the Boy who Lived. Maybe they both get what they want. Maybe it’s a fairy tale ending.

Except how will that last the trials of adulthood? The epilogue to Deathly Hallows reveals that, after a brief career as a professional Quidditch player, Ginny gets a sports journalist job with the Daily Prophet. Which probably sounds exciting to history’s best-paid author and her young, bookish audience. But Harry leaves sports for a career as an Auror. Yep, Harry gets a government job. Which, in post-Thatcher Britain, is probably a completely stultifying paper-pushing job.

So when Harry realizes that Ginny isn’t a carbon copy of her huggy, bombastic Mum, and Ginny realizes she’s saddled with a government goat and not the Duke of Wellington, this cannot end well for either. Meanwhile, they’ve named their only daughter “Lily Luna,” indicating they still consider Luna Lovegood an influence in their lives. Meaning Harry still thinks about the girl who once told him, “You’re as sane as me.”

Evana Lynch as Luna Lovegood
According to Rowling’s continuing updates, Luna has become a “magizoologist,” the Jane Goodall of the Wizarding World. Okay, she’s not the bosomy mothering type either, but while both Harry and Ginny settled down and got jobs, Luna continued venturing forth and seeing the world. This is the girl who, when Ron belittled Hermione in Year Five, followed her into the restrooms and dried her friend’s tears. So she remains both adventurous and maternal.

Throughout the books, the central characters call Luna silly names for her weird proclivities and her fondness for conspiracy theories. But when it comes to being a suitable spouse for a boy whose life has been surrounded by strife, and whose later years yield a career fighting evil, she just seems more interesting than a sportswriter. Maybe that’s because we see less of her in the story. But I really feel Harry would’ve been happier living with her, than the illusiion Ginny represented.

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