Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ron Weasley

Ron Weasley: a major character in the Harry Potter series and one of the best friends of the hero.  A favourite character of many people.  But not mine.  Not even close.  I don’t really like Ron that much.  He just seems so…useless.  He’s a muppet.  He abandons Harry twice.  He has very little conscience.   He’s immature.  I don’t understand what Harry sees in him and I don’t understand what Hermione sees in him.  I love Harry, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Luna, Dumbledore, Hagrid and the rest, but I’ve always had a bit of a barrier to liking Ron.
So I did some research to try to answer the following questions:
1.      What does Harry see in Ron that I don’t?
2.      What does Hermione see in Ron that I don’t?

I started by googling ‘What does Harry see in Ron?’, which threw up nothing, and then ‘What does Hermione see in Ron?’, to see if other people had similar thoughts to me.  A few quotes from this search:

“Just got through re-reading Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince. 
It's easy to see what he sees in her. Hermione's cute, has got brains, and loads of magical talent. Too much the goody-two-shoes know it all, true, but she's basically a good catch.
But all I see in Ron are three minorly admirable qualities: he's tall, funny and loyal. But Hermione never laughs at his jokes and his loyalty is mostly to his mate Harry.
Granted, the Weasley clan is a great plus: Ginny seems like she'd be a great sister-in-law, the twins are well on their way to riches with their magic shop, Charlie is dragon breeder and Bill is a banker, and even if Percy is a prat, having family in the Ministry of Magic is a dead useful contact. But she can still be Ron's friend and get to hang out with his family.
Basically, I don't get it. What gives with the Hermione/Ron attraction?
NO, I'm not jealous. I'm puzzled.”

“Anyway, what makes the relationship seem improbable to me is not the fact that Ron and Hermione bicker but just that I can't see what she sees in him. Hermione's a pretty good catch - after she fixed her teeth, it was apparent that she at very least cleaned up nice. And she's smart, capable, confident, and so forth - she's got a bright future ahead of her. Ron, on the other hand, simply doesn't bring as much to a relationship. He's not that smart. He's never described as particularly good-looking. And ninety percent of the time, during their adventures, he's sort of deadweight (except in the ridiculously contrived chess game in the first book, whose ending in general was pretty contrived.) Plus, he's got a real wussy side, as revealed in his performance as keeper.
Not like there's anything wrong with Ron, but Hermione seems to leap into most aspects of her life with a view towards improving herself and achieving. Most real high-achiever types like that that I've known generally have fairly high expectations for others. It's one thing to pal around with someone like Ron, but it just doesn't seem likely that Hermione would be satisfied with a guy who's frankly much less intelligent than she is and probably won't be doing nearly as much with his life. It just doesn't seem likely to me that Hermione would want someone who doesn't challenge her.”

“In general, ISTM that what women almost universally want in a man is one who is playing the lead role in his own life. He can do that confidently, humorously, heroically, tragically, or whatever, and different women have different preferences when one breaks it down like that. But few women are looking for the insecure guy who's always being pulled along in others' slipstreams because he doesn't know where he wants to go on his own, and the more self-assured the woman, the more unlikely that is.”

These quotes, especially the first, sum up what I was thinking.

Next, it was time to look at the books.  I read through the series to find occasions where Ron is particularly likeable/honourable/a good friend and occasions where he is mean/negative/a bad friend.
In book one, Ron is generally a good friend to Harry and loyal to and protective of his family.  He is initially rude to and about Hermione; once they become friends there are no particularly good or bad signs from him towards her.
In book two, things continue well for Ron – he sticks up for Harry and Hermione, reassures Harry, and shows bravery in following the spiders into the forest and going with Harry to the Chamber of Secrets.
In book three, he defends, encourages and reassures harry, and sticks up for Hagrid.  At times he is a good friend towards Hermione, but he becomes nasty and malicious towards her over the Scabbers incident.  He does, however, take the first step in making up with her.
In book four, Ron shows signs of being protective of Hermione and is generous to Dobby.  Unfortunately, he also has a phase of rejecting Harry and not trusting him.  He later apologises Harry and encourages him, but then has a row with Hermione, borne out of jealousy and mistrust and resulting in rudeness to and rejection of her.  Overall, not a good book for Ron.
Book five is better for Ron – he shows loyalty to Harry, defends him and celebrates with him and sticks up for him.  His friendship with Hermione has no particular highs or lows.
In book six, Ron is fairly pathetic with Fleur and Lavender, and spiteful to Hermione.  His best moment is his promise to stick with Harry at the end of the book.
In the final book, Ron is protective of Hermione and Ginny.  Of course, he becomes tetchier than the others when guarding the locket horcrux and eventually abandons them.  On his return, he encourages and motivates the others.

In summary, Ron’s main strengths seem to be his bravery – he never shies away from dangerous or scary situations– and his loyalty – he sticks up for his mates and his family.  Unfortunately, books 4 and 7 contain massive incidents of disloyalty, which almost cancel out this positive trait from the rest of the series.  He is also known for being funny – Ron gets many of the humorous one-liners in the series.
On the negative side, his betrayal of Harry in book four and then Harry and Hermione in book seven stands out.  He also has a mean streak and has much less of a conscience than the other two.  Most of the admirable things Ron does are simply done alongside Harry, in the classic sidekick role, whereas Hermione has strengths in her own right.

A few more quotes from the internet, this time highlighting Ron’s appeal (unfortunately all from the Ron/Hermione POV, but it was all I could find):

“Ron admires Hermione's abilities, but has also seen her vulnerable, and has not rejected her. For a super achiever, this is a huge thing. His regard is unconditional, and that is also huge.”

“Hermione most likely intimidates most of her classmates, as well as the older kids. Now that they ARE the older kids, who is she to turn to? The faculty? Ron has shared good and bad with her. Despite their acrimony, she and Ron share many of the same values.”

“Another thing which occurs to me is that in the books, we really only see Ron and Hermione as they are viewed through the eyes of Harry Potter. We see Ron only as Harry sees Ron and only when Harry sees Ron. We don't see the moments that Hermione and Ron share together without Harry present. Harry sees Ron as his friend and as a bit of a goof, but he doesn't see him as a BOY the way an adolescent girl would see him. There must be aspects and sides of Ron which Harry never sees, conversations with Hermione which he never hears and attractive attributes which he never notices because he's a boy who likes girls and never looks at Ron "that way."”
“I don't think we should undersell Ron's loyalty. Loyalty is far more than a minor qualilty in the HP universe (for example, it is Harry's loyalty to Dumbledore that saves him in Chamber of Secrets). I think those who have already mentioned that Hermione is not as pretty as Emma Watson hit the nail on the head: Hermione is picked on mercilessly until the troll incident in PS (hell, even Ron says something like, "she's miserable--of course nobody likes her" before said run-in), and obviously she is gravely insulted by Malfoy and the like afterward. Ron is always there, and because his life is not screwed up like Harry's, he's there in a more complete sense. I think Hermione really appreciates that.”

Is it just me, or do these seem like clutching at straws?  The best that people can say about Ron is that he’s ‘there’ and that he’s gone through good and bad with Hermione.  Except of course, he’s not always ‘there’ (he abandons her and Harry), and much of the ‘bad’ that she’s been through was his fault (said abandonment, the Yule brawl, the Scabbers incident).

From the much-less-written-about Harry POV, as mentioned above, Ron just does what Harry does.  He has very little going for him in his own right.  One reason for Harry’s friendship with Ron could be that at the beginning of book one, both of them were alone and quite insecure, so they stuck together.  They become familiar and share experiences, and these things breed friendship.  But this is all I can come up with.  This is probably enough, because boys are capable of being good mates based on a few memories and plenty of banter.  Yes, Ron lets Harry down at times, but he always comes back and apologises (credit to him there) and at many other times he sticks by Harry.
His eventual relationship with Hermione is harder to fathom, for the reasons given in the first set of quotes above.  It just makes no sense.

So, can anyone explain?  I can just about deal with Harry’s friendship with Ron, but Hermione’s is simply unconvincing.  He is mean to her, he abandons her, he argues with her – what does she see in him.  Any ideas?


Vicki said...

I think the point about only seeing Ron through Harry's eyes is a great one, and may explain a lot! Harry always sees Ron as his best mate, so that's how he's shown; that won't be how Hermione sees him. And the fact that we never see what they're like alone, and the conversations they have there, is also a big thing. Personally I'm more convinced by Ron/Hermione than I am by Harry/Ginny!

Unknown said...

Yeah I think it's a good point, but we still see a lot of what Ron's like from what we see of him through Harry's eyes.
It may be that Ron is very different when he's alone with Hermione, but that would just make him changeable at best and two-faced at worst. Still can't see what she would see in him.
I'm definitely convinced by Harry/Ginny. Their characters and experiences just fit.

Nicola said...

It's true that Ron's appeal is mostly his funny one liners and his loyalty but just as in life you find people who are not as mature as you and you sometimes do end up dragging them along. I think sometimes his meanness and spitefulness are in some ways to do with thoughtlessness which ties into the fact that he isn't as mature. It is a tenuous argument but his relationship with Hermione could be to do with their shared experience and it is attractive to women when even though someone may be a few steps behind it's the fact that they do begin to grow and want to develop which I think Ron does display. Maybe Ron is the one that represents the ordinary someone who isn't especially brave or intelligent or talented someone who makes mistakes but eventually learns and develops from his friends and experiences.

Unknown said...

It's not just that he's immature and makes mistakes - he's often outright nasty. And his loyalty isn't exactly that impressive given his behaviour in books 4 and 7.
The shared experiences thing is a fair point, but I'm still not convinced by it all.

Seymour said...

I have not read the books but from reading the post I wonder if you are looking for something that is not there. Sometimes a character in a book is more of a plot device than a real person. This is not necessarily a flaw, every book has these kind of "faults" if you dig around - that's why it's called "fiction".

Unknown said...

Seyms - I think that is true, but not with characters as major as Ron - he is the second most prominent character in the whole series.