Honoring the Heroine: Ginny Weasley

Last time I explained that the first book can easily mislead the reader because of low expectations. But by the second book, the reader has caught on. So how does JKR solve this problem? By presenting no less then three characters to the reader who act highly suspicious.

There is Hagrid, who acts so suspicious that even Harry, Ron and Hermione eventually start to question him. But he is so likable, it is hard to believe that he is really guilty. Plus, if the reader has learned something from the first book than that it is never the obvious choice.

Lockhard is mostly suspicious because he doesn’t act weird at all. He seems to be too stupid to be a real thread. But then, Quirrel didn’t seem particularly threatening either. In fact, Lockhard turns out to be more dangerous than he seems to be in the end, too, just in a different way.

And finally Percy, who turns up in strange places and acts nervous. He seems to be the most likely suspect, but his main role in the book is to distract the reader from the true culprit, too.

JKR manages to do this so well that upon first reading  Ginny just slips by even though there are a number of hints which point to her.

1. Hagrid mentions (while a dead cock is laying for preparation on his table) that he meet her near the hut. In a later scene he mentions that someone killed all of his cocks.

2. When the Weasley’s leave the Burrow, they have to go back multiple times because someone has forgotten something. One of the things mentioned is Ginny’s diary. Later she reacts very flustered when she sees Harry with Ton Riddle’s diary. Being a Gryffindor, she would have an easy access to Harry’s dorm, just like all the other suspects. But she would be the only one of them who would automatically go to a girl’s bathroom to get rid of the diary.

3. After Mrs. Norris is petrified, Ginny is upset. Later in the year she looks ill. And just before she vanishes, she does try to tell Harry something important, but is interrupted by Percy.

JKR uses different techniques to make the reader overlook all those clues. The two scenes relating to the cocks are so far apart in the book that it is hard to make the connection, especially since their sole purpose seems to be to point in the direction of the basilisk. By pretending that they are the clue for something else, the reader is invited to overlook the more important part of the information.

Everything related to the diary is hidden by playing up Ginny’s crush on Harry and again, by spreading out the information. When Ginny acts strange upon seeing the diary we are invited to think that it is because of Draco’s teasing. Mind you, this is the same girl which stood up to Draco earlier in the book, so the reader should know better.

There is a pattern of explaining away Ginny’s behaviour. She likes cats very much, so that’s why she is so upset about Mrs Norris. There is a cold going round, and really, that she seems to be affected is only mentioned to provide a funny image for the readers, so move along, nothing important is happening here. And when she tries to talk with Harry, Percy acts so weird and even claims that he knows what she wanted that the attention of the reader is drawn to him instead of her.

In a way, the second book is the best JKR has written, at least regarding the mystery. Everything which happens in it has a meaning and is connected to something else. Sadly the movies never really caught on that the Harry Potter books are partly detective stories, and most of the clues pointing in Ginny’s direction are therefore simply missing in the movie, which kind of falls flat as a result. Oh, the effects have greatly improved since the first movie, especially Aragog is very creepy. But it fails to capture the threatening atmosphere of the book, at least outside of the forbidden forest.

But there is one aspect on which the movie greatly improves the source material: The scene in which Dobby is freed. The rules for freeing house elves are kind of sketchy in the book, but I never really bought the idea that Dobby simply had to be ready to catch some piece of cloth which his family threw. It sounds a little bit too easy. In the movie though, instead of putting the book into the sock, Harry hides the sock in the book which Lucius then gives Dobby. That makes way more sense because he (unknowingly) actually gave Dobby the sock instead of just throwing it away.

So, all in all an okay movie, which pulled off a really griping final, but not quite as complex as the book is. Though it mostly suffers because the director couldn’t know how many details in the book (from the vanishing cabinet to the diary) would become important later in the series.

Banner-HP-Ginny

But let’s talk about Ginny. Of all the books in the series, this is the most important regarding her, because the events of this book are basically what makes her later the perfect partner for Harry. Not because he rescues her like some sort of damsel-in-distress, but because her experience with Tom Riddle make her perhaps the only person in the world who has an inkling what Harry is up against. Even Ron and Hermione are always absent when the actual confrontation with Voldemort happens. But Ginny had him in her head a whole school year long and managed to break free at least once when she throws away the diary. I always felt that this shows how strong her will is, even as an eleven year old.

The events in the chamber shaped her personality. At the same time though, she doesn’t suddenly become mature from one day or another. But it kick-starts a process, which makes her slowly grow up in the young woman who is a heroine in her own right. But let’s run down my favourite scenes with her.

Book one: Waving good-bye

In the book: When the Hogwarts Express leaves the train station, Harry watches how Ginny runs after it, waving her brothers good-bye.

In the movie: The scene is missing.

Why I like the scene: Granted, there wasn’t much to choose from for the first book. But I always liked the idea of Harry looking back and seeing this little girl, who would have given everything to sit in this train, too, waving good-bye.

Book two: Ginny’s reaction to Harry

In the book: Just as Ron and Harry climb the stairs at the burrow, they encounter Ginny who opens a door. Surprised to see Harry, she squeaks and closes it again. Ron remarks that this is a very unusual behaviour for her, because she usually doesn’t shut up.

In the movie: Ginny runs down the stairs, sees Harry and runs away again. Ron remarks that she didn’t shut up about Harry in the past weeks.

Why I like the scene: I really don’t care if Ginny come through a door or runs down a stair, but there is a small difference between Ron’s words afterwards which make the book version so much better. Because there the very first thing which is established is that Ginny doesn’t act like herself in Harry’s presence. Since the books are mainly written from his perspective, we actually don’t really get to know Ginny until book five. In the movie it is only clarified that she has a crush, but there is no hint given how her “normal” personality is like.

I actually adore all of Harry’s and Ginny’s early interaction, because it is so perfectly balanced. Ginny has a crush, but it is not a creepy one. She doesn’t stalk Harry or anything like that, she is only painfully shy in his presence. Harry meanwhile is well aware of her feelings, but he is also careful not to embarrass her. I think the key is that from the get go, those two respect each others feelings, even if it will take years until they are in tune with each other.

Book three: Ginny’s reaction to the Dementors

In the book: When Harry looses consciousness due to the dementors, Ginny is in the apartment too, and reacts nearly as badly as he does.

In the movie: The scene happens but Ginny isn’t present.

Why I like the scene: There are a lot of moments at the beginning of book three in which Harry and Ginny have small interactions, but in general she is shuffled into the background again. But in this scene it is shown, without many words, that the events in the chamber did effect Ginny greatly. As a reader, I don’t even need to know that this is the reason she reacts so badly. It is clarified the moment Remus explains to Harry that he reacts worse because he has worse memories, making it pretty much a no-brainer why Ginny is nearly as affected by the dementors as he is.

Book four: Harry asks Ginny to the Yule Ball

In the book: When Harry and Ron have problems to find dates to the ball, Ron comes up with the idea that Hermione should go with him and Ginny with Harry. But Ginny has already agreed to go with Neville.

In the movie: They show Ginny dancing with Neville, but that’s it.

Why I like the scene: It tells the reader a lot about Ginny’s personality. She is clearly crushed that she can’t go with Harry to the ball, she even clarifies that she only agreed to Neville’s invitation because she couldn’t go at all otherwise (to be fair, she isn’t Neville’s first choice either). But not one moment does she even considers ditching Neville to go with Harry. She stands to her word. We also later learn that during the Yule Ball she meets Michael Conner and decides to move on and date him instead of moping around because Harry has a crush on Cho instead of her.

Book five: The library scene

In the book: Harry is very troubled about what he saw in Snape’s memories. But he isn’t able to talk to his friends about it because than he would be forced to admit that he stopped taking lessons from Snape. Knowing how Hermione would react to this information, he is very short towards her. In this situation Ginny sits beside him in the library, just listening to him until he admits that he really wants to talk to Sirius. She then helps him to do so.

In the movie: The whole episode is entirely missing

Why I like the scene: When it comes to the relationship between Ginny and Harry, movie five is where they dropped the ball. Big time. There are a couple of key-scenes in the book which set up their later relationship, Harry noticing that she is suddenly able to talk to him normally, their DA encounters, the time they spend together in Grimmauld Place, but this one might be the most important. Ginny is not only able to coerce Harry out of his funk (again), she also shows herself to be very resourceful. Suddenly Ginny is a presence in Harry’s life. Harry is not really aware of it (yet), but in this book the shy Ginny from the previous books is gone and along with Neville and Luna she becomes one of his most reliable supporters after Ron and Hermione.

Book six: The Goodbye-Scene

In the book: At the end of the book Harry breaks up with Ginny, knowing that Hogwarts is no longer a safe place for him. Ginny shows complete understanding for his reasons and says that she doesn’t want him to be so noble but can’t be angry with him, because if he weren’t, she wouldn’t be so much in love with him.

In the movie: The scene is missing (yeah, I am sensing a pattern here)

Why I like the scene: First of all, a honourable mention: The first kiss. I really, really liked how the scene played out in the book, as a spontaneous action in a moment of elation, and I was NOT please that all the interaction between Harry and Ginny, which felt so natural in the book, was replaced by strange awkwardness in the movie. But the scene at the end won out because, well, it avoids a pet-peeve of mine. Too often the “heroes girlfriend” reacts very unreasonable when the hero, well, acts like a hero. Here Ginny knows that Harry has no choice. She knows that the break-up has nothing to do with her, and everything with the situation he is in. And she is strong enough to accept that. She can deal with it. A part of her wants to hold onto Harry, but she is able to step back and let him do what he has to do.

Book seven: The comforting scene

In the book: When Harry is on his way into the forest, he sees Ginny, who comforts a girl who got hurt during the battle of Hogwarts. He lingers for a moment, but then walks away without revealing himself because he knows if he did it, he would never be able to walk towards his death.

In the movie: The scene is replaced with Ron and Hermione watching Harry walking towards his death.

Why I like the scene:  Two reasons. One is Ginny herself, who is once again shown as a very strong character. There is this girl, who might be dying, telling her that she just wants to go home. And Ginny, who is battle-weary herself, stays by her side and comforts her. The other is what Ginny symbolizes in this moment. She is Harry’s future. She is what he gives up along with his life. And imagining him standing beside her, invisible, not even able to say goodbye, the moment always broke my heart. I can’t express enough how much I was looking forward to seeing it in the final movie and not rant enough about it getting replaced with Ron and Hermione actually allowing Harry to walk towards his death. The change did neither character any favours (honestly, everyone who has friends who would allow him to sacrifice himself, no matter the circumstances, doesn’t need any enemies).

Final thoughts: Contrary to what certain quarters of the internet say, I see Ginny as a very interesting character. Her “downfall” so to speak is that most of her character development happens off-screen, and Harry is not really aware of her until the fifth book. But once we do see her, we do get to know her pretty well. She has a sense of dry humour which is quite similar to Harry’s. She is can be quite sneaky if she wants something. Her bat-bogey hex is fearsome. She is a good quidditch-player because she ignored all the “rules” her family forced on her because she is a girl and trained in secret. In fact, she is quite a feminist and stands up for her right to date whoever she wants and doesn’t allow herself to get limited by gender-expectations. And if a boyfriend gives her grief because he can’t stomach her being good in what she does or isn’t able to accept her independence, than it is his loss.

She is also a heroine in her own right. When Harry starts the DA, she immediately signs up. She goes with him to the department of mysteries, she fights when death eaters invade the school and Neville and she organize the resistance in Hogwarts while Harry is gone. Ginny’s story, how she encountered Tom the first time, and how she spend her youth dealing with what he did to her and how she fought back against his minions is nearly as interesting as Harry’s. It is just not the one JKR choose to tell.

Ginny is also a really good lesson for female readers. Harry is not interested in the damsel-in-distress. He is not interested in the shy girl who is worshipping him. But the young, confident woman who can take care of herself is very attractive, and not just in his eyes, Ginny is quite popular with the boys in general. But it is not hard to see why Harry is the one she never quite can give up on. Not because he is a hero, but because he is someone who respects her. The only time he goes against her is when he wants her to stay away from the battle of Hogwarts, because he wants her to be safe above all. But Ginny is not the type of person who is able to stand aside in a situation like that.

The sad thing is that nothing of this really made it into the movies. There the romance does come pretty much out of nowhere (because all the careful built-up to it is missing) and feels like an afterthought. Comparing the books with the movies is actually a good way to figure out what the difference between “a character who happens to become involved with the hero” and “a love interest” is. Ginny in the book is a full-fletched character. In the movie she falls flat and often feels shoehorned in. But as disappointing as the adaptation is, there are always the books to enjoy.

Quote: “The thing about growing up with Fred and George is that you sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

Well, I already recommended the books the last time around. But would I recommend the movies? Well…yes and no. They are worth a watch, but I would always recommend to read the books first. You are otherwise missing out on some really nice mysteries. Plus, the movies are actually confusing at times if you don’t know the books (at least that’s what friends told me). But for all their flaws they also deserve a lot of credit for taking the source material serious and going big in the adaptation of it – even though I disagree with a lot of choices which were made especially in the later movies.

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14 thoughts on “Honoring the Heroine: Ginny Weasley

  1. This is really well put together! I hadn’t realized so many of the Ginny scenes were missing from the movies (I haven’t seen all the movies, but I still only noticed that she was missing in the goodbye scene in the first movie). Kind of weird that she was always a first choice to cut.

    • The problem with the movies in general is that the directors didn’t really know the direction JKR wanted to take the story…well, at least for the first ones this is a good excuse. The later ones don’t have one aside from making the choice to put the trio into the focus of the story. I guess they mostly really, really liked Hermione as character. Problem is that they never really managed to capture her character quite right either. The movies are in general quite heavy handed, while the books are usually not.

  2. Ginny is hardly my favorite character in the HP universe, depsite the fact that she was the one to end up with Harry. We are told by other characters that she’s so awesome, but we don’t get to see much of it. Sure, she comes out of her shell in OOTP. But like you said, most of her character developement before that happened off screen, which makes you as a reader wonder where the new “cool Ginny” comes from. And I don’t like how Harry’s feelings for her just seemed to come out of the blue, but that is not her fault. Once they have gotten together though, I can buy them as a steady couple (which I never could with Ron and Hermione). You are so right also that the movies just glossed over Ginny’s character, which was a shame.

    • I never had wondered where the new Ginny is coming from, because there are enough hints to fill the blanks. The most obvious the remark at the beginning when Ron observes that Ginny acts not like herself when Harry is around and later when Hermione explains that Ginny started to date other boys which makes Harry realize that Ginny is now able to talk in his presence and is acting different (different meaning more like herself).
      I always felt that the claim that Harry’s feeling come out of the blue is not really true considering that I realized the chemistry between those two as far back as the third book. There is this moment in which Percy acts like a prat and Harry and Ginny share a look and a joke within this one look. I also found it notable that while Harry has the tendency to describe other people in unflattering terms, he never does so with Ginny. Instead he is strangely fascinated with her hair. (the wording with the monster in his chest was very goofy, though).

  3. Interesting! I wish I could add more to all you have done but I enjoyed reading it. I didn’t notice any of that in the books or movies which I enjoyed but Sorcerers Stone came out when I was a senior in high school so I kind of missed the die-hard boat on the series. Amazing how many details there are and it seems like every single fan points out different details like that. I think in many ways they are this generations Wizard of Oz (a normal kid being taken to magical world and fighting evil). Great stuff.

      • You could use Narnia or Willy Wonka as examples if not a Wizard of Oz fan. Just these iconic stories of kids being taken to magical place and facing challenges. In case of Narnia fighting evil.
        When I was little I wasnt drawn to such stories but loved things like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna etc. So it’s probably for the best I first read HP in college because I could appreciate it then. Good luck in rest of your series. Will look forward to reading them

      • Narnia was virtually unknown in Germany before Disney made those movies. Roald Dahl’s works were a little bit better known, but mostly the stuff for adults, less the stuff for children. Typical children books in Germany are the works of Astrid Lindgreen, Michael Ende and Ottfried Preußler. Along with Fairy tales, those are the classics of my youth.

      • Huh. Interesting. I havent noticed that with our German foreign exchange students and friends. But everyone reads different things growing up

  4. Oh, I see that you mentioned Astrid Lindgren. And I have to say that one of her books, “Mio min Mio”, reminds me so much of “Harry Potter”. We have the neglected orphan, who ends up in a magical world, where he is destinied to defeat a terrible villain. And yeah, he too has an invisibility cloak!

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