This is the opening paragraph of a recent article I saw in The Guardian, written by Sarah Stratford:
What? Did Hermione Granger really say “I can’t” during the climactic battle in the final chapter of the Harry Potter film saga? Presented with her chance to destroy one of the horcruxes she had put her life on the line to hunt, she backs away and needs her almost-boyfriend Ron to insist that of course she can. Sorry, filmmakers, that quavering girly-girl is not Hermione.
Stratford’s line of argument is that the Harry Potter movies have been gradually devaluing the positive female influence that Hermoine brings to the trio of friends by focusing instead on her prettiness and clothing. I admit my first reaction was to sit and think back upon the scene she describes above. Yes it happened, but that was not my interpretation and it was at this part in the article when I started to scratch my head.
First of all, the scene isn’t in the book. We as readers don’t witness the destruction of that particular Horcrux. It is told to us after the fact:
“So we’re another Horcrux down,” said Ron, and from under his jacket he pulled the mangled remains of Hufflepuff’s cup. “Hermoine stabbed it. Thought she should. She hasn’t had the pleasure yet.”
Leaving that point aside, if one were to look at the scene in the movie alone, I would argue it isn’t disingenuous or out of character. I would offer an alternate suggestion: it could be an example of one of the Monomyth stages or a step in The Hero’s Journey. It is possible it is ‘The Refusal of the Call’ a stage (usually an earlier one, granted) where “Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.” (Wikipedia again)
Usually this refusal takes a longer time than those few moments it took her to destroy the Horcrux. In a football movie, for example, you might see the star quarterback who is suffering some sort of hardship retreating to the bleachers to stare wet-eyed at the football field as it is bathed in stadium lights, and the sprinklers are going, and the evening passes in contemplation before the scene opens the following morning and he is ready and resolute for the final game.
But Hermoine isn’t the hero, you might say. Harry is. I would argue that that is debatable. There are other characters that demonstrate great growth/change (such as Snape) who are ‘heroic’ and I’m pretty certain there are other times in the movies where Ron had a similar exchange with another character. Draco Malfoy also refuses the call, but then again he doesn’t rejoin the fight either, so is not completely redeemed (although is allowed to join the ‘society’ again as the Epilogue sequence showed, as he is a parent, along with the others.)
Speaking of that sequence, it was the part of the novel (‘Nineteen Years Later’) that never sat comfortably with me. Powerful workers of magic such as Hermoine and Ginny were, we see them as mothers. I would’ve liked to see what feats of daring they got up to as young women - if there was such a need. After all, Voldemort was defeated. There were no more battles. It was the ‘gap’ I mourned that I’d never know; the bridge Rowling built to take us from one conclusion to another one, missing another story in between.
It’s not a criticism so much as a ‘I wonder what happened…’
Last, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a character demonstrating reluctance, certainly not in the case described above. Any character that doesn’t experience doubt is either a fool or a cliche. Doubt comes during great trials – during childbirth, for example, when I remember reading transition is the stage where it is common to start saying “I can’t do this, I can’t do this”.
That might be drawing a bit of a long bow, sure.
But then I think the Guardian piece does too.