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by
Hannah Sternberg

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February 2, 2014 - 1:09 pm

Harry Potter fans were outraged this weekend to learn that author J. K. Rowling regrets pairing up Harry’s buddies Ron and Hermione. She told readers that she stuck with the pairing because it was part of the plan all along, but looking back at how the characters evolved, she realized that Ron and Hermoine might not be the best for each other’s long-term happiness.

I love this news.

For an author, having two characters end up in a mismatched or potentially unhappy romance shouldn’t have to be a cause for regret. After all, fiction would be very dull if every character made the right choices and loved the right people. In fact, many authors gleefully torture their characters for their bad decisions, or just for plain fun (I’m looking at you, George R. R. Martin). Making bad things happen to your characters is necessary to advance an interesting story, no matter how painful writing those things might be for the author. And they can make for a deliciously addictive tale (I’m still looking at you, George R. R. Martin).

But I like how, despite that, J. K. Rowling still wants the best for her characters. She admitted that Ron probably wouldn’t be able to make Hermione happy. I don’t think that’s the credibility issue she says it is (people wind up in mismatched, unhappy pairings all the time in real life) but I do think it’s refreshing that she seems to care about whether her characters will wind up happy.

It reminds me of Stranger Than Fiction, the movie in which an author’s fictional creation fights to defend himself from the author’s plans to kill him at the end of her novel. More recently, Cabin in the Woods seemed to be Joss Whedon telling horror-movie creators, “How would you feel if the horrible things you did to your characters happened to you?” Both movies imply, at least a little, that some creators are getting tired of stories that treat characters like props to make The Author’s Big Point, or objects that exist to titillate.

Why is this important? Because audiences do want to engage with characters as if they were real. And when creators dehumanize characters, that attitude gets carried away from the theater or reading chair, and contributes to the dehumanization of people in real life. The more callous we become about the unhappiness inflicted on characters, the more callous we become about real people’s unhappiness.

Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for caring so much about your characters, even when it lets down a few fans. Treating characters like real people can introduce some much-needed positivity into a pretty nihilistic arts landscape.

Hannah Sternberg is a writer and cocktail conquistador operating out of Washington, DC. Her second novel, Bulfinch, is now available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats. Relieve your itchy fingers and click here to buy it now.

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Top Rated Comments   
"I Love that J. K. Rowling Wants to Break Up Ron and Hermione"

Not surprising, women do initiate 3/4ths of all divorces.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I Love that J. K. Rowling Wants to Break Up Ron and Hermione"

Miss Sternberg, adulthood called, and it wants you to join it. However, you'll have to learn to speak like an adult, first.

37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's always time for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Alimony.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (29)
All Comments   (29)
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I could see Harry and Ginny coming to the realization separately that they fancy Hermione and Ron, respectively, and vice versa. There would be tension until each person discovered happily that the others felt exactly the same. Voila, partner swap and a happy ending!
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Uh, Steve, you DO know that Ginny and Ron are siblings, right?
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you write very much, you know that your characters can get away from you. I think that's probably what happened with Ms. Rowling -- Hermione got away from her, and -- possibly -- Rowling also matured a little and could see a different road for her than being a housewife with red-headed babies.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another dumb column. I guess it escapes JK Rowling (who never knows when to shut up) and Hannah why people need, want, and desire happy endings...that last! People need to know that it's possible, and it is often probable or else why bother with life.

Historically speaking it's the happy ending stories that last through the generations.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Matalin and Carville can make it, so can Hermione and Ron.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm with you, Ms. Sternberg. I was always rooting for Harry and Hermione to get together - they were the team, they left Ron far behind, and that's where I saw all the chemistry. All I could think when I realized it really was going to be Ron and Hermione was, divorced by 25 and Ron becomes a drunk and runs off with Lavender "Won-Won" Brown.

Besides, it's a terrible message for girls - yeah, you can be the co-hero, you can be so close to a guy that you can complete each other's sentences, the pair of you are the ones who defeat the bad guy because he couldn't have done it without you, but no, he still turns you down for the cardboard secondary character pretty popular girl, and you get stuck with the dumb lout.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
As for the main subject of this post, i have wondered about what Hermione finds in Ron; but perhaps my image of Ron is skewed by his depiction in the movies as a likeable bumbler.

In any case, having Harry pair up with Hermione seems just too cliché.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
To be honest, I always figured that Ron was going to be snuffed out in the last book. His most redeeming feature being that of "taking one for the team."
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is no way of saying this without sounding like an intellectual snob, so I won't try. Just read this comment for its intrinsic merits, independently of me, OK?

If you think that George RR Martin makes his characters suffer for reasons independent of their bad decisions and risk taking, then you are in urgent need of reading Machiavelli to understand the real world. If you read Machiavelli and still don't get it, then try reading the Sagas of Icelanders. If that still doesn't do it for you, then it's probably hopeless, but you might try reading Sun Tzu, Thucydides, or Tacitus.

That doesn't mean that nobody enjoys Martin's work for the cheap thrills, of course: it's just that there are some of us who are addicted to it, not for the gore, but for the Machiavellian logic.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
What bad decision did Jeyne Poole make at the age of 11 to accompany the Starks to King's Landing where she was then sent to Winterfell by age 13.5 as a fake Arya and which culminated in her rape and molestation on her forced wedding night by Theon as her new husband, (who subsequently regularly beat her) watched?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good point. Jeyne suffered because of Eddard's and Sansa's bad decisions, but also other people's bad and/or selfish decisions.
What I should have written is: all the suffering in the series is a result of bad decisions, by people who are in a position to make decisions; the ruling class, if you wish.
Other examples include the soldiers killed at the Red Wedding, or the people killed by the dragons in the last book. Note that the people making the bad decisions, usually pay for them.

When I wrote my comment, I had in mind the point-of-view characters: those whose decision process we are following from the inside, as it were. Not all of them have power over other people, but all have some power over themselves.

NB: Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Thukydides, and Tacitus are concerned primarily with decisions made by the ruling class.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, by the time that Ron and Hermione hook up I've already had to suspend my disbelief in a major plot issue. That being a supposedly powerful, evil, and patient (many years spent plotting his rise to power) man with no compunction against torturing and killing people, including new born babes would essentially avoid attacking the one person that was the cause of his loss of power.

Voldemort might have been afraid of directly harming, but he could have bided his time until he could have one of his followers slay an 11 or 12 year old boy. Or, he could have just used the Imperio curse (he was apparently very strong at dominating minds) and had another 12 year old boy shove Harry off the schools roof. Whatever.

Next to that glaring piece of plot inadequacy, what difference does it make if Ron and Hermione were or weren't likely to hook up?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I Love that J. K. Rowling Wants to Break Up Ron and Hermione"

Not surprising, women do initiate 3/4ths of all divorces.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
As usual in Hollywood, the writers of the movie screenplays distorted the story told in the original books--in which Ron was braver and more capable than in the movies.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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