The Oh-So-Unstable Triumvirate

August 30, 2010

Three is an awkward number for a friendship in any situation and Harry Ron and Hermione demonstrate that in nearly every chapter of the Harry Potter books.  Its two against one for large swathes of each of the seven.

Oh No!  Not the hospital wing again!

In the earliest books its often due to extenuating circumstances:

  • as when Ron can’t come send Norbert on his way because he’s recovering from a dragon bite and then likewise missed out on the resultant detention in the Forbidden forest;
  • or when Hermione is petrified during Chamber of Secrets (having just solved the mystery) and Ron and Harry have to figure out what she knew and go into the chamber after Ginny without her;
  • or when Ron’s leg is broken in Prisoner of Azkaban and so Hermione leaves him in the hospital wing and takes Harry back with her time turner to save Buckbeak and Sirius.

The three of them (as well as a lot of other students) seem spend an alarming amount of time incapacitated in hospital wing.  Some of this is due to the special dangers of tangling with Lord Voldemort but even so I would think that parents would be a bit more concerned about all these injuries resulting in big chunks of missed classes.  Guess not.

Not speaking to you.

“Can you hear someone talking,” growled Ron, not looking at Hermione.

As the trio ages and their friendships become more complicated, the causes of their mini breakups tend more toward emotional misunderstanding:

  • Harry and Ron decide Hermione is a loyalty-free narc in Prisoner of Azkaban when she tells Professor McGonagall about the illicit broomstick and shun her for months;
  • or when Harry and Hermione work without Ron up until the First Task because he refuses to believe that Harry didn’t put his own name in the Goblet of Fire as some sort of grand standing gesture;
  • Harry rejects Hermione and Ron in the Order of the Phoenix because they are under instructions to keep him out of the loop for the summer and he’s suffering under the crushing dual burden of teenaged angst and sharing his thoughts with Lord Voldemort.

I’m really not speaking to you now.

This pattern of falling out really kicks off in Prisoner of Azkaban.  Ron and Hermione are bickering almost from the first page and she kicks off the term by keeping a rather large secret (the time turner) from the other two.  Ron spend the first half of the book angry at Hermione for (basically) having gotten a cat and by Chapter 11 the three of them have completely fallen out over the Firebolt.  Harry seems ready to forgive her when he gets his broom back but then the disappearance of Scabbers in the next chapter precipitates what “looked like the end of Ron and Hermione’s friendship.  He’s angry and she’s furious right back.  Hagrid’s talking to (“I thought you two’d value your friend more’n broomsticks or rats”) does pretty much nothing to bring them around although the death sentence for Buckbeak finally breaks the tension by the end of Chapter 14.  I’d like to point out that Hermione doesn’t give so much as an ‘I told you so’ when Scabbers does turn up again.

It takes two.  Sometimes.

But they pair up even when they’re not fighting.  Each of them gets different things out of their friendships with the others.

Harry and Ron bond over traditional guy stuff – broom sticks and illicit Hogsmead trips.  They don’t do their classwork together. Ron functions throughout the books as in id sort of character – he reacts with his instints.  He screams when he sees spiders, doesn’t want to his homework, and initially believes the bad things he’s heard about werewolves and giants.  It can make him seem prejudiced but the flip side of that instinct is his deep loyalty to his friends and family.  He does what it takes and (usually) backs Harry to the hilt.

Harry and Hermione tend to team up for intellectual exercises (learning new skills for the Triwizard tournament or devising subversive clubs to undermine Umbridge) and to work out emotional issues.  Hermione is the observant one who helps Harry work out his feelings for Cho during Order of the Phoenix, later she turns to him for solace when Ron pairs off with Lavender in Half Blood Prince.   If Ron represents the id then Hermione is the ego; she’s rational, she’s observant and uses her observations to control the situation – more often than not she’s guiding the other two in the right direction.

Then there’s Ron and Hermione – they have a relationship as Harry’s-two-friends and then they also have a relationship with each other.  Although its less clear in the early days the two of them are Harry Potter’s backup singers from the first and that role comes with its own special strains.  As he journeys toward becoming “the Chosen One”, the two of them fall back on each other to pull through emotionally.  The other relationship … isn’t really in play much at this point in the books so I’ll leave it till later.

Since I’ve suggested this much I guess I’ll go ahead and say Harry represents the super-ego in the trio.  He certainly has the self-abnegation-for-the-greater-good thing down pat.  But this really just occurred to me.  Has anyone thought this before?  What do you think?  Comments?

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