In order to prepare for our event “Bad Ass Women in Literature,” the Iris staff has been doing some brainstorming about fictional women who are, well, badass. Obviously, this topic is hugely contentious, and I admit that the English major in me fluttered with both excitement and anxiety at the thought of trying to pick just one-do I go with a classic (Lizzy Bennet, don’t worry, you are the original badass!) or do I go with something a little more true to my time, a modern woman with just as much spirit?
In the end, I think I found a female character that stays true to both. The series to which she belongs is undoubtedly one of the most famous of our time, leaving little question that it will outlast its author’s lifespan and maintain a legacy as the forerunner of supernatural literature. She is also a member of the contemporary times—a figure that young and old women alike look to with admiration and respect, however fantastical or imaginative her story may be.
My selection for this piece is a tribute to my early-2000s self: Hermione Granger-badass witch and the witty persona that rounds out J.K. Rowling’s trio of young wizards in her renowned series, Harry Potter. Being born in the early 90’s, I was slightly behind Harry and his two faithful friends as he worked his way through the trials and tribulations of an unconventional Hogwarts education, not to mention a wizarding world at a war that he was the center of. As I read and grew up with Hermione, I found myself wanting to be more like her-top of her class, thorough in her inspection of characters who are both good and evil, adept at both potions and charms. To me, she had it all. But what is more than that was her ability to recognize what she does not have and to appreciate those qualities in others. In the final chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, she praises Harry for his friendship and bravery, recognizing the difference between her own “book smarts” and his heroic qualities. We could all stand to learn something from this—she does not see things here as better or worse, but just different. Hermione often comes with these gems of wisdom at moments when Harry and Ron are unable to see the point in continuing the harrowing journey to defeat Lord Voldemort—she is the glue that holds the threesome together, unwavering and sure.
Hermione blossomed from a classic type-A know-it-all to faithful friend and intelligent young woman through the course of the seven novels. Tracing the evolution of her character, we find that her true charisma is not only in her ability to distinguish between right and wrong, but also to understand the necessity of mistakes. She is certainly not always perfect, but she weathers the storm alongside Harry and Ron, prepares them for danger, and uses her expansive knowledge of the wizarding lore (despite being born in the “Muggle” world) to rescue them time and again. With all of the opportunities she has to leave, she stays. This is what makes her a badass woman—unafraid, strong, and intelligent. Someone whose magic we can all understand.
By Addie Bender
Image courtesy of Warner Bros.