For those of you that don’t know, Ginny is one of the leading female characters in JK Rowling’s phenomenally successful Harry Potter series. Set at a secret magical boarding school, the plot revolves around a group of plucky kids coming together to defeat Wizard Hitler – and Ginny happens to be one of those kids. As everyone and their mother probably knows by now, the books were a massive success, spawning a star-studded movie series, legions of fans (all producing fan art, fanfiction and fan theories) and some of the best audiobooks known to man. Ginny herself was a reasonably central figure in all of this – although her role was considerably cut down for the movies – and has turned out to be a surprisingly controversial character among some of the fans.
But does she measure up to the hype? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!
NOTE: Just so we’re clear, I will be basing my analysis on the book version of Ginny, because the film version is a bit rubbish.
- Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?
Most of the time, Ginny is a character that has a reasonable amount of control over her own destiny. In the earlier books, she’s a little constrained, because being so much younger she still has to rely on other people to take care of her most of the time. However, as the series progresses, she becomes much more independent. She gets much more control over what she does, who she sees and where she goes as she gets older, despite the fact that most of the restrictions placed upon her are still in place. Whether she’s defying her parents to go and fight against Voldemort, or sneaking around school trying to annoy Professor Umbridge, she’s still taking matters into her own hands and trying to improve her own life. I’ll give her the point.
SCORE SO FAR: 1
- Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?
Ginny’s hobbies are pretty well-established – she enjoys Quidditch, pulling a few pranks and spending time with animals. Her beliefs are pretty strong too: she believes people should stand up for their friends, has a rather lax attitude to parental restrictions, and seems to have a particular dislike for people acting like hypocrites. Her goals are also well-defined – most of the time she just wants to help Harry, Ron and Hermione on their various quests, but she also wants to pursue a career in Quidditch and bring down Voldemort. She’s firing on all three cylinders, so she passes this round with flying colours.
SCORE SO FAR: 2
- Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?
For the most part, her personality is pretty consistent. She’s independent, forceful, stubborn, determined, sporty, tough, brave, funny, kind and has a little bit of a temper – although at the start of the series she’s a lot more shy around Harry. Her skills are pretty consistent, too – over the course of the series we see her become an accomplished dueller and Quidditch player, once she has a little time to find her feet.
SCORE SO FAR: 3
- Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?
A brave, determined, stubborn young witch must help her friends to bring down the most evil wizard of all time.
SCORE SO FAR: 4
- Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?
Ginny’s love life is a pretty constant feature of the series. When she first meets Harry, she gets a HUGE crush on him, and this is played as a running joke in the background of the first few books. As the series goes on, she starts dating other people – but again, this is mostly in the background until the sixth and seventh books, when she finally starts dating Harry.
This has led to a few fan complaints that Ginny was only included in the books to be Harry’s love interest. While that may be true, there’s no denying the fact that ‘love interest’ is not her only function in the story. She makes plenty of decisions that aren’t affected by her love life at all – whether that’s trying out for the Quidditch team, joining (and later re-starting) Dumbledore’s Army, trying to steal and smuggle out the Sword of Gryffindor to Harry, Ron and Hermione or fighting alongside her friends and family in the Battle of Hogwarts. Her love life is a pretty large part of her character, but it’s not the only part, and she’s shown more than once that she’s capable of prioritising other things over her romantic entanglements. I’ll give her the point.
SCORE SO FAR: 5
- Does she develop over the course of the story?
Ginny actually undergoes quite a bit of character development in the Harry Potter series. She starts off as a very shy little girl who’s a little bit afraid of stepping out of line, but as she gets older she learns to relax when she’s nervous, becomes more confident and learns when (and how) to break the rules and get away with it.
SCORE SO FAR: 6
- Does she have a weakness?
Ginny doesn’t really have that much of a weakness. She’s got a bit of a temper, which often leads her to hex people who annoy her, but this doesn’t actually have many consequences for her. Her sporadically cursing people isn’t treated as something she should stop doing, but rather as a sign of her ‘feisty’ nature, and more often than not people are charmed by her actions rather than frightened. Even her teachers rarely punish her – and the ones who do are often portrayed as ‘evil’ characters in their own right.
This has led some to criticise Ginny for being a Mary Sue – a character who is so perfect that they never have to work for anything, never have any flaws, and everyone loves them. I’ve talked about Sues before, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, but if you’re interested in the term I strongly encourage you to do some research of your own. However, I’m not really sure if this criticism can be applied to Ginny. True, she doesn’t have many flaws, and a lot of guys fancy her, but she isn’t given an easy ride the way most Sues are and does get a chance to grow and develop. I don’t think she’s a Sue, but I am going to withhold the point this round.
SCORE SO FAR: 6
- Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?
Ginny is a real influence on the plot. She fights alongside our Golden Trio, she works against the villains in her own way, and she helps the good guys on their quest to defeat Voldemort. It’s true that she does a lot more in later books than she does at the beginning of the series, but even then she’s still a figure that advances the plot.
SCORE SO FAR: 7
- How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?
Gender stereotypes certainly influence Ginny’s character, but they don’t dictate it. It’s easy to see where stereotypes have influenced her development – she’s a redhead with a hot temper, she’s a girl who was so painfully shy she made a fool of herself whenever she was around her crush, she’s a ‘tomboy’ character who picked up her interests because she grew up with six brothers. These are all traits which are pretty common stereotypes, but they don’t dominate her personality.
The same can be said of her role as Harry’s love interest. It’s easy to make the argument that she was introduced so early on in the series as Harry’s future wife, as we hear such a lot about her when it’s not strictly relevant to the plot. People have already made the argument that JK Rowling only introduced her character to give Harry a happy ending, and while that may well be true – I don’t know, I haven’t asked JKR – that doesn’t necessarily mean that is the extent of her character. If you took Ginny out of the Harry Potter series, the plot wouldn’t be the same without her, and the same cannot be said of most typical love interests.
Long story short, the stereotypes are certainly there, but I don’t think they completely ruin her character in the process. I’ll give her half a point.
SCORE SO FAR: 7.5
- How does she relate to other female characters?
Ginny has loads of different relationships with other female characters. She’s a little exasperated by, but ultimately loves, her mother. She stands up for and becomes friends with Luna Lovegood. She’s best friends with Hermione Granger, who she confides in, sticks up for, and asks for advice, even though the two girls are actually very different people. She doesn’t like Fleur Delacour at first, but eventually warms up to her when she realises she isn’t as shallow as she thought. She’s a little jealous of Cho Chang, she hates Professor Umbridge, she respects Professor McGonagall, and she actively works to bring down Bellatrix Lestrange. That’s a range of relationships which develop in their own ways, all with a range of different characters, so I’ll give her the point.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10
Ginny is a well-rounded character who takes control of her own life throughout the series, has her own hobbies, goals and beliefs, isn’t completely ruled by her love life and has a range of different relationships with a range of different female characters. She doesn’t have any weaknesses and she’s mildly influenced by gender stereotypes, but that hasn’t stopped her from passing my test!
Next week, I’ll be looking at a new favourite of mine. Liz Lemon, I’m coming for you.
And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here.