January 21, 2014

WEISMAN | What Hermione Granger Taught Me

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By SAMANTHA WEISMAN

When I was in kindergarten, my grandma got me one of the most life-changing presents I have ever received: a newly published copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. My dad read the book aloud to me every night before bed, but made sure to skip the scary parts he thought would give me nightmares. After he tucked me in and turned out the light, I would make sure to go back and read the parts that he had skipped. This column can also serve as a thank you to J.K. Rowling for teaching me how to read.

When I was in the third grade, the first Harry Potter film was released in theaters. My dad even took me out of school early to get in line — don’t worry, we made it there before the rush. The next day, my elementary school librarian said something to me that has stuck with me ever since: “I saw the movie last night. It’s funny, I always thought Hermione would be a little more like you.”

If you don’t know who Hermione is, stop reading this, and go read Harry Potter. She initially comes off as an annoying know-it-all, only to ultimately become Harry and Ron Weasley’s best friend after they save her from a mountain troll. It’s kind of like when you become friends with someone after taking care of them after a rough O-Week night — there are some things you just can’t share without becoming friends.

At eight years old, I did not take this comparison to Hermione as a compliment. For years, I agonized over her comment, assuming I was also an annoying know-it-all with no friends. I overanalyzed and changed how I dressed, acted and spoke to people, trying to distance myself from my wizardly-yet-obnoxious counterpart. However, as I got older and read the rest of the Harry Potter series, I thought maybe I should have taken my librarian’s comment as a compliment.

While she may be slightly neurotic, Hermione is a feminist, cares about the rights of those less fortunate (the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare, anyone?) and is a loyal friend. Her logic and intelligence save the day time and time again, and although she appears pushy at times, Hermione is always as genuine and passionate as she can be. Had I felt this way about Hermione when I was eight, I would have been proud to have been compared to her.

Our own interpretations of what others say is more important than what they mean when saying it. Since I interpreted my librarian’s words as an insult, I spent years scrutinizing her words and contemplating how I could change: Hermione never would have done that. She never would have let what someone else said about her affect her happiness or well-being! So in an effort to be more like my favorite feminist fictional character, I now choose to take my librarian’s words as a compliment and try to be a better person because of it.

One of Hermione’s qualities that I try to embody is her ability to simultaneously act with unwavering passion and think logically, balancing emotion with cleverness. I hope to channel this ability while writing this column. This semester, I hope to discuss issues I care about — such as media, feminism and life at Cornell — and do so with both relentless passion and shrewd analysis. While one week I may discuss my thoughts about a University decision regarding Greek life or sexual health, another I may write about how last week’s episode of Scandal is a testament to female authority in the workplace — and how to rock a white coat and pumps at the office, specifically the Oval Office. I am extremely excited to begin this adventure, and I hope you, dear readers, will join me on this magical journey!

Samantha Weisman is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She may be reached at sweisman@cornellsun.com. A Weisman Once Said appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.