I’ll admit from the start, I’m not one for the “shipping” debates (which student should date which). Nevertheless, there is some importance to the whole dating scene, not least the fact that Rowling’s a big fan of Austen’s novels, so romance will undoubtedly play a part.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the shipping debates, there are a few different camps, and the debate can get really heated. There’s Harry/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, Harry/Luna, Ron/Luna. I know there are others, but those are the main camps. Of course, HBP answered many of these questions: Harry/Ginny became a reality, and Ron/Hermione is just about as close to reality as you can imagine. No surprises here, really: there were hints and foreshadowings all along, and the Ron/Hermione pairing (even if it never comes to perfect fruition in the series) is an alchemical necessity (alchemy series still pending, stay tuned).
But who is Ginny? We’ve been told relatively little about this character, which is strange because she ends up being the hero’s girlfriend. In short, we’re introduced to her as a whiny little girl who has an infatuation with Harry and gets tricked by a magic diary into almost killing people. Not good so far. As she grows up, she becomes good at Quidditch and at snogging. She moves through boyfriend after boyfriend, and it turns out in all of it she was still holding out hopes for Harry. What do we make of this? We’ve been given pretty much zero dialogue between Harry and Ginny, especially after their relationship begins. In short, it’s easy to see why some people favor Hermione as the right partner for our hero – we know her (the good and bad), and we love her. Ginny’s sort of a mystery with an attitude.
But I like Ginny, and not just ’cause Harry likes her. I’ll agree from the start with the complaints that we’ve just not been shown enough of Ginny. In some ways, it almost feels like we’re supposed to like her because she’s “hot” or something. It’s quite odd that Rowling has not given us a better picture of this character, and we hope she’ll turn out to be something really special in Book 7.
Nevertheless, I like her, and I know why Harry likes her. We’ll take most of this from a “literary criticism” standpoint to try to figure out why Ginny is necessary.
Ginny is Harry’s anima. Quick (and inadequate) summary: anima refers to feminine traits, and animus, masculine. The two must meet and be drawn to each other, becoming more like one another (meeting somewhere in the middle). It’s where all that “getting in touch with your feminine side” talk comes from, guys. It’s the whole “opposites attract” thing, and to be “whole” (or whatever), the two need to influence each other. Let’s put this together using Harry and Ginny.
The Anima and the Mother
If I recall my archetypes properly, the animus’s (Harry’s) anima (Ginny) often carries characteristics quite similar to a Good Mother figure; we’ve all heard it said that guys are often initially attracted to women who remind them of their mothers, and women, the same with guys who are like their fathers. In Harry’s case, his initial mother figure is Petunia, an obviously bad mother. Mrs. Weasley, on the other hand, is a good and positive Mother, and Ginny, at one point in HBP, gives a look almost identical to Mrs. Weasley. In fact, you can’t really get more like the Mother figure than her own daughter! So if Mrs. Weasley represents the caring, nurturing mother for Harry, Ginny is an obvious attraction for him.
We know precious little about Ginny, but we know she’s fiery. Harry needs that. For the first 11 years of his life, he wasn’t much allowed to be himself at all. He’s still having trouble asking questions, because he was told from day one: “Don’t ask questions!” He needs someone with attitude, who is certain of herself, to bring him out of his shell even more.
Then there’s the snogging. We know Harry is…well, timid around girls. The whole Cho debacle was a mystifying experience for Harry. With Ginny, there’s no tip-toeing around, no having to guess at what Ginny is feeling. She’ll tell you, and she might punch you if she’s angry. And she obviously has no problem showing affection and expressing her desires – Harry certainly got his chance to practice his “snogging” technique with Ginny as a girlfriend. (Of course, as Ginny’s animus, Ginny needs Harry to pull her to a more balanced way of thinking as well).
Ginny, the Anti-Susan
But I’ve been thinking lately that there might be one more way of looking at Ginny that might help us understand who she is a bit better. In an interview shortly after the release of Half-Blood Prince, she repeats an old line of complaint against C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series:
“There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes interested in lipstick. She’s become irreligious basically because she found sex,” Rowling says. “I have a big problem with that.”
While I think this is an unfortunate reading of Lewis, if Rowling buys it, it might make a lot of sense for her to create Ginny the way she has. Ginny has certainly “found sex,” and she’s teaching it to Harry, our inhibited hero (I don’t mean to suggest that they’ve slept together at all. Rowling has stayed far clear of that, and I’m happy she has). In fact, while the Pevensies are four (Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter), the Hogwarts heros are three (Harry, Ron, Hermione) except for a short spell (haha) in Book 6. Making Ginny the fourth might be her way of saying, in subtle fashion, “Susan should have been included.”
So, for what it’s worth, there’s my short contribution to the ‘shipping wars. Harry/Ginny makes sense for literary reasons. I do hope that we learn more about Ginny in Book 7. It’ll be difficult to fit it in, with so much to reveal about Snape, Dumbledore, Neville, James and Lily. I fear we’ll end up short-changed on Ginny again. But even some sort of brave contribution to the war would be helpful. Perhaps if there’s an attack at the Bill-Fluer wedding?