Harry Potter and the Order of Archetypes: Ginny Weasley, the Girl Next Door
In a weekly series, staff writer Katie Majka takes a look at some of our favorite witches and wizards, and how they fit into literary and social archetypes.
With the end of the Harry Potter series nearly ten years behind us, I think it’s high time that we fans admit something: We all had a crush on Harry Potter. I’m talking to virtually everyone. We were all head-over-heels for that disheveled, brooding little sass master. And Ginny Weasley is the one who bagged him. Ginny Weasley is living every fangirl’s dream, and I for one would like to organize a universal slow-clap in her honor. Not necessarily because she got her man, but because she did it in the best and really only way—by being herself, by shedding her adolescent insecurities and growing into who she’s meant to be beyond a girl with a crush. No shame, no excuses, Ginny is unabashedly herself all the time.
While Ginny doesn’t completely embody this archetype in that the girl next door tends to be more introverted and less obviously passionate—while the Ginny we know grows up to be a fiery and formidable force—she does exemplify the straightforward confidante vibe that the girl next door often has going for her. This character trope is “easy to talk to… But they also tend to be frank about how they see things and expect the same in return.”
This characteristic is especially predominant in Ginny as the series goes on. Perhaps the first and most memorable instance—because it strikes such an emotional chord—occurs in Order of the Phoenix, when Harry fears that Voldemort is possessing him but refuses to talk to his friends about it.
“I didn’t want anyone to talk to me,” said Harry, who was feeling more and more nettled.
“Well, that was a bit stupid of you,” said Ginny angrily, “since you don’t know anyone but me who’s been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels.”
Harry remained quite still as the impact of these words hit him. Then he turned on the spot to face her.
“I forgot,” he said.
“Lucky you,” said Ginny coolly.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said, and he meant it. “So… so do you think I’m being possessed, then?”
“Well, can you remember everything you’ve been doing? Ginny asked. “Are there big blank periods where you don’t know what you’ve been up to?”
Harry racked his brains.
“No,” he said.
“Then You-Know-Who hasn’t ever possessed you,” said Ginny simply. “When he did it to me, I couldn’t remember what I’d been doing for hours at a time. I’d find myself somewhere and not remember how I got there.”
The reader, like Harry, is bluntly reminded that Ginny has survived a trauma much like Harry’s own: Voldemort has tried to use her in his quest for immortality, and she managed to ditch death’s doorstep and thwart his climb to power in one fell swoop. It’s clear that her past relationship with the memory that was Tom Riddle has lingering effects, and she’s not afraid to point that out; she has nothing to be ashamed of, and she uses her own traumas to help someone who fears that he’s facing the same.
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Perhaps this brazenness (which, let’s face it, is usually frowned upon in women, as we’re meant to be timid) is at least partly why the girl next door is likened to “one of the boys.” Ginny retains her femininity whilst proving herself to be just as clever and capable as the brothers who came before her. She keeps her Quidditch skills under wraps for years before showing off on the pitch, she has a mean Bat-Bogey Hex, a sharp sense of humor, and a taste for mischief. She proves this in OOTP as well, when she nudges Harry—who wants to contact Sirius under Umbridge’s regime—in the right direction when she famously states, “The thing about growing up with Fred and George, is that you sort of start anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”
This easygoing nature of Ginny’s exemplifies another of her archetypal traits in regards to the hero. The girl next door is one who the hero tends to “like without feeling intimidated,” which turns out to be a significant point in Harry’s love life. One of the differences between his respective relationships with Ginny and Cho Chang is Harry’s comfort level. While his fumbling nervousness with Cho is in part due to the fact that she’s his first crush, Harry’s relationship with Ginny is natural and often helps to put him at ease.
J.K. Rowling was sure to point this out within the narrative as well, a fact she further explained off the page: “One of the ways in which I tried to show that Harry has done a lot of growing up—in Phoenix, remember when Cho comes into the compartment, and he thinks, ‘I wish I could have been discovered sitting with better people,’ basically? He’s with Luna and Neville. So literally the identical thing happens in Prince, and he’s with Luna and Neville again, but this time, he has grown up, and as far as he’s concerned he is with two of the coolest people on the train…. And I feel that Ginny and Harry, in this book, they are total equals. They are worthy of each other. They’ve both gone through a big emotional journey, and they’ve really got over a lot of delusions together.”
Ginny has realized that Harry is a person—he’s not just “The Boy Who Lived”; rather, he has gone from her hero to her crush to her friend. While she grows up to take Harry off the pedestal her younger self had put him on, Harry grows to realize that Ginny isn’t just Ron’s sister, she’s not just his friend, but she’s perfect for him in a romantic sense, too.
Often the case with the girl next door is either that the hero has been pining after her since childhood, or he realizes later that, as they’ve grown, he’s developed usually intense feelings for her. She’s always been there, and he finally takes notice of that and realizes that “it’s always been you,” or some 90s teen movie line like that. This was precisely Rowling’s plan while writing the series, as she states, “The plan was […] that the reader, like Harry, would gradually discover Ginny as pretty much the ideal girl for Harry. She’s tough, not in an unpleasant way, but she’s gutsy. He needs to be with someone who can stand the demands of being with Harry Potter…. I think she’s funny, and I think that she’s very warm and compassionate. These are all things that Harry requires in his ideal woman.”
Ginny has gone from a tongue-tied prepubescent sending her crush anonymous valentines, to an outspoken, take-no-prisoners woman who can and will fight her own battles, with or without the hero. When Harry is off searching for Horcruxes, Ginny holds down the fort at Hogwarts to do what Harry had always done before—to fight for justice, and to stand as a symbol of hope that the world they’re fighting for is better than the evil that’s in it.
Absolutely Ginny proves herself beyond the constraints of this archetype, but she also encapsulates the best of the girl next door—her vivaciousness, her no-nonsense attitude, and the way in which she and the hero grow both separately and together. Ginny and Harry both undergo their own self-examinations, they both mature apart from each other, and then they come together when they’re ready for and worthy of each other. They become the best people that they can be, and then they give the best parts of themselves to each other.
While Harry has his own path to follow that takes him away from her, Ginny has faith in him, and she doesn’t twiddle her thumbs and stare wistfully out the window, waiting for him to come back. She takes charge of her own destiny, and fights for a world in which they don’t have to fight anymore. She takes her plucky, charming nerve, and she turns it into the courage she needs to be a hero in her own right. In seven books, Ginny develops her girl next door image and forces it into full view, because Ginny Weasley is not your secondary character, she is not your damsel in distress, and she’s not the hero’s prize—she is his partner, and she is his equal.
Be sure to check out our other Harry Potter and the Order of Archetypes installments.