In order to speculate on and understand this character, we must begin, as in all things, at the beginning. The fecund Weasley family have more than enough children to run the whole gamut of human emotions and personalities; why bother even to create this last-born enigma and to make her a girl if there were not some valid reason for her existence? These books are Harry’s tale and ergo this character must have some role to play opposite him in the plot.
Having created Ginny, Rowling then goes to the trouble of bringing her to King’s Cross and deliberately—perhaps tantalisingly—showing the reader a glimpse of her. That most poignant and evocative pseudo lover’s scene on the platform where the little red-haired girl runs after the train (PS6) is perhaps the most telling foreshadowing for the fate of this character. Stations have often served as trysting places, as in Brief Encounter, and there are echoes perhaps of Rowling’s own parents too. These books are in part a rite of passage for Harry Potter and also in part murder mystery. In the style of the classics of that genre, we are perhaps here being shown our important protagonists at the start of their journey both physically and metaphorically.
Then what? A more skillful and effective smoke screening of this character could scarcely have been achieved. Rowling could easily allow Ginny, who is close in age to the trio, to simply join them and let them play Julian, Dick, George, and Anne at Kirrin Cottage (alias the Burrow), but she does not submit to this well-worn path. Perhaps this would lead us to jump to conclusions too early in the game. Instead, Ginny is not included nor yet left to languish. Instead our eyes are deliberately led away from her. In fact, we know that Rowling despises this Blytonesque endless summer holiday world where youngest Anne served copious Ginger Beer and was only ever complimented on her wifely attributes. It would be unlikely that she would doom one of her own characters to domestic compliancy and servitude, although this is often the role that fan fiction in particular confers upon Ginny. Could this lemming-like rush to cast her as the empty vessel for a minor character’s seed serve as testament to how efficiently our eyes are being diverted from the true character and her role?
Throughout the early books, all the adjectives refer to her as small (PS6, CS3, CS17, GF5) and little (CS17, PA1, OP35), despite the fact that the rest of the Weasleys appear to be of normal size. In fact, this is a way of allowing her to appear younger than she really is, add to this Molly’s over-protectiveness of her last-born baby, and Ginny is effectively shunted to the sidelines behind Hermione’s apparently stronger character. The crush makes the unwary assume that she is gentle and sweet and pines over Harry; this is despite the fact that it is normal behaviour for a young girl. (We know that Hermione (CS6) and even Molly (CS3, CS4) are susceptible to the dubious charms of Gilderoy Lockhart.) That embarrassing fascination effectively and conveniently sidelines Ginny, makes her blush, and takes away her powers of conversation. How convenient this is, in a way, as it alters the reader’s perception of this character. Had we seen her taking an active role, with her true personality, then even the blind would have made the leap of faith and realised her significance.
Ginny is at one point possessed by Voldemort and then rescued by Harry, but we are never allowed to consider the consequences of this action. Even though she must now share a life-saving bond with the hero as well as a brush with the Dark Lord, this bond is never referred to except obliquely and out of context, by Dumbledore in The Prisoner of Azkaban when considering Peter Pettigrew’s escape.
The clues to the real Ginny are all there in books one to four if we choose to read the signs aright. Ron refers to her as normally talkative (CS3); she pushes him away when he tries to comfort her after the Chamber; she expresses gleeful mischief on spilling the beans on Percy’s assignation with Penelope (CS18); she suppresses a smile when she comforts her brother after his refusal by Fleur Delacour (GF22). All of these reveal brief glimpses of the real Ginny. She has six big brothers to contend with; therefore she will have learned defences. Also, she is friend and confidante to cool and clever Hermione (GF22). Therefore she will be intelligent and certainly no fan girl. In Flourish and Blotts, for example, she stands up to Draco Malfoy (CS4). Most of all, she is a Weasley and a Gryffindor; therefore she will be brave, kind, and fun. All this is subtext, though, and for four books Rowling is content to allow Ginnyto hide in the wings behind a veneer of docile shyness.
We see Ginny at the start, then we are subsequently deliberately misled as to her personality and attitude with Harry. With Cho, Parvati, Hermione, and now Luna, Rowling is happy to show them as they really are and to allow Harry to react to them. However, we are constantly diverted away from Ginny and Harry is never given leisure to consider her as there is always something else going on.
In fact, Ginny shares more with Harry than any other character. They have a close shave with death and an escape from Voldemort in common, but perhaps more importantly they have both shared the Dark Lord’s thoughts; Ginny exchanged confidences though the diary and in his words he poured himself back into her, while Harry has his scar connection leading him to appear to think with Voldemort’s mind. In addition to being able to quell the worst excesses of Harry’s black moods in Order of the Phoenix, Ginny is able to jump in quickly and take the words out of Harry’s mouth. This level of perception is a true lover’s trick and as they have both unwontedly shared Voldemort’s innermost thoughts, could it perhaps also point to Legilimency at some later stage?
In Order of the Phoenix, to the shock of the shallow reader, Ginny literally bursts upon the scene with a mane of red hair. Although referred to as the youngest, the ‘small’ tag is fading and she is revealed in her true colours with a lively, sharp-witted personality, both Quidditch-loving and talented at Defence against the Dark Arts, with a unique ability to silence an angry Harry. However, we are now led to believe that she has ‘given up on Harry’ (OP16) and that she is playing the field. Other concerns occupy Harry including a brief disastrous love affair, new characters are introduced upon the scene, and multiple love triangles are mooted. Neville loves Ginny loves Dean, Harry loves Luna who loves Ron, Ron loves Hermione loves Krum; there is much scope for relationship intrigue in book six to keep the reader guessing. Carefully, again, we are never allowed to see Harry thinking of Ginny or considering her. We are encouraged also to believe in several statements that Ginny is a glib liar…but what lies beneath?
In Order of the Phoenix, our hero spends much of his time in Hermione’s company, that’s true. However, this we are allowed to see as there is no ulterior motive involved. There is no attempt at concealment and qualification, as they are and always will remain best friends. Hermione shows that she is able to offer impartial advice and the pair can work as a team, but their personalities do not match and at times Hermione is unable to manage Harry’s angst. There is much talk in fandom about romance for Harry and pairings, and indeed in many cases couplings, abound. At this stage, though, it might be more appropriate to pull the names from a hat; these are teenage years and Rowling is maying a convoluted trail.
Bear in mind if you will that what we are seeing here is what J.K. Rowling wants us to see and almost certainly, we will not see what is significant until the dying breaths of the series. She is very good at red herrings so we need to look at what is not on the surface very carefully. In fact, we must look at what she skilfully leads our eyes away from. We must also realise that there is really only one pairing that counts and that is Harry’s; the books are his tale so in essence all else is superfluous.
J.K. actively promoted Cho but it seems that she is merely a stalking horse. It is hard to believe that anyone could think that she would have been anymore than a blind alley. It allows for light relief and establishes that Harry is growing up and has feelings for girls, but no more. Cho is patently unsuitable, although she does allow Harry to view the impact of Cedric’s death through someone else’s eyes, and allows JKR to exploit Harry’s teenage insecurities.
Luna is new on the scene and her contribution is not yet obvious, unless it is to have a crush on Ron and to provide comic relief, but bear in mind that these are Harry’s books and she must have a role to play opposite him. We are allowed to see the two of them together and allowed to see Harry gaining relief and comfort from conversation with her because again it is not crucial to the plot.
The real important area I can only reiterate is the one in which we are not allowed trespass.
Book six will show more on the partnership front, certainly, as the age of the characters calls for it, but in the final analysis there is only one connection that matters and that may be the crux of the whole plot.
Saint or sinner, saviour or betrayer, damned or redeemed, Ginny was created for a reason and has a pivotal role to play.