A Disquisition on the Nature of Love, or, Contra Ron/Hermione

Ron’s face is how I feel about this pairing

See, this is exactly why I love culture-wide book clubs.  I mention Harry Potter in passing, and you all start discussing the proper nature of love, and whether Ron/Hermione or any of the other case studies we’re all quite familiar with from the series, fit the mold.

I said that one of the reasons I hate the Ron/Hermione pairing is that Ron has, at best, apathy and at worst contempt for Hermione’s curiosity and brightness.  I didn’t she, or anyone else, should you marry someone who didn’t care for what she loved to do.  Dan F was surprised by my vehemence and wrote:

When you love someone, everything they do/are/interested in becomes interesting but only through that love. For example, my wife is interested in the show “Say Yes to the Dress”. On my own, I can’t stand it but if she is watching and commenting I can easily get pulled into discussion about various aspects of dress design/fit/cost/family dynamics/etc. and I find myself being interested, just for the moment, in that interest.

…I guess my point is that love, from the most basic form of seeing your opponent as human to the full commitment of marriage, as an act of the will, leads to respect, interest, etc. Those things might come first (before love) but they certainly will follow.

KL also came to Ron’s defense.  When I complained that Ron only valued Hermione’s intelligence instrumentally, but didn’t appreciate intellectual curiosity as an end-in-itself, contemplating the mind of God kinda thing, KL wrote:

[T]here is a difference between appreciating someone else’s values in and of themselves and appreciating them simply because the other person takes delight in them. I think you can be a good partner so long as you have the latter, with the former a nice bonus but not strictly necessary. My fiance doesn’t really understand why ten-part choral arrangements move me to tears, but he appreciates that I am moved and encourages me to go to choral performances. I see Ron’s journey as a gradual coming-to-appreciate Hermione’s values because he cares for her, which I think speaks well of him precisely because he doesn’t share those values affectively. It wouldn’t be as noteworthy if he, too, were naturally intellectual; rather, part of his maturing as a person comes in recognizing and valuing that which is foreign and Other to him.

I think there’s a difference between how the lover should respond to some of the incidental interests of the beloved and how they should respond to their virtues.  It’s perfectly all right if someone setting their cap for me is indifferent to sewing and costuming.  Dan F’s response is entirely appropriate here; you might take pleasure in my pleasure, but it’s not necessary to pick up a bobbin yourself.  You’re still obligated to help me hold something together for a fitting or listen to me burble on with excitement when something comes together, but there’s no need for you to adopt costuming as an enthusiasm.

But it would be a big problem if you were indifferent to creativity broadly.  If you didn’t have any maker enthusiasms of your own and constantly expressed bemusement/frustration with those who did.

A lover can acclimate zerself to almost anything in the beloved, but a good relationship is one that chafes away some of your faults and supports you in your strengths.  If you’re in a relationship where your lover really likes you, but dislikes or is indifferent to the way you develop your virtues (be they cardinal, theological, or rational), then you’re in for trouble.  You end up practising your virtues in secret, feeling slightly ashamed.

I’ve had (non-romantic) relationships of this type, where I was very careful not to be myself, because I knew the voluble, reference-making bits of myself grated on the people I was around.  I’m not really a proponent of authenticity, but the koan from my old debate group (“Be who you are, unless who you are sucks”) doesn’t ever advocate mere suppression of self.  Changing is choosing to be something different and better.

When I was being very careful not to be even more “obnoxious and disliked, it cannot be denied,” I was only pruning, not choosing to develop something new.  I don’t see examples of Ron calling Hermione to higher expression of the virtues she has or pushing her to develop the ones she neglects.  I just see his indifference to and discomfort with her strengths.

 

Updated to add: I do wholeheartedly endorse this scene (not in the books) which didn’t make it into Deathly Hallows

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About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.thewinedarksea.com Melanie B

    I think I understand what you’re getting at. Back when I was dating there were quite a few men who were interested in me who were very nice, stable, Catholic guys. They agreed with me in terms of theological values and family values; but they were not very interesting in the life of the mind. They weren’t anti-intellectual; but neither did they read much for pleasure or get excited by a good discussion or a new idea. I didn’t even give them one date because I knew there was no way I could make a life-long relationship with someone who couldn’t really share my passions. My husband doesn’t have all the same interests as I do. He loves football, I love quilting. He’s a Star Trek geek and a theology geek; I’m a literature geek and a poetry geek. He doesn’t always understand what excites me and vice-versa; but we can talk at length about a great many subjects because we both have a wide-ranging curiosity and we can appreciate each other’s interests.

    I can’t imagine why a girl like Hermione would be interested in Ron because he just doesn’t share her root passion for the world of ideas, the life of the mind. He’s just not geeky enough for her. Even if he had a vastly different area of interest, that would be enough to make it work but lacking that… I don’t know maybe it could be satisfying to him but I doubt she would feel it was enough.

  • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

    I’m not a true Potter scholar and it’s been quite some time since I read the last book so I’m not sure if the Ron/Hermoine relationship fits what I’m about to say.

    I think it’s important to be careful that we don’t mistake discomfort (due to a certain social awkwardness around a pretty girl) for indifference. I think KL’s point on the last thread is good about Ron being awkward in the teen-boy sense of not being able to relate well to Hermoine and being a bit of a ‘pratt’.

    I do agree that you shouldn’t marry someone who isn’t going to help you build up your virtues but I also don’t think you should expect that one person will fit into all of those niches, at least at first. This goes back to my point about my wife and how we met – I was a pratt (to use KL’s term) and basically saw her as someone who would be ‘indifferent’ to how I was developing my virtues (to use Leah’s phrase – not that I would have put it that way or was even thinking systematically enough to think that way). I was wrong and I discovered that I was wrong precisely because we began to fall in love, in spite of the fact that I was kind of a jerk and she *seemed* to be a ditzy blonde. Once I stopped being a jerk and started to see her for who she really was, then I could see her depth.

    Anyway, not sure if that really applies to the Ron/Hermoine soap opera but I’d be careful about initial judgments that someone doesn’t share your passions or would be indifferent.

    • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

      In which case, the Ron/Hermione relationship may have been hampered by the timing of the books, where the action ends when they are 17 (not the most mature age for a boy) and then fast-forwards for a few pages to see them married. We never really got to see Ron mature vis-a-vis Hermione (he did via Harry, see my comment below), and so we are left wondering what exactly Hermione saw in him.

      • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

        I’ve seen this happen in real life too where a friend will marry another friend (or get engaged) and you’re left scratching your head if you haven’t been paying close attention to that relationship.

  • deiseach

    This is why I stay out of shipping wars, mainly because I don’t have preferred pairings in any of my fandoms (though I can be very vehement about forcing pairings such as Holmes/Adler).

    I’m just going to stand waaaay back over there and watch you lot fight this out :-)

    • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com Christian H

      Ditto. I’m usually like, “But the text is…the text. You can’t change it. You can only change how you read it. Why are we talking about this?”

      • deiseach

        Oh, I’m quite prepared to discuss in detail (read: have screaming rows) about interpretations of characters and actions and Uncle Tom Cobley and all in fandom, it’s just that the romance element is not the primary interest for me and so I don’t bother about “But Tom should have ended up with Jill, he’s much more suited for her than Bob!” In general, with regard to that, I’m like you: “The text (or script, or cinema release of the movie) is the text and you can’t change it. The author or showrunners or director intended this character to be dead/married/retire and start a chicken farm, so you just have to accept it.”

        Though I have come to understand how people can get het-up, because way back in one of my fandoms, I finally succumbed to the denial when one character was killed off: it really was “I don’t care, I’m sticking my fingers in my ears and going ‘la-la-la’ because no way So-and-so would kill Whosis, so Whosis isn’t really dead, he’s just taking a long rest” :-)

        • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com Christian H

          Yeah, I maybe represented that a little stronger than I should have. I would be willing to suggest changes to other parts of a text (though I usually prefer fan fictions that embellish, not change). Part of why I don’t get worked up about romance is not that I don’t care about romances in texts, but that feelings of attraction can be so unreasonable, unsuited, and unpredictable in real life that I find suitable pairings to be no more realistic than unsuitable ones in fiction. If my favourite character winds up with a moral reprobate, I’m upset; otherwise, I don’t care who they wind up with, so long as they seemed to want to wind up with that person immediately prior to the pairing.

  • Erick

    =I think there’s a difference between how the lover should respond to some of the incidental interests of the beloved and how they should respond to their virtues.=

    But was Hermione’s curiosity and intellect a virtue?

    I think we should really be careful about classifying Hermione’s being smart as a virtue. She had knowledge, but not necessarily wisdom. She is clearly presented in the beginning of the series to have had so much intellect that she was deficient in other aspects of her life. She was very haughty in the first books. Ron mitigates this tendency in her.

    I think one thing that becomes really clear as the series progresses is how much of an emotional anchor Ron is for both Harry and Hermione. In a way, Ron’s humility and general stupidity “chafes away some of [Hermione's] faults and supports [her] in [her] strengths” as you put it, Leah.

    • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

      But Hermione consistently sought wisdom, even more than Harry himself did.

      One of the most frustrating aspects of the Potter series was how so many people insisted that the characters and relationships were *so realistic!* in exactly the points I found them most unrealistic. Hermione’s attraction to Ron was a prime example. This became more problematic exactly because the Ron-as-emotional-anchor dynamic felt so forced to me. Ron is comic relief, not a bulwark of comfort and safety.

      I figured that Ron “got the girl” because it would have been far too cliche to have Harry and Hermione get together, and Rowling wanted to tweak the conventions as she did in so many other areas. This tweak was less successful – for me, anyway – than some of her others. Ron simply wasn’t developed in such a way that I could believe Hermione falling in love with him.

      That said, I’ll entirely grant that Ron’s awkward attraction-confusion-frustration toward Hermione is entirely believable. She was the second most compelling character in the whole series, after Snape, and as it progressed I couldn’t believe that anyone wouldn’t be in love with Hermione.

      • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

        “I figured that Ron “got the girl” because it would have been far too cliche to have Harry and Hermione get together, and Rowling wanted to tweak the conventions as she did in so many other areas. ”

        Actually, I think Harry didn’t “get the girl” not because of tweaking conventions, but because Ron represented everything Harry wanted — a large, loving, vibrant family (just as Harry represented what Ron wanted — wealth and distinction, an identity other than the kid brother or the sidekick). That’s why the second Ginny appeared, I knew she was destined for Harry, so he could marry into the family he wanted.

        I think Ron’s primary purpose was his relationship with Harry, and that’s why the relationship with Hermione seems tacked on, as if Rowling thought “well, these two are single and they are Harry’s best friends, so pair ‘em up.” If Rowling had spent more time developing a relationship/friendship between Ron and Hermione that did not involve Harry, I think their pairing would have made more sense.

        • KL

          If Rowling had spent more time developing a relationship/friendship between Ron and Hermione that did not involve Harry, I think their pairing would have made more sense.

          A fair criticism, but given that the series is (with a few exceptions here are there in the form of introductory chapters) told entirely from Harry’s point of view, I think that would be difficult to have achieved. We do get hints of Ron and Hermione’s friendship apart from Harry, but only infrequently and generally met with anger from Harry, particular during those tumultuous Order of the Phoenix/Half-Blood Prince years (“You two have been talking about me behind my back!” etc.).

        • jenesaispas

          This is what I’m thinking now too: whether or not Rowling wanted Hermione and Ron together from the off, or she put them together because any other relationship for the two characters had been discussed to death by fans. On the one hand in the first book (the one I’m reading now) Ron and Hermione interact more than Harry and Hermione and looking at knowing what we know it doesn’t seem too bizarre. But they are overwhelmingly different characters.

    • KL

      Agreed. Hermione’s book learning, while often sparked by curiosity, does not (to me) seem to be strictly for its own sake, but as a pragmatic means to an end. After all, Hermione’s not a Ravenclaw, and I think that’s quite relevant! Her ravenous appetite for facts, as we see from the very first time we meet her, always serves a particular purpose. In the first year, she’s compensating for her Muggle-born background and total lack of familiarity with the wizarding world, a lack she attempts to rectify by spouting facts left and right; she shows off to teachers in an attempt to win their approval. Later, she spends hours poring over research to help Harry (and/or the Trio as a whole) solve problems that threaten their safety. Hermione is not a naturally, effortlessly gifted student; it’s hard work for her. She spends hours upon hours in the library and exhausts herself with studying.

      So I guess ultimately, Leah, I disagree with the assertion that Hermione’s knowledge is a virtue, a value held for its own sake. It tends to be a means to various ends, usually either assuaging insecurity or solving an external problem. If anything, Hermione is driven and determined, and has found that the best way to achieve her goals is through exhaustive research. The balance that Ron provides, I think, is by pushing her to acknowledge that there are more important things than cold, hard, facts in service of ambition or problem-solving — family and friendship chief among them. Hermione doesn’t seem to have a particularly close or warm relationship with her family and is an only child, and doesn’t strike me as the type of kid to have had many close friends. However, the loyalty and friendship shown her by Ron and Harry soften many of her sharp edges (not least because they are not afraid to call her out when she’s being unreasonable), and we see her frequenting the Burrow more and more over the course of the series as she is drawn into the loud, crowded, messy, loving Weasley fold, so different from her staid upper-middle-class-dentist childhood home, with its radically diverging values and practices.

      • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

        Hermione’s knowledge certainly was a virtue in the sense of a habit cultivated to improve her as a whole person. She had a natural quickness of mind; she deliberately cultivated that talent into a skill that became second-nature to her. This skill of research and dedicated study was foundational to her character and to her decisions in crisis situations. In short, her knowledge was an aspect of the Cardinal Virtue of Prudence.

        Whether it was also an Intellectual Virtue, a delight in and pursuit of knowledge and understanding for its own sake, is more debatable. We’d need more than the mere epilogue to see how she turns her mind in the rest of her life.

        • Erick

          Yes, but she also developed the skill to the point that she was socially inept. She did not understand that her “insufferable know-it-all”-ness, as Snape put it, affected those around her… and not always in a positive way. She was bossy and irritating. She was anything but prudent. She had put her fear of failure into knowledge and neglected the rest of her person.

          So to focus on the virtue of her knowledge, and to disregard Ron, because his ability to strengthen Hermione comes in at other aspects of Hermione’s character is I think a poor way to analyze the relationship.

  • http://paraphasic.blogspot.com Elliot

    There’s a current of thought in modern culture that runs like this: “I love you not despite your faults, but because of your faults.”
    There’s another one that runs like this: “True love lets the other be, as radically other.”
    There’s a third that says: “In love the other becomes a part of the self.”
    And a fourth that says: “In love the self is dispensed with and replaced by the other.”

    It’s disturbing how much we tend to mystify love, and divide off romantic love from the love of friendship, and conflate amicitia and concupiscentia. What is love? To love is to will the good of the other. Love can be more or less noble. When love is mutual, there is friendship. There are kinds of friendship based on the aspect under which the other’s good is desired. For enjoyment? For practical benefit? For excellence? Friendship (amicitia) is distinguished from a different kind of love (concupiscentia), which is not a desire for the good of a thing, but which desires the attainment of a thing for oneself. I think any responsible development of these concepts will be able to resolve all the normal petty paradoxes we moderns dream up when talking about love, without resorting to emotional obfuscations and that gross transcendental language which is merely a mask for idolatry.

  • Ted Seeber

    The Young and the Restless for me. Can’t stand that show. Makes me feel like Martin Luther (the original one) and has all sorts of scrupulosity triggers for me, from the way the characters change spouses more often than most people change their pants, to the “family is important but business is more important” attitudes of the main characters.

    But my wife is addicted- and so I’ll let her watch it even if it means I get to watch none of my shows that evening.

  • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

    Smart, intellectuallishy people have a self-regard for their talent that makes them undervalue other ways of being and other kinds of virtue.

    Its pretty obvious to me why a smart girl (or guy) might deeply value somebody who didn’t give a damn about that one way or the other. It’s restful to be cherished for something other than your most glaring feature.

    • Erick

      Yes, this.

  • Alex Godofsky

    I think this is more a problem of how JKR wrote (or didn’t write) the scenes building up Ron/Hermione than of their actual relationship.

    A lot of the actual relationship development seems to happen off-screen and has to be inferred. We are shown very few scenes that really highlight their interactions with each other as distinct from their interactions with/about Harry. The few that we do see, though, do sketch out how it worked – Ron does something “outrageous”/immature, Hermione responds with half-sincere outrage (“boys”), etc. You also have Hermione do some stereotypically Hermione thing like memorize her textbooks and then Ron gets to make fun of her for being nerdy.

    (In technical parlance this is called “flirting”.)

    If JKR had actually shown us this happening consistently then I don’t think the OP would have a case re: this particular relationship. Because the books/movies didn’t, though, I can accept that someone would disagree it’s the best inference. But I do think this refutes the premise of the OP: you can have perfectly good relationships built on this dynamic.

    Aside: I think the other reason a lot of people have a problem with Ron/Hermione is just that Ron is a really boring character and doesn’t get to do cool stuff very often.

  • jenesaispas

    I reckon you wanted to talk about HP ;)

    Thanks for the clip, I still haven’t watched the last film on DVD and I got it at Christmas.

  • http://fidesquaerens.livejournal.com Marta Layton

    Leah, reading this I was reminded of Aristotle’s account of friendship in Bk VIII of the Nicomachean Ethics (http://bit.ly/Q06iIn). Aristotle makes the point that true friendship is based on goodness and virtue. Specifically, it’s based on me valuing what makes you tick, not because it brings me pleasure or satisfies some need, but because I recognize it’s good – good in its own sake, good for you.

    Say that you’re generous to a fault – you regularly tithe, support several organized charities, and generally give in the best way possible. I on the other hand am stingy. I recognize that your generosity is good, and I am glad that you have this virtue. I may even want to develop this virtue myself (it’s a major way that we develop these virtues myself. The fact that I’m stingy rather than generous doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, because I recognize generosity is good and honor the fact that you have it, even if I’m not generous myself. On the other hand, if I’m stingy and think that’s every bit as valid a way to be as your generosity, I think there’s something missing. I’m undervaluing something good in you. I don’t think that would qualify as true friendship for Aristotle.

    I wonder if that’s what’s giving you pause about Ron and Hermione? It’s not that Ron isn’t smart or is bored stiff spending time in the library. If he wanted to develop intellectual curiosity, or even recognized Hermione’s curiosity as something good in itself (rather than just good for him instrumentally), that would be fine. Instead, I do think the only way Ron values Hermione’s curiosity is as a tool for getting him stuff. Maybe this is being seventeen, maybe he’ll grow out of it – but I can see why the Ron/Hermione we’re given in canon wouldn’t seem like true love. It always bothered me, too.

    Then again, I was always a Harry/Hermione girl myself, so perhaps I’m a bit biased. :-)

  • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    Part of the problem here, I think, is that we only get a brief glimpse of Ron moving past the stage of ‘callow youth’ . But Ron has his own personality and issues, and I’m more intersted in what you’ve said about Hermione.

    If you’ve spent plenty of time being ridiculed for your own intellectual curiousty, it’s easy to expect Hermione to be just like you, to want her to be like you. But she’s not a bald surrogate for every geek girl that’s been mocked by classmates. She’s her own character, and it’s important to read her as she is, not as we might want her to be.

    Hermione is an MD. Not a PhD. There’s just no evidence of a rich intellectual curiousity in Hermione. She studies diligently and hones her skills and these are certainly virtues, but there’s little evidence that she does this for learning’s own sake. I suspect being plucked out of the world she understood, and had prepared to excel in has something to do with this. She reads extensively… but it’s all practicality for her. Dumbledore leaves her a book of fairy tales, and in seven years she’s never heard of even the titles. I don’t know about the rest of you, but give me a secret world, and the myths/fables of that world are going to be top on the list of things to investigate. Even when she gets her copy of Beedle’s Tales, she pores over it looking for clues and her delight in the fables themselves is secondary.

    This is, at root, why she’s not in Ravenclaw. Not because intellectual curiousity is a prerequisite for Ravenclawdom, Dumbledore was in Gryffindor after all. But because “she hoped she’d be in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best. They say Dumbledore himself was in it.” Hermione is ambitiious, she wants to excel, and for her delight in learning takes a backseat to excelling in

    • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

      (*sigh* accidentally hit ‘post comment’ when I was trying to go back and edit something. Continuing…)

      This is, at root, why she’s not in Ravenclaw. Not because intellectual curiousity is a prerequisite for Ravenclawdom, Dumbledore was in Gryffindor after all. But because “she hoped she’d be in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best. They say Dumbledore himself was in it.” Hermione is ambitious, she wants to excel, and, for her delight in learning takes a backseat to excelling in academia. She’s in Gryffindor because she chooses to be there, and she wants to be there because she considers it prestigious. She’s not entirely devoid of intellectual curiosity, but it isn’t the prime motivation in her studies.

      • KL

        You’ve articulated all the thoughts I gestured at above but wasn’t able to communicate thoroughly. I agree absolutely. Hermione often becomes the victim of geeky girls’ projections, but she isn’t at heart one of us!

    • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

      This is a really insightful way of looking at Hermione. I was a nerdy, hardworking girl myself, but my personality was substantially different from Hermione’s, so I didn’t spend much time trying to make her a surrogate. On the other hand I also did not dwell too much on why she worked as hard as she did, and instead assumed she had the same curiosity I did.

      This also makes the differences between Hermione and Ron, well, different. And given that he had his own ambitions (even if he didn’t really know how to act on them or what they really were), it does hint at a compatibility.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/juliamaesite/ JuliaMae

    Couple things.

    One: – Hermione can be a gigantic pain in the tush, and when she goes off on one of her quests, it’s nice to have a significant other who takes her as she is and just lets her go do her thing. Ron is typical guy and is going to go off and do his thing, and she is going to let him because she is busy with her own interests. When there is trouble they will stand together. And their passions and nature mean the sex is gonna be rockin.’

    Two: They are fictional characters and, BTW, nothing in the movies counts.

  • Ingrid

    I read through most of the comments and found that they mostly focused on whether Ron’s love could be real based on Hermione’s virtue (if intellect is indeed a virtue). But a parent loves a child not because of the virtues that that child possesses: doesn’t a parent love a child because that child IS? The child doesn’t have to do anything, doesn’t have to accomplish anything in order to be loved by the parent. We are fearfully and wonderfully created, and whether or not we do great things, we are still more valuable to our Creator than the lilies of the valley. Can’t Ron love Hermione simply because she IS, without Hermione having had to do anything to EARN somebody’s love?

    • leahlibresco

      But is there a difference between romantic love and the unconditional love we’re supposed to have for everyone? Because we could love anyone in the way Ron might love Hermione. Ought we be able to marry anyone well, and the only reason it doesn’t work is a failure of charity?

      • Ingrid

        Why is romantic love completely different from unconditional love? Isn’t it unconditional love centered and focused on a particular person, and isn’t it an added dimension of agape?

      • Ingrid

        I’m also a big fan of the Big Bang Theory. If anyone else out there is, as well, don’t you think that the same could be said for the relationship between Penny and Leonard, in the sense that it doesn’t seem to arise out of anything more than his initial physical attraction to her? They don’t seem to have anything else in common, and yet, they keep coming back to square one with each other.

  • Dan Berger

    Ought we be able to marry anyone well, and the only reason it doesn’t work is a failure of charity?

    That’s a really interesting question. I would say that the answer is “yes.” We tend to lard up marriage with too many expectations. I see marriage as more like Tevye and Golde or even Arthur and Guenevere, than like Tristan and Isolde or Romeo and Juliet — it would never have worked between the latter two pairs; they didn’t have anything to go on but lust.

    But we can develop a cordial relationship with anyone, given sufficient charity and an enforced proximity.

    • KL

      I agree that one can and should be able to develop a cordial relationship with anyone, based on the principle of agape. But I disagree that the ideal marriage should be purely agapic. Eros and philia should also be elements of a successful marriage, and those are much harder — and sometimes impossible — to manufacture without a fundamental compatibility. There are some people whom I love (agape), for example some extended family members, with whom I will never have a close friendship (philia) simply because we frankly have nothing in common as far as shared interests, values, etc. Romantic and sexual attraction can be developed, but again there must be an underlying compatibility. Romeo and Juliet fail as role models because they possessed eros but lacked philia and agape, but while Tevye and Golde managed to achieve all three (presumably) over the course of twenty-five years, I would advocate cultivating all three prior to marriage, the presence of all three indicating that the marriage has the best chance of success. I would never marry someone lacking one or more of the three loves on the assumption that it would “come with time.” We live in a society where we have the luxuries of choosing our mates and taking the time to discern the wisdom of a marriage without social or economic detriment, luxuries that the above couples lacked. We should take advantage of them!

      • Dan Berger

        Hold on, there, let’s not jump from “marry anyone well” as an exercise in charity, to exclusively agapic marriages as “the ideal marriage.”
        In olde tymes, when arranged marriages were mostly how everyone did it, the young people were often consulted, and it was generally considered the ideal that a marriage not only be a good family alliance but a love match. People did not expect the ideal, but it was nice when it happened. Arranged marriages, those that worked well, were mostly not love matches so much as exercises in mutual respect and charity. In many cultures, the young people are given a say — if not a veto — but their parents do a lot of the legwork.
        I can see a return to a situation in which parents are intimately involved in arranging their children’s marriages as being desirable. I can’t see a return to a situation in which parents exclude the children from the process of arranging marriages, which was the situation for Arthur and Guenevere, and for Tevye and Golde.

        • Dan Berger

          Sorry, all my paragraphs vanished!

        • KL

          Fair, but you opened with this: “I would say that the answer [to "Ought we be able to marry anyone well"] is “yes.” We tend to lard up marriage with too many expectations.”

          Which I may be interpreting incorrectly, but seems to imply that desiring (and working to obtain) a marriage that meets all three love criteria is setting “too many expectations.” I agree that in a culture of arranged marriages, agape may be all one has to go on at first, and that’s often unavoidable. But Western society is not such a culture, and it’s not that type of culture that Ron and Hermione live in. At the risk of limiting Leah, I think she too was addressing Western culture, or more broadly those societies in which “What is the role of complementarity of temperament and values in discerning the feasibility of a potential marriage?” is an intelligible question. Leah’s post is at least partially arguing that prudence would advise against some marriages even where agape is present. I don’t think that marrying someone, despite a known discrepancy in personality or values, as an “exercise in charity” is at all a wise or in fact charitable choice, regardless of one’s definition of the “ideal” marriage!

          The crux of the issue is in the definition of “marrying well.” If you define it as charitable co-existence for the creation of a stable family unit, then sure, agape alone might be sufficient to get you there. But if “marrying well” is selecting a mate who contributes to your human flourishing and helps you to become the best version of yourself, then agape alone isn’t enough.

          • Dan Berger

            I think we are arguing past each other. I pointed out that it’s always been the ideal that married people be in love in the erotic, romantic sense; this was so even in the days of arranged marriages. What I’m arguing is that — particularly in the context of an arranged marriage — we should be able to have a reasonably stable, happy life with anyone, so long as both of us are willing to practice charity.

            This is not so remote as it seems. 25- or 50-year marriages, even if they started as love matches, have always been purely agapic at some point or another. You can’t maintain the emotion; but my argument is that, after a long enough time and with sufficient good will, some semblance of romance should appear — again, or for the first time, it matters not.

  • TheresaL

    I’m rarely knowledgeable enough to comment on this blog but can’t resist a Ron/Hermione: Yay or Nay? discussion. I went on vacation so I’m late but will add my input anyway…
    First of all, the movie Ron and Hermione pairing doesn’t make sense. Hermione is bright and beautiful while Ron is foolish and whiny. His character is mostly reduced to only a laughingstock, similar to Gimli in the Lord of the Rings movies.
    However, the book Ron and Hermione was exactly right. Yes, Ron often comes off as contemptuous of Hermione’s virtues. But is he actually contemptuous? I didn’t read the books that way at all. I thought Ron greatly admired both her curiosity and brightness. These are virtues he knew he needed to improve himself, was jealous of her success, and what came out as disdain was a result of his personal struggle dealing with his own weaknesses.
    Ron comes from a large family, with older brothers who excel in different ways, whether socially or academically or in their careers and parents who fought against Death Eaters. Even Percy was a good student. His brother Bill marries Fleur! Ron has a lot to live up to and Hermione is another example of what he wishes he could be.
    My biases – Ron is my favorite character. I thought he was the most complex and realistic, although less mature than Hermione or Harry. I was also sure Hermione and Ron were going to eventually end up together after I read the first book, so I read the rest of the series through that lens. Also, I met my husband in school when I was twelve, so I have a weakness for friends growing up together who eventually marry. And my husband is very different than me in both interests and virtue.

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