Harry Potter and the Problematic Character That Everyone Loves to Pretend is Perfect

March 26, 2021

Lydia+Engel

Lydia Engel

There are plenty of characters in the Harry Potter series that are over-glorified and over-villainized. Of all the characters, a fan favorite who is frequently over-glorified is Molly Weasley. Don’t get me wrong, I love Molly Weasley. She’s been a favorite of mine for years. However, I too fell into the trap of putting her on a pedestal and becoming ignorant of all her faults. It’s important to recognize that while Molly is a good person, we need to acknowledge that she isn’t as perfect as we’d like to believe. Per usual, there will be spoilers.

Before we are introduced to Molly Weasley in the first book, she had gone through several traumatic experiences. Being one of the original members of the organization fighting Voldemort in the first Wizarding War, The Order of the Phoenix, she had witnessed her fair share of violence. Her twin brothers, Faubian and Gideon Prewett, were killed during this war. Molly went on to marry Aurthur Weasley and have seven children, six boys and one girl. 

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we first see Mrs. Weasley with her family heading to Platform 9¾. The book describes the scene on page 92: “’Now, what’s the platform number?” said the boys’ mother. “Nine and three-quarters!” piped a small girl, also red-headed, who was holding her hand, “Mom, can’t I go…” “You’re not old enough, Ginny, now be quiet.’” Right off the bat, we see Molly not comforting her child, but silencing her. Ginny was ten years old at the time and had never before lived without her brothers at her side. Ron, being only a year older than Ginny, would have been closer with Ginny than any other sibling. The next oldest after Ron would be Fred and George, who stuck with each other, then Percy, who stuck to himself and his studies, and Bill and Charlie, who had already moved out and started their adult lives. Ginny would have been scared that she was losing her closest brother, that he would leave her behind for Hogwarts’ adventures. Not only that, but this would be the first time she would be completely alone while her brothers were at school. Of course Ginny would want to be with her brothers at Hogwarts. Instead of comforting her hurting child, Molly snaps at her to keep quiet and consequently invalidates Ginny’s emotions. Of course, Molly was likely stressed with sending her four other sons to the train and didn’t even think about quieting Ginny. Still, Ginny didn’t deserve to be silenced the way she was. Molly helped Harry through the wall onto Platform 9¾, and he doesn’t see her again until Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

In the second book, Harry and Ron are sealed off of Platform 9¾ and have no way to ride the Hogwarts Express. They end up flying the Weasleys’ enchanted car to Hogwarts to get to school. Of course, this is not a responsible decision, but the fact remains that Ron and Harry, both 12 year old children, could think of no other way to get to Hogwarts and tried their best to deal with the sudden panic and responsibility of getting to Scotland from London all by themselves. Neither of them were hurt, and the Muggles who saw them would have had their memory of the flying car wiped from their memory. Molly had every right to be upset; afterall, her son and his friend had stolen their illegal car and flown it cross country. How she dealt with the situation, however, was not done correctly. Mrs. Weasley sent a Howler (a magical letter that yells the message in the sender’s voice to the recipient, and if it is not opened, burst into flames) to Ron. When the letter arrived on page 88, everyone in the Great Hall heard its message: “-STEALING THE CAR, I WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN SURPRISED IF THEY’D EXPELLED YOU, YOU WAIT TILL I GET HOLD OF YOU, I DON’T SUPPOSE YOU STOPPED TO THINK WHAT YOUR FATHER AND I WENT THROUGH WHEN WE SAW IT GONE-” and “-LETTER FROM DUMBLEDORE LAST NIGHT, I THOUGHT YOUR FATHER WOULD DIE OF SHAME, WE DIDN’T BRING YOU UP TO BEHAVE LIKE THIS, YOU AND HARRY COULD BOTH HAVE DIED-” and finally “-ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTED- YOUR FATHER’S FACING AN INQUIRY AT WORK, IT’S ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT AND IF YOU PUT ANOTHER TOE OUT OF LINE WE’LL BRING YOU STRAIGHT BACK HOME.

While some see this as a great mom moment, many fail to realize the effects this would have on her son. Firstly, she threatens her child (“you wait till I get hold of you”), which is typically a no-go. Secondly, she makes Ron feel like a disappointment (“I thought your father would die of shame” and “absolutely disgusted”). Throughout the series, it is clear that Ron has a huge inferiority complex and struggles greatly with self esteem. It is also clear that Molly Weasely plays her part in building this problem. By insinuating that Ron is a let down and shameful to their family, she begins to reinforce his feelings of worthlessness, wrecking his self image. Thirdly, she tries to place all the blame of the flying car onto her son instead of holding her husband accountable for his actions (“your father’s facing an inquiry at work, it’s entirely your fault”). The inquiry was not because Ron had flown the family car, it was because Mr. Weasley had illegally enchanted a Muggle vehicle when he was a Ministry of Magic employee working for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department. It is not Ron’s fault that his father broke the law, and it was extremely unjustified for Molly to place that blame entirely onto her youngest son. It’s even more so troubling when you realize that Mr. Weasley is the only one supporting the family financially, so if he lost his job due to the inquiry, the already poor Weaselys would be in a financial crisis and Mrs. Weasley would have placed the blame entirely onto her twelve year old child. Fourthly, Molly does not handle the situation privately with her son in a setting where they can both discuss why what he did was wrong and help him to fix his mistakes. Instead, she publicly humiliates him. All of Ron’s classmates heard the letter and his mother screaming at him. Not only does he hear his mom calling him a shameful disappointment, everyone does. This does nothing to help Ron’s self esteem or his relationship with his mother. In fact, it does the opposite, pushing him away from Molly. As a teenager myself with no mothering experience, my views on some of these subjects are perhaps a bit jaded, but this does not seem like a healthy parental relationship to me. When Ron is unable to properly perform magic due to his broken wand (which was broken when the car hit the Whomping Willow), Harry suggests that Ron writes home to get another wand. Ron responds on page 95, “”Oh, yeah, and get another Howler back,” said Ron, stuffing the now hissing wand into his bag, “It’s your own fault our wand got snapped-‘” This suggests that not only does Ron no longer trust his mom enough to go to her for help, but he is now afraid that anything he does to disappoint her will be publicized. This method of public humiliation as punishment to a twelve year old child is entirely problematic and should not be praised.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban brings more examples of Molly Weasley being problematic. Sirius Black, a mass murderer in the public opinion of the wizarding world (later proven innocent), has escaped Azkaban (the wizarding prison). Mr. and Mrs. Weasley both know who his next target is supposed to be: Harry Potter. Arthur wishes to warn Harry, while Molly is entirely against the idea. On page 65, Molly comments that the truth would terrify Harry, saying that he’s happy with not knowing. Arthur said, “I don’t want to make him miserable, I want to put him on his guard!” He speaks about how Harry has a tendency to wander off on his own and wants to warn Harry to not do that because he could end up being murdered. Molly is insistent on being ignorant to the danger of keeping Harry oblivious and denies that anything could happen to him. Harry is beginning to be like family to the Weasleys, but Molly would still rather keep Harry in the dark about him being in immediate danger than warn him. Molly Weasley is the living and breathing form of the saying “ignorance is bliss” and showcases this further throughout the series. If she would rather never know that a mass murderer is actively searching to kill her, that’s fine, but she shouldn’t make that decision for someone else, especially if that person is someone she’s known for a little over two years who is not her own child and is extremely danger prone anyways. It is understandable that she doesn’t want to tell Harry; the Minister of Magic doesn’t want Harry to know, he’s only 13, and he is blissfully oblivious to the danger he’s in. Still, the consequences of him not knowing the danger he’s in, in my opinion, far outweigh those of Harry being prepared. Luckily for Mrs. Weasely and Harry, Sirius ends up being innocent. If he had not been, Harry’s time at Hogwarts would have been cut agonizingly short. But Molly did not know (and doesn’t find out until far later) that Sirius is innocent, and therefore places him in danger by refusing to protect Harry by telling him the truth.

As the fourth Harry Potter book goes on, Molly Weasley becomes increasingly more problematic. Fred and George’s interest in opening a joke shop first makes its appearance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Molly is not happy about it. Pages 54 and 55 tell how Molly found order forms for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes (the joke shop in dispute) while cleaning George and Fred’s room. Page 55 reads, “’Only, most of the stuff- well, all of it, really- was a bit dangerous,” said Ron, “and, you know, they were planning to sell it at Hogwarts to make some money, and Mum went mad at them. Told them they weren’t allowed to make any more of it, burned all the order forms…. She’s furious at them anyway. They didn’t get as many O.W.L.s as she expected.” O.W.L.s were Ordinary Wizarding Levels, the examinations Hogwarts students took at the age of fifteen. “And then there was this big row,” Ginny said, “because Mum wants them to go into the Ministry of Magic like Dad, and they told her all they want to do is open a joke shop.’” Molly does have reason to be upset and get the boys in trouble; they were potentially putting themselves and others in danger with their pranking devices. It’s how she handles the situation that gets tricky. Should Molly have let the twins keep their dangerous, mostly untested items that they planned to sell to children? Absolutely not. Should she have taken their order forms and burned them, and then banned them from making prank items? Absolutely not. Should she have dismissed the twins career dreams just because they didn’t have the best grades and didn’t want to do the same job their father did? Absolutely not. Crushing children’s dreams is not a great motherly thing to do, Molly. The twins needed to get in trouble, but the explosive way that Molly reacts isn’t good for the twins mentally and for their relationship with Molly.

After Fred and George drop a Tongue Toffee (a pranking sweet that makes your tongue grow to abnormal lengths) with the intentions for Dudley Dursley to eat it (which he does), Molly is furious with them again. Even after the argument, Molly continues to tear into the boys in front of their friends and family. On page 58, she says, “I don’t know what’s going to happen to them, I really don’t. No ambition, unless you count making as much trouble as they possibly can….” It’s one thing to be concerned about your children’s futures, but it’s another to be publicly broadcasting how you think they’re going to fail at life. She talks about the lack of ambition in the boys in front of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, bringing the boys down. Just because George and Fred have no ambition to work in the Ministry doesn’t mean they have no ambition. I feel like its very ambitious of them to be going into their fifth year at Hogwarts and already have a business, order forms, products, and plans for said business at fifteen years old. On page 59, Molly says that the twins are wasting their brains and that they’re going to “end up in front of the Improper Use of Magic Office” (as if their father hadn’t model that behavior for them). She also says, “I don’t know where we went wrong with them.” If Molly were concerned with the twins’ futures, she should talk to them about it, not rant openly about how she thinks they’re disappointments to their friends and little brother and sister after the argument had already been concluded. Molly handled this situation incredibly poorly and exhibited many toxic behaviors in their family dynamic, which could be potentially very damaging to the twins self worth.

In chapter five on page 62, the book reads, “In the middle of the table, Mrs. Weasley was arguing with Bill about his earring, which seemed to be a recent acquisition. “..with a horrible great fang on it. Really, Bill, what do they say at the bank?” “Mum, no one at the bank gives a damn how I dress as long as I bring home plenty of treasure,” said Bill patiently. “And your hair’s getting silly, dear,” said Mrs. Weasley, fingering her wand lovingly. “I wish you’d let me give it a trim….’” This little excerpt of the relationship between Molly and her oldest son reveals much about her character. Firstly, Molly doesn’t let her kids express themselves if it doesn’t follow her traditional values. Bill is roughly 27 years old (Bill was born in 1970 and the Goblet of Fire was set in 1993, but J.K. Rowling often made mistakes with keeping the consistency of dates and ages throughout the series) and his mother still doesn’t want him to wear earrings or have long hair, even though he is a grown adult and can make his own decisions. This hints at Molly having some control issues. The fact that Bill responded “patiently” to his mother shows that he is used to this treatment of her never being satisfied with his appearance. It seems as if Molly is constantly picking apart aspects of her kids; that could lead to low confidence and self esteem issues. Molly is not the super supportive mother everyone paints her to be.

Molly truly lets her colors show when Hermione is accused of being in a love triangle between Harry and famous quidditch player Victor Krum. Journalist Rita Skeeter, notorious for exaggerating and falsifying information in her articles to add dramatics, wrote an article for Witch Weekly about Harry’s love life. The article, titled Harry Potter’s Secret Heartache, described Hermione on page 512 as “a plain but ambitious girl” who was “toying with both boys’ affections”. Pansy Parkinson, a student at Hogwarts, hints that Hermione may have made a Love Potion in an interview, which could get Hermione into huge trouble. On page 513, the book reads, “’She’s made you out to be some sort of- of scarlet woman!” Hermione stopped looking astonished and snorted with laughter. “Scarlet woman?” she repeated, shaking with suppressed giggles as she looked around at Ron. “It’s what my mom calls them,” Ron muttered, his ears going red.” This revealed that Molly Weasley slut shames women for living their own type of life, and has passed that thinking on to her children. Her blatant sexism became more and more clear throughout the story. Page 549 reads, “Percy’s letter was enclosed in a package of Easter eggs that Mrs. Weasley had sent. Both Harry’s and Ron’s were the size of dragon eggs and full of homemade toffee. Hermione’s, however, was smaller than a chicken egg. Her face fell when she saw it. “Your mum doesn’t read Witch Weekly, by any chance, does she, Ron?” she asked quietly.” It is so clear that Molly is shaming Hermione for her decisions, even though those decisions were mostly falsified (Hermione and Harry had no romantic relations, while her and Krum did). If Molly were truly worried that Harry was getting his heart broken, or that Hermione shouldn’t have been dating Krum (18 at the time), she should have brought it up to them. Instead, she makes it clear to Hermione and her friends that she is now worth less to Molly. It is not okay to shame a 14 year old child for their healthy relationship because of an article you read. Especially because Molly already knows that Rita doesn’t tell the truth. On page 617, Molly says, “Rita goes out of her way to cause trouble…”. Even still, Molly doesn’t give Hermione the benefit of the doubt and immediately resorts to treating Hermione badly. If she knew that Ron had a crush on Hermione and was upset with her for that reason, she still does the wrong thing by not treating Harry the same as Hermione in the first place. When Molly and Hermione meet face to face, she continues to treat Hermione with the same disrespect as before. Page 618 described, “’Hello, Hermione,” said Mrs. Weasely, much more stiff than usual. “Hello,” said Hermione, her smile faltering at the cold expression on Mrs. Weasley’s face. Harry looked between them, then said, “Mrs. Weasely, you didn’t believe that rubbish Rita Skeeter wrote in Witch Weekly, did you? Because Hermione’s not my girlfriend.” “Oh!” said Mrs. Weasley. “No- of course I didn’t!” But she became considerably warmer toward Hermione after that.” Molly had let her jaded judgments on a fourteen year old child’s life completely change her attitude towards Ron’s friend who she had known just as long as Harry. Even if Hermione actually had relations with both Harry and Krum, that was none of Mrs. Weasley’s business and she had no right to react in such an awful way.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Molly shows another example of her preferring ignorance over knowledge. The Order of the Phoenix- the group fighting Voldemort and his Death Eaters- was being held at Sirius Black’s house, where Harry and the Weasley’s would be staying for the summer. Harry, having watched Voldemort come back and murder his friend Cedric Diggory, as well as being Voldemort’s biggest target, wanted to know what was going on after being kept in the dark all summer. Molly was extremely against this chapter five, arguing that Harry wasn’t old enough and that he wasn’t a member of the Order so he should be on a need-to-know or less basis. Once again, Molly is putting Harry’s safety of knowing at least the general idea of what is going on aside for him to be clueless. I understand why she thinks this way, a war is no place for a 15 year old, but Harry should at least be able to ask questions concerning his safety.

Ron gets a letter that summer informing him that he was chosen to be a prefect (someone who helps enforce the rules) for Gryffindor. Molly, as any parent would be, was ecstatic. Page 163 describes, “’I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! Oh, Ron, how wonderful! A prefect! That’s everyone in the family!” “What are Fred and I, next-door neighbors?” said George indignantly, as his mother pushed him aside and flung her arms around her youngest son.” Molly’s reaction shows us multiple things. Firstly, although her reaction seems positive, her words (“I don’t believe it”) have a negative connotation. Little things like this are the kind of things that add up over time and contribute to Ron’s low self-esteem. Secondly, the way she completely leaves out Fred and George (and technically Ginny, although she is too young to have been given a chance for prefect) is completely uncalled for. Yes, she has a lot of children to keep track of, but she has made a point in the past to bring extra attention to the fact that she believes George and Fred don’t have as many “achievements” as their brothers. It was completely uncalled for for her to push them out of the way and dissociate them from the family.

More of Molly’s character is revealed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Molly’s oldest son, Bill, is engaged to Fleur Delacor. Fleur is from France and very beautiful (her grandmother was a Veela, a near-human birdlike creature with the power to enchant men with their looks and voices). Throughout the series, J.K. Rowling writes women who confidently portray their femininity as annoying, stuck up, or simply unlikeable, likely due to her own internal misogyny. Fleur is extremely confident in who she is as a very attractive girl, and Rowling writes most of her other characters to hate her. Ginny doesn’t call Fleur by her name; she calls her “Phlegm”. Molly also hates Fleur with the same internal misogyny Rowling projected onto her. When Fleur is excitedly talking about her upcoming wedding on page 131, perhaps in an attempt to bond with her future mother in law, Molly looks “bad-tempered” and then interrupts Fleur twice on the next page just so she doesn’t have to listen to her talk. Fleur has done nothing wrong, but Molly has a vendetta against her. Later in the year, at Christmas time, Molly shows her blatant dislike for Fleur again. Page 339 reads, “Everybody was wearing new sweaters when they all sat down for Christmas lunch, everyone except for Fleur (on whom, it appeared, Mrs. Weasley had not wanted to waste one)…”. The significance of the Weasley sweaters is something repeated in every book. The Weasley sweaters represent love, family, and acceptance. Molly made one for Harry when she knew how Ron and he were friends in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone without even having ever met him. To not make Fleur a sweater, and make everyone else one, was rejecting her from the family. It wasn’t even a subtle insult; everyone was wearing their sweaters and Fleur was even more outcast than she already was. Away from her family for the holidays in a different country, Fleur most likely already felt alone and out of place. Molly did nothing to help her feel welcome, in fact, quite the opposite. Molly constantly shuts Fleur out and doesn’t accept that she’ll be part of the family.

At the end of the book, Death Eaters break into Hogwarts and the Order of the Phoenix come to help defend the castle. In the fight, Bill is attacked by a not fully transformed werewolf. His face was mauled in the attack, but he survived. The book describes on page 622-623, “…Mrs. Weasely only had eyes only for her eldest son; she began to sob, tears falling onto Bill’s mutilated face. “Of course, it doesn’t matter how he looks…. It’s not r-really important… but he was a very handsome little b-boy… always very handsome… and was g-going to be married!” “And what do you mean by zat?” said Fleur suddenly and loudly. “What do you mean, ‘’e was going to be married?” Mrs. Weasley raised her tear-stained face, looking startled. “Well- only that-” “You theenk Bill will not wish to marry me anymore?” demanded Fleur. “You theenk, because of these bites, he will not love me?” “No, that’s not what I-” “Becuase ’e will!” said Fleur, drawing herself up to her full height and throwing back her long mane of silver hair. “It would take more zan a werewolf to stop Bill loving me!” “Well, yes, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Weasley, “but I thought perhasps- given how- how he-” “You thought I would not weesh to marry him? Or per’asps, you hoped?” said Fleur, her nostrils flaring. “What do I care how he looks? I am good-looking enough for the both of us, I theenk! All these scars show is zat my husband is brave! And I shall do zat!” She added fiercely, pushing Mrs. Weasely aside and snatching the ointment from her.” There’s a lot to unpack here. Molly assumes that Fleur is marrying Bill for his good looks just because she is confident in her own. She has obviously accomplished her goal in making Fleur feel unwanted as Fleur savagely confronts Molly on her disrespect (as she should, what a queen) and clear dislike for her. Molly had no reason to treat Fleur the way that she did; she was so focused on her judgmental misogyny that she failed to realize the love her son and Fleur had. Not only does Molly thinking that Fleur wouldn’t marry Bill now because of his looks reflect that Molly believes Fleur to be conceited and shallow, it also shows that she believes Bill has no other great qualities other than his physical features. She should have confidence and pride in all of her son, not just his looks. In an interesting twist, Molly awkwardly offers Fleur a family tiara to wear at the wedding, and Fleur accepts it, ending in a strange breakdown where they hug each other, sobbing. Molly ends her grudge against Fleur and all is forgiven. Their newly found forgiveness still doesn’t erase the fact that Molly treated Fleur very disrespectfully for no reason other than her harsh, unfair judgements.

Molly’s final problematic act is in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, chapter six. When Molly finds out that Harry, Ron, and Hermione do not plan on returning to Hogwarts for their seventh year to complete the task Dumbledore had given them. Page 88 says, “’Dumbledore didn’t want anyone else to know, Mrs. Weasley. I’m sorry. Ron and Hermione don’t have to come, it’s their choice-” “I don’t see that you have to go either!” she snapped, dropping all pretense now. “You’re barely of age, any of you! It’s utter nonsense, if Dumbledore needed work doing, he had the whole Order at his command! Harry, you must have misunderstood him. Probably he was telling you something he wanted done, and you took it to mean that he wanted you-” “I didn’t misunderstand” said Harry flatly.” I completely understand where Molly is coming from. Her son and his two best friends are dropping out of school during a dangerous war in which they will be the main targets to go on some mysterious quest that they won’t talk about. Of course she doesn’t want them to go. But even Molly must know at this point that without Dumbledore, Hogwarts would not be a safe place for them. If she really wanted to help, she should have helped equip the trio rather than discourage them from leaving. After the conversation with Harry, Molly did everything in her power to keep Harry, Ron, and Hermione separate so they could not plan their trip to defeat Voldemort. This resulted in the trio being way more underprepared for their trip than they could’ve been with the guidance of a supportive adult. Instead of trying to save them from danger, Molly puts them in more danger by not allowing their preparations. Again, I completely understand why Molly did what she did. She was simply trying to protect Harry, Hermione, and her youngest son from the horrors of war. The way she did so did the opposite.

Molly Weasley is a wonderful, caring character, but her toxicity can not be ignored as it has been in the past. She is often subtly sexist, judgmental, and harmful to her children’s mental health. Faults are just as important to a character as all the good qualities about them, so don’t let yourself dismiss the bad just because you like the good. There’s a balance of both in a good character. Molly Weasley is not as perfect as everyone loves to pretend she is.

 

Sources:

  • Wizardingworld.com. 2020. Wizarding World – The Official Home Of Harry Potter. [online] Available at: <https://www.wizardingworld.com/>
  • Rowling, J. (2015). Harry Potter: The complete collection (1-7). Pottermore Publishing.

Rowling, J. (2017). The Hogwarts library collection. Pottermore Publishing.

 

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Harry Potter and the Problematic Character That Everyone Loves to Pretend is Perfect