Ron Weasley wore his heart on his hand-me-down sleeve, and so within pages of meeting his character in Philosopher’s Stone, we quickly discovered one source of his angst: trying to stand out in a big family. Here are five ways he made us relate…
While bonding with Harry Potter over some Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans on the Hogwarts Express, Ron gloomily revealed: ‘I’m the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I’ve got a lot to live up to.’
Is there anyone from a big family who hasn’t moodily muttered a similar sentiment to themselves? Excepting the Hogwarts part, of course. For Ron, it was especially true – just look at his elder brothers.
Bill was Head Boy during his time at school; Charlie was the captain of the Quidditch team and Percy had just been made a prefect. Fred and George were hardly ‘authority’ authority figures but everyone found them hilarious, and they did get decent marks in class. Ron was also probably smart enough to know that his younger sister Ginny was going to excel, too.
For anyone who comes from a big family, Ron perfectly summed up why this situation felt worse than having to regrow every bone in your body with the help of Skele-Gro. Because ‘everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first’.
Molly and Arthur Weasley tried not to have too many unrealistic expectations of their children, beyond the standard stuff like asking Fred and George not to explode any toilets. But even so, Ron’s family were genuinely surprised when he was made a prefect in his fifth year. Hermione was outright flabbergasted. They were all proud of him (even Fred and George, who normally acted like becoming a prefect might be contagious) but it still might have hurt just a smidge that they were all so shocked. It’s not like Ron just revealed he had a Dark wizard living in the back of his head, people!
One of the most poignant moments in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone occurred when Harry and Ron discovered the Mirror of Erised – which showed them each what they most desire. Harry saw himself standing with his parents, while Ron saw himself not standing with his family. For once. Instead, he stood alone – as Head Boy and Quidditch captain.
As the second-youngest sibling in a big family, Ron often felt defined by what people knew of Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred and George: the siblings who had come before him. Ron not only saw what he most desired in the mirror, but perhaps how he wanted other people to see him, too. Someone who was as smart as Bill, as talented as Charlie, but also his own person rather than just the Weasley twins’ younger brother.
There are other issues that come with having a big family beyond, you know, that lingering sense of inadequacy and general competitiveness.
While Ron was never ashamed of his family, he was self-conscious about his hand-me-down, well, everything. He told Harry in Philosopher’s Stone: ‘You never get anything new, either, with five brothers. I’ve got Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand and Percy’s old rat.’
Ron’s dress robes were a classic example of Ron’s second-hand-clothes stress. In the film Goblet of Fire, Rupert Grint’s face as he assessed his mottled, lacy robes conveys the horror that any child from a big family knows all too well: when you realise that you just have to make do.
Later in Goblet of Fire, Ron had a moment of rare vulnerability as he talked with Harry and muttered simply: ‘I hate being poor.’ Trying to stand out from your family is so much harder when you have to wear your siblings’ old clothes.
One of Ron’s insecurities was that he wasn’t good enough – good enough to compete with his siblings, to be friends with Harry Potter, to woo Hermione. But it’s this flaw, along with his good qualities – like his loyalty and sense of humour – that made him such a great character.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it was Ron’s insecurities – aided by a little bit of that evil Horcrux power – that drove him to abandon Harry and Hermione in the woods. Later, when the apparitions of Riddle-Harry and Riddle-Hermione spoke to Ron as he attempted to destroy a Horcrux, they played upon these insecurities.
Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter ... least loved, now, by the girl who prefers your friend ... second best, always, eternally overshadowed…
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
But the important thing about Ron’s struggle to stand out was that, as he grew up, he realised it wasn’t really a struggle at all. Ron always appreciated what he did have. He loved his home. He loved Scabbers (until Scabbers turned out to be an Animagus who had been sleeping in his bed for years). And he loved his big family.
Trying to stand out in a big family is hard – but you can’t come from a big family and imagine it any other way.