I have often wondered about the dynamics of friendship. Who are our friends? Why do we call them our friends? What is it that draws us to each of those people? Difficult questions not always easily answered in real life, I turned to literature to take a look at literary friendships for some elucidation.
My first thought was of Harry Potter. Harry, Ron and Hermione became friends at Hogwarts and never looked back. By the end of the book series they had known each other for 26 years (if my math is correct). That’s a lot of time to be friends with someone. Harry, Ron and Hermione basically grew up together. The oldest kinds of friends are people who seem attached to countless memories, it is impossible to remember a time when they weren’t a part of each other’s life. The three of them witnessed each other change over the years and still stuck around. They had their ups and downs; they fought and they disagreed. But in the end they supported each other when it mattered the most, and that’s what makes all the difference. Their personalities were different, yet they followed each other into adult life, the same way they followed each other in all of their adventures at Hogwarts. The worth of such a friendship is unquestionable because these people have stuck together through all the good and the bad for many years.
At the same time, however, Harry, Ron and Hermione have always made me wonder if they still would have been friends had they met later in life? No one is the same person at twenty three they were at eleven. Was it the circumstances that drew them together, that forged their bond, that when removed, left no common ground? For example, Hermione seemed like a know-it-all to Ron when they first met, but that was one of her traits both he and Harry grew to like. Had they met her later, their reaction might have been different. And I think it quite certain that if Harry hadn’t had his friends’ support through all his trials with Voldemort, the series would be much shorter.
Despite having a friendship that I’ve always admired, Harry, Ron and Hermione also tackled the issue of developing romantic feelings about someone you consider a friend. It was a revelation when I realized how many more examples of the same situation in literature, I could come up with. Percy and Annabeth in the Percy Jackson book series; Kathy, Ruth and Tommy from Never Let Me Go; Katniss, Gale and Peeta from The Hunger Games; Catherine and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights; Clary and Simon from The Mortal Instruments series. The list goes on. All started out as friends and somewhere down the road things changed. Whether it was a love triangle or not, ‘friendships’ turned into something else. Which begs the question: is someone still a friend if their feelings toward one another grow into something different?
I have always felt that the Ron-Hermione love story was a bit forced. In my mind I could never really see Hermione falling for Ron. Despite my personal feelings about this romance, I think that the most important reason why they fell in love was their friendship. It was their friendship that exposed them to one another’s true self, their similarities and their differences, and their mutual acceptance of each other lead them to fall in love. If they hadn’t been friends, I doubt either of them would have ever looked at the other. A romantic relationship forged out of a friendship is not just romance anymore. Friendship will always be the foundation on which romance was built and something that strong never goes away.
Kathy and Ruth are an interesting case study. They had known each other for years, too, having met in school, the Hailsham academy. However, they never gave me the impression that they were truly friends and equals. After literally growing up together, they parted ways not on the best of terms. They didn’t fight; they just fell apart. It wasn’t until ten years later that they met again, as if they had unfinished business between them. While Kathy cared for Ruth, they tried to repair their friendship. This time they seemed to be better friends than before, reminiscing, apologizing for past mistakes, making amends. Yet I still couldn’t feel their relationship as a friendship.
Some people are just meant to pass through one’s life to teach a valuable lesson, or give what was needed at the time of the meeting. Take for instance Prince Henry and Falstaff from Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Falstaff is clearly a father figure for Prince Hal, but their relationship is not that of a parent and a child. Falstaff indulges and encourages the rebellious and mischievous side of Hal instead of parenting him. He is a bad influence because he enjoys being admired by someone supposedly better than him. Prince Hall needed Falstaff as a friend to enjoy his infamous exploits with him before he was ready to assume his responsibilities. The moment he became the King of England, however, he knew his affiliation with Falstaff would have to be terminated. People like Falstaff are drifters. They pass through one’s life.
Whatever the case, my conclusion is simple: friendship is wonderful, but it is also very hard. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”.” If you can’t be yourself around someone, no matter how quirky or crazy or awkward yourself is, then that someone is most likely not your friend. If a person in your life accepts you for who you really are, cherish them, for they are truly a friend.