Neville Longbottom: A Quiet Hero in the Face of Fear
We often identify ourselves with literary characters that are underestimated and overlooked. Why is this so? A character who demonstrates quiet strength rather than raucous noise is frequently ignored, and often underestimated. In the Harry Potter books (Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1999), Neville Longbottom displays growth and courageous action in seemingly non-traditional ways and is often underrated in their value to the grand scheme of events in the Harry Potter books.
Neville is introduced as an awkward, uncertain young man who is completely unaware of his abilities. On paper, he has all the makings of an outcast. Neville does not perform well in school; he is clumsy (he trips and then blows up potions in class, as his classmates shout “Ten points from Gryffindor!“). Most of all, he is fearful, which makes him an easy target for Draco Malfoy, a pure-blood wizard and the son of Death Eater.
Even Matthew Lewis, the actor who plays Neville Longbottom, says he “had so much to offer that people couldn’t see at face value.” They were inspiring characters that people thought nothing of at first, and they stood up and stood their ground…” (Woerner, Meredith, 2011).
Throughout the Harry Potter books, the unlikely hero’s character gradually unfolds, as he demonstrates bravery, loyalty, kindness, and humility. Neville Longbottom’s progression from a mere Hufflepuff to a brave, confident Gryffindor is astounding, as he emerges a mere boy and grows into a brave and courageous young man. He stood up to Voldemort when all hope was lost, and he also pulled a sword out of a hat and killed a Horcrux swiftly and seamlessly.
What truly sets Neville apart is the willingness to venture into the unknown and take action even when he is fearful out of his comfort zone. Neville also understands it is not about making grand gestures of bravado, but rather taking consistent small steps and standing up for what is right. He also understands that he has a stand up for himself at the most crucial time. For instance, Neville’s transformation from an awkward bumbling eleven-year-old on the Hogwarts Express to the epitome of bravery and loyalty on the final battlefield gave him the courage and confidence to be an unlikely hero in the Deathly Hallows.
Neville stands for the outcast who is not only ignored but also ridiculed. The first time Neville stood up for himself was when Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle taunted the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and Neville boldly and unexpectedly took on Crabbe and Goyle on by himself. No one could have ever predicted that Neville would possess such remarkable strength and boldness because he did not conspicuously display those qualities frequently enough.
Neville’s quiet strength and a desire to solve problems and help his friends helped him push through his fears. Draco Malfoy bullied Neville simply because he was thought to be an easy target, as he was easy to embarrass. In his usual mean spirit, Draco put a curse on Neville, causing his legs to stick together so that he would have to hop around instead of walk awkwardly. Meanwhile, Harry gave Neville his chocolate frog. Neville then handed Harry Dumbledore’s collectible card from the Chocolate Frog. As a result, Neville identified Nicolas Flamel and helped Harry, Ron, and Hermione on their first adventure.
In the Harry Potter books, most of Neville’s peers feel he should not be in Gryffindor. Even Neville didn’t think that he was brave enough to join their ranks of Gryffindor. Later, Neville proves to be more than worthy, when he earns a permanent membership to Dumbledore’s Army, wins the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, the Battle of the Astronomy Tower and the Battle of Hogwarts.
As Neville joined Dumbledore’s Army, his confidence was nourished within his friendship with Harry and his inner circle. Neville’s friends speak words of encouragement that give him the strength to rise to the occasion. In the Sorcerer’s Stone, Ron exclaims, “You’ve got to stand up to him, Neville!” said Ron. “He’s used to walking all over people, but that’s no reason to lie down in front of him and make it easier.”
In the early years, not only did Neville not think that he was supposed to be in Gryffindor, but others also told him so. Once again, in the Sorcerer’s Stone, his friends give him the gentle nudge that needs to grow into a confident hero who stands up for himself and others. “You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,” Harry said. “The Sorting Hat chose you for Gryffindor, didn’t it?”
In the Sorcerer’s Stone, during a Quidditch match, in a haze of fear and newfound courage, Neville turns to Malfoy, and blurted out, “I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy.” This is a pivotal moment for Neville. It is the end of their first year, and he has finally stood up to Malfoy after being bullied and tormented by him for months.
Surprisingly, Neville was greatly underestimated for his significance in the turn of events throughout the Harry Potter books. Without Neville, two of the major plots would never have come to fruition: the revelation of the Deathly Hallows (Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Scholastic, 2007) and the identification of Nicolas Flamel. He was the second person mentioned in the prophecy regarding the child who would muster the power to defeat the Dark Lord.
Neville is the epitome of the unlikely hero as he overcomes his insecurities and fears to become a great leader. Neville’s courageous action allowed him to lead the Hogwarts rebellion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Everyone has felt dismissed or underestimated, and problems faced by Neville are strikingly similar to what people face in their everyday lives.
While Neville forcefully but nervously stammers “I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy,” fans everywhere think Neville is worth much more than that. Twelve “Malfoys” is still not enough to describe the tremendous hope that Neville brings to shy and awkward kids everywhere. Neville’s transformation documents the journey of a timid and uncertain young boy into a young man regarded as a hero.
In conclusion, Neville is one of the most underrated characters in the Harry Potter books because of the transformation he undergoes in his ability to face his fears and solve greater problems as a leader.
Rowling, J.K.. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. New York: Scholastic, 2007.
Rowling, J.K.. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
Woerner, Meredith. “Neville Longbottom, the Real Hero of the Harry Potter Franchise, Speaks Out”. I09, July 13, 2011. http://io9.gizmodo.com/5821034/neville-longbottom-the-real-hero-of-the-harry-potter-franchise-speaks-out. Accessed 27 March 2016.