Casting of Castes: A Critical Look at Sorting Pt.2

Alright, the second part of my argument: Hogwarts Houses.

So on top of that Blood Purity Caste I discussed in the previous post, there’s a  secondary caste system a work in this book which is much more prominent: The Hogwarts House System. Dear God is it ever prominent. For those of you who haven’t actually read these books I’ll give you a quick summary: When the new students arrive at Hogwarts they are brought into the Great Hall and ‘Sorted’ (I just love this word don’t you? Not ‘Placed’. ‘No ‘Divided’. Sorted. As though there are only four types of people in this world.) by the Sorting Hat, which will sing a Sorting Song highlighting the traits about each House.

The four houses are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. The traits you require to be sorted into each house are:

Gryffindor: Courage, Bravery, Chivalry

Hufflepuff: Hard-working and Loyal

Ravenclaw: Wit and Intelligence

Slytherin: Cunning and Ambition

So with these lovely personality traits (which I’m sure all people possess in varying degrees) comes certain stigmas attached to each individual house. These stigmas are at work in all the houses, but especially for Slytherin (partially for reasons discussed in the previous post).

“There’s not a Wizard or Witch that never went bad in Slytherin!”

Draco Malfoy’s entire rant a Madam Malkin’s

“All of Voldemort’s Death Eater’s were Slytherin” etc,

And this is before Harry even gets on the train to  go to Hogwarts and already he’s being programmed to reject one-quarter of the student population. Really? Really JK Rowling? Had to make it that blatant. I get that his was to set up a contrast between Harry and Voldemort, The hero overcoming his roots and all, but I somehow dealt that all of the eleven year-olds sorted into Slytherin are evil. I mean really, since when are cunning and ambition bad things to have? Also, none of the Slytherins strike me as all that cunning. Malfoy’s just a bully and Crabbe and Goyle are hired muscle men with no ambition to speak of except to follow Draco. Slytherin must be rolling in the grave somewhere to see his house reduced to this. So  Harry, of course, rejects Slytherin for Gryffindor, the House of Heroes, because if he hadn’t we would have had a protagonist with some depth.

And while we’re on the subject of Gryffindor: Peter Pettigrew. I have no idea how the man got into that House because not only is he coward when he’s finally revealed, actually no, that’s the only point I was going to make. So Gryffindor evidently produced a Death eater as well. So, if eve Gryffindors can be evil, logic follows that not all Slytherins are evil too. Then there’s Hermione, who is probably the most intelligent person in the books. And probably should have been in Ravenclaw, because I suspect she would have been happier there.

So Gryffindor has a resident genius and produced the traitor that killed Harry’s parents, Slytherin House seems to have forgotten to have either ambition or cunning, that just leaves Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.

Ravenclaw doesn’t get much spotlight, except in the form of Luna Lovegood, who while intelligent is also a little bit crazy. But crazy in a good way. She has quite the imagination and is always searching for things even the Wizarding World doesn’t believe exist, rather than relying on books for answers.

Finally we have Hufflepuff: the House of Leftovers. Which I really don’t think is fair. Work ethic and loyalty are far from bad traits to have, they just don’t sound as cool as Courage and Wisdom. Secondly their mascot is a badger. Have you ever seen the damage a badger can do? Also, let’s not forget that Cedric Diggory, the Hogwarts Champion was a Hufflepuff. But Hufflepuff is the most devalued House of them all. No one wants to be a Hufflepuff. (Except me evidently, I think they’re a pretty amazing house).

This system is on display in every book, particularly in the case of the House Point System, which I’m sure was originally a way to encourage students to be competitive academically but has since twisted into a system for promoting rivalries and bigotry. The point I’m trying to make is that Hogwarts literally classes its students into a system that indoctrinate them into prejudice. Rowling gives us several examples that the broad categorizations made by Draco Malfoy and Ron Weasely are categorically wrong, but the books themselves never address this fact. I highly doubt all the eleven year-olds in first year are evil, but when enough people hate you and tell you this on a regular basis, you tend to start thinking they are right.

Dumbledore preaches about acceptance, but his own school is a time-bomb he does nothing to stop or change. By allowing House Rivalries to run rampant, he allows another generation to be indoctrinated into this cycle of prejudice.

And this is a problem even the Magically Animated Talking Hat recognizes.

-Imported from old blog “British Literature”


One thought on “Casting of Castes: A Critical Look at Sorting Pt.2

  1. I like Hufflepuff too. It’s sad that the staples on houses was not very positive. I’m a Slytherin at heart, and though I would admit being quite manipulative at the age of 11, I am not evil or cunning today. If only the books and Dumbledore promoted house unity instead of division.

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