Casting of Castes: A Critical Look at Sorting

Blood Purity in Harry Potter.

So let’s talk about Harry Potter. If there ever was a contemporary British novel about the Caste system and steeped is racial themes: This is that book.While I was considering this, I realized I’d have to do this post in two parts.

1. The Blood Purity Argument

2. The Hogwarts House System

Both deal with a specific type of caste value system and in both these castes your position is unchangeable. So, let’s talk about Blood Purity.

If we are going to explain the Blood Purity argument, we first have to explore the reason Rowling gives the prejudice against Muggleborns. That reason is Salazar Slytherin.

And here’s his chocolate Frog card. Note how even his illustration and posture makes you think “This man is evil and not to be trusted.”

Now for some news that will BLOW YOUR MIND: Salazar Slytherin wasn’t actually the evil guy the books make him out to.

Yes, he didn’t want to teach muggleborn students magic. Yes he believed that magic should be restricted to magic only families, and yes he left Hogwarts over an argument about this issue. But is that the measure of evil in a ma? Not necessarily (and yes, I KNOW about the basilisk, but I’ll get to that later.)

What everyone, including the students of his house, tend to forget is that Slytherin lived approximately 1000 years before these books take place and therefore you must take his views in that context. And when you consider just what was going on at that time in Britain, Salazar’s viewpoints make sense.

1. Muggleborns should not be taught magic at Hogwarts.

Well at this time most of these muggleborns would have been illiterate peasants, rather than scholars and thus would be incapable of reading and writing, two very important skills integral to scholarly learning. That’s not to say they couldn’t have been taught, but ask anyone who struggles with literacy and they’ll tell you it’s not easy. The students of magical would probably be literate, due to their parents having schooled them before coming to school. Also, the rise of the Church and the witch burning made muggleborn children a security risk; the Founders would essentially have to kidnap them and never allow them to see their families again. Now, children typically left at that age for apprenticeships or younger, depending, but can you imagine the problem of extracting a muggleborn Aristocrat?

2. Muggles are inferior to wizards

So, 1000 years ago, it was the Dark Ages. Seems like an obvious answer doesn’t i Remember what caused the Dark Ages? Answer:the collapse of the Roman Empire. Once the Empire collapsed, quite a lot of knowledge was lost that humanity had to  rediscover. My theory is that wizards never had that problem and their magic allowed them to retain that knowledge and standard of living while  the rest of the populace struggled to get by. This would have put most magical families on par with the muggle aristocracy or at least the merchant class.

Now let’s take a look at who, 1000 years down the line, is promoting these outdated viewpoint:

Harry’s Slytherin contemporaries.

These kids worry me, because they’ve been born introduced into the symbolic order by their parents, who have taught them to be racist against those with muggle ancestors. Which I’m pretty sure includes their own families. The wizarding population is so small, that it has to breed with muggles in order to survive and not produce mentally unstable or deformed children. Which includes squibs (those from magical parents without magic themselves and are therefore lower than dirt). My theory is that all muggleborns have a squib ancestor in their own family tree somewhere and the magic gene is a recessive trait.

Voldemort: The main antagonist of the series.

And then there’s this man, the self-styled Lord Voldemort. Whose stated goal is for supreme rulership over Britain (and then the world presumably) and the elimination of those with muggle ancestry. And if this is reminding you of the logic of another historical figure and his ideas then you aren’t alone:

This promotion of the superiority of wizards and Purebloods especially is incredibly hypocritical. Considering that Voldemort himself is a half blood, he literally has no foundation to stand on, except for the fact he is apparently a very persuasive speaker. Which only makes sense because for all his propaganda of a master race god knows Hitler certainly wasn’t Aryan.

They play this issue really well in the movie, In fact the entire scene at the Ministry of Magic scared me far more than the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort:

It frightens me, because everything Dolores Umbridge accuses the muggleborn witch of is very similar to not only the Nazi regime, but also the interrogations of the Cold War. And that’s a terrifying thought, that a government can be corrupted in this way. (PS. digital cookies for anyone who can spot all the Third Reich symbolism here).

Most of the equality problem here stems from the lack of an Industrial Revolution. They never really needed one. As there appears to be a small population there was no need for migration to the city and magic would have allowed them [wizards] to create what they needed  efficiently without the need of factories to mass produce it. The Wizarding World, prior to this, was always far ahead of the muggle world and could be secure in that superiority. By 2011, when the final movie came out, it occurred to me that this is no longer the case. Muggles have far surpassed wizards in every area, for instance communication: Owls and the Floo Netwrok sound and look cool, but the Internet is much faster and easier to communicate with. We’ve even walked on the Moon.

The Muggleborns are needed now more than ever for the Wizarding World, because they`ll force it to change, mostly by innovation. This class oriented society, which even with marriage you cannot move away from the label they stick on you, is in a state of stagnation when Harry finally vanquishes Voldemort. It is in a state of decay, which is proven by the fact that these are the only books I’ve read that don’t actually RESOLVE any of the conflicts, except obviously the elimination of Voldemort.

In the end, I think we must consider Dumbledore’s words in book four as a wake up call:

“It is not who you are born, but who you grow to be that truly matters in this life.”

-imported off my old Blog “British Literature”


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