Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Can you pledge allegiance to a Hogwarts house?

Recently I touched on another sorting hat subject where I expressed doubts of being sorted into Gryffindor. The question I posed was how does a modern-day muggle fit into the criteria of Gryffindor when there are rare many wizarding acts of bravery to perform. My lack of conviction made me question whether I belong in other houses such as Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw (though not Slytherin - sorry!).

Which prompted me to ask another question: can we pledge allegiance to one Hogwarts house?

At eleven years old young Potter and his friends understand that the sorting hat takes their choice into account during their initiation into Hogwarts. Specifically, Potter had the option of being Slytherin but through pleading with the power of that be, he was sorted into Gryffindor instead. Through and through, Potter is a staunch member and representative of this house. Despite his arduous and challenging journey and battle against Lord Voldemort - despite all the crushes, friendships, and deaths,  Potter bleeds red and yellow.

Rarely are there exhibitions of characters that blur the traits between houses - except perhaps Hermione Granger. Deemed the brightest witch of her age, astute and brave, her sorting hat ceremony experienced a hat-stall; a long rumination made by the sorting hat of where to place the prospective student. Granger tied between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw before being selected for the former. This comes as no surprise to readers as Hermione's dramatic display of intelligence may inspire us to question if she would be a better fit for Ravenclaw because of her value for books and cleverness. Often we overlook her fateful decision in the Sorcerer's Stone of choosing friendship and bravery over anything else, but her ability to look ahead and plan out against obstacles sometimes makes us believe otherwise.

What strikes me in the Harry Potter series is - as said by Professor McGonagall in Sorcerer's Stone - your house becomes your family. As we know from Potter's experience he found his best friends that last a lifetime in Gryffindor, as well as Ravenclaw with Luna Lovegood, and quite a few enemies from the house of Slytherin. Hufflepuff played a relatively small role but had its greatest challenge when Cedric Diggory died in the Triwizard Tournament. However, a majority of his accomplices in life and his education come from his house.

Repeatedly throughout the series characters define themselves and their house but rarely break the barrier, mold, typecast. A major source of evidence with this is how Slytherin was not given a character who shatters the shackles of their houses' "evil" reputation. The journey of Severus Snape acting as a double agent to protect Harry Potter on the behalf of his love for his mother Lily inspires some to re-sort Snape into Gryffindor, but his motives can doubly be argued that they were more for his own gain than the personal protection of Harry. As much as muggle society is divided into cliques from highschool to the workplace, so is the wizarding world divided into the reputation of the houses.

The case may be best made with the Weasleys and the Malfoys. Easily, we remember and know that both families were separated by vast differences dealing with political power, wealth, and beliefs in half-blood acceptance versus pureblood domination. As the central focus for the former family, the Weasleys are befriended and surrounded by other Gryffindors such as members of the Order of the Phoenix. Having a deeply devoted cause for dark magic and loyalty to Lord Voldemort, the Malfoys join forces with other Slytherins. As much as each family is set in their ways of political advocacy in the wizarding wars, we rarely see them interact with members of other houses in a positive or polite matter; often it is when they are at odds in verbal disagreement and physical battle.

As much as I love the Harry Potter series, personalities are more complicated than a four-trait system - which is where sorting becomes complicated. It's fun to identify yourself and your friends into a house, but how well does that system work when people are so much more complicated.

Occasionally, I find myself leaning towards other houses like Hufflepuff due to my likes, dislikes, and personality traits. My mom would have me sorted into Gryffindor while my sister sorts me into Hufflepuff. Intelligence and learning is something that I value highly, as doing well in school was a main source of comfort when friends were hard to come by. Fellow Harry Potter fans that find themselves a mix of two houses sort themselves accordingly; Gryffinpuff, Slytherclaw, Ravendor, Hufflepin - but I find it hard to distinguish myself into one or the other. How well does the sorting hat truly capture a person's personality if said student is a flavor of more than house?

If we're lucky enough when we are young to be boisterous and proud, our true colors are not afraid to shine through. But as we grow up, we don't remain stagnant. Our beliefs, actions, motives, and sometimes even personality traits can shift, shrink, and magnify. Those who may be introverted when they are younger morph into outgoing and enthusiastic extroverts; some who may be willing to be a follower when they are young can grow into a role as a leader. And yet through all the trials and obstacles that Harry and his friends experience, they all remain idyllic members of their fated house.

In the way that muggles look back on their elementary or high schools by how they were divided or united by groups; popular, jocks, band, artsy, debate, drama, etc. is our sorting something we wholly accept and do not judge? Is it possible to remain a member of one house?

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