Not Defined By Your Hogwarts House

By: Johanna Marano April 24, 2017

I am going to start this off with admitting the fact that I am a Harry Potter fanatic. (Writing this is just building my excitement because my family and I are going to Harry Potter World for the second time this coming summer!) The series feels as though it has always composed a major portion of my life, although I probably did not start reading them until about 6th grade. However, one I started, I could not stop. I just need to keep reading and reading. I became captivated by this extraordinary and well-crafted world that is paralleled to our own.

It has always been a pet peeve of mine that I could not watch the movie until I read the book. The same went for Harry Potter. I wanted to have all the details of the book before the movie cut a handful out or changed details due to time constraints. I have only read the books one time through, so far, and finished the final book in like 9th or 10th grade. However, I have watched the movies countless times and my love for the series continues to grow each time.

I feel as though I grew up alongside these characters and as a result, I walked always having learned numerous life lessons. Even now as I continue to re-watch the films, I discover or take away something new each time. At some point in the far future, I hope to get the chance to reread the entire series because I know it will be a completely different experience than the first time around. I am most definitely not the same person I was when I first read these books. Even though the story is the same, the novels are going to have a different effect on me now that I am older.

I recent reread The Sorcerer’s Stone for my Young Adult Literature Course and have already begun to notice this. When I first read the series, more so towards the end, I recognized how some of the characters had qualities about them that did not fit in the stereotypical characteristics of the Hogwarts they were placed in. And if you are a Harry Potter fan, you should know how important the Sorting Hat is and the house you call family.

Sorting Hat
Harry Potter being sorted into his house by the Sorting Hat upon his arrival to Hogwarts.

What I am beginning to notice is how so many of the characters fit in to this concept of not just “belong” to one house. And this goes for so many of the characters other than the main three – Harry, Ron, and Hermione. For example this applies to Dumbledore, Snape, and even Draco. All the characters grow and learn from their experiences over the series, causing them to develop particular traits over others, some of which are not defined by their initial house placement. Just as I am not the same person I was when I first read the series, they are not the same characters as they were when they were first sorted by the Sorting Hat.

How is it that the Sorting Hat, although it appears to be extremely knowledgeable, know precisely in what house to place the students. It is said that a Gryffindor is brace, a Hufflepuff is loyal, a Ravenclaw is intelligent, and a Slytherin is cunning. How can a student at the age of eleven, who has had little experience, knowledge, and training, be accurately placed in to one of the four houses? How can the Sorting Hat foresee the type of person each individual will become? As the series progresses, we see how there is no clear cut definition as to what characteristics each house is built on because the characters begin to overlap. The characteristics assigned to each house merely act as a “base line”, for people are much more complex and not simply defined.

I would say that for most of the characters, they could fall under two or more houses based on the characteristics they express and embrace over the course of the series. I think the most obvious character is Snape, who is a Slytherin. You cannot deny that his is an extremely cunning character – as a Slytherin is known to be. Although he is capable of deceiving Voldemort in to believing that he is on his side, he is extremely loyal to Dumbledore and bravely accepted his fate. Based on the latter two characteristics, it would be very fitting to say that Snape also carries the traits of a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor, respectively.

This just goes to show that people are not defined by what others say they are or who they once were. People can change over time through their experiences, leading them to develop other traits. Their traits can only be defined by themselves, in the manner in which they choose to act on them.

This is one of the reasons I love and respect Snape so much; people think they have him all figured out, but his is far much more complicated than that. Throughout a majority of the series, we are led to believe that he lives up to the Slytherin characteristics and is not a good character, acting against Harry. By the end of the series, we learn he really is not that bad, but rather misunderstood and does not always go about things in the right way. However, leading up to that point people have always tried to define him based on the house he was placed in.

I think this is why I cannot bring myself to take the Pottermore quiz on which house I would belong in. Although I am a diehard fan, part of me does not want to know and then be defined by that house and its “base line” characteristics. I know there have been moments in my life when I have expressed characteristics from all four houses because there is no way to strictly be defined as one particular house. Plus part of me really wants to be Slytherin, simply because Draco is my absolute favorite. (What can I say, I love a “bad boy” – but like Snape, he does not fully fit in to the Slytherin mold. We see him develop as a character over the series and struggle with who he wants to be and what others want him to be. Despite what others say, I will forever defend Draco for being misunderstood. End small rant)

Maybe one day, I will bring myself to take the quiz and discover which house I belong in. As long as I remember that I am not defined by that house and its characteristics, there is no real harm in finding out. It is the traits that I favor and act upon that will define me as a person. As the great Albus Dumbledore would say “It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”

Hogwarts Houses
A description of the “base line” characteristics of each Hogwarts house.

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