Still Sorting it Out: Should Harry Have Been a Slytherin?

I was 18 years old when the first book of the series was published in the U.S. but I didn’t know about it until I noticed my best friend reading on her breaks at the office where we both worked. I thought it curious that a college student would read a young adult book and I think I asked her if it was for a literature class.

It wasn’t. She had been sucked into JK Rowling’s wizarding world like millions of others. She encouraged me to read them but the books looked massive and I was in the midst of studying for finals. I didn’t bother with them until I flipped through a paperback copy in a pharmacy while home (sick) on winter break. I had barely scratched the surface of Goblet of Fire by the time we returned from break.

That was 2001. I didn’t know that the next book, Order of the Phoenix, was still two years away. It was a long wait!

Understandably, Harry was fearful of becoming a Slytherin but was Slytherin the right house for him? Jill Gruenwald believes so and shared five reasons why. If not for his objection, many have wondered if the Sorting Hat put Harry in the wrong house.

“The Sorting Hat, as we know, stubbornly refuses to admit that it has ever placed a student in the incorrect house. Still, we have to consider how close it came to putting Harry in Slytherin and that, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the Sorting Hat doubles down, saying it was right: Harry “would have done well in Slytherin.” True, Harry unknowingly carried a piece of Voldemort’s soul inside of him—but could that small fragment really explain all of the times Harry exhibited Slytherin traits throughout the series?”

This is a topic worthy of discussion with my children when we read the series together. It brings several questions to mind: Why are we judged by who we associate with? How do reputations get started? Why are determination and ambition considered flaws in some people yet not in others and how do these traits differ from heroism? Under what circumstances do you think it’s appropriate to deceive someone? Are there times when the greater good is more important than individual gain? How do you determine when breaking the rules is necessary? How are bravery and fearful impulsivity different?

“If we’ve learned anything from Neville Longbottom, it’s that sometimes true bravery looks like boldly challenging the status quo. Instead, by begging the hat not to put him in Slytherin, Harry let his prejudices get in the way.”

I believe that each of us is a multidimensional individual with unique personalities and strengths. As humans, we have far more genetic similarities than we have differences but that close similarity tends to make our differences stand out. Consider, for instance, the Hogwarts dressing robes. Each of the four houses has its own colors and emblem to show affiliation with a group that is most obvious on the outside, yet robes cannot cover character differences or keep personality traits from standing out.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. Have you been put into a group with which you don’t believe you belong? How did you handle it?

Q2. If you could create a sorting hat, how would you use it?

Q3: How can prejudicial views keep people from using their talents in combination with others who are different?

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