Potterhead July Blog Festival-Hogwarts Houses: Do They Create Division or Unity?

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Potterhead July Blog Festival
What: A month long series of posts dedicated to celebrating the magical world of Harry Potter!
Who: Bloggers across the world
When: July 1st-31st
Why: Because we all need more Harry Potter in our lives 

You can check out the links to other awesome posts by clicking here.

Thank you so much to Aentee over at Read at Midnight for setting up this blog festival, creating the lovely banner you see up above, and for letting me participate! Go check out her blog!

Hogwarts Houses: Do They Create Division or Unity?

Division

Houses, and the Sorting Hat, by their very nature, create division. The Sorting Hat separates students into different houses based upon the characteristics students have that best suit each house. In the very first book, the Sorting Hat sings a song describing each house.

You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;

You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
if you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;

Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folks use any means
To achieve their ends.

By separating students into different houses, the Sorting Hat is including some students into a group and excluding others from the group. 

As seen throughout the books, this separation of students can lead to stereotypes, especially if students within individual houses don't commingle with students from different houses. 

House Stereotypes:
Gryffindor=Brave (the heroes, the "good guys", the jocks)
Hufflepuff=Loyal (take in students who don't fit into the other houses, in the words of Draco Malfoy "Imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I'd leave, wouldn't you?")
Ravenclaw=Smart (brainy, eccentric, absentminded, the geeks)
Slytherin=Ambitious (ruthless, the "bad guys", the bullies)


As you can see, Slytherin gets a bad rap, and people usually underestimate or forget about Hufflepuff.  

These House stereotypes affect the relationships between students from different houses and can cause rivalries. The intense rivalry between Gryffindor House and Slytherin House, both on and off the Quidditch pitch, is the perfect example. Members of both houses feel such a strong loyalty to their respective houses that Gryffindor-Slytherin friendships are almost non-existent in the books, and students from each house are openly hostile towards each other. 

Unity

While the Hogwarts Houses do divide students into different groups, they also can unify students. In general, people like the feeling of belonging to something. As Professor McGonagall says in the very first book, "your houses will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory and spend free time in your house common room." Many first years, especially muggleborn first years, are nervous to attend Hogwarts, and belonging to a House full of like minded people can help students settle in and become more comfortable. The House Cup, a yearly competition between houses in which houses gain or lose points based upon their success and failures in school, further unites students in each respective house as they work toward a common goal. 

In the later Harry Potter books, the theme of unity is strengthened by inter-house friendships and alliances. After the Triwizard Tournament ends in the fourth book, Dumbledore preaches about the necessity of standing together whether it be with different houses or different countries when he says, "We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided." At the end of the day, no matter what house they belong to, they are all Hogwarts students. There are many characters throughout the series who ignore house boundaries and become friends with other students regardless of which house to which they belong. In the fourth book, Cedric Diggory and Harry Potter help each other out during the Triwizard Tournament even though they are from different houses and are competing against each other. In Order of the Phoenix, Harry forms Dumbledore's Army with students across different houses to study Defense Against the Dark Arts in secret to prepare for the coming war against Voldemort.

Members of Dumbledore's Army (listed alphabetically by last name)

Gryffindor:
-Katie Bell
-Lavender Brown
-Colin Creevey
-Seamus Finnigan
-Hermione Granger
-Angelina Johnson
-Lee Jordan
-Neville Longbottom
-Parvati Patil
-Harry Potter
-Alicia Spinnet
-Dean Thomas
-Fred Weasley
-George Weasley
-Ginny Weasley
-Ron Weasley

Hufflepuff:
-Hannah Abbott
-Susan Bones
-Justin Finch-Fletchly
-Ernie Macmillan
-Zacharias Smith

Ravenclaw:
-Terry Boot
-Cho Chang
-Michael Corner
-Marietta Edgecombe
-Anthony Goldstein
-Luna Lovegood
-Padma Patil

As you can see, three of the four different Hogwarts Houses united together to form Dumbledore's Army. Looking back at it now, I would've liked to see at least one rogue Slytherin join Dumbledore's Army. I find it hard to believe there wasn't at least one Slytherin student who felt like he or she didn't get along with the rest of the Slytherins or wanted to actually learn Defense Against the Dark Arts because Professor Umbridge wasn't teaching anything useful in the actual class. Slytherins are an ambitious lot, so I'd imagine they'd want to learn and become the best witch or wizard they could be. There's even a fan theory for Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire which suggests that if a Slytherin had replaced Cedric Digorry in the Triwizard Tournament, it would've brought the houses closer together. You can read about it here: What if Cassius Warrington (a Slytherin) had been killed instead of Cedric Diggory?


The Unifying Power of Hogwarts Houses in the Real World

Hogwarts Houses even unify people outside of the Harry Potter books too. If you've ever talked with Harry Potter fans, they've no doubt at one point proudly declared which house they were sorted into on Pottermore and eagerly asked to which house you belong. As a Ravenclaw myself, I know I feel an instant kinship with people when I hear they're also a Ravenclaw. Ravenclaws Represent!

Take a look at a lot of the popular YA book series, and you'll see the idea of sorting people into different groups is extremely popular. There are the different houses in Harry Potter, the different factions in Divergent, the different demigod houses in Percy Jackson, the different districts in The Hunger Games, etc. Countless personality quizzes online will sort you into each. I believe that people like being sorted into groups because people want to know what makes them unique but also know that they are not alone at the same time. In the words of the great Dr. Seuss, "we're all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness." 


In the end, I think we all have a little bit of each house within us.

Let's Chat! (because I could seriously talk about all things Harry Potter all day)

Which Hogwarts House are you? What do you love most about your house? Do you think Hogwarts Houses create division, unity, or a little bit of both? Comment below!


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21 comments

  1. You make very good points on both planes, that there is an intention to both unite and divide present in the series. Still, I remain kind of disenchanted with the story for exactly the reason that Slytherin was left out of most of the proceedings. I felt like Harry's perspective demanded a crusader's approach to the house methods, and either you were in full agreement and those with opposing or different values ought to be crushed. Which I didn't think was altogether fair. I'm glad, though, that people in the fandom have been fighting for Slytherin pride and having a kinder attitude towards the house that is intentionally demonized in the books. It's a nice change to be made!

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    1. I agree with you that Slytherin house is intentionally villainized in the books. With the exception of Regulus Black, and to some extent Draco and Narcissa Malfoy in the 7th book, there are very few Slytherins who are portrayed in a positive light. I think J. K. Rowling does a much better job of this in the writings she's shared on Pottermore. Her welcome letter to those sorted into Slytherin would definitely make me feel better if I were sorted into the same house as Lord Voldemort. I too am glad that the fandom embraces Slytherins. I have quite a few friends who are Slytherins and they are some of the nicest people I know:) Thanks for adding your thoughts, Heather!

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  2. Loved this post, Leah!

    I must admit your point about the quizzes is true! I like a sense of belonging and when I went to the HP Studio Tour and they asked us what houses we were in I was proud enough to shout mine even though it isn't entirely a reality. Also hey to you, fellow Ravenclaw! Have you been sorted into your Ilvermorny house yet?

    Although there was unity and division on both counts I always remember nineteen years later and the way that Draco nods at Harry. I would like to think that at that point Albus and Scorpius get on regardless of their house (they may even defy their parents houses though I'm going to have to wait until 2017 to find out when I see Cursed Child!)

    Also that fan theory about Warrington was mind-blowing!

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    1. Thanks, Tash! I am so jealous you've been to the HP Studio Tour! Some college friends and I are hoping to hop across the pond next summer so we can do all things Harry Potter and some other touristy stuff, but a lot of Harry Potter stuff:)

      Yay Ravenclaws! I did get sorted into my Ilvermorny house and am in Thunderbird. I guess I am meant to be a bird, ha ha! Which Ilvermorny house were you sorted into? I think I'd still prefer to attend Hogwarts over Ilvermorny, but it was still cool to read about.

      Yes, the epilogue did set things up for the next generation of Hogwarts students to be more tolerant and accepting of each other, regardless of their houses. I can't wait to get my hands on the script for Cursed Child at the end of July and hopefully will be able to see it performed live next summer too!

      Aren't Harry Potter fans the best? :) I love that they keep finding new meaning and possibilities in the books even years later.

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  3. I hope you get to see it all soon :) it was so worth it! I would definitely go again too, I think it is worth a couple of visits anyway so you can truly see everything.

    No way, I got sorted into Thunderbird too. It's apparently the house of adventurers though I tend to live mine through books!

    HP fans are great. I love that still after all this time I hear people always talking about it. I may have just referenced HP without meaning to then!

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  4. This is such a wonderful post! I really do think that Rowling could have done better when it came to presenting a more well-rounded look at each house. This is probably because most of her focus was on Harry and friends, who are mostly Gryffindors. We learn so much more about that house throughout the series. Yes, they are known for their bravery and sometimes that bravery is expressed differently (Neville), but we also learn that this bravery can make them jump first without looking (Harry). I wish Harry had had more friends outside his own house and maybe this is a criticism of having different houses, you end up spending time with only one group of people. Slytherin definitely got a bad rep in the books and I think that was entirely unfortunate. While I would agree that at Hogwarts, there are some series division in the books because of these houses, we as fans are much better at accepting everyone and being more appreciative of certain characteristics represented in each. As a Ravenclaw (who needs to know your sign when you can just share your Hogwart's house?), I don't feel inclined to only befriend fellow Ravenclaws because I know every person, no matter which house they belong in, has something wonderful to offer. And at the end of the day, I agree, we have more in common with all of the houses instead of one. Loved reading your post!

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    1. Yes, another Ravenclaw! Thanks for reading and commenting, Alicia! I agree with you 100% that we didn't get well-rounded view of the other houses because the focus was on Gryffindor.

      Yes, HP fans are so welcoming! I vaguely recall reading something a few years ago that said something to the effect of "people who grew up reading the HP books are more tolerant of others." I have no idea if that's true, or how they went about testing that theory (if they did in fact do a study), but from all the fans that I've interacted with I'd say it's true.

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  5. I love how you contrasted how they create unity AND division. SO TRUE. I love the whole "sorting" aspect (of this series and others, like you listed!) because it does create that sort of "family" feeling right??! Like going to Hogwarts was Harry's first encounter of having a family and AFJDASKLD THAT'S ALL THE WONDERFULNESS. But also it is sad how the stereotypes arise and just the little wars, basically.
    Actually I think it's a huge failing on the HP books' behalf that they didn't have ANY "good" Slytherins. Like whyyyyyy??!?!? I can't believe all Slytherins were supporters of Voldemort. And it would've balanced things out to show how good and brave and amazing Slytherins can be too. (Um, yes, I am a Slytherin. xD) So eternally disappointed about that basically. Hmm.

    Loved the post! :D

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

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    1. I love "sorting" too! (I may or may not have taken an online personality quiz today which sorted me into one of the Houses from Game of Thrones).

      The Harry Potter series and Hogwarts hold so much nostalgia for me. When J. K. Rowling said "Hogwarts will always be your home" it hit me right in the feels.

      YES to everything you said about Slytherin! I think it would've been so cool to have Harry befriend a Slytherin in the series to show that Harry, unlike Voldemort, is not prejudiced against others.

      So you're a Slytherin, eh? I can't say I'm surprised what with all of your minions and world domination plans, ha ha! Seriously though, a lot of my friends are Slytherins, and they're all perfectly lovely. Being a Slytherin just means they set goals, and then blast those goals out of the water!

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  6. I wrote out this whole long comment, and then I lost it before it posted. Sigh... Let me try to hit the main points I made again.

    After taking adolescent psychology this past semester, I realized that the houses artificially divide the students into crowds, which are groups that all teenagers naturally divide into anyway. But it's interesting to me that at Hogwarts these crowds are almost created for the students and are also so rigidly enforced.

    I'm not anti-Hogwarts houses because I'm a proud Ravenclaw myself, but it's interesting to me.

    Really, I'd say that I'm all for houses, but I do with that the professors of Hogwarts were shown as promoting school unity more in the books. They never really seem concerned about whether students from each house are befriending each other or not (as long as they're not outright fighting), and it would have been nice to see some encouragement of inter-house friendships from the teachers.

    Actually, even more than that, it seems like there's not only a lack of encouragement but obstacles in the way of inter-house friendships. As far as I can tell, the only good place for friendships made up of multiple house members to hang out is the grounds, which isn't always the greatest option in the middle of the winter that makes up a good bulk of the school year. Other than that, the only good options for hanging out at Hogwarts are the divided common rooms and the Great Hall that's divided into house tables. Of course, you can form friendships despite all of this, but it does perform natural barriers that are going to make such friendships less likely. I have to wonder why the school hasn't somehow tried to make it easier for students to befriend students form other houses by at least giving them a convenient place to interact with other houses outside of class.

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    1. Ah, I like the psychological lense you've brought to the discussion. You're right, a lot of teens do naturally group themselves.

      You bring up some excellent points about the teachers and the physical set up of Hogwarts. It would've been cool if there had been a common room that was, well, common to all of the students regardless of their house.

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  7. i'd never heard of the slytherin in the triwizard tournament theory before, whoa! i'm so happy to see a post about house unity/division, because that's never anything i've really considered.

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    1. The fan theory about Cassius Warrington definitely blew my mind as well! Thanks for reading, Desirae!

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  8. Beautiful post, Leah, I am glad you chose this topic and you elaborated so well. I thought that Slytherin got the short end of stick as far as house unity went, it was quite disappointing to see how the book rallies against them even though one of the main themes of HP was acceptance (esp for Muggleborn witches and wizards). I think it's quite understandable that a lot of YA novels tend to segregate people into groups - it at once addresses that need to belong in your adolescent, and the yearning to assert your individuality.

    Thanks for joining Potterhead July and for your insightful post!

    Aentee at Read at Midnight

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and for setting up this wonderful blog festival, Aentee! You are so right about how the HP books rally around the idea of acceptance, but then the other houses actively exclude Slytherin from this acceptance and unity. I hadn't thought of it until just now, but there were probably some Muggleborn witches and wizards who were sorted into Slytherin.

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  9. I remember in the books often being disappointed by the way Slytherins were always separated. It felt like all the houses could learn to unify except for them. I would have love loved to see a Slytherin in Dumbledore's Amry too! I always felt like the unity bit felt a bit like a sham because one house was always 'evil' with a few select exceptions. But maybe The Cursed Child will change that. I'm hoping beyond hope that Albus Potter is sorted into Slytherin!

    Liselle @ Lunch-Time Librarian

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    1. Ah, I am so excited to read The Cursed Child when it comes out, and Albus Potter being sorted into Slytherin would be epic! Thanks for reading, Liselle!

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  10. Love the post!! The view we got of all Slytherins as nonredeemable (or in need of redeeming) jerks was definitely unrealistic. I feel the whole Harry-Albus scene in the epilogue was probably JKR's way of addressing that (?)
    I wonder what would have happened if Harry ended up travelling in a compartment coach full of Slytherins on his train ride in the first book.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I totally agree with you, especially because J. K. Rowling did show that not all Gryffindors are brave and champion the weak (James Potter was a bully and Peter Pettigrew was a coward). She could've shown that not all Slytherins were unredeemable as well.

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  11. I think that you make very strong points on both of these very different views. I think that both are definitely a big part of the books and part of why the series is so interesting.

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    1. *nods* Yes, I love that we are still able to find different meanings and interpretations of the books. That's part of their magic:)

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