Harry Potter Book Club: Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 7

Warrior Girl's homemade wands.
Last week we talked wands, so for those of us who can't quite justify shopping at the WB shop or Alivans, here's a link on how to make your own. Ollivander doesn't mention papier-mâché, but if he didn't use it, perhaps Gregorovitch did. But as Seth pointed out this week, you'll want to make sure it's long enough.

Masha began the conversation on classism in the story, with the probability of much more to come (yes, Masha and Seth wrote in one post together, so the wands and classism commentary are at the same link):
Harry is somewhat outside class - as lost in suburbia as he would be along side Draco, watching with longing the pleasantly proletariat Weasleys knock about at the train station. It’s an opportunity to set him up to do ‘great things’ formed either by a connection to and welcoming of the good that can grow in all of the classes he can see - but never belong to; or else a rejection of these pockets of belonging and all the people who fit easily in one or the other. I don’t know that Rowling managed either in the end..but right now, Harry is still in formation - full of potential and the loneliness it brings.
Christie talked about expectations:
So what is a boy to do?  When he is already "known" by a whole class—no, a whole world—of people, yet still inherently unknown?  How does he establish himself as an individual?  And how does he climb out from under the shadow of such a daunting figure, someone he can't even be allowed to name in order to stand against face-to-face and ask, "Who are you?  And, more importantly, who does that make me?"
And there's magic to be had over at Kelly Orazi's, too, as she discusses similarities between Mr. Dursley and  Uncle Andrew from The Chronicles of Narnia:
While the others are able to hear beautiful music and understand the language of animals, [Uncle Andrew] and Jadis (the White Witch of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) cannot and will not understand. The narrator states, "For what you see and hear depends a good deal where you're standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are" (125). Like Mr. Dursley, Uncle Andrew talks himself out believing what he is seeing and hearing...
And now, witches and wizards and Muggle ladies and gentlemen... are you ready for Chapter 7? This is a big chapter.

* * *

Read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 7: The Sorting Hat

All right, firs' years! Which House are you in?

I know where I belong.

I'm Hufflepuff and I'm proud
Yeah, I'm not one of the crowd
I'm in the right House, baby, I was Sorted this way*

Did you know that Hufflepuff has produced the fewest Dark wizards of any Hogwarts House? That you get doused in vinegar if you try and get into our dormitories without knowing what you're doing? That our dormitories are a lot like hobbit holes—round, underground, comfortable, and with easy proximity to the kitchens? That Professor Sprout keeps lots of interesting plants in the common room, some of which sing and dance? That, like the badger which serves as our emblem, we're quiet but extremely tenacious?

Okay, so that one's mostly aimed at Slytherin.
But Slytherins are the ones who mostly treat us like idiots, so, yeah.
All right, I'll try and rein in the House pride. Too much boasting isn't considered seemly among us, after all.

Also, we got Edward Cullen. *grins*
Composite by loveeisGonee.

Potential Discussion Points:

1. The Houses. Here we begin one of the more controversial aspects of the British Wizarding educational system: the dividing of Hogwarts into rival houses based on choice virtues or ideals. The rivalry is the source of much fun and team spirit and delight, which, as you've seen above, I don't have much trouble displaying wholeheartedly. On the other hand, that same rivalry has been known to cause serious problems and to exacerbate the usual competition and bullying among students—which my Hufflepuff heart can't be anything less than horrified over.

Discussion could go a million ways, but here are the dividing lines, as they ostensibly stand:

Shields via the Harry Potter Lexicon


Values: Courage; "daring, nerve and chivalry"
Elemental correspondence: Fire
Emblem: Lion
Colors: Red and gold
Head of House: Minerva McGonagall, Transfiguration Mistress
Ghost: Nearly Headless Nick
Teaches: Standing up for others, and for what is right
Weaknesses: Seeks glory, tends to believe itself to be the best of the bunch
Arch-rival: Slytherin

...HPL: Slytherin


Values: Ambition, cleverness, status
Elemental correspondence: Water
Emblem: Snake
Colors: Green and silver
Head of House: Severus Snape, Potions Master
Ghost: The Bloody Baron
Teaches: Cunning, competition
Weaknesses: Arrogance, slyness, sometimes meanness
Arch-rival: Gryffindor

HPL: Ravenclaw


Values: Intelligence, wit, ready mind
Elemental correspondence: Air
Emblem: Raven
Colors: Blue and bronze
Head of House: Filius Flitwick, Charms Master
Ghost: The Grey Lady
Teaches: Logic, reasoning
Weaknesses: Snobbery, "know-it-all" tendencies
Arch-rival: Hufflepuff

HPL: Hufflepuff


Values: Loyalty, hard work, inclusiveness
Elemental correspondence: Earth
Emblem: Badger
Colors: Yellow and black
Head of House: Pomona Sprout, Herbology Mistress
Ghost: The Fat Friar
Teaches: Work ethic, kindness, universal dignity
Weaknesses: Often low achieving, over-simplistic
Arch-rival: Ravenclaw

All that should be something to start from, in symbolism studies and sources of rivalry.

2. Harry gets his first sight of several important people in this chapter. Among them are:

  • Albus Dumbledore, whose hilarious opening speech is the introduction to a supremely clever wizard who has learned not to take himself or anyone else too seriously.
  • Severus Snape, who obviously hates Harry from the outset—an unfortunate position for a teacher to take—and who seems somehow connected to Harry's past.
  • The pain in his own scar. Anything more than that, and we're straight into spoiler territory.
  • Peeves the poltergeist. With Peeves, Rowling proved her imagination to be wickedly funny. I'm glad he doesn't haunt my house, but he's one of the details that makes Hogwarts seem not only real but well worth visiting.

3. All right, this might not make much of a discussion point, but I love that the ceiling of the Great Hall is enchanted to look like the sky—full of stars, when Harry first sees it. If I were a Hogwarts student, the Astronomy classes would definitely be among my favorites.


* I love this Not Literally song. Advisory: being a Gaga parody, that is not a modestly-dressed bunch of girls in the music video. Fair warning! But the song is awesome. If you want to check out Not Literally's other House songs, here are their Gryffindor, Slytherin, and Ravenclaw anthems.

P.S. Don't look too closely at my wand. It has a sneaky habit of taking the form of a knitting needle.



    I guess one of the other things that bugs me about the House Sorting is that it offers a fairly rigid set of identities for kids at an age when their ideas about who they are, what they want, and what they value are very likely to be in flux -- and then spends the next six years reinforcing the identity that was selected for them (technically with their consent, but in a high-pressure situation, in front of everyone!) both by internal House Culture and by the way other people's perceptions of them are colored by their House affiliation.

    It's probably no worse than RL Muggle educational tracking, but I'm not a big fan of that stuff, either.

    I'm sure it's different for everyone, but I'm not the same person I was when I was eleven. If you stuffed that hat on my head back then, I'd probably have come out straight Slytherclaw and been happy to hear it; my present Hufflepuff values are almost entirely rooted in life experience I just didn't have at the time.

    Plus, I don't trust the Sorting Hat any more than I trust those Personality Number things or horoscopes or whatever. I know you're a magic hat, but dude, we just met!

    What if the House system were more flexible? What if you could affiliate with Ravenclaw for the Magical Physics honor society and the Doctor Who marathons, but play Quidditch for Gryffindor and audit a Slytherin tutorial in Non-Detectable Backstabbing (Special Topics: Wikipedia), just to see how you liked it? What if houses had Swap Weeks, where third-years from rival houses spent some time getting to know how the other 1/4 lived?

    I'd feel way more ok about it if there were just a tiny bit more criticism of the House system from characters within the books. I don't mind fictional societies being flawed! But it's one of those things that everyone in the book seems to take pretty much for granted -- counterexamples welcome, of course.

    1. Yeah, I'm totally with you on the age of Sorting thing. Though, in all honesty, I probably would've been a Hufflepuff anyway. There was a time in my life I wouldn't have made a bad Gryffindor, though. (Ravenclaw... unfortunately, no. I'd have spent most of my school days furious at the common room door. And I would have hated being in Slytherin in any time of my life, even if Rowling gave me no other reason than the common room decorations.)

      I like the swap weeks and affiliation ideas! It'd allow students to broaden their experiences a little.

      I can recall one clear criticism of the House system inside canon: ********MINI SPOILER********* Dumbledore saying to a certain character "You know, sometimes I think we Sort too soon". And he was right, because it's arguable that Sorting at such a young age in that particular time period helped ruin that certain character's life.

  2. You would perhaps look better in green & silver. ;)

    Ah, so much I could say about the House system. But since so much of it would be spoileriffic & would also take awhile, I'll sum up my thoughts on it. For literary purposes of inducing tension, competition, & conflict (and easily stereotyping people), it works. As long as you don't think about it too much.

    As for the House I'm in. Well, before Pottermore came along, most of the quizzes put me in Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, & Slytherin, in that descending order. When Pottermore sorting became available I got Ravenclaw, Slytherin, & Hufflepuff. (Yes, I created multiple accounts. And of course, nowadays I don't go on Pottermore at all.)

    Hufflepuff doesn't really fit me. So, it's pretty much been a toss up between Ravenclaw & Slytherin, with a personal affinity towards Slytherin.

    1. "...it works. As long as you don't think about it too much."

      Yeah, actually, huge portions of the story are like that. ;)

      As for the colors, I shot on that side of the room so you couldn't see the other side, which is hung in Gryffindor colors. Yellow and black are a little sketchy for me. I like green and silver, but I don't want to spend my hang-out time in a dungeon under the lake with greenish light and skulls everywhere. :P

      And yeah, even way back when, I just got on Pottermore to be curious and get Sorted. I haven't been on the site in many months.

    2. Also, I'm curious: since you're obviously not eeeeeeevil, wherein lies the Slytherin affinity? I've always wanted to ask a Slytherin that. :)

    3. You also missed out on dressing Maia as a Kneazle & including her in the shoot. :)

      Who says I'm not evil? I'm sure many atheists, liberals, & social changers of many stripes would call me that. ;)

      I'll think about it & let you know why about Slytherin. I think you also asked that in another post too. The main thing though is overcoming the prejudice that Rowling instilled in everyone against Slytherins. ;)

    4. It's hard enough to get Maia to join me in a picture without throwing a Kneazle costume into the mix. :P

  3. Popping in a bit late to the party, but just wanted to add a somewhat different angle. The idea of school houses isn't Rowling's, as such: it's actually quite common in many if most English public schools (that is to say, posh boarding schools like Hogwarts). It's a pragmatic thing--like getting sorted into dorms at a US liberal arts colleges, but more so. The houses will have the history, the distinguished alumni, the sport rivalry, etc., etc. So the houses and their attendant paraphernalia, attitudes and so on, are actually a realism detail on Rowling's part. It's what British readers would expect from a traditional school story.

    Dumbledore's criticism of that system is akin with JKR's own derision towards, well, posh boarding schools and the people who send their children there--the Dursleys and Smeltings, for instance. (Dudley's boater suggests Harrow.)

    The Sorting Hat, however, is another matter, and more problematic in a lot of ways. I agree with Revgeorge on this one: it totally works if you don't stop to think about it! When you do stop to think about it, it's a bit odd. Like so many of JKR's ideas, the initial concept is great but the broader implications, the 'silent pedagogy', if you will, seems to not be thought through sufficiently.

    1. Good points, Mr. Pond. I should have been more clear. I know the House system is quite common in England. I was referring more to how Rowling sets up the House system in her world. But perhaps the way she sets it up & runs it is part of the criticism she has towards it in the real world.

    2. Yeah, I figured the House system was a UK boarding school thing. It's sorting for the purpose of prioritizing specific virtues that's weird. That would have to cause problems in training for moral wholeness. Especially when one of your Houses is not ascribed a virtue at all. Again, only when you stop to think about it... Considering that Rowling's point seemed to be the importance of courage in the old sense, which wasn't so much physical bravery as all-around strength of virtue, I'm willing to forgive her a lot on this.

      I like the point about her setup being perhaps critical of real-world setups, George.

  4. So..Why can't we see the links?? I can only see a Happy 3 Entries So Far!! I know Two are mine..is the other one Laura's??..Which, if you haven't seen it yet, is wicked funny, btw..

    I'm sure lots of atheists would love you George!!! It makes me sad that Rowling has so much hate for Slytherin..I can see them having a decent number of good and happy members - none of whom make the character-list for her, because she's just a hater who hate ;P

    I've no clue at all where I'd go..She doesn't take moodiness and flaky alterations of self into account..Gryffindor is kind of douchy, I'd feel rejected in Hufflepuff - because Rowling seems to dismiss them as dumpy and not-too-bright. I'd feel judged for being such a slacker in Ravenclaw, and I'm not evil..so - I feel like Harry, imagining the hat would just sit on me until everyone got too hungry and just sent me home..:(

    1. I don't know why the links aren't visible!!!!!! Looking into it... will reply to the rest of this later...

    2. M. -- Don't worry about the Sorting Hat not knowing what to do with you -- it'd just slam-dunk you into Griffyindor, the only house that teaches Complex Character Development.

    3. And the links are up! Apparently a tiny little box got unchecked somehow...

      I'm totally sitting here laughing over the difference between your take on Rowling and the Houses and mine... How are you so much less melancholy than I am, when I'm the one who hardly ever ascribes anything but good to the world? :P

      Slytherin is in a bad state during the years of Harry only because a) Rowling needed it to be that way for plot purposes, and b) Voldemort's presence in it didn't do it any favors and neither did old Salazar's having a GREAT BIG SPOILER locked up in the basement....

      Gryffindor is not necessarily douchey; it had Neville and Hermione in it. And even Hufflepuff had Zacharias Smith to deal with. Luna Lovegood survived being in Ravenclaw, and she was far from being the stereotype. And Hufflepuffs in general eventually SPOILERED for SPOILER more than any other House, which I took as Rowling's saying, "Everyone is wrong to call you idiots; you lot are strong and beautiful."

      Laura, LOL!!

      Other arguments for putting you in Gryffindor, Masha, include your tendency to defend underdogs, which could also work for you if you wanted to be Hufflepuff like me. :D You could do Ravenclaw no problem if you don't mind lots of mind games and possibly living with a few snobs. And you're your own spirit enough to be an independent thinking Slytherin--you could totally go Goth in there if you wanted--and bring some decency to the House. ;)

  5. I'm glad Mr. Pond mentioned English schools, that was what I was thinking of primarily throughout sorting. And basically, everyone already caught on to the "brilliant" observations I make in my post! ^^;


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