Potterhead July: Do Hogwarts Houses Create Division or Unity?

potterheadjuly-ravenclaw

As part of Potterhead July, a month-long celebration of Harry Potter hosted by Aentee @ Read at Midnight, I wanted to discuss whether Hogwarts houses actually create unity or whether they divide students. I’m going to try to keep this short because if I don’t, it will end up being novel length. 😉

I think the intention behind them was to create unity among students who had common values: courage, power, friendliness & helpfulness, knowledge. By creating houses based on these traits & values, students would be surrounded by people with whom they had something in common. In theory, by being with these people, you can easily make friends who will support you and help you. And I think that the houses do succeed in doing this to at least some extent.

But I also think that being sorted into a specific house creates division.

I admit, I have fun telling everyone I’m a Ravenclaw and I can understand the great deal of pride that some people feel for their house (and would expect this to an even greater extent in the actual characters). But I think in actual practice, it would be a disaster for students to be sorted this way (okay, maybe disaster is a bit of a strong word…) and I truly believe it creates more division than unity among the students at Hogwarts (and maybe even among us Harry Potter fans).

Think about the books (or the movies) for a minute. A vast majority of the characters we get to know on any meaningful level are Gryffindors. Why? Because our main character, and his two best friends, are also Gryffindors. Sure we get a couple of other characters who are in other houses, but 99% of the major players are in Gryffindor. This in itself shows that Harry only really becomes familiar with those who are in the same house as him. He’s united with his house members, but doesn’t seem to be very united with the members of Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff and definitely isn’t united with Slytherin. Wouldn’t you want ALL your students to feel united with each other?

That brings me to another point: if houses didn’t create division, there would be no major rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin. But there is! Members of the two houses are expected to be incredibly competitive with each other and even to downright dislike members of the other house. How is that uniting the students?

When it comes down to it, I think houses may unite students within their own houses but it certainly creates a lot of division between the houses. While I’m sure it’s nice to feel united with fellow house members, I would hope that the adults at Hogwarts would want their students to feel united with all of the other students, not just one group of them.

What do you think? Do you think Hogwarts houses unite or divide students?


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18 thoughts on “Potterhead July: Do Hogwarts Houses Create Division or Unity?

  1. I agree with you that the houses do provide unity within each individual house. Like you, I also would’ve liked it if we could’ve gotten to know characters from other houses better. Part of the reason why I love Dumbledore’s Army so much is because it brings students from different houses together (with the exception of Slytherin, which is disappointing).

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  2. I agree with a lot of what you said here. The houses bring unity, but they also create dividing lines. It’s a tricky thing though, because even if they weren’t divided by house, they likely would have divided themselves, just over some other matter. People on a psychological level need an us and them to govern where they stand, so if the houses didn’t exist, they would have found other ways. So maybe by putting them in houses, it saves from larger problems?

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    • Good point! There probably would have been some “cliques” even if there weren’t houses. So maybe having it set up in this way where it’s controlled by the school and everything, saves them from facing other more problematic divisions.

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  3. I think there are divisions; but I think this is a very accurate representation of real life – not everybody gets along. There are just as many “antagonists” in real life as there are in fictional stories. I feel like in the books, you get a much wider view of the students – there are friendly and helpful students from all houses, whereas the films focus more on G v S, because this is easier for a film plot.
    *I am also a Ravenclaw! 🙂

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    • That’s true – I definitely think that the movies focused more on the whole Gryffindor vs. Slytherin thing than the books did. The books aren’t as bad, but I still kind of got the feeling that you weren’t really meant to like Slytherin students and even with the books, most of the main characters seem to be Gryffindors.

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  4. I definitely think that the treatment of Slytherins in the series has made it difficult to justify a really unifying nature to the house model. It’s true that something like the DA makes it possible for people to come together in that regard, but by the end the Slytherins remain enemies to everyone and we’re never allowed much sympathy for them. In part, I think this also stems from the very divided way that the houses are led to interact with each other. No one is allowed to eat at the same tables and classes are often divided by house, at least in the earlier years. It’s designed in such a way that students are discouraged from really making extra-house friendships or even contact, and that, I think, contributes to that division present in the story.

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  5. Good idea for a post! I think the houses unite those who are in them and divide them from those who are in different houses. But I think that’s important. People who have common skills and traits would work better together, so I think that’s a good way to separate kids in school. It’s just like in high school where they separate you into tracks. Now it obviously divides those who are really smart from the mediocre students, but the quality of an honors student’s education would be severely diminished if they were forced to learn remedial math when they should be in advanced calculus.

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  6. I agree with a lot of what you said. I really wish the professors at Hogwarts did more to encourage inter-house relationships. It was almost like it was expected for few friendships to form between members of different houses, and I feel like that expectation only made the division worse.

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  7. I agree with you, the houses created more division than unity. I mean, the students would feel kinship and unity with their housemates, but it will create rivalry and enimity with other houses. The stereotypes about the houses also doesn’t help, and this can be seen clearly by the way the Slytherins are written throughout the book. Like you said, our main players tend to be Gryffindor, which is why whenever a Slytherin is present, he/she would always seem evil to us. We only see the other side of Slytherins on the 6th book, where Draco is forced. Even in the 7th book during the battle of Hogwarts, the Slytherin are written as evil because none of them stay to fight. What if they don’t want to fight because they know their parents are with the DE and they feared their parents’ safety. We never knew, because we never see their story. The only thing that unites Harry with other house members is because of DA, and even then, still no Slytherin. Even Slughorn, who helped during the battle, is written as a jerk because of his Slug Club. I kinda wondering why they keep the sorting system after the battle of hogwarts, and why the slytherins still get a bad stereotype after it…

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    • I couldn’t agree more! Just looking at how the Slytherin students are depicted is a sure sign that the houses create at least some division. There’s no way that every Slytherin is evil and heartless, yet that’s how they’re always thought of and depicted. Slytherin students deserve a better reputation if you ask me. 😛

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  8. This seems to be a very common topic for Potterhead July and I think it’s something we as Potterheads have all thought about. I do agree that having these different houses made for some interesting rivalries. I don’t always think having a rival is a bad thing, as they can push you to be better, but when a real difference in values comes into play (like prejudice), then there is a problem. It makes me wonder about those muggle-borns who ended up in Slytherin. What happened with them? Nice post!

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    • I definitely agree that the problem comes in when the division leads to prejudice. I feel so bad for any muggleborns who ended up in Slytherin. It must be exhausting to be in a house with so many people who think you don’t deserve to be there.

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  9. Pingback: Sunday Post | July 10, 2016

  10. I think it’s a mixture of both. They want students to have an instant connection with other students so that you don’t get people left out without friends, thus being in a house gives you the opportunity to make friends as you have something in common.

    However, I dislike the idea of houses because of the distancing of each other. Most of my friends in real life are not Slytherins like myself. In fact, most of my friends are Ravenclaws and a few a Hufflepuffs. (Though, I have no Gryffindor friends at the time being :p). It kind of disheartens me to think that if we were all in Hogwarts, I might not be friends with them and would only be friends with Slytherins, which, in all honesty, would be boring. I mean, who really wants to be friends with people whom have almost everything in common with you?

    And while I understand your points, I want to bring up one of my own: dividing students into houses creates competition. I think this is the main reason there are houses. The houses are teams. The students have a group to work with in order to overcome the other team. Their house pride is their motivation to do well in school because, as we’ve seen, the students are awarded points for doing well in classes and sports. Without points and houses, the students likely would have no reason to strive for their best since it’s not like they are competing for entrance into university or anything.

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