In Defense of the Slytherins

Places recently visited: Westminster Abbey, London Coliseum, St. James Park, the Harry Potter Experience at Warner Bros. Studios, and the Tower of London

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Ellie (the Hufflepuff), me (the Slytherin), and Caty (the Ravenclaw) enjoying the Harry Potter Experience in London together

Before I begin, I would like to warn you that I am in no way claiming to be an expert on Harry Potter. I have read some of the books, but I am a total HP impostor when standing next to the majority of my generation. However, I stand by my arguments.

For those of you who have the same knowledge of Harry Potter that I had last year (as in, none at all), the students at fictional Hogwarts are split into four different houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. Fans of the books can also be sorted into the different houses, usually by the Pottermore quiz, and the true fanatics are always loyal and proud of the house they are put into. Each group has their own stereotype – Gryffindors (which is the house all of the main characters are in) are brave, Slytherins are ambitious (and often the rivals of the Gryffindors), Ravenclaws are smart, and Hufflepuffs are loyal. I was sorted into Gryffindor, and maybe this is committing some sort of HP treason, but I identify with the Slytherins more than any other house. I can see how I may have similar characteristics as the Gryffindors, but it is the Slytherin part of my being that surfaces in any Harry Potter conversation.

I understand that Gryffindors are the heroes in the Harry Potter books, that the Ravenclaws come to the Gryffindors’ defense, and that Hufflepuffs are just generally lovable.

Well, this is my defense of the Slytherins.

People are complex. We’re all a mix of good and bad traits, and not one person can claim to be purely one or the other. Slytherins have a bad reputation¬†because the Dark Wizards (i.e. evil characters) are mostly from that house. Well, that obviously casts a shadow over the poor Slytherins. But that doesn’t make the whole house bad, just like Harry Potter being a Gryffindor isn’t going to make that entire house heroic. The same goes for Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. None of the houses can be defined by good or evil, and no individual can be defined by good or evil either.

Characters in stories (well written characters, at least) are always the same way. Heroes have flaws and antagonists have some redeeming or humanizing characteristics. Voldemort, the villain that threatens the livelihood of dear Harry Potter from the get go, is supposedly pure evil. A friend with much more knowledge of the series than I have told me that he was written as a representation of Satan. If this is true, if Voldemort truly is 100% evil, then I admit (probably to the protests of the rest of the world) that I have lost a little respect for the author’s depiction of her character. Our enemies, the enemies of all of the readers our there, will never be pure evil. They, like their heroic counterparts, are going to have good and bad qualities. The heroes of all stories must encounter both sides of their enemy in order to truly defeat them (or sometimes to be overcome by them), just as their own flaws are revealed and exploited.

A Slytherin can be a bad person, don’t get me wrong. It’s obvious by some of the students the house has produced. But a Slytherin can also be a good person because they should each be defined by their own characteristics, not by the total summation of their house.

But then the question can be asked, what makes a good person? We each have our own idea of what is good and bad, based on our own moral compasses and what is socially acceptable. I don’t think there is a set of characteristics you can assign to each individual that is considered “good,” though. There is evil in the world, but I think a lot of people tend to take one bad seed and call the whole garden evil. One bad Slytherin does not make the Slytherin house evil. One flaw does not deter the hero from following her or his path. Rather, recognizing “the bad,” or what we individually consider to be bad, within each of ourselves only contributes to the growing of “the good.” Without the bad, there can be no good.

I believe in evil, but I also believe in good people – good people who are always flawed.

So no more talk of the Slytherins being evil! (I’m looking at you, Gryffindor!)

Mischief managed.

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