tsukinofaerii (tsukinofaerii) wrote in hogwartsishome,
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(Essay) The Slytherin Bias

The Slytherin Bias
Moon Faery & Slytherin House//Slytherin

Notes: This was posted first in cunningfolk. Since my fellow Slytherins seem to be throwing their support behind it, I'm posting it here for the Mods and other House members to read. This spawned from frustration over the incredibly large gap in numbers between Slytherin and the rest of the Houses, giving Slytherin a strong disadvantage in the race for Points. I'd like to ask any Mods that read this to consider the negative wording in the Cheat Sheets and general House concepts applied to Slytherin, and how this might affect both morale, Sorting and inter-House relations.

Resources: "What is Slytherin?" thread in cunningfolk (http://community.livejournal.com/cunningfolk/237887.html).
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, books 1-6.
"What is a Slytherin?" poem by onezeronothing

Abstract: Slytherin, with the other three Houses, is a keystone on which Hogwarts and hogwartsishome stands. Much maligned in the series, why does Slytherin hold such a poor reputation? What is the truth behind the House of the snake and those who bear its banner? The Slytherin House at hogwartsishome would like to officially set the record straight.



Hard work. Courage. Ambition. Wisdom. These traits are what the four Houses of Hogwarts (and through it, hogwartsishome) rest their foundations upon. None of these traits can stand on their own, no matter what certain icons and signature tags may claim. Hard work with no intelligence accomplishes nothing, and courage without ambition is pointless. Ambition without effort is mere dreaming, and wisdom without action is in stasis. The unity of all these things is the strength of Hogwarts. As evident in the Harry Potter series, the derision of even a single House can cause the entire structure to "crumble from within". In the series, the maligned House was Slytherin. Is it any surprise to see this bias carried over to hogwartsishome?

Slytherin prides itself on ambition and cunning, its key traits as defined by the Sorting Hat. That is to say, they pride themselves on the desire to achieve and the resourcefulness to do so. Within these two traits lay all depths of ambition. From the drive to change the world for good or ill, or simply to change their own place in it, Slytherin is the House for those who strive to attain their goals, not merely for those of "higher" goals – such as world domination or bloody slaughter. As the Hat says, "Or perhaps in Slytherin you'll make your real friends, those cunning folk use any means to achieve their ends." Or, in other words, the ends justify the means, and the ends can be and often are vastly varied.

This definition, however, is often sorely slandered, and Slytherin House with it. Character opinions, such as Hagrid's untrue (yet firmly held) statement that Dark witches and wizards only come from Slytherin and Ron's family-born intolerance prejudices the main character Harry very early in the series. Since the series is written mostly from a single point of view, and that perspective is a highly sympathetic one, an unwary reader is caught up in the bias very swiftly.

The rift between Slytherin and the rest of the Houses only deepens as the villains of the story are introduced. Voldemort, clearly deranged and just as clearly evil, is the foremost Slytherin introduced early in the series. His thirst for revenge and power are hardly a gold star in Slytherin House's record, and his murder of Harry's famously Gryffindor parents only highlight the differences between those two Houses. Then Draco Malfoy appears, and Slytherin's reputation with the reader falls even farther with his cold-hearted and twisted world-view. Draco doesn't become a truly three-dimensional character until the series is almost complete, when he is finally allowed to reveal his own ambition: to make his parents proud. Sadly, between his introduction and his exposed humanity, Draco does nothing except strengthen the Slytherin stereotype of cruelty in the name of hedonistic morality and goals. The final blow to Slytherin's pride is suffered by way of Professor Severus Snape, whose bat-like and unpleasant appearance couple with his sour demeanor and hatred of Harry to make him an instant villain without any true action on his part. He sums up Harry's feeling of Slytherin double-dealing and evil, and confirms them with his actions at the end of book 6. Through Snape, the bias is "proven" in the eyes of the readers and the main character.

Because the main-character is an unreliable narrator in this instance, the view of Slytherin put forth by Harry cannot be trusted. Just as Gryffindors cannot be measured by Peter Pettigrew, Severus Snape is by no means the Slytherin measuring stick. So the question becomes, "What is a Slytherin?" Ambition and cunning, of course, but what minor traits weigh most heavily when Sorting a snake from a mass of folk?

A Slytherin must be practical to some extent. After all, ambitions become dreams if they're impossible to achieve. But a Slytherin is almost certainly optimistic as well as practical, for doubt breeds inaction rather than ambition. For these same reasons, Slytherins are idealistic: to see things as they should or could be is more likely to spark ambition than to see things as they are. Even Voldemort, for all his evil, shows these traits in his dogged pursuit of the future he intends to carve out for the wizarding world, and his followers are the same. Opportunistic and resourceful come from cunning, for "cunning" is no less than the immediate recognition of the value of resources as they become available?

What about interpersonally? Surely, against all propaganda otherwise, an un-beleaguered Slytherin may take its place as one of the most open, accepting and friendliest of all Hogwarts Houses. It's already been noted that resourcefulness comes to the House via cunning. A House of cunning would be greatly out of character to turn away people without practical justification, for people are a resource not easily replaced. Such would be a waste uncharacteristic of Slytherin. Similarly, while not necessarily kind, a Slytherin is a friend that can always be counted on to be there in need, and will expect the same consideration. A small amount of open-minded courtesy and friendship earn great rewards, as Slytherin House well knows.

If all that is what Slytherin is, then what is it not? It's not inherently evil, any more than Gryffindor is inherently good, and any concepts with a similarly negative weight similarly are inapplicable. Ambition itself is neither good nor evil, only the action it leads to can be given a moral value. Indeed, if ambition were evil, then perhaps Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with his ambition for a desegregated and prejudice-free country is the greatest evil-doer of the twentieth century. No Slytherin can be said to be meek, for that is the providence of those lacking in drive. Wasteful is directly in opposition to resourceful, and therefore distinctly un-Slytherin. Complacency and the lack of ambition it carries has no place in the House of the snake. Close-minded, already mentioned above, is a sign of a mind too set in its ways to achieve anything new, and is more likely to oppose change rather than strive for it. Weak is another word that fits quite well with Slytherin antonyms, for the weak of heart accomplish nothing and are unlikely to try. Perhaps at the top of the list should be dull, for no matter what else the characters in the series achieve, they certainly liven up the story.

Slytherin, while commonly boasted as the "House of Evil", holds people whose only aim (as a group) are a wish to be and to do things, great and small. While that drive can be used for the betterment of themselves like any other personality trait, it holds as much potential to be used for the good of all people. The bearers of a tarnished reputation at Hogwarts, the Slytherins of hogwartsishome hold themselves above the stereotype, and all of the community is enriched by their presence.

In conclusion, "What is a Slytherin?" (by onezeronothing)

A childhood toy
The love of a friend
A hand to hold
When tears fill the end

The comforting hush
The end of a scream
A friend willing to protect
At all extremes

A loyal ally
A painful foe
A shoulder to cry on
When you've no place to go

The merciful one hiding
A resentment so deep
The ally whose anger
Will stew with no peep

The sudden humiliation
Wrought from a friend
The ages old fight
You were sure had its end

A gentle word locked
In condescending phrase
A love fathoms deep
To conceal the rage

The killing whisper
In the dead of night
A scream in the dark
Embracing a fright

The strike when you're down
A stab in the heart
A friend's laughter
The poisoned dart

The genial hand
To wipe away tears
The calming voice
Erasing all fears

Boundless loyalty
Encouraging wit
Circumstantial valour
The final hit

That's a Slytherin.
Tags: sorting guide, term iv, useful
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