Sorting Hats, Identity, and Longing

Harry Potter still pretty much rules the world when it comes to elementary (and middle) school kids reading things. Whether kids have read the books or not, the books retain a sort of God-like power as context. I imagine it's the same way superheroes existed for me. I didn't read them much (though good heavens I loved to watch Batman on TV) but just the same I knew Spiderman, Aquaman, Superman, Wonder Woman as…archetypes? As the pantheon? As a way to organize the world.

The reason I'm even talking about this is the eternal lure of the sorting hat. It answers such a primal urge of kids: tell me who I am. Tell me who I can be. What am I really like?

At Chestnut's school there is currently a lot of talk about which house people belong in. And this talk has evolved since the 4th-grade talk, in which everyone wanted to be in Gryffindor. Now, Slytherin has made an interesting comeback, with many cries of, "Slytherin's not bad! It's just for a certain kind of person! Cunning and ambitious and smart." Hearing (even secondhand) about the impassioned conversations in which they try to place each other and themselves in the appropriate houses is like watching a 7th grader's quest for identity writ large. What defines me—my intelligence? My ability to work hard? My desire for power? It's like reading your horoscope as an adult: a chance to focus on yourself (a weakness we all share) and the longing for a path to be clearly marked. Ah, how I identify with it!

4 thoughts on “Sorting Hats, Identity, and Longing

  1. Tell Chestnut that I like the idea of “Raven-Puff”! There should be more interhouse mixes – “Huffle-Dor?” I think you are right about the grownups – they seem to only mention their houses when they’re Gryffindor (the Weaslys, Harry’s parents, Lupin, Sirius Black etc.)

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  2. No way am I Gryffindor- but I certainly would subscribe to Raven-Puff. If push comes to shove I probably am straight Ravenclaw a la Luna…

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