Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Hufflepuff Bias

Well, I have more time than I realized, so I'm going to see if I can fit in another post in the time before I need to go.

When Pottermore first existed, I created an account  and got sorted into Gryffindor.    Recently, I was curious if I took the Sorting test again what the results would be.  I was given a set of almost completely different questions.  I'm fairly certain the two repeat questions I had, I gave the same answer as previously.  This time I was sorted (caps? no caps?) into Hufflepuff (which my spell check would like to correct to kerfuffle).

Why am I sharing this information?  It's seemingly random, very nerdy, and mostly off topic.  The reason I'm sharing this information is because I actually do feel like Hufflepuff fits me quite well.  When I was younger I liked Gryffindor and identifed strongly with the characters there, but I think I slowly realized Hufflepuff isn't an awful House, unlike many people would have you believe.

It's interesting to me that the other three Houses in Harry Potter are so popular.  Ravenclaw is for the smart kids, Gryffindor is for the brave kids (the jocks and athletes in many people's opinions), Slytherin is for the ambitious kids.  But then what is Hufflepuff for?

Well, I looked up the adjectives the Sorting Hat uses for your viewing pleasure (this site was a wonderful asset considering my actual copies of Harry Potter are all packed.  If you want to read the full Sorting Hat speeches, it has them there).h

Philosopher’s Stone
Goblet of Fire
Order of the Phoenix
 Brave at heart, daring, nerve, chivalry
Brave deeds, bravest, boldest, daring 
 Real friends, cunning, any means to achieve their ends
Power-hungry, great ambition
Ancestry is purest, pure-blood, cunning 
 wise, old, ready mind, wit
Intelligence, sharpest mind 
 just, loyal, patient, true, unafraid of toil
Hard workers 
 "Teach the lot", "The rest"

As I said earlier, the three most popular Houses are Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw.  I want to briefly look at the connotations that their descriptors give.

  • Brave- No bad prevalent connotations
  • Daring- Usually described as a desirable trait
  • Chivalry- Association with code of honor, and knights, very strong good connotations
  • Boldest- Generally good connotation, but there is such a thing as being overly bold
  • Brave Deeds- In the context of the song ("We'll teach all those/with brave deeds to their name") this means fame and fame can have a good connotation, but it can imply selfishness and shallowness
  • Real friends- good connotation, implies loyalty/depth of character
  • Cunning- Though it can be used as a good trait, this is often used to imply that someone is misleading or out for their own gain
  • Any means to achieve their ends- Really, this is just not good.
  • Power hungry- Again, not a good thing really at all
  • Great ambition- This can be a useful thing (I'm not overly fond of ambitious people but it can be good in many situations)
  • Ancestry is the purest/pure blood- Not a good thing. Within in the story a very bad thing in fact.

  • Wise (going to include old with this)- This is something that people want, it generally comes with age and so children of 11 would be particularly impressive to be considered wise, even if they were not wise yet but just had the potential to become wise.
  • Ready mind- Teachable, when I'm teaching someone this is a very useful trait
  • Wit- This can be good because it implies cleverness and intelligence.   I would also say that this can fall under the same category as cunning occasionally.
  • Cleverness- This is generally a very good descriptor for intelligence
  • Intelligence- Intelligence is has good connotations.  But I would like to note that, at least within American culture, there exists a certain bias against intelligent people.
  • Sharp mind- Okay, basically the same as all the rest, we get it, Ravenclaws are smart.

What's my point?  When I look over these they read as one dimensional to me.  Gryffindor people are brave, but what else?  Slytherin's use their guile to reap reward (oh, also they make good, true friends?).  Ravenclaw students are smart, which is repeated ad nauseam.  Now let's look at Hufflepuff's traits.

  • Just- Offhand, there aren't any bad connotations with come with this word.
  • Loyal- This is a trait I prize above most, which means I'm biased, but this is important to relationships
  • Patient- "Patience wins the day", "Patience is a virtue", shall I continue?
  • True- It's interesting, this isn't a word that's used to describe people very often, but if I was described that way I think it would be some of the highest praise I could receive
  • Unafraid of toil/Hard workers- Means they aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, they aren't given things, they work for them.  Some could say that it implies they are lower class, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.
  • "Teach the lot"/"The rest"- Again, this is an interesting statement.  I think this particular descriptor didn't do a lot for Hufflepuff.  It implies that there was nothing special about those people.  They're all thrown into a group because they don't have one particular trait that makes them unique.
So Hufflepuff descriptors are interesting to me.  It they are fair and just, they are devoted to other people, they are willing to wait and not push the issue, and they are willing to work hard.  I feel like J.K. Rowling used "teach the lot" and "take the rest" to describe Hufflepuff because she didn't have one catchall word that she could use.

It's interesting (and possibly telling) to me that it's the least popular House.  They're good people who like other people and are willing to work hard.  There's no conniving, there's no pride, there's no showing off.  It's frustrating to me that our culture (and many cultures similar to the US) prefers blinding ambition to a good, but perhaps average person.  You don't need something that makes you "special and unique" to make you a worthwhile person.  Just do your best and work hard and be a good person.

I guess this post just shows why I tested as Hufflepuff this time around?

Note:  While there are some connotations that are fairly universal, talking with Jay has reminded me that many connotations are intensely personal, and so these connotations are my personal opinions.  Also, I am biased in general because I'm not a huge fan of how the Houses are structured in general.

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