In the seventh chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcererâ€™s Stone, Harry worries about which house heâ€™ll be sorted into and OH, JK, YOU SLY DEVIL, YOU. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to re-read Harry Potter.
I totally remembered a thought I had in my head back when I first read this chapter that I was so unsure about, I didnâ€™t vocalize it. I wondered if it would prove to be damaging that all males were wizards and females were witches. By name, that is. It popped in my head when we first see McGonagall here at the opening of chapter seven because she seemed so stereotypical. Now, in hindsight, Iâ€™m so glad I didnâ€™t say anything at all because FOOT IN MOUTH. McGonagall isnâ€™t much of a stereotype at all and the gender disparities would be addressed in later books. I KNEW NOTHING THEN! DONâ€™T JUDGE ME!
Man, Iâ€™ll say it probably a hundred times: This shit is still pretty magical. Entering Hogwarts for the â€œfirstâ€ time is still overwhelming. Part of that, aside from the sheer physicality of Hogwarts, is that chapter seven is one gigantic (and largely unexplained) info dump for new readers. I didnâ€™t know at the time that the house separation was taken from British boarding schools, so, seriously, I swear, I thought it was just for these books. MY POOR, NAÃVE BRAIN. I had no idea!
â€œThe four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has a noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rulebreaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a great honor. I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours.â€
Oh, so you mean Harry, right? JAYKAY, JAYKAY. Neville helps out in this book, too! We mustnâ€™t forget Neville. EVER.
But I wanted to take a chance to talk about an important theme here for the bulk of this review instead of dissecting every other sentence in chapter seven. Iâ€™ve already done that! And you donâ€™t want to read about me talking about ghosts and shit, do you? Actually, wait, I do like writing about ghosts. Maybe some other time.
Now that I know the full story (!!!!), I wanted to point out that Rowling sows the seeds for future conflict and much angsting about one particular topic: free will. A large focus of this chapter is Harryâ€™s worry that heâ€™ll either be cast into Slytherin or not chosen for a house at all. His anxiety is, first of all, rooted in the fear of being rejected. We know his life with the Dursleys leaves him feeling constantly wanted, but without requite. Heâ€™s learned, because of the way the Dursleys have treated him, that he should expect to get anything he wants. And look, we all donâ€™t need me to relate stories of my youth any more than I have, but I seriously get this. I get doubting yourself constantly, expecting the worst (or nothing at all), and feeling rather shite about everything you are or want or might be.
The huge moment here is when Harry has the Sorting Hat placed on his head:
â€œHmm,â€ said a small voice in his ear. â€œDifficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. Thereâ€™s talent, my goodness, yesâ€”and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now thatâ€™s interestingâ€¦So where shall I put you?â€
Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.
â€œNot Slytherin, eh?â€ said the small voice. â€œAre you sure? You could be great, you know, itâ€™s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about thatâ€”no? Well, if youâ€™re sureâ€”better be GRYFFINDOR!â€
Of course, this theme would become much more obvious later, but at the time, this went right over my head. This is about agency, about the ability to have a choice, and Harryâ€™s desire to be in Gryffindor means everything here.
When we learn more about The Prophecy in Order of the Phoenix, itâ€™s important to note that Voldemort could have applied Trelawneyâ€™s prediction to either Harry or Neville. But he chose Harry Potter, and it was his choices that lead him to become who he was by this point in the story. I think itâ€™s really significant that this entire time, Harry has a choice in these matters, despite that things may look predetermined. Heâ€™s not the victim of destiny. Hell, I think most of Deathly Hallows is proof that Harryâ€™s choice is all the difference.
I think at the time, I was too caught up in the excitement of it all. I missed a lot of clues and hints throughout these books, but that happens. Thatâ€™s half the fun, isnâ€™t it? Thatâ€™s why I had such a strict spoiler policy in effect because there are few joys I appreciate more than being surprised. For example, hereâ€™s something I never noticed:
â€œWell done, Ron, excellent,â€ said Percy Weasley pompously across Harry as â€œZabini, Blaise,â€ was made a Slytherin.
HOLY GOD, HE WAS IN THE FIRST BOOK. Head asplosion forever
â€œWelcome to a near year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!â€
I love you, Dumbledore. Forever and ever.
I find it weird, having just finished the Hunger Games trilogy, how I look at food in books in a completely different light. Thereâ€™s just so MUCH of it at Hogwarts. Piles and piles and mountains of it. (But not at the Dursleys, at least not for Harry.) Everyone who goes to Hogwarts doesnâ€™t have to worry about food. Separate thought: Is Hogwarts free? I feel like this question was answered before, but I canâ€™t remember. (You can answer that! SPOILERS ARE NOT POSSIBLE WITH ME ANYMORE.)
Additionally, Rowling also starts seeding the clues towards the wildly entertaining endgame of this book right here in this chapter:
It happened very suddenly. The hook-nosed teacher looked past Quirrellâ€™s turban straight into Harryâ€™s eyesâ€”and a sharp, hot pain shot across the scar on Harryâ€™s forehead.
Oh, Harry. Erâ€¦I suppose I should say, â€œOH, ME.â€ I totally bought the â€œSnape is evilâ€ line for likeâ€¦SIX AND A HALF BOOKS. Iâ€™m interested to read more about Snape in these early books, knowing that he was working for Dumbledore. I think heâ€™s the most intriguing character that Rowling created.
Question: Have they ever sung the school song again after this chapter? I donâ€™t even recall anyone mentioning it in passing after this.
Anyway, if I had to choose a character thatâ€™s the least intriguing to me, Iâ€™d probably pick Percy. Heâ€™s necessary to the story, yes, but Iâ€™m largely bored by him. He performs a very specific role and, until his big turn-around in Deathly Hallows, he really only fits within that role. I donâ€™t hate him, however! Iâ€™m not saying that. But I donâ€™t find him to be a particularly interesting character beyond the last two books.
To close this off, let me share with you a bit of Harryâ€™s dream that is a huge clue to the Quirrell mystery that I completely missed:
He was wearing Professor Quirrellâ€™s turban, which kept talking to him, telling him he must transfer to Slytherin at once, because it was his destiny.
IT WAS SO OBVIOUS. IT WAS RIGHT THERE AND I NEVER SAW IT.