Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Black and White Slytherin's

If you've ever read my blog then you know that I love Harry Potter to a fault. It has taken me a long while to admit to myself that the series isn't perfect and in today's blog I am going to tackle one of these imperfections.

The imperfection I will be writing about is one that has been of particular annoyance for as long as I can remember. I've listened to fan opinions and read multiple essays and heard many lectures on the subject but none truly solve this specific problem in the series.
I take issue with the way Slytherin House is portrayed in the Harry Potter books. None of the characters are outright redeemable and if they are good it is either not directly addressed by Harry or it is Snape. This is most apparent when it comes to Slytherin House while Harry is at Hogwarts. We see the Slytherin's cheat on the Quidditch pitch, not join Dumbledore's Army but the Inquisitorial Squad, and none of them stay to fight for good in the Battle of Hogwarts. They are all either ugly, stupid, snobby, a bully or everything put together. It saddens me to see Rowling paint most other characters with such color yet the Slytherin's are almost amateurly black and white. For years I have been questioning these small details from the books and have only just come up with an explanation. Hopefully it holds some validity. Let's find out!
As I said, I've constantly wondered why Rowling would fail to create any god Slytherin characters. I mean sure there is Snape but he is kind of a jerk even though I love his character. Then there is Slughorn who is a good Slytherin character however he does come off as a bit of a coward and addicted to his status quo of knowing so many famous witches and wizards. Finally there is Andromeda Tonks, Tonks's mother and sister to Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. She was a Slytherin but ended up marrying muggle Ted Tonks against her family's pureblood standards and we see her fighting for the good side in the final book. This character is barely touched upon in the books and isn't talked about enough to redeem Rowling. While Draco Malfoy is a strong contender, I think his struggle is passed over like Andromeda's too much for it to close this gaping hole. Surprisingly the film version of the sixth book humanized Draco much more and Tom Felton captured the very complex essence of Draco's character and struggle. The books don't do this and while it can be argued Harry's point of view prevents this from happening, I'd argue it is Harry's point of view in the final book that could easily humanize Draco Malfoy. Of all the internal struggle Rowling writes in the final book, I'm sure she could squeeze in a bit more about Draco.
But all of that aside for a moment because I finally think I have a case for the black and white Slytherins. There are many themes coursing through the veins of these seven books but one of the major themes is tolerance. Rowling herself has stated, "The Potter books in general are a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry." As I pondered this question and thought about this major theme, a light bulb suddenly went off in my head. I began to think of all the bigots - Westboro Baptist Church, haters on the internet and racists. I thought about politics and how no matter what wrong a politician commits, their political party will make excuses and defend their actions. This is when I realized that the Slytherin students in these books could be one big huge metaphor for the bigots of the world and the powerful people in the world who like to abuse the power they hold.
Slytherin House, per the examples I gave earlier, never gives us a reason to like them. They hold a very strict God complex and like to abuse those who don't fit into their mold of thinking. They fear for their own power and will make an excuse to hold on to it. This very much resembles corruption and bigotry in our our world.
Now I know it is a stretch and some could argue that this theme is already capitalized by Fudge and the Ministry of Magic in the fifth book or that making Slytherin House as a whole theme is still dehumanizing since they are all the same still but I think this is the only valid explanation of Jo's actions before jumping to the conclusion that she overlooked this aspect of the books.
What are your thoughts?

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