Bit of Ivory

Bit of Ivory random header image


January 15th, 2006 · No Comments

So, today two proposals with my name on them were submitted to Lumos today. One is a panel in defense of Ginny (which should be WAY fun, if it gets picked). The other is a serious literary presentation which would be me, myself, and I. *gulps*

Wanna see what I’m hoping to say? Click the link below!

Title: The Sorting Hat, Ideology, and Free Will

Name and affiliation: Emily Bytheway, Brigham Young University

Contact information: 801-***-****

Type of presentation: Individual presentation


The Sorting Ceremony is perhaps the most important event in a young wizard or witch’s life. As Professor McGonagall states: “The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory, and spend free time in your house common room� (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 114). But the Sorting and the House system does more than provide a community for the students: it gives them an identity that follows them throughout their lives, a heritage to be proud of. By fostering this identity through encouraging House pride and inter-house competition, the Hogwarts House system promotes the values each House supposedly embodies, and perpetuates the ideology of the Founders.

Marxist critic Louis Althusser believed that the primary way a regime, government, or ruling body gained—benevolent and malevolent—and maintains their power and control of a populace was through ideology—the way a person views his or her world. By using such institutions as the church, the family, and the school, a government is able to train young people to think as it would wish them to think, and to behave as they would wish them to behave. Hogwarts itself serves this function for the wizarding world at large, especially for those students who, like Harry, did not grow up in that society and do not know its values and rules. In the same way, the process of Sorting the students into houses based on their talents, abilities, and values enables the ideology of the Founders of those houses to be passed down from generation to generation. Year after year Gryffindors learn to value bravery, Ravenclaws take pride in intellectual pursuits, Hufflepuffs appreciate hard work and loyalty, and Slytherins prize ambition—and purity of blood. Families tend to end up in the same houses, as students of each house teach their children to prize that which they were taught to prize.

This presentation will explore in detail the balance between the pull of ideology and the concept of free will as it relates to the House system: both the ways in which it succeeds, as in the Weasleys, and the instances where it fails, such as with Sirius Black. Of particular interest is how the House system influences those who were raised outside of the wizarding world, especially Harry Potter and Tom Riddle. Through the act of Sorting, Rowling makes it clear that though ideology may have a strong influence, free will can and does have the final say.


This presentation will reflect upon the ways in which the Hogwarts House system allows the ideology of the Founders to be perpetuated through the generations. Using the theories of Louis Althusser as a framework, we will explore how the House system perpetuates the values of each house and the ways in which it fails to do so. Of particular interest will be the effects of the House system upon those who were not raised in the wizarding, especially Tom Riddle and Harry Potter.


Emily Bytheway (Wahlee) has been a member of the HP fandom since 2001. The author of several short fanfics (mostly Harry/Ginny fluff), she hopes one day to complete her work-in-progress depicting Albus Dumbledore at age 11. Emily participated in two panel discussions at Nimbus 2003: Sail On, Good Ship (the R/Hr vs. H/Hr ship debate) as the 2nd chair for the R/Hr side, and Can Any Wisdom Come From Wizardry? which explored Harry Potter and Christianity. Emily received her BA and MA in English from Brigham Young University, and hopes one day to complete a PhD in Rhetoric and/or Literature.

AV equipment: Projector for laptop

Time estimate: 30 min

Tags: Fandom · Harry Potter · School

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment