Sorting Out DADA
We all love analyzing (and overanalyzing) the Harry Potter books. One of our favorite topics is the ever-changing Defense Against the Dark Arts position: determining the DADA professors importance to the plot; using them to predict how Harry will defeat Voldemort; predicting who will be the next one; and, of course, deciding whether or not Snape will ever get the job.
While we haven’t always had much success (we don’t know the future of the HP books, we have never accurately predicted the identity of a DADA professor, and we really have no idea what will happen to Snape), we’ve done pretty well at discovering patterns. We’ve noticed that all of the DADA professors, with the exception of Lupin, have been either incompetent or evil (and usually both simultaneously). In fact, I’m going to state for the record that, except for Lupin, they have all been evil (and sometimes also incompetent).
Another interesting pattern is described over at the HP Lexicon in Those Unpredictable DADA Professors by Louis F. Badalament, II. Badalament appears to have been the first person to describe in detail the DADA Pattern — that, among other things, the new professor is always someone we’ve never heard of before and always has some Deadly Secret which tends to nearly get Harry killed. I mention this essay partly because I wish everyone would read it and stop making predictions like, ”Mrs. Weasley is going to be the next DADA teacher!” and partly because I’d like to mention that I definitely think the last two professors will follow this pattern, as this is important to my conclusions below. Anyway, enough introduction. I’m interested in the DADA professors’ pasts, and more specifically in which Hogwarts houses they were sorted. Determining this can help us see important lessons Jo is teaching us about evil and, possibly, let us predict a bit about future books.
First of all, let two things be remembered: Slytherin House is not the world’s only source of evil, and the Sorting Hat is not a prophet. The Hat cannot say, “I’ll put you in Slytherin because you’re going to be converted to Voldemorts side in ten years or so,” because it doesn’t know. It sees personality traits; it does not predict decisions. It can see the seeds of future bad decisions, certain weaknesses or vulnerabilities, perhaps. But those vulnerabilities will not necessarily indicate a match with Slytherin. Each house has its own strengths and weaknesses, which I will not summarize here because plenty of people have already done it.
Year 1: Quirinus Quirrell
Let’s clear one thing up right away: Quirrell was not in Slytherin. Why? At the end of PS/SS, Quirrell memorably explains to Harry how Voldemort won him over, stating, “Lord Voldemort showed me…There is no good or evil; there is only power, and those too weak to seek it” (291). No way would a Slytherin need this explained. Slytherins already know this. Sure, Quirrell by the time we meet him is pretty darned unscrupulous, manipulative, and ambitious (common Slytherin traits), but we have never actually seen the real Quirrell.
We were not seeing the real Quirrell when he was nervous and stuttering all the time, because, of course, he was faking (although it probably wasnt too much of a stretch with Voldemort hovering around him all the time). We might have thought we saw the real Quirrell at the end of PS/SS when he dropped his stutter and revealed himself as suave and evil, but that was Quirrell possessed by Voldemort. You are no longer yourself when possessed by Voldemort. Thus, we have never seen the Quirrell who was sorted, or even the Quirrell who was hired as a Hogwarts professor. As I pointed out above, the Hat is not a prophet. It could only go on what was present in young Quirinuss mind at the time of his sorting. And it would appear that, at that time, he was still full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil” (PS/SS 291); it wasnt until he met and was manipulated by Voldemort that he turned into the remorseless creature with which we are familiar.
So, Quirrell, when he was sorted, apparently did not meet one of the major criteria for being in Slytherin: willing to “use any means/ To achieve [his] ends” (PS/SS 118). He also does not particularly stand out in any of the other areas that traditionally set apart Slytherin students, although we cant necessarily tell for sure on many of them. For example, he doesn’t seem to have much of a pureblood fixation, but we can’t tell that for sure, since Jo hadn’t made that a big issue yet in book 1. Was he interested in saving his own neck above all, as our favorite (or not) ex-headmaster Phineas Nigellus insists is important for Slytherins? Well, the whole possession thing makes it rather difficult to determine this, although his willingness to explore the wilds of Albania tells against it. Was he ambitious? He doesn’t give much sign of it; he seems to have been more interested in gaining knowledge than in gaining power.
So, if we accept that Quirrell was not in Slytherin, which house was he in? Actually, I think he’s pretty easy to place. Almost the first thing we are told about him is that he has a ”brilliant mind” (PS/SS 70) and that “he was fine while he was studyin’ outta books” (PS/SS 71). So, which house values intelligence above all? Which house, if it goes wrong, is most likely to produce people with lots of book knowledge but not much practical knowledge (and not much power of resistance when outside the realm of intellect)? That would, as you have most likely guessed, be Ravenclaw.
Year 2: Gilderoy Lockhart
As with Quirrell, it may be easier to eliminate houses first before discussing ones Lockhart could be in. First of all, I don’t think he was in Hufflepuff. Despite some popular perceptions, being a bungler does not put you in Hufflepuff. Lockhart doesn’t fit any of the criteria for being in Hufflepuff: he’s not a team player; he doesn’t care at all about fairness; and he values his own glory above all. I also don’t think he was in Ravenclaw, and not just because he’s a blithering idiot. In fact, he actually does have a streak of cleverness, as evidenced by his ability to take credit for any number of other people’s accomplishments. But what’s more important is that he doesn’t care about knowledge for its own sake — only glory and looking good.
So, that leaves Slytherin and Gryffindor. Lockhart certainly meets some of the Slytherin criteria. He is willing to use downright evil methods to reach his goals, and he’s certainly ambitious and cunning. However, he doesn’t care much about purity of blood, and he gravitates very strongly towards Harry, which seems very un-Slytherin-like. What about the Gryffindor criteria? Well, he’s certainly not brave. However, he values looking brave. In OotP, we learn that Godric Gryffindor wanted to accept people ”With brave deeds to their name” (205). Lockhart cares very much about having brave deeds to his name — even if he didn’t actually do them. This comes closest for being a deciding factor for me. Yes, he uses very unscrupulous means to achieve his ends, but what end is he going for? Fame. Not power. Any good Slytherin apologist will tell you that it’s the Gryffindors who are showy. Gryffindors want to look good; Slytherins just want to win. I’m not ruling Slytherin out for Lockhart, but I’m leaning towards Gryffindor.
Year 3: Remus Lupin
Well, this one’s easy; we know he was in Gryffindor. Moving on…
Year 4: Barty Crouch Jr.
I’m not going to discuss Mad-Eye Moody, as he has never actually taught DADA to Harry. It was, as we all know and regret, Crouch Jr. all along. Anyway, Crouch Jr. is a bit difficult to place in a house. Like Quirrell, Crouch Jr. when we meet him is very different from the person he was when Sorted. He’s been through imprisonment in Azkaban and has spent an inordinately long period under the Imperius Curse, and the only ray of light in his life recently has been — Lord Voldemort. Ugh. He’s stark raving mad by the time he reveals himself to Harry.
At any rate, the only house I can come close to eliminating right off is Ravenclaw, and I’m not even sure about that. Barty is very intelligent and inexplicably good at any number of spells, but he doesn’t seem to value intelligence above other traits which I will discuss below. I’m also leaning away from Slytherin for him. Yes, hes cunning, manipulative, quite interested in (or at least good at) the Dark Arts, and a pureblood. But it’s explained in book 4 that most people were shocked and dismayed that a boy like him, from a family like his, would turn out to be evil. If he had been in Slytherin, which at that time was turning out a good many Death Eaters, including Crouch Jr.s co-conspirators in the attack on the Longbottoms, would everyone have been so shocked? I doubt it, although its certainly not conclusive evidence.
So, on to our next house: Gryffindor. Crouch Jr. is no coward. He also hates and despises the Death Eaters who were too cowardly to risk Azkaban for their master, so he values bravery in a twisted way. However, it should be noted that he did not choose to go to Azkaban for Voldemort. In fact, at his own trial, he vehemently and repeatedly denied having any involvement in searching for the Dark Lord (although see Red Hen’s theory about Crouch Jr.s on-trial behavior). Anyway, it’s after enduring Azkaban that he’s furious with those who managed not to do so. So, we can’t say for sure that bravery was always something of great importance to him. Another factor that tells against him being in Gryffindor is that he would have been a younger housemate of the Marauders — but Sirius never mentions anything of the sort when telling the Trio about the Crouches. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but it’s still interesting.
The weird thing about Crouch Jr. is that his defining feature is loyalty. Fanatic, psychotic loyalty. He is completely and utterly devoted to Voldemort — not for power, but because he wants to serve him. And he hates more than anything those team members who have deserted. My guess is that, as a kid, his goal was to play for his father’s “team,” the Ministry of Magic, the good guys, in order to win his father’s love and respect. His loyalty and desire to fit in somewhere got him sorted into Hufflepuff.
Sometime while he was in school, he finally gave up on receiving love and respect from his father and searched for a new team…and we know what happened from there. It’s a bit scary, actually, to contemplate the idea that Crouch Jr. is what happens when Hufflepuffs go wrong. But I think it’s quite possible. Crouch Jr. definitely meets Hufflepuff’s loyalty criterion, and he may even have a twisted sense of fair play (it’s cheating to be a Death Eater and then deny it instead of going to Azkaban). I’m not willing to commit myself completely on this one, though. He really could go almost anywhere. But if he were a Hufflepuff, it would be fascinating from a literary perspective since he would make an excellent foil for Cedric Diggory.
Year 5: Dolores Umbridge
I think we can quickly determine that our least favorite toad-woman was not in Gryffindor. She hates Gryffindors. She’s neither brave nor showy — if she does anything risky, she tends to do it behind the scenes (like secretly sending dementors after Harry), with plenty of official backup if she needs it. She can only stand up to Hagrid (and McGonagall) with a bunch of Aurors to support her. I’m also pretty sure she wasn”t in Ravenclaw. Brains really aren’t her strong suit. And while she does appear to value book learning over practical knowledge, that preference appears to be more of a control thing under the circumstances. She really doesn’t seem to care much about knowledge for its own sake.
So, Hufflepuff and Slytherin are the two houses left. I’ve considered the possibility that she could be a Hufflepuff gone wrong. She actually does seem to have some Hufflepuff loyalty — her evil actions could be viewed as a sort of anything for the team concept, the team being the Ministry of Magic as controlled by Fudge (and Malfoy). She also doesn’t seem to mind “toil”; she certainly works very hard to achieve her ends during year 5. However, she does not care about fair play. At all. And she doesn’t have Quirrell’s or Crouch Jr.’s excuse of being in some type of altered mental state. She’s just manipulative and probably always has been.
In fact, what Umbridge wants is every aspect of life at Hogwarts under her personal control (OotP 551). In other words, she’s after power. Not the promotion of her team, and necessarily fame — she doesn’t appear to care if anyone acknowledges her efforts (e.g., the secret dementor attack) — but power over as many people as possible. Shes also quite ambitious. Notice how she manages to make herself first Fudge’s second-in-command, then the all-important Ministry presence at Hogwarts, then the High Inquisitor, then Headmistress. Plainly, she enjoys manipulating her way to the big toad spot of whatever pond in which she finds herself (or insinuates herself into).
In addition, she is definitely willing to use any means whatsoever to achieve her ends (dementors, Veritaserum, Cruciatus Curse). She certainly seems to have some tendencies toward saving her own neck above all (The Ministry places a rather higher value on my life than yours, OotP 752). And finally, she has one of the most prevalent pureblood fixations weve seen yet in the series. So, yes, I do indeed believe that the evil toad-woman was in Slytherin. After all, she loves Slytherins.
I also think that Jo is using her as an example of an important character category: she’s a Slytherin who is evil but is not a Death Eater. Sirius was right when he pointed out that the world is not divided into good people on the one hand and Death Eaters on the other. Jo is using her (and Crouch Sr.) to illustrate that people on the good side can also be very bad people. Jo’s been illustrating throughout the books that people don’t just divide up simply into black and white; they come in shades of grey. It would defeat the purpose to have everyone who has bad characteristics turn out to be a secret Death Eater.
DADA Professors as Prototypes of Character Categories
What other character categories have we been exposed to? Well, we’ve seen lots of definite good guys (Dumbledore, Hagrid, Lupin, etc.) who aren’t from Slytherin. We’ve also seen plenty of definite bad guys who are also Death Eaters and from Slytherin (Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange, etc.). However, to again paraphrase one of our favorite unregistered Animagi, the world is not divided into good people who weren’t in Slytherin and bad people who were in Slytherin and went on to be Death Eaters.
As early as PoA, before we had even heard the term Death Eater, Peter Pettigrew became our first example of someone who was not in Slytherin but definitely was a bad guy and a Death Eater, a new character category. And so far, Wormtail is the only clear-cut example of someone in this category, although others might be in it, like Crouch Jr. as I hypothesized above. Another category is the non-Slytherin bad guy who is not a Death Eater. Crouch Sr. and Lockhart, assuming that they weren’t in Slytherin, are examples of this category. Snape is also, so far, the only definite example of his character category, the ambiguous Slytherin. I realize that many of you are now shouting at me in fury. The thing is that some of you are shouting, ”No, he’s totally evil!” and others are shouting, ”No, he’s totally good!” That’s the point. Hes ambiguous. There aren’t that many of us who would be willing to stake, say, our chance to read Book 7 on Snape’s allegiance to anyone. He’s not just another Slytherin/bad guy/Death Eater, but neither is he our ever-hoped-for good Slytherin. At any rate, not one who’s easy to get along with.
My theory is that Jo is using the DADA teachers to introduce character categories and teach us important lessons. With most of them, she’s showing us different manifestations of evil, manifestations other than your run-of-the-mill Slytherin/bad guy/Death Eaters like Malfoy and the Lestranges. With some of the DADA professors, Jo is showing us what evil looks like when it comes from somewhere other than Slytherin. Assuming that my placements are correct, Quirrell shows us what happens when Ravenclaws go bad, Lockhart when Gryffindors go bad (but don’t become Death Eaters like Wormtail), and Crouch Jr. when Hufflepuffs go bad. Umbridge, again, is a Slytherin who has gone bad but has not become a Death Eater. She teaches us that we can’t assume that Slytherin evil always leads to becoming a Death Eater. Lupin is an interesting category: he’s a dark creature whom people, including the trio, expect to be evil, but he’s not. He teaches us not to assume that people’s unfortunate life circumstances automatically turn them bad.
So, what does all this tell us about future books? I believe that Jo will continue to use the DADA position to teach us not to make assumptions, and to show us unexpected ways that good and evil can be manifested. Personally, I’m hoping that one of the last two DADA professors will be, finally, a definitely good Slytherin — on Dumbledore’s side, never a Death Eater — and pleasant to be around. The fun thing about this scenario would be that Harry and company would take forever to be convinced that the Slytherin teacher really is a good guy. If we do get a good Slytherin DADA professor, it will probably be in the final book. It would be one of the many resolutions and/or redemptions that will have to happen in that book, specifically, the redemption of Slytherin House.
What about the remaining DADA professor, possibly the one coming up in HBP? I can think of several options. It could be someone not human at all — some sort of species (different from Lupin, who is human) that people automatically believe to be evil. Or, for that matter, one that people automatically believe to be good, who turns out not to be. I’m not sure how likely this is, since we already have Firenze as a non-human teacher. But who knows? After all, Dean predicted they’d get a vampire. Another option would be a human, but one not from Hogwarts. This would be in keeping with the idea of international cooperation to combat Voldemort (or with the idea of Voldemort enlisting people from other nations). Either way, it would be someone whose background or place of origin leads us (or at least Harry and Co.) to assume something about him or her which turns out not to be true. Like someone from Durmstrang turning out to be one of the good guys, although I don’t think that particular situation will happen, since we’ve already got Krum filling that role (see Badalament’s essay for why Krum will not teach DADA).
Another very interesting possibility would be an ex-Death Eater, now on the good side, who’s not from Slytherin (probably from Gryffindor, since that would be the most relevant to Harry). This person would fit the DADA professor pattern of having a Deadly Secret, assuming that we do not know about the persons Death Eater past (and it’s not likely that we would, since Dumbledore’s not going to announce it at the Welcoming Feast). And, of course, the secret would come out in some sort of way that puts Harry’s life in danger, like current Death Eaters turning up to seek revenge on the professor who deserted their ranks right when he or she is alone with the trio (or sextet) after their final exams.
In any case, whatever character categories the remaining DADA professors introduce, we can be certain that they will teach us (and Harry) a great deal. Even if it’s not anything to do with their subject matter.