Which House Would You Sort Dobby Into?
As a Slytherin, I often found myself underwhelmed or disappointed with the representation of my House throughout the novels. Merlin was long gone, don’t get me started on the Great Snape Debate, Slughorn was spineless, and Malfoy had always been the character I hated to love. Upon rereading the series, I had a startling epiphany – perhaps I had been looking for the representation I so desperately sought in all the wrong places. There was one character who continuously embodied ambition, cunning, resourcefulness, and everything the Slytherin House stands for: Dobby.
No one can deny that our favorite house-elf was ambitious in his fight for freedom and equality. He was constantly demanding a level of respect that no other house-elf would dare to think of in the series, to the point of requesting payment for his work at Hogwarts. After he was freed in Chamber of Secrets, Dobby did things not because he was ordered to, but because he genuinely wanted to. It was that sheer obsession with the autonomy he was denied for so long that led him to do whatever it took to reach his goals.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines cunning as:
1: dexterous or crafty in the use of special resources (such as skill or knowledge) or in attaining an end
2: displaying keen insight
3: characterized by wiliness and trickery
Although Dobby’s position in society was far from favorable, he was able to use it to his advantage when it came to his attempts to save Harry’s life. He stated it best when he said, “Dobby hears things, sir, he is a house-elf, he goes all over the castle as he lights the fires and mops the floors” (Goblet of Fire 491). Whatever needed doing, Dobby readily jumped to the challenge, using his ability to Apparate anywhere and eavesdropping skills to spy on the likes of the Malfoys and the Crouches in order to reach his goals.
Luckily for Dobby, he was as resourceful as he was cunning, using his daily punishments to hide his insubordination while he tried to convince Harry not to return to Hogwarts. While he didn’t have the opportunities of the trio or other characters, Dobby used whatever means were available to him to propel himself further, be it his connections with Harry, Dumbledore’s kindness, or a slimy, thrown-aside sock. When he saw his chance, he took it, even if others balked at the risk and declared that it wasn’t worth it. Dobby was able to think on his feet and adapt to the situation appropriately.
Despite embodying the three key aspects of the Slytherin House, it could be said that Dobby went against another important House value – tradition. Even though traditions are, by definition, consistently passed down from generation to generation, they are by their very nature a concept that is open to interpretation and that varies from culture to culture, group to group, person to person. While Dobby strived to abandon the house-elf traditions that kept him enslaved, he managed to preserve some of the more positive values of his kind, particularly hard work. When Dumbledore offered him vacation days, Dobby confided in Harry that he liked the work; he enjoyed being useful and being around his friends. It can be argued that Dobby tried to shrug off the traditions of old to create his own.
Ambition, cunning, and resourcefulness are just three of many words that can be used to describe the beloved house-elf. He was a friend to Harry, tried to be a mentor and confidant to Winky, and strived to be a pioneer for the rights of his species. Dobby was a wonderful example that the Slytherin virtues could be used for good rather than evil and that no matter your position in life, something could always be done to reach your goals. Dobby was everything the other Slytherins weren’t – more loyal than Snape, braver than Slughorn, and surer in his convictions than Draco. Plus, let’s be honest: “Dobby never meant to kill. He only meant to maim, or seriously injure” (Deathly Hollows – Part 2) was the most Slytherin line of any of the books or movies.
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