Slytherins Are Just Hierarchical Believers
by Sophina B.
I came to a realization about Slytherins today. Maybe people of the Reddit or Twitter community have already discovered this, but if not, yay me.
“There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin” (SS, ch. 5). These are the words that Gryffindors quote back to me every single time I admit my House is Slytherin. True, we have Voldemort, his Death Eaters, and Umbridge. If Grindelwald was a Hogwarts student, he’d likely be a Slytherin too. But we also have Slughorn, Snape, Draco, Narcissa, and – my personal favorite – Regulus, who all defied their traditional upbringing and beliefs to choose the side of good. Additionally, we have Albus.
Salazar Slytherin wanted only pure-bloods in the school – he believed wizards were better than Muggles (sound familiar?). In other words, he believed in status and in a hierarchy. This is the true dominant trait of a Slytherin. Not darkness, not racism but an acute awareness of one’s position in any and all hierarchical structures.
Slytherins understand that hierarchy is not something you can eradicate. It’s something that has lived throughout human history and is embedded within the collective unconsciousness. There’s religion, there’s politics, there are teachers and students, and there are parents and children. Without hierarchy, society breaks down, and we go back to living in small packs again. Even then, you have parents with authority over children or one pack fighting another pack for control over land.
We are exposed to this from childhood, so we grow up being aware of our own positions. Therefore, it makes complete sense why we tend to be followers of tradition. We follow our family culture, beliefs, and attitudes because we know where we sit in those structures. We obey the systems because we see them at work. If we have power over others, we understand that it can be used for good or abused. If we are the baby of the family, we know where we stand and that we have to rise through the ranks in whatever way we need to.
This does not mean that everyone who understands their position wants to be at the top with “ultimate power.” I’ll give you the example of Albus: He is the middle child (which is telling of hierarchy enough) of the most famous man in the wizarding world, and he’s completely aware of the expectations set by others and himself to “be his father’s son.” It makes perfect sense for him to be a Slytherin.
Seeing where you are in the pecking order can very often be used for good rather than evil. It’s this that makes Slytherins so ambitious, so determined, so goal-orientated. If you want that job promotion, you’ve got to rise through the ranks and offer something more than your colleagues. If you want your parents to take you seriously and no longer see you as the baby of the bunch, you’ve got to prove you’re an adult, that you’re higher in the system now.
Climbing the ladder doesn’t necessarily mean overtaking someone else and leaving them to starve behind you. It means you see where you are, where you want to be, and what goals you need to set in order to get there. Simply put, you want to be better than you are right now.
In high school, I studied with friends who surpassed me in almost every way. They were more popular and more talented, academically and artistically. I knew I always sat at the bottom. But I also knew that I needed those friends. I needed them so that I could strive to be better. Through that, I realized I had my own strengths too, and I eventually started to feel good about myself. My position would move around depending on the situation, and that’s okay. If I can say anything about how to navigate this properly, it’s that you should surround yourself with friends (keyword) who are better than you in some areas. See what they are better at and learn from them. See what you are better at and teach them.
So while some may be more aligned to the status-gaining side of hierarchy, others are just hyperaware of it. Either way, it’s a skill you have, so use it wisely. Use the system to help you grow as a person. We can show the rest of the Houses that we’re not selfish, pure-blood fascists. We are hierarchical believers.