The Sorting Hat
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
All students entering Hogwarts must try on the Sorting Hat. To the new first-years, it seems like it holds the potential for a trying ordeal – the idea of being "Sorted" carries with it all kinds of creepy, science-fiction implications. Ron, and his fellow first-years, is relieved when they find out that all they have to do is try on the Hat, but Harry is still uneasy. While waiting to be Sorted Harry thinks,
[T]rying on the hat was a lot better than having to do a spell, but he did wish they could have tried it on without everyone watching. The hat seemed to be asking rather a lot; Harry didn't feel brave or quick-witted or any of it at the moment. (7.36)
The Hat tells them, "Try me on and I will tell you / Where you ought to be" (7.33). In other words, after putting on the Hat, each student will know the house to which he or she belongs. While this seems true for all the other first-years, who put on the Hat and hear it yell out different house names, it's a little different in Harry's case. The Hat says it will determine which House each student "ought to be" in, but it offers Harry a choice. When Harry thinks at the Hat, "Not Slytherin, not Slytherin" (7.68), the Hat responds,
"Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that – no? Well, if you're sure – better be GRYFFINDOR!" (7.69)
Here, the student's preference for one house over another is just as significant as the personality traits that qualify him for those houses.
Want to know what house you belong in. Take this quiz! Or maybe this quiz. Heck, you might as well take this quiz too!