Feature Friday: Sorting 19th Century British Novelists into Hogwarts
Click on through to The Toast for the full article (it really is awesome, and though I've cut out paragraphs so my own post isn't too lengthy, the extended justification for each sorting is pretty funny and insightful and worth the read):
We’re starting off with a softball here – Jane, beloved Jane, is an easy choice. Her novels, occasionally dismissed by illiterate ninnyhammers as romances, are ultimately about the triumph of reason and order over flightiness, sentimentality, and impecunity.
Charlotte, Emily, and Anne (Poor Anne) Bronte
Charlotte Bronte: I mean. Are you joking. Like it’s even a question. We’ve all read Jane Eyre.
Emily Bronte: My first thought was Gryffindor because: hot-headed. Absolutist. Stubborn, oh god, so stubborn. But everyone– absolutely every single last character!– in Wuthering Heights is a monster. ...it’s simply impossible to deny this plain fact: Heathcliff and Cathy could never have come from the warm heart of a Hufflepuff, the logic of a Ravenclaw, or the just mind of a Gryffindor.
Anne (Poor Anne) Bronte: Poor Anne. Toiling forever in her tempestuous sisters’ shadows. Hardworking, scarcely noticed, staunchly unconvinced that any man who could keep a mad wife locked in his attic would ever be worth anyone’s time.
“Oh, Charles Dickens? You mean the most famous social activist author of probably all time? The infamous puller of heart-strings? With all the starving orphans and broad-shoulder heroes? He is practically Godric Gryffindor’s right hand man.”
So you might assume. But have you ever looked at one of Charles Dickens’ plot outlines? Peppered throughout, you would not find thoughtful notes on how best to develop, say, the distinct character of Jo, the tiny orphan crossing-sweep from Bleak House. No. What you’ll find is Dickens’ consuming preoccupation with when Jo should die for maximum narrative effect. This is not the behavior of an author alive to the worth of every living human, but to the worth every person can have towards furthering his career if killed off at just the right moment. (The notes move from “Jo -… pointing hand of allegory”, to “Jo? Yes. Kill him.”) Poor people were only plot points to him and it shows.
Don’t be taken in by his Gryffindor drag. Charles looked out for #1. And was weirdly into playacting murder scenes.
Verdict: Straight-up Slytherin
It would be easy to cast Collins as a Slytherin groupie a la Crabbe and Goyle. He was the kind of guy who clung to Dickens’ coattails as the most efficient and effective way to gain literary success. But unlike Dickens, Collins was not out there screaming about his success to the world; he was inside, writing letters to his mother, eating jam tarts with his tiny child-sized hands and doing tons and tons of opium.
Mrs. Gaskell is initially a solid contender for Hufflepuff on the strength of her cozy pastoral novels Wives and Daughters and Cranford, where no one is evil and no one is cruel. ...But then, dear friends, but then. I remembered Margaret Hale. A character so canon Gryffinfor that I will never again be able to imagine her without eight S.P.E.W. buttons pinned to the front of the pointedly plain frock she’s surely wearing. The character whose life story (child of a dissenting minister, banished from the rural south, shocked and adrift in the callous industrial north, befriending labor firebrands left, alienating wealthy mill owners right) closely parallels Gaskell’s own and suddenly only one answer seemed reasonable.
Trollope’s genius was in his reliability, his steady and apparently boundless ability to churn out novel after novel, and the quality of his work, which is simultaneously human and unassuming.
Dear reader, you might think Eliot would be a shoe-in for Gryffindor, but you would be wrong. ...the dominant quality of George Eliot’s prose is her unshrinking, unstinting observation of human character, shaped by a style that is unbelievably balanced, precise and gloriously meticulous. This is an author, after all, who breaks off from the momentum of her storytelling to deliver an entire masterful chapter on the art of the novel, comparing her work to that of a surgeon and a Dutch painter.
In Gryffindor Tower, far from the warmth and laughter of the common room, there is a dark and dour corner where a select few gather. They are men of morals, men of character, men with too-full hearts in a too-cruel world. Men who burn with anger so brightly and so briefly, only to fade into ash forevermore. These men are the Saddest Gryffindors. Thomas Hardy sits among them, a group that includes David Foster Wallace, Vincent Van Gogh, and Charlie Brown, discussing the myriad ways this world can let you down; a sad dude among sad, sad dudes. And don’t you ever try to tell me otherwise.