Before having my world turned upside down, quite literally, by vertigo, I’d been planning a series of blog posts on status. My notes feel a bit cold now, when I left them they were on fire, but I shall try fanning the embers to get the fire going again:
Big Sue can be quite brutal sometimes, in the nicest possible way. I was recently mulling over an incident that happened when an appointment I was due to attend, was abruptly cancelled with minutes to spare. The person I was meeting had double-booked, and so I was rejected in favour of the other person. Although I did get a nice email a few minutes earlier, and an attempt had been made to phone me on a phone number I was no longer using, when I returned the call I was bluntly told that ‘he told me to cancel you’, almost like a directive to have me taken outside and shot. Those words made me wonder if I had low status in his eyes, and it was this, not the rescheduling of the appointment that I had difficulty handling. I had difficulty with it because it had become a pattern, not with this person, but with all my relationships. Sometimes, the harder I tried to accommodate and please the less value I had in the eyes of others. ‘Here we go again’ I thought. ‘Well, Big Sue’ I said ‘tell me how it is,’ ‘why does this keep happening to me?’
You’re behaving like Dobby the house-elf – Big Sue
‘You’re behaving like Dobby the house-elf’ said Big Sue. Talk about blunt! As I started watching Harry Potter clips featuring Dobby the house-elf, and some other house-elves on YouTube I began to understand what Big Sue had meant by the analogy. The elves were devoted to their masters, going out of their way to serve and yet they were disrespected, taken for granted, used, and their own needs were never even considered, let alone met. Why? Because both parties, the master, and the elf, were playing roles dictated by their perception of their status and the status of others. House-elves can be set free from their role by their master giving them an item of clothing. Harry Potter fans will be aware that a grimy tunic is standard elf couture, so you might think that an item of clothing, along with the freedom from a life of being disrespected and taken for granted would be deeply appreciated, which is not the case. Elves can be traumatised by the perceived rejection of this experience and feel shamed as failures. Dobby, on the other hand, has enough self-esteem to want this freedom, and enough critical judgement to highly value integrity in others, so he’s devoted to Harry and will do the right thing, even when this is the wrong thing in the eyes of his masters, the Malfoys.
Even though Dobby is exceptional as house-elves go, having self-esteem and guided by inner integrity that surpasses a need to please, when integrity calls for it he is willing to use his considerable magical powers against the very people he’d been obliged to serve only moments earlier. He is still looked down on after being set free when Harry tricks his master into giving him a sock, even by his own kind who now view him as unemployed, a shameful status for a house-elf.
So, given his exceptional nature, what is it about Dobby that causes others to see him as low status? I see several factors which determine how others perceive his status, most of which are under Dobby’s control:
I’ll look at each of these in turn in the following blog posts.