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Severus Snape: Heel or Hero?

Is Snape a hero? Would James and Lily be alive now if not for him? Would Harry be dead now if not for him? Did he ever care about Harry, or only Lily? At the end of the epilogue, Harry says that Severus Snape was the bravest man he ever knew. Did he feel that way only after years of reflection? How do we feel now, while it's still fresh for us?

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Reader Comments: (Page 10)

Snape was a misguided, very damaged human being who never really knew love from a male figure; just rejection. His father rejected him, and most of the guys at Hogwarts rejected him. You find that where he was accepted (i.e., as a Eater and by Lily) that he was fully loyal. The irony in that is his own behavior ( Eater) brought about the of his only love (Lily) so at the end of the day, everything that he had felt accepted and loved by was canceled out the other. When Lily d, he was remorseful (he could love so he could feel remorse); so much so that he was a tragic hero. He was going to do whatever he could to redeem himself to himself and try to make up for what he had done. So, he cut himself off from all emotion..finding that to be the better (less complicated) way to live. That is what made him such a perfect Occulamens and double agent. He felt nothing, he had shut out his mind to his heart and was essentially a cold stone. I also think Snape knew that his redemption would always end in . So to continue forward with the plan knowing he more than likely could , makes him brave (just like Harry was ing to sacrifice himself in DH).

Although I believe he was dedicated to helping Lily's only child, I don't think Snape really knew how difficult that would be until he actually saw Harry...the face of a "man" who had rejected him and stolen his only love. To Snape, Harry was James and if it weren't for Harry's eyes; Snape may well have never tried as hard as he did. In , Snape wanted to see "Lily's" eyes; almost as if that is what he was to be rewarded for...and to show remorse at the moment of . I believe he joined James, Lily and everyone else on the "Other side" and that his was a better adventure for him.

Posted by Emma from Tampa, Florida on August 6, 2007 2:50 PM

Snape is my favourite character in the Harry Potter books, and i've always said that Severus Snape was good. He was no villian, and was certainly not doing what was best for himself! Everything he did was because of the love to Lily. And no, we can't deny he was evil to Harry, but how would you react when you met the son of your worst enemy? JKR made Snape act as a human. After everything James did to Snape (and snape did to James), did you think Snape would treat Harry as any other student? Of course not. I'm not saying that what snape did was right. But he was acting like a human being. And we can't blame him for that, since we all would do the same if it was us. That he sold the Potters to Voldemort was a big mistake - something he had to regret for his whole life. I know that what he did was terrible - not caring if James and harry d - as long as Lily was alive - but again; James and Snape were enemies. Enemies for life.
And what made Snape become the one he finally became?
His father was terrible, and so was most of the persons at Hogwarts. Again; that's not an excuse, but a big part of the explanation. Just like Emma wrote before me; Snapa was a damaged human being.
But still, after the terrible childhood, he still had one thing that made him good: he could love (just like harry). He could love, and it was because of his love to Lily he never joined Voldemort; but helped Dumbledore - and Harry, and put himself in a great danger.
Snape was a real Hero, no matter what you think. He was a hero.
And that Harry and Ginny named one of their children to Severus was a perfect way to honour Snape. Albus and Severus, the greatest wizard and the breavest wizard in the world.
Severus Snape was a true Hero.

Posted by Caroline from Malmö, Sweden on August 6, 2007 3:19 PM

I don't know what Harry was smoking when he said Snape was the bravest man he ever knew. Snape was a cowardly, grudge-holding flip-flopper who dealt in secrets and never told anyone the whole story. Even Harry, after that brief dip in Snape's memories, doesn't know everything about him. Snape changed sides constantly, so not even Dumbledore could know if Snape was good or not. The only reason he turned to Dumbledore's side was because the woman he loved d. And I don't think Snape's "sacrificial" was in any way sacrificial. Snape's denoument was just another by-product of the attempted triumph of Lord Voldemort.

Posted by Bekah from Ottery St. Catchpole on August 6, 2007 5:04 PM

I find it interesting how many people idolize Snape. He was a nasty piece of work, cruel, malicious, sadistic. OK, he came by this logically, but "it's our choices that define us", and he chose very badly early on and struggled only afterward to redeem himself. I hesitate to call him "hero" because that word has a lot of associations now that don't apply. He did some heroic stuff, but his motivations were suspect.

What he was, though, is a genius. He probably could have been as powerful as Dumbledore or Voldemort given the same opportunities and motivations. As a wizard, he is definitely in the top three with them (of those we know about) (and greater in magical ability than Harry by far!)

I think his "love" for Lily was a combination of things, and actual love only a small part of the mix. He desired her, he appreciated her kindness and affection, but he really was more obsessed with "owning" her than truly loving her. (Love of the purest kind would accept, painfully, rejection and rejoice that the beloved had happiness even with somebody else. No rejoicing here, only spite.)

He was brave. Once he determined that he needed to stop Voldemort and aligned himself with Dumbledore, he had to lead a truly horrible double life, an excruciating balance, constantly keeping Voldemort from figuring it out even when Voldemort began to kind of wonder...

But everything he did FOR Harry had to do with Dumbledore's orders and Snape's awareness that as much as he despised Harry, still Harry was the One prophesied to have a chance of defeating Voldemort. Nothing said he had to be nice to Harry -- he just needed to keep him alive, if possible, to live out the prophesy. So he did what he wanted TO Harry, and it was not to toughen him up or help in any way, at least most of the time. He enjoyed making people squirm. A lot of really intelligent people do that -- skewer you with words.

I think Snape is one of the best written characters in the series, but he's not someone I would ever want to meet. (Alan Rickman, now, that's different!) Snape CHOSE to not rise above his torments of childhood, as Harry managed to do. He sunk into being as big a bully as Dudley, only, being so much more intelligent and powerful, he was much much better at it. In contemporary American culture, he'd be something like a high ranking Mafia "made man". I wouldn't want to meet them, either. Regardless of any altruistic gestures they may make or churches they may support...

In Rowling's universe, there is no pure evil. Even Voldemort, who comes the closest, COULD have made other choices and behaved differently. But he was a sociopath, and like real-life sociopaths, he pushed himself far beyond redemption.

Snape was just a nasty man. He had some tendencies toward evil, and he employed cruelty and other "evil" behaviors, but he also had the capacity for doing right. I wouldn't call it "goodness" so much as a righteous morality, and a belligerant determination to do what he agreed to do for Dumbledore, literally "no matter what". Doe this equate to "hero"? I'm not so sure.

Posted by SherryBinNH from New Hampshire, USA on August 6, 2007 5:21 PM

Snape was cool but no denying he was powerful as well. If you were to list the power of all the wizards in harry potter the top 5 or so would be like this:

1. Dumbledore
2. Voldemort
3. Kingsley Shacklebolt (this guy kix butt)
4. Snape
5. Bellatrix

Snape, whether heel or hero, was one heck of a wizard, inventing awesome spells, mastering the whole mind reading thing, and just the fact that he was such a good double/triple agent. he was darn good at magic.

Posted by michael from Sydney, NSW on August 6, 2007 7:21 PM

the world isn't split up between good and eaters.

snape is neither.

Posted by kaela noble from pittsburg, california on August 6, 2007 8:15 PM

One of the things that has always perplexed and disturbed me was how cruel James was to Snape, and how Lilly could have married such a horrible person. After Snape's worst memory was first revealed, I had hoped JKR would redeem James somehow. I had hoped, "maybe Snape's memory was highly subjective and not how the incident trully occurred." But at the end of it all I realize that none of the characters is perfectly good or completely evil. That's why the characters are so well-created and so real. Everybody has flaws, everybody can learn from their mistakes and wrong-doings to become better people. This is why I know Snape is a true hero. Just as James Potter grew up to be a respectable person, Snape learned from his mistakes and did extrordinary things to redeem his evil deeds. Snape, however, still had a lot to work on in order to grow emotionally before his untimley end. Though his most heroic acts were done out of love and devotion (to Lily, to Dumbledore, to Harry), his most cowardly behaviors were, to me, coming from a part of Snape that was still a tortured child. He had never learned to deal with emotional pain and inflicted it in order to shield himself from being hurt by those he loved and respected. Also, having lost the love of his life, he refused to alow himself to show any kind of love again. These are the reasons why he was so cold and hard to the students he most admired. He was afraid that if he trully nurtured them, that they would turn around and abandon him as Lily had done. He probably called Lilly a mudblood because he could not deal with losing face in front of her, and struck her before she could strike him.
I find it extremely tragic and endearing that Snape was so devoted to Dumbledore and his cause that he sacrificed his own life. Dumbledore knew that he (Snape) was extremely vulnerable to at the hands of Voldemort as the supposed slayer of the Elder Wand's master. This disturbs me a bit that Dumbledore was ing to sacrifice Snape for the greater good. I'm sure Snape knew this too and fought in his heart, just as Harry did, whether or not to follow Dumbledore's orders.
On another note, didn't Snape's unbreakable promise to Narcissa magically bind him to the task of ing Dumbledore? He promised to carry out the deed if Draco could not do it. Snape was sympathetic (even empathetic) to Narcissa and could identify with wanting to protect a loved-one from the wrath of Voldemort. He was doubly bound to the task then, for love (Narcissa's love for her son) and for devotion (to Dumbledore).

Posted by Stacy from Yonkers, NY on August 6, 2007 10:12 PM

snape was cruel because he did bully harry and neville. but would the eaters not have been a bit suspicious if snape was openly kind to harry and neville, whose parents had been prominant members of the order? i dont think snape was a hero but i also dont think he was a villian.

Posted by Caroline from Scotland on August 7, 2007 01:32 AM

Neither a heel, nor a hero: Snape is the perfect anti-hero.

Posted by Sudeep Popat from Riverside, CA on August 7, 2007 02:19 AM

Till the last moments of his life, Snape proved his love for Lily Potter by helping her son Harry. and I think after all these years, after what Harry had felt toward Snape, Harry himself considered Snape as a hero and named his son after him and Dumbledore (Albus Severus). so if Harry thinks that Snape is a hero what else can we say?

Posted by bothayna from Qatar on August 7, 2007 04:25 AM

Of course Snape is going to treat Harry a little worse than he treats the rest of the non-Slytherins, but have any of you ever fallen deeply in love with someone and stayed that way for years and years, and then one day you mess up and it's gone? Snape never got over the fact that he didn't get Lily, and of course he's going to dislike Harry for being the offspring of James Potter, Snape's rival, and Lily Evans, his true love. So what if Snape is (was) only protecting Harry because he had Lily's eyes and was Lily's child and she would have wanted him to? It would, yes, be much more noble if he were protecting Harry because Harry is the Messiah or whatever, but he's only human. I think Snape is one of the best characters in the book, not because I like him but because he's very three dimensional and complex.

Posted by Gallilea from Centennial, CO on August 7, 2007 06:38 AM

I think snape was a hero, as much a hero as humanly possible, true he was not the best person in the world, when he was a eater, but he definitely becomes a better person in the end, stronger than even Dumbledore in character, he is ing to expose himself as an ex- eater to the ministry to convince them that voldy has returned... while Dumbledore hides the fact that he was ever friends with Grindelwald, I think he never wants to admit the fact that he is protecting harry because he cares for him, yet his horror at what he must tell harry tells a different story, once he has accepted that what he must now do is not for Lily Potter (interestingly he says Lily Potter not Lily Evans) but for a cause a higher cause than his love, if it were just a selfish reason, he wouldnt have risked trying to protect Lupin (who was a marauder) protect the students at Hogwarts, I mean after all detention with Hagrid is fun... wouldnt have transferred the sword to Harry in such a beautiful way, but by the time he realized all this it was too late, he had to keep his cover till the very end, and no one got to know his softer side, personally loved the way all the professors attacked him, he never hits back, although he is extremely capable of it... is this not heroic, he has to come to terms with the fact that he is not a good person and does everything, is led on by Dumbledore, but still remains honorable and does his duty, that is heroic... besides I actually liked the way he treated Hermione (aside from that awful teeth comment) he is always trying to tell her to go beyond the books and be more innovative in his usual "charming" way, throughout HBP hermione keeps saying its not part of the book instructions, she cant seem to think that anything other than whats written in a book would be better... Snape on the other hand was inventing and modifying officially accepted methods of doing things...

Posted by srabonti from Manchester,UK on August 7, 2007 07:50 AM

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