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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 12)

Fiona from Hong Kong:
snape couldn't get revenge on wormtail because ing one of voldemort's most loyal servants might have blown his cover, don't you think?

i think snape is a very brave person, but i don't understand harry naming his kid after him, not after seven years of solid loathing and a full year of believing he had ed dumbledore with a cold heart.

Posted by jeanette from almond, wisconsin, USA on August 7, 2007 6:54 PM

"However, in HBP, Spinner's End (brilliantly named), Wormtail was staying with him. He would have known by then that it was Wormtail who has betrayed the Potters. How could he possibly let Wormtail lived and not trying all his might to get him ed? I wonder."

Interesting question, Fiona. I hadn't thought about it, but I suppose it has to do with Snape being able to control his emotions, or at least disguise them. In that situation he would have to keep his focus on the main goal of destroying Voldemort and keeping his cover intact rather than going for the brief satisfaction of ing Wormtail. Does that make sense.

I think it is hard to categorise Snape as either good or bad. He certainly wasn't a pleasant person. As someone said he made some bad choices early on. But then he spent over 17 years trying to expiate what he had done. 17 years of hating himself, hating James and then of course hating Harry. Possibly he was very confused about Harry. Wanting to hate him because of James and constantly reminded by Harry's eyes that he had betrayed the woman he loved. I don't doubt that Snape loved Lily. That doesn't mean they would necessarily have been happy together though.

As for James being horrible; well, even Sirius said that James needed to deflate his head a bit! Lily seems to have been the sort of person who really does bring out the best in people. Maybe James realised that if he wanted Lily he had to work for it. No one is perfect. And let's face it, with Voldemort rising to power and Snape blatantly hanging out with potential eaters, someone like James was bound to dislike him. Add in the fact that James was already interested in Lily and you have an explosive mix all round. I think one of the great strengths of the whole series is the characterisation and depth of motivation JKR gives to her characters. Look at us; all arguing back and forth about a man who only exists between the pages of seven books, as though he were a real person. That in itself is quite an achievement whatever our differing opinions of Snape.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on August 7, 2007 10:13 PM

I loved Snape's character and was very pleased with myself for guessing correctly about the Snape / Lily connection. The only thing I hated was the way he d. I really hoped for some closure between Harry and himself. Harry now knows the truth and he named his son after him but I would have loved some dialogue between them.
I also found it sad that no portrait of Snape was hanging in the headmasters room on Harrys triumphant return there. For me this would have meant closure.
I loved DH, all except this.

Posted by Helen R from Sydney, Australia on August 7, 2007 10:31 PM

Look Snape faced lot of opposition like in order he was still considered as eater except Dumbledore. In eaters he was also not trusted except voldemort. Now these two persons you can not say the friends so he was alone through out his life.His only friend or Love was Lily who married his enemy and got ed because of his own information.

Now he is dealing with Harry who is mini James but still he reminded him Lily through his eyes. So much of emotions he kept in his hart and remember he cried looking at Lily's letter. So to keep his emotions aside while facing Voldemort's legleemency is not simple task. We must agree that he was brave person as harry mentioned in last.

I also fell that there must have been some conversation between Harry and Snape.

"" was his last sentence that means he wanted to see those eyes whom he loved for all of his life....So romantic from character like Snape who has been heated by everyone.

Posted by Sujay from India on August 7, 2007 11:10 PM

Snape tried to lock away his feelings in order to avoid making himself an easy target for other people's sneering and also in order to avoid being vulnerable for attack. Occlumency requires the suppression of all feelings, and after Voldemort's rebirth he had to close his mind to him. There is, however, one moment in which he cannot do it. In HBP, there is the moment when Snape doesn't manage to uphold the legilimency spell, but instead becomes so charged with emotions that Harry can break into his mind. I re-read it because I thought that there must have been some connection with Lily, and indeed there is: Snape's magical abilities do not do the trick here because he sees Harry being confronted with Dementors. There is nothing in HBP to explain, but of course we know that when Harry saw the Dementors in PoA, he heard his mother pleading for his life. I believe his shaking and turning white was not so much due to the fact that Harry saw some of his childhood memories, but that he witnessed the last moments of his beloved Lily's life. Can you imagine what Snape must have felt at that moment? It must have been very hard for him, especially since he didn't want Harry to find out any of this because he still expected him to be very much like James. When he asks Dumbledore not to reveal his protection of Harry to anyone, he says, "not Potter's son". And to be fair, Harry turned out to be very much like James when Snape taught him at Hogwarts. To be sure, Harry didn't torture others for fun, but he was easily irritable, tends to have a y attitude and get very hot-headed. He didn't show much respect for Snape and he permanently broke the rules. How frustrating must it be to try and protect Harry from Sirius, to even have the school surrounded by Dementors, and then what does this kid do? Try to take on Sirius on his own - after all, Harry (like everybody else) didn't know that Sirius wasn't a dangerous criminal when he decided to take him on, rendering everybody else's attempts at protecting him quite pointless. If you think about this, that sort of behaviour would make one mad indeed, and it is a very James-like and rather negative character trait in Harry.

Posted by Friederike from Hanover on August 8, 2007 01:27 AM

Just one little snag with Snape.... He entered into the unbreakable vow with Narcissa BEFORE Dumbledore became injured by Gaunt's ring and asked Snape to do the deed himself.

Posted by David from UK on August 8, 2007 05:40 AM

Since Snape has been headmaster of Hogwarts he should have a painting in the headmastersroom, so Harry could still have that closing conversation.

Posted by Emma from Rijswijk on August 8, 2007 07:37 AM

SherryBinNH: I agree with you. No matter what Snape did, he was so nasty and a bully until the very end. And remember, he only did it for Lily. He never liked Harry. Even so, though, I like mysterious people, and he was a great character. Not a hero, though.

Posted by Michelle from LA, California on August 8, 2007 08:40 AM

To Elizabeth,

Well yes, Snape may have to hide his feelings towards Wormtail in order to stay undercover. But don't you think, as clever as Snape is, he sure could find a way to Wormtail without Voldemort suspecting him? After all, Voldemort only cares about himself and he has no feeling or trust for Wormtail. I doubt he would care if Wormtail d if Snape could provide a reasonable excuse for the action.

Snape hated Sirius for how he treated him in school as well as "betraying" the Potters. Same applied to Wormtail. Pettigrew was in James' gang and bullied Snape for fun, except maybe Lupin. In fact, I thought snape would despise Wormtail more for being just a tag-along and untalented. (Brilliant people has very little tolerance towards untalented ones.) I just can't see the logic in Snape's action in this.

Posted by Fiona from Hong Kong on August 8, 2007 09:00 AM

I also found it interesting that Snape did not do anything to Wormtail when he was forced to stay with him at the beginning of HBP...(I agree with the points made about maintaining his undercover status...brilliant way for Voldy to test Snape by placing Wormtail with him) however since POA Snape had thought Sirius was the betrayer and he did not "" him either although clearly had the opportunity. Maybe this is another indication pointing out the fact that he has changed through the series.

Another point that seems consistent with this idea is the difficulty Snape has with Dumbledore's request to have Snape him and his concern for his soul...does this suggest that as a eater Snape never did anything that could have jeopardized his soul?

No doubt in my mind he is a great hero...his journey was far greater...his choices were much more difficult to make than I could have imagined.

Posted by Snape fan from Minnesota USA on August 8, 2007 10:38 AM

I have always maintained that Snape was good.

And as we all have discussed he was working for the good side after all, but were his motivations pure? If Lily had not been ed, Snape would have been more than happy to be a Eater and Muggle borns and destroy Harry. The dilemma comes when Voldemorts angers Snape so much that his motivations turn from power-seeking and acceptance to vengeance and retribution. He wants Voldemort to be destroyed, not for the noble reason of eradicating evil, but for pure revenge. My morals tell me that even if you do "good" things with wicked motivation, you are not necessarily a hero.

He definitely helped play a part, but I think Dumbledore and Harry could have completed the task without Snape, granted he is a very talented wizard. I think where I get this idea is when Lupin says something like "Dumbledore needed someone to spy on the werewolves, and here I was ready-made". I think many other wizards could have been capable of playing double-agent, but Snape was ready-made. Snape, the "best Occlumens", can't even get into under-age Malfoy's head when Malfoy is employing Occlumency, so I wouldn't even dare to believe that he is more powerful than Dumbledore or Voldemort (although I know Occlumency and Legillimency are different). I think his desire to avenge Lily's made him all the more capable at his task, as I have also come to believe that a strong motivation helps one do their work better and more effectively.

I also think that Snape is a terrible, terrible teacher who plays favorites and does not encourage a positive learning environment. He is just as bad as those stupid boys who tortured the magic out of Dumbledore's sister or Marvolo Gaunt who tortured Voldemort's mother, we do not consider these characters even partially good. So are his seemingly heroic acts, I still maintain that Harry provided more insight to Voldemort's world than Snape, I think so.

I think when we compare Snape to Harry, he becomes completely without a doubt a heel because we know that is possible to rise above adverse situations and maintain a pure, loving heart. But when we compare him with Voldemort who let adversity overwhelm him and turn him into stone, Snape becomes so tragically heroic, which I a meaning to say, that it is only through the tragedy in his life that he becomes capable of heroic acts.

I love Severus Snape. I was deeply touched when Harry, again the perfect model of righteousness, named his son after Snape, and I think that Snape eventually became Dumbledore's man through and through.

Posted by Lydia Wolcott from Lubbock, TX on August 8, 2007 11:01 AM

I think that Snape wasn't a nice person but he did a nice thing, and he was extra not-nice to harry because of james, who i pesonally don't think was a nice person in his youth either, but then neither was dumbledore as we now know but people can change. I think he was really mean and in some places evil in the short-run, but very good and nice in the long run! If that makes sense. Thats what i think!

Posted by Molly from Kent on August 8, 2007 11:40 AM

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