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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 15)

to all snape-is-bad-because-he-mistreated-students: he did it for his cover, and as ateaching method. harry - "the boy ho lived", was hated by any eater. ron - "blood traitor", son to order members. hermione - muggle born. neville - son of aurers.

Posted by dk from il on August 12, 2007 01:13 AM

Every time Harry felt "connected" to Voldemort in his evil-ness, Dumbledore would tell him he's not entirely evil because Harry had one great power the Dark Lord never had: the ability to love. Even Lucius and Narcissa felt love and therefore were not entirely evil.

Snape loved Lily even beyond eternity. I miss him, even though the series has ended with book 7. I'm not even sure it makes sense to miss a fictional character, but I miss Sev.

Posted by Gaby from Maastricht on August 12, 2007 05:41 AM

Snape is a freakin hero! he put up with voldemort all these years, and so what if he didn't like harry, not everyone can like him. And it is not like he made his life a living hell. He is good, and he protected harry over the years. He is my man.

Posted by Claudia on August 12, 2007 05:50 AM

as i see while reading the comments, the two most repeatedly asked questionts about snape are: why did he treated harry as he did, and what where his reasons to fight against voldy?

well, there are several explanations for the "harry and co. mistreatment": he might have did it for the cover, or most simply-nobody is perfect.

second question: it realy doesnt matter! he did it, and risked his life by this. he is a hero!

Posted by dk from il on August 12, 2007 08:56 AM

ok... we know that snape loved lily, we have proof now its not theory anymore. i think maybe snape sort of liked harry because after all he is lilys son. but i think he was always mean to him because he was also james son and because he had to play spy for voldy.

as for snape being a hero, i dont really think so because he would still be a eater if voldy had not decided to lily. i think he enjoyed the feeling of power and people being scared of him since he was a eater. but i do have to say that whether he was a hero or not, he was definitely one of the bravest people and one of the best actors to lie to voldy. but i still dont like him.

Posted by victoria from vancouver alaska on August 12, 2007 10:47 AM

I say yes, Snape is a hero, because as he is and sees Harry, he makes sure that Harry gets the memories that give him Dumbledores instructions that finish it all. Flawed, spiteful, cruel, but in the end honorable to do all that he did, despised and alone.

Some of the the things he said and did must have been because Voldemort knew what he was thinking, so he had to hold on to the hate he felt for James and the others, even though he was a master at occlumency.

Posted by jeannette from simi valley ca. on August 12, 2007 12:07 PM

I think that the notion that Snape was not a hero is ridiculous. Snape was a hero, but he was human. Consider the fact that people react to the same things quite differently. For example, two brothers who had an alcoholic father were asked why they reacted to this the way they did. One became an alcoholic and said that he learned to drink on his father's knee. One did not drink at all and said that he supposed that BECAUSE his father had such a problem, he did not want to be the same. Which answer is correct? The answer to this question is BOTH. So while both Harry and Snape had very difficult childhoods, they discovered bravery on their own terms. The only thing Harry ever knew was bravery, however Snape learned from his cowardice. Snape grew up with neglecting parents and people that bullied him shamelessly. He was in love with Lily, only to lose her to James Potter. Naturally, he would hate James AND his son. I do find that the way Snape treated Harry was a fault, however I ALSO find it quite understandable under the circumstances. Snape betrayed Lily, and while I would never justify his actions, he did his best to save her. While he did not ask Voldemort to save James and Harry, I again point out that that action was only human and James was his worst enemy. Snape never got what he wanted. He lived his life with literally no satisfaction, yet he worked hard protecting someone he HATED for the remaining sixteen years of his life. Snape ed Dumbledore on his orders, which would also take a great deal of courage. I personally think that Snape was a hero in every sense.

Posted by shannon on August 12, 2007 4:00 PM

Hi all, interesting comments. I have a slightly different perspective on this. I don't see that Snape hated Harry because he hated James, exactly; I think he hated Harry because he represented the happy marriage/relationship that James got to have with Lily, when he himself did not. How painful to look at the boy who might, under different circumstances, have been one's own son, but instead was his enemy's son. Shakespearean. (A subtle, distinction, but a real one). IN other words, green-eyed slitherin' envy. Rowling presents us with three characters who have miserable childhoods because of abandonment, abuse, and neglect: Harry, Riddle/Voldemort, and Severus Snape. She demonstrates three possible outcomes: Harry, who is "saved" in time to put it behind him, Riddle whose love of power turns him to pure evil, and Snape, who falls in the middle--he can and does love, but he is warped in some ways and fights serious personal demons. Of interest to me is the fact that Harry isn't entirely pure in this way, either. But what saves him, I think, is the respect he is given by others, so that he develops self-respect. From a psychological viewpoint, Harry is "rescued" just in time. He learns about kindness and its value. His refusal to someone he knows (Stan) to be acting not of his own free is ample evidence of his compassion. Snape gets halfway there, but is brought down by his having placed his happiness in the hands of one person--Lily--and grows bitter when she "deserts" him to marry James. He judges everything based on his one, great saving emotion--love for Lily, but one person cannot another save. He doesn't take the step that Harry takes, which is to develop a more complex inner relationship to goodness, based not on one person, but on his inner worth as well. Harry doesn't hate Ron, for example, when Ron deserts the company. His feelings and morals are more complex and flexible than just the black-and-white. Voldy, on the other hand, seeks revenge and power in making others suffer, and then power over the world; he is twisted from the get-go. So I think this is a rather balanced and carefully considered portrayal of the different effects that childhood abuse/neglect can have on individuals, but as Rowling repeatedly says, it's what you choose that counts. Snape in this trio is the one most pure victim--he has a victim psychology, and it doesn't help him. But he IS brave, and he does, in the end, stay with the "good side" though it torments him. His doing so was (appropriately) more difficult than Harry doing so, and this is his redemption. A desperate, heartsick man who, despite a nasty personality and serious attraction to darkness, stays with the good. I call that heroic. It is not easy to be good when the good people can't stand your guts. Snape gets the closure he needs when he collects the memories for Harry, then asks to gaze into Lily's eyes as he s.

Posted by JK from California on August 12, 2007 4:01 PM

The more I think about it, the more I don't believe that Snape is a hero. Jo, herself, once stated in a DH Hallows interview that, while she acknowledges Snape's bravery, she, too, does not feel that Snape is a hero.

I can't see where all this "I cannot stand Harry because he's so arrogant" is coming from. Harry Potter is far from being nearly as arrogant as James, Sirius, or even Ron and Hermione. He does not desire "recognition" because he is already quite famous. He acts on impulse.

In SS, we see Harry, a boy bullied by his cousin and his mates, arriving at Hogwarts with no desire to be sorted into Slytherin, the house that could bring Harry along to greatness and satisfy his "thirst" to prove himself. We see Hermione looking "smug" after being praised by teachers and being quite obnoxious with the whole "wingardium leviosa" scenario. In OotP, Ron becomes quite arrogant and conceited when he finally saves a few goals for the Quidditch team.

And, consider this, Harry's adventures are situations in which he shows how much he values friendship, loyalty, and love. In SS, he tells his friends that he does not want them to come because they may get hurt. His triumph over Voldemort ultimately stalls the Dark Lord once more. In CoS, he tries desperately to solve to puzzle of the Chamber for his muggleborn friend, Hermione, and in OotP, Harry seeks to save Sirius, his only fatherly figure. How in the world is this being arrogant? Honestly, the only ounce of arrogance that makes way into Harry's system is when he blows up in OotP for being locked up so long (which is quite understandable for me, because it feels absolutely terrible to be left out and cooped up-I'm speaking from personal experience too). Why is it that Harry's venting of confusion and weeks worth of isolation considered "arrogant?" Is it not alright for Harry to show anger in his life? He is, after all, going through a tough time through his adolescence.

Snape, however, has shown arrogance in nearly every situation. Even prior to Hogwarts, he does not acknowledge Petunia and treats her with much disrespect. His love for Lily is obsessive and possessive. Like I said earlier, where is the benevolence, the gentleness, the tenderness? Why is it that Snape cannot find it in his heart to truly love Harry, while he chases after Lily most desperately after her ? Snape's protection for Harry is forced and bereft of compassion. Had Harry not been Lily's son, Snape would have not even cared if Harry d alongside his parents. (Jo clarified this in an interview when a little girl asked her if Snape would have protected Harry even if he did not love Lily. Jo, obviously, replied, "No.")

Just comparing Harry/James and Snape, we can see who the better man is. Many of you are forgetting the fact that Lily chose James, after realizing her true and genuine love for him. You cannot ignore that Snape and James have had a rocky relationship in the past which involved Snape seeking revenge and hexing James in the hallways (and on dates) as well. (This was mentioned by Sirius in OotP).

In the end, Snape s as a brave, respected man. I commend him for his perseverance and determination. He has suffered most painfully throughout his life. Though I cannot view him as a hero, I, like Harry, can forgive him. Snape is valiant, but does mere courage mean that he is a hero, a person with honorable qualities untainted and pure?

Posted by Anonymous on August 12, 2007 4:45 PM

i agree with dk, it was just for Snape's cover! though he probably did enjoy torturing Harry because he saw (or thought he saw) alot of James in Harry and wanted to take revenge on him (James)! it was so sweet that Snape wanted Voldemort to spare Lily! yes Snape is a hero, but still very cruel! I love Snape!

Posted by KNP313 from MIDLAND NC on August 12, 2007 8:14 PM

This is a tough one. Snape definitely has traits of both the classic good guys and classic bad guys. To me it boils down to the fact that Snape was all to ing to relay the prophecy to Voldemort before he knew who it applied to and even after he did he didn't care if James or Harry d as long as Lily survived. It was only after they were that Snape turned away from Voldemort.

Posted by Larry from Sacramento CA on August 12, 2007 8:54 PM

I believe the question is: "is Snape a hero?" and not "is Snape a saint?" Jo shows us a hero who is not a saint, as heros are in the real life. During the second world war, Churchill and De Gaulle obviously were heros, as well as many unknown persons who resisted against the nazis. Were they perfect in all manners? Certainly not, they were human, with their immense qualities and their flaws. Harry's saga is not a children's fairy tale where nice persons are pure and evil persons are totally evil. Snape is a real character, his stregnth of character, his tremendous ability to remain fidel, and his flaws.

I previously said that Harry was arrogant. Someone disagreed on that point and I think he was right. Harry is not arrogant as James was. Only his behaviour in Snape's lessons definitely is arrogant and rude. In front of Snape, Harry gets what he needs, being brought back to his right place: an impulsive child, somehow gifted, but also careless and indisciplined.

Anyway, Snape isn't a real person. He's a fictional character, and then he's what Jo wanted him to be. He had to be rude with Harry and Harry's friends: the whole plot works because we are driven to believe that Snape is evil, and we believe that because we see him through Harry's eyes. If Snape acted towards Harry the same way as Hagrid did, why would we have picked up Snape as the bad guy in SS/PS? Snape is as Jo wants him to be, and I think she expressed herself quite frankly in the epilogue. No lies or fouling us in the epilogue, the story is over, the curtain is closed. What does Jo say through Harry's words? Snape not only was a hero, he was the brightest of all, above Harry, above Dumbledore.

Thank you again, Dave, for mastering this forum the way you do. It always goes exactly in the right direction. How do you manage that? Did you find the elder wand somewhere?

Posted by herve from strasbourg on August 12, 2007 11:48 PM

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