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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 17)

Well I reckon Snape is the best. even at the end of the 6th book before the 7th came out i didnt believe that snape would dumbledore. i trusted dumbledore and i had no doubt in snape. i feel really sorry for snape because if you look at it he had a miserable life being picked on by james and not getting the woman he loved. and till his his life has been purely dedicated to protecting harry. Snape is a hero!

Posted by Anonymous on August 14, 2007 11:22 PM

I still do not think snape is such a big hero.... only wanting Lily but not harry or james. Even if Voldemort spared Lily do you think she would still like him even a bit? Snape would still be with the eaters and snape would still be a kind of responsible about james, and Harrys (before the of her and her husband).

Posted by Lily from LA, CA on August 15, 2007 12:48 AM

to iHEARtsirius:
Snape is a hero only because he turned good after Lily d.One needs to have guts to 'hoodwink' the Dark Lord and actually abandon him only and only for the reason that his love is . I agree that Snape would have been a -eater unless Lily had d but you also need to see that at least Lily's made him feel remorse and anger against Voldemort and he came on to the right side.

Snape was one of the most bravest and most complex character in the HP series. His courage was something that went unsuspected till the end and that requires a great amount of acting ss. He sacrificed his whole life to avenge/redeem for his life. He held on to the only love that he came across in his whole pitiful life. His sacrifice WAS worthy enough for Harry to name his son after Severus Tobias Snape.

Posted by Mahathi from Chennai, India on August 15, 2007 03:59 AM

I do not see the hero in Snape. Throught the entire Potter series we see Snape lie, deceive, and double cross. He did it in school. He did it with the Eaters. He even did it when he was in the Order. There were only two reasons he was in the Order. Lily and fear of Azkaban. Snape could do all the double crossing he wanted in the Order without fear of going to prison. Point being - he could have the same lifestyle without the consequences by switching loyalties to the Order. Then there was the whole Snape and Lily thing. That was just creepy. Snape reminded me of an obsessed serial er. I think it is time to give up on the girl after she was married, had a son, and about 20 years have passed. This does not seem like a hero to me.

Posted by Andrew from Wilmington, NC on August 15, 2007 06:08 AM

snape is a hero, i knew it since book 6 when he said to bellatrix "to hoodwink the dark lord, the greatest legillimens the world had ever seen?!" he was bullied in school by someone that everybody believed to be more talented. he wasnt the type to admire anyone more talented than he was. he was bullied by james and "lost" his fight with him. he wanted to beat someone, more talented than he, to prove himself. lilys caused him to chose voldemort as this man. this is how it would look with a person that is not a hero. but snape was one. he chose not to reveal himself as anti-voldemort, which could bring him glory, but to work underground, risking his life with no chance of being respected!

Posted by dk from il on August 15, 2007 08:26 AM

I really enjoyed Snape’s character – and he was a hero for his bravery - no more, no less. After Lily’s , he had to do something to avenge her, even if it meant protecting the son of James Potter. I really think Snape’s first and biggest mistake was during the sorting. I’m certain J.K. Rowling intentionally set it up to show Lily being sorted into Gryffindor first. This gave an opportunity for Snape to go with her, or to follow the Slytherin crowd. He knew he had a choice, but blew it. Snape is exceedingly brave. He possibly only realized this after Lily’s and all the years after. And it was particularly poignant to see how Snape s – he is brought down by a snake, the symbol of Slytherin. The choice he made at the sorting led to his demise. Dumbledore knew it was a mistake when he remarked that maybe Hogwarts sorts too soon. But can you imagine what would have happened to Snape if he had never met Lily? He would have never known love at all. The best he could have done would have been to suffer the same fate as Regulus Black or Igor Karkaroff. Lily gave him something to live for – even if his life did consist of miserable vengeance – her memory (and the painfully innocent experiences he had with her in childhood) was worth all the anguish. The only thing that doesn’t quite add up is the talent and intelligence he displayed. It seems unlikely that a person so bright could not figure out his own psychology so as to untangle all the guilt and self-loathing he felt. I wondering if psychologists exist in the Wizarding World. Hmmm.

Posted by Amy from Michigan on August 15, 2007 10:32 AM

I think to really understand Severus Snape you have to first look at where he came from. He obviously had a vey troubled childhood which seems to have been brightened only by Harry's mother, and even when he reached Hogwarts, where by rights he should have been accepted by the wizarding community as a whole, he was, from the first forced by normal children, like James Potter, to appreciate the divisions within the wizard society. People just didn't like Slytherins, and although this view is probably founded on some proper evidence it's still a prejudice that continued to split the community. Even Dumbledore acknowledged that wizards are sorted at a very young age into houses which define their relationships and their attitudes, even though they're not rounded people with experience (because it's really experience that shapes a person's life rather than just personal qualities) so although Snape had the choice of whether or not to turn to Voldemort, we should all be able to appreciate that he was in a way far more likely to go to his side than, for example, a Gryffindor, because of the company he kept, and the influence it inevitably had on him.

I belive Snape to be a hero, because he overcame his prejudices and his old grudges to avenge the of the woman he loved, and protect her child. 'Love' is what Dumbledore was always telling us is the most powerful force there is! Snape was saved by it, and he saved Harry's lfe on more than one occasion because of it.

Severus Snape was not a nice man, and I don't think anyone would really try to pretend otherwise, he never liked Harry, and he certainly never liked James, but the fact that he was ing to risk his life to save people he couldn't like shows true heroism, a real selflessness that eventually saved Snape just as he saved others.

Posted by Lorna on August 15, 2007 11:11 AM

You guys are forgetting something.

Dumbledore always told Tom Riddle/Voldemort that the the one kind of magic he didn't understand was love. This powerful branch of magic turned out to be Riddle's downfall. Snape's love of Lily Evans allowed him to sacrifice his entire life for dumbledore.

I think Snape is to be admired.

Posted by jake from portland, OR on August 15, 2007 12:04 PM

Snape helped Harry and the order, not because he wanted to, but because he promised so to Dumbledore in order that he would help Lilly, not Harry or James, hide, and later, because he had no other choice, because having the -eaters and Voldemort knowing he had ONCE helped the order, and having told Dumbledore Voldy's plans, he would have been right from the start.

Posted by Prongs from Athens,Greece on August 15, 2007 3:08 PM

I think in the end it was good to know that Snape was loved by at least one person. Dumbledore. And vice-versa. That in itself (love), is the redemption that Snape had. That makes this flawed character a hero.

Posted by EC from Loomis on August 15, 2007 3:55 PM

Professor Snape's conduct is overseen fully by Headmaster Dumbledore (who even commented on the number of detentions given Harry in Book 7, and which comment Snape saw fit to pass to Harry) However, both The Assistant Head, McGonagal, and the Head, Dumbledore, have the authority to intervene or to take ameliorating actions on behalf of the students in Professor Snape's care. We never hear of this happening. If Snape's conduct is so outrageous that he should be fired, and even sued for damages, then so also must fall Dumbledore and McGonagal for allowing it.

As none of this has happened perhaps there is another answer. Perhaps the Hogwart's staff are not part of a progressive Teacher's Union. Traditional English Boarding school stories always have characters like Malfoy and Snape. They are the day to day challenges for the main character student(s). This is not to say that English educational institutions have not evolved from the Georgian and Victorian eras, but we are not, strictly speaking, in a modern nor 'traditional British Boarding school' of today.

All of us must have noticed that the Wizarding World is not only British, but a bit 'behind the times' in many ways: Household conveniences (only partially covered by magic); Manner of dress (almost Meval); attitude to Slavery (allowed in households and businesses) to name but a few.

One of the great issues in stu history is how to judge past people/cultures? Do we judge them by our present day standards or by the standards prevalent at the time? Can we always impose our own 'social agenda' upon the people of the past and find them wanting? Generally they did the best they could with what they had to work with and made some progress along the way.

We certainly have no evidence that Professor Snape's conduct was so reprehensible and out of line for the Wizarding World's culture. I do not see Professor Snape's sarcasm as being much different from that of Professor Flitwick ('I am a Wizard, not a baboon brandishing a stick' Lines for Seamus).

The mere statement that sending a child to Hogwarts has always been 'dangerous' because of what happens there is to indicate that it is not expected to be all that emotionally or physically safe there. Yes, children have a right to be protected and Headmasters: Dumbledore, McGonagal and Snape ALL have acted to protect the students during their terms with the school. Phineas Nigellus, (the least popular headmaster in centuries) has traits in common with Professor Snape aside from their house of origin. Phineas Nigellus actually rose to being headmaster apparently without some of the 'unusualness' of Professor Snape's appointment. And yet apparently Phineas Nigellus was not deposed nor sued.

Professor Snape seems to be genuinely appreciated by his own house. We do not see him interact with other classes or with his own house students. We see almost all of his actions through the medium of the 'inherited grudge' between James, Lupin, Harry & Snape. As Lupin points out... Professor Snape did his best to sfully brew and deliver the Wolfbane potion to Professor Lupin when he was at Hogwarts. Despite the intense feelings between them, it was Lupin's life Snape was trying to save when George's ear was severed. Snape, once again, risked his life to save even someone he is far from being friends with.

Professor Snape's discussions with Dumbledore about his relationship with Harry and his feelings about Harry are sketchy. Certainly Snape did not wish Harry to know anything about Snape's working to protect Harry, nor perhaps Snape's feelings about Harry.

Oddly, in British Law there is a phrase about habitual criminals which seeks to find their conduct 'intrinsically wicked' (among other things) as part of declaring them to be an 'incorrigable rogue'.

Without knowing the context of 'normality' at Hogwarts and the Wizarding World, nor how Snape has behaved with other classes and his Slytherins, I think we would be jumping the gun to declare Professor Snape 'intrinsically wicked' as a teacher or an 'incorrigible rogue' as a person.

Posted by Charlie Tarbox from Gettysburg, Pa on August 15, 2007 5:02 PM

i don't know if i would go so far as to call severus a "hero" -- that word gets tossed around too easily these days. that being said, i do think that snape's story arc was the most complicated and tragic in the whole series, and for that he won my sympathy.

Posted by Frank from muggleville, US on August 15, 2007 5:28 PM

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