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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 21)

to Diederik from The Netherlands:
dumbledore, in my opinion, is not jkr speaking, i believe that jo speaks throuh the trio, look how they are completing each other! and every time they are separated its a complete disaster! (their experience in godrics hollow, for example.) so harry said that snape is a hero, and so does jkr!

Posted by dk from il on August 23, 2007 01:14 AM

Jake from portland, I just want to add:

Does anyone notice that if Harry didn't choose Gryffindor, the sorting hat would have placed him in slytherin?

Or if Severus Snape just shut up while he had the sorting hat, he would have ended up in Gryffindor?

Again, Harry shares this similarity with Snape: They chose their paths over their abilities.

In "The Prince's Tale", the scene after the Yule Ball, when Snape told Dumbledore about the Dark Mark ever growing, he was asked if he would also escape like Karkaroff. Snape said no. Dumbledore praised him for being brave, because he was. In 16 years of harry's life, who would have the courage to do these tasks as part of the grand plan Dumbledore schemed for the greater good. That in the end, Harry would fulfill his destiny of ridding the world of Voldemort.

Posted by Josh from Cebu, Philippines on August 23, 2007 08:32 AM

I think it is a bit unfair to criticize Snape because he did not chose a normal life or that he was not a nice person. Snape had the courage and the dedication to sacrifice a “normal life” and in the end lay down his life for the greater good.

Whatever he did as a teenager, with Lily’s imminent (because of his error), Snape made a choice to be Dumbledore’s man with a single minded focus on preparing to fight Voldemort when Voldemort returned. Take Snape out of the story or turn him into another Ted Tonks or Arthur Weasley and it is unlikely that Dumbledore’s efforts would have succeeded. Snape was Dumbledore’s Army before there was a DA.

We Sleep Safe In Our Beds because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those that would do us harm. -- George Orwell

Posted by Chris from Leavenworth, Kansas on August 23, 2007 09:42 AM

21 pages of comments, so far, and an amazing depth of analysis! Just one thing that may not have been picked up. JKR has been asked, post-publication of DH, about Snape's lack of grooming; that was one question that had her a little foxed. It is a mark of her stature that she has created characters that even she may not have fully sounded. What strikes me as the explanation for the missing part of Snape's character is that his fundamental weakness is simply low self-esteem, brought about by upbringing and education - does that strike no chord with anyone? His life collapsed early on, during school days and shortly after, and nothing and no-one has repaired that for him; yet he has always struggled on to become one of the most learned and potent wizards shown to us, with a range of powers that seem quite beyond most others. I don't know if that makes a hero, but then perhaps the definition had best be amended to include that.

Posted by David from London on August 23, 2007 4:28 PM

I think that Snape is a hero. People keep saying that he only turned good after Lily d but he didnt. Before she d when Voldemort was hunting her Dumbldore asked Snape what he would give him in return for her protection and Snape said anything. That showed that he would do anything in his power to keep her alive and that in itself is enough to make him a hero. But then even after her he did all he could to protect her son even though the only one he loved was Lily and he hated James. He risked his life repeatdely by being in voldemorts presence and preventing Voldemort from reading his mind. He could quite easily of just carried on his life and left Harry to survive on his own after Lily d but he didn't. He gave his life to protect the son of the man he hated and the woman he loved.

Posted by Lucy from London on August 24, 2007 08:02 AM

Sorry, but Snape is a Heel.

Jo has never called Snape a Hero. He has referred to him as the "anti-hero". In my opinion this is quite different from a hero.

He did what he did out of revenge. Revenge for ing the woman that he stalked from early childhood. Does the thirst for revenge against the most evil wizard in their time make him a hero? No. It makes him someone that can't count the blessings that he has and has turned spiteful over what he doesn't have.

Could the books have been the same if Snape was different? No. Snape had to be this way. The way he was written was pure genius by Jo. But who's side was Snape on? I think he was on his own side. He wanted revenge for Lily Potter's ...nothing more. If the Potters had not been ed would Snape have come to teach at Hogwarts and be Dumbledore's inside man? No. I think he would have found a way to James and have Lily for himself....then dispose of the child since he looked so much like his father.

Nor do I think the Snape had the hero's . I don't know what Snape was wanting to accomplish when telling Voldy that "I go find Potter and bring him here". I truly think that he was just wanting to get away from Voldy, and had no interest in anything else other than self-preservation (assuming anything else is just speculation). He didn't in battle. He didn't trying to protect anyone. He didn't in the name of good things. He was just a useless side-note like Tonks and Lupin. My only dislike of his was that it wasn't painful or long enough to satisfy my hatred of him.

So to recap... Snape is not a hero, he is on his own side out of revenge for the woman that he stalked from early childhood. And if it wasn't for Dumbledore owning Snape, he would have ed Harry Potter as wickedly and slowly as he could have for (more) revenge against James.

Posted by Chris from Walla Walla, WA on August 24, 2007 1:07 PM

I think that Snape is a hero. I hate him to the very end for what he put Harry through, but he saved Harry and helped destroy Voldemort. I think Snape only joined the Eaters through peer pressure and anger/grief (over Lily marrying James). He hated Harry, but loved his mother, and probably saw Lily in Harry, which is why he went through so much to save him. Snape redeemed himself far above most would, through self-sacrifice. He knew everyone would hate him more for what he did, even though it was on Dumbledore's orders, he suffered people (and I think it hurt him especially that Harry did) hating him, and he still did what he had to do to help everyone. He's a hero, and Harry realized this, which is why he named his son after him.

Posted by chocolatecastleinthesky from USA on August 25, 2007 2:59 PM

he told voldemort that he would go and bring harry, so that he could tell him what dumbledore had told him to tell harry, ie, what harry later saw in the pensieve.

Posted by wandy on August 25, 2007 10:05 PM

What I wonder is, did Harry clear it up with everyone that Snape was a good-guy? I suppose he would have.

chocolatecastleinthesky from USA:

I think Snape became a Eater of his own choice, like all other Slytherins. And peer-pressure could have played a big role in it, seeing as he was in Lucius Malfoy's gang. And most of them ended up becoming Eaters.

I personally wanted Snape to be good. And thankfully, my prayers have been heard.

Posted by Vinay from Bangalore, India on August 26, 2007 04:17 AM

If Dumbledore had not told him to do this, would he have done it on his own. Snape was Dumbledores man through and through (for the benefit of revenge). He was given a task and he fulfilled it. To what end, we never know. You and many others think it was to end the evil that was Voldy. Me and many others believe it was to satisfy his thirst for revenge (and Dumbledore was able to quench that thrist).

Posted by chris from Walla Walla on August 26, 2007 08:58 AM

It is interesting how much the Snape, Lily, James, and Harry story relate to Wuthering Heights. In that book, one kid is adopted but picked on because he does not come from a good background and his new brothers are jealous of the attention their father is giving him. he is in love with one girl who loves him back but marries someone else. It seemed like Snape was picked on because James was jealous of his relationship with Lily. Lily also married James, who had picked on Snape all through school. in Wuthering Heights, after the girl s, the adopted kid seeks revenge on her kids (whose resemblance to their mother is that they have her eyes). he hates their father because the girl had married another guy and the guy was in the group who had mistreated and thought so little of the adopted kid. I think Snape only protected Harry for Lily and Snape never cared for Harry. When he seeks Dumbledore's help, he doesn't care whether Harry and James live or . When Harry is to learn occlumency, he doesn't care whether Harry is possessed (he is as cold as usual). When he finds out Harry must , he gets upset and says Dumbledore used him--everything was to protect Lily's son, and he produces a patronus to show the reason he had been protecting Harry. As has been said, Snape was cold and vindictive. His treatment of not only Harry, but Harry's friends reveals his true nature.

Posted by Amy on August 26, 2007 8:08 PM

I think Snape was hero from the very start. Harry would have d long before but for Snape. Let alone all that Snape did to save Harry's life through the entire novel, he taught Harry to be strong. Snape, just as Dumbledore, knew that Harry eventually have to face Voldemort. Not Ron, nor Hermione, not anyone but Harry. Would Harry have been this strong, determined and fierce enough if it was not Snape who made him so? Snape gave him the real lessons which eventually made Harry as strong as to fight the Greatest Dark Wizard, Voldemort.

People were also discussing that Snape was saving Harry only because he loved Lily. That is true. Snape did hate Harry because Harry was the son of James Potter - arrogant, insolent scrapper and bully boy. Sorry if I am being too critical towards James. Dumbledore, the greatest and the wisest of the Wizards put faith in Snape. He chose Snape the as right one to trust and to cooperate. I do not think Dumbledore would have put that much faith in James. James was never as good, brilliant and sful, or reliable (if you want) as Snape.

Yes, Snape had told Voldemort about prophecy and I think I would have done the same thing if I were Snape. If I loved Lily Potter as much as I hated James, I would never want them to have children. I am not evil, but if you love someone as selflessly as Snape did Lily - you can do anything.

Posted by KazakhWizardsnet from Kazakhstan on August 26, 2007 10:43 PM

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