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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 23)

I agree with Chris that Snape is as responsible for the Potters' s as Voldemort or Wormtail. When he told of the prophecy he knew someone would . Only the fact that it was Lily caused him to suffer guilt and remorse.

Do you think Snape knew who Voldemort's targets would be when he told of the prophecy, or did he learn who would sometime later? And how would ing her husband and young son endear him to Lily?

For the record, I don't think their relationship ever progressed past friendship, and a strained friendship toward the end. So she never "left" him, rather, she never started a romantic relationship with him.

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on August 29, 2007 05:10 AM

Intriguing comments. Leah�s comment that Snape�s request to Voldemort for Lily�s life was key to the power of Lily�s self sacrifice is well made.
Also interesting is the thread on responsibility. I agree that Snape along with Wormtail and Voldemort was responsible for Lily�s (although perhaps not as responsible as Voldemort). However that responsibility does not take away from Snape�s subsequent heroism. In both life and in literature hero�s often arise from flawed beginnings to accomplish great deeds. As the author continuously reminds us, it is our choices that make the difference. Wormtail had opportunity but never repented, his hesitation was in repayment for a . Voldemort was given a chance to repent by Lily�s son but would not. Snape repented and sacrificed his life to make up for his mistake.

Posted by Chris from Leavenworth, KS on August 29, 2007 11:03 AM

I do believe that Snape was a tragic hero, and I would have loved to see him have some personal redemption rather than being ed off.

He was neglected as a child, although never complained of it, and found a friend and confidant in Lily. On the train to Hogwarts he had his first of many bullying incidents from James et al. JK Rowling indicated that Snape eventually joined the Eaters to make himself more impressive to Lily, which obviously didn't work out as he had hoped. His attempt to be "impressive" cost him his only friend.

He later turned to Voldemort and relayed the prophesy, which resulted in Lily & James' s. In the Pensieve Harry describes Snape as having been destroyed by Lily's , and wishing he were .

I believe that Snape was one of those people who was never able to forgive himself for his mistakes. Just as Dumbledore's sister was mentally destroyed after being "attacked" by the muggle boys, Snape lived his own life being mentally destroyed by his mistake. I believe that it was his own self-loathing that caused him to be hateful toward Harry. It didn't help that Harry looked like James, but I do think that Snape's hatred of himself was projected onto his relationship with Harry.

Dumbledore understood Snape, as Dumbledore never forgave himself for his own sister's . Dumbledore was the closest Snape had to a friend, which is why Snape was so angry when Dumbledore disclosed that he was . Snape's revulsion at ing Dumbledore was because by ing Dumbledore, he would be ing his only friend...again. Note that Dumbledore was able to save Snape from Azkaban because Snape had never done anything "unforgiveable" as a Eater, meaning he never ed anyone. Note also that Snape, while verbally abusive, never allows any harm to come to anyone that he remotely cares about.

It's the Snapes of the world who matter most. It's those who screw up royally, but still manage forge ahead and try to atone for their mistakes over and over again while never really forgiving themselves. How much nicer (for me) the ending would have been had Snape lived, and it would have made for a remarkable ending had Harry been able to tell Snape that he forgave him, and to see whether Snape was finally able to move on.

Posted by Anonymous from Michigan on August 29, 2007 5:51 PM

I think Snape treating Harry horribly at Hogwarts was understandable. When we see Snapes memories in the penseive, the one when Snape is describing Harry to Dumbledore, clearly just after his first potions lesson, it sounds to me as though he is trying to convince himself more than Dumbledore. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Snape. He sees Harry who is like a mini James in looks, and therfore prepares himself for Harry to be as horrible to him as James was. And then he finds out that in personality he is much more like Lily, the woman he loved. To have to teach a replica of the man he hated with the personality of the woman he loved must have been terrible. It is just like when Hermione takes polyjuice potion and becomes Bellatrix, Harry sees her walking towards him and even though inside she is still Hermione who he loves, he feels anger and hate because she looks like Bellatrix, who he hates. Ultimatley I think Snape is definitley a hero.

Posted by Lucy from London on August 30, 2007 02:39 AM

KazakhWizardnet from Kazakhstan wrote:
Does anyone else think so? What Snape did was a desperate, thoughtless attempt to let Lily know how much he cared for her, loved her. Snape was suffering. He needed to show Lily how devastated he was after she left him.

I along with many others believe that Snape has some responsibiltiy in the Potters s. Granted he did not cast the spell, he did run to "his master" and tell him what he heard of the prophesy. Doing this does make his as responsible as Wormtail in my opinion for the s.

Now saying this does not take away from the fact that Snape was one of the bravest people in the book. As Harry said, "Snape was the bravest man that he ever knew". I totally agree with this because of his . Voldy didn't him because he thought Snape had betrayed him. He ed him for no other reason than to make himself more powerful (which didn't work).

Whether I liked snape or not doesn't matter. I still think snape is evil. But just because someone is evil doesn't mean that you can't trust them. Just the way Snape treated Harry, Ron, Hermoney & Nevil just shows how mean he can be toward someone just because he can. Just because he d (and not for the cause of good) doesn't give him peace for the years of torment he caused to students just because he didn't like their parents or were not good at potions.....which brings me to a quote of his.

"There is Weasley, the boy so thick he cannot apparate 5 feet away".

Was that quote really needed? Snape was just a bad person on the side of good for personal reasons.

Posted by chris from Walla Walla, WA on August 30, 2007 08:55 AM

Although some may not consider Snape a hero, you must take into consideration everything that he has been through. Snape's childhood definitely wasn't a happy one, and his life only became more depressing as the years went on.

Having said this, I do not believe that this justifies Snape's behavior and attitude. His negative actions were unneccessary, however I do not believe that he is as bad as he may seem.

As has been said, Snape saved Harry's life numorous times, on his own accord. Perhaps it was because he didn't want to see the last of Lily to leave him, or because he simply had some good in him after all.

Posted by Meg on August 30, 2007 7:46 PM

I think that Severus Snape was a hero, i mean if it weren't for him, Harry might have d in the First book, and he also made it so that he could find the sword of Gryffindor, even though Dumbledore told him to do it, he didn't half to do it, maybe he saved Harry begrudgingly in all the books, but he still did it.

I don't blame him for not liking Harry, imagine if Harry were a teacher, how do you think Harry would treat Draco's son? I don't think Harry would treat him as unfairly as Snape treated Harry, but i don't think he would treat him as fairly as the others. but don't get me wrong Harry is my fave character.

Posted by will on September 1, 2007 07:30 AM

As it has been said before, no one is completely good or purely evil, except for perhaps Mouldy Voldy. JK shows this brilliantly by revealing Dumbledore's past and showing us that the man most readers had thought was the ultimate good guy, as the only person Voldemort feared, had a dark past and still had an fascination with power. And don't forget that Harry was far from perfect himself. There were times when I felt like ing him myself.
Remember, Dumbledore said that it is our choices which make us truly who we are, and Harry repeated it again in DH. Although Snape was mean and cruel to Harry and others like Neville, he also chose to risk his life for Harry and the other students, etc. etc.
It is also interesting to note that remorse was the thing that eventually ed Peter Pettigrew, however it was the thing that redeemed Snape. And it is hard not to feel sorry for Snape (Alan Rickman is a great actor) in the OotP when Harry sees his memories. It is portrayed brilliantly, even though I don't like the movies much.
So... Heel or Hero? I say both.

Posted by Uric the Oddball on September 5, 2007 12:56 AM

I think it's interesting that those who say that Snape was "not a hero" cite all the mean things he did to Harry as proof. Frankly, I don't care that he didn't like Harry or was mean to him. I don't think it renders his actions null. He loved. He was devoted to someone. Does it matter who? Does it matter that it was Harry's mother and not Harry that he had pledged himself to?

Also, what had love gotten Snape? Pain. Horrible, terrible pain. He loved Lily and losing her nearly destroyed him. So why WOULD he even try to love Harry? It was just easier to hate and keep his distance.

I think Snape was the most complex and interesting hero of the entire book. I wish he had gotten more respect for his efforts, more reverence for his deeds, more acknowledgment for his sacrifices. I wish he hadn't have been just left to pitifully bleed out in that old shack. I would like to think someone missed him, someone maybe cried for him, honored him.

All you have to do is look to Harry to see if Snape is a hero. He had nothing but praise to say about Snape to Voldemort. It didn't even matter to him anymore that Snape had been mean to him. What mattered to him was that Snape had loved someone he also cherished.

Not all heroes wear white.

Posted by Snapekat from Alton IL on September 5, 2007 12:00 PM

If someone tortured you every day of your life, then "stole" the woman you loved from under your fingertips, it would take a great deal of courage, indeed, to be able to even look at the son of your love and your tormentor. The son who's birth ed (indirectly) the woman of your dreams. The son who looked like his father's twin.
Anyone with Snape's self-control, his ability to treat Harry, if not pleasantly, at least not horrendously. Snape is a hero, whether anyone recognizes it or not.
He risked his life for a child he should hate. He let himself be shunned from the community and be though of as ous traitor scum. Why? Because of a child who he should really be, if you think about it, vowed against.

Posted by Anonymous on September 5, 2007 4:28 PM

Snape was a man under cover. He treated Harry and the rest of the Gryffindors badly because he had to.

If Voldemort ever even suspected that Snape had a soft spot for Harry, Snape would have been ed. Children of the eaters went to Hogwarts. Any kindness or weakness Snape ever exhibited would have gotten back to Voldemort eventually (blowing Snape's cover.)

Snape is a hero because he gave up his life to live in the camp of Voldemort. He faced extreme personal danger every day to be a spy for the Order of the Phoenix.

Snape's presence in Voldemort's camp was key more than once for the good side to prevail.

Even Dumbledore's saved Draco.

Posted by Middle-Aged Witch from KY on September 6, 2007 12:23 AM

"If someone tortured you every day of your life, then "stole" the woman you loved from under your fingertips"

Did you read the same story that I did? I recall someone saying that Snape would curse James as much as he could (whenever James was not on his defense).

Furthermore, it took Snape loosing Lily by becoming a eater to "push" her toward James. She didn't like what the eaters stood for and was appauled that Snape joined them. Even though she asked Snape to leave them, Snape decided to stay with the eaters.

Snape "lost" Lily, James didn't "steal" her. She was there for the taking.

"The son who's birth ed (indirectly) the woman of your dreams"

So you are saying the of James and Lily is Harry's fault?

"Anyone with Snape's self-control, his ability to treat Harry, if not pleasantly, at least not horrendously"

What? Snape was never pleasant, nice or tollerable to Harry. I would say that he treated Harry "horrendously".

"Snape is a hero, whether anyone recognizes it or not"

Snape is brave, not a hero.

"He risked his life for a child he should hate"

Although I can't argue with this point, but he did it for no other reason for revenge against the person that ed the woman he was obsessed with.

"He let himself be shunned from the community and be though of as ous traitor scum"

I believe he wanted to be shunned from the community, but to be thought as a ous traitor scum, I don't agree. Throughout the first six books, they never mention that Snape ed anybody (until Dumbledore). But that is truely a stretch to say that he "allowed himself to be considered a ous traitor scum".

Posted by chris from WW, W on September 6, 2007 07:31 AM

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