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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 26)

To Cdh

I think you are kind of contradicted in your posts. You tend to believe the evil of people like Snape, however, you believe in ideal love, i.e. love selflessly. anything other than that, it's obsession.

I totally agree with Sara for how things went down regarding the prophecy. How could Snape know the way Voldemort would interprete it? From the books, we know the memebers of the Order were very secretive, they wouldn't shout around what they have done to fight Voldemort, where their headquarter was or who were actually one of them. Imagine James and Lily once joined the order, how could Snape tell where they were, what they were doing, let alone the fact that Lily was pregnant. It horrified him that Voldy took it meant Lily's son. At that instance, his reflextive action was to first asked for mercy from Voldy, then went to Dumbledore for help. At that point, I agreed with you that he hated James and Harry and wouldn't care if they as long as Lily's OK. After James and Lily d, he wanted to himself. But Dumbledore convinced him otherwise. He asked Snape to protect Harry so that Lily wouldn't have d in vain. This motive was all for LOVE, and LOVE alone.

His work was to protect Harry, fulfilling Lily's last wish, at his great personal risk. He "disliked" Harry for his looks and his attitudes towards school rules. That upset Snape very much for 2 reasons; he's just like James and he's risking himself for stupid reasons when everyone was trying to protect him. (e.g. sneaking to Hogsmeade when everyone thought a known er was trying to him.) Remember what Lupin said to Harry after his trip to Hogsmeade? "Your parents gave their lives to keep you alive, Harry. A poor way to repay them- gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks." Lupin was saying that as a friend of James, imagine what Snape felt as someone who loved Lily and continuing her protection on Harry at great risk.

Snape grew up in a lousy family and desparate for recognition. Yes, it takes power to resist the tempation, if they knew it's a temptation. Think about Rugulus, he's a admirer of Voldy since childhood and all excited finally to join. What is Voldy's goal by taking over? He wanted the wizarding community to come out of hiding and rule the Muggles, given they have magical power and should be superior. All the bad deeds in process would be collateral, all for the greater good! For a boy (wizard) who grew up being smocked at by muggles (Petunia's reaction when saw him), I think that is a very justifiable reason to sign up, plus the peer pressure in Slyerthine of course. He only realsied his mistakes when Lily was in danger. His love for her overcome the desire to rule, and don't forget he loved her even though she's married to James. If Snape is only obsessed, he would sought her out and tried to revenge for what she's done to him. (That, he may turn out to be the Greenhill rapist that you said). Instead, Snape tried desparately to save her, that is love.

Snape didn't do what he did for the wrong reason. His primary goal is to protect Harry for Lily which in due course, fighting Voldy as well. Dumbledore pledged to him, after Lily d, to do the right thing, come over to the right side, which he did! He came to care about those people that he couldn't save. How can he be doing the right thing for the wrong reason? He has heart and love.

Posted by Fiona from Hong Kong on September 15, 2007 11:39 PM

To Cdh:
Yes, Snape was ing to let Voldemort James and Harry. (Well, he couldn�t possibly have asked Voldemort to save Harry anyway, could he?) He also wouldn�t have minded if it was some other family. He was like that AT THAT TIME. His actions then were the actions of a Eater. His values were the values of a Eater. He probably thought it would be good for wizards if they gained power over Muggles. And although you said childhood experiences don�t need to affect, I think they affected him. But he started to change after Lily�s .

I just want you to get it right what�s my point here. I don�t respect the Eater he was. I respect the man he gradually became after Lily�s , and the man he was during those years of the second war.

I think the difference between you and me is that you are not ready to forgive his past, no matter what he did later, and how he changed. Whereas I, and Harry, are ing to forgive him.

Posted by Sara from Finland on September 16, 2007 12:33 AM

i think snape is (was) a very complex character. i respected his character - not like it - because he was highly learned in magic. i think he was beautifully written. i love his character especially when dumbledore says:

"after all this time"
"always, dumbledore, always"

i love it. i think his character is the life of jk's books.

Posted by griff indore from hogwarts on September 16, 2007 08:23 AM

Well Sara, we are going to agree to disagree.

I can really say is that you are assuming a lot when you "think you know" what their intentions are (or would have been) even though it isn't written down.

For instance, you think that Snape was trying to protect the entire Potter family when he went to Dumbledore to tell him of Voldy's plan.
1. Do you honestly believe that Snape would have given a care in the world if Voldy would have only ed James and Harry?
2. Do you believe that if Voldy agreed to let Lily live to Snape that Snape would have had any contact with Dumbledore?
3. Do you honestly believe that he wouldn't have become Dumbledore's man if Lily would have lived?

You need to wake up and see Snape for who is really is. He is a eater and "you never stop being a eater".

Now I would appreciate it if you stopped trying to tell me how I should be "understanding" different portions of the book. I actually understand them quite well.

But, as always, thanks for the debate.

As for me being "contradicted in your posts"...I don't understand that entire comment. All that I have ever said and believe is that Snape is evil. He also doesn't know the difference between love and least that is the way that I see it.

Posted by Cdh from WWW on September 17, 2007 08:05 AM

Regarding the way Harry behaves, I must say I would agree with Snape on most points. In many situations, Harry's behaviour is absolutely wrong. He went to Hogsmeade and made fun at Malfoy, living at a high risk while Order people tried to protect him (Lupin tells him about this one). He went to the astronomy tower at night to get Norbert free, breaking all the rules (even McGonagall says she had never seen that). He stole in Dumbledore's memories, then in Snape's memories (this one was pretty rude: Harry knew that Snape wanted those memories to remain secret). He showed no consideration for Snape as a teacher, and few consideration for Dumbledore as a headmaster. Moreover, Harry often acted as if he had understood things better and faster than anyone, including Dumbledore himself, and got into trouble because of that. Sirius d when Harry tried to get to Voldemort on his own. Harry got attention and celebrity without having done anything to deserve it.

From this on, we can compare how Dumbledore and Snape react in front of Harry. Dumbledore is used to see the good part in anyone, Snape is used to first see the flaws. When Dumbledore sees the bravery and the selflessness in Harry, Snape sees Harry as someone unpredictable, opposed to any rule, dangerous for Dumbledore's plans. While Dumbledore is confident about the future, Snape is pessimistic.

But there is a point in which Snape is stronger than Dumbledore: his behaviour is perfectly consistent with his choice, and he gives his life because of that. Dumbledore chose to fight evil, but he wanted a part of it: knowledge and power. Like Adam, he "ate the apple" (he tried to possess the ring). And he d because of that.

I agree to the fact that Snape is a tragic hero. The one that has no choice, except , because his honour is higher than anything else. Then, according to modern standards, he is an anti-hero: not perfect in every circumstance, pretty human in his behaviour, not a role model.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on September 17, 2007 08:58 AM

I am huge Harry Potter fan myself, greatly enjoying to read all these comments about fictional characters, which add yet another layer to books.

I just wish people were as ing to forgive others for mistakes in their past and that people were as thoughtful with each other in real life.

Posted by Leif from Hamburg, Germany on September 17, 2007 3:09 PM


Dumbledore didn't betray Snape!

Voldemort was not even looking for the Elder Wand at the time; he didn't start until after Harry left his aunt and uncle's, and by that time there was nothing Dumbledore could do about it.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on September 17, 2007 7:14 PM

Cdh from WW mentioned that they question Snape's intentions. "Please remember at no point in any of my posts have I ever stated that Snape was not brave or fighting for the right side. It is his intentions that I question."

That would be perfectly true if Snape had done everything just for Lily and Dumbledore because of his promise, but now that Dumbledore is and he doesn't have to pretend to hate Harry, Neville and Hermione for the Eater's children, but he still attempts to curse a Eater in order to save George Weasley. He had no other motivations for doing this other than to save George's life. This had nothing to do with Lily, Dumbledore, Harry, James and especially not appearances on either side, so why did he do it? Because he cared.

Posted by Uric the Oddball on September 18, 2007 04:11 AM

I think it cant be questioned that Snape was brave. I`ve read a few opinion which doubted this fact with the reason that he was (to put it mildly) not so kind with harry during his life. In my opinion the braveness ought to be separated from the kindness. It`s an other question whether Snape how kind was..

Posted by Suba Attila from Budapest on September 18, 2007 1:00 PM

hmmm interesting...i think that snape never cared about harry and only tried to help him to show how much he loved lilly potter, otherwise why would he help harry unless he truly cared, which i doubt very much!

Posted by hermy from hogwarts on September 18, 2007 1:15 PM

I'm starting to really regret my few weeks absence from the site. You guys have had some amazing discussions!

It is unfair to lump those who believe Severus was not a hero with those who still think he was evil. He was brave, but bitter. He was overly and, for the most part, unnecessarily mean toward Harry and his friends, not only when Harry was around, but we also hear other who were not as close to him as Ron, Hermione, and Neville complain about Severus (and notice the twins don't take Potions NEWT classes, even though it would be advantageous for their inventions and they are apparently good at the subject despite their OWL grade - see what their love potion did to Ron.) But I do not, nor have I ever, thought Severus was evil, or a bad guy, or really only out for himself (during the timeline of the books, anyway) and used a convenient excuse to somehow ensure he as on the winning side whichever that may end up being, or whatever.

Fiona mentioned back on page 24 (last week... like I said - I'm regretting my absence) that she does not believe people can be happy if the one they love is with someone else, especially if it is to that person's enemy. Some people may never be happy for their love under that circumstance, but not all of us. I've given my share of unrequited love, and I do find joy in knowing that he is happy, whoever he is with, even if it happens to be someone I don't like or think he deserves. I do, however, doubt that this is a frame of mind that Severus could ever have. As many have said (chris and cdh in this particular debate), Severus was ing, perhaps even hopeful, to have Voldemort James and Harry - his love's lover and baby son.

I do have to disagree with Cdh, too. Love not returned can still be love without being obsession. Severus loved Lily, and does grow to love her son for his connection to her; even if Severus didn't ever like him very much, he cannot find hatred in his heart for someone so closely connected to her. I'm not sure if I can or not classify it as obsession. I also think that, had Albus been able to protect and save Lily, then, perhaps, Severus would still be... fulfilling the promise he made to Albus to do anything for her protection. For some reason people tend to forget that he went to Albus ~before Lily was ed~ in an attempt to protect her, not after to avenge her. He made a promise to Albus for Lily's sake, and kept on with it even after she had d, even though Albus had failed.

Severus is selfless toward the end, but only after he believes himself to have lost everything that meant something to him. Only after he wanted to was he ing to. Eventually brave, and worthy, very much so, of the title Harry eventually gives him: "One of the bravest men I have ever known." But if we declare him as hero or not, we have to look very consciously at what a hero really is. My best friend (who got me into Harry Potter in the first place) challenged me with just that concept. What is a hero and why do you think Severus was not one? I have to admit, she had me stumped, and forced me to reconsider my stance. I'm not saying I've changed my mind (I don't give up that easy) but it made me realize that it is overly easy to say Severus was not a hero due to his, um, less than heroic personality.

Hero - 1) a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. 2) A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life. 3) a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

I suppose that everything good I say about Severus describes some of the definitions of a hero, as the word is used in a real-world sense (as I suppose this discussion is assuming.) But all of these definitions state that the person would be noted or admired for his or her courage and s, the deed(s) are; Severus has not been properly recognized within the world of Harry Potter to be considered such a hero. Outside, in our world, however, many of us do recognize him as such, because we know what he has gone through, and what he had done; either way, it is simply left to opinion.

Antihero - 1) a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like. 2) A main character in a dramatic or narrative work who is characterized by a lack of traditional heroic qualities, such as idealism or courage. 3) a protagonist who lacks the characteristics that would make him a hero

In other words, a main character (protagonist) who may not necessarily act heroic. This fits Severus more, the role of a character so flawed he cannot be called a hero, but is still a driving force for, in this sort of story anyway, the good guys.

Posted by Monkeeshrines from orlando fl on September 18, 2007 7:29 PM

It was not me that said that DD betrayed Snape. I do recall reading that post.

You did a nice job of summerizing how reckess Harry has always been, but you failed to mention that Snape himself "drew first blood" with Harry. Harry was sitting in his classroom the first day of class taking notes and Snape "basically" attacked him. Accused him of not paying attenting when he knew that he was just taking notes. Then he went on to ask Harry questions that he knew for sure Harry would not know the answers to just to make him feel stupid.

A good teacher (or person) would get to know the student first and learn the proper way of teaching that student. Maybe Snapes abusive way of teaching was good for some students, but it certainly didn't help Harry.

Posted by Cdh from WWW on September 19, 2007 09:48 AM

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