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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 29)

Well, the fact that Snape did what he did in his youth does not justify what Dumbledore did. We are talking about what is right and what is wrong here.

Neither can I see that Snape being already in danger could justify being dishonest towards him.

When I look at the lives of Snape and Dumbledore, I must come to the conclusion that Snape learned from his mistakes in youth, and gained integrity, whereas Dumbledore, although he noticed already at young age what was his weakness, could never get rid of it.

Posted by Sara from Finland on October 3, 2007 02:14 AM

One more thing. C.J., you said that if Severus had known about the wand he would probably not have wanted to Dumbledore. I don�t know what his answer would have been. But he had the right to say "No, I don�t want to do it". No one else had the right to decide how much he should sacrifice.

(Dumbledore didn�t have any kind of official authority over Snape, either. Except in their headmaster-teacher relationship, and it has nothing to do with this. They were just two men working for a common goal.)

One of the most important themes in the series was human rights. Snape�s rights were human rights, too. Dumbledore acted for human rights but violated the rights of a man who was always loyal to him. I�m sad.

Posted by Sara from Finland on October 3, 2007 06:59 AM

Snape was perfectly ready to for the cause. If Lily hadn't d to protect Harry, Snape would have probably committed suicide. Even so, Dumbledore might have even told Snape earlier, and it wasn't important enough to put in the pensieve. And since he intended for the wand's power to , why on earth would Snape want or get it?

Posted by C.J. from Utah on October 3, 2007 10:38 PM

I agree that Snape was ready to for the cause. If he had known about the plan and if he had thought it was a good plan, I think he would have agreed to follow it. I myself don�t even know if it was a good plan because it jeopardized the person whose task it was to tell Harry he was a Horcrux. If Harry hadn�t been there when Snape d, he would never have heard about his inner Horcrux.

Ok, so I think Snape was ready to . But my point is that Dumbledore didn�t have the right to decide that on Snape�s behalf. Snape had agreed to be a spy. He had agreed to Dumbledore in order to save Draco and to help Dumbledore to have an easier . Dumbledore had asked him if he was ready to do these things, and this was the right procedure! Snape had not agreed to be the elder wands true master in Voldemort�s eyes, because he didn�t even know about the elder wand. Snape was totally surprised when Voldemort started to tell him how he had taken the elder wand from Dumbledore�s tomb (it was then Snape moved his eyes from the enchanted cage of Nagini to Voldemort, and his face was "marble white"). I also think that if Dumbledore had told him about the wand, this information would have been so hugely important that it should have been in the book.

Only Snape had the right to decide how big risks he was ready to take. I mentioned human rights earlier. One of them is the right to life. I feel Dumbledore took Snape�s right to life into his own hands and gambled it. I think he practically ed Snape.

Posted by Sara from Finland on October 4, 2007 10:35 AM


I share your opinions on most issues. Yes, dumbledore exploited Snape over the years, and practically sent him to . He not only condemned Snape to be an outcast by asking him to himself, but also putting him in great danger, probably .

I think how the story was written also shows what JK thinks. She created a flawed "hero" Dumbledore who pull strings behind the scenes. And according to JK's interview, we know that she doesn't think highly of Snape, considering what she had written about him. But obviously, we all have different opinions about what heros really are. It occurs to me that JK has no idea how Snape would be percieved by the readers. Let's say she made a flawed hero (Dumbledore) and a real hero (Snape) without even realising it.

Posted by Fiona from Hong Kong on October 5, 2007 09:13 AM

Being "ing" to for a cause is quite a bit different from "wanting" to . I do not believe Snape "wanted" to . I agree with Sara that Dumbledore failed Snape in many ways. When he asked Snape to him, Dumbledore told Snape that doing so would help Draco from having a tortured soul, and would spare Dumbledore from an ugly . What he failed to mention, and what Snape knew, was that by ing Dumbledore, Snape sealed his fate to be hated by everyone on Dumbledore's side. Those who loved Dumbledore would be out for revenge, so Snape could not ever expect any help from the Dumbledore faction. What Snape obviously didn't know was that Voldemort would eventually try to him to gain the power of the Elder Wand. The fact that Snape was not told this is criminal. In King's Cross, when Dumbledore tells Harry about the wand, and says "Poor Severus...", I have to say that I was disgusted with Dumbledore. What was meant by "Poor Severus..", unless it was "Poor Severus, he put his trust in me only to have me betray him by what I chose to not tell him."

And what if Snape had survived? Who would believe that he was on Dumbledore's side all along? Couldn't Dumbledore have somehow left the "truth" somewhere, which could only be revealed upon Voldemort's ? But we don't see that this happened in the book. Dumbledore gave no indication that he did this for Snape. So Snape's fate, had he survived, would have been either a lifetime of hiding or a lifetime of Azkaban. Some repayment for 16 years of service.

To those who think that Snape somehow deserved his fate because he was at one time a Eater, remember that he became a Eater as a teenager, and reformed at the age of 21, albeit under poor circumstances. Sure, he was a bad-tempered teacher. Of course when Umbridge evaulated him in OoTP, she found his students to be quite advanced over what she expected. So as foul as his teaching tactics were, those kids DID learn potions, and learned them well. This does not condone his techniques, but I do think he did the best as he was personally able to do under the circumstances.

Besides, back to Dumbledore, where was his responsiblity as Headmaster when Snape was a student? He allowed Snape to be bullied by the Potter gang. His feeble attempt to stop the bullying was to make Lupin a prefect in the hopes that Lupin could put a stop to it. Now there's a good plan...take Lupin, who up until Hogwarts didn't have any friends, and put him in a position to rat out his first and only friends in the world...Lupin was a teenager for goodness sake. As if he'd ever stand up to James and Sirius. I submit that as Dumbledore saw what was happening to Snape and did nothing to intervene, he failed Snape ever since Snape was 11 years old.

Of course those who cannot ever forgive Snape because he was once a Eater, regardless of what he did during the following 16 years, you must therefore never forgive Dumbledore, as he, too, wanted to be a ruler over Muggles and was tempted by dark magic. In his case, his absorption with mastering the dark arts directly resulted in the of his mentally handicapped sister, at which point Dumbledore himself "reformed"...sounds a bit like Snape, hey? Sirius thought it would be "funny" to have Snape attacked and possibly ed by a following the "never forgive" logic, he was therefore a bad person. Lupin was reckless enough to roam the countryside as a werewolf with his friends rather than go to the Shrieking Shack, something as an adult he is ashamed of and feels fortunate that he never accidentally ed someone. So by ingly jeopardizing others lives as a teenager, he should never be forgiven either, right?

In Snape's pensieve, when Dumbledore tells him that Harry must :
"Snape looked horrified. 'You have kept him alive so that he can at the right moment?'
'Don't look shocked Severus. How many men and women have you watched ?'
'Lately, only those whom I could not save', said Snape. He stood up. 'You have used me.'"

Isn't this SO true? Dumbledore did use Snape. Just as Snape accuses Dumbledore of keeping Harry alive just so that he could at the right moment, Dumbledore was also doing the same to Snape. He saved him from Azkaban 16 years earlier just to hand him over to be ed by Voldemort. Wonderful guy, that Dumbledore.

Posted by Michelle on October 5, 2007 10:05 AM

well, i think this is a good question raised...whether snape was really a hero or not?...
well in my opinion, snape wasnt really a hero, but he surely was a man with a good word..which ultimately led to him being termed-hero. snape had no inner feeling of love for harry...he protected him merely on dumbledore's orders and because he gave dumbledore his word...whom he really cared for was lily potter, not i guess...dumbledore was the real hero, because..had it not been for him, snape would not have longed to protect harry.

Posted by akash from New Delhi, India on October 6, 2007 04:12 AM

Is it just because we learned some terrifying new secrets about him that makes everyone want to blame Dumbledore?

You wonder why Dumbledore didn't stop James bullying Snape? Well, even though making Lupin a prefect was indeed a flawed plan...he had hundreds of other kids to worry about, for goodness sake! There was fault on both sides; you can't blame either one. You might ask why Dumbledore didn't stop Malfoy bullying Harry.

And why does everyone talk about "flawed heroes" and "real heroes", as though either Snape or Dumbledore was one or the other? They were both flawed heroes, but heroes nonetheless.

And did Dumbledore use Snape? Well, I'm not idiot enough to ignore it, Dumbledore did use Snape, but to a certain extent. Snape's purpose was not only to be used, or to help Harry, but to find the goodness in himself. Isn't that the whole point of the HP series? That there's good in everyone, though one may not see it? That love is the most powerful thing? That is, however pitiful she finds him, what JKR eventually wanted us to see in Snape.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on October 6, 2007 8:08 PM

Akash, in my opinion a real hero is somebody who has moral integrity and acts accordingly. I can�t see what love has got to do with it. A hero doesn�t have to love anybody.

But a hero isn�t deceitful towards people who are loyal to him and trust him.

Posted by Sara from Finland on October 7, 2007 04:05 AM

Thank you Michelle for your comment. We are left in doubts about Dumbledore's intentions about Snape. Despite the evidence you pointed out so well, Michelle, I find it difficult to doubt Dumbledore after all. He cried when he learnt about Snape's Patronus which revealed Snape's enduring love for Lily. Dumbledore was touched most deeply by people who could love and acted accordingly, as Harry did and as Snape did. Despite the clear evidence (and despite what I said previously) I cannot really believe that Dumbledore would waste a loving person!

Thanks also to Francis. I think from my own experience with a teacher who bullied is that teachers who do that often want to provoke the pupil to get out of her/himself to achieve his/her true potential. It is undoubtedly a questionable way of acting but it often works.

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on October 9, 2007 07:22 AM

In the end Snape chose to Dumbledore of his own free . Admittedly he didn't have all the information available to Dumbledore...but I think Snape and Dumbledore had a much more adult relationship as equals than perhaps we are giving them credit for. Snape knew what he was getting into becoming a spy for Dumbledore...and I think his understanding changed and grew over the years. And I think Dumbledore respected him for it.

Dumbledore couldn't confide everything in Snape because of the chance that Voldemort would penetrate his mind and the whole plan be jeopardised. In spite of the lessons of his youth, Dumbledore continued to act for the greater good and one cannot achieve the greater good without individuals suffering a lesser of the contradictions of this approach to morality...But the clever thing is that Harry chose the greater good of his own free thus overcoming the contradiction i.e. choosing the lesser good (to sacrifice his own life) ingly.

Would Snape have chosen thus if he had been given all the information? I guess Dumbledore couldn't risk it for Harry's sake.

Posted by Joe from England on October 9, 2007 2:19 PM

I believe that Snape would have chosen his final path had Dumbledore given him all of the information. Of course not at first, but over the years Snape changed and ultimately became a good person in many ways (teaching methods aside). I don't place the blame of Snape's on Dumbledore; I don't think Dumbledore would have wanted Snape to . I just think that Dumbledore did not do enough to protect Snape.

By the way, CJ, the "flawed hero" versus "hero" versus "anti-hero" are all things that JKR called Snape, which is why I think people use the terms here.

I am not anti-Dumbledore. I do think he was quite a hero. I just feel there was a tremendous disservice done to Snape in the book. If JKR really did want to convey the message that there was good in Snape, she did a bad job of it. Read through these posts; half of the people think that Snape was an evil, obsessive person who deserved to as he did. I, personally, feel the opposite.

I have to say that with regard to Snape's redemption/transformation, my favorite part of DH is where Snape produces the doe patronus to lead Harry to the sword. It is a touching moment where Snape actually acts the part of a teacher to Harry, gently guiding and leading him toward the sword. It is a wonderful interaction between the two of them. I also appreciate that in Snape's final moments, he gave Harry far more of his memory than necessary. All that Harry needed to have was the conversation between Snape and Dumbledore where Dumbledore talks of Harry's soul being a horcrux. But Snape gives Harry those memories that he never wanted Harry to see, and gives Harry the gift of beautiful memories of Lily that depict her kindness. I think that Snape's wish, "Look at me", was not an obsessive need to see Lily's eyes once more. I think that if you look at the scene with the patronus doe in the forest, and the pensieve memories, in his final moments Snape wanted to look upon Harry without malice. For once when he looked at Harry he didn't see James, but he saw Harry. That moment was also a gift to Harry. Snape wasn't perfect by any means, but the pensieve and the parting look were acts of respect on the part of Snape. I do not think that Snape had any love for Harry, but in the end, he did come to respect him.

I would have loved to see Snape's character have better resolution, and an ending that would have made it more clear to the children who read this book that yes, there is good to be found in everyone.

Posted by Michelle on October 10, 2007 09:26 AM

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