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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 31)

On her Open Book Tour, J.K. has said about Snape:

"Snape is vindictive, he's cruel. He is not a big man. But he loves. I like him, but I'd also like to slap him hard."

"Although Dumbledore seems to be so benign for six book, he is quite a Machiavellian figure really. He's been pulling a lot of strings. Harry has been his puppet."

"When Snape says to Dumbledore, 'We've been protecting Harry so he could at the right moment', I don't think in book one you'd have ever envisioned a moment where your sympathy would be with Snape rather than Dumbledore."

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on October 16, 2007 08:34 AM

Thank you, Siena, for your quotes from JKR's LA Tour. I actually feel much better now that she admitted that Dumbledore is a Machiavellian figure, that Harry has been his puppet, and that the reader's sympathy would ultimately be with Snape. I think that the most recent comments on this topic of Snape support all of those statements.

I chuckle every time I read the following quote, which another website has likened to JKR's relationship with Snape:

"All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us."
---Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Posted by Michelle on October 17, 2007 4:40 PM

I think it is important to remember that almost the entire series is told through Harry's eyes. How would Snape appear if Draco had been telling the story? Although we can assume that the dialogue is accurate, it is Harry's interpretation of Snape's attitude that we the readers experience. The few exceptions to this show Snape in a different light.

Oh, Severus is always sarcastic and demeaning; I am not denying his basic nature. But the few scenes that we see of him that are not filtered through Harry show him as cold and cunning but not necessarily cruel (the scene with Narcissa and Bellatrix and the first chapter of ly Hallows are the two scenes that come to mind). Even the scene in the Shrieking Shack, which IS witnessed by Harry, shows Severus as emotionless rather than vengeful. The only time we see Severus displaying a range of emotions is in the Pensieve, which still is conveyed through Harry's eyes.

As for Snape's teaching methods, I really cannot defend him there. But I can empathize with him. I used to teach middle school, and dealing with a bunch of dunderheads is frustrating indeed. I have also read that Snape is a fairly accurate portrayal of a stereotypical British boarding school teacher. That does not condone his actions, but I think Rowling was trying to recreate a certain literary stereotype. Snape is almost a caricature because his actions seems SO reprehensible. But Harry hated him, so can we really accept Harry's assessment at face value? After all, Harry revered Dumbledore, so we did too. Then we learned that all was not as it seemed.

Posted by Sariana from California on October 18, 2007 10:49 PM

Thanks for that, Michelle! Well, maybe now we know why she ed him off...!

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on October 19, 2007 01:21 AM

He is a heel because of his Love, and a hero because of his devotion to Dumbledore (and it is because his love too).

Posted by Shady from Russia on October 19, 2007 07:40 AM

More new comments from Rowling on Snape:

"Was Snape a good guy? In many ways he wasn't. So I haven't been deliberately misleading everyone all this time, when I say he is a good guy."
"Because even though he did love and he loved very deeply and he was very brave, both qualities I admire above anything else."
"He was bitter and he was vindictive... but right at the very end, he did achieve a kind of peace together and I tried to show that in the epilogue."
"Harry would have insisted that his portrait was on that wall, right beside Dumbledore's "

Posted by Siena from Leeds, UK on October 21, 2007 08:17 AM

i do think snape is a good guy. i mean, he was only mean to harry because all he saw in him was james, the guy he hated very much at school. and then lily, the person he loved, went of and married his enemy. I can see why he would hate harry, but he did always try his best to protect him. Like when quirrell was jynxing harry while on his broom, snape tryed to stop him. I think he did like harry and care for him, but couldnt because when he looks at him all he can see is james. I really think he is a good guy and a very brave one too.

Posted by aoife loughnane from co . galway ireland on October 24, 2007 12:34 PM

I read the books for the first time after "the ly Hallows" was released, and never thought that it would turn out the way it did.

I imagine that Snape waited for Harry to arrive and was hoping that he would have the temperament of his mother, but everything about Harry reminded him of his tormentor, James. I think that he was torn, hating Harry for being James's son, but longing that it could have been he who was his father. By the time that he arrives for the sorting, Harry is already biased against Slytherin.. the Sorting Hat even says "Not Slytherin". Everyone always remarks how Harry looks like his father. Snape could not have been happy seeing a young double of James at Hogwarts.

To answer the question of the thread, I dont think that Snape was a heel, but definitely a hero. He accepted scorn from everyone in the name of a love that would never be returned or realized until after he was . He never wavered in his love and devotion for Lily. He could have gone on and done other things, but he didnt. And ultimately, he gave his life in devotion to her and to fulfill his promise to save her son.

Posted by Jim from Pennsylvania on October 26, 2007 05:57 AM

I wish JKR had given us a little more info on Snape in the end. She created this evil, bat-like figure, but also made him the expert in legilimency and a spy for Dumbledore. We learn that one has to block ones mind to be able to do legilimency well, and surely Snape has to do it very well.

In the last book, in The Prince�s Tale, Snape is going to Forest of Dean and make sure Harry gets the sword of Gryffindor, then Dumbledore (in his portrait) tells Snape �... and he [Harry] must not know that you give it! If Voldemort should reads Harry�s mind and see you actimg for him � �.

I can�t stop thinking that a part of Snape�s behavior towards the children is due to his spy-role. He has to be bad. If the children think of him with warm feelings, he be given away. A kinder Snape could not be combined with a �spy for LV�-role, and then the story would have been very different. I must admit I think/wish that Severus Snape somehow survived in that shack. Someone or something helped him out...

Posted by Lala from Oslo on October 27, 2007 2:39 PM

Oh, my gosh. That is exactly right! You put everything I've ever thought about Snape into words! Amazing.

Posted by andrea from ogden on October 27, 2007 3:17 PM

Lala, there is no way that Snape could have survived in the Shrieking Shack, Nagini bit him and there was nobody there to save him. Well, Harry, Ron and Hermione were there, but they made no attemot to save him did they? When he gives Harry the memory and then clings to Harry's robes, it says that all the signs of life left his eyes and that they were blank, so unless you are suggesting that somebody came along with a pair of electrical shockers to revive him, which is highly unlikely and not mentioned in the book, then I don't think that your comment is valid.

Posted by Kaylee from England on October 28, 2007 08:25 AM

I've always wondered how Harry "accidentally" ended up with the Half Blood Prince's potions book. It's so out of character of Snape to have accidentally left his book behind, in the bottom of a closet, especially when it had belonged to his mother before him. I wonder if after Dumbledore revealed to Snape (to his horror, mind you) that Harry would have to be ed by Voldemort, if Snape had somehow Imperiused Slughorn into giving Harry his old potions book to help teach Harry some new spells. He obviously knew that Harry had his old book, yet never strongly attempted to retrieve it; another thing out of character of Snape. Snape was always so private and guarded, there's no way he would have wanted Harry to have anything of his, unless it was by design. I wonder if this also helps explain why Snape was so extremely angry when Harry tried using Snape's own spells against him at the end of the book. He gave Harry the book to help him, and in the end Harry tried to use those spells against him.

Another interesting thing in the HBP book happened when Harry used the sectumsempra curse on Malfoy. Although Snape invented the curse, he also invented a counter-curse which, when incanted, sounded like a song. So there was Snape, kneeling next to Draco (who was quivering and lying in his own blood), tracing Draco's wounds with his wand, literally singing the countercurse to him. After he performed this once, he wiped away Draco's blood, and repeated the process twice more. I think it shows a much softer side of Snape. Even though I think he had a very nasty side to him, I do think he also had a softer side. I wish he would have lived, I would have loved to see how he would have lived his life after Voldemort's demise.

Posted by Michelle on October 28, 2007 5:18 PM

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