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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 45)

You know, just because Snape genuinely loved Lily does not mean that we have to see him as a suitable romantic partner for her. Chances are they would have been a total mismatch. This does not however negate the sincerity or depth of his feelings for her. It is also possible that being responsible for her was devastating enough for Snape to turn his life around. It might have started with his love for Lily, but I think we are shown pretty clearly that his loyalty to Dumbledore never wavers after that. Whatever his motivation, he remains loyal to the . Even thinking probably that Dumbledore's plans have totally backfired, he remains faithful to his orders. He clearly shows regret for the members of the Order that he cannot save, and he deliberately sends Ginny & co out on a punishment that was no punishment at all. Snape is conflicted, no doubt about it. He's not at all a clear-cut good or evil person. On the other hand he is a truly great character in the literary sense of the term. Think of it another way; Lily's was creative in that it saved Harry and, in a sense, Snape. Her saved Harry's life. I would suggest that it also saved Snape's soul. Rather like Luke Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi telling his father that he's going to save him, and Anakin replying; "You already did."

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on August 26, 2008 06:40 AM

Dumbledore asked, "How many people have you watched ?"
Snape replies, "Lately, only those I could not save." His are not the actions of a man who hates humanity, or one who only learns to love one woman now . Risking himself to save others is the pattern of a man who believes in a good beyond himself, his own interest, his own loves and hates. For those who believe Snape can only be motivated by revenge- keep in mind- he had his chance at revenge on Black when Black was unconcious after the Dementors attack. What did he do? He conjured a stretcher and delivered him to Pomfrey for medical attention, in sharp contrast to Black's own recent treatment of the unconscious Snape, dragging him and bumping his head into things. Snape changes over the course of his lifetime. Snape never becomes a nice person. He does become a good one.

Posted by bellflower on August 28, 2008 01:44 AM

Its much like the Dark Knight: Batman isn't a hero, he's more than a hero... but in Snape's cause he seems to be like a Villain but something greater than a Villain, but not a Hero.

Snape is maybe not a hero nor a villain...

Posted by RazorMule on August 28, 2008 3:18 PM

I have read all the comments and all the spins in all the responses and I can only draw one conclusion. Snape is certainly no hero.
One cannot live one's life surly, nasty, treat people viciously, apparently uncaring, and ask for a reprive on one's bed. That is how I see Snape.
Although he may have done one apparent good deed in giving Harry his memory, it does not erase seven years of misery that he inflicted on Harry. I am reminded of the situation where Snape runs to Dumbledore to warn him Voldermort has singled out James and Lilly for , asking Dumbledore to save Lilly and Snape would promise anything. Then, after it was over and Lilliy and James , Snape asks Dumbledore to swear to never say a word about it. Dumbledore asks him, "no mention of this, to have people see you at your best?" and agrees to never say a word. Snape had one care, Lilly. Not James, certainly not Harry, just his own selfishness, and then wants no one to know he can love, he sees it as a weakness. Very much like Voldemort, He as much states that feeling to Harry when teaching him Occlumency.
Although at the end of the book, I can sympathize with readers in the fact that Snape has been ed, but like the saying, you reap what you sow. I for one, expected it. He never did one good deed for anyone other than himself until he was . Hard to forgive that.

Posted by MIke from Columbus, Ga on August 30, 2008 04:31 AM

I agree with Mike, Snape's only selfless act was still a selfish one in half the sense. He saw love as a weakness, kept it from almost everyone and so maybe never truely loved.

If he could have saved Lily by sacrificing anyone else he would of without question. He wouldn't have cared about Lily's view on the matter just his own selfish obsession.

True love is when someone can accept and understand how their object of affection would want something to go. Snape never understood Lily nor did he think from her perspective or ideals, just his own. That is an obsession not true love.

Posted by StarMan on August 31, 2008 3:01 PM

What about the chase at the start of ly Hallows? We see that from Snape's perspective in the Pensieve. He quite deliberately tries to curse off a eater's wand hand to save Remus. Okay he misses and gets George's ear instead, but there is an example of Snape doing something incredibly dangerous to save someone not directly connected to his possibly obsessive love for Lily. There was no purpose to be served in saving Remus except saving Remus. Snape knew the whole plan. Knew Harry was with Hagrid. Why bother saving Remus? That is not the act of a selfish man concerned only with his own ends.
"How many people have you seen ?"
"Lately only those I could not save."
This tells us that when possible Snape was trying to save people. His actions during the chase show us that.

I think we make a mistake if we cannot accept that as humans we are capable of growth and change. When Snape first knew Voldemort was going to go after the Potters his first thought was to save Lily at whatever cost, even the lives of James and Harry. I think Dumbledore forced him to look at that attitude for what it was; pure selfishness. But once Lily was and all hope of ever possessing her was gone, Snape still held to his promise to Dumbledore. He still tried to help. He stuck to his cover. Personally I doubt that Snape cared very much whether he lived or d, but he had a job to do and he was darned well going to do it. He's not a nice person. I'm not sure he's even a good person, but he was capable of heroism. Lily's turned him inside out and forced him to see what he had become.

I'm not sure Snape does see love itself as a weakness either. He certainly realises that love can make you vulnerable in some ways. This is not the same as seeing it as a weakness. He knows that if Voldemort ever realises that he truly loved Lily, then his whole cover is likely to be blown. Possibly he doesn't want anyone to know about his love for Lily because he is so ashamed at having betrayed her. In the end his reticence on this point is vital to his cover.

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on August 31, 2008 6:21 PM

Can obsession last the test of time, can obsession direct your patronus? remember snape's patronus was a dove same as lily's and i think only true love can inspire such a thing, not an obsession.

Posted by swati from India on August 31, 2008 8:54 PM

Mike; but what about Dumbledore though? Would you classify him a hero? Did he really care more for Harry than Snape did? Remember harry's doubts about Dumbledore'integrety, there was a point in DH when Harry hated Dumbledore just as much as he hated Snape. Then, in Chapter "King's Cross Harry chooses to forgive Dumbledore, although asking: "Why did you have to make it so difficult (..for me to find the right answers)? " But Harry only forgives Dumbledore after he learnt about his school master's tragic family history, just as well as Harry forgives Snape after learning about his teacher's loyalty to Lily's and Dumbledore's ( and, ultimately, James' ans Sirius') doctrines. Harry puts Dumbledore and Snape on the same level - so does Rowling. In my opinion, Dumbledore used Harry more than Snape did - Dumbledore sought revenge for Ariana's , the main and ugly pain Dumbledore ever suffered, betrayed and let down by his great love Grindelwald. Dumbledore was kind to Harry outwardly and he uded Harry for the good cause - but he put Harry in a hell of an ordeal and if it's true what Elizabeth said earlier -

Posted by siena from nottingham, uk on September 2, 2008 09:49 AM

and if what Elizabeth said earlier is true, maily that Dumbledore did not know the exact outcome of his actions and predicaments - well, then one must say that Harry was put put under a hell of an ordeal by his schoolmaster, all the while feeling guilty ( Dumbledore didn't waste time emphasizing over and over again that Lily d for Harry, all the while making Harry feel guilty about the tremendous sacrifice for his sake ). It was Dumbedlore then who sacrificed Harry - while Snape is shocked ( remember, Mike, it was Snape who was outraged about "raising Harry as a pig for slaughter" while Dumbledore provokes Snape "How many people have you watched ? " of which Snape can calmly give his frequently quoted reply, assuring that he tried his best to save as many people as possible.

Posted by siena from nottingham, uk on September 2, 2008 10:20 AM

I would classify Dumbledore as a hero, but not Snape. I do not believe Harry puts Snape and Dumbledore on the same level. Snape devoted his life to protecting Harry because he felt terrible after playing a part in causing Lily's , not because he carried at all for him. Dumbledore, on the other hand actually loved Harry. It is true Dumbledore did use Harry in a way, but only because it was necessary. Dumbledore did not force Harry to hunt Voldemort. He gave Harry certain information and knew Harry would do all he could to destroy him. Voldemort would not have been defeated without Dumbledore's plans and knowledge. I think Dumbledore knew most of what was going on in Hogwarts and what would be the outcomes of his actions. After all, he knew Harry would not once Voldemort had taken his blood in GoF. When Harry asked him if he knew what would happen, Dumbledore said he "guessed," and as Lupin says in OotP, Dumbledore's ideas usually turn out to be right. I am not saying he knew everything, but he did know almost all of it. Snape and Dumbledore both made wrong decisions in their pasts, the outcomes of which caused them to change their lives. The difference between them is Dumbledore cared for everyone and the geater good for all. Snape's love necer extended to anyone but Lily. He was loyal to Dumbledore and did try to save other people, but I think the only reason he acted the way he did was because he regretted what he had done to Lily, not because he cared about anyone at all.

Posted by Anonymous from Arizona on September 2, 2008 5:38 PM

I thought Snape had been a bad guy with an obsessive love for Lily the whole time. He only turned good when he was bitten by Nagini.

Posted by Lou from Mountain View on September 7, 2008 10:50 AM

Snape only turned good when he was bitten by Nagini? I have to disagree with this comment. Look at all the "good" things he did prior to this incident. For example: Snape made the unbreakable vow with Narcissa in order to protect Draco. The vow, if broken, would have resulted in Snape's own . Why would he do this? How does this vow benefit Snape? I think he made this vow because he was sincerely trying to save as many people as he could. In addition, Snape, as Headmaster, did as much as he could to protect the students of Hogwarts. While there were still a few incidents involving the Carrows, no students were ed or permanently harmed. Also, Snape tried to save Lupin during the Seven Potters incident. If Snape were "evil" he would not have attempted to interfere at all. Snape also worried about his soul, and what would happen to it if he ed Dumbledore. How many bad guys worry about their soul? It took a lot of courage to Dumbledore out of mercy, rather than hate. Lastly, Snape's initial mission was to protect Harry for Lily; however, that changed once Snape found out that Harry had to in order to defeat Voldemort. If it was all about Lily, why would Snape continue to follow Dumbledore's instructions? He could have walked away, or simply rejoined Voldemort. Some would say that Snape wanted revenge against Voldemort for Lily's . If this was the case, why didn't Snape attempt to Voldemort himself and/or encourage Dumbledore to do it. Snape ultimately sacrificed his personal agenda, to keep Harry alive, for the greater good.
Here is an excerpt from a 2007 Pottercast interview with J.K. Rowling.
JKR was asked the following:
SUE: He's so good. You know, Snape is so amazing, was he truly meant to be in Slytherin, Snape?

JKR's response: Yes, God, yes, definitely, at the time that he was sorted. I believe what Dumbledore believes when he says to Snape in the very last book, "Sometimes I think we sort too soon." To judge someone at the age of eleven, to judge them, to set their future course so young, seems to me to be a very harsh thing to do, and it doesn't take into account the fact that we do change and evolve. A lot of people are at forty what they were at eleven, having said that, so I think Sorting Hat is shrewd, but Snape does redeem himself and (SUE: Yeah.) it fails to take that into account. But then again, you could turn that on his head and say, "But maybe with these people being sorted into Slytherin, someone who has the capacity to change themselves might also have the capacity to change Slytherin."

While Snape always love Lily, many of his actions also demonstrate some type of care for others and/or an interest in the common good. In the end (when Snape was bitten by Nagini) he was finally able to reveal to Harry both the good and bad aspects of his life. I think that by giving these particular memories to Harry, Snape wanted Harry to reach some kind of understanding as to who Snape really was. While Snape never loved Harry, I also believe that Harry never loved Snape. In the end, Snape made peace with Harry via his memories and Harry honored Snape by naming his son after him. Lastly, I think that Snape was redeemed. He is a great character and I tend to view him as some kind of hero and/or anti-hero.

Posted by C.Pierce from Oregon on September 7, 2008 8:18 PM

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