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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 5)

Snape is too complex to be called either a hero or a heel. He's not someone you can easily judge, I think - which most people do not do. His childhood, even before Hogwarts, was horrible. I've grown up with arguments too, and I can imagine how it must have been for him. It isolates you - and he was never popular, even before Hogwarts. When Lily and Petunia meet him, they don't exactly sound fond of him, but they DO know him. Sounds to me as if he is known, but not appreciated. That hurts. Having problems at home, going outside to escape them, and then find hate. Lily is incredibly kind to him, for him, asking how it's going etc. I dare say she was the first person who was genuinely kind to him - this explains why he was so fond of her.

Then at Hogwarts, he goes into Slytherin, while Lily is sorted into Gryffindor - traditional 'enemies'. This puts them both in a difficult position. Well, we all know what happened there, so I'll continue, for this is becoming pretty long.

Yes, he was the reason Lily and James were ed - if it hadn't been for him, they wouldn't have been betrayed, Voldemort wouldn't have known about the prophecy in the first place. But would that have been good? I mean, what happened in Godric's Hollow at the 31st of October was horrible, but it did stop Voldemort for a while. The wizarding community had a time of relief, of building-up, a time of "peace", though very vulnerable.

So in a way, you can call it good. Snape is not to be blamed for this, I believe. He didn't know how Voldemort would take the prophecy. Would he have known, he would certainly not have betrayed here.

When Lily and James were ed, he must've felt incredibly guilty - which is logical, and even right - and he may have sworn that he would do anything he could to avenge her .

That came in the form of Harry Potter, the boy who lived, the boy who resembled both his parents. It's immensely hard to see the woman you loved and the man you hated united in one boy, who ironically shows a lot of characteristics similar to those of James. That is very painful, and it surely added to the person he was.

He did protect Harry, though I think -like most others- that he didn't love Harry, but merely protected him because of the promise he made to himself and Dumbledore, and in some desperate attempt to keep the boy alive who is connected to Lily in some way. Note that he has never visited Petunia, not that I know of anyway...

I think his attitude towards Harry was one he thought necessary, for several reasons. It would be more convincing if he treated him, and his friends, unkind; I think that is why he treated Neville, Ron, Hermione and Gryffindors in general (Fred and George have also been treated badly by him!) so badly. The other reason is I think that he knew Harry was stimulated by hate. His hate for Sirius Black made him look for him in PoA. His hate for Voldemort in general made him fight every time they met. His hate for Snape made him wanting to revenge Dumbledore. Hate made him some kind of stronger; I think that is part of the reason why he treated him so badly, along with the fact that he looked like James.

Yet he protected him. He had to play a very difficult game. He had to make sure the Dark Side wouldn't suspect him of being good, he had to make sure Harry wouldn't think he was good, that Harry wouldn't find out about his love for Lily. It's taken a lot of sacrifices and pain to make that sure. He suffered much...

Snape wasn't a traditional hero. Neither of the Harry Potter characters is one, they all have their mistakes. It makes them human. And I think his love for Lily made Snape human, as well as his hate for James, Sirius and Harry. It does, however, makes him a very remarkable human...

A very interesting person indeed... And not one to be easily judged, which I have tried not do to now (though I must say, before his background was known, I didn't like him AT ALL, because I couldn't imagine what would cause his behaviour)

Posted by Diantha from Noord-Holland, the Netherlands on August 2, 2007 05:25 AM

For the most part, I agree with Meredith of Sydney. There's no denying that Snape was a bully, but he persevered in his commitment to Dumbledore and away from the black arts and, in the end, redeemed himself.

Posted by Alice from Milton, DE on August 2, 2007 05:30 AM

Well. ive always loved Snape. and i reckon he should have lived. it is true that he only saw harry as a mini-james and i think that's all he wanted to see. snape definitely did NOT belong in Slytherin. i think he got in a little too deep with the eaters in the end. wouldn't have been able to get out. i reckon his memories are sad. Totally shouldn't have d.

Posted by Amandy-Kate from South Australia on August 2, 2007 05:41 AM

I haven't made up my mind yet if Snape is really a hero -- but my thoughts are shifting towars the ''hero side''.

However, I'm not sure of one thing:
-- Did Snape feel sorry for what he did to Harry at the end?
I re-read the page where he s numerous times and am still not sure if when he says ''look at me'' it might mean a possible redemption.

Posted by Tamara from Malta on August 2, 2007 07:21 AM

Imagine your life story to be this:

When you are young, you fell in love with a girl in your neighborhood. You both develop the relationship. Steadily it grows. You go to school with her. Tell her everything you know about the world she never knew. You begin to grow...

But wait. Your story isn't a happy ending. Nor a happy beginning. Not even in the course of your own pathetic understanding.

While you are at school, you met your first, worst and everlasting enemy. He and his friends taunt and bully you in front of everyone else. Then here's the scoop: your enemy is at the height of cool and most of his friends - while you pathetic right from the start, a weirdo no one wants to deal with. Then the blow: one of his friends made a dangerous joke. And your enemy saves you only to save his neck.

You have no one around you. You only have your one true friend. Eventually, all things are not as it seems. She doesn't approve of your behavior towards your certain choice of friends who prefer to do evil stuff. Then she broke up with you...

...and in the end, married your worst enemy.

Well you know what happened next:

You joined a Nazi-esque regional organization. You heard a cryptic code from someone who foretells of the outcome of the war your side started. And you relayed it to your boss who sought out the responsible persons implied in the code to relinquish the outcome of the war in your side's favor.

And it turned out that one of the persons referred to was your one true love. ed and left a son which temporarily stripped your boss of his powers. Now you made a vow to the other side as a remorse for this horrendous blunder that you did. A vow which required you to protect the son - a perfect replica of your worst enemy in school and who has eyes like your one true love.

Hmm, I see that you're getting the point here... So let's skip the part of what happens next and ask this question:

How many of you would be courageous and brave enough to conquer your feelings, hatred and power emotions, set aside personal, selfish interests so that you can accomplish what's right for other people and eventually bring out the greater good, sacrificing yourself in the process even if you know that the situation your dealing with puts you in a dreadful position everyone love to hate all their life?

SNAPE can. And admit it. He's brave enough to be one. If there's a real hero here who would deserve the same position as Harry, it would be Severus.

Posted by Josh Palermo from Cebu, Philippines on August 2, 2007 08:08 AM

Snape was a double agent for Voldemort, of course he had to treat Harry appallingly, it helped keep his already difficult cover, and gained him the trust of Malfoy and the rest of Slytherin.

Add to this the fact that he hated James beyond all reckoning. Absolutely despised him with every fibre of his being. Then he sees James' son and he's the spit of the man he hated, the man who ended up with the woman that he loved.

Yes, Harry suffered at his hands, but he was never in any physical or emotional danger from Snape.

The main question would be, if it was as malicious as some people have said, why wouldn't Dumbledore have put an end to it?

Posted by Ed from London on August 2, 2007 08:14 AM

I think snape has suffered a lot in his whole life. His childhood was tough (argument between parents and bullied by his muggle father.) He grew up to learn about Hogwarts and fantasised the life in the true wizarding world. Don't forget his mother was great enough to be on Daily Prophets, so he had a lot to live up to. Then on 1st Sept, he went on the Hogwarts Express with his best friend Lily, full of expectations, only to find James's gang loathing him. Even Lily felt disgusted in the way James's gang behaved. For 7 solid years, Snape had to endure James and Sirius bullying him, humiliating him, even trying to hurt him in a most fatal way. What happened next? Lily chose James over him! They practically grew up together even before Hogwarts, she's his love of life before he even knew it.

And Snape had every reason to hate James and Sirius. In my opinion, they were no cool kids but just arrogant scums. Both coming from wizarding families, had everything in the world and thought they were above the rules and everyone.

Yes, Snape conveyed the prophecy to Voldemort which resulted in the of the Potters. But so what if he did? The Potters would probably be ed anyway. don't forget they have defied the Dark Lord thrice already. Who said they could escape again in the fourth? The entire wizarding community was under mortal peril, especially those who stood up to Voldemort. Snape's action led directly to the Potters' , but big deal. It's his remorse that's mattered. He risked his life for the following 17 years afterwards, protecting Harry, end up because he has been following Dumbledore's order to him. Voldemort ed Snape because he thought he was the true master of the elder wand. Has dumbledore expected this when he planned his whole scheme? I bet he did. So in asking Snape to do him a favour by ing himself, he not only condemned Snape to be a in front of the Order, but also gave Voldemort a reason to him. Isn't that complete betrayal?

Poor Snape, who has never been happy in his life. He's definitely a hero for me.

Posted by Fiona from Hong Kong on August 2, 2007 08:29 AM

I think that snape was judging harry because he looked like his father at first glance. So that is why he wasn't fond of Harry. In the end he d a that is befitting to any, it wasn't memorable, if Harry, Ron, and Hermione hadn't been there they wouldn't have even known Voldemort ed him. The only reason Snape gave any memories to Harry is so Harry knew he would have to . The rest were a way of saying he was sorry, without ACTUALLY saying he was sorry. I doubt Snape felt any remorse for James' , but he did feel TERRIBLE for Lilys'.

Posted by garth from wisconsin on August 2, 2007 08:37 AM

Well this is definitely a most fascinating forum. The opinions here genuinely reflect the complexity of the character. Hats off to JKR for creating such a character- a most memorable one indeed. The point she made with all her characters, and most notably through Snape was that we are all about the choices we make. And indeed when we make a bad choice (as most of us have at some time or other in our lives), we often realize that it doesnt pay by losing something or someone dear to us. Narcissa realizes this too towards the end of DH. When this happenned to Snape, he still had a choice to make and he made the more difficult one. That doesnt change his basic nature, but it does make him as Harry says "the bravest man he ever knew". Indeed also the bravest character we come across in the entire series.

Posted by Gaurav from Mumbai on August 2, 2007 09:46 AM

i cant believe there can even be a dispute over the heroism of Severus Snape!

for starters, i think he is one of the most beautifully written characters ive ever had the pleasure of coming across. the numerous layers to his character are fantastic- he is so incredibly human.

i think anyone of us, having suffered the trials Snape had (unfortunate home-life, unrequited love, terrible bullying, ur true love marrying the person who made your teenage years hell etc) could be forgiven for turning out embittered and vengeful. housed in Slytherin, while feeling all this turmoil, he would have been exposed with far more ease to the Dark Arts and it would have been all to easy to fall pray to them. i dont think Snape was a bad person- i think he wanted friends, acceptance- and yes, i suppose, vengence against the man who had ruined his life in a way. maybe that isnt right, but its definitely in human nature. evidently he felt remorse for what his passing of information had done, because he didnt want harm to come to Lily- but why; after everything James Potter at done to him, WHY i ask you should he have cared as much for his life as he did for hers? obviously ing people isnt the solution to anything, but putting yourself in his shoes...

anyway, i also feel Snape would have resolved to protect Harry regardless of Dumbledore's intervention. he wanted to keep a part of her alive, though it must have been torturous for that part to bear such incredibly resemblance to his enemy. perhaps he was a bit of a bully, and it cant all be excused by "pushing for potential"- but that is life. i was subject to that kind of behaviour from a school teacher myself and admittedly find this the hardest fault of Severus' to forgive. but alas! we must suppose it was his bitterness at his own misshapen past, and perhaps a desire to make others suffer as he suffered. regardless i spent many years in the most dangerous position within the Order, accepting that what he must finally do would turn the last few on his side against him- but still he carried on. after seventeen years his patronus was still a doe (was this the same as lilys or something? never quite got that) and he didnt falter for a moment in his duty (other people have put up quite enough examples of his protection of harry, i neednt repeat them!)

id just like to raise my (metaphorical) glass to Severus Snape- one of the greatest Headmasters of Hogwarts! here here!

Posted by Kerri from Edinburgh, Scotland on August 2, 2007 10:01 AM

Charlene - I had the same thought - Lily would have been spared by Voledmort if she had not tried to ssve Harry. Until DH I always figured she would have been ed regardless. I wonder when this realization hits Harry.

Posted by BNICKEL from Batavia, IL on August 2, 2007 10:06 AM

You people just don't get it, do you? Snape was neither a true heel nor a true hero. Nobody was. That was the whole point of the last book. To portray how life is not black and white, but varying shades of Grey. Do you seriously think, after reading all the books, that Dumbledore epitomized all the goodness? Or James? Or Lupin etc. and vice versa for the other 'bad' characters?

Why do you think did Rowling went on to destroy the image of perfection that we had associated with Dumbledore since forever?

Posted by Sagar from Washington on August 2, 2007 10:12 AM

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