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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 50)
Oh! I hated Snape till the very end. But when I learned really what he was, I couldn't but stop myself from crying. he was a very very brave person. I think the bravest person in the series. He risked his own life for all the staffs... for Lily's love! If we search his life, we'll see, he had nothing in his life except the love for Lily! And it was his strength when he put himself in mortal danger. What he got in his life except hate? He was a human being. Can we think ourself in a position like him?
I love Snape. And he is my hero!
Posted by Mahin from Bangladesh on November 17, 2009 9:06 PM
When I said that Snape would become a recluse, I meant that he would become so from choice. Not that people wouldn't receive him. I just don't see him settling back into teaching very easily. He'd held it together all those years and the one person, Dumbledore, who really knew and understood him, was . I think he would have had some sort of break down and retreated from the world.
Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on November 19, 2009 12:44 AM
I thought you meant who would have met him had he had a similar experience as Harry, sort of losing consciousness for some time, getting a glimpse of the afterlife if you , being greeted by someone in the way Dumbledore greeted Harry, then "coming back"? Maybe I misunderstood?
You are probably quite right about him becoming a recluse - I think this going back to teaching idea came up because some (including me ) found it very hard to let him go... to accept that he really is . I would have much preferred him to snarl, spit and sneer happily ever after... but fortunately Rowling is much cleverer than me and brought him to this dramatic ( and ultimately heroic) end. It served the story much better of course. Just thinking about how fitting her characters' s generally are... Dumbledore she lets fly gracefully over the edge of the highest tower, Sirius just vanishes into thin air as if he never existed, Peter Pettigrew strangles himself with the tool Voldemort gave him, Voldemort himself s by his own hand too - and Snape? Him she gives this really long, painful, bloodsoaked transfer, as a kind of summary of his life really.
Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on November 19, 2009 10:09 AM
Yes, I did mean that I wondered who greeted Snape after his . We're getting our wires crossed here. Sorry.
And yes, I found it hard to let Snape go, too. But he would never have been happy. In the end he fulfilled the task Dumbledore left him, although probably not in the way either of them intended. Snape giving Harry his memories as he lay was probably the only way Harry would have believed him. Under any other circumstances Harry probably would have tried to or maim him! That last bit where he asks Harry to look at him - I was in tears. And that's the moment where Snape's truth emerges. I found it incredibly powerful.
Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on November 20, 2009 05:29 AM
There is this rather funny fan art out there actually, showing a later heavenly event: pictured is a smiling Dumbledore with (inevitable) angel feathers, greeting Snape enthusiastically: "Severus, I have some good news. The Potters named their son after us!" Snape is standing on a cloud next to him, looking rather grumpy...
But yes, there are many unanswered questions regarding Dumbledore's and Snape's arrangements. First of all, as discussed before, the issue of the Elder Wand - in my opinion Dumbledore should have warned Snape about the lure it held for Voldemort. On the other hand it wasn't supposed to fall into Draco's grasp, Dumbledore couldn't possibly foresee these events. But still, Voldemort believed its power to lay with Snape anyway.
Dumbledore hadn't calculated on being greeted by Eaters immediately after his return from the cave. He was ordering Harry to fetch Snape. apparently so that the latter could help him in his weakness. So maybe Dumbledore was hoping that there would be time for him to be put to by Snape quietly, to cover up the act somehow - thus Harry wouldn't know what Snape really did. But still, there wasn't an ounce of trust for Snape in Harry, so it would still have been incredible had Harry believed him.
However, harry is blessed with this wonderful instinct that is nearly always right as Lupin observed. Harry chose to reveal himself to Snape in the Shrieking Shack.
Just think about it - it's an incredible act given the circumstances. A gut feeling to do what is ultimately the thing that both saves himself and Snape. I think it says in the book something like he did not know why he did it but he just had to go and do it. Somehow Harry must have felt there was more to Snape - and he is rewarded, by the memory but also by this moment where Snape finally drops his defenses: " Look... at...me..." This is an extremely well done power shift also - Harry is the one in control now, kneeling over his teacher, after all these years of lying at Snape's feet really...
Posted by Siena from Notts, UK on November 20, 2009 06:31 AM
Lots more interesting posts. It is romantic to think that atoning for Lily's is Snape's primary reason for his actions but I am not sure that would be enough to make him a hero of the stature some of us give him. I have not read the novels frequently enough to be able to refer with as much ease as the learned Siena et al. so I cannot prove all points with detailed evidence but the enormity of how he changed his life suggests a more radical change of heart/conversion/'metanoia' than simply he did it because the woman he loved was ed. He started off a Eater but changed to become a spy for Dumbledore, losing any respect and connections he had, mistrusted by both sides for many years and d never knowing the outcome of his labours. You could argue that he joined the service of Dumbledore just to get back at Voldemort for ing Lily but surely you don't need to teach at Hogwarts for so many years and put yourself in so much danger. It just doesn't add up, emotionally. Snape was a dangerous, powerful and vindictive man, but he also became a healer, which I think shows it wasn't just personal. Because we see the story from Harry's point of view we see events from an anti-Snape perspective so Harry does not dwell on why Snape would be called on as a healer, he is more interested in feeding his hatred of Snape. We focus on the love angle because it is easier to undestand, also perhaps most of the people who contribute to this discussion are young and therefore more interested in romance!
Posted by handmaid from Birmingham, UK on November 20, 2009 12:30 PM
I'm not that young. And I think that realising his actions had led to the of someone he loved was a major turning point in Snape's life. That is very different to saying that merely by loving Lily, Snape atoned for his earlier behaviour. Just loving someone won't achieve that. I am saying that because of Lily's he saw the consequences of his earlier actions for what they were. I am saying that Lily's forced him to see what he had become. At that point he had to make a choice. He could have decided, like Macbeth, that he had gone too far for redemption, that Lily was gone beyond recall, and it was easier to continue on his initial path. Instead he chose to try and do the right thing at any cost even though it would never gain him what he had most wanted. Love, whether you are young or old, is a very powerful thing. This is not about romance. There is nothing even remotely romantic about Snape's love for Lily.
Remember what Hermione tells Harry and Ron about putting your soul back together after splitting it? You have to feel remorse. Nowhere is there a promise that this make you a happy, well-adjusted person. I'm guessing that you'd carry those psychological and emotional scars for the rest of your life. I see Snape's redemption in the same way. Remorse brings him no joy, but it does give him the strength to hold to his decision. A bit like Sirius in Azkaban, perhaps; the knowledge that his advice had helped cause James and Lily's s keeps him sane. "It wasn't a happy thought, so the Dementors couldn't take it away from me."
Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on November 20, 2009 6:55 PM
I don't know if this isn't too far-fetched and a bit absurd really - so feel free to kick me - but Snape's regard for Lily always reminded me a bit of what Jane Eyre embod for Rochester: A kind of purity he wished to achieve again. Both Snape and Rochester fear for their souls. Helping Harry for Lily meant for Snape a possibilty for redemption, purification, attaching himself to Jane meant something silmilar for Rochester. "Jane Eyre" of course has to be labelled romantic as the protagonists share a deep level of connection, emotionally, spiritually and physically - Snape and Lily's friendship doesn't have that or we aren't shown any of it anyway. Yet both stories move us deeply. I think they move us so because they are exactly that; stories (albeit very different) of lives gone wrong and the one chance to turn a new leaf. And well, yes, both Snape and Rochester are bitter, sardonic - and even more amusing for that (well for me anyway.)
So yes, handmaid and Elizabeth - it isn't so much the (arguably non-existent)romance bewteen Snape and Lily that made Snape see sense - but the horrible act of something as pure as Lily destroyed by the force Snape had committed himself to for so many years. The Dark Art destroy the purity of the soul - this is what Snape had to learn.
Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on November 24, 2009 07:57 AM
Elizabeth - the thought that kept Sirius safe from the Dementors was the thought that he was innocent.
Siena - no, this isn't so far-fetched. I suppose both Rochester and Snape could be labelled "Byronic Heroes" if you wish to stick a label to them.
handmaid - I don't know. Snape surely wished to teach at Hogwarts - he applied for a job after all BEFORE he converted from bad to good, so surely he had ambitions there, and maybe he was bored being just a Eater ( after all, Voldemort preferred to operate alone, so maybe he felt he wasn't involved in enough to use his predigious ss - but still, he became good only after he realized how Voldemort had interpretated the Prophesy.
Posted by Cai from Berlin, Germany on November 25, 2009 06:08 AM
Cai, Sirius knew he was innocent, but part and parcel of that, what made the knowledge painful, was knowing that his advice to James and Lily that they change secret keepers, had handed them to Voldemort. He actually says to Harry that he ed them. He blames himself for this in very much the same way Snape blames himself for causing Lily's . I'm not saying Sirius WAS to blame, just that this is how his mind was working.
Siena, Snape and Rochester certainly do have things in common - the tortured Byronic hero, as Cai puts it.
About Snape's job at Hogwarts - when did he start? I'm sure I remember something about it being on Voldemort's orders. Doesn't Snape justify his behaviour to Bellatrix that way? Voldemort wanted a spy at the school. The impression I had was that when Snape met Dumbledore on the hilltop to warn him the V was after the Potters, he wasn't yet teaching at the school. Otherwise why would they have to meet on the hilltop? He is teaching by the time James and Lily are ed I think, because they are in Dumbledore's office when Dumbledore tells him. Did Snape perhaps suggest to Voldemort that he could fool Dumbledore? Or at least plant the thought in Voldemort's mind?
Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on November 25, 2009 3:15 PM
It only says in HBP that Snape had ambitions to teach at Hogwarts before he changed sides - he applied for the job at the same time as Trelawny - on the occasion when he overheard the Phrophesy. Trelawny tells Harry that she got a job - whereas Dumbledore wasn't inclined to offer a position to Snape because of his "pushing, thrusting manners" - I think these were Trelawny's words. Interesting though that he did apply - albeit being a Eater at the time. Strange! Did Voldemort send him? Was he bored just being a Eater - surrounded by likes of Malfoy and Bellatrix? I think he must have looked through them early enough, knowing how dilluded they were regarding themselves in Voldemort's confidence. He certainly seemed keen to pass on his ss and maybe, as Cai said, he couldn't use them enough doing Voldemort's bidding.
Elizabeth you are right of course about Sirius and his guilty feelings - but I think in the book it actually says that the thought that kept him sane was the thought that he was innocent - which wasn't a happy thought, thus the Dementors couldn't sense it. At other times he just transformed - and the Dementors weren't able to sense animal emotions either. But I must check the passage - I haven't got the book available right now.
Posted by Siena from Nottingham, UK on November 26, 2009 06:56 AM
Just thinking - I could have answered my own question really... Snape probably wanted to teach simply to remain at Hogwarts, where his home was really, away from Spinner's End. His parents'house is described as having an neglected feel - so he probably didn't spend much time there. Although he kept a stock of wine there - good on him..
Posted by Siena from Notts, UK on November 27, 2009 03:15 AM
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