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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 6)

With the exception of Voldemort, who is pure black, all of Rowling's characters are shades of grey. I'd say Snape is a deep charcoal.

I look to his relationship with Dumbledore more than anything to find Snape's traces of white. Snape clearly esteems Dumbledore, by far the best person in the series despite his weaknesses which are finally revealed in DH (a dried cement color in my book). Moreover, Dumbledore clearly esteems Snape.

At first I was dissappointed in the Lily motive -- all this for some chick that never dug him? Come on. But now I also see the guilt factor, thanks to many of your comments. I think over time Snape continued to care deeply for Lily as the only person that was ever kind to him and the only true friend he ever had; however, I believe that there was something more than this love or guilt within him that kept him on the good side. Lily, the doe, became the symbol for all that was good in Severus Snape, not the sole reason for it.

What I think is really so fascinating about Rowling is that her characters take on whole lives beyond her written words. She was genuinely surprised to find that many readers find Snape to be a 'hero.' Obviously she does not view him the same way. She created this character yet she leaves enough of him unwritten to become his own man in our minds.

Now to add another layer to the Snape onion: As we've seen in the epiloge, Harry's opinion of Snape has pivoted. There was an awful lot of 'memory juice' captured in Hermoine's jar -- do you think Harry must have taken another dip in the Pensieve and seen more memories to so firmly place Snape in his good graces?

Posted by BNICKELSON from Batavia, IL on August 2, 2007 11:07 AM

I wanted to point out 2 events from Chapter 33 that should be considered when evaluating Snape.

"Don't be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched ?"

"Lately, only those I could not save," said Snape.

Snape's response displays a sense of regret or sadness about these other lives. It also suggests that Snape wishes that he could have saved these lives.

In Chapter 33, we also find out that Snape tried to disarm by using Sectumsempra a eater that was preparing to cast a spell at Lupin. Snape missed, however, he was placing himself at risk by attempting to protect Lupin.

Posted by Tim from New Hampshire on August 2, 2007 12:12 PM

Tamara from Malta: When Snape asked Harry to look at him I think it is so he can looking into Lilly's eyes.

Posted by Tor . B. from s, Norway on August 2, 2007 12:42 PM

I think someone nailed it when they mentioned Dumbledore not putting a stop to Snape's behavior. I believe he had to keep the act up, because if ANYONE saw him act nicely toward Harry, it may have found a way back to Voldemort. Snape could block out any memories of being nice to Harry, if he'd had any, but, as we all know, Harry was terrible at it. And, anyone against the dark lord would probably be terrible at it, as well, and if ANY of them had a memory of Snape being kind to Harry... Voldemort may have wondered.

Then again, Snape could always just say that he was 'pretending' to be nice... so perhaps, here, is where his hatred for James comes in. I think Dave commented something about Snape enjoying his position a little too much...

I think it is very clear, in Snape's memories, that he cared for Lily and not Harry. When he says, "For him?!" or "For HIM!" or however it was stated, it indicated that he meant, "Are you crazy? Of course I don't care about him, I care about HER!" and produced a Patronus to show this fact.

I would say Snape can be considered a hero, but one to Lily, not necessarily to everybody. He did it all for her, but I also cannot sit here and claim that 'he did it only for Lily so he wasn't that great' because I think the very fact that, despite EVERYTHING he had to deal with throughout his entire life, he was someone who was CAPABLE of a very profound and everlasting love for someone, makes him great.

Hero might not be the right word, but I would consider him praiseworthy and someone deserving of sympathy and forgiveness.

Posted by Katie T from California on August 2, 2007 1:12 PM

Severus liked power he aligned himself with powerful people be it Voldemort or be it Dumbledore. Snape was a jealous sort, he didn't want Dumbledore to care for Harry. He protected Harry only because Dumbledore told him to.

Snape watched Lily and her sister. He plucked up the courage to talk to her. They became friends. More than friends. Lily defended Sev when James and his gang bullied him. Yet when Lily came to Severus and told him she didn't like the people he was hanging around with, Severus chose them. he chose people involved in the dark arts. Funny how James was pureblood in Gryfindor and Severus was halfblood in Slytherin. All in all Lily came out as the better character.

Posted by Diana Cain from Atlanta Georgia on August 2, 2007 1:58 PM

I see a LOT of comments regarding how badly Snape treated Harry - but honestly, what did Harry ever do to try to turn his relationship with Snape around? Harry was, in fact, rather a smart-mouthed little punk towards Snape.

Rowling takes time in her novels to teach us all about the Golden Rule - treat others as you want to be treated. James Potter was a jerk to Severus now Severus is a jerk to Harry. Harry does not improve the situation by just giving it right back. Didn't we see the magic of the Golden Rule with Kreacher? Sirius treated Kreacher horridly and Kreacher became a nasty little thing. When Harry treated the little guy with respect and dignity Kreacher turned right around. I'm not suggesting that Snape is as simple a creature as Kreature, but it couldn't have hurt for Harry to have shown him some respect.

Posted by BNICKEL from Illionois on August 2, 2007 3:14 PM

I agree with the comments that have Snape as a complex character and that is the point really, isn't it? One of the reasons why many teachers like the books is that JK presents to children the idea that people are not one dimensional. As Sirius states in OotP (I think), there are not just good wizards or bad wizards. Even our hero Harry is arrogant, impulsive, and has a temper to be proud of! I think that is why adults like the book so much as well. I am really happy to accept Snape as Ron's "git" as well as Dumbledore's trusted colleague, that is what makes him so great to read as a character. Vive la difference!

Posted by Annette from Sydney, Australia on August 2, 2007 5:37 PM

Did Snape really LOVE Lily? at least a couple time's the book says he looks at her "greedily". Is that love or just plain creepy?

Posted by BNICKEL from IL, USA on August 2, 2007 5:40 PM

Right while i agree that snape is a difficult character to like you do have to take into account that most of snapes actions were executed under the watching eyes of eaters and their children. Even if snape wanted to be nice to harry there was nothing he could do in front of crabbe goyle etc.. He also had to be particularly harsh to hermione for the same reasons.

I think that snape is a tragic hero. Snape finds his spot in the world as a eater and is happy with that. he has his one true love and all but otherwise is ostensibly there and in a lot of power as he supplied the prophesy information. However snape gets thouraghally up rooted when his love becomes a target. Snape is torn between letting james who he hates and lily who he loves . And as a result we get a bitter and twisted adult who is associated with to opposing groups and a true member of neither.

You have to give him credit for his extraordinary acting talents. There were agents under deep cover in the cold war that would have had much less taxing roles.

In short i think snape is the bravest character in the series. I think he was so brave that it almost undid him. I know i certainly wouldn't have wanted his job. I just wish we could have seen more of snape and dumbledore alone together. those moments in the pensieve were theparts of snapes character we had been longing for the whole way through.

I say well done snape. you deserve nothing short of the order of merlin first class for bravery.

Snape the tragic hero of harry potter!

Posted by Des Grealis from Korea on August 2, 2007 5:59 PM

Was Snape a hero? No. Was he brave? Absolutely! Was he a nice person? Of course not. But he was a magnificent character. He was a bully. He showed unacceptable favoritism towards members of his own house. He was mean, often cruel to many of his students; not just Harry. But he was absolutely a man of his word and was intensely loyal to Dumbledore. With his prodigious talent he was one of the few who could have mounted a serious challenge against Dumbledore. But he didn't. In short, JKR has created a magnificent literary character who be referred to for years to come, not just by Harry Potter fans, but by the world at large.

Posted by Richard D from Tulsa, OK on August 2, 2007 6:45 PM

To all the people out there who think that Severus is evil:

I was shocked by Snape's fate. I cried and felt furious with myself for days, because I had thought that he was a bad guy all that time.

As the Pensieve reveals, Snape grew up in a house with parents who fought. That has a major impact on a person's present and future life on its own. But on top of quarreling parents, Snape dealt with being frequently humiliated in front of his peers, watching the love of his life slip away before his eyes, and later being treated coldly by his colleagues because they thought he was a traitor. Snape was constantly misunderstood. Worst of all, though, was probably his conflicting emotions about Harry. I know Severus loved Harry, and not just because he had Lily's eyes. He was Lily's son! How could he not love him, how could he refuse to protect the only thing he had left that represented any happiness in his life? And yet he faced the hard and unavoidable fact that Harry was also James's son, and James represented some of the most unhappy moments in Snape's life. This confusion inside, on top of having such an awful childhood, must have been unbearable for Severus. Every time he treated Harry like dirt, he regretted it ten-fold afterwards. It felt good at the time, but then he would hate himself, thinking that it was disloyal to Lily's memory to treat her son badly. Dumbledore probably became a mentor for Snape, just as he did for Harry. Dumbledore was probably the one who helped him through all that anger and sadness he had built up inside, which was so unbearable that he ended up unintentionally taking it out on students.

At any point in the whole series Snape could have been found out, and Voldemort's wrath would have been severe to the hundredth degree. Thank heavens Snape was so good at Occlumency! He was very brave, risking his life by staying close to Voldemort and passing crucial information.

Severus Snape's was entirely noble. He begged Lord Voldemort over and over to let him go and find Harry, and in the Pensieve we realize that Snape did not want to bring Harry to Voldemort. He wanted to tell him the secret that he needed to know in order to conquer the Dark Lord. And even when the snake bit him, and he knew he was , he STILL did not give up, he did the last possible thing he could do to help Harry, by giving him his memories. I think that his asking Harry to look at him was more than wanting to see Lily's eyes; in that one moment, even in his , he wanted to apologize to Harry, to say that he loved him really, to finally come to terms with him as he had been trying so hard to do for all those years. Severus Snape overcame all the horrible treatment, the conflicting emotions, every obstacle that stood in his way, and that is bravery if I ever saw it.

Posted by Severus Snape fan from TX on August 2, 2007 7:08 PM

another good thing nobody noticed about snape:
in poa snape just "let it slip" about lupin being a werewolf, but that happens after lupin nearly ed harry! he did it (once again making himself look like a bad guy) to protect harry!

Posted by dk from il on August 3, 2007 01:04 AM

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