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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:

To all of you who think Snape is a hero:

You have obviously never suffered under a teacher who made your life a living hell and who’s unfair treatment cast a shadow over the rest of your life. There is not much to admire in Snape, and his ‘ultimate sacrifice’ was fairly self-serving and does little to redeem him in my eyes.

Is it any wonder that JKR was surprised at his ‘fan following’? I don’t think that the ignoble and almost inconsequential Snape suffered at Voldy’s hand was an accident. I think JKR wrote it just right. The of Wormtail, another traitor, was also written beautifully. Why should either character ‘gloriously’—by throwing themselves in front of Harry at an opportune moment in front of hundred of witnesses, for example?

The real hero is Harry, who found the courage and strength, even at the tender age of 11, to stand up to Snape’s bullying and to acknowledge what little bravery Snape could muster by naming a son after him.

Posted by rickie from Illinois on July 31, 2007 09:31 AM

I agree with Rickie, i mean Snape was only good in the end becuase he loved Lily and although he was brave it doesnt really make up for how he really was. When he went to see Dumbledore all he wanted was for her to be safe. He didnt care about her husband or son and he never did even when Harry was at Hogwarts. It was very nice of Harry to name one son after him even after how mean Snape was to him.

Posted by Leah on July 31, 2007 5:49 PM

To Leah; Yes, Snape is horrible to Harry because he can see the resemblance to James in him. In OotP, Dumbledore did say that he thought Snape could overcome his feelings towards Harry's father when he asked Snape to teach Harry Occulmancy, but some wound just run too deep. Just think for a moment if you are Snape, James and Sirius loathed him in school, bullied him in the most hilmiliated ways in front of the school, worst in front of Lily. Then, the girl you ever loved married James...What would you think with Harry standing in frontof you, a miniature of James? The way Snape acted is just so human, it's just you and me. How could you blame him for that? He's definitely a hero of mine. Think of what he has done in the years trying to protect Harry, despite his own hatred. How many of the people you know would risk their lives for their enemy? Don't forget, he ed Dumbledore on his order, knowing he would be misunderstood and appeared as a traitor by everyone, not to mention the risk of his own soul being ripped by the act. What would you call that if it's not bravery? Harry's bravery was forced by the circumstances, Snape chose his. It takes more courage.

I love Snape for the way he's been written.

Posted by Fiona from Hong Kong on August 1, 2007 07:11 AM

To add to the Snape debate, I think that the reason I enjoy the character is because of his moral complexity. JKR has presented an entirely unique characterisation to her readership - showing that just because you are unlikeable, anti-social and vindictive, doesn't mean you're necessarily "evil"!

One of the main themes about this series is the choices the characters make, not their inherant goodness or badness. Snape's choices are ultimately proved to be for the good. It does not excuse his behaviour, but it places it in a context of his intentions.

A lot of her characters have flaws (Harry's anger, Dumbledore's obsessive secrecy, Ron's inadequacy etc.), but they rise above their flaws - that is their triumph.

Perhaps she also shows us two differing responses to bullying as well. Both Snape and Harry have been victims of that, but they become different people as a result.

Snape becomes a revenger, getting his harmful blows in first, retreating emotionally - one of the reasons he's so accomplished at Occlumency. Sometimes he says what other people wouldn't say because it would be too hurtful. (Frankly, Hermione can be "an insufferable no-it-all". This is the hurt before you're hurt yourself response.

Harry, however, becomes an avenger - turning his hurt outwards to prevent others suffering the same. The "saving people thing".

I always quote the moment in Book 5, during Occlumency Lessons, when Snape asks Harry "Who is the fat boy?", having just seen Dudley's bullying in Harry's mind. For one moment they could have reached an understanding, but Snape ultimately retreats. Perhaps his hurt was the greater.

I'm glad Snape proved to be something more complicated than a simple villain, and that he's one of the many triumphs of JKR's pen.

Posted by Goff Morgan from Wales, UK on August 1, 2007 07:20 AM

I think Snape loves having Harry in detention because he be able to see Lily's Eyes. He is certainly the bravest man in the world.

Posted by Anonymous on August 1, 2007 08:08 AM

Goff pretty much covers everything, but I'll just like to add. One of the morals I liked myself from the Harry Potter books, are 'No one's perfect.' All the characters have a flaw, weather it is anger, revenge, or obsession.

Snape on the other hand was bullied for 7 years by the same people. He was laughed at, hurt physically, but most of all, was getting damaged emotionally. He of course was from Slytherin, so the peer-pressure of that house would make him want to talk to -eaters.

Then, the love of his life married his worse enemy. How would it make you feel if someone you loved for your WHOLE life just walked away and married your worse enemy?

The main point, though, is that he felt remorse, which are one of the things Dumbledore says, is difficult. Snape overcame those obstacles, and at the end, he turned out to be not only courageous, but heroic.

Posted by Daniel from Toronto, Canada on August 1, 2007 08:33 AM

I've never understood the fascination that Snape has held for a large number of HP fans, nor the empathy. We see Snape on Harry's very first day in class bully Harry without mercy. He does his best to embarrass Harry not once but three times! We know he is mean-spirited and cruel though we won't know why he behaved this way for a very long time.

Yes, making choices is central to the plots and sub-plots of this series. But, we cannot excuse Snape's choices by looking at his own childhood. Harry's was even worse.
I think a most revealing exchange about Snape's character can be found in DH in the memories he leaves for Harry. When he admits to Dumbledore that he did reveal all of the prophecy he heard to Voldemort but begged LV to spare Lily. Dumbledore says something like-you disgust me-(or he should have said that) because basically Snape told Voldemort he could go ahead and James and Harry but just spare Lily. How morally deficient!

Then, when Snape agrees to protect Harry, he doesn't want anyone to know the one good thing in his life that he has agreed to do-against his . He doesn't get it.
I think being bitten by a snake was the appropriate for Snape. Because of Harry's goodness, he actually did as Snape asked with his breath and gave Snape the gift of looking into Lily's eyes.

We've read about heroes in this series; Snape was no hero.

Posted by Hannah from Los Angeles on August 1, 2007 08:44 AM

One of the reasons Snape (and Harry and Dumbledore and most all of her characters) is that they are extremely layered and complicated. The darker characters, like Snape, are appealing because we are able to see the human side of them - glimpses of, "No - they ARE good..really". The BRILLIANT thing about JK as a writer is that many of us were really really unsure of what would happen - which way some of the characters would go - good/bad - /live - until the very end. It is this suspense and character depth that WILL grant these books a permanent place in literary history.

And a does of guilt clearly keeps Snape going for 17 years.

Not to mention that Allan Rickman is extremely brilliant as this character! I hope the last two screenplays really allow him to portray all of the parts in the book (especially since we now know that Snape IS so very key).... I for one would thrilled to see him acknowledged professionally (ocsar, golden globe, etc) for this role...

Posted by Crookshanks73 from Brulington, VT on August 1, 2007 09:03 AM

Snape is absolutely a hero. In fact, he is my favorite character in the entire series. I LOVE the way that JK wrote him. He is an extremely complex individual. Think about what he did for a second. So he turns out to be one of the good guys in the end, despite the fact that everyone on his side hated his guts. Even before he ed Dumbledore, many (if not most) people on the good side didn't like him. And he did it all because of love. No, he was definitely not a villain. His character is beyond redeemed.

Posted by Wiz on August 1, 2007 09:08 AM

I think that snape was truly good. He was never on the dark side, but I do think lily was why. I really do think he cared for harry, yet he disliked how much he was like james.

Posted by jake from missouri on August 1, 2007 09:15 AM

This site has said from HBP we find that Snape has lied to the eaters: Harry has no extraordinary magical talent, relying on friends and luck to get him out of tight corners. He is mediocre to the last degree... Why do that, why risk it?

Everything that Snape ever did, while seeming downright evil, was for Harry. After reading HBP, I wondered where JKR was going to take the character of Snape. While I agree that Snapes hatred for Harry had a lot to do with being bullied by Padfoot and Prongs, it isn't everything.

If anyone has read recent JKR interviews, they would know that patronus mutates through love (often their happy thought). Snapes was a doe, but i don't think it had much to do with lily (some perhaps). He loved Harry so much that his happy thought was Harry.

I had a lot of teachers in my day that were downright evil, or so i thought. Then a year or so ago, I meet up with a couple of them and have dinner. They only acted that way because they could see more potential in me.

Snape was mean to harry because he could see more potential in harry. He wasn't lying to bellatrix and narcissa; he was telling them, in his opinion, what harry was.

Snape saved harry from the bucking broomstick (SS), made sure he made it safe to hogwarts in CoS, attempted rescue in PoA (gets stunned), tries to keep him out of trouble in GoF (only tries because there is a known traitor), teaches harry occulmancy (until harry discovers secret), tells eaters his opinion (which is false) and possibly rips soul to ensure harry keeps fighting. In the last book, he wants to find harry to tell him the truth about his scar. His moments he spills, literally, the fact that he loved lily, harry was a horcrux and that he had grown to love harry.

He's human and no human can bear humiliation or the pain that he had to. At the beginning harry represented every humiliation, every pain that he had to endure or at least most of it. But he overcame his flaws, trying to push harry farther, make harry a better wizard.

Sometimes, as Dumbledore puts it, the sorting is too soon. Snape never had to save Harry, not once. And Snape never had to save his own skin, but he d so that harry could live and beat Voldy. That is why Snape is a hero, a great wizard.

Posted by ted from forks, washington on August 1, 2007 09:29 AM

The complexity of Snape's character is one of the things that make HP books above any "books for children". He found in himself the ability to love and to show great courage, while raised with little love by his parents, and surrounded by peers, the Slytherins, that valued selfish behaviors.

BUT he also was too happy to bully students that were too young and scared to handle it, such as Neville who became very bad at potion making because of him - the opposite of what a teacher should be doing. There was no excuse such as "he looked so much like James" for the way he was acting toward Neville. As a teacher and an adult, he had authority over students and he used it wrongly many times, in a very cowardly way.

YET he sacrificed his life and the esteem of the fellow teachers when he obeyed Dumbledore and became a spy, and was considered a er, ultimately to defeat Voldemort.

Harry chose eventually to see only the best in him - just like Dumbledore was doing (always ready for giving second chances to people) and just like his mother would have done, and even considered him a role model for his children...

Posted by Cecil from Tacoma WA on August 1, 2007 09:31 AM

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