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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 14)

Severus is neither one or the other. He is neither a good character that is easy to love, nor a bad character that is easy to hate. He lies somewhere in the middle - somewhere between what Sherry's saying and what Doyel's saying. He was indeed unnecessarily nasty to many people, students and Order members alike, and both in and out of school. The love he had for a very long time was for Lily alone, and he didnít care about anyone else. He's capable of love, but not really ing to give it.

I find it utterly amazing that for six books, Jo has taken the time to let us know that James, despite youthful shortcomings, was an honorable person and that Lily really does love him, and it only really took us one chapter toward the end of the last book to make us doubt that in favor of a Lily-Severus 'ship. Everyone from his best friends Sirius and Remus to people like Hagrid, Minerva, and Albus assert the noble, even if mischievous, spirit of James Potter. Every time he is mentioned, every time we as the reader see him, James is the source of happiness, strength of character, and hope - the only exception being with him against his worst enemy at the time. (Even Harry laughs when "Moody" transfigures Draco into a ferret and slams him - repeatedly - against a stone floor, for example.) He put himself at risk, both legal and magical, to help out a friend in need of comfort. Thrice he and Lily together defied Voldemort before he was ed (wish we had more info on this...) Our sympathy is getting the better of us.

There is a reason that Lily chose to marry James as opposed to any other man - wizard or Muggle - in her life. It must have been a hard decision for her, too. She doesn't seem the vindictive type; she would realize that dating James would deeply hurt Severus. It's not so easy to do something that would so much hurt someone you cared about, even if you have since parted ways. She would have to have really seen that James was her true love when she decided to marry him.

Posted by Monkeeshrines from orlando fl on August 10, 2007 6:22 PM

Well if Snape was not evil why did he bully harry so much? and i know the answer to that would be because he looked so much like James. But if snape hated voldy for ing his beloved (lily) then why did he treat students like Neville with as much cruelty as he treated harry? when he knew that voldy had scarred Neville's childhood so much (Neville's parents).

Snape was one strange character.

Posted by Alyson-Rose from adelaide, SA on August 10, 2007 7:14 PM

Until I read the last book, I too was a Snape fan. While I was waiting for book seven, I would image possible scenarios where Snape would be revealed as a true hero. But when I read that Snape only concern was Lily and not the family she loved, I knew I had been wrong. Snape was completely self centered. Remember, Dumbledore's punishment for Snape, or his way of making amends, was to protect Harry. Snape was not happy about it then, and now I realize he never was happy about protecting Harry. Everything he did for the Order was in payment for causing Lily's . He did what ever Dumbledore told him to do. That is why Dumbledore trusted him. He knew his love for Lily was so deep he would spend the rest of his life making up for her . I think perhaps because he hoped to see her again after his . When I read that Harry had named one of his children after Snape, because he was the bravest man he ever knew, I had to put down my book and take a deep breath because I could not process in my mind why Harry would do this. The only reasoning I could come up with was that after seeing Snape breaking down and crying so in Sirus's house over Lily, I thought perhaps that Harry chose to forgive Snape for causing his parents s. Harry knew that Snape would never intentionally put Lily in harms way. I think he understood as Dumbledore did that Snape would do whatever he had to do to pay for his part in Lily's . When someone is ing to do anything, even put themselves and their immortal soul in danger, then that is bravery. Also I think Harry wanted to acknowledge Snape's part in the victory over Voldemort.

Posted by Linda from Kentucky on August 10, 2007 10:53 PM

Severus Snape is without a doubt a hero. He's a hero to Harry and also to me.

Posted by Anvi from Mumbai on August 11, 2007 01:58 AM

Snape has the qualities of a hero: he's immensely brave, straightforward, trusts his more than his instincts, searches nothing else than the result of his quest (the survival of Harry and the defeat of Voldemort). He even obeys Dumbledore though he doesn't understand him completely.

From Harry and Dumbledore's point of view (world needs love, respect, peace), he's a hero. From the Eaters' point of view (world must be ruled by pure blood wizards, everything's allowed for the greater good), he would be a traitor. Since I chose the first side, I consider him as a hero.

Now, regarding his behaviour at Hogwarts, I think we're fouled by the way Jo writes her books: she shows us the world through Harry's eyes and mind. Who among us hasn't felt some sympathy for Moody/Barty Crouch when he cursed Malfoy and transfigured him into an animal? That was really evil, much worse than what Snape did to Harry or Hermione. I must admit that I found it funny, because I saw it through Harry's eyes. This way of thinking fouled us all along (the evil ones were Quirrel and Moody/Barty Crouch, not Snape).

Obviously, Snape was partial as a teacher, and gave rewards to Slytherin and detentions to Gryffindor students. But we must admit that most of those detentions were deserved. If you consider Harry and Hermione's behaviour from a teacher's point of view, they are the worst thing that can happen: Harry shows no respect at all for the teacher, Hermione already knows everything and shows it, she does everything quicker and better than anyone, wants to answer first at any question. We don't see them the way they are: pretentious and arrogant.

And why did Snape change sides? Not only for Lily's eyes. When Sirius went out of Azkaban, he was moved by a of revenge, not Snape. I think that Jo suggests us than when Voldemort ed Lily, it opened Snape's eyes. If you're about to dominate the world (unless you're a dictator), there are two things you can't do: people or harm them without any need, and despise your closest companions. Voldemort didn't need to Lily, and he knew how painful this would be for Snape. By ing Lily, he showed that he had no respect for human life, and no respect for Snape's concerns.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on August 11, 2007 07:35 AM

I was just reading one of the post on here and it made me think of something. Didn't Professor Quirell say in SS/PS that it was Snape that saved Harry from falling off of his broom? If he knew this, how did Voldy not know this, since he was working for him. I haven't read SS in a while so I could be wrong about Quirell saying this. Could someone double check this?

Posted by boosnake from Rayne, LA on August 11, 2007 11:59 AM

Yes, Quirrell did say this at the end of SS/PS. But it's not a mistake in the story. Snape, himself, explains this to Bellatrix and Cissy at the beginning of HBP. He was at Hogwarts following Voldy's last orders, to spy on Dumbledore. He didn't know Quirrell was working for Voldy, and it would have jeopardized his position with Dumbledore not to protect Harry at that point. He says Voldy accepted this explanation of his behavior.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on August 11, 2007 4:38 PM

I refuse to deem Severus Snape a hero. Although he is courageous and brave and quite capable of love, which as borderlines avarice and obsession curiously enough, Snape remains a vindictive and spiteful person full of malice and deceit. I find it incredibly difficult to accept that Snape's cruel treatment towards Harry and company is justified by Harry's resemblance of James Potter. When Harry enters Hogwarts at the ripe age of eleven, he is quite the innocent, benevolent little boy. Snape knows this, and obviously, refuses to accept it as true. His grudge for James has not faded during all these years, and Snape is determined to punish an innocuous child.

I have experienced intense hatred towards a person who betrayed my family and I. Recently, we got together, and although it was awkward and difficult, I found some forgiveness in my heart. However, the pain and dislike still lingers. Despite this, I could not hate her tiny baby, who did not deserve the cruelness Snape directed towards Harry. Her baby, in all his preciousness and innocence, was so delicate and fragile at the time. I could not force myself to dislike him for the crimes his mother committed.

What bothers me is how Snape has appeared to forgiven Lily for marrying James. We know he likes to hold grudges against his rivals, and I'm positive Lily marrying James as the "better man" deeply hurt Snape. Yet, instead of hating Lily for it, he continues to love her, even after her . Is it harder to forgive someone for breaking your heart or for dangling you upside down and humiliating you in front of a large crowd? I'd say the first instead of the latter. Love and heartbreak-emotional pains-inflict much more suffering than physical pain.

But, funnily enough, Snape does attempt to hex and humiliate James. In Order of the Phoenix, Harry confronts Sirius and Lupin about what he sees in the pensieve and discovers that Lily eventually softens up to James and becomes tolerant towards him hexing Snape. Why? Because Snape tails them on dates and fires curses at James's back. However, as readers, we don't feel sympathy for James because the pensieve scene creates the appearance of Snape being the helpless VICTIM and tortured soul. Had we witnessed another scene with Snape hexing James for revenge and seen the years worth of rivalry that parallels the Draco-Harry relationship, we would feel differently.

The fact remains that Snape possesses an awful character, which causes him to act in a selfish and twisted manner. He easily "forgives" Lily, but can not "forgive" James, who, I'm sure, is quite capable of forgiveness and would have provided it had the two rivals come to an understanding. And, consider this: It is Snape who is tempted by the dark arts and power, not James.

From dictionary.com, hero is defined as:

1. A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.

Is Snape really a model figure who has noble qualities besides courage that could offset his rather questionable character? I say "no" because he has not shown one ounce of forgiveness to Harry, who never deserves this bitter man's hatred in the first place. Although Snape has demonstrated he can love, he has not been capable of extending that love to Lily's son, the person who needs it the most. In addition, Snape is stubborn and arrogant and shows no respect to muggles like Petunia (he made her cry by snapping a branch to fall on her head). He is also quite greedy (Snape looks at Lily with a greedy hunger) and possessive (Snape tries to prevent Lily from acting in a certain manner by not "letting her"). Where are the tenderness, the hopelessness, and gentleness in this love? It seems to be characterized more by desire and longing.

It sickens me that Snape tries to persuade Voldemort to spare her. He cares not about Harry, Lily's flesh and blood, and desires her to leave her baby and husband to join him in a life of misery. Any loving mother would not discard their baby, and it repulses me that Snape would act in this way. (However, if Snape requested James and Harry to be spared too, Voldemort wouldn't be too happy would he? On the other hand, as proof, in the chapter, "The Prince's Tale," Dumbledore exclaims how Snape does not care about Harry and James).

In conclusion, while I do not question Snape's valor and Gryffindor-ness, I cannot view him as a hero. He is an immensely flawed and complex character, and I've enjoyed his presence in the books. But, he is, at best, a bitter man who has dug his own grave and seeks a way out through Dumbledore's guidance. Had not Dumbledore been there, Snape would have never offered his allegiance, and had not he loved Lily, Snape would have never felt remorse.

Rest in peace, Severus Snape.

Posted by Anonymous on August 11, 2007 6:41 PM

Even through a teachers eyes as what Harry and Hermione did doesnt seem bad enough for what Snape did. Harry wasnt always mean and arrogant towards him. On his very first day Snape was as rude to him as he could and why? Because he was James Potter's son. I dont blame Harry for being rude because its not like Snape did nothing to him and Harry was just arrogant. Hermione-the know it all that she is- shouldnt be punished for knowing more than everyone. Of course its annoying to teachers but like Ron said in book 3-he asked a question and shes the only one who knows the answer. why would he ask it if he didnt want it to be told? and then to insult her and make her cry because she knew the answer? I think thats pretty intense of him.

I think Snape has his moments good and bad. Im not sure whether i consider him a hero or not however. hero for risking his life many times for harry dumbledore and for good BUT far from hero for his unfair cruelty and for the fact that his good deeds were totally selfish.

for example:

he wanted to do anything to save Lilly -hero BUT he didnt care whether her husband or sun survived-not

he wanted to 'redeem himself' and be good BUT it was for Lilly- SELFISH

I think this topic can be seen in many ways...

Posted by Bailey from California on August 11, 2007 6:43 PM

Harry is in a unique position to judge Snape's bravery. Who else has experienced the power of Voldemort inside his mind?

And Snape only agreed to Dumbledore's plan for Harry's sake, because of his love for Lily and remorse over her . How many times would Harry have d during the septology if not for Snape?

Even though Snape is a bitter selfish bully, he tried to teach and "reform" Harry, without resorting to evil as Umbridge did. Snape saw no reason to coddle Harry and protect him from learning difficult life lessons. Voldemort wouldn't go easy on him. Snape knew from personal experience that Harry needed to shape up to face his ultimate enemy.

In the end, when he knew Harry's fate was to at the hand of Voldemort, Snape had nothing left to live for. He had no other purpose, no other love or friends. Everyone considered him Voldemort's man through and through. Azkaban or would have been his only choices.

Snape's choices defined his life. He could have tried to be someone Lily wanted to be friends with. After her , he could have lived differently, instead of living a lonely life of regret. He might have reached out to Harry instead of being demeaning and petty.

Ultimately, I think Harry recognized and appreciated the price Snape paid for his role in the of James and Lily.

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on August 11, 2007 6:51 PM

I think Snape was a very brave person, he loved Lily, and was prepared to risk his life for her, even after she had married another man.

Posted by Monika from Melbourne, Victoria on August 11, 2007 10:46 PM

I want to make one thing clear, Snape didn't do what he did after the Potters' to avenge for Lily. He did it out of love. Dumbledore pleaded with him to join hands in protecting Harry, so Lily didn't in vain. This is what Lily wanted as her last wish. Snape is trying to finish what Lily has started. It's not about revenge or remorse, it's love.

Regarding the Snape-Harry relationship, I found Harry arrogant and bad tempered since I first started the books. I kept asking why Harry's so appealing to the fans when most of the time, I find him irritating.

As someone has pointed out before, we saw the events through Harry's perspectives. We would sure find our feelings different if the books are written on the reverse angle. When Snape first met Harry, what went through his mind? "Clearly fame isn't everything." James Potter must have crossed his mind, the man who has fame and everything. Students admired him, the famous quidditch seeker and talented pure blood wizard. Yet, what did he find in Harry, who clearly hasn't even opened his books before coming to school. "Lily's so good in potion, this son of her isn't even close to her standard, shame!" At this point, I am sure Snape is having a confused images of Harry & James mixing as one. Then Harry was made the youngest seeker of the quidditch team in a century by disregarding what he was told to do. breaking rule and disrespect a teacher's words! Snape felt this appalling. From that point on, their relationship got from bad to worse. Human interaction is a 2-way path. Snape despised Harry as well as trying to protect him. But for Harry, he misjudged Sanpe in PS just because he hated him and nothing could change his heart. Even after Quirrel told him that Snape was trying to protect him all year, did Harry ever try to show some gratitude or respect towards Snape?

In PoA, Harry was caught sneaking out to Hogsmeade despite all the protections laid down for him. Snape caught him outside the one eyed witch statue, what would Snape feel? He's outrageous because Harry was risking her mother's sacrifice over some sweets. It's reckless and irresponsible, and arrogant! Snape may have presented the idea in a sarcastic way, but he meant exactly the same thing Lupin told Harry afterwards. Why did Harry feel ashamed of himself when Lupin yelled at him while he felt nothing when Snape confronted him?

Throughout the series, Harry has been taken things in his own hands, dragging his friends along, because he's desperate to prove himself. I must say he acted very differently from normal students would have done under same circumstances. He's so self centered and full of himself. From a teacher and protector's point of view, he's crossing all the lines one can cross, risking everyone's effort trying to keep him alive over nothing. Would you feel frustrated and angry? Snape's nastiness towards Harry is totally justified. Snape treated Ron and Hermione badly because they were with Harry in all the deeds together, they bore responsibilities for Harry's actions.

Neville is a total different situation, Snape just can stand people being "untalented".

Ultimately, Harry is responsible for the ways he's being treated by Snape.

Snape is a hero and Harry understands it finally when he has 8 years (Albus is 11 and Harry named him after Severus when he was born) to "think" back all the incidents happened between Snape and himself, and all the things Snape has done trying to protect him. He recognised Snape is the bravest man he ever met, much braver than himself.

Posted by Fiona from Hong Kong on August 12, 2007 12:40 AM

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