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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 16)
jews have one realy nice idiom: "he is a hero - one that conquers his urge" - snape did it when he protected harry, he is a hero!
Posted by dk from il on August 13, 2007 03:11 AM
Snape is not a hero because like larry said, he turned good AFTER lily d. if he didn't love lily, he'd be a -eater till the end.
Snape is no hero. he could have chosen not to be in slytherin like harry did. and im pretty sure SIRIUS chose gryffindor too. (because otherwise he'd have been put in slytherin with his family).
so sirius is a hero. snape is not.
Posted by iHEARtsirius from australia on August 13, 2007 03:17 AM
As the debate continues about Snape, note how this enormously complex character reacts to Prof. McGonagall's hexes against him on p. 598 of DH (US version). As great a wizard as he is, he defended himself against her only; he did not use his considerable ability to harm her. We don't know what he would have said to Harry if he had been able to converse with him prior to the Hogwarts battle.
Posted by Alice from Milton, DE on August 13, 2007 05:53 AM
you say that if snape didn't love lilly he wouldn't have become good. and that's why he's not a hero. well... i say that he is more hero because of it. it's almost easy being good all the time, there is no difference... but to "abandon" evil and become good, in spite all your enemies, that just takes guts...
for me, snape is the real hero of HP stories.
Posted by Lastkiss on August 13, 2007 07:35 AM
I personally had a feeling Snape was good, even though he ed Dumbledore. When Dumbledore said, "Severus, Please", i read that as him asking him to do something ( him). I knew dumbledore had asked him to do it, but i didnt know why. In the end, Snapes had the biggest impact on me. Even though he hated Harry, he protected him. The only thing i didnt like about him is when dumbledore asked Snape to him, Snape made a joke after it. I think he should have asked if there was something else he wanted him to for him, or ask if he wanted him to keep trying to cure him. overall, Snape is definitely a hero.
Posted by Anonymous on August 13, 2007 09:44 AM
Maybe Snape isn't a 'hero' but he is, in a way, one of the most noble characters in the books.
He is a complex character who is torn between his love for one person, and his hate for another. The love is, in the end all-consuming, he does not abandon his love for Lily, but it takes him a long long time to, as DK says, 'conquer the urge' to hate James via Harry, which culminates in him giving Harry the thoughts that explain his own motives.
The one thing Snape is not is simple black and white, cardboard cutout i.e. hero or villain. From what JK has said I don't think he is meant to be 'liked' as he is always unpleasant to Harry (even while helping him in various ways). He loses Lily because he strays from the path of good tempted by bad friends, his ability with potions, or whatever.
The thoughtful pro-Snape readers based their stance on a growing perception, book by book, that so much seemed happening, so much evidence was being laid out without an answer, that pointed to Snape being a motivated character with a powerful 'back story'. After a while this could not be ignored, particularly after HBP when the of Dumbledore seemed to seal his fate as being a true Eater. It took time for some to realise that it could possibly be part of a larger plot to overthrow a greater evil, ironically for 'the greater good' of the wizarding world.
Ultimately, Severus Snape is on the side of right, and good. JKR has given us a character it is possible to be ambivalent about - someone who helps Harry and wizarding kind to defend themselves - for his own selfish reasons. Love him or hate him you must admire the nobility of a spirit that carries a love within him, risks absolutely everything, and conquers his hate enough do chose the right course of action in the end.
Posted by Marjorie from New Zealand on August 13, 2007 12:47 PM
To all of those who hated snape as much as I did at the end of book 6:
I am completely removed of any hard feelings I had towards Snape. Snape is, as Harry describes to his youngest son, the bravest man I've ever met. I was just talking to a friend about this today. Snape had to play two sides of the chess board, while ultimately keeping everyone wondering which side he was truly on. As for Snape only telling Dumbledore where his loyalties lied, I admire that. He went the distance and is now my favorite character. His devotion to Harry's survival to finish Vol, ehem, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was so pure and powerful that it allowed him to play his part as the hurtful teacher at Hogwarts. I believe Snape had no part in the s of Lily and James, and do believe that he contributed to the of He-Who, ehem, VOLDEMORT! He's , I'll use his name now. I believe Snape earned full honor in his and should be remembered and praised for his contribution to the happiness of everyone who survived.
Posted by Joe from Glenolden, PA on August 13, 2007 4:06 PM
ok...what i have to say is that i really hated snape, specially in the last part of the Half-blood Prince when he used the AK curse on poor Dumbledore. Then I found out that he was doing it on Dumbledore's orders and that he was actually relieving him from a great pain: he gave him the that he wanted. Another thing that a lot of people say is that Harry was tortured by Snape all these years...but I like this saying: "what doesn't you, makes you stronger". Now tell me...if Harry hadn't been tortured by Snape, would he have acted as he has? I believe that by having felt all that pressure, Harry managed to grow up being ready to stand any kind of silly behaviour from his "enemies". Perhaps he was a bit too hard, but still, at the end he was always ing to help Harry...and if Harry decided to forgive him, why not us?
Posted by ceci from argentina on August 13, 2007 4:33 PM
Just a couple of comments.
A lot of this conversation depends on your definition of "hero" and it's obvious that many of us are on different wavelengths there.
Snape as a teacher treated his students with a level of malice that in the US would get him fired and probably sued. (Umbridge as well, of course.) It was crucial to the plot, but in real life he'd have been outta there! (Or maybe the UK tolerates this behavior more than the US?)
As a former teacher myself, sarcasm, cruelty, unwarranted disciplines, penalties for the heck of it, and a lot of the other behaviors Snape displays are not only unacceptable professional practice, they are not successful teaching tools. A couple of people offered the Nietzschian "that which doesn't you makes you stronger" justification which may be a philosophical concept but is refuted as a teaching methodology, and is essentially immoral, too.
Harry's bad attitude in Snapes class stemmed from Snape's treatment of him -- and it's totally understandable that a kid, treated badly, reacts. In this situation in an undisciplined way, with bad manners, but when the option is capitualtion to being controlled by a bully, it's understandable. Which is one good reason to NOT be the teacher who tries those tactics. It's not arrogance on Harry's part, it's a developing sense of self, and strength of being in the right.
Snape WAS brave. He worked for Voldemort's downfall from the inside of his ranks without being detected at unthinkable risk. To me, that's not the same thing as being a hero. To others it is. Definitions again... Even JKR herself was apalled that women were "in love" with Snape. Just because he did good doesn't make him worthy of love. Just because he obsessively loved Lily does not mean he loved her in a healthy appropriate way. He certainly wasn't influenced by her in her lifetime or he wouldn't have joined the Eaters.
All of JKR's characters are human, with a mix of qualities. But Harry PREDOMINANTLY responds in a positive way -- he sees someone in trouble and he tries to help, even (as with Fleur's sister) if it's not really necessary, or if he goes about it in a foolish way. He IS a kid after all.
Snape PREDOMINANTLY is a mean, sadistic, bitter man. That he's working to undermine Voldemort is actually the aberration. He wasn't mean as a "cover" -- he's REALLY mean. He enjoys it. He can justify it as a cover, and maybe Dumbledore tolerates it since he sees it as a cover, but it's Snape's true character. Snape is extremely disciplined and never loses his cool, except when Harry snoops (humiliating him) or challenges his courage. Like many bullies, he is all narcissistic facade. He cares more about being perceived as a Force to be Reckoned With than with being fair or kind or compassionate. He's the kind of guy who makes up his mind to do something for his own reasons, and by God NOT be deterred from doing it!
I like Snape as a character but in the end he's a still a nasty man who managed to do some good things. I can feel sad that his life was so screwed up, but then again, he made his bed and he had no choice but to lie in it. There are some mistakes you cannot recover from.
Posted by SherryBinNH from New Hampshire on August 14, 2007 09:37 AM
Snape is a realistic hero. All heroes have flaws some of them significant. They are heroes in part because they overcome their flaws. As Sirius says in the 5th movie, everyone has some light and dark. It is to Snape’s credit that he realized that his flaws led to Lily’s and he accepted responsibility for Voldemort’s attack on the Potters and did not rationalize himself out of his role.
For those who say he was too cruel to Harry, you have to consider Snape not only as a great wizard, but also as a great actor, an actor so great that he become one with his role. All spies are actors and one cannot be a successful (living) triple agent without being a great actor who always maintains character. By book 7, I doubt Snape could go out of character.
Snape was a Eater who when he realized that he inadvertently caused Voldemort to target Lily turned to become Dumbledore’s agent within the Eaters (agent). While teaching at Hogwarts, he was able to convince former Eaters and ultimately Voldemort that he was a Eater who could spy on Dumbledore (double Agent) and in fact provided correct information and agreed to Dumbledore. While doing this he was reporting back to Dumbledore even after Dumbledore was (triple agent).
Maintaining such an acting role requires grand gestures so targeting Harry, the blood traitor Weasleys, and the mudblood Hermione while coddling Draco helped Snape in his double agent role. If Snape were a method actor, what better tool than to focus on Harry’s resembles to James to build the hate necessary to live the role while shifting the focus to Harry’s Lilylike eyes when he needed to protect Harry. After playing such a role for a long time when the penalty for a bad performance was probably so ingrained the role that it would be impossible for Snape ever to like Harry. That he was very successful at being an acknowledged tormentor of Harry is obvious. But many have pointed out how many times he helped Harry. He was always reminding Eaters to save Harry for the Dark Lord.
Snape’s was one of the bravest in the series. His valor was valor with no expectation that it would be recognized. He stayed in character to the end and did not alert Voldemort that Voldemort’s calculations were incorrect. Voldemort remained unaware of his false assumptions and was overconfident to the end.
Snape sacrificed everything about his life to gain revenge/redemption for his part in Lily’s . It was providence that granted Snape the triple mercy of being able to perform his mission (pass the memories), have his noticed (bravest man I saw) and looking at Lily’s eyes.
I agree with many that Snape is the most complex character in the book and we are fortunate to look forward to Alan Rickman portray the great actor, wizard and master spy Snape.
Posted by Chris from Leavenworth, KS on August 14, 2007 5:59 PM
Snape was a compromised human being who nonetheless followed his heart and stayed true to the one love that fell across his sad life. Jo was so good in showing that even a poor unloved boy could grab onto love and do something great.
His sacrifice was long and dangerous and worthy of what Harry gave him by naming his son after him.
Posted by Panduranga from Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 14, 2007 6:38 PM
Everyone seems to overlook the fact that Snape really did love Harry. He got so upset when he found out that Harry's destiny was to . And when Dumbledore asks Snape why he's so upset, if he learned to care for Harry, Snape answers, "For him...always." It's obvious that Snape was just pretending to hate Harry, in order to play the part of Eater. He really saw the Lily in Harry, when he got to know him better.
And does the fact that Lily's Patronus was a doe seem to be the ONLY reason why Snape's Patronus was a doe? Has anyone noticed that a stag and a doe are the same species? The only difference between a stag and a doe is that one is male and one is female. And when Harry and Ron discuss the doe, Ron first thought it was Harry's Patronus. "Oh, I thought it looked different. No antlers."
So WHY does everyone think that Snape hated Harry as much as he hated James? Or do you think you know Snape better than he does himself?
Posted by C.J. from Utah on August 14, 2007 10:37 PM
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