Snape again (major spoilers!)

Jane Holland

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I see there was an earlier thread on Snape, but it's from early 2009, so here's a new one, if that's okay.

Spoiler alert for those who, unthinkably, have not yet read the last book. Stop reading now! :eek:

What really peeved me about Rowling's treatment of Snape in the last book was that surely the big pay-off for Snape in emotional terms would be for Harry to discover that he'd been on the goody side all the time and to feel suitably chastened by his horrible treatment of Snape from Book One onwards.

Instead, Rowling writes those last scenes with Snape almost numbly, and Harry barely reacts to his death, except for a few lines at the very end of the book where he comments on Snape having been the bravest man he'd ever known, or something along those lines. But it's a sop, frankly. Snape was, in general terms, a braver man than Harry, and a far more interesting one, walking a tightrope without a safety net for nearly two decades and being almost universally loathed by everyone on both sides. And for what? So he could salve his guilt over Lily's death by protecting her son. A boy who hated him and made poor and rash decisions at every turn.

Don't get me wrong. I love the HP stories, and root for Harry all the way through. But I felt personally betrayed by her brief and almost dismissive treatment of Snape's death. I wanted to read the scene where Harry finally realised his terrible error, and apologised for it, and recognised Snape for who he truly was. And it just doesn't exist.

That annoys me. Does it annoy anyone else? Or is it acceptable within the grand scheme of the HP stories, because most kids are not going to care about Snape's fate anyway, having too long identified him as a villain to perform that complex a volte-face at the eleventh hour?
 

FeedMeTV

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Snape's protection of Harry was noble and brave but it doesn't change the fact he also disliked Harry immensely. Throughout the series he was overtly cruel to Harry, he bullied and taunted him and through his treatment of him we saw the side of his character that was bitter and vindictive, pushing all of his resentment of James onto Harry which was entirely unfair. He did not protect Harry out of any affection for him at all but for his love for Lily. As I said before, this doesn't take anything away from Snape's great courage but I don't think Harry needed to apologise to him. He honoured his death by naming his child after him and he recognised the lengths he had taken to protect Harry with much risk to his own life but I don't think Harry's reactions to Snape's treatment of him throughout his time at Hogwarts were unjustified even with the knowledge of Snape's true allegiance and motives.

Snape left his memories for Harry so he died knowing that Harry would understand the truth and he also died looking into the eyes of the child of the woman he loved, knowing he himself had done all he could to protect him. I think his death scene was rather poetic and inkeeping with his character, he didn't want recognition or for Harry to worship him on bended knee but to carry out the task he had set himself.

He was a very lonely and sad individual and quite probably the best character in the entire series. I think his death reflected his life - he deserved a better death as he had deserved a better life, never achieving the recognition he should have had.
 

PTeppic

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Moreover, would you do all that for a girl you have an unrequited crush on, at school?
 

ghost8772

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It wasn't quite unrequited, she knew how he felt about her, but she rejected him outright when he came a hairs breath from calling someone a mudblood in her presence. He also became a death-Eater, and only went to Dumbledore to have him save Lily, when he wouldn't have, and didn't, saved anyone else whom Voldemort targeted. I recall one of the memories at the end Snape having a hissy about Harry, and Dumbledore basically having to order Snae to throw off his hate of James, and instead protect Lily's child, since he couldn't save Lily.
Also remember that dumbledore was fairly I'd say malignant towards Snape when Snape was pleading for Dumbledore to help Lily. Snape was not at that time offering to join up, he intended to remain a death eater, but had to become a double agent before Dumbledore would take a step to help the Potters. At least as Snape saw it.
 

Boaz

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SPOILERS!!

Jane Holland, I certainly see where you are coming from regarding Harry's lack of sympathy for Snape's sacrifice during the final battle. Yet, I feel that Harry's reaction during that time in no way diminishes the character of Severus Snape.

Harry was seventeen. Harry hated Snape for numerous reasons: Snape hated him, Snape hated James, Snape hated Sirus, Snape told Voldemort of the prophecy, Snape was a Deatheater, and Snape killed Dumbledore. Harry was stunned by the revelation that Snape loved Lily and was really working under cover to destroy Voldemort for sixteen years.

Harry was seventeen. Harry was in love with Ginny.

Harry was seventeen. Harry was consumed with destroying Voldemort. He'd been on the run for nine months or so and was nearing emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion.

Harry was seventeen. Harry just learned he had to let Voldemort murder him. His life was ending before it really began...

We never see Harry as he goes through the emotions of fully realizing, accepting and honoring Snape's actions and sacrifices. Because of the history between Severus and James, Severus and Sirius, Severus and Lily, and Severus and Harry, I imagine that this took Harry some time to fully gain the proper perspective. Years and years, I'd imagine.

What we do see is that Harry, fifteen years or so later, has come fully to terms with the actions of all of his allies and enemies in the rise and fall of Lord Voldemort. Harry names all three of his children after those he loves and respects... James Sirius Potter, Albus Severus Potter, and Lily Luna Potter. Would we have judged Harry differently if he'd named his second son Ronald Frederick Potter or Arthur Remus Potter or Rubeus Neville Potter or Alastor Cedric Potter? Ron, Fred, Arthur, Remus, Hagrid, Neville, Mad Eye, and Cedric all had great impact in Harry's life and were instrumental in the fight against Voldmort. Yet Harry and Ginny chose to honor Snape over them all. The name Albus Severus Potter, to me, reveals that Harry has grown up, that Harry has accepted Snape's actions, that Harry accepted Dumbledore's decisions, and that Harry has let people know that Snape was not a traitor, but in fact a hero of the Order of the Phoenix.

I understand that after seeing Harry's gut reactions for seven years that to put the biggest one off and just mention it in the epilogue can be seen as a letdown. But I think that Harry's change of mind regarding Snape was the entire purpose of the epilogue. Yes, yes, Harry married Ginny. Yes, Harry has kids. Sure, Harry's an auror. Sure enough, Ron and Hermione married and have kids of their own. Sure, Teddy survived. Yeah, Bill and Fleur have kids. Yeah, Draco is still around. Yeah, Neville is Professor Longbottom. But revealing the middle name of Ginny and Harry's second child is the key... as far as I am concerned.

Think about it, we don't even know Harry's middle name... do we?

Albus and Severus were the two bravest men Harry ever knew... That's the key to the epilogue. Harry knew they were not perfect men. He accepted they had their faults. But he honored both of them and their ultimate sacrifices to assist him in defeating Voldemort.

Edit:

Anne Lyle, I also found the character of Severus Snape fascinating. I know the series is the "Harry Potter" series, but that's just the perspective that JK Rowling took. She could have easily told the story from the perspectives of Dubledore or Snape. She could have told if from Voldemort's perspective. She could have told it from Arthur or Molly Weasley's perspective. She could have told it from Kingsley Shacklebolt's perspective. Of course, the story from an adult's perspective would change the tone, length, and tempo drastically.

The "Harry Potter" series could easily be subtitled or even retitled "The Fall of Lord Voldemort" or "The Choices of Albus Dumbledore" or maybe most appropriately "The Redemption of Severus Snape." Being in my forties, I find that the story revolves around exactly these themes... Voldemort's reign of terror and subsequent defeat, Dumbledore's strategies, and Snape's lifelong atonement.... much more than I find that the story is about Quidditch, N.E.W.T.s, and Harry's love life.
 
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Cayal

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I totally agree - finding out Snape's story was the main reason I kept reading the HP books. Of course the genius of casting Alan Rickman in the movies helped ;)
Rickman is fantastic. He and the original Dumbledore (forget his name) were perfectly cast imo.
 

Boaz

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PTeppic, Thanks. Now, what else have I misremembered?
 

The Ace

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Snape picked on Harry from day one at Hogwarts, Harry merely reacted to that hatred.

As Snape dies, Harry is about to face a battle that will render him victim or murderer and he has Snape's last explanation to deal with as well.

Rowling skimmed over it because Harry was in no fit state to handle it, at the time.

Yes, Snape is a courageous and tragic figure, he's also loathsome, self-centred and vindictive and has done all he can to make Harry's life a living hell.
 

Boaz

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Snape is definitely not perfect. He's a great character because of his complexity.

We could try and read much into his character. On the one hand, it could be argued that Severus Snape is the most accomplished and mature wizard in the world outside of Dumbledore and Voldemort. Snape is the most adept at occlumens, excepting maybe Dumbledore and Voldemort. He's highly creative... While still in school, Snape invented the Sectum Sempra spell... a spell that would have been included in the three forbidden spells, if anyone actually knew about it. He's very intelligent... He sniffed out Quirrell and he knew Black was sneaking into Hogwart's through a path he learned back in school. He's very brave... He successfully spied on Dumbledore and learned of the prophecy. He successfully turned on Voldemort, did not get caught, and then turned on Voldemort the second time around.

On the other hand, he's very immature. His treatment of Harry went well beyond keeping his distance from the rest of the Order of the Phoenix. He absolutely was childish, vindictive, selfish, and abusive towards Harry, Harry's friends, Sirius, Remus, and Gryffindor.

If it took Harry seven to ten years to get over it and finally honor Snape's courage, then I'd also say that Snape never used the ten to fifteen years to get over James Potter. Maybe that is because Snape's loss of Lily and his loss of prestige when he moved against Voldemort were too intricately tied up with James.

Was it in Snape's nature to be petty, mean, and jealous? Was he just born that way?... to love the Dark Arts?... to constantly bite the hand that feeds him?

Or was he nurtured to be vicdictive and spiteful? Did his lack of a father push him to try and keep Lily as a maternal substitute? Did James and Sirius so completely reinforce his insecurities that he later looked for a father in Voldemort and Dumbledore?

Hmmmmm. I must say that I think that JK Rowling would answer 'no' to both nature and nurture.

Why?

Well, take Harry. Harry's nurturing was from the Dursleys. His story parallels Cinderella's. Abusive step-parents and step sibling. According to nurture, Harry should have been a sniveling lickspittle with a heavy dose of passive-aggressiveness. But, all in all, he was a good boy.

According to nature, Harry had a full dose of Lord Voldemort infused into his very being. He could speak Parseltongue. He had an affinity for Voldemort's wand. The sorting hat told Harry it was all there for the taking. Yet, all in all, Harry was a good boy.

Another example... Tom Marvolo Riddle. His mother died to give him life, like Harry's mother. Tom's father was not a bad guy. Yet Tom became the worst tyrant and murderer in hundreds of years.

I think that nature and nurture are both instrumental in our formation. Yet neither determines us. Rowling is a good storyteller. She's not the greatest writer I've come across, but there were a few themes, a few universal truths, that she brought strong, very strong. I think this is one... We, alone, choose who we will be.

Harry chose to hate Snape. Harry chose to defy many rules and conventions. Yet, Harry also chose to defy Voldemort to his last breath.

Voldemort chose to be decietful, lustful, and murderous. His upbringing did not force this upon him.

Snape chose to become a great wizard. Snape also chose to remain emotionally immature. Snape chose to honor Lily's memory until his dying breath... and he also chose to hate James without remorse until his dying breath.

Just my two cents. I cannot believe how much these children's books have grabbed my attention.
 

Clansman

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Excellent analysis, Boaz. You nailed Snape perfectly, and picked up on one of Rowling's major but less overt themes.

I read them all to my kids (though I should have left off the last couple for a few years, as they were a bit advanced for a 5 and 7 year-old. Rowling is a good story-teller.
 

Boaz

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Clanny, Congratulations on the family! I don't have one of my own, but I read with my niece and nephews.

I told them that they had to be within four years of Harry's age to read that particular book. I wanted them to be somewhat mature enough to understand the issues that Harry and co. were facing. I also wanted them old enough to not be too frightened that they had trouble sleeping.

But alas, at ages nine, eight, and seven, they hear rumors regarding Snape, Dumbledore, Harry, Sirius, etc. So I've told them it's okay to keep reading if they think they can handle it. I'd rather have them get some positive examples of growing up along with all that Disney Channel junk... I'd rather have them nourish a strong desire to read instead of playing DS... I'd rather have them finish the story without the every plot twist being given away by their peers... I'd rather have them reading with gusto and discussing it with me and their parents... At least that's my rationalization for switching my mind.

Also, I did not mean to demean Rowling's writing ability. She is a very good story teller... I was just commenting that I, as a forty year old, was not mesmerized by her use of language in a children's story... which should be normal, I think.

Remaining off topic...

What Rowling does do very well is get my imagination firing. I cannot believe how much she sucked me into these kid's books. I think a major reason is that even though the story is told from Harry's perspective, the story is really about the three subtitles I mentioned above; "Voldemort's rise and fall", "Dumbledore's decisions", and "Snape's atonement."
 

Rebell L

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I was just thinking about the nature and nurture thing after reading The Truth. I kind of have the negative view to a lot of things people praise HP for, for whatever reason. I always felt like Rowling left something out with Harry's backstory, like it was there to make me feel sorry for him, not as something he actively fights against. I never saw any sign of him actually making a choice to be different.

As I said, I read the truth before reading Boaz's comment, and couldn't help thinking of the major theme in Pratchett's book. The main character is in a constant struggle to escape his own nature and the nurture of his father, and the more obvious Otto is a Black Ribboner vampire, giving up everything to fit in. Maybe JK just doesn't interest me as much as others, but her themes don't seem deliberate half the time. That's just me indulging my nature a bit, couldn't help comparing. I think, before I start an argument, that if I didn't like HP I wouldn't care at all.;)

As for Snape, I thought he was the best character, and the most complex. He seemed a lot more natural to me than Dumbledore or Harry. I was very peeved by his last scenes, and think it should have been more involved, whether Harry could cope with it or not.
 

Leadbelly

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I came into the J K Rowling sub-forum with the express intention of explaining my dissatisfaction with the Snape thread and the fact I feel he never obtained the pay off he deserved. But I see I'm not the only one with these feelings.
I agree with everything everyone has written here, I myself would be unable to see to the emotional heart of the problem and explain myself the way I would have liked.
I agree that Harry was in complete emotional turmoil when Snape gave him his memories, at that point in time he still saw Snape as we did, and once he learns the truth, Snape is already dead, and at any rate he's learned he needs to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Anyone, let alone a 17 year old, would ignore Snapes self sacrifice at that particular moment.
But I would have liked to have seen a moment, perhaps when Harry is an adult (but before the scene with Ginny and his children) where he enters the Headmasters office and confronts Snape's portrait, giving Snape the opportunity the explain his treatment of Harry. But also giving Harry a chance to make peace with him. Perhaps this is a childlike answer to the problem but I would have felt honour bound to write such a scene....
 

philyra

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I think that it was really important that Harry and Snape never talked about Snape's past, it just maximised and emphasized the love and goodness within Snape - Not only did he sacrifice his entire life for the sake of a girl who didn't love him back, but he didn't need the recognition, because he wasn't really interested in being a hero, he simply wanted a clean slate and to help tie together the loose ends (convenient).

Never getting thanked for all the self sacrifice and pain he put himself through just makes him all the more heroic and tragic - reading the chapter of Snapes memories made me cry like a baby - what a trooper!

Although I think the idea of him and Harry having a chat via Portrait at a later time could be really interesting, not in the 15 years later but though, because I found that kinda agonizing and frustrating...
 

Boaz

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Maybe Rowling could have written the entire story from a thirty-three year old Harry going through psychotherapy!

Harry: Then the potions master told me...

Doc: Harry, you've got to let that go.

Harry:... that my father...

Doc: Let it go. Our old grudges are what sever us from our future.

Harry: You said his name! I told you not to say his name. The teacher who must not...

Doc: I think the hour's up.
 

summeriris

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I think that it was really important that Harry and Snape never talked about Snape's past, it just maximised and emphasized the love and goodness within Snape - Not only did he sacrifice his entire life for the sake of a girl who didn't love him back, but he didn't need the recognition, because he wasn't really interested in being a hero, he simply wanted a clean slate and to help tie together the loose ends (convenient).

Never getting thanked for all the self sacrifice and pain he put himself through just makes him all the more heroic and tragic - reading the chapter of Snapes memories made me cry like a baby - what a trooper!

Although I think the idea of him and Harry having a chat via Portrait at a later time could be really interesting, not in the 15 years later but though, because I found that kinda agonizing and frustrating...
There was no love and goodness inside Snape. Check out how he treated Neville if you don't believe me. I'm sure threatening to poison a child's beloved pet is an action full of love and goodness. If Snape had wanted Lily to love him a good idea would not to have called her by the worst racial insult in the Wizarding World and to compound it by calling all the other people of her birth that self same insult. Snape got the woman he was obsessed with killed, he then spent his time bullying the children he was supposed to be teaching and especially bullying her son. He did two things that were helpful for Harry. He told Harry that Voldemort had to kill him to be defeated and he killed Dumbledore at Dumbledore's request. Other than that he stole Harry's belongings, (the half letter and half photograph actually beloned to Harry) and let the Carrows run rampant through the school.
 

PTeppic

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There was no love and goodness inside Snape.
I'd tend to largely agree. He was certainly obsessed with Lily but may have felt genuine love. But it was about the only person he ever did love. And it was arguably quite a twisted love at that. He may have ultimately aided Harry but there are dozens of examples where he didn't, just to be spiteful (I'm thinking of putting him in detention so he couldn't play Quidditch, as an example).
 

summeriris

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I'd tend to largely agree. He was certainly obsessed with Lily but may have felt genuine love. But it was about the only person he ever did love. And it was arguably quite a twisted love at that. He may have ultimately aided Harry but there are dozens of examples where he didn't, just to be spiteful (I'm thinking of putting him in detention so he couldn't play Quidditch, as an example).
I always thought the detention cards were an extra twist of the knife.
 
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