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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Character Break-Down: A Defense of Snape

Beautiful fanart

It's taking me a long time to wrap my head around what exactly I want to say about Snape because I have so many feelings! I feel like he's one of the best characters ever, and I really adore him, but I know there are those people who still have reservations about him. So I have decided to dedicate a post to defend some of the things I've heard said against Snape since the end of The Deathly Hallows.

How you feel about Snape is usually based on whether or not you think he is a good person so it becomes an argument of action vs intent. One of the main complaints I've heard about Snape is that, even though he ended up willingly putting himself in danger on a daily basis in order to help save the world, in his core he is a selfish character. While I won't say that is wrong, I will have to say that I don't think that makes him a bad person and many things he did later on in his life out-weigh this flaw.
So overall it's stuff like this:
  • He wanted Lily to be like him
  • He was awful to Lily
  • If he loved her then why did he hurt Lily's friends and her sister?
  • He doesn't belong with Lily
  • Snape is mean to Harry
  • He takes out his hatred for James on Harry
  • Snape is selfish
My issue with all of these things is that most of them don't take into consideration what has happened to Snape, how he was raised, and basically what his life was like. Not to make excuses for him, but let's just think about the evolution of Snape. He had a terrible home-life as a child. His parents fought all the time and his father was critical and hateful. He couldn't wait to get out of the house so he didn't have to be around them anymore (DH 667). This was a child that was not brought up being loved or tended to properly. He had shabby clothes, he wasn't well put together because his parents didn't give him the attention he needed. I think one of the most heart-breaking passages that Jo writes, in my opinion, is where she describes James in comparison to Snape:
"...slight, black-haired like Snape, but with that indefinable air of having been well-cared for, even adored, that Snape so conspicuously lacked" (DH 671).
This child didn't know what it felt like to be loved, and therefore never learned how to do it the right way. Did he love Lily selfishly, yes, but he didn't know any other way to do it. Not to mention, kids at this age and throughout high school are always selfish. I don't see that as being something to really hold against Snape's character to the end.

In fact, I don't think he even realized how flawed he was in love until he raced to Dumbledore to ask for him to protect Lily from Voldemort. When he revealed to DD that he asked Voldy to spare Lily when going after the child, DD said "You disgust me... they can die, as long as you have what you want?" (DH 677). I don't think Snape had ever thought of this before, that it's more important to let her have her happiness without him, than for him to have his happiness in expense of hers. It is here that I believe for the first time Snape understands true love and makes an active decision to be selfless towards Lily, aware that even if she survives he won't have her, but that's ok. Her life and happiness is more important. "Hide them all, then... keep her -them- safe. Please" (DH 678).

Some will argue that Harry had the same loveless upbringing and he didn't turn out like Snape. However, Harry inheritted thousands of galleons and when he came into the wizarding world he was well-known and popular at school and made friends easily. Plus he had the Weasleys and a ton of other mentors that took him and loved him, took an interest in him, and guided him (not saying Harry would have turned out badly without them but he did have them). I am not saying Harry’s life was easy; we all know is sucked, but Snape didn’t have any of these things. He was poor, he remained poor, and unloved. He was not popular and hardly anyone liked him. Not to mention, Harry had abilities that allowed him to join sports while Snape didn’t, which again, helped Harry gain popularity where it did not help Snape. Honestly, you can’t pretend Harry and Snape’s paths were exactly alike. They were not. (In the end, I would say the reason Harry turned out so well was because he is so much Lily. Lily always seemed to know right from wrong and followed it as best she could.)

So let's travel back to Snape's school days. Did he hope that Lily would end up in Slytherin? Yes, of course he did. But I think his desperation and intensity towards her came from fear of losing her to the Marauders, to his arch enemies, and not really from the houses that separated them. Also, I think it's unfair to say that Snape actively chose evil as a student. First of all, he was much too young to have truly formed a complete view of politics and ideologies. From his experience and his perception of the hateful world around him he felt his friends in Slytherin were the right way to go. He was bullied by the so-called "brave and courageous" Gryffindors, who ganged up on him over and over. To him, they were the bad guys. Children who are bullied usually fall in with the wrong crowd because they seek acceptance, and in Snape's group of friends he felt accepted, he felt like a part of something, and finally he didn't feel helpless. What his friends did to others was certainly no worse than what the Marauders did to him, in his eyes. And didn't Lily hang around the Marauders (stated as Snape would have reasoned)?  He wasn't choosing evil, he was choosing what he felt was anti-all the things that brought him pain.

(And can we just take one second and remember that Dumbledore made really stupid plans when he was a young kid, almost exactly like Snape, but then made a complete 180? I don't usually understand how the same people who rake Snape across the coals for this part of his life can praise Dumbledore like these two characters didn't share this motif in their youth.)

If he wanted to persuade Lily that his side was the right side, that it was at least no worse than what her fellow Gryffindors did to him on the daily, I see no fault in that. The error in judgment of choosing his friends was obviously in his naivety and bitterness and thirst for acceptance. It was not that this was just a bad kid. Plus, what's wrong with him trying to get Lily to see his side, when she also tried to change his perception to her own? They're really doing the same thing, the difference is just that we know how it turns out, that Snape was on the wrong side at first.
The true issue I think people have is when Snape uses phrases like "I won't let you-" when speaking to Lily. This controlling, desperate side of Snape emerges when he feels most threatened to lose her. The characters that make him feel the most like that are Petunia, Sirius, and James which is why he lashes out at them (not to mention they all treat him like excrement). When Petunia is taunting Snape and a branch falls on her (DH 668), I don't think he meant to do it to her. I think, like Harry at that young age, he couldn't contain his anger. Just like later on, after years of enduring James and Sirius, he lashes out in the middle of them TORTURING HIM and causes the breaking point in his and Lily's relationship (OotP 643-648).

We all know he wishes he could take that moment back, and yet it happened because he couldn't contain all the pain, embarrassment, and anger. (Just a side note, I just re-read "Snape's Worst Memory" and it is 100 times worse than I remember it. James and Sirius must have used 7 hexes against him, including one that had him choking on soap. And he didn't even have his wand! Just AWFUL.) I think that moment is Snape's worst memory because he allowed the people he hated most, the people he worried would take Lily from him, to bait him into ending his relationship with her himself. I also think this is where most of his self-loathing comes from. I do not think these things mean he was awful to Lily as much as he was just misunderstood and completely misplaced his anger.
Which leads us to the argument that "Snape does not belong with Lily." Do I think they should have ended up together? Well if they had, Harry Potter would never have existed. So there's a hard NO right there. Do I wish there was a way? In my heart of hearts, yes, because I wish Snape could have been happy. I mean he deserves it; he had such a miserable life. But seriously, my argument is not about me thinking they should end up together, because I don't. I do, however, think there was much more of a chance of it happening than many realize.

One of the justifications of James' hatred for Severus is that Severus was into the Dark Arts, claiming their relationship mirrored the relationship between Harry and Malfoy. This is just a crap argument because we see first hand in the Pensieve, in book 5, James' and Sirius' atrocious actions (And it wasn't a biased interpretation of that scene. It was exactly what happened. The pensieve doesn't show biased perceptions. It shows exactly what happened, which is why it's so reliable and why DD uses it. And if it had been tampered with, we'd notice because it would be warped like Slughorn's memory in book 6). Harry never would grab Ron and seek out Malfoy to bully and humiliate him in front of an entire group of people. In fact, it's absolutely the other way around, making Snape the Harry figure in this scenario. The only times Harry and Ron ever seek out Malfoy are times when they wanted to confront him on something they believed he had done wrong, not for a sick ego trip. So, no, the Dark Arts were NOT why James and Sirius went after Snape, time after time.
"How come she married him?" Harry asked miserably. "She hated him!"
"Nah, she didn't," said Sirius.
"She started going out with him in seventh year," said Lupin.
"Once James had deflated his head a bit," said Sirius.
"And stopped hexing people just for the fun of it," said Lupin.
"Even Snape?" said Harry.
"Well," said Lupin slowly, "Snape was a special case for James" (Ootp 591).
James picked out Snape, not just because James was an egotistical prick, but also because James Potter felt threatened by Severus Snape. Severus was a very close friend with Lily, the girl James fancied. He wanted to make Severus look weak and stupid in comparison to himself, so he humiliated him and cut him down, hexed him and tried to show him up. There are moments in "The Prince's Tale" that I am sure I can breathe more relevance into than actually exists there when it comes to finding textual evidence to support Lily having feelings for Snape (such as "The intensity of his gaze made her blush" [DH 674]), but nothing makes me feel there was something between Lily and Snape more than this fact: James was afraid there was something there. 
And so their rivalry continued. Snape could never shake the hatred for the person that not only treated him worse than garbage but also stole the love of his life from him. And honestly, if someone treated me like James treated Snape, I would hate them forever, too. There would be no way I would ever be able to see through what James had done to me and understand that he may have grown up, changed, and was no longer the person who choked me with subs and hung me upside down with my underwear exposed. I would never be able to not associate him with the pain and anger of losing the one person on Earth I ever really loved. This was Snape's reality.

Therefore, when a newly spawned version of James walks into Hogwarts, it's no surprise that Snape reacts negatively towards him. Harry looks just like Snape's old nemesis, and he does break the rules like James, leading Snape to believe he is just like his father. And of course, Snape projects a lot of his own anger onto Harry. It's not fair of him to do that, but Harry doesn't usually make it easier on Snape, either. Yet despite their differences Snape continuously protects Harry. He was bitter and destroyed; Harry was like all his regrets, his mistakes, and the memory of the woman he lost to his greatest enemy personified. There was so much conflict within Snape every time he interacted with Harry, and yet he risked his life every single day to keep doing it.
The argument I will never understand is the one that state's Snape is selfish because he only helped Harry because he loved Lily, that it wasn't a sacrifice because he did it for selfish reasons (seriously wtf). Maybe I could understand this logic if he only did it so he could get back with Lily, but Lily is DEAD. There is no pay off for Snape. NONE. Not even the knowledge that one day everyone will know what a great sacrifice he made when it's all said and done, because the only man who KNEW he was a double agent, putting his life on the line every day, had to be killed. BY HIM (which can we take a moment and talk about what an enormously loyal person you would have to be to agree to kill your friend at their request? I mean COME ON).

There was no pay off. So someone explain to me how that makes Snape a selfish being in what he actively chose to do everyday for Harry and for the fight against Voldemort. Did he always do it with a cheery smile on his face? No, but I think we've established through what I've written that it was never in the cards for Snape to be a happy, cheerful, or loving teacher. He did what he had to do fiercely and methodically, every day suffering through the pain and regret Harry and Voldemort reminded him of. He wasn't always the nicest person, but no where does it say you have to be a ball of sunshine to also be a sacrificial and selfless person.
Which brings me to my final theory and thought. Throughout six books Snape and Harry are thrown together and have to deal with each other nearly every day. Snape sees Harry as James constantly. However, I believe in the 7th book (this is after the fan-favorite "Always" moment), having not seen Harry in the halls of Hogwarts every day, getting some space from the constant reminder of James, and only hearing about Harry's actions through Phineas Nigellus, Snape begins to realize that Harry is more like Lily. I believe in that last year of being away from him, he softens towards Harry. Does he grow to love him, I don't know. I don't think so. But I really think Snape forms some positive feelings for Harry. Since Snape has such a low opinion of James, for him to believe Harry will do what he has to do (knowing full well that Harry will be told to sacrifice himself), Snape has to believe Harry has more of his mother in him than of his father, in the end. Snape is bitter, wounded, and stubborn, but when he got the distance he needed from Harry to see the good things about him, I think Snape did.

I don't know if I achieved what I wanted to achieve with this post, turning any Snape haters out there to Snape lovers, but hopefully I made it easier to understand and sympathize with his character. Either way, I think this is at least true about my entry:


  1. Beyond Snape- I think she did a really good job over the course of the books to explain why there is a place for Slytherin at Hogwarts. How it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round, and what qualities redeem them all. Maybe not a few /specific/ people, but that personality-type, in general. :)

  2. Snape is a character I love to hate. He is multi-dimensional and fascinating, and I agree with this entire post. It's pretty sound logic if you ask me. The major problem I always had with Snape was the fact that he too, was a bully. He picked on 11-year-olds. In the beginning of the series, Harry was a little timid, shy, and perfectly willing to be taught. But Snape treats him exactly like how James treated Snape in school. I feel that essentially Snape shaped Harry into the cynical wise-ass he later became. We don't get anything from James' point of view in the series, so we don't know how he really viewed Snape. Maybe Snape had a hand in shaping James' personality too. Snape clearly isn't a victim to pity, he is an extraordinary wizard and a much-more-than-capable fighter. I doubt he would have just let James and Sirius walk all over him, and would have had plenty of spells to use in his defense (or offense). Don't forget, Levicorpus and Sectumsempra were both written by Snape.

    Anyway my point is that in my eyes Snape's greatest offense was treating a bunch of children the way he had been treated in school. He used his power as a teacher to make the lives of his students a nightmare. Just look at the way he treated poor Neville - he knew Neville feared him more than anything, and used that to torment the poor boy. He even bullied Hermione, who was a willing student who always respected him. Also, why wasn't he a horror to Malfoy? Malfoy is basically just James in Slytherin form. You'd think Snape would be able to look past the physical and notice the similar personality traits. The favoritism towards Malfoy, a rich boy with a loving family, and the hatred towards Harry, an unloved and abused boy more similar to Snape than anyone, has always just bothered me.

    Honestly, I think Snape is a fantastic character. Probably one of the best ever written. But I just hate him so, so much.

    1. Hey, not sure if you'll read this after six years, but I thought this comment was so strange to me because the issue i have with Snape are the very same ones that you have just listed, yet i do like him. I think that this is for two slight differences:

      1) Neville, Snape is horrible to Neville without a doubt, however I think it must be considered that
      - Potions is a dangerous subject, and Neville nearly kills everyone every lesson. He probably thought it better that Neville feared him so much that he did well, rather than killing everyone in the classroom. Furthermore I can also see why a student who gives you a heart attack every lesson might be your least favourite member of the class.
      - Snape is an unpleasant person who values his own intelligence highly. He is a potions MASTER and yet he is forced to teach potions to a bungling student who he sees as undeserving.
      - Harry Potter Wikia states,"It is possible Snape hated Neville so much because if Voldemort had chosen to go after him rather than Harry, Lily would still be alive."

      2) Nice to snakey racists:
      - He's undercover, Dumbledore and Snape both acknowledge that Voldermort is coming back, Snape needs to keep his cover and appear to favour the pureblooded racists.
      - Their father's are Snapes school friends, they are his housemates, Snape isn't about to lose the few allies he has on this earth by picking on the likes of Draco Malfoy
      - Their fathers are powerful and rich, again Snape is a poor halfblood, he requires these connections. Furthermore people like Lucius are on the board of Governors, I'd wager other Slytherin's parents are too, I know kids in my school who get away with things because their parents are on the board.
      - Children such as the likes of Draco are basically mini spies, feeding back to their death eater daddies about what 'The Spy' is up to. Draco's childish cry of "my father will hear about this" has become a mockable meme, but really it would have been a serious threat considering that his father was a known mass murder, member of a terrorist organisation and had paid off the entire wizarding justice system. One wrong move in the Potions Class room and Snape finds his life on the line at the next deatheater meeting
      - Head of Slytherin, maybe he just wants to win the house cup, I mean he is pretty proud, or maybe he actually wants to show a group of stereotyped individuals that someone is fighting their corner? Yes we all know the trope "Yes all the bad guys are in Slytherin, but not all Slytherins are bad guys" well it is true. I mean I hated that bit in the film DH pt2 when McGonagall was like 'escort slytherin house to the dungeon' or thereabouts. That wasn't in the book I don't think, it's simply that that is the general opinion of where Slytherin house belong. I mean they're KIDS, and you're making out like they're all black to the bone, I mean even Draco was redeemable when push came to shove so let's not blacklist a quarter of the population thanks. (I'm a Gryffindor btw, so this comes from my misguided heart rather than deep rooted bias) I'm getting off track, but my point is that Snape's own issues in childhood stem slightly from the fact that the teachers favoured and believed the marauders over Snape. Why? I mean why would a poor, unpopular, halfblood of any level of intelligence (let alone a sly, intelligent slytherin), pick a fight with the most popular boys in school? Any teacher worth their salt would know that he didn't, but they believed the Marauders because they were Gryffindors, they were more likeable etc... Snape is going to want to make sure that for once Slytherins have a voice (slughorn didn't count, he favoured the talented and rich) even if that means showing open bias to them and openly hating on the other houses. In the end, one teacher openly fighting for slytherin whilst the other discreetly hate on it evens itself out in the end.

  3. Kate,

    Dude, I JUST read the chapter where Sirius and James gang up on Snape and they COMPLETELY ambush him, take his wand, and torture him. And it was for fun. And it wasn't a biased interpretation of that scene. It was exactly what happened. The pensieve doesn't show biased perceptions. It shows exactly what happened. Not to mention that Lily even describes how James is in that memory and it's just like how Snape had always described him. Just because James' didn't get to tell his "side" of the story doesn't mean that it was different from what JK showed us. Also, just because Snape made up curses, doesn't mean he's a bully. I would have some curses ready too if a group of 4 dudes ganged up on me on a regular basis.

    As for Snape and Harry being similar, yes, but Harry inherited thousands of galleons and when he came into the wizarding word he was well-known and popular at school and made friends easily. Plus he had the Weasleys and a ton of other mentors that took him and loved him, took and interest in him, and guided him (not saying Harry would have turned out badly without them but he did have them). I am not saying Harry’s life was easy, God, we all know is sucked ass, but Snape didn’t have any of these things. He was poor, he remained poor, and unloved. He was not popular and hardly anyone liked him. Not to mention, Harry had abilities that allowed him to join sports, while Snape didn’t which again helped Harry gain popularity and did not help Snape. Do I think Snape would have ever saved James, not in that same situation, but he did ask Dumbledore that protect him for Lily once he was confronted with his own selfishness. But honestly, you can’t pretend Harry and Snape’s paths were exactly alike. They were not.

    In the end I would say the reason Harry turned out so well was because he is so much Lily. Lily always seemed to know right from wrong and followed it as best she could.

    Like I said, he did project his own feelings onto Harry, which I also stated was wrong. I never defended it, rather explained why he reacted this way. But also, Harry didn’t try hard to stay out of Snape’s bad graces. Also, I think you are overlooking the fact that through some of the detentions and harsh lessons Snape was toughening Harry up to face The Dark Lord. No one knew more about what it meant to be up against him than Snape did, and I feel a lot of what he did was to prepare Harry.

    Also, here is an argument. If James loved Lily… then why wasn’t it important to him to not torture and humiliate her best friend?

    I think you’re wrong about him never learning how to love. But we’ve discussed this as far as we can, so we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  4. Guh I love this. I really appreciate you bringing Snape's more human characteristics to the forefront. I think JKR leaves a lot up to her readers to form their own opinions of Snape, but I think you really summed up what I, at least, felt toward his character. I agree he shouldn't be held responsible for his naive actions in his youth. And even in real life, kids with troubled childhoods always end up effed up. But I love that Snape was eventually a strong enough character to make the ultimate sacrifice for good. Flawed, but probably the most "human" of any of Rowling's characters.

  5. Yes flawed but still good! Thanks Matt!

  6. Snape is one of the most complex characters in literature, and I think you've got him nailed! Awesome post!

  7. "Maybe I could understand this logic if he only did it so he could get back with Lily, but Lily is DEAD. There is no pay off for Snape. NONE."

    Indeed. Contrary to what seems to be a popular opinion, Snape is probably one of the most respec...table people in literature, and one all should emulate. As you say, he protects Harry for NO OTHER REASON then he knows it's the right thing to do. He knows Harry must to be protected, and insists on doing so, despite his thorough hatred for any male labeled "Potter".

  8. Two things.

    1) This post makes me want to re-read the entire series hardcore.

    2) I agree completely with your analysis. As Matt pointed out, a lot of what J.K. Rowloing is doing here is creating a character so emotionally complex that readers can't help but form their own strong opinions on him. In many ways, he is a far more interesting character than Harry. While harry is definitely a great lead to anchor the story, he's also a very static character, and largely reactionary. Which isn't a bad thing. But Snape is a character who, in his adult life, takes action, even if a lot of it has to be done behind the scenes. As you pointed out, there's no payoff for him. He doesn't swoop in to save the day dramatically and heroically every time Harry is knee-deep in shit. He quietly protects Harry from behind the scenes, and nudges him along in the right direction without ever making himself known.

    The complexities and heart-breaking arc of this wonderful character do, however, make me all the more upset that he's gotten the shaft in the films. The producers' mantra for ten years has been "Stick with Harry". But in a lot of ways, that has been at the detriment of really fleshing out other wonderful characters, especially Snape, who, as we've pretty much concluded, was the key figure to the story all along. For that reason alone (as well as wasting Alan Rickman's god given talents), I can never truly give the films a pass. We'll see how his story plays out in the final film, but I fear for a stunted emotional impact in the big reveal.

    But enough of that. That's a different discussion for a different day. Wonderful job Audree! I really loved reading this!

  9. So...I didn't read all the comments and there's a good chance I'll be repeating, but here are my thoughts on Snape.

    First off, if you haven't read the books and are just a movie fan of this series...YOU ARE MISSING OUT. I just rewatched all the movies with my brother and found myself explaining a myriad of things to him and how he's ever going to understand the complexities of Snape's character by just seeing the last film is beyond me.

    Second: Snape is what I like to throw in the faces of those that think HP is "low literature." After reading the last 200 pages of DH the very first time I was so in awe. I cannot remember a time when I've ever felt like that. My whole world...my whole method of thinking about the novels had changed. I almost thought I had been reading the book wrong. And that is the mark of not only a good author, but a highly complex and interesting character.

    Third: It's Snape's flaws that MAKE him dynamic. If he had felt some sort of idealized love for Lily we'd have the Twilight series all over again. And I know no one here wants that. Snape didn't go about his feelings for Lily in the "right" way, but neither did Ron and Hermione throughout the series. As Audree said, Snape, James, etc...they were all teenagers! I don't want them to be perfect. James was horrible to Snape merely because he was jealous and in the end, I think Snape became the bigger person by agreeing to change his ways and protect Lily's son. Would James have done the same thing if the roles were reversed? I highly doubt it.

    Fourth: Snape wasn't "nice" to Harry. Well, Harry wasn't all that pleasant to Snape either. By the time Harry came prancing through the doors of Hogwarts, Snape really had come a long way from his former self....let's give him some credit. To take some wise words from my favorite literary father, Atticus Finch: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. ..." And I think it's unfair to judge Snape's reaction to Harry and his treatment of Harry without fully understanding his feelings/background.

    Ok, I'm done. :) Great post, Audree. I wish we had a book club to discuss it all in person!

  10. Great use of the word "myriad" Mere!

    And THANKS YOU! This: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. ..." is EXACTLY why I wrote this post.

    I also never thought of it being switched, if James would have watched over Harry had he been Snape and Lily's child. OMG MIND EFF.

  11. LOVE this! Snape is absolutely my favorite character in the HP series! Flawed characters are just so much more interesting!

  12. I randomly bumped into this blog over the internets, and I have to say I'm super impressed with your analysis, and COMPLETELY AGREE!! Snape is my favorite character and I'm so happy to see such an elegant defense of him.

    And I also agree that if it had been switched, I HIGHLY doubt that James would have done the same thing for Snape. In the end I think Harry recognized Snape for being more like himself, and thus giving the honor of naming his child after him. Think of it, Harry had a similar horrible unloved childhood - and even though his acceptance into the wizarding world was loving and made him popular, it doesn't erase what happened to him for the first 11 years of his life. That stuff still happened, and he could recognize that part of unhappiness in Snape's own childhood. Anyway. Thanks for the lovely read!!

  13. This was really well thought out and said. Thank you for putting some light on the subject.

  14. Complexities and flaws: Makings of a great character. I agree with everything you wrote. :)

  15. Hey! You have a great blog :) Sorry about my shitty english, but I just felt in need of saying that your Snape analysis in amazing, I agree with every word you said. Honestly, it's the best thing I've ever read about Snape.

  16. Really great post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    I think I would only add one thing to bolster your argument against Snape haters.

    As you mentioned, it's childish to expect every "good" person to be a bubbly little ray of sunshine; being nice is swell and all, but it's usually assholes who get things done - especially when the stakes are high and there's no room for bitching out on your commitments...My point is this: Snape sat next to Voldemort (and the rest of the death eaters for that matter), knowing full well that if he was discovered (which is to say, if he made one mistake, one miscalculation - Harry charging into the Ministry in book five comes to mind - one hesitation, etc.) he would not only be killed, by merciless tortured to the full extent of Voldemort's depraved imagination. How would it look if Death Eaters knew that he'd spent all his time at Hogwarts bouncing around, smiling like an idiot, being as accomodating as possible to all the children of Order Members? Ridiculous. He'd have been dead by the end of book one. Of course he picked on Harry (Voldemort's nemesis), Ron (Order members' son), Neville (Belletrix's favorite little kid), and Hermione (Mudblood), and gave advantages to Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle - they're all death eaters' kids.

    Remember: Snape's greatest talent is his intelligence and attention to detail. Without crossing every T Andy dotting every I, he would have failed. He is, presumably, the only person to ever successfully decieve Voldmort. No small task. It certainly wouldn't have been achieved without every single person, save Dumbledore, believing he was a double agent on Voldemort's side. At any time, someone could have been tortured, had their mind read, or murdered. He couldn't take any chances. He was the key to everything. He couldn't sit around being worried that he might have hurt Harry's feelings.

    Anyway, that's my two cents. Definitely a badass.

  17. YES! All of what you said.

    Now, to make that point without acknowledging that he enjoyed being an asshole to Harry isn't completely fair to the other side's argument, but BASICALLY I totally agree with you. He may have actually enjoyed that part of his job, being an ass, but he also HAD to do it to play the part convincingly.

    All the awards.

  18. I don't know if anyone mentioned it before, but what if Snape was just so mean to Neville because he could have been the chosen one?
    If Voldemort chose to see Neville as the chosen one, Harry's family would have survived and Neville would have been the one with a scar.
    Still Lily and James would've stayed together, but Lily would be alive.

  19. This is the best essay on Snape I have ever read. And I have read a LOT of them.

  20. This is the best essay on Snape I have ever read. And I have read a LOT of them.

  21. I think this is a great commentary! I agree that he was an asshole to the children he taught most of the time (even if it was a vital part of the whole double agent job as mentioned in some of the comments), but I don't understand how people can say that the way he treated the children and how he was treated are exactly the same. I'm not making excuses, because he shouldn't treat them that way regardless, but the difference is that any child who is treated horribly by Snape has the support of everyone around them, so it probably won't affect them too badly in the long term. If you have the support of all your classmates then of course it might knock your self-esteem and pride, but in the long term it's only going to build your bravery and nerve. I doubt Neville would have been able to stand up to Voldemort if he hadn't of been able to sit in Snape's classes first. Also, these children, whilst they are being insulted and demeaned, they are not being insulted and demeaned constantly, and by most of their peers, and they're not being hexed into doing this or that in the same way that Snape was. It's not excuse, but the situations aren't the same.

    Anyway, despite the few positives, he was still horrible to them of course. But like you said, it's hardly surprising, when he's probably got a number of unresolved and untreated mental conditions such as PTSD, and he's practically being forced to work in the place where he was abused for years, and having to teach children who remind him of his traumatic childhood. Again, it's not excuses, but it's unsurprising that such a man with such unresolved issues would get very angry with and insult a number of these children. He should've tried to be kinder and try and resolve these issues and seek help (not sure whether they have wizarding therapists or not), but as you mentioned in the comments, he probably had reasons of his own (whether right or wrong), and Dumbledore certainly didn't step in either.

  22. hey there! love this post haha you must be surprised people are still stumbling across it in 2013 (almost 2014!) Well said. I hated Snape in the beginning but I can't imagine how anyone can blame him or whatever after knowing his past and his miserable, miserable life. In fact I think the two characters in the series with the saddest, most painful lives are, ironically: Snape and Sirius.

    I think the worst thing in life is to be "wrongfully accused" of something. Sirius had to suffer for a crime he never committed AND suffer the hatred of his ex-colleagues, best friend, and godson!!! Then he had only like 2 years of happiness before he got killed off. But at least you could say, Sirius had a happy school life, enjoyed friendship at its purest and popularity and admiration among his peers.

    Snape on the other hand, obviously didn't have any popularity whatsoever, and his only true friend was Lily (which can even be debatable, really, when I think about how harshly she cut him from his life, abandoning him to Death Eater crooks. Would a true friend have given up?). Like Sirius, Snape also had a pretty horrible family situation (though I doubt Sirius's parents ever beat him or neglected him, not before his sorting, anyway). Like Sirius, Snape also had a God-awful adulthood. I honestly can't say which is worse, Azkaban or seventeen years of double-agent at Voldemort's side. Not only did Snape risk his life everyday, but all the "good" and "righteous" people around him believed him to be this horrible, disgusting traitor! Only Dumbledore knew the truth and Snape had to be the one to kill him! That's just so unfair. I think the last year of Snape's life was just - gah - absolute torture, the loneliness he had to endure with the whole school hating him, even McGonagall. If it was me I'd go crazy but you know, Snape puts up with it because he's used to people hating him and he doesn't ever expect anything better. That's just... so sad.

    Of course, I haven't mentioned until now the biggest heartache of Snape's existence: Lily.

    I think a lot of people who don't like Snape assert that his love for Lily is unhealthy and warped. He idealizes Lily and is so infatuated it's close to obsession. But, well, what about James? People can call James's dogged pursuit of Lily when she's clearly not interested "cute" but call Snape's eternal one-sided love "creepy." We'll never know what Lily actually felt for Snape, most likely it was always just platonic, and I also don't know if they would've been compatible together at all (depends on how far you take the "opposite attract" trope), and who knows? Maybe Snape did put Lily on a pedestal and never truly knew her. But it doesn't matter, because his love and devotion to her is a big essence of his character. I don't think anyone else in the series has loved anyone romantically that much. And it's a love without sex, without anything adult about it. Love born out of a lonely child's grasp onto the best joy of his life.

  23. I loved this so much. I've been waiting for someone to defend Snape...
    I agree entirely with this entire post. Whilst Snape shouldn't have bullied his 11 year old students, it's easy to understand why he did...He didn't really know any other way to treat them. Snape was angry and lonely and had lost the only person who cared for him truly.
    I loved this!

  24. I have to say I love Severus Snape he is one of my fav HP character's. I thought he was a good character since reading book 3 when he protected the three children and I believe he had to call Lilly 'mudblood' in order to throw readers off the sent I also knew in book 6 that Dumbledoor was asking Snape to kill him as Dumbledoor would never beg for his life. I like James and Serious but they were truly horrid to him without motive they bullied him consistently. But Snape protected Harry from day one.

  25. Thank you for this essay! Coming at it from the perspective of an adult, I used to volunteer at my son's school. Gryffindors are known for their bravery, yeah? Well, "bravery" at ages 11, 12, 13 looks a hell of a lot like idiocy. I wanted to put my foot up the ass of every kid in his class who was described as a "leader" because they were, to a person, arrogant, would not listen, and refused to follow rules put in place to protect them. And I was only with the class for two hours every week. Do I sympathize with Snape's treatment of a bunch of unschooled, arrogant first-years? Oh hell yeah.

  26. Dear Eliza, I cannot tell you how much I have wanted to find such an accurate defense on Snape until I found yours. You simply said everything that was on my mind about this beautiful character. I am so happy that I could find such an in detail defense on this man starting with the beginning and trying to resolve the puzzle of his life actions and emotions.
    We learn from early age that his mother, who had been in Slytherin during her school years, never took care of him, never showed him what was good and what was evil. I am not saying that all Slytherin mothers do not teach their children right, but Snape’s mom did not. This boy was so neglected that he found refuge in her old books, instead of her arms. This is why at the age of eleven, he was so advanced in magic.
    Because of their status, poverty and social marginalization, Snape lacked social skills, encountered issues when expressing his own feelings and had no quality friends, beside Lily. Maybe if he would have told Lily about his feelings towards her, everything would have been different. As a child who does not have emotional support from his family or relatives, he gets very insecure, vulnerable, dependent and desperate to be a part of something bigger, protective, and impressive. Therefore, the only group he finds strength, support, appreciation and acceptance from is the future Death Eaters’. Imagine what would have happened if Snape had the Weasley family or a godfather like Sirius (the adult, not the teenager) around? Would have he ever turned so bitter after all?
    As he grows older, I think he sees himself inferior to James, without realizing that what Lily is looking for in a friend (or even more, if we want to speculate….and why shouldn’t we?) is exactly the opposite of teenager James. Due to this inferiority, I think Snape wants to impress her, wants her to see him worthy of her. But unfortunately, he chooses the wrong path. If he had chosen the right path, would he ever have had a relationship with Lily? We never know, nor can we be sure they were suited for each other. As a Severus Snape fan more than a Harry Potter fan, I must say that I would have preferred them together. I totally think they would have had a chance together; and it is not only me saying that, it is the author herself. On the other hand, James wouldn’t have felt so afraid of their friendship if there was nothing. Overall, I think Lily took the right decision in leaving Snape behind as she gave him many opportunities for him to rethink about his actions.
    There are two moments in Snape’s life when he has to choose: either good or evil, either her friendship or DE’s fellowship, either love or power. In the first place, he chooses power, like Dumbledore, which brings him sadness and remorse. The second time though he chooses LOVE, which brings him redemption and forgiveness. As long as Harry Potter forgave him, I do not see any reason why Lily wouldn’t.

  27. I totally agree with you Eliza when you say that Snape realized how much he loved her only when he went to Dumbledore for help. How can somebody say that he was selfish when he actually agreed to do ANYTHING so that Lily stays alive along with her husband and son? You sell yourself out (even if it’s for the good cause) without getting anything in return! Is this selfishness? Moreover after Lily’s death, he had no legal obligation, maybe moral obligation, in trying to keep Harry Potter safe. He chooses to protect her son, even though it is painful for him to watch him because all of his misery is revived: Harry’s resemblance to his father, Harry’s same personality as his father’s (in Snape’s eyes, which I almost disagree with him), his worst memories and mistakes which are being brought to life. Because he has this debt to Lily, he knows this is the only way he could respect her love and her being.
    Was he cruel? Yes, he was. Was he bitter because he felt so or because he was a double agent? In my opinion, both are correct. He was hurt; there was no joy for him left than Lily’s memory. Does this excuse his attitude towards pupils? Not really, but we need to remember he had to play a convincing part.
    When it comes to his soul, many say that he is a murderer while he was a DE, but again how come he asks Dumbledore what would happen to his soul if he killed him? Therefore, following a logical thinking, he never killed anybody else because he never participated in any raids (with the exception of the 7 Potters raid), as he was just a spy for Voldemort. When somebody commits murder, the soul gets harmed? What about Molly’s soul then?
    I so much love this character with all his flaws and his unconditional love! He is the reason I watch/ read Harry Potter. He always amazes me and makes me cry of his sad sorrow. He is like every human being who desperately needed love, attention, appreciation and understanding. How can somebody ask from him to be fair and lovely when his life was unfair?

  28. Wow -- thank you for this post. I just finished four months of reading aloud the entire HP series with my ten-year-old son, and we appreciated the way Rowling crafted the character of Snape. I have been brooding about this for a couple of days. How can I be so drawn to, and at the same time, repulsed by this man? Why are my sympathies aroused along with my righteous anger? This analysis you've written is one I came upon when I started searching online for others' views on Snape. It is a treasure. Thanks!

  29. Very nice analysis.

    I love Severus Snape. it hasn't always good behavior, but he tried to change. he faced his mistakes, even if it's not brilliantly. I think in Volume 6 and 7, he understood many things, but he has not had time to implement them. I think he deserved to have a chance to apply them. Especially in Love, Lily did not like him, it tells us that Lily had started smiling at the humiliation aboard the lake. this isn't the behavior of a lover. In "prince tale" DH and we realize that lily prefers to believe Gryffindor in the history of the Shrieking Shack than Severus, her best friends.
    Lily had a crush on James pretty quickly, but as he had unhealthy behavior, she wouldn't do to him pleasures. I prefer relationship between albus and Severus. Albus has used him at first, but I am convinced that with time they learned to appreciate and respect. albus asked severus to kill and I think Albus will not have chosen anyone. it is an alliance between the most Slytherin of Gryffindor with the most Gryffindor of Slytherin.

  30. Brilliant analysis.
    Snape is my favourite character, and even though he was absolutely horrible to Harry and favoured Draco,even though Draco was pretty much James, it was probably a smart decision in the long run. How would he have convinced Voldemort that he was still on the dark side, if he had been nice to the very child who killed his 'master'? And if he mistreated Draco in any way, then Lucius would not have hesitated to throw him under the bus, resulting in his death, and therefore, Voldemort's survival