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Old December 3rd, 2010, 5:44 am
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ccollinsmith  Female.gif ccollinsmith is offline
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Join Date: 24th December 2009
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Re: Severus Snape: Character Analysis Reboot v.3

Thanks, Morgoth for the new thread! And we got through an entire Snape thread without a single closure!

So now we're at what? The "Snape ate my hamster" version?

Anyway, since these are the same questions from the last version of the thread, I thought I'd be lazy (after a long day of bullying my students ) and give some slightly revised versions of the same answers I gave last time:

1. Do you believe that Snape's soul was still intact after he had killed Dumbledore?

Yes. Slughorn’s comment about killing splitting the soul is made in the context of a discussion of murder. Not all killing is murder. Murder involves “malice aforethought.” Dumbledore’s death did not. In actuality, the killing was part of Dumbledore’s Elder Wand strategy imo.

Even if all killing – including killing done in the line of duty during a war - splits the soul, and even if Slughorn’s initial comment about murder should be collapsed into a discussion of killing in general (rather than a discussion of murder specifically), Snape was quite a reluctant killer. He argued with Dumbledore about the task as late as March 1996, and Dumbledore had to plead with him to accomplish it (“Severus, please”) three months later in June. I think we can infer from this that he would have had sufficient remorse to mend his soul even if killing Dumbledore had caused it to split.

Finally, it seems to me that Snape is at his best in his final year. We see none of his former petulance – another factor that indicates to me that his soul was not split. He got the Sword to Harry without so much as an argument. And he protected the students of Hogwarts as best he could under terrible circumstances that he did not control. I believe that he fulfilled his promise to Dumbledore.

2. Do you think Snape would have moved on if Lily had not died? Would he have turned to the good side in that case?

Snape had already turned to the good side before Lily died. He turned to the good side when he offered “anything” to Dumbledore on the windy hilltop. And to some extent, he “moved on” at that point – i.e., to the extent that in offering Dumbledore “anything,” he acknowledged that Lily would never belong to him. I think that in those circumstances, if Lily had not died, yes he would eventually have moved on emotionally and moved on professionally. But that could only take place after the threat to Lily was removed and Voldemort was defeated.

When Lily died, though, he lived a life of guilt and remorse and the perpetual penance of continuing his job of being a protector. The alternative I think (assuming he even survived Lily's death) was to stop caring about anything, and possibly relapse into the dark arts. Dumbledore’s prodding, however, helped him stop wishing for his own death and gave him new purpose in the wake of Lily’s death.

I do believe that to a large extent he “moved on” from Lily after Dumbledore revealed that a piece of Voldemort’s soul lived in Harry. Up to that point, he was protecting Harry for Lily’s sake. After that, the mission changed, and he was charged with doing something that he could not do for Lily’s sake. He did it anyway, and I believe he did it because he realized that it was the right thing to do.

At any rate, I guess for me question is not whether or not he would have turned to the good side if Lily had not died but whether he would have done so if she had never been threatened. I think he might have turned to the good side after suffering disillusionment on the dark path... and it's not hard to suffer disillusionment when you're in Voldemort's circle. Just ask the Malfoys! Anyway, it's pretty hard to tell what exactly he would have done had Lily never been threatened. But I applaud him for what he did do once she was.

3. How do the revelations of DH impact your view of Snape's treatment of Harry and Neville throughout the series?

Well, the revelations in DH were not a big surprise to me because (like lots of other fans) I anticipated them. For me, the biggest revelations were in GoF, OotP, and HBP. Consequently, the revelations in DH didn’t really have much impact on how I viewed Snape’s treatment of Harry and Neville during the series.

I have never liked his treatment of Harry and Neville, but I do think that some of it (though clearly not all, imo) was due to a need to present a credible story to Voldemort – whether from second hand reports or from being Legilimensed – when the Dark Lord returned.

I also think that part of his treatment of Neville stemmed from just outright frustration. Despite Neville's being a sweet kid who demonstrates later in the series that he totally rocks , I do think that he initially possessed some pretty intense learning disabilities (or an anxiety disorder) that rendered him incapable of functioning at level in most of his classes. Most professors, in my experience as a professor, don't do well with students who can't function in their class. I actually find it very strange that Snape seems to be the only professor on staff who experiences so much frustration with Neville. But I guess that's why they call it fiction!

4. What do you think about Snape's relationship with Dumbledore? Did they become friends or was Dumbledore a substitute father figure for him?

I think they were friendly. I don’t think they were close enough that Dumbledore would reveal his deepest personal secrets to him, but then, I don’t think Dumbledore revealed those secrets to anybody – Elphias Doge and Minerva McGonnagall included. But to the extent that Dumbledore, with all his secrets, was capable of having a friend, yes, I think they were friends. I think Snape clearly looked up to Dumbledore. And I do think Dumbledore became something of a surrogate father figure to this young man who never had much in the way of a father.

So I’d say it was a bit of both – friend and father. But I think it also went beyond that. I think Snape was Dumbledore’s protégé, and Dumbledore was Snape’s mentor. People wonder where a lot of Snape’s more unique skills come from. I think the most sensible explanation is that Dumbledore taught him what he needed to know to be successful in his mission. And speaking of the mission, I think that another dimension of their relationship is that they were collaborators, and colleagues.

Dumbledore was clearly in the superior position. He was Snape’s elder, his boss, his spymaster, and his general. But I think the two forged a strong bond.

5. Do you agree with the author's take on Snape's character as revealed in interviews?

It depends on which version of JKR’s take on Snape’s character we’re talking about!

But basically, sure if JKR tells me that the initial inspiration for Snape’s character was a chemistry teacher she hated in High School, I believe her. That’s an objective statement about character origins. If she tells me that he’s the only Death Eater who could cast a Patronus, sure I believe her. That’s an objective statement about the mechanisms of her story.

Where I have trouble is when she starts passing subjective judgments on her characters. If after reading the text, I arrive at the completely subjective judgment that Snape is a “deeply horrible person,” that’s my prerogative. But it is equally another reader’s prerogative to arrive at a completely different subjective judgment – particularly of a character so nuanced and deeply complex as Snape is.

So basically, I resist having an author (any author!) dictate the audience’s experience of the text and the audience’s experience of the characters. It is the audience’s job, I believe, to have whatever experience they are going to have, based upon the text itself. So I just don’t give much thought to JKR’s subjective opinions of her characters. Those opinions are based on her life experience and her way of looking at the world, not my life experience or my way of looking at the world.

6. Which elements do you think make Snape the most controversial character of the series?

Snape has a dark past, and he is not very nice, particularly to students from Gryffindor. For readers who equate goodness with niceness, that creates a big problem. Other readers see a deep goodness beneath the harsh exterior. These conflicting views of the character create controversy. Overall, I think JKR did a great job of painting a complex character who does not look like a hero but who is a hero, however flawed he may be. The disjunction between those flaws and his heroism is, I think, at the crux of the controversy.

Additionally, some readers have indicated that they were disappointed that Snape was not the villain they wanted him to be. Other readers foresaw (or were happy about) the DH revelations of his loyalties. This disjunction again creates controversy - largely about whether or not JKR made mistakes in drawing his character.

Finally, I think a lot of readers are unhappy that Snape gets so much fan attention when this is Harry Potter's story. Personally, I think Harry's and Snape's stories are inextricably intertwined and that the reason Snape gets so much attention is that he's just so well written (I think) from start to finish, and to many HP fans he is just an endlessly fascinating character. Not to mention that Harry gives him so much attention!

At any rate, I think there as many facets to the controversy as there are to Snape himself!

7. If you had to summarize Snape's character to someone who had never read the books what would you tell them?

I’d say he was a complex and deeply flawed hero with a dark past and a tragic life story who ultimately overcame his flaws and his dark past and made a major contribution to the defeat of Voldemort.

Oh, and btw, everything I just wrote is in reference to Book!Snape.


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