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You don't have to like the character of Severus Snape to recognize that he was on the good side every minute in the books, every time we see him, in every situation. That's the canon, people. That is our given, the thing written in stone. He was not a Death Eater anymore as of 1980 or so when he met Dumbledore on the windy hill and vowed to do "Anything" to save the Potters - all of them. And then he spied on Voldemort and tried his best to no avail because of Peter and Voldemort. The Potters didn't die because of Snape. He was redeemed even then - he wasn't out to kill them, he was trying to save them. Therefore, in hindsight which should be 20-20, he was actually "redeemed Snape" in every scene in every book.

Was he struggling with his life? Sure. Did he say some nasty things now and then? Of course - he's a sinner like the rest of the characters, including Dumbledore. There's really not a single character who doesn't say or do something petty or nasty in the Harry Potter books. Anyone who has ever listened to one of JKR's interviews knows that she has a penchant for sarcasm that is almost unparalleled - the Weasley Twins came from her imagination, and so did Snape. In fact, he might be more like her than she cares to admit. But anyway - try to name one character who is without sarcasm and without flaws of one kind or another? Luna Lovegood comes close, and even Harry comes close. But JKR is a careful writer, and Harry is not an innocent child by the end of the series - he lies when he has to lie, he is brutally honest and sarcastic at times, he fights and kills when he has to, and he gets off on the Cruciatus Curse without ever showing any remorse. In effect, he's no better and no worse than Severus Snape.

Let he who is without snark and curses cast the first stone.

But what I want to talk about here is the way people critique Snape's character as if he is inconsistent and barely hanging on to the Good Side by white knuckles, when really he is the most predictable of characters, never wavering. Some want to play "Oh, Snap!" with his redemptive arc, as if the "player" in the discussion who stacks up a higher deck of negative cards will win the argument. But redemption doesn't work that way, in my opinion, and Snape wasn't a backslider, and he certainly wasn't "Damned." It's unfair to hold him to a higher standard than other characters when he had been through more than most of them and never took any credit for it. Yes it made him Cranky McCrankerson, but that certainly didn't "unredeem" him (and my spell check is telling me that isn't even a word).

It's true that we didn't know his motivation for the first six books and most of the seventh, but the clues were there all along. It's a myth that "everyone was fooled by the author" as some essayists avow. Not "everyone" was fooled, or there wouldn't have been the fierce debate in fandom for several years preceding 2007 when DH was released.

Why else would people have ordered thousands of t-shirts that read "I Trust Severus Snape"?

I could go back to Chamber of Secrets forum and show you post after post written by some brilliant people who had figured out the entire plot of Deathly Hallows long before JKR had finished writing it! No, I'm not talking about myself, because I didn't see everything coming, but others certainly did. And most of them wrote it all again on Harry Potter Network. It's all still there on the internet - look back before 2007.

Or, if you choose to dismiss us as fools and know-nothings, think about this:

There were also several famous readers and writers who guessed that there was a plot afoot between Snape and Dumbledore at the end of Half-Blood Prince.

How about Salman Rushdie, who stood up at Carnegie Hall with his son to ask JKR about Snape?
“Our theory,” said author Salman Rushdie, who rose to speak for us all at a reading Rowling gave in New York last summer, “is that Snape is, in fact, still a good guy.”

How about Orson Scott Card who wrote a lengthy essay called Who is Snape? He missed the mark in many places but was spot-on in others - not like someone who was "completely fooled" by the author.

We have seen Snape's malice and vindictiveness, but what we never see from him is actual evil. When Snape punishes Harry, it is usually for genuine offenses, and if the punishment seems excessive, it is never actually cruel. In case we miss the point, Dolores Umbridge's vicious physical punishment of Harry during detention shows us what a truly evil person might do with a position of absolute power over an annoying child.
My own prediction is that Snape will reveal himself to be as loyal to Dumbledore as Harry Potter himself; in fact, I go farther, and offer the thought that Rowling will have Snape give his life in the process of helping Harry Potter prevail in the final battle. There are several reasons I believe this -- though I suspect one of the major ones is simply that that is how I, as a novelist myself, would use the character of Snape.
So those smart people, famous in the literary world and equals to JKR, also saw Snape's redemptive arc as possible, just as the majority of Snape fans.

But apparently in fandom right now there is a sort of time-turner movement to take the discussion back before 2007 and discuss Snape as if he his redemption was revoked, and as if we never saw any clue that he was a good guy. There's talk of "shades of gray" - don't you hate that phrase? - and "neither good nor bad," as if the books were still in motion and there was never a concluding volume written. That might have worked before 2007, but it doesn't work now. We know Snape was redeemed and never was this "gray" character. Complex, yes. Morally ambiguous, no.

But some people's heads will explode if you write "moral" and "Snape" in the same sentence.

This trend means that any discussion of Snape can easily become a game of "Exploding Snap" (pardon the pun, but it's JKR's pun). Certain angry readers like to pounce on the times he had a sharp tongue, or the times he didn't allow Harry to "do the one thing he wanted to do," as we saw in GoF when Harry wanted to see Dumbledore and Snape wouldn't let him into the Headmaster's Office.

"Oh, Snap!," they scream, sometimes figuratively, more often literally. "See!!! Neener, Neener ~ look how mean he is, look how he treats Harry! Look how he treats Hermione! He's unforgivable! He's Bad. He's Evil. He Sucks! He Should be Keel-Hauled and Drawn and Quartered!!! He's nothing more than a terrorist with a teaching degree!!!"

What they really seem to be saying is that if Snape isn't Mr. Nice Sensitive Guy 24 hours a day then he is suddenly on the verge of losing his redemption. One slip - one "snap" - and that's it - no more chances. It's all or nothing with them.

As one of my anonymous troll critics would say: "Forget that sweet 'Always' crap!"

Indeed, forget the Silver Doe made of light, forget that Snape was Lily's friend as a child, forget that Snape actually taught things to all the children, and concentrate on the negative. Oh, Snap!

It's as if the timeline rocks and rolls like a teeter-totter on whatever random thing Snape says that offends some reader. The "I see no difference" remark about Hermione when her buck teeth are overgrown, which can actually be considered a comparison of how badly Harry had hurt Goyle in the same duel with Malfoy. The treatment of Trevor the Toad, when Snape knew all along that Neville's shrinking solution was correct. Are these truly acts that would negate every other good thing Snape had done in his life, including the request to spare Lily that ended up giving her the choice that protected her son and let him live?

You can't take everything Snape does out of context and label it an "unredeemed" act, as if his whole character changes suddenly on a dime and he becomes possessed by the demon Beelzebub. Yes, he can be malicious, but he can also be quite noble and even kind. We never see him kick around a House Elf, for instance, as some characters did *cough* Sirius Black *cough*. And we see Winky hide behind Snape in fear of Barty Crouch, Jr.

Snape can be chivalrous, as he was to Narcissa, or friendly, as he was with McGonagall when they were colleagues. He can be extremely loyal, really his defining trait, and probably the main feeling he had towards Dumbledore and Harry. But he can also be altruistic, as when he saved Lupin's life in HBP, or when he put Sirius on a stretcher (no head bumping for his old enemy, unlike the way Sirius treated him), or when he saved Katie Bell, a girl who had nothing to do with the Order of the Phoenix or the plans for Harry.

Redemption isn't like an account that can be canceled because you missed a payment, ergo, missed a day of good works or a chance to be a Good Samaritan. But Snape is a fully revealed character by the end of the series - not always good, not always bad. He's a well-rounded complex character. He's a human character. Harry recognizes his humanity, and forgives him because of what he was fundamentally at the core of his being, not for some petty remarks in the classroom that actually caused no one any real harm.

Forgiveness, people ~ that's part of redemption. When you feel remorse, your sins are forgiven! And then your soul heals. It's in the book.

Get the timeline straight, and then it's easy to understand. When we first see Snape in Book One, he has been redeemed for over eleven years. He's been living at working at Hogwarts waiting for one day in the future - the day that Harry comes to school there. And while he certainly grilled the boy harshly on day one, and he was never a likable teacher, that alone cannot "unredeem" him. If you think Snape is a "gray" character, then why not be satisfied that perhaps he was putting on a show for the Slytherins that day, making sure his disguise as a friend to old Death Eaters like Malfoy would work. And remember that Voldemort really did show up that year, and there were reports of his living in other countries. It wasn't all fun and games, even then, and Snape was already on Harry's side, already redeemed. He actually tried to protect Harry that year, if you recall, and saved his life. Definitely a nice thing to do, even if he wasn't Mr. Nice Guy.

Possibly on that first day of Potions Class, Snape was trying to figure out if Harry had inherited all of Lily's good traits, or all of James's bad traits. However, it's just as likely that Snape was an emotional basket case that day and didn't know how to feel, having to look into the eyes of a boy he didn't know, but seeing the eyes of someone he had loved and lost.

Snape was a difficult teacher, that's for sure, and didn't care about winning over his students with friendship. And it seemed that every time he tried to interact with Harry, something interrupted or created a new controversy, so that neither could see the other clearly.

But that's JKR's whole analogy of seeing "through a glass darkly" in her epigraph. The only thing that can really make you see someone clearly is love. Find out what a person loves and you can figure them out - that is one of the main themes of the series.

And that's my final point - Snape wasn't redeemed just by "acts" alone, but by love.

In the quote JKR used at the beginning of Deathly Hallows, William Penn took the image of the dark glass from Paul's letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 1, in which he describes the Greek ideal of  "Agape" or unconditional love for other people. No, it's not about sex, and it's not about stealing someone's wife, or being a creeper, or whatever. It's about the fact that truly redeemed people understand the concept of love and feel it in their hearts. No single character in the book embodies all the traits of Agape, and plenty of them falter along the way or even fail, but several of them try really hard to live up to that ideal, and one of them is Severus Snape.

(I imagine some people are rolling their eyes and gagging at this point, and that's fine - if Biblical references bother you, stop reading now. If you don't believe in love, or emotions embarrass you, or you think Snape was "too mean" or too unworthy to ever know what love really was, that's fine too. Just please understand that I'm just discussing the book as a book, in a literary context, with a literary allusion to the New Testament in DH, which is actually there in the book if you'll check your copy, thanks.)

To me this is the essence of what JKR was trying to say, so I'll just end with a quote. And if you still don't get it after reading this passage, then go and play "Oh Snap!" with your little friends and leave the real discussion of redemption to the grown-ups.

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 12th, 2012 02:13 pm (UTC)
I'm always amazed people consider Snape as possibly NOT redeemed or perchance losing his redemption. He took the prophecy to Voldemort, which was a mistake, but afterwards he joined DD and did everything in his power to see that Lily and her family didn't die, which to me means he is in no way responsible for their deaths.

I still think he blamed himself, though, and Dumbledore offered him a way to work through that guilt, but perhaps this is a potential topic for another blog, or brought up elsewhere, since some readers here are still stuck at point A? (insert nodding smilie here).
Jan. 12th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
I see his feelings of guilt as nearly identical to his remorse. The fact that he could feel guilty, whether he was or not, and the fact that he owned it all those years makes him so different from a sociopath like Voldemort.

So to keep bringing up these petty things that happen in class that the kids never mention again, is to miss the big picture. Neville has DADA class with Snape and they seem to have no problems, and even though Neville was an irritating student, Snape actually pays quite a bit of attention to him - "how do we get through to you" he says at one point. Then he keeps Goyle from choking him in OotP. Then he gives him an easy trip to the forest with Hagrid instead of a trip to the dungeons with the Carrows.

I guess it's all relative compared to what Voldemort puts them through. But even then, Snape isn't just the lesser of two evils because he isn't evil.
Jan. 12th, 2012 02:49 pm (UTC)
Oh, he was certainly no sociopath! Not even close.

I see remorse and guilt differently. Remorse can be healthy, and the person can choose to do lots of good, positive acts to add good in the world and overcome the evil there. Guilt is an ugly emotion which eats away at the soul and makes a person feel miserable and believe they themselves are unredeemable and perhaps even deserve to die.

I think Snape had a beautiful soul, but he felt unearned guilt over what happened, and it ate it him. I was thinking that maybe if he had gotten away from Hogwarts after Lily died, he may have had a better chance to heal, but now i think he wanted a chance to redeem himself even further, and also to protect Harry and perhaps defeat Voldemort. And rather than wanting to move on and build a life for himself (remorse) he would accept death as a further way to atone (guilt).
Jan. 12th, 2012 02:42 pm (UTC)
I am grateful to you because you, and people leaving comments on your posts, showed me how to read Snape outside Dumbledore's office. You showed me the key to Molly Weasley. There were a couple of other things you showed me. This post is unusually clearly written, even for you, with a very strong flow. Well done. Tagging this in "memories."
Jan. 12th, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the huge compliment! *blushes* The words just came flowing out, so I think I was inspired.

(and I fixed some typos but there are probably others, since I wrote it quickly in the early hours of the morning)
Jan. 12th, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
Beautifully written post. I do love that passage of Corinthians.

I understand that people dislike Snape. They are perfectly entitled to hate him if they wish. Each to their own and all that. He was nasty and vindictive and he was flawed. That is what I like most about these books. The characters are not two dimensional. They have positive and negative points.

Snape struggled. He made terrible decisions and probably did terrible things as a Death Eaters. (What he actually participated in remains mysterious considering Bellatrix's comment about him slithering out of action. But anyway I digress.) This is what makes his redemption all the better. In my opinion Snape was a hero. A true hero does not have to be all sugar, spice and all things nice. It's what we do and not what we say that ultimately makes the difference. You don't have to like him. He doesn't have to nice. He watched out for Harry even while being nasty. He clearly regretted the part he played in Lily's death. He set the course of her death. Certainly but he almost succeeded in saving her. If wasn't for the disastrous Secret Keeper decision...
A man of contradiction

I wish we were able to have adult debates about Snape. Unfortunately this often leads in trolling or character bashing on both sides. I really don't get it. Surely any self respecting adult can state their opinion freely without insulting each other. Freedom of speech, people.

Sorry, rant over.

Edited at 2012-01-12 05:43 pm (UTC)
Jan. 12th, 2012 09:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the comment, waddiwasi!

I think the mistake is in believing that Snape's love was somehow tainted and less pure because of his past. But Snape was redeemed at an early age, and while he wasn't happy and didn't have much earthly satisfaction, that's not what love is really about anyway.

Snape wasn't a "clanging gong" going around telling everyone about his love and he wasn't boasting about his exploits in fighting Voldemort. And that makes him more worthy as a hero, in my opinion.
Jan. 14th, 2012 02:37 pm (UTC)
THIS. Thank you for saying this so eloquently.

Someone doesn't like Snape, even loathes him? Fine. I don't have a problem with that. I am happy to discuss the ways I see him differently. But this idea that he, alone of all the fallen members of the Order if the Phoenix, cannot be considered one of the "good guys" of the series, is laughable. There happen to be fallen members of the Order of the Phoenix I loathe too (Mr. Potter, I am looking at YOU, LOL) but when I bother to post about them, it's about their personal flaws and why I do not like them, not about how they hadn't "really" chosen for the right side.
Jan. 15th, 2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
Well, you know my dislike for Sirius Black! But as much as I find him irritating, childish, and uncooperative with Dumbledore, I still believe he wanted to protect Harry. I would never say he wasn't a "real" member of the Order, or that he was "just out for himself." That's twisting canon into a pretzel, in my opinion.

There was a time in fandom when it was possible to discuss Sirius and Snape as two sides of the same coin because their characters are parallels. Snape was Lily's best friend, while Sirius was James's best friend, and therefore their aims were nearly identical. Snape became a DE while Sirius was a rebellious young bully who went to Azkaban. But the biggest similarity is that both of them were not what they appeared to the outside world. Sirius was not really a killer any more than Snape was a real DE. But certain fans want to believe that while Sirius was exonerated, Snape shouldn't have been, and I have a problem with that.

Edited at 2012-01-15 03:09 pm (UTC)
Jan. 18th, 2012 02:41 am (UTC)
Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful.
Jan. 18th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)
Thank you! :)
Jan. 22nd, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
I see you've quoted one guy who is completely jealous of JKR's fame and another guy who's theory on Snape was shut down by the author herself. Those are the people I'd use to show proof of anything regarding HP theories.
Jan. 22nd, 2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
The point wasn't about "proof" but about good readers who knew that Snape was a good character before DH was released. Other writers are usually good readers, and they proved my point quite nicely. I admitted that Card missed the mark with his prediction somewhat, but I can't believe that either he or Rushdie were "jealous of JKR's fame." Really? Maybe all authors are these days to some extent, but that's not why they cared about the character of Snape before DH.

Edited at 2012-01-22 11:44 pm (UTC)
Jan. 24th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
You must not have read ANY of Card's work. I wish I could recall the essay I did read of his that basically said (in not so many words) that he was jealous of the fame and fortune JKR found with Harry Potter. It's well known among the fandom that he is jealous of her. I can't take anything he says with credibility because of this.
Jan. 22nd, 2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
Shades of gray
Honestly, I think your problem with the shades of gray concept comes from misunderstanding of the phrase. You say yourself in this very essay that Snape was "not always good, not always bad". Okay -- THAT'S WHAT THE REST OF US MEAN WHEN WE SAY SHADES OF GRAY. We mean that sometimes he did bad things. That sometimes the mean things he did and said to students were not done for good reasons or misunderstood because he really had good intentions for doing those mean things, but because he was a mean man who did mean things.

I also find it offensive that you would say that Harry got off on using the Cruciatus Curse. That makes him sound like some kind of sexual psychopath. I don't think he got off on doing that, I think it was a simple angry reaction to Carrow spitting at MacGonagall.
Jan. 22nd, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Shades of gray

I make fun of that phrase because it is used so often to say that Snape could never do anything good and to dismiss anything good that he does, and because it has been used to tell the Snape fans that they are always wrong. I have no respect for that view, therefore I make fun of the catchphrase "shades of gray." It's become meaningless since people who love it ignore the lighter shades of gray and say that Snape is a dark evil character.

Harry does enjoy the Cruciatus, and he says in the book that he realized that Bellatrix was right about needing to enjoy the curse in order to make it work. Sorry if the book offends you, but that's the canon.
Jan. 24th, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Shades of gray
"Enjoying" the Cruciatus Curse, "Getting off on" the Cruciatus Curse, and "really meaning it" when you cast the Cruciatus Curse are not all the same thing.

Harry really means it when he is casting the Curse at Carrow because he is coming from a state of righteous anger.

Bellatrix enjoys casting the Cruciatus Curse at people because she is a sadistic psychopath; hurting people is what she enjoys.

"Getting off" on casting the Cruciatus Curse would mean experiencing an orgasmic sexual pleasure from using magic to hurt others. Only a sexually sadistic person would feel this way, and none of the characters in Harry Potter are written as sexual psychopaths. There is, in fact, very little sexuality of any kind the the Harry Potter series. That is what I find offensive: that you are coloring scenes with sexual meaning, when there isn't any there. It doesn't bother me one whit that you would criticise Harry for anything that he did. I don't have that much vested in Harry or any other character, actually. It is the introduction of sexual deviance into a text that lacks any kind of sexuality that bothers me.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:37 am (UTC)
Re: Shades of gray
Really? You are personally offended when someone speaks of a character you admire in a way that makes you think they are saying he is a sexual psychopath? It's a good thing for you that Snape is not a character you admire, then!

But if you at least agree that Snape is as much a dead good guy of the series as any other dead good guy of the series after whom Harry named a kid, you can call him whatever color you like. The problem is that the shades of grey meme is the refuge of people who don't.
Jan. 24th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Shades of gray
Do you get PERSONALLY offended when someone doesn't like the same character as you?
Feb. 17th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Shades of gray
Do you get PERSONALLY offended when someone likes a character you don't?
Jan. 24th, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Shades of gray
Don't try to reason with her. She's one of those delusional Snape fans who think those who don't absolutely worship the guy should all go to hell and leave her alone.
Jun. 5th, 2012 04:50 am (UTC)
reason for snape hate
i can understand why some fans simply hated snape in the end, because they were those who were unable to see the signs and could not accept that they made an error in their judgment. as JKR says herself, it's easier to forgive people who were wrong, than it is to forgive people who were right. so its hard for them to forget people who always trusted snape throughout.

i dont understand however, why is it that JKR herself hate snape. she writes him an a perfect, flawless way (without loopholes, as far as snape goes), and he truly turns out to be undoubtedly good and heroic. but why is it that she still denies it and never gives her own creation the credit he deserves?

you know, what is worrying is that harry potter, snape, everyone in the book are fictional characters, it doesn't matter if people hate them because they're fiction, no one is harmed. but JKR is a real, flesh-and-blood person! why the hell does want to/make herself hated and be perceived as shallow and spiteful?
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )


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