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Snape’s no hero

Severus Snape has often been pegged a hero of the Harry Potter series, but is he really the anti-hero Potter needs, or simply a guy who developed a God-complex from having no control in life? I’m thinking the latter.

The Harry Potter series has influenced generations, and its author, J.K Rowling, has been acclaimed a genius. Though, recently, Rowling has been criticized by fans and public figures for her transphobic comments. 

 One of the characters who makes this series so great is potion’s master Severus Snape. He’s also a character that Rowling tries to convince us is a misunderstood “good guy.” Sadly, we never really got much exposition on Snape until The Half Blood Prince, the series’ sixth installment

There is one scene in The Order of the Phoenix, where Potter watches a scene regarding Snape unfold in Albus Dumbledore’s pensieve, but that just makes Potter’s father look like a bully. We also get snippets about Snape’s mother through a Daily Prophet article, when Hermione does research on Harry’s mysterious potions benefactor.

Up until the end of the sixth book, the only character traits Rowling successfully establishes are that Snape is grim, unkind, severely traumatized and in desperate need of a haircut. 

Even with Snape’s revelation to Harry that he is indeed the titular prince, readers are left with a bit of confusion. Is he really the man who’s been secretly helping Dumbledore and Potter? Or is he just glad about having some semblance of control in his life?

We’re not all Snape enthusiasts

When my younger brother first finished the series, he was all over Snape for sacrificing his life for Harry to discover the truth about Dumbledore. I was too, at first. 

My brother said to me, as he finished The Deathly Hallows, that Snape was never taught to love or be a friend by his parents. That really struck a chord. I thought he was right. In the last two books, readers get to see Snape’s life from start (the day he met Lily Evans) to end and we all become privy to the awful trauma Snape suffered at the hands of his parents and the Marauders. Not to mention the manipulation Snape suffered at the hands of Dumbledore. 

Snape was clearly written as a victim. A victim who let his trauma rule his life because of the abuse he suffered. However, the question to ask is, does this make him an anti-hero good guy or does his trauma fuel a God-complex? 

I don’t believe that Snape is a hero in any sense of the word. 

Although many of the things that hurt Snape were far beyond his control, it doesn’t excuse inflicting abuse on others. 

According to Rowling, Snape was the only member of staff at Hogwarts that knew what Dumbledore was planning for Potter. Rowling’s pathetic attempt at a redemption arc – which starts in the first book and is messy at best – doesn’t quite fulfill the anti-hero trope. 

Anti-heroes are meant to be somewhat likable with developing traits that make them more human to a general audience. Snape saves Potter a few times, begrudgingly, but as we learn through The Deathly Hallows, his sudden turn to herodom isn’t because he’s grown as a person, it’s because he always loved Evans, Potter’s mother.

The God-complex

It’s understandable to me that Snape may not enjoy seeing Potter at Hogwarts, since Harry’s father was Snape’s biggest bully throughout his youth. But that doesn’t excuse his treatment of Potter and his friends.

 In fact, I think it rather suggests these are signs that Snape developed something of a God-complex after joining the Death Eaters. 

Prior to this, he had little to no control in his life.

As we see in Potter’s trip through Snape’s memories, Snape was likely suffering mental health issues, exacerbated when he attended Hogwarts. With bullying at school, a crap home-life and constantly being the butt of the Marauders’ jokes, Snape must have felt completely without control. 

Then, Rowling throws control at him when he joins the Death Eaters. Now, Snape is the one doing the hurting (a classic anti-hero arc). 

This isn’t enough to exonerate him. 

Snape spends most of his spotlight chapters near the end of the series complaining about how unfairly he was treated and how badly he wanted to help Evans but couldn’t. 

He never really does anything about these emotions. He simply expects someone else to fix his mistakes. Out of the Death eaters and back at Hogwarts under Dumbledore, Snape’s only form of control over his life is traumatizing students through his authoritative position as head of Slytherin. 

Snape is a whiner at best

Rowling never realizes Snape as an anti-hero because she wrote him as obsessive and whiney. Both traits which, understandably, stem from his traumatic life. However, in my opinion, it only makes Snape seem to be on the stalker-y side of things where Potter’s mom is concerned. 

I’m not saying he was a full-on stalker, but based on characterization, I’m not sure Evans wouldn’t slap a restraining order on him if they’d been muggles. 

Snape was never in control in his life. He had to find that control somehow, destructively, or otherwise.

Snape’s abusive behaviors aside, I don’t believe he deserved what he got in the end. 

The only way for a person like Snape to heal is to give a little kindness to themselves. Snape could have been a great anti-hero if Rowling didn’t write him as a shell of a man stuck in the past. 

I don’t hate Snape. Instead, my heart hurts for him. Maybe that’s where he charms so many others.


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