The great debate: is Severus Snape good?


Mackenna Finley

Aside from Dolores Umbridge and Voldemort himself, Harry Potter fans’ favorite character to hate was Severus Snape. But then “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” came along and Snape was redeemed, or was he? It is still a great debate among Harry Potter fans today as to whether they should love or hate Snape and whether he really turned out to be good after all. Here are two different takes on that controversial character, Severs Snape.

YES: Snape is a redeemable character



Severus Snape is definitely a good character by the end of the Harry Potter novels. To many he is considered one of the villains of the series. However, those people must consider all of his actions, not the moments of darkness he has.

When Harry Potter initially meets Snape he immediately takes him for a threat. However, this first interaction is simply an example of Snape’s strict teaching methods and stiff persona. There is very little reason to hate Snape from the beginning. Gryffindors typically accuse him of showing favoritism to the Slytherins, but favoritism is not a crime. Besides, Gryffindors are usually cocky and annoying anyway. Students continuously judge Snape through the first two books just because he is strict and irritated with the annoying Gryffindors. There is no grounding for their accusations.

Later, in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, Snape attempts to kill Sirius Black. This may seem like a pure malicious act, but at its heart it wasn’t. Snape believed that Sirius was the one that betrayed James and Lily Potter to Voldemort resulting in their death. Snape was deeply attached to Lily, as is revealed in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” His attempt at murdering Sirius was revenge for killing his only love. It is later revealed that it was Peter Pettigrew who betrayed the Potters, but Snape had no way of knowing this. Getting revenge for the Potter’s death may still seem wrong, but Harry similarly wanted to kill Pettigrew when he discovered the truth. This scene in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is no cause for believed Snape to be a villain.

In “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” the trio finds out that Snape was a death eater during Voldemort’s time. This once again brings up the question of Snape’s character. However, Voldemort had been dead for thirteen years at this point. That is quite a good amount of time, and anything could have happened during those years. Assuming that Snape did not change in that time is jumping to conclusions. There is no real reason that Snape could not have changed during that time and cannot immediately be considered evil because of his actions thirteen years previous.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” is where Snape’s true allegiance really begins to show. He joins the Order of the Phoenix which is exclusive to Voldemort opposers. Snape could only be good and loyal to join the order. To prove his allegiance even more he alerted the Order when Harry and his friends were in trouble at the Ministry of Magic. Some may consider Snape’s occlumency teaching methods as cruel to Harry, but he was simply making him stronger. If Harry had worked harder at his lessons the whole situation at the Ministry of Magic may not have happened and Sirius would have lived.

Snape’s actions in “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” are the most controversial. Snape’s murder of Dumbledore broke the heart of all readers. This rendered Snape unredeemable in the eyes of most. However, it is revealed in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” that this was a necessary death. Dumbledore was dying anyway, and Snape needed to fake his allegiance to Voldemort. Dumbledore even gave Snape permission to do this. His last words were “Severus, please.” This was not him asking for Snape to spare him; this was Dumbledore asking him to kill him. This defends Snape when it comes to Dumbledore’s death, and considering him a villain because of this makes no sense.

Finally, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” completely redeems Snape. In this book it is revealed the story of Snape and how he was loyal to Dumbledore and Harry all because of Lily Potter. His allegiance is confirmed in this book to the point where there really shouldn’t be a question of his good character anymore.

Snape will always be seen as both a villain and a hero. However, to me he will always be the true hero of the story. Without Snape, the lives of many would have been lost throughout the books. Through a closer look at the actions of Snape throughout the Harry Potter series Snape’s character is confirmed time and time again.



NO: Severus Snape is literal trash


As a child watching Harry Potter I hated Severus Snape. As an adolescent reading the books I believed him to be a misunderstood hero. Now, looking back on the story line with a greater maturity, the only admiration I have for him is in the flawless and complex construction of his character by J.K. Rowling. Snape is not a tragic hero. He is not misunderstood. He is a selfish and deranged man who happens to end up playing for the winning side in the end. He does not care about Harry, and he does not deserve your pity.

In his childhood, Snape fell in love with Lily Evans. He was enthralled by the immensely talented young witch who was kind to him when the rest of the world was cold. However, as Snape grew older his cruelty grew more bold. He started using slurs towards witches and wizards with the same background as Lily. Eventually, Snape offended Lily to a point where she had to remove herself from his life. Snape’s cruelty lost him the only friend who had been with him since the beginning. Losing Lily only intensified his bitterness. He became one of Voldemort’s most trusted death eaters.

A common argument in favor of Severus Snape is in his turning away from Voldemort and becoming a double agent for Dumbledore. However, in order to fully understand this decision, one must look at context and motives. Snape did not plead with Voldemort to save the Potters. He did not find offense in his plan to murder a baby. In fact, he was the one who delivered the Dark Lord the news of the prophecy that Harry Potter should be the one to destroy him. Severus Snape did not for a moment show concern for Harry’s safety. No, Snape wanted Voldemort to spare Lily. He was motivated only by an unhealthy obsession with a married woman he was friends with in high school.

Another important point is that until Lily’s life was at stake, Snape was getting along swimmingly with the other Death Eaters. He participated in their attacks and raids. He had his hand in the torture and murders of wizards and muggles alike. He thrived in the dark place he found to belong. His hands were stained with a blood that cannot simply be washed clean.

Even after Snape left Voldemort and joined the Order of the Phoenix (Dumbledore’s defense against Voldemort and his army) his actions remained questionable at best. Yes, fueled by his “love” for Lily, Snape kept Harry alive. He saw parts of the women he loved in the young boy, and sought to keep him safe at Hogwarts. However, he also saw pieces of the man he hated: James Potter. Snape tortured young Harry Potter for the youthful transgressions of a father he could not even remember. Snape did not have love for Harry. He loved the characteristics of Lily that were survived through him, and with the same intensity, he hated the characteristics of James. He viewed Harry Potter, at the age of only eleven, as less than a human, but instead a contradictory composite of his parents.

Severus Snape was a man of little morals who happened to land on the side of goodness. He did not have love for Harry Potter. He did not have pure intentions or motives. The few redeemable moments he had are a far cry from justifying all the atrocities he brought about.