ABSTRACT: The essay discusses the many flaws of Severus Snape and how the fandom has disregarded these because of his extreme love of Lily Potter. It discusses how his actions were often selfish and childish but also how these many flaws create such a brilliant and interesting character whom we should love for the moral questions he raises not for his obsession with Lily Potter.
While deification as such may be a vast overstatement, the point stands that the fandom has become utterly and blindly obsessed over the years with a man by the name of Severus Snape. If I had a dollar for every Snape and Lily reference on the internet, I would be a very rich woman. But how many people actually look back on the first six and three-quarters books and go wow, if I had Snape for a teacher, I would drop that subject, burn all the books related to it, and never return? Snape as a character demonstrates how brilliantly flawless and magnificent J.K. Rowling is as an author, because Snape himself was completely flawed. As readers, we could completely believe that he was really on Voldemortâs side for the whole series, despite Dumbledoreâs ardent belief in him - because, quite simply, he was not a nice guy. J.K. Rowling managed to fool us again and again into thinking Snape was evil, because to the world, that was the face he presented - and this seems to have been forgotten in the midst of this Snape and Lily obsession.
Snape was a Death Eater. While obviously he changed sides later on, the fact remains that Snape in his younger years believed in Voldemortâs ideals and wanted to advance them. Even Lily points this out - she notes that "[he] canât wait to join You-Know-Who" (DH, p.542). He was friends with both Avery and Mulciber, called everyone of Muggle-birth a Mudblood (aside from Lily - though as we later see, this does change), and described the unnamed piece of dark magic used on Mary Macdonald as, "a laugh" (DH, p.540). Snape, in his crucial teenage years where ideals and beliefs are formed, found that he believed in death, prejudice, and sadism - and it cannot be denied that he rushed to fulfil these ideals as soon as the opportunity arose. If it had not perhaps been for Lily and the threat Lord Voldemort posed to his heart, Snape may never have changed. He may have continued to live a life of servitude to the most evil wizard of all time, and it was only by some twist of fate that he did change sides. If events had played out differently - if Voldemort had chosen Neville instead, for example - then Snape probably would have remained a Death Eater, and this cannot be ignored.
When Snape did eventually convert to Dumbledoreâs side, he did not do it for moral grounds, as Regulus Black did. He did it because the life of the woman he loved - who had rejected him years previously - was threatened. He had no wish to save Harry or James, or even the countless other people dying around him. He converted for purely selfish reasons - and as Dumbledore points out to him, "they can die, as long as [he has] what [he wants]." (DH, p.544). Snape is glorified for his never-ending, unrequited love for Lily Evans, and yet we fail to realise how this blinded him to the sufferings of others, and tainted his love into something selfish and cruel.
While I initally found the scene in Deathly Hallows: Part 2 where Snape cradles Lilyâs body to be deeply moving and symobolic of his complete and utter love for her, despite her rejection - in hindsight, it seemed disrespectful. Lily clearly chose James over Snape. She chose the Head Boy over the Death Eater, and I think Snape should have respected that and moved on. What Snape felt for Lily is something that many of us may have experienced in lesser or equal forms over the years - a love that is unbelievably strong, and yet completely unrequited. While we may have harboured this love within us over the years, and may have been filled with jealousy, eventually we would have moved on. While this is a considerably less romantic ideal then the "always"(DH, p.552) of Snapeâs love, in my mind, it is a healthier option. There are people whose spouses have died, who have worked though their grief and moved on to new love after years have passed - so why is Snape so incapable? Cradling and crying over Lilyâs dead body - and yes I know it is the movie, not the book, but the point still stands - whilst her husband lies dead metres away seems rather disrespectful of Lilyâs life and love choices, if you ask me.
I recognise the fact, however, that Snape devoted the next 15 years of his life into protecting Lilyâs child - yet while he risked life and limb for Harryâs protection, Snape remained thoroughly unpleasant to Harry at every possible opportunity. Snape remained condescending, sarcastic, needlessly cruel, and a completely terrible teacher - and especially so to Harry. Can you imagine the level of parental complaint that would result from Snape teaching this way in a school in the real world? At every possible opportunity, he aimed to make Harryâs life miserable. If he was going to fight against Lord Voldemort because Lily, he was going to make life a living hell for Harry because of James. After 20 years, Snape was unwilling to forget or forgive James Potter for the bullying he suffered at his hand - bullying, might I add, that he himself probably committed through the use of dark arts on a number of less capable students across the school. Was Snape seriously so hypocritical that he was completely incapable of growing up, forgiving James, and not tormenting his son when all the evidence suggests that he conducted similar behaviour towards other students during his schooling years? Did you see Mary Macdonaldâs mother making his life a misery? Snape completely ignored the fact that Harry was raised by a family of muggles who made his life hell, and not by James - and thus Harry is far more likely when he first arrives at Hogwarts to be a boy completely unsure of himself and uncomfortable with fame then one who possesses the same arrogance as his father. Snape, in all his childish anger, was completely incapable of seeing this and thus saw a boy like his bullying father rather than the "engaging child" (DH, p.545) that Harry really is.
JK Rowling creates characters that are flawed. Harry is flawed, Dumbledore is flawed, Sirius is flawed and above all, Snape is flawed. While he did change sides, join the Order of the Phoenix, and die in the fight against Voldemort, Snape is, despite the revelations at the end of Deathly Hallows, very much a character who is neither good nor evil. Instead, he is located firmly in the grey area in between. And I like him that way; I like his snide comments, and the moral enigma that surrounds him. I love how Alan Rickman portrays him so perfectly, in the sarcasm of his comments and how he fooled us again and again and again. I do not love him for how he loved Lily, or for how he treated Harry. I think he is brilliant because his character is so interesting, and not because he is a good person - because villains and good guys are always so stupidly predictable these days, and he is an exception to this rule. Snape is a brilliant character, but he is not a brilliant person - and as a fandom I think we would do well to remember that. May the death threats commence.