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Gwen's Spot

28 November 2007

Some (SPOILERY!!!) Thoughts On Severus Snape: In Which Gwen Pontificates

(Yes, I know it's been over a year. Sue me.)

Prompt: I guess Snape's good...but he's still a jerk. I never liked him. I don't get why so many people adore him. I hate Harry, but this man could possibly be worse.

On re-reading, it looks like you're saying Severus Snape might be worse than Harry Potter, not literally "could be worse" than he was. Still, I'm going to riff off of my old reading of what you said.

Yes, he could possibly be worse. He could be the type of man who deliberately knocks an old rival on the head who's suffering from concussion, putting his life in danger--instead of the kind of man who conjures a stretcher for the man who's repeatedly tried to kill him and levitating him on that even though no one's around to see him being kind. He could have been worse--he could have left him for the Dementors, and no one in power would have complained. He probably would have been celebrated, if he'd wanted to be, facing off against a convicted murderer (remember, above and beyond what he already knew about Sirius Black, at this point he had every reason to believe that Sirius Black was guilty of the murder of Peter Pettigrew and seventeen innocent Muggles, plus the betrayal to the Dark Lord of Lily Evans and her husband and--nearly--their infant son) to rescue three children from his clutches and--oops! The Dementors finished him off.

He could be the kind of man who puts students in danger by telling no one when an escaped murderer is on a school campus, instead of the kind of man who risks his credibility, his freedom, and his life to protect children--taking an Unbreakable Vow for one, risking his life again and again for others.

He could be the kind of man who doesn't care what happens to others as a result of his actions, who makes excuses for his behavior like "well, he was trying to take points off of us, he deserved to be stuffed in a Vanishing Cabinet without us even telling anyone what had happened!" or "she ratted us out when we broke school rules, she deserved what she got--even afterwards, when she lost all memory of what had happened!" Instead, he's the kind of man who spends his whole life, risking life and limb and sanity, to make up for a mistake he made when he wasn't even an adult yet.

He could be the kind of man who takes stupid risks because he's bored, who puts other people in danger by his own urge to show off, who doesn't think things through and then wonders afterwards what went wrong, instead of the kind of man who came up with a curse "for enemies" (that to all indications was never actually used)--and then came up with a countercurse, a musical one, because he knew better even as a kid than to create a way to cause pain without a way to heal it.

He could be the kind of man who stands by when evil or cruel things are done, who looks the other way because if he's not doing it, why should he risk himself to stop it? Instead he's the kind of man who reveals himself to be a Death Eater, putting himself at risk of Azkaban or worse, because he felt he had to do something that had even a chance of convincing the Ministry that Lord Voldemort was back.

He could have been the kind of man who could only ever attack someone four-on-one, and who would bully someone because the victim existed, or because he thought the victim was trying for a girl who was "too good for him". But he wasn't.

He could have been the kind of man who would abandon a school to chaos when someone evil or cruel came into power. He could have been the kind of man who retreated into his office, who turned a blind eye to the abuses the students were suffering, instead of doing everything within his power to protect the students.

He could have been a stranger to love. Certainly no one ever showed him any. He could have been the kind of man who finds out someone's weakest point, his love, and manipulates him into doing whatever he wanted. "And what will you do for me in return, Severus?" But he didn't; he loved completely, selflessly, and went on loving a woman who married his rival, a spoiled, reckless bully who thought he was God's gift to women.

He could have been the kind of man who gave up, who agreed with the people who told him his life was worthless. A note and a poison, or a dagger, if he'd wanted to be flashy about it; a potions accident, a mistake in his other work, if he'd wanted it to be quiet. He certainly had the means, motive, and opportunity. Or he could have lived the life of the dead, staying in his rooms, drinking himself into a stupor. Or he could have done less than what was required of him--no night patrols, no paying any more attention to Slytherin than the previous head of house had, no going to dances he knew he'd not enjoy. But instead he got a job and did it, even when dealing day after day with students who hated and mistrusted him, an employer who manipulated him and ignored his concerns (even when they were valid, as they often were), co-workers who hated him, mistrusted him, who had once come this close to killing him and still insisted on putting his and everyone else's life at risk, who were utterly incompetent at doing the job he'd applied for.

He could have been the type of teacher who ignored the students in his care, like Professor Flitwick, or who simply gave up, like Professor Slughorn. Certainly he had more to deal with from his students than any other teacher. Dangerous pranks and tricks like throwing fireworks into a cauldron full of a dangerous-on-contact potion, pilfering from his private stores, cheating of all kinds, melting cauldrons, rude insults. Instead, he tried again and again to get through to difficult students, no matter what they did, how lazy they were, or how incompetent they were. Or how many times they accused him of being in league with the Dark Lord, set his robes on fire, invaded his privacy, refused to do the work even when it meant giving the Dark Lord a free chance to look through their minds, putting him and the rest of the Order in danger. He tried, even when they wouldn't.

He could have said "No". Any number of times, he could have done a little less than his best, could have conveniently not known the proper countercurse, could have not acted on his suspicions of fellow teachers. No one would have known except him. He wasn't getting thanked for making sure the Boy Who Lived continued to; how much easier his life would have been if he hadn't faced his fears and gone out to the Shrieking Shack, the place of his worst nightmares, to deal with a werewolf and an escaped murderer, just for one example. He could have refused to perform the mercy killing, or messed up just enough that he didn't have a chance, considering how tight the timing was. How much easier....He could have been the kind of man who chooses what is easy over what is right. He could have been the kind of protector who had to be convinced, threatened, and argued with to take care of their own children, let alone someone else's.

He could have been the kind of man who lied to make himself look better. He could have been the kind of man who lied to himself to convince himself he wasn't really that bad. Instead, he had the courage--the courage I don't see in any Gryffindor in the books--to see his actions as they really were, and to not make excuses or lies. He had the courage to do what was right, even when it meant blood on his hands, or putting himself at risk for death or worse at the hands of the Dark Lord, or putting himself at risk for death or worse at the hands of the Ministry, or teaching a student how to fight the Dark Lord when at any time his eyes could look out from the student's eyes.

He could have been worse. He could have had the other kind of "courage", the kind which means taunting an insane Death Eater in front of a Death Veil just for fun, or attacking and nearly drowning another kid for fun, or laughing when another student is turned into a ferret and bounced off a wall, or casting curses you don't even know what the effects are on your rival, or going out to a bus station in Animagus form when you're supposed to be in hiding and thus endangering the whole Order, or risking your life and thereby risking the fate of the wizarding world by sneaking around without anyone knowing where you are, or if you've been kidnapped or killed by the Dark Lord and the Death Eaters, because you want to drink butterbeer in Hogsmeade.

That's why I "adore" him. Above and beyond Doylian love for him as a character--he shows moral growth, he has a character arc, he makes hard choices, he has angst!--there's the Watsonian love for him as a person. Call it Good Guy Syndrome. I like Severus Snape, and I mourned for Severus Snape (and I'm in denial about his death...), because he lived a life bereft of love or care or kindness and still managed to be a Good Guy despite it all. (No, the frock coat and the gloves and the silky voice and the snark and so on don't hurt, but I'm perfectly capable of disliking someone with all the same outer trappings if he acts like James Potter.)

As for that [being a jerk]--Sirius Black, sorry to anyone who likes him, was a jerk, and above and beyond that, he tried to hurt and even kill those who disliked, regardless of whether they actually deserved it. He was nice to Harry and his friends, isn't that sweet? Same goes for Ron and Hermione and even, to a certain extent, Harry--they're all good to the people they care about.

But not to anyone else.

Severus Snape, on the other hand, went one step beyond the Malfoys and, oh, nearly anyone on the planet. He was good to the people he didn't care about, to the people he disliked, to the people he just plain detested. If you and I can hate Harry after reading a series of books written nearly entirely from his viewpoint, rationalizations and all, how much more must the man who's had to actually bear the brunt of Harry's immature, nasty, and stupid behavior over the years? Yet he still does what he must, because it is right, no matter how easy the other choice is.

1 Meepage:

Anonymous Amanda meeped...

Yoo-hoo! I think it's particularly important that you blog, now that you're on your own. Hope everything's going well for you - keep me posted!

04 September, 2008  

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