Saturday, March 7, 2015

Keep Calm and Don't Hate Snape

Last week, was in short, very enlightening. Besides getting to know about the addictive merits of Google Plus (which happened when our college Wi-Fi decided Twitter was also non-academic and blocked it as well) I was deeply embroiled in a word-clash of sorts. Someone had randomly posted something about how Snape was overrated and I (almost carelessly) made a short-and-sweet list of the things Snape had done and then a little while later someone challenged my comment. I decided to ignore it out of the requisite social-network politeness when (s)he asked if I was ignoring it because I couldn’t defend myself. Now I couldn’t let that pass by, could I? I decided to do some research on Snape-hate and then swore colourfully when I realized that I was na├»ve to think people would accept Snape as a hero.

Then I randomly detained people in the hallways and demanded to know if they thought Snape was a hero or not. The answers fell in both categories with a few undecided. I felt like it was my moral obligation to Snape’s memory to bring a balance in the opinion of The Half-Blood Prince, at least on the Internet and hence this post.

So Snape-haters are asking us to please, please stop calling S a tragic hero because that’s not what he is, since:
  1. Snape did not love Lily. Please recognize the difference between Love and Obsession.
  2. Which non-Slytherin was left un-tortured? Look at Neville, the poor boy’s boggart in third year was S – even when he had parents turned insane by Bella, a grandmother who regularly send him howlers, and a school to look down on him.
  3. And hello, the Queen herself has said that Snape isn’t a hero, so just deal with it.

I shall proceed to deal with these arguments serially.

First, that Snape didn’t love Lily - that it was the sort of relationship that should repulse anyone level-headed to be not carried away by the lure of unrequited love and all that shit. I must applaud you cynics, if you have truly come up with a method to quantify love to decide that when there are no obvious symptoms (like stalking or complusive jealousy bordering on aggression); something even psychologists have failed to do. There is a whole lot of Tumblr marching to the tune of Snape-hate – a notable one being about how his patronus was a doe (Obsession scores!) while James’ was a stag which was a complement of Lily’s. Now, I don’t know what canon has to say about this but this is another way it could be interpreted. The books don’t specify if Snape’s patronus had forever been a doe or if that happened only when he lost her. We also know from Tonks’ story that when she thought that she couldn’t have Remus, hers became that of a wolf.

Why else do I think it was love and not some sick affliction? Because love has the power to transcend spite and even death. I hope everyone will do me the honour of agreeing with me when I say that Snape has protected Harry – from mortal harm, that is. Granted, he was absolutely despicable when it came to having an entire conversation without wounding Harry in some way. But let’s refer back to the Prince’s Tale, wherein we realized that the Marauders weren’t all as glamorous as we’d thought them. Remus admits that even when James had stopped picking on other kids, he didn’t stop with Snape. So that makes it seven years’ worth of public degradation. Maybe the most Christian of you out there wouldn’t do it, but most humans would find it extremely hard to accept your nightmare’s child, especially when he looks so damnably like him. And you definitely wouldn’t pledge to keep saving his ass. Which is what Snape did, because he owes it to his love for Lily. Obsessed Snape would have done something to hurt Lily when she started going out with James, Snape in love suffers through it. (Because on some level, he knows she's too good for him?) Obsessed Snape would have killed himself on hearing the news that the sole purpose of his existence was no more. Snape in love weathers the storm inside. Obsessed Snape would have killed Harry – after all he was the reason why Lily was dead. Snape in love decides to give Harry shit – the spawn of the bully, instead of the alternative and vows to look after Harry – the child of the woman he loved.

Please note: I also came across the sentiment that Lily should have chosen Snape instead of James. The fact that Snape was in bad company and that their personalities diverged as they grew up, is indisputable. Lily was a smart woman and she chose to listen to sense. Plus, oh boy, James did love her – I ship them wholeheartedly.

Now I will say this. Severus Snape was a horrible person. Without doubt. Books One through Six present us with numerous examples to support this statement. He made everyone feel like shit. He made no attempts to hide favouritism between students, openly shamed Hermione for being a good student, made a target out of Neville, and went to extreme lengths to expose Lupin. No doubt he was the boggart of many students. But can we please refer to the Prince’s Tale again? Here, we learn that Snape could have had an abused childhood, at the hands of his father. Then when he’d thought he had earned salvation in the form of the Hogwarts acceptance letter; the one place where he thought he would fit in, the Marauders ruined that plan for him. Extremely. And many of us know at least second hand, how bullying in one’s life during his formative years changes him. Then he went and got himself get caught up with the Dark Arts, because he found acceptance in that circle.

So what good does knowing all this do? I recently saw a Tumblr post that said “Tragic backstories explain bad deeds but do not excuse them.” Couldn’t be truer. But, it helps us empathize with the character. It shows that the so-called villain wasn’t just the sum of his choices, but also the result of the human psyche being pushed over the edge when the going gets tough. Instead of turning in on himself, he lashed outwards, hurting innocent bystanders in the process.

Please note: The above also happens to be my reason as to why I consider Luke Castellan (from the Percy Jackson series) a hero as well.

I will not deny that that video of JKR saying that she doesn’t consider Snape a hero did not astound me. It threw me off balance and made me wonder what’s actually going on inside that woman’s awesome head. But then I mulled over it and I finally decided that maybe, she doesn’t consider him a conventional hero. You know the sort – the holier-than-thou kind that beheads the tyrant and holds up the bloody sword and just when everyone’s thinking that they have been saved, he gets stabbed from the behind. Or the girl he loves is killed. That’s not a tragic hero, that’s a hero who’s met a tragic end.
Google again kindly donned on the knight’s armour as it taught me that there are different kinds of heroes. Since this post is already an epic in terms of blog post units, I will not delve into a thesis about how Snape satisfies the Aristotelian classification of a tragic hero and you can personally decide it for yourself by sifting through the Internet yourself. But even in obscure terms, I will proclaim Snape a hero – on the grounds that heroism isn’t the white against the black; it’s shades of grey. All that bravery earns a lot of brownie points. I also feel that sometimes we can’t accept a person who, for ten years, we’ve established as someone to be burned at the stake when we’re suddenly confronted with his back story. And then we try to rationalize that hate. Heroism will always mean differently to different people, and I guess whether Severus Snape was a hero or not will always be a controversial ground.

Whatever. I didn't even know I felt so strongly about you up until now.

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