Welcome to Muggles and Mocha!
I LOVED talking about the Hogwarts houses with you guys last week. If you haven’t yet, check out that article and let us know which house you belong in.
In the video this week, we focus on… Severus Snape. Guys, I’m conflicted! Let me know what you think about this extremely complex character in the comments below.
In chapter eight, Harry experiences his first-ever week of classes. I distinctly remember this chapter as a kid because I loved learning about all the nuances of Hogwarts. You have moving staircases, ghosts (which we’ll talk about more later), secret passageways behind tapestries… it’s touches like these that make Hogwarts so fascinating. We also get to meet many of the professors as Harry has his first classes with them.
I will say, I’m so sad Professor Binns didn’t make it into the movies! I think the concept of his character is hilarious. And ya know, he’s the one who tells them about the origins of the Chamber of Secrets in the second book! Oh well… Just one of the many casualties of the movies.
Today, though, I want to introduce us to one of the biggest characters in the books, especially when it comes to the lasting effects he left on Harry and the wizarding world in general. He’s grumpy, mean, and apparently doesn’t wash his hair (I’m not sure why this is talked about so many times in the books)—our old friend Severus Snape.
However, we’re also addressing a very important question that I don’t want you to answer now. Dwell on it as we read through the series. Here it is: Is Snape a redeemable character?
Now, this is an intense question with many different answers. Let me explain. We all know there’s the big moment when we discover Snape’s true motivations—his love for Lily. But with all the cards laid out in front of us, does everything we learn about Snape make him truly redeemable in your eyes? And if so, in what ways is he redeemable or not? Honestly, with all the research I did about his character this week, I’m really trying to keep an open mind. I hold a lot of resentment toward Snape for the way he treated Harry throughout the books, but I’m trying to take a step back and analyze him as I re-read.
We won’t be giving our final answers for a looooong time (probably not until the end of the series), but I want you to be open with your thoughts as we read. Your answer may just change throughout the journey!
To start this discussion, let’s break down the first interaction in potions class between Harry and Snape in chapter eight.
Before this class, Harry’s noticed Snape one other time—during the welcome feast. As he looks at him, he gets the feeling Snape doesn’t like him. Not a hard assumption to make—as we learn, Snape’s disdain for Harry isn’t something he cares to hide.
Believe it or not, this brief moment is more important than Harry simply realizing Snape doesn’t like him, even though that in itself is interesting. This first look introduces an idea that’s present throughout the rest of the books regarding Harry’s thoughts about Snape: Harry gets the feeling that Snape isn’t on the good side. As he looks at Snape, his scar hurts for the first time. Now, we know this was actually because of Quirrell (and as a result, Voldemort), but I think this moment sets a tone for the rest of the book series up until Harry learns the truth about Snape.
After this point, even though many people tell him otherwise, Harry doesn’t trust Snape or believe he’s actually working for good; he can’t seem to shake the idea that Snape could be a villain. And honestly, Snape doesn’t do himself any favors when it comes to changing Harry’s mind throughout the books. Their enmity puts a rift between them that lasts until Snape’s death.
This is an important moment that begins with this first venomous look and solidifies during Harry’s first class. Let’s talk about it.
Almost immediately after Harry settles into the dark, damp dungeon for his first potions lesson, Snape begins the lecture by intentionally humiliating him. He mocks him then proceeds to ask him questions that Harry obviously wouldn’t know the answers to at this point. He ends the class by accusing Harry of intentionally not helping another student who failed (poor Neville) and took away Gryffindor house points as a result.
Now… this scene burns me up. We need to break this down and bring it into our world a little, into a situation we can relate to—Harry is an eleven-year-old kid in a new place during the first week of his first school year, and an adult (his teacher) chooses to humiliate him in front of his classmates.
But to accurately analyze this, we need to examine Snape, too. We’re not going to dive into everything—we have to save some for later—but we can look at Snape’s personality. He’s a pretty miserable person who is protecting the son of the enemy who married his true love. It’s obvious he holds some intense resentment about the nature of this responsibility. He’s most likely been dreading Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts, knowing he’ll be faced with the memories of what happened between him, James, Lily, and Voldemort every day. Then he meets him and what does he see? The eyes of the woman he loved, which will constantly remind him of the mistakes he made, the unknowing betrayal, the death… all in the face of James Potter.
We know, too, that Snape isn’t a kind person to most anyone, so this first interaction, though shocking on a real-world level, isn’t too surprising when we get to know him further.
Does dissecting Snape’s mindset give him an excuse for this first abusive interaction? To me, not really. But I like analyzing this man’s character! I think I’m really going to learn a lot as this process goes on.
This initial interaction is only our first step in deciding if and how Snape is redeemable. Something for us to consider—Snape is a complex character. Dare I say, I think he could be the most complex. Putting myself into his thought process has been surprising, tragic, and heartbreaking, and I’m eager to apply that to the rest of the book series. There’s a lot that goes on behind that sallow face, most of which is a torrent of negative emotion.
As we return to this question throughout the books, we’ll focus on the different elements that make Snape who he is and guides his behavior—his time growing up, at Hogwarts, as a Death Eater, and as a secret agent for the Order of the Phoenix. Will it make you sympathetic toward him? If you already hate him, will it make you hate him more? I guess we’ll see as we come back to each of these times of his life and zone in on them individually.
If you want to hear more of what I think about Snape at this point in our journey, please watch the video! I go on many, many rants about it. Consider your position carefully and keep an open mind. I’d love to hear your initial thoughts on this subject, so please post in the comments below. We’ll definitely be coming back to this question a couple of times and will make our final decisions at the end of the books.
Thanks for tuning in to Muggles and Mocha today! As always, it’s so fun to break down the Harry Potter series with you guys.
Make sure to read chapter nine, “The Midnight Duel,” (an exciting one!) in preparation for next week’s release!
Until next time!
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter series.