Logic dictates that if the evidence shows something is not in set A and not in set B then it is in a set by itself. What does this logical argument tell us about the character of Severus Snape? It seems quite widely believed that we must put him in one camp or the other in the battle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. I argue this is not necessarily the case. Some suggest a rogue Snape who is unsure of his loyalties and simply trying to survive. Though this is a possible theory, I agree with those who say it is unsatisfying for Snape to be simply blowing in the winds of change. It appears to me that Snape has a very clear plan and is staying on course toward carrying it out. But this does not mean his plan, so clear to him, is obvious to us. In order for him to be truly on Dumbledore’s side in this fight he must be motivated by good and Dumbledore must have approved the course of action that resulted in his death. In my essay below I will demonstrate that these two factors are very unlikely.
Before I begin, I will list the assumptions that underlie my analysis. This is to establish a basic framework of the Harry Potter universe that, in my opinion, has been followed by Jo Rowling throughout the series. I should mention that these are not a direct reflection of my personal beliefs, but instead they are born out of my interpretation of canon; they are: Love is required to destroy Lord Voldemort.2,3 Dumbledore’s belief that there are “worse things than death” is a reference to the loss of one’s soul.4 Performing a killing curse damages your soul.5 Staying true to the generally accepted tenets of morality is an important theme of the Harry Potter series and has been exemplified in Harry’s actions throughout the books. By making “love” Dumbledore’s interpretation of the prophecy Jo Rowling is saying: Evil can only be defeated through acts of love and to attempt to defeat evil with an act of evil simply serves to create more evil.
These moral sentiments are also evidenced through Lord Voldemort’s failure to kill Harry because of acts of love, Harry’s ability to gain advantage over Voldemort from doing the right thing, and from Harry’s use of Voldemort’s offensive moves against him. Examples: Voldemort’s Avada Kedavra curse rebounded to start the series and provided magical protection in Harry’s blood (both from Lily’s sacrifice), Harry wanted to get the Sorcerer’s Stone without using it, he was concerned for Ginny’s life (and all those attacked in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), he destroyed Riddle’s diary with Lord Voldemort’s own basilisk’s tooth, he decided not to kill Wormtail in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he told Cedric about the dragons in the first task in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he showed “moral fiber” in the second task of Goblet of Fire when he released all the remaining hostages, the Priori Incantatem defeated Voldemort because of the murders he had committed with his wand, the use of Harry’s blood in Voldemort’s resurrection will probably be important to his demise somehow, Vodemort destroyed his chance of hearing the prophecy by tricking Harry into going to the ministry, and Voldemort could not posses Harry because of the strength of Harry’s love. I am demonstrating that, although it is logical to assume Harry could use some adult help in his mission to destroy Voldemort, it is not borne out in canon that Dumbledore felt Snape was essential to helping him. In fact, in looking at all the evidence it seems clear that Harry will use love and Voldemort’s own offensive maneuvers against him again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; from Dumbledore’s viewpoint, Harry’s past success, the prophecy, and his complete soul give Harry a major advantage over Voldemort.
A Brief Character Analysis of Severus Snape
I feel Jo Rowling will tie the series together in a neat package that carries her theme of “love defeats evil” through to the end in every aspect of the plot. As such, the idea that Harry needs Snape to defeat Lord Voldemort assumes that Snape possesses the ability to fight evil through acts of good. On first consideration this seems reasonable: he saved Harry’s and Dumbledore’s lives, he tried to catch both Quirrell and Sirius, he prevents Umbridge from using Veritaserum on Harry, he reports Harry’s Ministry of Magic rescue attempt, and he offers to protect Draco with his life. The problem is perspective; we never see Snape’s inner thoughts, even in Spinner’s End, and cannot know his motivations. It seems clear from these types of examples of his behavior that he is working to defeat Lord Voldemort.6,7 While I am sure that he wishes to bring down the Dark Lord, I am not sure if he will be able to assist Harry in doing so. This is based on Jo Rowling’s moral theme and my assessment of Snape’s immoral behavior.
Initially I had considered Snape to be amoral, like Lord Voldemort. We know Lord Voldemort is amoral because of this statement spoken by Quirrell (actually Quirrellmort): “There is no good or evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it.” 8 Amorality simply means that one does not acknowledge good and evil and/or the existence of universal moral tenets; so what of Snape? I am now convinced that he does understand when he is doing something wrong, but he often ignores this moral voice and does the wrong thing anyway. To support this statement Snape needs to have demonstrated both a failure to act morally and anguish over this failure.
Though we never know what he really thinks, there are clues to how he views the world in his behavior and the things he says. In the words of Sirius Black, “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” 9 This can be applied to Snape and we see that he treats the students in a “deeply horrible” 10 way and is a “very sadistic teacher” 11 throughout the series. Behavior like this indicates he does not make morally appropriate decisions.
If we assume that Snape’s thoughts about others are a reflection of how he views the world, then we can also reach several conclusions from how he views Harry. First, he accuses Harry of being “arrogant” 12,13 on more than one occasion; he calls him “lazy and sloppy;” 14 and accuses him of wanting to “feel special—important.” 15 Quotes like these are very revealing; since we can see inside Harry’s mind, we know Snape is completely wrong about Harry; that Harry is motivated nearly entirely by concern for the welfare of others. In his assessment of Harry, Snape is showing two things: an inability to acknowledge selfless actions and a strong desire for self-importance. This desire for self-importance is shown in the quote, “because you are neither special nor important, and it is not up to you to find out what the Dark Lord is saying to his Death Eaters.” 16 Snape is making it clear that it is his job to report on Voldemort and this is obviously very important to him.
Another quote I found particularly insightful is this one in which Snape speaks to Harry during Occlumency lessons:
“You have no subtlety, Potter.” Said Snape, his dark eyes glittering. “You do not understand fine distinctions. It is one of the shortcomings that makes you such a lamentable potion-maker.” 17
His comment about subtlety indicates that he sees clearly the shades of gray that can make an issue complex. Most people would tend to agree that subtlety is a strength, but I argue that Harry’s “lack of subtlety” is what makes it easy for him to make quick judgments about right and wrong. Where most people would hesitate to throw themselves into harm’s way when it is unclear how they can help, the task seems impossible, and/or there is uncertainty as to their need to assist – Harry charges forward without question. For Snape, good and evil are muddled in subtle distinctions, but for Harry there is no lesser evil to be chosen, there is only doing what is right.
Here is another very important quote from lessons in Occlumency:
Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked this easily—weak people, in other words—they stand no chance against [Voldemort’s] powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!18
What I take from this quote is that, in the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Voldemort cannot possess Harry because of the fact that he “wallows” in the sad memory of Sirius’ loss. In other words, Snape does not understand that it is Harry’s ability to “wear his heart on his sleeve” that protects his mind from possession by Voldemort. In short, Occlumency was unnecessary because Harry’s mind is naturally shielded from Voldemort through love.
Though Harry’s failure to see subtlety and his strong emotions for others are viewed as weaknesses by Snape, they actually turn out to be strengths when fighting Voldemort. Though it is Harry who is being criticized, it is actually Snape who is deficient. Deficient in the sense that he has difficulty seeing a clean distinction between right and wrong and that he forcefully suppresses any tendency within himself to feel love.
As I considered this interesting perpendicular between Harry and Snape (as opposed to parallel), I realized that the two men have many connections of opposites. While Harry wears his heart on his sleeve, Snape is closed. Harry has many friends, Snape is solitary. Harry feels love, Snape hate. Harry lives in Gryffindor Tower, Snape in a dungeon. Harry is viewed as very brave, Snape is perceived by some as a coward. Harry is forgiving, Snape is vengeful. Harry trusts freely, Snape is distrustful. Harry breaks small rules but has a strong moral compass, Snape expects small rules to be obeyed but his compass seems to point East.
This last point bears more discussion. Throughout the series Snape has treated Harry poorly time and time again, yet Harry has chosen to accept this abuse and not to report it to Dumbledore or try to get Snape fired. Harry only reported Snape’s behavior when he felt it was against the greater good. On the other hand, Snape tries time and again to catch Harry breaking school rules and reports him when he does, but for the entire series Snape fails to acknowledge or appreciate all the service Harry has done to preserve the greater good. Another time this difference in morality is clear is in Prisoner of Azkaban when Snape decides to take matters into his own hands by bringing Sirius Black to the dementors without consulting the Ministry of Magic, but Harry decides to have justice given to Wormtail through legal channels. Again, these examples show the two characters on opposite sides of the moral spectrum: Not good verses evil, but moral versus immoral.
So if Snape is so immoral, why has he done some good things? Good actions such as saving Harry’s life in Sorcerer’s Stone and saving Dumbledore’s life before the start of Half-Blood Prince could be motivated by either kindness or by his possible need for their help in defeating Voldemort. From a logical standpoint, Snape knows Harry might be “the Chosen One”; that alone is reason enough to protect him. Further, Dumbledore was very powerful; Snape could have been motivated to save him simply because he was useful in fighting Voldemort. Catching Quirrell or Sirius would have made Snape “special” and “important.” Also, any other action Snape took that fought Voldemort can be explained as meaning that he is against Voldemort – it tells us nothing about his morality.
We know that Dumbledore was very intelligent and that he was completely convinced that Snape was working for him, but chose to keep the reason to himself. This suggests the reason is both personal and ironclad. Dumbledore said to Fudge in Goblet of Fire, “If you are against [Lord Voldemort], then we remain, Cornelius, on the same side.” 19 Actually, this is a logical fallacy because it assumes there are only two sides, but two sides are not a logical requirement in a dispute. In fact, the information we have so far indicates that we are watching a struggle involving the moral, the amoral, and the immoral. Dumbledore’s comment to Fudge above explains how he could have trusted Snape implicitly based on his confidence that Snape was bent on the destruction of Lord Voldemort. I’m sure Dumbledore was aware of Snape’s tendency to fail to apply moral tenets properly; I suspect Dumbledore hoped to guide Snape onto a more acceptable path and that his trust was founded solely on the fact that he knew Snape would never rejoin Voldemort.
Snape’s reason for fighting Voldemort is not itself essential to my argument below; it is only essential to determining his motives. Without knowing these motives we cannot determine if he will lend a hand in the defeat of Lord Voldemort. Again, this is because Jo Rowling has selected a very moral theme and it requires acts of good to defeat acts of evil. Often people ask me what purpose Snape has in the story if he and Voldemort are both evil. This is a powerful and interesting question and it begs an interesting answer. I would argue that given the perpendiculars between Harry and Snape and the latter’s struggle with morality, rather than being an anti-hero, Snape is an anti-Harry. His purpose is to show us how not to fight evil. Each time Snape has tried to defeat evil, he has failed; each time Harry has succeeded. Their connection is important and somewhat sad. Snape was not able to catch Quirrell, although he tried. He was not able to judge Sirius and Lupin properly and was thus unable to catch Wormtail when he had the opportunity, an act that would have righted a major wrong. While Harry is destined to succeed, Snape is destined to fail to show us that fighting evil with acts of evil cannot succeed.
Does Snape Always Agree with Dumbledore?
Over the years there are several instances when Snape and Dumbledore differed in their opinions of how to handle things. The first being the Sorcerer’s Stone. Why didn’t Snape tell Dumbledore about Quirrell? Perhaps he did and Dumbledore chose to trust Quirrell over Snape’s objection, so Snape took matters into his own hands. Then the hiring of Remus Lupin is clearly something Snape did not agree with, but he seemingly accepted Dumbledore’s choice (while assigning Lupin’s class a lengthy werewolf essay) until Lupin forgot to take his potion, then Snape let it be known he was a werewolf and Lupin resigned.20 That same year they differ dramatically on their assessment of Sirius Black and how to handle his presence at Hogwarts. Again, Snape did not listen to reason and attempted to cause Sirius to have his soul sucked out by a dementor.21 When Snape is assigned the task of teaching Harry Occlumency in Order of the Phoenix he makes no progress and ends the lessons prematurely despite Dumbledore’s wishes. And of course the largest area of difference is in how they treat Harry Potter; for whatever reason, Snape thinks that Harry should be expelled from Hogwarts time and time again. The reason I mention all these points is to demonstrate that when Snape’s opinion differs from Dumbledore’s he takes steps to go against Dumbledore’s wishes. I do not suggest that Snape was working to assist Voldemort or that he did not respect Dumbledore, it is only that when he felt strongly enough that Dumbledore was wrong, he took matters into his own hands time and time again.
“Spinner’s End” 22
In the summer before Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, Dumbledore sustains an injury from one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Snape would probably have known if Dumbledore were dying slowly from this curse because he helped cure him; based on small signs in Dumbledore’s behavior throughout Half-Blood Prince Dumbledore seems to think he is dying. Voldemort assigns Wormtail to assist (a.k.a.: spy on) Snape and Draco to kill Dumbledore. It is easy to predict Dumbledore’s immediate plan with regards to this situation, an apparent trap set for Snape by Voldemort. Any good police Lieutenant would remove his undercover spy from harm’s way; consistent with his house (i.e. chivalry), Dumbledore would offer to protect Draco, Narcissa, and Snape by getting them into hiding. Dumbledore is a person who, throughout the series, has sheltered and protected every character who needed him: the Potter family, Hagrid, Snape, Sirius, Lupin, Dobby, Winky, Trelawney, and Firenze. This is eleven times that we know of when he has provided protection or shelter. Snape’s cover is compromised and, just as Dumbledore ordered Sirius into hiding in Order of the Phoenix, he would treat Snape the same way. He would not change his treatment of people in such a dramatic way as to send Snape into harm’s way. Even if Snape did not speak directly to Dumbledore before the chapter “Spinner’s End,” it would be easy for him to predict how Dumbledore would react to the news regarding Snape’s cover being compromised.
Perhaps some feel that Dumbledore would find Snape essential to helping Harry because of his possible knowledge of Horcruxes. Snape may know Voldemort’s Horcruxes exist or, by now, suspect that they do, but we do not know that Dumbledore told him about them. This is a complex issue, but I can boil it down to two ideas. First, I acknowledge that it is very smart to assume that Snape might be able to pass information regarding the location of Voldemort’s Horcurxes and he may well do this in Deathly Hallows. At the same time, there is no evidence in canon that Dumbledore intended Snape to kill him and risk his life to carry out this possibly unnecessary plan. Because Dumbledore told Harry only to discuss Horcruxes with Ron and Hermione, and Harry has been very careful to follow Dumbledore’s orders in this regard, extending this even to McGonagall, we should assume that Dumbledore wished his knowledge of the Horcruxes to remain secret from everyone but those he indicated.
The decision by Dumbledore to order Snape into hiding is what I believe triggered the chain of events that occurred in Half-Blood Prince. Snape did not want to go into hiding, and who can blame him; he had no respect for Sirius for doing it in Order of the Phoenix and he would not want to do it himself. Instead, Snape felt it was essential that he assist in defeating Voldemort from within Voldemort’s own organization. In short, Snape’s desire to defeat Lord Voldemort was more important to him than his own safety or Dumbledore’s life.
In the chapter “Spinner’s End” of Half-Blood Prince, Snape is offered a powerful tool to defeat Lord Voldemort: the trust of Lord Voldemort’s followers. He makes a vow to protect Draco and kill Dumbledore. Based on the text, it is very likely he knew what he was vowing to do in Spinner’s End because it is the only reasonable interpretation of the information that was presented. There are two reasons why making this agreement benefited Snape. First, it gave him an excuse to blow his cover at Hogwarts that would not appear suspicious to Lord Voldemort. After all, he could not defy Voldemort’s orders and leave Hogwarts without cause; something had to happen that required him to leave. Also, making that vow and carrying it out made him respected and feared by the Death Eaters, won Narcissa’s loyalty and Bellatrix’s respect. Of the murder of Dumbledore, Snape says, “If Draco succeeds he will be honored above all others.” 23 By killing the wizard that even Lord Voldemort cannot, Snape has achieved a status nearly as high as the Dark Lord himself in the eyes of every Death Eater. This trust by the Death Eaters may allow them to feel safe in sharing information with him regarding Voldemort’s most precious secrets. By pledging to protect Draco he demonstrates that, while Lord Voldemort is not a forgiving master, Snape appears willing to die to protect a member of his team. Let me add here, that there is no way that Snape and Dumbledore could have predicted the Unbreakable Vow and thus it is highly unlikely that they could have discussed a possibility like this in advance. Therefore, Snape must have made his own judgment call when he took that vow – a judgment call to end Dumbledore’s life. Despite his motivation, this is a clearly immoral choice. I am convinced that he did not want to kill Dumbledore, as is evidenced in his twitching hand during the Unbreakable Vow, but he made the decision it was necessary to defeat Lord Voldemort.24 If Dumbledore was indeed dying this represents a mitigating factor in our judgment of Snape’s actions but it does not make them moral.
The Conversation at the Forest’s Edge
When Dumbledore and Snape argued in the forest, it is likely that Dumbledore was pressuring Snape to make preparations to go into hiding and pushing him to work harder to convince Draco to come with him. This would fit with what Hagrid thought he heard much better than the often-proposed, self-sacrificial murder plan. Frankly, Hagrid’s words sound ridiculous when combined with this alternative theory (“Dumbledore, you take too much for granted – Maybe I don’t want to kill you anymore?”). Here is a hypothetical version, combining my own words with Hagrid’s hearsay:
“Dumbledore, you take too much for granted – Maybe I don’t want to [go into hiding] anymore.”
“Snape, you agreed to do it and, [for your safety], you must.” 25
Was Dumbledore Wrong?
Dumbledore himself admits, “As I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being—forgive me—rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.” 26 But was Dumbledore wrong to trust Snape? I argue that it is not Dumbledore who is wrong for trusting Snape but it is Snape who is wrong for not trusting Dumbledore. In his desire to defeat Voldemort, Snape has done the cause a grave disservice. First, he has removed a powerful force for good from their side. Second, he has used evil to attempt to defeat evil, something I believe Dumbledore would not have wanted. Third, not only is he putting his life at great risk but he is compromising the status of his soul. But most importantly he has filled Harry with hatred. Clearly, Snape does not understand the “POWER THE DARK LORD KNOWS NOT...” 27 If he did, he would realize that he is not using the correct path in trying to defeat Lord Voldemort.
Did Dumbledore Know about the Unbreakable Vow?
If Dumbledore knew anything about Snape’s Unbreakable Vow it was only that Snape swore to help Draco. In the chapter “The Unbreakable Vow” of Half-Blood Prince Harry overhears Snape tell Draco, “I swore to your mother I would protect you. I made the Unbreakable Vow, Draco—” 28 When Harry tells this to Dumbledore he is not in the slightest concerned. This is because Dumbledore thinks Snape is working to gain Draco’s trust so they can go into hiding together. The canon indicates this later in Half-Blood Prince in the chapter “The Lightning-Struck Tower”:
“Professor Snape has been keeping watch over you on my orders—” [Says Dumbledore.]
[Draco replies,] “He hasn’t been doing your orders, he promised my mother—”
[Dumbledore says,] “Of course that is what he would tell you, Draco, but—” 29
[Later in the section Dumbledore says,] “. . . I can help you, Draco.”
“No, you can’t,” said Malfoy, his wand hand shaking very badly indeed, “Nobody can. He told me to do it or he’ll kill me. I’ve got no choice.”
“He cannot kill you if you are already dead. Come over to the right side, Draco, and we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine. What is more I can send members of the Order to your mother tonight to hide her likewise. Nobody would be surprised that you had died in your attempt to kill me—forgive me, but Lord Voldemort probably expects it. Nor would the Death Eaters be surprised that we had captured and killed your mother—it is what they would do themselves, after all. Your father is safe at the moment in Azkaban. . . . When the time comes we can protect him too. Come over the right side, Draco. . . you are not a killer. . . .” 30
What Draco thinks is unimportant; it is what Dumbledore says in the scene above that clearly shows that he did not believe Snape’s vow was relevant, Dumbledore believes it was a ploy used by Snape to get information out of Draco. Further, Dumbledore thought the plan was to persuade Draco to fake his death and go into hiding with his mother. Dumbledore would not have offered to shelter yet more people with future assistance if he knew Snape had no choice but to kill him in the ensuing sequence of events. Instead, Dumbledore felt very secure that Snape was working for a plan they had decided on that differed from the plan Snape carried out.
What Would Cause Dumbledore to Beg?
On the lightning-struck tower in Half-Blood Prince when Dumbledore begs “Severus . . . please. . .” 31 we are left wondering how he could be begging for his own life. Most people agree that it would be completely out of character for him to do this. It is more in keeping with Dumbledore’s philosophy of love and forgiveness to beg for Snape’s redemption than any other possible course. It is suggested that this does not make sense, but I feel this treatment is not fair. Is it really so unlikely that a man who has spent seventeen years offering Snape a way to preserve his soul would not beg for it in the end?
On the tower Dumbledore knew his attackers magically blocked the entrance because he heard members of the order yelling from below: “They’ve blocked the stairs—Reducto! REDUCTO!” 32 Snape arrives on the scene after breaking through the blocked tower alone. Dumbledore must be wondering, Why didn’t Snape bring the Order with him? It suddenly dawns on Dumbledore that his trusted agent has selected his own path and he is worried about both Snape’s life and his soul. He never thought Snape was working for Voldemort, he just knew that Snape had chosen a different method of fighting. Up until that moment, Dumbledore expressed absolute confidence in Snape. If they had agreed in advance that Snape would kill Dumbledore to help Harry, I do not think Dumbledore would have begged, he would have been confident that Snape would carry out his orders. I think he was surprised that Snape decided not to carry out his orders that night.
Snape and Harry: A Look of Hatred and Revulsion
It was clear to me on my second reading of Half-Blood Prince that we were meant to see the parallel between Dumbledore ordering Harry to feed him that potion in “The Cave” chapter when Harry was both “hating himself” 33 and “repulsed” 34 by his actions and Snape’s expression of “revulsion and hatred” 35 when he killed Dumbledore. Clearly Snape must be feeling hatred toward himself for killing Dumbledore; he did not want to do it but he felt he had to. But, where as Harry was carrying out Dumbledore’s orders and hating himself for it, Snape was contradicting them and hating himself for it. This ties directly back to my description of the two characters as moral opposites; both are trying to do what they think is right but only one of them is able to properly judge right from wrong.
While Harry does not agree with Dumbledore all the time he always obeys him. In Half-Blood Prince Harry ignores his personal feelings to obey Dumbledore twice; once to feed him the potion and again in Hogsmeade when he agrees to get Snape. Snape however, has disobeyed Dumbledore several times in the series as I mentioned above.
Anguish - “DON’T […] CALL ME COWARD!” 36
When Snape shouts “DON’T […] CALL ME COWARD!” in “Flight of the Prince” his face is “Demented, inhuman, as though he was in as much pain as the yelping, howling dog.” 37 This intense emotion appears to express extreme pain or torment – anguish of some kind. Anguish is not a positive emotion; it is not proof that Snape is good. It is, however, an indication that he is not amoral because it demonstrates that he is driven by a strong emotion and that he knows he has done wrong. To me, he is expressing torment largely because Harry is misunderstanding his motives. But that doesn’t mean his motives are good; it could mean that his motives are wrong, but he feels they are justified under the circumstances. Vengeance, for example, could motivate a powerful feeling of righteous justice; but a vendetta does not constitute an act of love. Still, from Snape’s viewpoint what he is doing – is very brave; he sacrificed Dumbledore to defeat Lord Voldemort and is risking his own life as well. He hates himself for doing this but feels it is necessary. Unfortunately, even the desire to free mankind of Lord Voldemort would contradict Jo Rowling’s entire theme if it were accomplished through the murder of an innocent person.
My points are as follows: The characters of Dumbledore and Snape are well established through example in the Harry Potter series. We can use these past examples to imagine how they would react in the situation that occurred in Half-Blood Prince. Dumbledore has acted consistently to fight Voldemort with trust and love and by sheltering those in need. Snape has shown consistent “sadistic,” “deeply horrible” behavior with a failure to understand basic moral tenets. Wormtail’s presence at Spinner’s End clearly indicates that Snape’s cover was compromised. Dumbledore would act to protect Snape and send him into hiding as he has done many times before with other characters in the series. Snape could not respect this choice and would take extreme measures in order to continue the fight. The perpendiculars drawn between Snape and Harry are meant to demonstrate their behavior as consistently opposite. This consistent opposition shows us that Snape felt hatred and revulsion for himself because he was disobeying Dumbledore when he killed him. It remains to be seen what inner motive has driven Snape to such desperate measures. We are observing a battle between the moral, the amoral, and the immoral in which Snape’s role is that of an anti-Harry rather than an anti-hero.
This theory offers a consistent explanation of all points of question regarding Snape’s actions. Also, it is not ethically controversial and it is consistent with canon. Self-sacrifice is an act that must be performed by the self; if performed by another it is doomed to be ethically controversial and does not fit with the moral theme of this series. It is a grave disservice to Severus Snape to assume he could be easily tricked or goaded into making an Unbreakable Vow to kill someone at a mere slur by Bellatrix Lestrange. Severus Snape, the Half-Blood Prince, is named after both a novel by Niccolo Machiavelli and a cunning Roman general who became a successful Roman emperor through duplicity; we should not underestimate him (refer to the essay “Machiavelli’s Half-Blood Prince?” 38 for a more in depth discussion of this issue). He is obviously intended to be recognized as a Machiavellian character by Jo Rowling due to all these hints in the text; my interpretation paints him as both “ferocious” and “cunning” in accomplishing his goal of defeating Voldemort and thus is consistent with the ideas of Niccolo Machiavelli’s work The Prince.39 His plans have differed from Dumbledore’s in the past and each time he has acted on those differences rather than trust Dumbledore’s views. There is no reason to think that he and Dumbledore’s views must be in agreement now.
Though I enjoy Snape’s sarcasm, feel sympathy for the difficulties of his childhood, and agree with his intent to help defeat the most powerful dark wizard the world has known, it is not easy for me to forgive his desire to “use any means to achieve [his] ends.” 40 While some may feel his actions are warranted there is not evidence to suggest that Dumbledore would agree. If my analysis above proves to be correct then Snape’s purpose in the Harry Potter series is profound. Harry is teaching us how to use bravery and morality to protect what is good. But Snape is teaching us something we rarely learn: That compromising moral tenets is destined to fail in the fight against evil.
1. Brown, Da Vinci Code. This is a reference to the anagrams “O, Draconian Devil!” and “Oh, Lame Saint!”
2. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 841.
3. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 509–12.
4. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 814.
5. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 497–8.
6. Nanjo, “I Trust Severus Snape.”
7. HawthorneAndPhoenix, “Dumbledore’s man.”
8. Rowling, Sorcerer’s Stone, 291.
9. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 525.
10. Abel, “Harry Potter Author Works Her Magic.”
11. Rowling, Interview with Christopher Lydon.
12. Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 284–5.
13. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 521.
14. Ibid., 593.
15. Ibid., 591.
16. Ibid., 591.
17. Ibid., 530.
18. Ibid., 536.
19. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 709.
20. Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 423.
21. Ibid., 358–61.
22. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 19.
23. Ibid., 33.
24. Ibid., 36.
25. Ibid., 405.
26. Ibid., 197.
27. Ibid., 323.
28. Ibid., 323.
29. Ibid., 588.
30. Ibid., 591–2.
31. Ibid., 595.
32. Ibid., 594.
33. Ibid., 571.
34. Ibid., 571.
35. Ibid., 595.
36. Ibid., 604.
37. Ibid., 604.
38. Cooper, “Machiavelli’s Half-Blood Prince?”
39. Machiavelli, The Prince, 74.
40. Rowling, Sorcerer’s Stone, 118.
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———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.
———. Interview with Christopher Lydon. The Connection (WBUR Radio), 12 October, 1999. Transcript Accio Quote! http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/1999/1099-connectiontransc2.htm.