March 4th, 2006
|11:36 pm - My remedial "History of Hogwarts" course is over|
I've finally gotten around to reading all the books in the Harry Potter series.
A few weeks ago I decided to start reading them all in order, starting with the the first one. I'd already read the first two books in the series and had seen all four of the movies as they had come out, so I already knew some of the storyline. I'd heard that unlike the first movie, the later ones diverged more from the books, leaving out quite a bit along the way, and was rather curious to find out the missing bits for myself.
I've finally finished the last, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", and I've a few thoughts on the series as a whole -- at least as written so far.
First off, I like the character development that I've seen for the most part. There are a few characters that have quite a bit of subtlety to them, although there are also quite a few that seem fairly one-dimensional.
Unfortunately one of the one-dimensional ones is the protagonist of the series, Harry Potter.
He started out as an arrogant twerp and has basicly remained so throughout the series, from what I see. He is self-satisfied, smug and in his own way as much of a know-it-all as Hermione Granger. He makes constant assumptions about others, often based on his own prejudices, many of which are later proved wrong. He also shows astoundingly little empathy for others, being constantly wrapped up in himself. During the course of the series he amply demonstrates that every character fault that Professor Snape has accused him of having he does indeed possess in abundance -- and that even when these flaws are brought to his attention, he does little or nothing to correct them, often preferring instead to attack those who seek to correct his ill manners and bad behavior. He does this with friends such as Hermione as well as teachers such as Snape -- particularly with the latter, who he seems to take great pleasure in treating with disrespect. He seems utterly incapable of fathoming that he might actually be WRONG.
Snape, however, is a very well-drawn character -- quite complex, with layer upon layer to his personality. I freely admit to finding him fascinating. His double-agent role and what he must do to maintain it while dancing on the knife's edge of danger and the circles within circles within circles of his personality and motivations are a joy to behold. He is easily my favorite character of the series, even moreso than Neville Longbottom, another well-drawn character with hidden depths who unlike Potter has grown through the course of the books.
One of the more fascinating parts of the series to contemplate is exactly why Severus Snape does what he does. There are glimpses into his past in "The Order of the Phoenix" -- stolen insights into his character and the events that shaped him into the man he grew to be. Given their shared history of being the victims of bullying, one might think that Harry might have more empathy for his teacher and try to understand better his very-well-justified dislike of Harry's father and god-father, but Harry seems incapable of even saying "sorry" after he deliberately snooped into Professor Snape's memories -- ones that he specificly did NOT want Harry to know about. Harry didn't even have the good manners to apologize for his trespass, for that is EXACTLY what it was. Instead he continued to dislike and belittle publicly a man who had repeatedly tried to protect him and teach him and behaved honorably towards him at all times, despite little gratitude from Potter, much less respect.
It takes a strong man to put up with a rotter like Potter, yet Snape did so, protecting him again and again and again, even at the end of "The Half-Blood Prince". I would not be at all surprised to learn that part of this behavior had something to do with the relationship between Severus and Harry's mother Lily, due to a few interesting things tossed in, seemingly at random. Given that even the events at the end of "The Half-Blood Prince" may not be what they appear to be from a surface reading, I can't help but wonder how Rowling will get Professor Snape out of the corner she seems to have painted him into . . .
The way I see it, Snape is soooooooooo NOT a coward . . . OR a traitor . . .
He may in fact be the bravest damn person in the entire book.
I can't wait for the last book in the series, for then I think Severus Snape will finally get the respect I believe he so richly deserves.
"The name's Snape -- Severus Snape . . . "
I ♥ Severus Snape
(The fact he's also a brilliant chemist has nothing to do with my fangrrrrl-ishness. Nothing whatsoever. Really.)
Current Mood: pensive
Current Music: "A Window to the Past" -- Harry Potter & the PoA soundtrack
I do actually like Harry, and Professor Snape is certainly growing on me, as the depths of his character are explored in later volumes. But there are times, particularly in the later books, when I do want to smack Harry silly for being such a thick-headed self-involved blockhead. Ever time Dumbledore makes a deep heavy sigh... I can almost hear him muttering to himself, "Doesn't this lad EVER Bloody learn?"
The later movies have been less faithful, as the books they are based on get longer, so more material has to be left out or skimmed over and the producers concentrate on the material they feel to be the most "cinematic" and appealing to the largest movie-going audience- and a LOT of THAT audience just plain doesn't read, sorry to say. The last film flew by in a blur, concentrating almost exclusively on the Tri-Wizard Championship but there was a lot more going on in the book. However, they are trying, and doing a better than typical job of hitting the right notes, and getting the overall tone and themes mostly right. ( Starship Trooppers, or I, Robot, anyone... *shudders* )
I hold out every hope that Harry will do some growing up in the later books of the series... hello, Ms Rowling! Looking at his upbringing, I can see how it would have been emotionally crippling. A few meager seasons of human/humane treatment probably is taking some time to "click" with his messed-up head. No wonder Ron and Hemionie get fed up with him regularly. Of course, a steady diet of life-threatening crises and evil plots while being tossed into the emotional and social cauldron of High School (well the British Magical Boarding Prep School equivalent) is a of course perfect recipe for raising a well adjusted young man!
Yes, that last was sarcasm.
But the whole "Harry Potter" phenomenon, books and films is one ot the best gulity pleasures to come along in a long time for Pagan folk.
Yay, a fellow Potterite and Firefly lover! :D (I'm an atheist, but find Paganism utterly fascinating)
I actually like Harry, but not as much as I feel I should. I think I like the other two more, but I agree with you--Snape is the best character. He's three-dimensional, he's intricate, and you wonder about his past (OotP shines some light on it).
What do you two think about the "Snape loved Lily" theory? I think it's crazy.
But the whole "Harry Potter" phenomenon, books and films is one of the best guilty pleasures to come along in a long time for Pagan folk.
Agreed! Although interestingly enough religion is never overtly mentioned, but certain Christian holidays are, like Christmas and Easter. Not even for the Patil twins . . .
I do actually like Harry, and Professor Snape is certainly growing on me
I'm not saying that Harry is completely awful -- he does have many good qualities -- but what sticks in my craw is his empathy blind spot when it comes to Snape. I find it intensely irritating that he is unwilling to even harbour the thought that Snape may not be Evil Incarnate and Out To Get Him for more than a few seconds -- MAX. He seems to need to paint Snape as a villain, despite reams of evidence to the contrary. He is willing to be empathetic to others -- just not Snape.
The momentary flash of empathy after seeing Snape being publicly humiliated by his father seems to have had absolutely no affect on his behavior after that point in the story. Frankly, I find that a bit hard to believe and I think it detracts from Harry's characterization. When Snape calls Harry a "nasty little boy" he's right on target -- at least with respect to his relationship with him.
The best light I can shed on it is that some part of Harry recognizes Snape as a paternal figure and feels the need to rebel against him constantly, in ways that he can't against his other main paternal figure, Dumbledore, for fear of losing Dumbledore's love, care and attention. Snape is a big enough man to allow Harry to get away with having a snotty attitude towards him, although it's obvious in the books that it bothers him quite a bit. He might not be keen on playing Bad Cop/Daddy, but he isn't willing to let Harry get away with stuff like others do, just so Harry will like him. He acts like a Good Daddy that way and in the books makes a point of telling others that he treats Harry just like the other students, not as being "special" as so many of the other adults in the story do. He acts as a grounding force to Harry's over-indulged ego, which Master Potter does not care for in the least.
I think Snape taking Harry under his wing is probably one of the best things that could possibly have happened to Harry, even though he is unable to appreciate it while in school. And Snape does protect him -- practically hovering over him at times, in fact. That was something I was very struck by when I read the books in order and I even re-read parts just to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting things. Whenever Harry is in any real danger, Snape is somewhere in the vicinity, doing his best to take care of Harry as best he can under the circumstances -- something he does not do for other students in general.
I'd have hoped that during Book Six Harry might have grown up a bit more, but even at the end he's still as clueless as ever. This despite Snape repeatedly refusing to fight back at him and even protecting him from the curses aimed at him by Death Eaters (like Crucio) -- doesn't give me a lot of hope for Book Seven, frankly. It's possible that he'll get hit by a clue-by-four then, but probably only at the very end of the book. Le sigh . . .
I actually think Harry acts, well, like an adolescent... which he is! And he does actually respond to finding out about his father's treatment of Snape (which was part of a two-sided conflict, and not unidirectional.)
Yes Harry is an adolescent -- and sometimes a very moody, nasty, rebellious one at that.
I'd have more regard for him if his response to the "Snape's Worst Memory" episode weren't as short lived as it was. Broody as Harry can be, he certainly doesn't seem to brood long about that. He also makes no effort to behave better towards Professor Snape and if anything shows him even less respect afterwards.
As for the conflict being two-sided, it certainly seemed as though James Potter's gang seemed to make a habit of bullying Snape. He was fighting them off, not instigating, apart from a certain understandable momentary thirst for revenge. And the "four on one" was apparently part of a pattern, according to the books.
BTW, Harry and his friends could also be seen as continuing this behavior pattern by bullying Draco, since they are all pretty quick to draw wands on him, since his bodyguards Crabbe and Goyle are functionally useless due to their being dimwits magicly speaking. (They failed OWLs, remember?) So then it can be said to be "three on one" -- not in Draco's favour! Plus they constantly try to get Draco into trouble at school by saying things to the school staff about him. (I'm not saying they are always wrong, but they seem off the mark with him far more often than they are on target. And Draco can be pretty mean -- but it's mostly words from him. He doesn't draw wands first usually from what I remember.)
This is more apparent in the books than the movies though -- Hollywood likes Black versus White an awful lot and glosses over a lot of the subtlties contained in the written word.
I am also a huge Snape fan, and I would like to say that I found the character fascinating _before_ Alan Rickman played him. (The fact that Alan Rickman may be the sexiest man alive does help though -- it adds such a lovely visual!)
Up until recently I'd only read the first two books, each prior to the opening of the corresponding movie. I haven't seen any of the movies since they were first shown in theaters, so I'm basing my liking of the character of Snape on the just-finished read-a-thon of all the books in order.
I think the casting of Rickman was inspired -- now having read all the books written to date, I can't think of a better actor for the part. (This despite Rickman being about 20-25 years older than Snape is described as being in the books.) He has the best delivery of snark I've ever come across and is in fact one of my favorite actors.
Since you're a Rickman fan, I suggest you try to find a little-known film from 1991 or so that he did with Madeleine Stowe called Closetland. The entire movie is just the two of them, in a room, talking. It sounds dull but it isn't -- it's a very well written script where he plays her interrogator/torturer. I recommend it very highly if you can find a copy. (I'd taped mine off of cable TV at the time, but I'd love to see it on DVD.)
He might have apoligized if Snape wasn't throwing stuff at Harry and ejecting him from his office.
Well, put yourself in Snape's shoes . . .
Wouldn't you be upset if someone had broken into the equivalent of your personal diary? The one that has all the worst parts of your life? Especially if the one doing so was someone you knew already held you in contempt and hated you? And who might well tell others of what he had learned, holding you up (again!) to public humiliation and mockery?
I think Snapes reaction of rage was VERY understandable!
And Harry could have made some effort at a later time to apologize -- even just slipping a note saying "I'm sorry -- Harry Potter" under his office door, if he was reluctant to face Snape out of class. But the books shows NO evidence of anything of that kind. In fact, Harry acts even more rudely towards Snape later on, in the beginning of Half-Blood Prince -- I certainly see no signs of remorse or understanding in Harry's behavior as described in the books. Just a small bit immediately after being chucked out of the office, but that small amout of sympathy quickly disappates, leaving no lasting effect, unfortunately . . .
While I agree with Harry thinking that he's right, he doesn't expect anything because he's famous, and he's far from arrogant.
I think we shall have to agree to disagree on this.
He certainly seems to feel a bit "entitled" to be a prefect and is quite jealous of Ron and Hermione's status -- at least to start off. I see his arrogance and sense of entitlement growing as the series progresses, due to the way others treat him -- as being "special". He may have mixed feelings about it, but I do think he likes the attention, particularly since he was starved for ANY attention growing up under the emotionally neglectful Dursleys. Snape recognizes this and strives to treat Harry as he would any other student, unlike other members of the Hogwarts staff.
I certainly think his arrogance shows in his repeated breaking of school rules, including those enstated specificly for his personal protection, as in The Prisoner of Azkaban -- he simply disregards whatever inconveniences him and does as he pleases, consequences to himself or others be damned. If THAT isn't arrogance, I don't know what would be . . .
The worst is that he keeps on getting away with it by the adults in the book. The only one who checks him without cruelty is Snape. (Umbridge is an ENTIRELY different story!!!)
And each time he gets away with something that others wouldn't his arrogance grows. As does his contempt for authority in general.
Snape's not any less one-dimensional than Harry if you look at him from what you're saying about Harry.
Snape's a bully who has been bullied, and while he does the double-agent routine, I don't think he's changed through out the books either.
I had to read all the books one right after the other before I "got" Snape -- I had to recognize the patterns in his behavior. It's easy to miss otherwise. And if you've only seen the movies, you might never discover it in the first place, due to what the scripts leave out.
After reading everything, I went back and re-read just the Snape interactions. Doing that made things much more clear. Rowling is very subtle in her characterization of him -- it's very easy to miss things!!! And frightfully easy to see him as uni-dimensional, especially if you read the books one by one with timegaps between each.
I think Rowling has simplified a lot of Harry's characteristics as the series has progressed -- I found him much more complex earlier on.
And I do agree that Snape is not Mr. Cuddly-Wuddly, unlike Dumbledore, and that he has more than a bit of a mean streak, since he doesn't suffer fools gladly and he makes that perfectly clear to the fools in question, usually with a cutting remark. You may see that as bullying -- I see it more as "tough love". He has certain expectations and he holds people to them and demands they be accountable for their behavior and its consequences. He pushes people to excel and won't accept excuses for anything less than a true best effort.
Yeah, that's one thing I don't care for -- it's obvious that whatever she's setting us up for in the end, in order for it to be a surprise, neither Snape nor Harry can learn or grow much emotionally during the previous six books. (And I don't count Harry's sudden switch to the committed superhero Dumbledore's Man in 6 as growth, precisely.)
When the protagonist can't change because of the series setup, it can get kind of tedious.
May I point out one thing? Or two/three/four?
Snape did show Harry disrespect from the VERY beginning of his time at Hogwarts, and without any prior meeting. Harry was in reaction mode in his relationship with Snape for a good part of the books. Severus Snape was a Death Eater, and could still be. (We don't know)He humiliates his students, takes advantage of his professorial status, holds grudges dangerously, and shows callous disrespect toward others. Also, we did learn that Snape passed off information to Voldemort, thus contributing to the murder of Harry's parents. No, Snape is no moral model.
You think he tries to correct arrogance? What about Draco Malfoy, the most arrogant of them all? The Slytherins? Why does he criticize Hermione for her ambition when he was even more driven at that age? Sounds a bit like hypocrisy to me. It's easy to criticize someone when they put everything out in the open. For this reason, Harry is the most subject to dislike from fandom members. We read the book from his point of view. I would hate to have the world know what goes on in my head from day to day. I would claim stupidity too.
Harry always believes he's right? For the most part, yes. But, for a very good reason. That self-sufficiency was environmentally built. he needs to be. If he believes that he's in the wrong, he's in more danger than if he were a deliberator like Hermione, or Lupin for that matter. Yes, I will acknowledge that it has gotten him and others in danger, but if you read the books with this in mind, you will notice that he is steadily sharpening these skills, and Dumbledore has given him the freedom to do it. Why does he give Harry that freedom? Not because Harry is favored, but because Harry needs to acquire such skills before fully assuming his role.
I think you're forgetting to look at Harry's assets. If we did that with every character in the series, and with ourselves, we would all be disposed to better understanding.
I know that someone has already commented on this, but Harry is still a teenager. He is not only a teenager, but an individual without parental support, a stable environment, or normal and comfortable circumstances. Wouldn't you be rebelling if your entire world was out of your control?
I think his reactions make everyone angry, because they are so innately human. And our humanity is the bane of our human existence.
J.k. and her irony. :-)
I enjoyed your essay, though. I always find it fascinating, albeit aggravating, to read the opposing argument.
Snape did show Harry disrespect from the VERY beginning of his time at Hogwarts. . . He humiliates his students, takes advantage of his professorial status, holds grudges dangerously, and shows callous disrespect toward others. . . No, Snape is no moral model.
Thanks for mentioning that. I completely agree. In the "who's worst-behaved, Snape vs. Harry" contest, Snape is still supposed to be the adult in authority.
|Date:||March 13th, 2006 02:06 am (UTC)|| |
Good point! (part 1)
Schemingreader, I think you are exactly right that Snape and Harry are very similar, largely because they have been damaged in similar ways. It's the one thing that jumps out at me, and it's why I think the resolution Rowling is heading for - the one thing that will be necessary if Voldemort is to be defeated - is a reconciliation between the two.
Entwife, I, too, found Harry far more likable and less arrogant in earlier books. I actually empathized with both boy and man during the pensieve incident - as I remember it, Harry tried to apologize but couldn't get a word out. Also, he truly didn't understand how egregious his prying was. It isn't just like reading someone's bad experiences in a diary - that would be more than bad enough, but Harry, due to his background, has no experience with normal boundaries. It's worse, though; he has been told, in no uncertain terms, that Voldemort is looking through his eyes at will and that there are some things the Dark Lord shouldn't see. He pries, anyway. That he does not realize he mightactually endanger Severus by doing this is what frustrated me.
Anyway, I actually liked and understood Capslock Harry in OOTP, in spite of his adolescent arrogance, jealousy and frustration. It was in HBP that my opinion of him changed sharply. In OOTP, Harry was finally starting to deal with his emotions, however badly. He was fighting with his pride so he could congratulate his friends honestly, accepting responsibility in the DA club, and was genuinely sorry and troubled about his prying in the pensieve. (If I were he, I don't know if I would have had the nerve to approach professor Snape after that, either). HBP was a different story; he was deliberately shutting his emotions down, failing to consider the implications of anything, and totally failing to *think*. What did me in entirely - and changed my view of both characters, so that I now think Snape is the true hero of these books - was the 'sectumsempra' scene. Yes, Harry was defending himself, but he used an unknown spell which he knew - or should have known - was extremely damaging. As with the pensieve incident, he was shocked and horrified at what he had done, but this time he really didn't think of apologizing. All he did was to attempt to justify himself, and then lie. I lost all respect for the character at that point, honestly - at exactly the same time I was getting an "Aragorn' vibe from Snape.
Anyway, I was wondering if you'd gone to John Granger's hogwart's professor site and read the second part of Helen Ketcham's (generally excellent) essay on Snape? She is a little too soft on him at times, but the major point she makes - about how and why Snape seeks to guard Harry from his own arrogance - is, I think, dead on. Basically, she agrees with you. And I think you'd like it.
Okay first I'm going to talk about Harry. It was really quite tragic that he lost his parents so young. And then he was force to live with the Dursleys. And Dudley and his gang gave him a hard time his whole life before Hogwarts. He lived in a household that was strict about not having any imagination. I think that a person's early years have a big impact on how they are going to turn out later in life. In this case Harry was denied having any friends. He wasn't even allowed to ask questions about anything, even his parents. And as for living under the stairs...I don't even know what to say about that. Harry was not shown any love or affection as a child. And then all of a sudden he finds out that he is a wizard. To make matters interesting, he is a very famous wizard. One whom everyone knows about. People knew more about him than he did. Naturally going from one extreme to another is enough to make ones head spin. He handles it quite well at times I think. Although he was kind of lazy when it came to homework and things, as many teens are. He took advantage of his resources, such as Hermione helping him with his homework. Although I think some of his behavior has to do with the fact that they let him get away with so much. What I find annoying about him is that he doesn’t think about anything. He just jumps right into whatever it is. He has an annoying habit of just making assumptions about things and not considering the consequences of his actions. His school years are rather odd. He is put into danger constantly. A good deal of the time, running straight into it. But all is forgiven since he saves the day. The school goes from extremes of loving him to hating him. Harry even had to go through having his best friend hate him for a while after his name was entered into the Goblet of Fire. In the fifth book Harry did get on my nerves a little bit. With all the yelling he did in the beginning of the book. But I guess I should take into consideration his age in the books. He does have some nice characteristics though. Like how he would do anything to save his friends. How he helped with Dumbledore’s Army despite the fact that they were not allowed to have that club during their fifth year.
Switching to Snape for the moment.
First of all, I have to say that I absolutely love Snape. He is one of the most complex characters in the whole story. His double agent role is an interesting one. At times it appears that he could be working for either side. I personally like to think that he was a once Death Eater turned spy for the good side Dumbledore. Now something I wonder about is that if there is any way Snape can be evil. It seems logical at first. JK Rowling has made him a prime suspect throughout the series. But at the same time that always seemed to reverse itself. Like in the Philosopher’s Stone, the trio had suspected Snape of trying to steal the stone. While in fact he was one of the people protecting it. I admit she had me there. I really thought there was something odd about Snape from the beginning. (sorry but it wouldn't all fit in one comment...the rest is in the next comment)
Especially when the book says things like, “At the start-of-term banquet, Harry had gotten the idea that Professor Snape disliked him. By the end of the first Potions lesson, he knew he’d been wrong. Snape didn’t dislike Harry--he hated him.” From the very start she has us thinking that he is no good. After all he hates the protagonist of the series. One he has never met before. This seems to automatically make Snape the antagonist as well. Snape is continually suspected for various things, such as trying to kill Harry at the Quidditch match - when in reality he was trying to save him. Quirell is very interesting to me. He is kind of like Snape. Everyone thinks he is good and just very paranoid and fidgety. Of course later on we find out about him playing host to Voldemort. Which brings up an interesting question. If Quirell was portrayed as a good person and was discovered to be evil, could the same thing happen with Snape the other way around. Could JK Rowling be trying to make him look evil when in reality he is really a good person? She has cleverly disguised many things in the book. Many of which you probably wouldn’t catch the first time. Now moving on to the characteristic traits of Severus Snape. From the very beginning he seemed to be a very mysterious character. He is very smart. I don’t think people give him enough credit for that. In book six we get to see a little bit more of that knowledge he has. He appears to be a very powerful wizard. I believe he keeps up walls too. You can’t really tell what is going on with him. He has kind of a snarky attitude. Something I find interesting is that in all the years of wanting the teach the Dark Arts Dumbledore lets him in the sixth book. I wonder why there was already the change. Did Dumbledore want to do this before he died? I think he probably knew early on that he would. I think there are a few things that could have possibly killed Dumbledore. First of all there was his hand that he would never really fully explain what happened to. And then there is that stuff that he had to drink while he was going after that one horcrux with Harry. From that point it really didn’t seem like he had much time left anyway. I think that is why he told Harry to make sure he did everything he wanted to. Harry always tries to play the hero figure, but this time Dumbledore wasn’t going to allow it. I also think that Dumbledore and Snape were arguing earlier in the book. I think Snape was arguing about how he didn’t want to kill Dumbledore, and Dumbledore on why he must. This is where I think the look of revulsion on Snape’s face as he uses the Avada Kedavra spell comes from.
“Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.
I think that Dumbledore’s “Severus…please…” was kind of like saying now is the time. I can’t go on much longer. I just drunk some kind of dark potion. You know you have to. That’s how I see it anyway.
(oddly enough this still isn't all...the rest for sure is in the next comment...)
|Date:||August 5th, 2006 12:40 pm (UTC)|| |
Yes, i agree with you, Snape may be the bravest character in the book. And th e most clever and sly. he needs it.
He could kill Harry or abduct him, he could do it very easily but he didn't. Why? Because he is working for the Order of Phoenix. That's "my" explanation. I hope I'm not mistaken:-)