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March 4th, 2006


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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 . . . "


severus Snape Fan

I ♥ Severus Snape


(The fact he's also a brilliant chemist has nothing to do with my fangrrrrl-ishness. Nothing whatsoever. Really.)
Current Mood: pensivepensive
Current Music: "A Window to the Past" -- Harry Potter & the PoA soundtrack

(54 seeds eaten | Eat a pomegranate)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:samuraiartguy
Date:March 5th, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC)
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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.

Banzai!
[User Picture]
From:schwarzewitwe
Date:March 6th, 2006 05:31 am (UTC)
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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.
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From:theentwife
Date:March 12th, 2006 05:29 am (UTC)
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I actually like Harry, but not as much as I feel I should.

You might want to read this comment I made. He has a lot of likeable qualities, but with a heavy overlay of crap. As a person, I think he was actually nicer at the beginning of the series than he is now, at the end of Book 6. He certainly had more respect for authority and in general was more polite and better behaved -- towards everyone, including Professor Snape.

What do you two think about the "Snape loved Lily" theory? I think it's crazy.

Lily had lovely molecules


I don't.

I think it's dead on. It certainly goes far towards explaining Snape's behavior towards Harry. And at least some of hers as well.

The way I see it, the two class smartie-pants took a liking to one another. There may have been rivalry too, but there was a certain amount of regard and respect there for a fellow brainiac. (Although I'm not sure if Lily's reputation as being good at Potions might not have come like Harry's did, from the hand of the Half-Blood Prince, at least in part . . . )

Lily was certainly willing to stand up for Snape in the "Snape's Worst Memory" episode. That took quite a lot of guts on her part -- putting her popularity on the line for Snivellus the Despised.

Unfortunately for her, she didn't take into account some basic male psychology.

It was bad enough for Snape to be humiliated in public, and in front of someone he might well have had a major crush on. It was even worse though, when that girl defended him -- successfully!! -- when he couldn't do it himself.

Adding salt to the wound was that she was a Mudblood -- someone his House-mates would have despised and certainly teased him about unmercifully. Since he himself was only a half-blood, he might already have been touchy on that subject.

So humiliation was piled on top of humiliation for poor Snivellus. Mr. Pathetic had to be rescued by a girl -- a Mudblood girl. He'd never be able to live the shame of that down -- certainly not in Slytherin House!!

In his misery at his public social castration he struck out at Lily, who he may have been goofy about, and lost her forever -- thus making it his worst memory, since it was after this that Lily became involved with James. And she called him Snivellus too. Ouch.

But even though he lost her, his love for her may have continued and been a motivating force in his efforts to protect Harry from harm and bring him up properly. Even when Harry acted like a snotty brat. It's even possible that Lily, like Narcissa, asked Snape to make an Unbreakable Vow to protect her son, once she knew Voldemort was after her family -- and that he did it, because he still loved her and loved Harry because Harry was Lily's child.


Persephone
From:ex_twiggie
Date:March 12th, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
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Well, I agree and disagree. While Harry isn't about to win the "Most Moral Person Award", he is a three dimensional character. He does have a good heart and if someone is in danger, he does try to help (or save) them. Of course, he is also self centered at times, nasty, stubborn, and close minded. However, to have all those characteristics together does not sounds one dimensional. Harry is self centered because he was raised to be. If Harry wasn't, then he wouldn't have survived the Dursley's. He also never had friends until age eleven, so he didn't learn how to interact with others. Harry is not perfect, he has both good and bad sides. If Harry changed his ways to Snape because of the memory, it would have been too feel good, and that doesn't happen in real life. Harry is not a goody two shoes and he does things we wish he didn't, but honestly, that's what real people are like.

Snape is also a three dimensional character, but he's not a saint, or a devil, for that matter. {FYI, Snape is my favorite character, so don't get me wrong}. While we have no idea what Snape's real motives are, I believe he's on the good side. (But we won't know that until JK writes the 7th book) Anyway, let's pretend for a moment he really is good. While he might be looking out for Harry and be on the right track, in reality, he's not a very pleasant person. He is nasty to mostly everyone, belittles people, is close minded just like Harry, holds grudges, and thinks he's ALWAYS right too. Like Harry, he has his good qualites. He's protective, logical and intelligent, powerful, and he does have a heart, though it is often masked. But all in all, he's not a saint, especially because there's so much we don't know about him.

I actually don't believe in the Snape/Lily situation. I believe Snape doing what he does because of Dumbledore, and because of himself. I think Snape and Lily had interaction and it is possible he liked her (and she might have even liked him) but I really don't think he has an undying love for her. It's possible and I don't deny this could be true, but I don't see Snape as being the kind of person to be that selfless and carry out an unrequited love for so long. Most people wouldn't, and Snape is no exception. I don't think Voldemort gave Lily the chance to live *for* Snape, because Voldemort isn't that kind of person, and she WAS a mudblood. I think Lily was VERY exceptional at potions, and Voldemort saw that she could be useful to his side. Is it possible Snape was angered and upset she was killed? Possibly. Like I said, we might never know until JK gives her final word.

Dumbledore is the one person who trusts Snape, and I think he did all that to prove to Dumbledore he was trustworthy. I doubt Lily would have Snape, a man her husband loathes, make an Unbreakable Vow with her. It wouldn't really make sense, and from what the books say, Lily and Snape didn't remain friends after Hogwarts, if they were even friends at all.

[User Picture]
From:theentwife
Date:March 14th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC)
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If Harry changed his ways to Snape because of the memory, it would have been too feel good, and that doesn't happen in real life.

Here we will have to agree to disagree, since things like that do happen in real life. Maybe not often, but attitudes can change once more background information is known. I've seen it happen.

While he might be looking out for Harry and be on the right track, in reality, he's not a very pleasant person. He is nasty to mostly everyone, belittles people, is close minded just like Harry, holds grudges, and thinks he's ALWAYS right too. Like Harry, he has his good qualites. He's protective, logical and intelligent, powerful, and he does have a heart, though it is often masked. But all in all, he's not a saint, especially because there's so much we don't know about him.

Well I've never said Severus Snape was nice -- nor am I blind to the flaws in his character by any means. I simply think many people don't give his good qualities and kind acts sufficient credit. And it takes a lot of courage to withstand whatever punishment Voldemort gave him for not coming immediately to Voldemort's re-birthday party. ("You're LATE! Crucio for you! And no ice cream either!")

I've also seen him be right far more often than he is wrong, particularly when it comes to Harry. And some of his grudges have very good foundations, unfortunately. But even there he doesn't let them prevent him from doing what he believes he should and trying to work with those he believes tried to have him killed, like Sirius. That's an awfully big thing to try to overlook . . .

It's possible and I don't deny this could be true, but I don't see Snape as being the kind of person to be that selfless and carry out an unrequited love for so long.

I do. I think he's very altruistic and selfless. Maybe not all the time and to everyone, but for a select few he can be completely self-sacrificing. Witness his Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa -- including the third part of it. He didn't have to agree to that -- but he did. Sure seems selfless to me . . .

And we also don't know that any feelings he may have had for Lily were unrequited. Lily was certainly willing to stick up for him. To me that indicates that there was some regard and caring on her end -- but to what extent is unknown.

I doubt Lily would have Snape, a man her husband loathes, make an Unbreakable Vow with her. It wouldn't really make sense, and from what the books say, Lily and Snape didn't remain friends after Hogwarts, if they were even friends at all.

You seem to forget that they were all members of the original Order of the Phoenix. Snape included.

And just because Snape and James Potter had issues with one another does not preclude the possibility of an Unbreakable Vow between Severus and Lily, especially if she did it secretly, as Narcissa apparently did.

As I mentioned in this comment, I consider an Unbreakable Vow between Snape and Lily to be only a possibility, not a probability. If there was one, it was most likely due to an excess of maternal anxiety, as occurred with Narcissa -- a "just to be on the safe side" type of thing.


Persephone
[User Picture]
From:woman_ironing
Date:March 13th, 2006 12:24 pm (UTC)

Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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As a person, I think [Harry] was actually nicer at the beginning of the series than he is now, at the end of Book 6. He certainly had more respect for authority and in general was more polite and better behaved...

Just the attitude you need when facing a murderous Dark Lord! LOL!

(Via the Snitch.)
From:tree_and_leaf
Date:March 13th, 2006 03:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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A lot of people are nicer as ten year olds than as fifteen year olds. Sometimes they become nicer again after they grow up. I think Harry is probably in this category: he's a teenager who has seen a lot of horrible things and who has very few people he can unconditionally rely on. Even people from stable, loving homes can seem to be angry and difficult during puberty: maybe I've been unlucky, but Harry is on the nicer end of teenage boys I've had to do with.

But as woman_ironing points out, he has had to toughen up to survive... he also has the problem that he has no real parental figure - the nearest is Sirius, who is hardly ever available, and who has his own serious problems. Hermione and Ron are great friends, but they aren't experienced enough to be able to help with certain things. Dumbledore withdraws from him in OOTP, when Harry really needs some guidance. It's not surprising he's a bit impulsive and angry at times.
[User Picture]
From:theentwife
Date:March 14th, 2006 01:13 am (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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he also has the problem that he has no real parental figure - the nearest is Sirius, who is hardly ever available, and who has his own serious problems. Hermione and Ron are great friends, but they aren't experienced enough to be able to help with certain things. Dumbledore withdraws from him in OOTP, when Harry really needs some guidance.

I agree with you there -- Harry has a Daddy-shaped hole in his soul that needs to be filled somehow.

His uncle certainly refused to fill it, Dumbledore is too busy running a school and hunting horcruxes most of the time to give Harry the time and attention he so desparately needs from an adult male, Lupin is around for only a short while and Sirius is on the lam before he ends up departing forever for the Great Beyond.

So who does that leave?

Severus Snape. The teacher Harry despises, rejects and constantly rebels against. But the man who is there for Harry, consistently, day after day, year after year -- teaching him, protecting him and nurturing him, in his own snarky way -- this all despite Harry's repeated rudeness and bad behavior towards him. (I discuss Snape-As-Daddy in this comment also, if you care to read more . . . )


Persephone
[User Picture]
From:courtaud
Date:March 13th, 2006 05:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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Here via the Snitch, too

Just the attitude you need when facing a murderous Dark Lord! LOL!

Yes, it is. First of all, if we have to read seven books about Good fighting Evil, I for one would have the heroes to be and behave better than their enemies.

Also, every single bad action of the 'good' side was of direct advantage of Lord Voldemort, and Harry as only his nasty temper to thank for a lot of bad things happening to him and his friends.
[User Picture]
From:woman_ironing
Date:March 13th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)

Onward Christian so-o-oldier-ers!

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!

Yep. What with the torturing, murdering, plotting to take over the world etc etc, Harry is so like Voldemort it's uncanny. And that temper...!

But Stan should certainly be freed. The Ministry, hmmm, good side or bad? What? D'you mean it might be more complicated than that?
[User Picture]
From:courtaud
Date:March 13th, 2006 08:42 pm (UTC)

Re: Onward Christian so-o-oldier-ers!

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Yep. What with the torturing, murdering, plotting to take over the world etc etc, Harry is so like Voldemort it's uncanny. And that temper...!

More than his temper, his way with the Dark Arts, which he performs too easily.

I'm not asking for another Frodo, but I don't like teenagers wishing for someone's death. Nor whatever-agers. I was hit on the head with Lord of The Rings when I was too young.

Also, in the precedent war, the Aurors 'on the side of light' killed and tortured too. I agree that this is the way of the world, but again, we were talking about the side of the light.

I think that the Ministry is on its own side. It is a weak government but a nasty one, harassing the weak and bending over for the mighty. It uses the panic caused by Voldemort's rising to further its authority, and I believe that Scrimgeour has the same agenda that Barty Crouch Sr had, only he is more cautious.
[User Picture]
From:theentwife
Date:March 13th, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Onward Christian so-o-oldier-ers!

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Harry is so like Voldemort it's uncanny.

It's not just uncanny -- it's a Plot Point.

And an important one too.

(Yes, I realize you were probably being sarcastic there, but you are more correct than you may have realized.)


Persephone
[User Picture]
From:mary_j_59
Date:March 24th, 2006 05:05 am (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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I so agree with you! hope you do not mind that I have added you to my friends; please let me know if this is okay. Like you, I see Tolkien as the high point of modern fantasy, and am hoping (ultimately) for that kind of moral clarity and depth in Rowling. It may yet happen - we shall see.
[User Picture]
From:courtaud
Date:March 24th, 2006 12:23 pm (UTC)

Re: Snape is so totally the real hero of the books...!

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^_^

Please keep in mind that I only have a Livejournal so I can enter discussion not as Anonymous; very little happens in my journal.

Like you, I see Tolkien as the high point of modern fantasy, and am hoping (ultimately) for that kind of moral clarity and depth in Rowling.
I may have some problem with some of Tolkien's ideas (such as, that there may be a whole race born without any hint of good and without hope of having any, or the way we are supposed to believe that there is a natural hierarchy of the various races), but I'm really unhappy with the ethics in Harry Potter's books. The Wizarding World is a disturbing place, and Harry is learning all the wrong lessons. I may believe that it is the Voldemort in him, but everyone seems to share the same point of view about right and wrong, and it is one I cannot accept.

I've the strong impression of a completely different subtext, hidden in plain view, and in the sixth book it has been bring to the light in several occasion.

After OotP, I sometimes tried do show how callous Gryffindors could be, and I often I used for example 'what the Twins did to Montague'. The usual answer was 'Who is Montague?'.

Now we know that not only what the twins did to Montague was even worse that we supposed, but that it gave Draco the information he needed to help the Death Eaters to enter Hogwarths.

If the Twins would not have reacted to a loss of house points with something who almost caused a fellow student's death - and very possibly a permanent mental damage - or if the Trio would have the decency to tell the staff what they knew actually happened to a missing boy, Dumbledore could be still alive. And, of course, if the Twins would not sell dangerous items and illegal substance to whomever is ready to pay for them.

In a sense I feel that many chicken are coming home to roost, and that it will not be pretty.



[User Picture]
From:theentwife
Date:March 12th, 2006 04:23 am (UTC)
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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 . . .


Persephone

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