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 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.)
I'll second the rec for Closetland. It's one of the most angsty & morally ambiguous movies I've ever seen. I found it on VHS; dunno if it's on DVD.
I think Harry in regards to Snape's worst memory makes sense--after all, Harry doesn't know it's his worst. Harry's been through stuff almost as bad with Dudley & his friends, so while he's sympathetic enough to worry about his father & Sirius' ethics, he's too trapped in his own mindset ("I got through it; it's not so bad") to realize how much worse it'd be if it hadn't stopped when he came to Hogwarts.
I don't think of Harry as one-dimensional, but I do think of him as a kid. Big heart, noble goals, great courage... unconsciously selfish and absolutely convinced he knows better than the adults around him. (This is somewhat justifiable. Before Hogwarts, he'd never dealt with adults making decisions for the common good--it had always been for their own benefit or to punish Harry.) Like most kids, he thinks "fair" means "what I like" unless someone teaches him differently. And like most, he holds a grudge stupidly because you lose less face for stupid grudges than for being incapable of making up your mind.
Harry's been through stuff almost as bad with Dudley & his friends, so while he's sympathetic enough to worry about his father & Sirius' ethics, he's too trapped in his own mindset ("I got through it; it's not so bad") to realize how much worse it'd be if it hadn't stopped when he came to Hogwarts.
Plus he doesn't seem to fully appreciate the additional "squirm-factor" of
his mother's part in the memory (discussed in this comment
) -- that was additional twisting of the knife to poor Snivellus, albeit something Harry might not have been able to fully appreciate. After all, Cho Chang wasn't there when Dudley and his pals were tormenting Harry. unconsciously selfish and absolutely convinced he knows better than the adults around him.
Yes -- and that's the whole problem. He is a kid who really
needs to grow up. Quickly.