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Harry Potter Trivia Question: Is Snape Good or Evil?

Posted on June 1, 2017 by

Thank you all so much to everyone who played Harry Potter trivia the week before last! We got so many great answers to our “expert-level” question, “Is Severus Snape good or evil?” and we wanted to share some with you!! Thank you to everyone who responded! Overwhelmingly, most people said they thought Snape was good, even though he did bad things. They cited such examples as protecting Harry in book one from Quirrell’s spells, his love of Lily Potter, the trust placed in him by Dumbledore, sending him Godric Griffyndor’s sword and (trying) to teach Harry Occlumency. Some said that Snape did good things, despite not being a good person, saying, “he is neither good or evil, but more evil than anything else.” A few cited some examples of his evilness, including his terrorizing of students, his time as a Death Eater, and that his desire to make amends came from his love of Lily, rather than any sense of “moral repentance.” As one respondent said, “getting pantsed [as a teenager] doesn’t justify becoming Neville’s worst fear.” However, as Sirius Black says, “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” Dan Epstein explored Snape’s dual nature in two essays, where he provided arguments for both sides. He noted that Snape does many good things including: protecting Harry even though he dislikes him, acting as a double agent by spying on Voldemort for Dumbledore at great personal risk, and teaching Harry Occlumency to help him combat Voldemort. He mentioned that, “Snape’s first words to Harry were, ‘Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?’ In Victorian Flower Language, asphodel is a type of lily (like his mom) that means regrets at the grave. Wormwood means absence or sorrow.  It you combine them together it could mean, ‘I regret Lily’s death and I am sorry.’” However, Dan also noted the evil things he has done, including bullying students in class, and terrorizing Neville, as well as deliberately trying to get the students to figure out that Professor Lupin was a werewolf. Good, evil, or somewhere in-between? There is one thing we can all agree on: Severus Snape is a complicated, fascinating character. Here are some other choice quotes from Nobles community members:

  • “Snape is good, yet spite, anger and frustration lead him to single out Harry and co for harsher treatment as retribution for his torment at the hands of Jams and co.  in the earlier books. However, […] he loved Lily Potter all along and sacrificed himself for Harry and the gang.” – Ben Heider
  • “Ultimately, Snape gives his life for Harry in a final act of love for Lily. I think that everything Snape did was based on his love and grief.” – Annie Ellison ’19
  • “Snape was willing to do anything to keep the love of his life and her family safe…[and] he spent countless hours [with Harry] making sure Harry would be safe from the part of Voldemort that lived inside him.” Betsy Matthew ’20
  • “Snape sacrificed his humanity for the greater good.  He has to play a role the he despised, kill one of his best friends, and do terrible things to convince the death eaters that he supported their cause.  The ultimate level of enlightenment is to sacrifice your life for a just case; that is exactly what Snape did.” – Dominic Manzo
  • “He gave his life to good and without him Harry couldn’t have survived.” – Grace Taylor ’21 and Antonia Gomez ’21.
  • “He dedicates his life to saving Harry.” – Gracie Sheehan ’22
  • “He spends his entire life protecting Harry (who he doesn’t really like) for his betrayal of his true love.  He is a great wizard drawn to the dark arts, but ultimately dedicates his life to love. He worked as a spy for Dumbledore to fight Voldemort and help Harry.” – Sean Wrenn ’18
  • “Snape is in no way a morally good character. While people might argue that he fought against Voldemort in the end and saved Harry, his motivation for doing so is entirely selfish.” – Catherine Kasparyan ’18
  • “Snape isn’t a moral person, good vs. evil is not something that truly figures into this personality.  He is simply a person guided by his own (sometimes misguided) emotions […] Human beings are products of our experiences and more often than not, infancy and our parent’s ideals influence greatly.  In an attempt to sooth his shattered ego and twisted heart Snape turned to the familiar, both embracing his family legacy and attempting to reject Lily from his heart. […] Trying to condemn Snape is futile, his complexity does not allow for such a black and white view.

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