Sunday, July 22, 2007

Oy, here it comes. Obligatory Harry Potter post. Please be aware my links and narrative may spoil the new book for you, though I will attempt to contain my narrative as much as possible out of respect for your reading enjoyment.

I will admit that even though I love to read, I've never cracked one of the books. Not interested after watching the first film. Love the films, I do. And a very large part of my love for those films is the magnificent Alan Rickman's portrayal of Severus Snape.

Yes, if you know me, you've got me -- it does have a lot to do with the villianous black nehru jacket and flowing black priest-like cloaks (phwoar!), the gothic trappings, the uptightness, the jet-black hair, the measured and stern voice...*swoon*

Ah, and don't forget his riding crop...erm, I mean wand...erm, no, I about that wand?

*ahem* anyway...

My first brush with Alan Rickman was as one of the two actors in the excellent film Closet Land; since then I've really enjoyed his hysterical performance as Metatron in Kevin Smith's Dogma and of course his very important bit as Severus Snape. Very similar characters, in a way, I know, but he's also quite versatile. Who can forget the evil Hans in Die Hard and "classic fool" Harry in Love, Actually?

So, of course, being completely enthralled with Alan Rickman's performance and knowing the importance that Snape plays in the last two books, I have been all over the internets gathering the last story because I just couldn't wait.

And you know what? I was heartbroken at the injustice of the end.

I realize Harry is ultimately an innocent and deserves a happy ending. But a less than innocent but long-suffering -- and most importantly, repentant and romantic -- character such as Snape, highly dedicated and a master of his craft, but unloved and under constant, almost lifetime stress for a greater good, deserved much more than what JKR dished out. I'm definitely not the only one who feels this way -- there's an excellent essay about this travesty of justice here.

It could be said that there was a certain romance to Snape's end. Maybe I'm a different kind of romantic, but if that is what was intended, it lacked fundamental pieces that make such things bittersweet and thus romantic. Boo, I say -- I just didn't get it.

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Blogger Trevor said...

Hmm...well, to begin with, of the HP characters, Snape is by far my favorite, too. And I agree that his death was casual, unfair, and mostly unnoticed by the characters. I must, however, disagree with the metatextual assertion that is made by you and regan_v that Snapes death was unfair, and that Rowling offed Snape only to tidy up a complex loose end (I know, Saudade, that you did not make this comment about Rowling's affections, but you did link to an article that did).

Please allow me to offer another interpretation. Rowling, perhaps loved Snape best. He was her most complex character, thus showing a greater amount of time and attention spent on his creation and formation. Also, his character, at the end of the series, was by far the most heroic. His choices were motivated by an unrequited love, and a strong set of principles, honor, and responsibility made all the more difficult for his apparent disdain of most other characters.

Finally, he is the most tragic. And what is remembered, cherished, and discussed more than tragedy? The ancient Greeks knew this, and knew that the emotional energy produced from tragedy (catharsis) was purifying and immense. Imagine nuclear fission--something whole is broken under the right circumstances, and a tremendous energy is released. Snape will be, I hold, better remembered than Harry eventually. Rowling, by giving Snape a brutally casual, unnecessary death assures him of his rightful and honored place in the collective memory and imagination. Though he will be a footnote in the intrinsic world of Hogwarts, Muggles, and Harry, he will be best loved and remembered in ours. Rowling proves she loves him best--she had to give Harry his pleasant end, but how ultimately status quo is that?

July 23, 2007 at 12:44:00 AM PDT  
Blogger saudade said...

I agree with you about the possibility Rowling loved Snape best and thus created one of her most complex characters in him. But that doesn't mean she could wrangle what she had created in the end.

I agree with you about his strong set of principles, honor, and responsibility -- and the difficulty maintaining these things whilst surrounded by people he disdained.

Actually, I agree with most of what you are saying, especially the bit about tragedy. regan_v and folks in her comment stream allude to this -- he will live on in "fan fiction" and the like. But I don't believe that this means he will be a more enduring character than Harry outside the JKR Hogwarts world, nor do I think that somehow proves his death was not unjust.

I do care about the fairness of the end of the actual saga -- the one betwixt the covers of the book. I'm not asking for a status quo end to his story; rather, I am disappointed Rowling didn't give the man a little reprieve and a fair shake. We're to be placated with "Albus Severus?" Bitch please, that isn't enough.

I do think he was the most heroic, and tragic, but true tragic heroes 1) die honorably, and/or 2) have some kind of "vindication," for lack of a better word, in the end, and/or 3) have something in life that gave them some sense of happiness -- mainly, love or respect -- not a lifetime of torment, regret, rejection, and unrequited love.

I get that he bucked these things to still be a hero. But most readers don't get satisfaction from merely this. We want to experience justice, or at least some kind of fulfillment from the long journey with a character such as this.

Snape dies quickly, without fanfare, and without the knowledge that Harry will survive and Voldemort will be defeated. He is never loved, never thanked for his service nor given a bit knowledge of what his service wrought, never allowed his side (save the bit he transfers to Harry), never allowed anything save his immense obligations. Used and abused by all sides who take advantage of his difficult position, he dies for nothing and without so much as a tear.

I agree with many people who assert that by shortchanging Snape, Rowling pussed out of a grand, but complex, opportunity to really put a spectacular finish on a series that hinges on love, forgiveness, and things never being what they seem.

July 23, 2007 at 11:39:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Trevor said...

All right, all right. I agree. Good Snape did deserve a better conclusion, and I am indeed disappointed that he did not receive said finale. His death was too abrupt, for certain.

Granted, Harry named his son after Snape and Dumbledore---thus kind of making the two equals, but, even so, Rowling could have given Snape a better send-off into the unknown. Maybe he could have got into an awesome duel with Voldemort, and then perished. Something like that.

Plus, the "19 years later" epilogue, does seem kind of like it was just there to clean up loose ends (and to open it up if she wants to write another round of books about the next generation). once more, you've got me!

July 24, 2007 at 6:03:00 PM PDT  
Blogger saudade said...

Alright! I can finally stop whispering in your ear whilst you're slumbering and get a proper night's sleep then.

Also, now that this is all tidied up -- don't eat that special cake I made for you.



July 24, 2007 at 9:38:00 PM PDT  

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