We are talking about one of the most loved characters of JK Rowling ever, but also one of the most problematic: why didn't Severus Snape love Lily Evans?
This article was written by four hands by Yari Montorsi and Gloria Comandini.
After recent discussions on our local market square, that is Facebook, we decided that the time had come to talk seriously about a rather central issue for the fandom of Harry Potter. That is: Severus Snape's love for Lily Evans.
Well yes, after more than ten years from the conclusion of the saga and from that "Always”That made history, being cited everywhere as the supreme declaration of love, let's talk about Severus Snape. And we talk about it in an unpopular way.
In fact, in our opinion, Severus Snape is not the definitive example of a faithful lover, a redeemed villain or a lover in general. In reverse, Snape is the perfect example of a selfish and childish person, who feels a feeling of obsession and possessiveness towards the person "loved". That is, that of Severus is a toxic love, which should never be taken as an example of love.
There are many premises to be made and we know that the issue is very thorny. Therefore, we will strive to investigate the matter to the best of our ability. But on the other hand, please read the article to the end before commenting and saying keep your tones calm during the discussion.
Premise 1: the fact that Severus Snape is a negative character does not make him a bad character
Since, on the Internet, there is often a tendency to confuse reading levels, let's get the first premise out of the way. The fact that Severus Snape is a morally negative character and not to be taken as a positive example does not mean that he is also a poorly written character.
Snape is an excellent character, written and characterized very well. His background is solid and interesting and his dialogues are sharp and full of exquisite sarcasm. This makes him a well-managed character and outlined at 360 °, the result of a long study and a lot of care. Surely, Severus is one of the best-done characters at Rowling, who with the Potions professor has reached great levels of complexity and humanity.
However, writing a character with such care and dedication does not obviously mean that this character embodies positive values. Likewise, the character's negativity does not in any way affect the care with which it has been described.
Ergo: Severus Snape is an excellent character, but a shitty person.
Premise 2: the fact that Severus Snape is a shitty person does not mean that we cannot like him as a character
Snape can be liked for many reasons: because he catalyzes the reader's attention with his presence, because he sees himself in his past, because Alan Rickman makes him a creepy dude or because he likes well-made characters. These are all very good reasons to like the Potions teacher.
Appreciating Severus Snape, who is a shitty person, does not mean being shitty people in turn. We are not forced to love only good and dear characters.
However, appreciating a negative character does not mean thinking that he is actually a saint. It does not mean justifying his actions or presenting him at all costs as a beautiful person: appreciating Severus Snape must not lead to excuse his shitty behavior.
Ergo: we can love a lot of shitty people like Snape, but we can't change their characterization by pretending that they are good people. Fortunately, fanfictions exist for these things, in which we can imagine alternative universes in which Severus grew up in a decent adult.
And, for the record, Snape is one of Comandini's favorite characters, who writes the article: she's a shit, but I love him all the same.
Premise 3: the point of view of the character VS the point of view of the writer VS the point of view of the reader
In the discussion that kicked off this article, it was pointed out that Severus Snape loved Lily because Rowling had written a dialogue in which Snape, in fact, claimed to love Lily. So Severus loved Lily because Rowling wrote it.
Although this statement has an irrefutable empirical basis, namely the text de Deathly Hallows, there is an underlying misunderstanding that makes it all problematic. Indeed, what the character says is not necessarily what the author thinks, nor what the author thinks must necessarily be shared by the public.
For example, Vladimir Nabokov, in his novel Lolita, describes the sick attraction of a pedophile, Humbert Humbert, to a girl, nicknamed Lolita. However, Nabokov's opinion on this "relationship" in no way coincides with Humbert Humbert's opinion. So, although the writer writes, from a pedophile's point of view, that Humbert Humbert loves Lolita, in no way can Nabokov himself be called a pedophile. Nor, according to Nabokov, does Humbert Humbert really love Lolita.
Instead, in Twilight, Stephanie Meyer describes, through Bella Swan's eyes, Edward Cullen's behavior as romantic and caring. In this case, however, Meyer's opinion coincides with Bella's. However, many readers and readers have pointed out that Edward's behavior is toxic, obsessive and abusive. Nevertheless, Meyer finds this toxic behavior a manifestation of love. Of course, Meyer may have her opinion, however various professional opinions prove that the Twilight writer is not right.
In these two cases we see two different treatments of toxic behavior in the books. In the case of Nabokov, we have an author who consciously describes toxic characters. In the case of Meyer, on the other hand, we have an author who describes a toxic relationship without presenting or thinking of it as such, and it is the readers who instead recognize its negativity.
A toxic relationship, therefore, is recognized by the way it is described, and can be recognized as such even if the author or author does not consider it toxic.. Hence, the point of view of the reader, in this case, is as valid as that of the writer, since it is by no means said that the writer is aware of the toxicity of certain relationships.
Premise 4: how do you recognize a toxic relationship?
There is still a long way to go, in Western cultures, for the recognition and education of consent and equal couple relationships. Partially, we had talked about it to Genderplay II Edition. These are not trivial topics, now of common knowledge or that stop at "it is wrong to beat women". Therefore, no wonder that many authors of novels are unaware of it and churn out chilling love stories.
You could write 700 articles on what a toxic relationship is, but here we will limit ourselves, for brevity, to quote a quote from this article di Psychology Today.
People who are toxic are rarely aware of their own toxicity. They are too self-absorbed and worried with their own emotions, interests, needs, and goals to be aware of the needs, goals, interests, and emotions of others.
This quote will come in very useful for analyzing Snape's behavior towards Lily. However, remember that toxic relationships aren't necessarily just romantic, and that abusive partners aren't just men. For your information, here you will find a insight into abusive partner behaviors, along with some tips on how to deal with the problem.
The basis: Severus and Lily's relationship during Hogwarts in the books
In the light of the premises and the sentence above, let's analyze the relationship between the two.
Severus and Lily know each other as young, she is a girl barely aware of his abilities, he is an introverted boy rather denied by socializing. Between the two, one is born immediately strong friendship which, in Severus's case, turns into something else. Lily, however, always sees him as a friend (though she only regarded him - Severus - as a good friend).
The sorting, new friends and new rivals
The sorting seems to separate the two, at least apparently. Severus' memories, on the other hand, are fragmentary and even we have no idea how their relationship has evolved step by step; we just know that a strong rivalry arises between Severus and James.
Severus' early years are not easy, but his group of new friends, with the prefect Lucius Malfoy, and his extraordinary ability to know curses and seventh year bills do not make him seem the first idiot sorted in evergreen. We know that Lily did not appreciate some of Severus' new friendships. In particular, we know that she doesn't like Avery and Mulciber for their bully attitudes. Remember that Avery and Mulciber both became Death Eaters in the following years, so Lily's fears weren't unfounded at all.
Snape's worst memory
Then, in the fourth year, the unthinkable happens. During one of the usual quarrels Severus-James the young Lily, defending the first, causes his ire. Frightened of looking weak in front of his new gang of best friends, Severus calls Lily "dirtyblood" (mudblood), causing a permanent break.
The foundation of him scolding Lily Evans by calling her Mudblood was to not appear weak in front of his fellow Death Eater students than actual supremacist views. He also deeply regretted this as it was what ended his friendship with Lily and defended Hermione Granger when Phineas Nigellius Black called her Mudblood, his manner of speaking in this instance being uncharacteristically explosive and filled with more emotion than he normally displayed.From the Harry Potter Wiki
Severus' reaction, though later criticized by him, is no small feat. Of course the boy had been harassed by James's acts for a long time but, as written by Rowling, Severus was aware of the fact that something was already going on between Lily and James.
Always keeping faith with Rowling, Severus's attitude served to ward off other harassment in the first place and to appear strong and self-confident in the second. But, in the third floor, ad somehow drive Lily away from James. Although there was nothing between the two, Severus still acted to remove a friend of his (and nothing else, let's remember) from her interest.
If this has not yet seemed like a clear obsession, go ahead, because we are not done.
Severus Snape has joined a terrorist group that targeted people like Lily Evans
Our good Severus therefore continues his life (we don't know how, nor for how much) until join the dark lord. Some hypotheses on the web adduce this seduction towards the dark arts to the Muggle father. Others, however, speak of Voldemort as an "offer that can not be refused", and we do not feel dissent.
It is not known how (Rowling has remained vague) but Severus becomes one of the best Death Eaters around. Trusted ally of Voldemort himself, it is he who brings the child's prophecy back to the Dark Lord.
Let's stop for a moment to think about the fact that Severus had no objection to the killing of any infant, and keep that in mind for future thoughts. When Voldemort learns that someone might blow his place, he obviously doesn't fit in, and begins to investigate. It is only when the name of Lily Potter (Evans) and her son Harry turns up that Severus snaps.
He implores the Dark Lord, therefore, to save Lily, as the child is lost and who cares about James. But, in front of Voldemort's hard heart, our man's tears can do little, and Severus loses what he loved most in the world.
Problem 1: Severus Snape says he loves Lily Evans, but does not care about her well-being
Now that we have briefly reviewed the facts, let's move on to argue our hypothesis: Severus Snape does not like Lily, but is only obsessed with it. This is demonstrable starting from the fact that he is not interested in Lily's happiness and well-being.
Severus begins to show that he doesn't really care about Lily's good from the scene in which he gives her "Dirty blood", comparable in the real world to calling a gay friend a “fagot” or calling a black friend “black”. Whether driven by the desire not to appear weak in front of budding Death Eaters friends, or by the desire to distance Lily from James, one thing is certain: he is deliberately injuring Lily for personal gain. Little wonder, then, when Lily broke ties with Severus.
Snape is a Death Eater, but does he love a Muggle born?
Also, before the fateful breakup, Severus dated Malfoy, Avery and Mulciber knowing full well that their ideas portrayed Lily as an inferior being. And although Severus did not share the pureblood superiority ideology, the fact that he continued to associate with future Death Eaters speaks volumes about the fact that put his aspirations in front of Lily's well-being. In fact, supporting Death Eaters meant creating an environment where people like Lily wouldn't be safe.
We are not faced with a person who chooses a successful career, preferring it to the woman he loves. We are faced with a man who has chosen to support, out of prestige, the magical neo-Nazis who intend to kill people as the woman he "loves". How, at this point, do you say you really love a person, when you put yourself in danger by your ambition?
Honestly, it seems odd that Snape only woke up when Lily became Voldemort's target. In fact, being a Muggle-born and part of the Order of the Phoenix, Lily was a target of Voldemort and his soldiers by default.
Become a Death Eater to impress a Muggle Born?
Yet apparently Severus thought that becoming a Death Eater, a powerful wizard surrounded by powerful friends, would impress Lily. We can understand this from some passages taken from JK Rowling Web Chat Transcript on the site The Leaky Cauldron, dated July 30, 2007:
Nithya: Lily detested Mulciber, Avery. If Snape really loved her, why didn't he sacrifice their company for her sake?
JK Rowling: Well, that is Snape's tragedy. Given his time over again he would not have become a Death Eater, but like many insecure, vulnerable people (like Wormtail) he craved membership of something big and powerful, something impressive.
JK Rowling: He wanted Lily and he wanted Mulciber too. He never really understood Lily's aversion; he was so blinded by his attraction to the dark side he thought she would find him impressive if he became a real Death Eater.
Problem 2: Severus Snape says he loves Lily Evans, but he doesn't care about her happiness
At this point we come to another sore point: if Snape doesn't want Lily to die, however, he doesn't care that James and Harry survive. Or, he doesn't care that the people Lily loves, and that make her happy, survive. Ergo: he doesn't care if Lily is happy.
Let's understand: if Snape had gone to the Potters' house on the night of July 31st following Voldemort, and then had fought against the Dark Lord to stop him from killing everyone, but only being able to save Lily, the situation would have been very different. In that case, it would have been either sheer bad luck or a simple inability to fight Voldemort. If Lily had survived similar circumstances, she would have been devastated and frustrated, but Severus wouldn't have been to blame and Lily would have been grateful too.
However, if on July 31 Voldemort had made a Petrificus totalus on Lily and killed Harry and James, and then told Lily "Thank your friend Severus, who asked me to spare only you", Lily's reaction would have been very different. We know that Lily was a person with a clear idea of what was right and what was wrong, so maybe she wasn't going to kill Severus. However, we are ready to bet that Lily, at that point, would never forgive Severus.
In fact, if it is right to try to save the person you love, if this person has made a family, sacrificing the aforementioned family for the salvation of one's love interest is not a great sign of love. Severus was not asked: "choose between Lily and Harry". Severus was in no position to decide whether to risk Lily's life to save her family, or to dematerialize with Lily and save her by the broken bonnet.
On the contrary, from a relatively safe situation, Severus chose a priori that Lily was the only person he was interested in saving. However, by doing this, Snape has shown that he doesn't care if Lily will be destroyed by the loss of her son and husband, with whom he is happy.
Problem 3: Severus Snape says he loves Lily Evans, but bullies his son
Now, Snape has behaved immature and selfish more than once, but there is always time to grow, mature and become better people. After all, he could always redeem himself by protecting Lily's son Harry, making sure he is safe and happy, just as Lily would like.
But no. Instead, Snape inaugurates Harry's first potions lesson by ridiculing and bullying him, insulting his father's memory. Because, apparently, James Potter's teenage memory is more important than everlasting love for Lily.
Literally, Severus' loyalty to Lily, when it comes to Harry, comes down to trying to save the boy's life should he be in danger. Or, Severus' loyalty and love for Lily leads the teacher to do the bare minimum to keep Harry alive.
We also take into account the fact that any other Hogwarts teacher would have been ready to save Harry's life without the need for a love passed to justify it, and surely very few in the teaching staff dared to bully their own student. For Snape, however, it seems that making potions lessons a hell for the son of the woman he loves is perfectly acceptable behavior, worthy of his loyalty to Lily.
Result: Severus Snape loves Lily as an object, not as a person
And here we return to the quote on abusive relationships that we reported above. Severus is so worried about himself and his love for Lily that he doesn't think about Lily and how she feels.
Lily has doubts about Severus' friendships and does not like these "purists of the race", who risk putting her in danger. And what does Snape do? Are you wondering about the issue? Are you trying to talk to your friends to discuss their ideas? Does he send the neo-Nazis of the Wizarding world to shit because he realizes that they are a danger to the woman he loves?
But no! Snape does nothing for Lily, but continues to study the Dark Arts with the Death Eaters for himself. All this convincing himself that, as a side effect, he would also become cool enough to arouse Lily's admiration. Snape's thinking, in this sense, is always focused on itself.
Likewise, when he tries to save Lily, Severus does not think of a strategy that goes in favor of Lilythus saving his whole family, but on the contrary he thinks of a strategy that is in favor of himself. Also because, with James and Harry dead, in many ways Severus would almost have a free field.
The problem, in both cases, is the following: Snape never wonders what Lily wants.
Would Lily want Severus to become a Death Eater? No. Would Lily want to survive her husband and son, being spared by Voldemort at the price of standing aside? No. Finally, would Lily want Snape to bully Harry? Absolutely not. But yet, Snape doesn't care what Lily wants.
The difference between healthy love and self-centered obsession
Now, let's understand: loving someone in a healthy way does not mean canceling one's partner, fulfill his every wish or turn into a doormat. However, listening to the partner's wishes and concerns is important in order to meet each other. In a healthy relationship, not all problems are solved by thinking "how can I become better?", But it can be helpful to listen to "what do you want me to do to make you feel better?" of the other.
Severus Snape never took this second step: for him there is only what he feels for Lily, ignoring what Lily feels in general. And maybe what Severus feels for Lily is truly love, a deep feeling of affection. However, this lack of interest in the feelings of the woman does not at all suggest a healthy love, but more ad an egocentric obsession, in which Lily exists in function of Severus' well-being.
Rowling's take on Snape's love for Lily
Now, Rowling isn't Nabokov, but neither is Meyer. Although the British author has, over time, made some problematic choices (such as the Nagini character andDumbledore's homosexuality!), she is not the latest arrival and she is not even a naive person.
Severus Snape: a gray character
In fact, Rowling is the first to point out that Snape is quite a shit person. However, the author recognizes the value of her sacrifice to save Harry and believes that Severus' love for Lily was one of the qualities that redeemed him. Rowling explained her point of view in one series of tweets November 27, 2015:
J. K. Rowling
Snape died for Harry out of love for Lily. Harry paid him tribute in forgiveness and gratitude.
@jk_rowling Kind of strange you'd say 'in forgiveness', I mean Snape held no malice against Harry (which Harry came to knew, eventually).
J. K. Rowling
That's not true, I'm afraid. Snape projected his hatred and jealousy of James onto Harry.
Snape is all gray. You can't make him a saint: he was vindictive & bullying. You can't make him a devil: he died to save the wizarding world.
Snape didn't die for 'ideals'. He died in an attempt to expiate his own guilt. He could have broken cover at any time to save himself, but he chose not to tell Voldemort that the latter was making a fatal error in targeting Harry. Snape's silence ensured Harry's victory.
A sacrifice dictated by love for Lily
To those who tell her that Severus Snape died of her obsession with Lily (and not because she loved her), Rowling replies:
saddie kay ray
well u can [make Snape a devil] cuz he bullied small children and died for his obsession w lily, not to save the world
J. K. Rowling
Snape was a bully who loved the goodness he sensed in Lily without being able to emulate her. That was his tragedy of him.
so he still died a selfish death. It was for no one other than himself. It wasn't even for Lily in the end.
J. K. Rowling
He stood to gain nothing personally but the triumph of the cause Lily had believed in. He was trying to do right.
So in summary, Rowling believes Snape a vengeful bully who redeems himself by saving the Magic World. Also, according to Rowling, Snape loved Lily, or at least loved his goodness, without being able to be a good person in turn.
Finally, Snape's heroic actions against Voldemort are not dictated by ideals, but by his sense of guilt for causing Lily's death. At the end of it all, Severus seems to have asked himself the question "what would Lily want?", replying that Lily wanted to see Voldemort defeated, thus sacrificing his life.
Conclusion: Severus Snape did not love Lily in a healthy way
In discussions like this, you always risk falling into the rhetoric of “he's a bad person, but he also did good things”, which in Italy is historically so dear to us.
How difficult it is not to demonize or idealize martyrs!
De factoSeverus Snape is a shitty person who, out of a sense of guilt and late loyalty to the woman he loved, saved a lot of people by sacrificing their lives. This does not erase his Death Eater past or his terrifying teaching behavior.
However, its results make you think that not everyone in war is fighting for ideals, nor that everyone who is fighting for a faction embraces its philosophy. Not everyone who saves lives is a good person we who remain must deal with all the gray of life and of being humanor. We cannot make all the fallen of the heroes spotless and fearless, but we must honor and respect them for the people they have been, thanking them for their sacrifice anyway.
But maybe giving the name of our childhood bully to our son, when decent people died on the same day, who loved us and who fought to the end for a better world, like Fredo, Tonks and Remus, is a little excessive. I will never stop complaining about this trashata.
A martyr with a toxic love
However, if Severus Snape was a war hero and his sacrifice must be respected, his relationship with Lily Evans is another story entirely.
At the end, Snape may have honored Lily's memory by embracing her cause to the utmost sacrifice, but this is the only completely selfless and selfless action that Severus has done against Lily. Throughout the rest of their relationship, Severus was constantly focused only on himself, ignoring Lily's feelings and desires.
You can also call Severus' feelings "love" if you like, but remember to add the adjective "toxic", because it is a very unhealthy feeling. Ultimately, Snape largely has an obsession with Lily, since she is always at the center of her thoughts, but never as a person with her own life, but only as an object of Severus' feelings. He often faces his bond with Lily in a childish way, only caring about what he wants and remembering Lily only as "his" Lily, her childhood friend, refusing to see Lily for the adult married woman she became.
For this variety of reasons, we find it hard to define Severus Snape's feeling for Lily Evans as "love". Severus' sacrifice is touching and with positive outcomes, but the rest of the relationship between these two characters is very unromantic.
Severus Snape, representation of faithful lovers, but rejected?
We understand that anyone has undergone one amorous disappointment, but you continue to love those who have rejected it, want a literary representation and therefore identify yourself with thatAlways by Severus.
However, hopefully yours Always do not confuse the constancy of your feelings with the respect due to your love interest. He has every right to make a new life with the person he loves, without him, his partner or his offspring having to suffer repercussions on your part.
For the rest, there is absolutely nothing wrong with loving Severus Snape for the excellent character he is, or feeling inspired by his sacrifice. You may very well have your imaginary Snape, noble and truly in love with Lily. You can feel inspired by what Severus could have been, by the pure and positive way he could have said that.Always.
But, for your own sake, don't mistake a selfish, self-centered obsession for true love. If you want true love, look at James Potter, who became a better person and sacrificed his life for the people he loved.