So I finished this series (again) a couple of weeks ago. Per usual, Deathly Hallows kind of ruined my life for a couple of days because I really can’t get anything else done when I’m reading that book beyond reading the book. Even though I know how it ends, it still completely engages me every time.
For my final discussion, I’d mostly like to talk about Snape. In the Harry Potter fandom, I frequently come across people who are die-hard Snape lovers. They laud him for his faithfulness, his willingness to risk his life, his ability to walk the dangerous edge of being a spy. They quote his famous “Always” line as though it is the most romantic thing anyone has ever said.
However, I disagree with pretty much all of that. In my opinion, Snape was a selfish and cruel man with an obsession for an idealized woman he had created in his mind. Nothing that he did was truly altruistic. He never really matured or changed as a person, other than to become more twisted and bitter. Snape lived his life as could-have-beens that never really could have been, and blamed everyone else for his own failings. When given the opportunity to truly do good, he never did.
It’s obvious throughout the story that Snape never really loved Lilly for who she was. He never truly appreciated her skills, talents, beliefs, or dreams. While he acted as though James never deserved her, it was Snape himself who chose to walk a path completely different from the one Lilly was following. Where James matured, Snape stagnated. In the end, Lilly married the man who had actually become a man. I think that their patronuses illustrate this mostly clearly – James and Lilly’s are a matching set – different, yet complementing. Snape’s becomes the same shape as Lilly’s – obsession, rather than love.
Throughout his career at Hogwarts, Snape does nothing to show that he has changed or developed as a person. He is cruel and taunting towards students he doesn’t like – the same sneering bully that he ever was. Given the opportunity to help Harry, he does a bare minimum, just like he always did with Lilly herself. He’s unwilling to see Harry as a unique and talented individual. Instead, Snape only sees Harry as a product of James. While he agrees to keep Harry alive for Lilly’s sake, he hates Harry for James’s sake. That is not the mark of a man who has truly changed his stripes.
In short, Snape’s so-called love for Lilly is not romantic. He is not faithful. He always did what he wanted to do, no matter what it hurt or cost Lilly. The fact that he still obsesses over her doesn’t make his character compelling – it makes him a fool who can only look at the past with regrets over Lilly’s choices, not his own.
Beyond Snape… let’s see… well, I actually like Dumbledore. A lot of people are down on him and say that he used Harry, etc. I say that he was only a man who was doing his best. He never forced Harry any step of the way; everything that Harry did was of his own free will.
Also, side note, I really, really tried my best to read a homosexual relationship into the friendship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, and it just was no soap. It makes zero sense. Really.
I love the development of relationships between Harry, Ron, and Hermione – as a trio, and as each pair. Personally, I think that the fact that Ron and Hermione end up together is perfect. I also think that Harry marrying Ginny is excellent.
The ending of this book is amazing. Harry’s sacrifice, followed by the way that Voldemort is no longer able to touch the people for whom Harry sacrificed himself – the fact that Neville pulls Gryffindor’s sword from the hat – the way that Voldemort dies like any other mortal human – all excellent.
Not excellent? Rowling’s haphazard killing of loads of people just to try to make an emotional impact. It really wasn’t necessary, and it kind of annoys me.
Overall, though, I really enjoy these books. Per usual, any time there’s a huge series like this, there are lots of continuity questions (like if Harry saw his mom die, how come he couldn’t see the thestrals all along??), but I don’t really get fussed over things like that. These books are a thoroughly good read, and more books set in this world would indeed be a fantastic thing.