This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Harry Potter exposed a new generation to the joys of reading and made YA Lit “A Thing” enjoyable by teens and adults. There are a ton of great characters to choose from but I wanted to focus on Severus Snape, the deliciously antagonistic Potions Master of Hogwarts. His story is about the redemptive power of love and forgiveness. More than just a robe-billowing villain, he is revealed as a complex and heroic character by the end of the series.
Snape falls in love with Harry’s mother, Lilly, but she falls for the arrogant James Potter. The pair remain friends, but their relationship is marred by his attraction to the Dark Arts. He is very much in the vein of 18th century gothic heroes of the age of enlightenment. When He Who Must Not Be Named plans to kill young Harry in his bid for ultimate power, Snape changes sides and tries to save the Potters. But he is too late to save Lilly. In order to make up for the loss of his love, he vows to protect the boy for his mother’s sake.
Rowling does an excellent job of concealing Snape’s motives, withholding that elusive backstory until the final book for all but Alan Rickman. In the penultimate book, Snape takes an action that betrays Harry and the cause of the Order seemingly fulfilling every suspicion Harry and friends had about Snape. Only at the end when he makes his final stand and reveals his true motivations does he become redeemed in the eyes of the audience and Harry who has named one of his sons after him. The poignancy of Snape’s character is heightened now by the recent death of the actor Alan Rickman who helped to give the role so much severity and heartbreak in the movies. Do we love Snape? Always.
Don't forget to mark your caldendars for our Harry Potter 20th Anniversary Celebration for Ages 18+; part of our Adult Summer Reading Program.
This blog post is one in a series highlighting the diverse collection of materials through the imagined reading lists for fictional characters and authors. Search the #ftpb for more reading lists.