Good or Evil?
Teacher at Hogwarts
Wears exclusively dark clothing
Greasy black hair
- Professor Snape teaches Potions at Hogwarts. But he's after the Defense Against the Dark Arts job.
- He doesn't like Harry and Harry doesn't like him.
- Snape is mean to Harry and the other Gryffindors,
- He favors the Slytherin students (he's the head of house) over all others.
- We learn from Dumbledore that Snape has a reason for disliking Harry – it's hereditary. Harry's father saved Snape's life once, and Snape never forgave him for doing so.
- But he's not all bad: Snape helped to save Harry's life. He performs charms to save Harry, at the Quidditch game. Snape even steps up as a ref in an attempt to protect Harry. He also goes up against Quirrell to protect Harry, not to help Voldemort, in a complete about-face from Harry's suspicions of him.
- Yet there is something dark about Snape. There may not be any evidence to support Harry's suspicions, but sometimes you just have to go with your gut.
Snape Helps to Teach Us That...
The theme of this story is if you know someone is doing something that isn't right, you should be brave and try to do something about it, because even if you know you could get hurt or get in trouble, what you're doing could save bad things from happening to others.
Snape helps teach this theme in several ways. He serves as an antagonist to Harry and creates opportunities for Harry to be brave and develop thick skin.
Examples from the Text to Support Our Thinking
One such opportunity was on the first day of school when Snape made an example out of Harry. He asked him a series of questions he doesn’t expect Harry to answer. Then sneers, “Pity. Clearly, fame isn't everything, is it, Mr. Potter?” He does this to prove that just because Harry was famous, doesn’t mean that he knows everything. He also treats students from his own house much better than students from their houses like Gryffindor. He even looked for any excuse to take points away from Gryffindor. Ironically, this unfair treatment helped Harry develop a thicker skin that he displayed throughout the story.
Another example is how Harry, Ron, and Hermoine thought he was cursing Harry’s broom during the quidditch match. This resulted in Hermoine setting Snape’s robes on fire to break the curse. This was one of Hermoine’s first acts of defiance, where she thought about her friends first rather than what was the politically correct thing to do. Later, Snape referees the next quidditch match leading Harry, Ron, and Hermoine to believe that Snape is trying to hurt Harry. But Harry, does not give in. Instead, he decides not to back down to Snape and plays in the game anyway because he wants to be there for his team and show Snape he’s not scared.
These examples lead me to the biggest reason Snape helps teach this theme. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine believe Snape is after the sorcerer’s stone and set out to stop him. They don’t want the stone to fall into the hands of Lord Voldemort and are willing to do anything to keep that from happening. As a result, they stand strong in the face of great dangers (Fluffy the three headed dog, a potions puzzle, a very real chess match, etc.). Harry even has the strength to stand up to Voldemort himself.
So, it’s surprising that as terrible as Snape treats Harry and the other Gryffindors, he actually helps them be able to accomplish the brave tasks that they do throughout the story. And he helps J.K. Rowling teach us that you need to always do what is right because you can help keep bad things from happening to others.