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30 March 2006 @ 01:46 pm
 
The bullied boys: intent and context about victims of bullying in the HP world.

In the HP series, there are many instances of students being bullied - the purposes of which mostly fall into demonstrating the consequences of bullying or the pointlessness and toxicity of abusing those weaker than us. Though there are many characters in the series who have, at some point, been abused, ignored, neglected or assaulted by people in their peer group or those who have responsibility over them, I've chosen to focus on the two that seem to create the greatest contrast to me: Neville Longbottom and Severus Snape. My main argument will be that there are vast differences between their circumstances and the characters themselves, and thus it can be argued that JKR has written, with strong intent, that Neville as a victim of bullying deserves more sympathy and is far more respectable than Snape; in the context of the books, it is Neville who is shown in a far better light in regards to bullying than Snape is.

By doing this, JKR, of course, operates under several assumptions:

a) that every fan will like Neville more than they like Snape (which, much to (I imagine) JKR's dismay, is incorrect)
b) that every person can tell the difference between the circumstances behind Neville and Snape. Given that this is the fandom that spawned 'fans' which publically wished she'd died in childbirth for not writing in their chosen pairing, I highly doubt that a lot of people know how to operate microwaves or open doors, and that the 8-14 year old market that the books were originally focused on is probably a lot smarter than we of the adult fangroups.

But nonetheless, I will continue.

Firstly, an introduction to the characters: Neville Longbottom. The relevant facts, as we know them:

a) He is an only child who lives with his grandmother, Augusta (GoF, p523)
b) His natural powers, when he first arrives at Hogwarts, are either far weaker than average or more unrefined (PS, 93)
c) He is bullied by several of the Slytherins, including Draco Malfoy (PS, p110; p160; p162; OotP, p321) and the head of the house, Severus Snape (PoA, p96; p107)
d) He has lost both parents to the cruciatus curse at the hands of Barty Crouch, Jr (GoF, p523) - who demonstrated the curse to him under the guise of Alastor Moody (GoF, p189)
e) Throughout his life, his grandmother and family have constantly made comments about his lack of skill in magic (PS, p93; OotP, p454; HBP, p165)

So, from these basic facts, a few things can be assumed:
*Despite his pureblood status, he's considerably less adept magically than his peers when he first arrives at Hogwarts, leaving him as more vulnerable than others in his grade, especially in comparison to teachers;
*Due to constant disparaging comments about his intelligence and ability by family, teachers and peers, would have a low sense of self-esteem in this regard;
*From his being bullied, and from losing his parents, he has a strong sense of right and wrong; he will fight back against perceived injustices; this is also evident from the instances where he is strong-willed and independent in defiance to others' actions - for instance, telling Malfoy that he is worth 'twelve of him' (PS, p162), trying to prevent the trio from going out to destroy Lord Voldemort (PS, p198), and insisting that he too fight in the Department of Mysteries (OotP, p671).

Next, we have the character of Severus Snape. Likewise, a few relevant canonical facts:

a) He attended school around the time of Harry Potter's father, James, and his friends Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew (PoA, p261)
b) Little is known about his upbringing, save that his mother, Eileen Prince, was a pureblood, and his father, Tobias Snape, was a muggle, (HBP, p594) which in turn makes him a half-blood; there may be some evidence that he was unhappy in his upbringing after watching his mother and father fighting (OotP, p521)
c) There was at least once instance of him being bullied in school, as proven by canon, where James Potter and Sirius Black attacked him for what appears to be no good reason (OotP, p569)
d) He was academically advanced for his age, as proven by Sirius Black (GoF, p460) and by the fact that he invented curses such as levicorpus and sectumsempra (HBP, p563)
e) He was renowned at school for both being adept at dark magic (GoF, p460) and for associating with people who were widely known to become Death Eaters after they left school (GoF, p461)
f) He instantly loathed Harry Potter before he even met him (PS, p101), despite the fact that a) he'd never known his father to have heard anything about Snape in the first place, and b) he was an orphaned ten year old boy who had no opinions about anybody in the wizarding world save for the man who murdered his parents - Lord Voldemort. In addition, he has made unkind comments about a teenage girl's appearance when she had done nothing to slight him (GoF, p263), and persistently bullies Neville Longbottom (ibid)
g) He was visibly and loudly furious when his school-enemy, Sirius Black, escaped, thereby avoiding an unfairly delivered Dementor's kiss (PoA, p306)
h) He has been described as being quite physically unfavourable (OotP, p522), and was likely not popular with teh ladies (OotP, p569)
i) In response to someone trying to defend him from bullying, he hurled what is considered to be a nasty racial epithet at Lily Evans (OotP, p571)

Likewise, similar assumptions can be made about Snape's personality and his circumstances:
*He likely was unhappy as a child - both due to the scenes in 'Snape's Worst Memory' and Harry penetrating his mind in an Occlumency class;
*He likely held beliefs considered racist in his world, and associated (and later joined) with the Death Eaters;
*He was quite intellectually skilled as a child, and later used his skills in his career as an educator, where he held considerable power over people under his care; due to his treatment of children under his care, and his lacking of skills as a teacher, it's fair to assume that he is very much a bully in his adult life;
*He has not recovered from his experiences as a child, nor has he forgiven any slights, whereas his enemies have openly expressed regret and remorse for their treatment of him (OotP, p590) - he constantly longs for vengeance and takes offence at even the slightest of insults.

Thus, we see a contrast immediately: Neville Longbottom, who has arguably and canonically, had an actually more traumatic upbringing than Snape's (of which this is still speculatory), and who is also more vulnerable due to his age and lack of skill.

As victim's of bullying, Snape and Neville both react in different fashions. Snape, when learning of Professor Lupin's particular teaching methods in relation to the Boggart, takes his frustration out on his students, in particular Neville - despite the fact that Neville had no idea what Lupin would do with his particular phobia:

"Snape didn't seem to find it funny. His eyes flashed menacingly at the very mention of Professor Lupin's name, and he was bullying Neville worse than ever." (PoA, p107)

In addition, his childhood vendetta against Remus Lupin was so long-standing that he placed him in a situation where he had no choice but to resign from his job (PoA, p308); despite the fact that Remus Lupin did not actively bully Snape, it did not prevent him from taking out his anger many years after the fact in a completely vindictive fashion - knowing that Lupin likely would not have been able to find any other paid employment to support himself, and that it would result in even more ostracism from his society and the possibility of even violence or criminal action being taken against him. On whole, Severus Snape's reaction to those who bullied him ranges from violence (OotP, p569), swearing (OotP, p571), and vindictive punishment (PoA, p308; p264; p107).

On the other hand, Neville tends to react with non-violent, positive self-assertion. In response to Draco's taunts, he tells him that he's worth twelve of him (PS, p162). When he accidentally eats one of the twins' joke store products and turns into a canary, much to the laughter of all those in the room (GoF, p320), he too joins in with the laughter - though people are laughing both at and with him, he too is able to have a sense of humour about the situation and understand that it wasn't a personal offence. However, on occasion and when extremely provoked, reacts angrily to genuine insults against him: for instance, where he lunges after Draco having heard him make comments about those with mental injury (OotP, p321), or as Bellatrix Lestrange taunts him about his parents in the Department of Mysteries (OotP, p706). To me, this would seem to indicate that JKR has written Neville to be someone who picks his battles, and though he understands that it is wrong, will only react with violence to something that is truly offensive to him; in contrast, JKR has written Snape as someone who will pettily react to even the slightest of insults: even if it comes from a child who doesn't know better or understand his history. Thus, JKR has demonstrated Neville to be more mature and of better nature than Snape in regards to bullying.

Secondly, the issue of abuse of privilege needs to be raised, given the vast disparity between the power, ability and privilege held by Snape in contrast to Neville. In canon, Snape is often shown to abuse the trust of the students he teaches: whether it be teaching incorrect facts in order to just slander a colleague (as evident in the kappa debate in PoA (p129) and Fantastical Beasts), or making cruel comments about an aspect of someone's appearance which he knows is quite a sore topic with the person (when he makes the all-time most bastardly comment "I see no difference" in response to Hermione's teeth being hit by a growing hex (GoF, p263), he is constantly either neglecting his duties as an impartial adult educator by picking favourites, having scapegoats and filling the children's heads with untruths and arguing with people about areas they are quite knowledgeable in. I consider there to be a huge difference between bullying amongst one's own peer group and age level and the abuse of power by an adult over a child, and though Snape was undoubtedly bullied as a child it doesn't excuse him abusing his powers as a teacher when he grows older.

On the other hand, Neville (who is often bullied by Snape) is someone who, until his lessons with the DA in OotP, is quite vulnerable in terms of his ability. For a large part of his schooling he is less-skilled than his peers, and due to his childhood and comments made about his intelligence he is also more emotionally fragile. Not once in the series is he seen to make so much as an impatient remark about anyone younger or weaker than him, and he is often seen to get along well with Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood, both of whom are a year below him. When he does react with violence or anger to bullying, it tends to be someone who is an equal to him (such as Draco Malfoy), or someone much more older and skilled than him (like Bellatrix Lestrange or the other Death Eaters). Thus, Neville is not a bully, as he does not physically, emotionally, intellectually, mentally or magically intimidate or assault anybody in the books who is weaker than him in any way. One then assumes that given these factors, it is indeed Snape who is a bully, as written by JK Rowling in canon - not someone like Neville.

Finally, the issue of provocation will be raised briefly. Though many bullying attacks and assault in the real world, just like in the wizarding world, is based on prejudice and often has no motive or provocation behind it, there are instances where people incite anger from other people or offend them in some way. Though James Potter did utter the legendarily cruel words "well... it's more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean" (OotP, p570), there are several hints within the novels that he may, indeed, provoke some of the anger towards him. His 'mudblood' call against Lily Evans (OotP, p571) may indicate that he has been prejudiced against those because of their status of birth in the past, which might understandably raise the ire of some students regardless of their heritage - that he would also utter it at somebody who tried to help him might also give some insight into his civility to other students at the time. Severus Snape also did invent two highly dangerous and provocative spells (HBP, p563), and it is unlikely, given a) what we know of his temperament, and b) what we know of the peers he chose to spend time with at school, that he did not actually use these spells against students in the past. It's also probably worthwhile to add that while this provocation by no means excuses or condones the bullying against Snape, it does provide the context for the bullying and makes it a little more understandable. On the other hand, there is precisely no provocation for Neville's bullying: it is all based on picking on a much weaker student, and taunting him about his parent's job and downfall - neither of which he had anything to do with.

In conclusion, JKR has indicated precisely how much pity we need feel for Snape as a victim of bullying, in comparison to someone like Neville Longbottom. While I myself find Snape a fascinating character (rather like a meaner George Costanza), as both a victim of bulling and (to a far, far mild extent) a proponent of bullying*, I find it hard to sympathise with him due to the fact that as a thirty-something man, he has failed to mature or seek the necessary kinds of emotional healing required for maturation. Similarly, he refuses to bestow the same kind of pity that he demands upon people he either sees being bullied, or bullies himself, and it's for this reason that JKR presents him in a mostly unsympathetic light. While she does want us to understand that Snape is a fantastic example of the consequences of bullying for many people (as if real-world examples such as the Littleton, Colorado massacres didn't teach us as well), she also demonstrates that if any sympathy for victims of bullying is deserved, it is deserved by those who forgive, don't abuse their power, and have no prejudice against others for factors they cannot control.




*On a far more personal note, this is something for which I have apologised to each and every single person involved. Carrying on childhood spats and insults is something I barely have the energy for with people off-line, and I can hardly understand how someone would have the motivation or effort to maintain such grudges until they're in their mid-thirties.
 
 
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unidentified: Fireside Angelstraussmonster on March 30th, 2006 04:00 am (UTC)
whether it be teaching incorrect facts in order to just slander a colleague (as evident in the kappa debate in PoA (p129)

I read that scene a little differently. Snape is actually convinced that *he* is the king of DADA knowledge, especially as compared to Lupin--this is why he makes all the disparaging comments about what the students have learned and what material they've gotten through. So it's really, really funny when, as the notation in FB says, he screws up on a basic factual issue.

Although you'd never know it from the fanwanking done in order to explain how it wasn't actually a mistake.

So a different motivation here, although talking smack about your colleagues to their students is generally considered very bad form anyways.
gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 04:35 am (UTC)
Oh, there was motivation behind it nonetheless to just slander Lupin anyway: regardless of what the matter was, he would have told the children something different just to prove how 1337 he is comparatively. It's just egotistic pissiness, essentially.
(no subject) - zoepaleologa on March 30th, 2006 05:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
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®ε∂: Harry - whatevermasterofmystery on March 30th, 2006 04:06 am (UTC)
Let me canon nit-pick before anything.

a) He is an only child who lives with his grandmother, Agatha (GoF, p523)

Her name's Augusta (I remember that from when McGonagall spoke of her by first name to Neville in HBP when he was choosing N.E.W.T. leve classes), so yeah, just thought you ought to know.

Oh yeah, and I was reading through that interview Jo had with the kids back when HBP came out, and she had this to say about Neville, which struck me as interesting (because you kind of wondered why, before OotP, that Neville was point in Gryffindor):
JK Rowling: Well, I would want to be in Gryffindor and the reason I would want to be in Gryffindor is because I do prize courage in all its various ramifications. I value it more highly than any other virtue and by that I mean not just physical courage and flashy courage, but moral courage.

And I wanted to make that point in a very first book with Neville, because Neville doesn't have that that showy macho type of courage that Harry shows playing quidditch. But at the end, what Neville does at the end of Philosopher's Stone to stand up to his friends and risk their dislike and approval is hugely courageous so I would want to be in Gryffindor. That is not to say I would be there. I think there is a good bit of Hufflepuff in me.
Somewhat irrelevant about the bullying discussion, but I thought it was important given how Neville is. What always bothered me about Snape was that he just never let the grudge go when it came to the Marauders, and you saw that when he spoke to Sirius when he was still alive and the way he always treated Remus, with disdain and an air of superiority, but you especially saw it when Snape talked to Harry. Snape saw James, the person who arguably tormented Snape more than anyone in his entire life, in Harry and possibly felt he was getting revenge on James post-homously by verbally, and in a couple of cases, physically abusing Harry, thinking that he can make Harry feel as bad as James made Snape feel as a teenager. Of course that didn't work because Harry was a great deal stronger and, at times, more mature in the case of being bullied (no doubt a part of which came from trying to get the upper-hand on Dudley all those years as a child). Snape was an adult who behaved as immaturely as a ten year old sometimes when it came to such grudges, which I have to admit, was rather embarrassing because it did make him look foolish.

I think Neville, albeit slowly, is growing a backbone, though that does come with the confidence his comrades and superiors give him, and has tried to stand up against opposition (Draco, Snape, most Slytherins in general, and even his friends at times), and there's the difference there. Maybe it comes down to the fact that Neville has that Gryffindor courage and Snape lacks it.
®ε∂: Dark Markmasterofmystery on March 30th, 2006 04:07 am (UTC)
Ignore all spelling/grammar mistakes because when I ramble I tend to make a lot of them. =/
(no subject) - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 04:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
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Half Awake in a Fake Empirepatagonian on March 30th, 2006 04:25 am (UTC)
I agree with your premise that Neville is meant to be seen in a positive light while Snape in a negative light. While Neville may very well be the most emotionally vulnerable of the two, and therefore even more admirable for "doing the right thing" so to speak, I think it's important to look at the context of the bullying both experienced. While Neville is bullied and put down by others, he does not have one tormentor among his classmates that focuses primarily on him. While Malfoy targets Neville, we don't see a continuing pattern of bullying of Neville by Malfoy.

Regards Snape, however, it does seem that he had specific tormentors who attack him on, we infer, more than one occasion. In the penseive scene, his quick response suggests that this bullying happens offen. While Neville's bullying by Snape is constant, I think that the bullying Snape experienced was more humiliating. In the penseive scene, the bullying was committed and witnessed by his classmates - it was so public and so thoroughly humiliating.

I'm not excusing Snape in any way - I think the guy's a dick. Who could think bullying children/students is in any way acceptable? But the substance of the bullying experienced by each boy is significantly different. I do see Neville as the stronger of the two characters - not only does he not become bitter, but he works exceptionally hard at the DA and steps in to fight where he doesn't have to. But the bullying Snape experienced does seem more traumatic because of its very public nature.
gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 04:28 am (UTC)
Oh, Neville is bullied quite publically too. I think the strength issue is more one of emotional and moral fortitude: she's deliberately painting Snape, as something to back up and explain why he's not a particularly nice person, as someone who's also weak and immature in many ways, which at the age of thirty-six he should bloody well be over by now.
Miss Sophiamiss_sophia on March 30th, 2006 04:46 am (UTC)
I agree that it is the bullying victim's reaction that often determines how much sympathy people have for the victim. Your example of Columbine is an excellent case: The two boys may have been bullied, but I, for one, cannot find an ounce of pity in my heart for them because of the horrible way they chose to deal with their treatment. Your point that JKR is drawing a clear contrast between Neville's and Snape's character, based in part on their reactions to having been bullied and having had a problematic childhood/early adulthood, is well taken. Harry makes an interesting third comparison, because he, too, was a bullying victim and had a difficult childhood. I'm sure many an essay has been written comparing him and Snape in the context of bullying.

I'm not sure about this, though:

[Snape] has not recovered from his experiences as a child, nor has he forgiven any slights, whereas his enemies have openly expressed regret and remorse for their treatment of him

I think you're using different versions of the books than I have, so I can't doublecheck which passage you're referring to, but I suspect it's the Harry's-head-in-the-fireplace scene, where Sirius admits to Harry that he and James were asses in school and that he's not proud of the way he treated Snape. As much of a Sirius apologist as I may be, I have to disagree a bit here. First, I doubt Sirius has expressed these regrets to Snape himself. Second, while I believe that Sirius does truly recognize that he was a jerk and something of a bully back in school, his more predominant belief is that Snape had it coming and deserved every bit of it. For example, in PoA, Sirius defends "The Prank" (in which Sirius told Snape how to get into the Whomping Willow, nearly resulting in Snape's death at the claws of a transformed Remus Lupin) (p. 356, American paperback edition):

It served him right," [Black] sneered. "Sneaking around, trying to find out what we were up to...hoping he could get us expelled...."

Further, throughout OotP, Sirius and Snape both instigate and disrespect each other; the abuse goes two ways. And in that Harry's-head-in-the-fireplace scene, Sirius, while somewhat apologetic for his schooldays treatment of Snape, still refers to Snape as a "special case" who "never lost an opportunity to curse James," and he uses that as justification for James continuing to attack Snape even after James's head had been "deflated" (p. 671, OotP, American paperback edition).

Don't get me wrong; I'm definitely not a Snape apologist who thinks Sirius is Teh Evil. But I think it's important to realize that Sirius is just as capable of holding a boyhood grudge as James is, so I'm not sure that I would say Sirius has "openly expressed regret and remorse for [his] treatment of" Snape--or at least, I would qualify that statement with all of the things I just mentioned.

And as someone who's capable of holding tight to a grudge, I can empathize with both men. Sometimes, our experiences and history are too strong for us to move past them.

But again, as for your main point, I completely agree: The circumstances around Neville's and Snape's victimhood and Snape's perpetration of bullying are very different, and this factor draws a huge contrast between their respective characters. Neville has most definitely taken the high road. Snape? Not so much.
®ε∂: Remus Lupinmasterofmystery on March 30th, 2006 05:01 am (UTC)
I think maybe she meant Remus did (even though he didn't have to do with The Prank - but maybe he had a hand in other minor pranks?), in that bolded part you pointed out, but yeah, I definitely doubt Sirius has or James would have. Or maybe Remus was just apologising for all his friends or something.
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word pie! - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 06:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
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tunxeh on March 30th, 2006 05:17 am (UTC)
In conclusion, JKR has indicated precisely how much pity we need feel for Snape as a victim of bullying, in comparison to someone like Neville Longbottom.

I think it's quite possible to feel pity for Snape as a victim of bullying in his youth, and still find inexcusable his behavior as a teacher. It's not so much his later behavior, but the "mudblood" in his worst memory that cuts any sense of pity I might have for him (much as it stops Lily's defense of him in that scene). He was already in that scene showing a pattern of reacting to pressure by lashing out at undeserving bystanders, as he later lashes out as a teacher at the Gryffindor students.

Good essay, anyway. Well researched and supported, and I like the choice of characters to compare — too many of these things stick to Harry and/or Draco from the younger generation rather than looking at the other characters.
gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 05:25 am (UTC)
Oh, you can feel pity, and to some level you do: at the same time, I think what I meant by my claim is that JKR has specific people in her world that she wants people to feel complete sympathy for, or at least more pity than you would for another character.
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Re: A small defense of Snape - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 08:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - pervert_bitch on March 30th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Re: A small defense of Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - cmwinters on March 30th, 2006 11:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 01:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - pervert_bitch on March 30th, 2006 06:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - pervert_bitch on March 30th, 2006 08:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 08:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - pervert_bitch on March 30th, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - pervert_bitch on March 30th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 09:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - pervert_bitch on March 30th, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 09:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - pervert_bitch on March 30th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - weyrdchic on March 30th, 2006 09:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - pervert_bitch on March 30th, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - weyrdchic on March 30th, 2006 09:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - tunxeh on March 30th, 2006 03:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - tunxeh on March 30th, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Re: A small defense of Snape - tunxeh on March 30th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Re: A small defense of Snape - tunxeh on March 30th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 08:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - impinc on March 30th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
less than three! - gunderpants on March 31st, 2006 12:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: less than three! - impinc on March 31st, 2006 01:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - gershwhen on April 2nd, 2006 03:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: A small defense of Snape - mrs_wolf on March 30th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
The WeyrdChicweyrdchic on March 30th, 2006 06:06 am (UTC)
The stuff I've seen on why Snape doesn't deserve sympathy tends to strike a cord in me. Maybe I'm a misguided idealist, but to me a victim of bullying who then is shaped by it negatively is MORE pitiable than the person who can rise above it. While the person who 'makes it' is clearly stronger and more mature, the person who doesn't is an example of human weakness, and I'm a sucker for human weakness. I don't think that makes Snape's actions excusable or remotely decent, but my heart goes out to him more than Neville, mostly because Neville doesn't need my support. He's got friends and supportive teachers, and a talent he can be proud of; he can take care of himself.

Now to nitpick:

Snape's parents didn't 'argue'; Snape's father screamed at Snape's mother, who was cowering, while their son cried in a corner. That suggests an emotionally abusive household.

I do think the attacks on Snape were a lot more severe. His actual 'friends' never came to help him or seemed particularly attached to him, and a Muggleborn girl from another house would not have been an acceptable form of aid in their place, not with the house he was in and the environment that was brewing with Voldemort around. (Does this still make him an idiot for how he responded to Lily? Yes, but it's a factor nonetheless.)

The people who attacked him, on the other hand, were tight-knit and loyal to each other as well as extremely well-liked by teacher and student in kind, even as they hexed people (not just Snape) for fun. There would have been a major unfairness there, in ugly, unpopular Snape's eyes.

Neville gets poked at a bit in first year by Draco and continues to be harassed only by Snape, who most people hate, including Gryffindor House - and I don't see any signs of Neville feeling alone among Gryffindors; he's looked on fairly kindly, has a talent with a supportive teacher to back him up, and Hermione helps him in Potions. I'm more worried about how his grandmother treats him than any bullying Snape delivers, and I felt that way long before I liked Snape.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of things people don't take into account when looking at Snape's behavior: first, his trying to send Sirius to the dementors would have pretty much been a confirmation of his world view. A guilty Sirius would mean that Sirius would be seen as, in Snape's mind, what he was: nasty, evil, petty, and now with these added crimes deserving of death and worse. I don't think Snape just wanted revenge on a bully, Snape wanted the world to know something he genuinely thought to be true, the hyperbolic idea of Black as a sociopath in training, someone who in his mind tried to KILL him, who later proved to be exactly what Snape had always said he was. I think Snape genuinely belived Sirius was a Death Eater, and that's what generated his delight at 'catching' him. This wasn't just a question of childishly refusing to listen, this was refusing to listen because his world view, by then, had become THAT skewed and unbending. And I've seen people have that sort of reaction to being wronged before, I don't think it's that farfetched.

Most importantly, I keep hearing this argument that Snape's 37 and should be over his grudges by now. But I don't think people are really looking at an important chunk of his life, which is the number of years he was in Voldemort's service torturing and killing people. There's a similarity to Sirius in that Snape's development is arrested. That's because of his own poor choices, but he spent a formative part of life as part of an organization encouraging his hatred. He's grown up very far from a 'normal' experience because of Voldemort, and still has to bear that stigma and also that shame. This weighs him down now, I think, in self-loathing that he then projects onto/blames others for.

Again, I don't mean to excuse or minimize Snape's actions. He's the one holding himself down and hurting others, and I hope he'll be redeemed at some point. But I do think people, maybe even JKR, dismiss his perceptions - however childish! - in a way I'd never be able to. They see it as a reason to write him off; it's the opposite for me. It's not at all hard to be more attached to Snape in spite of JKR's intentions.
gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)
I think that Snape's greatest tragedy is that he never rises above it: like Sirius caring too much about the people in his life, and Lupin desperately needing acceptance, it is a pretty pathetic thing. It's not so much that he doesn't deserve sympathy, but comparatively there seems to be a phenomenon in fandom where he receives more sympathy than people who are less able to protect themselves than him, and that I kinda do find boggling. There is sympathy from my end, but it kinda tends to peter out once I read about how he treated his students.

I think Snape is an absolutely pathetic man: Harry's words to him in the Shrieking Shack are probably the most accurate words spoken about him at all. He abandons all his personal responsibility and uses his bullying as a crutch for his behaviour, instead of seeking help for it or trying to make amends, and there's no canonical evidence of him being nice to anyone apart from the Malfoys. Even with people with whom he has a clean slate he pretty instantly gets them off-side. He's a teacher who can get an entire class to hate him in an instant, like in the scene where he takes Defence Against the Dark Arts in PoA and treats Hermione like rubbish.

I definitely do thank you for the depth of your reading of my essay and providing your own valid arguments. It is nice to know that someone has thought about something you've written so clearly.

(And, FYI, the reason I didn't state there was family abuse in his scenario is because I think with that one scene it's still too inconclusive. Everybody, at some state in their life, screams at someone else and makes them cower, but depending on the scenario it's not necessarily abusive, per se. It may well be abusive, if we learn about it in the next book, but judging just off what we have in canon I would like to know precisely how much power a muggle can hold over a pure-blood witch anyway.)
(no subject) - imkalena on March 30th, 2006 06:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
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Re: My take on Dumbledore and Snape - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 09:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: My take on Dumbledore and Snape - miss_sophia on March 30th, 2006 02:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: My take on Dumbledore and Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 02:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: My take on Dumbledore and Snape - miss_sophia on March 30th, 2006 02:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: My take on Dumbledore and Snape - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: My take on Dumbledore and Snape - gershwhen on April 2nd, 2006 03:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
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Don't take things at face value. - (Anonymous) on March 30th, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
word to the mouse in the corner - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Don't take things at face value. - weyrdchic on March 30th, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Don't take things at face value. - straussmonster on March 30th, 2006 11:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Don't take things at face value. - weyrdchic on March 31st, 2006 12:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Don't take things at face value. - gunderpants on March 31st, 2006 12:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Don't take things at face value. - weyrdchic on March 31st, 2006 01:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gershwhen on April 2nd, 2006 03:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
Thank you! - biting_moopie on April 13th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
The Despinazoepaleologa on March 30th, 2006 06:11 am (UTC)
I'm pleased to see this enunciated well, like this. I think the comparison you have made between Snape and Neville is strong.

Bullies get made, often by other bullies, and Snape is a case in point. However, being bullied at school only goes so far to excuse odious behaviour in the adult.

Do we acquit the Nazis at Nuremberg because one or other of them was bullied at school? Of course not. Do we release the murderer from prison because he was bullied at school? No. Because while paying mind to the fact that being bullied can indeed have dreadful implications for one's adult life, as an adult you are responsible for your actions.

The above is obviously an extreme example, but the fact is, Snape was bullied. The Pensieve memory is a horrible and clearly formative experience (I suggest this is why this man takes himself so very seriously - he cannot bear to be laughed at, and in fairness, I cannot blame him overmuch for that). But any counsellor would work with such a man to make he see that it was time as an adult to move on. To accept that he was unlucky, and that it is the way of things that everyone else present except him probably forgot about it ten minutes later. I'm not an expert on psychotherapy, but a decent counsellor could help a patient with that experience.

And in the scale of things, Neville's backstory is one hundred times worse. There's no even comparison. It's not possible. It's like me saying to a victim of 9/11 - well, I know you suffered hideous post-traumatic disorder, and lost three close friends, but fuck it, babe, I have a really nasty whitlow on my finger (as indeed I do). Snape's trauma lasted for some time (longer in his head) but is over. Neville's is never going to be over. He will visit his mindless shells of parents until they die, or until some cure is found (I do not see a cure being in the books, because I believe JKR is showing that all bets are off). Neville experiences visiting parents with Alzheimers, except they are young and strong. It's unthinkable. And it's just possible he was actually present when it happened.

I'm a heavy duty Snape fan, and that means I write fanfic about him, fill the world with long meta stuff, etc. But being a fan of any fictional character should not mean an unquestioning insistence that the character is without flaw. Snape's hugely flawed, that's what makes the man fascinating. But he ain't nice. And he'd hex anyone who said so, too.
Sylvana: SNAPE contestsylvanawood on March 30th, 2006 07:53 am (UTC)
Right on. If he were nice, he wouldn't fascinate us half as much.
However, I disagree that Snape's trauma is over (if we subscribe to the view that he still is a white hat). His trauma, together with other events, may have driven him to become a DE. Which is horrible, there is no way he didn't know what that meant, and DEs rightfully can be compared with Nazis. But if we take his turning away from them seriously, then his prolongued trauma is far from over. He's been living with it for all his adult life, since he would have known that V. would come back eventually. And he'd have to face him again.
And Snape in psychotherapy is something I just can't see happening. Despite your fic. ;-)
(no subject) - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 07:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sylvanawood on March 30th, 2006 08:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 08:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - zoepaleologa on March 30th, 2006 11:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sylvanawood on March 30th, 2006 12:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 12:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sylvanawood on March 30th, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Sylvana: SNAPE contestsylvanawood on March 30th, 2006 07:37 am (UTC)
An excellent essay. You really try to be objective here. I can't add much, since most that I'd find important has been added already (and I don't have the time the next couple of days to get involved in a good discussion). Neville's description is spot on. A loveable, courageous character who has very little in common with Snape. I don't even know why people compare those two. The more interesting comparison, IMO, would be with the always forgotten Peter.

I think Snape's behaviour has to be seen from different angles. There is the grudge factor, which is undeniable. I do contest your quote of Sirius showing remorse, though. While he admits to Harry in OotP that he isn't proud of his bullying behaviour, I don't remember seeing any of them, neither Remus nor Sirius, take the 'Whomping Willow' incident as anything other than a childish prank. Which it was not. And Sirius' behaviour towards Snape doesn't show any remorse or much maturity for that matter. He acts all 'godfatherly protective' (and a bit pompous) in that 'let's talk about Occlumency lesson' scene in OotP.

The one who truly tries to grow up and move beyond the grudge is Remus. He's the one who acts the most mature, too. Despite his weakness for wanting to be liked. It's a forgiveable weakness, and he is aware of it and admits to it.
However, he is also very aware as to why Snape is especially nasty towards him. Because Remus knows exactly what he is. He is human. But once a month his condition makes him a monster. It is beside the point that this isn't his fault, he becomes a monster nonetheless.

The Marauders apparently took the whole werewolf affair as an exciting and stimulating way to explore their friendship and magic. They didn't really see the dangerous monster, they saw their friend, transformed, and had fun roaming the Hogwarts Grounds in their animagi form. Harry and his friends have adopted that view. Remus was a friend of Harry's parents, thus he was to be trusted. Nothing wrong with that.

Draco Malfoy, on the other hand, shows as early as PS fear of werewolves (scene where they go to detention in the forest). Why? Because he knows Greyback. The monster of your nightmares.
It is likely that Snape, apparently a close friend of Lucius since they were at school, also knows Greyback. And there is this werewolf who is tolerated at his own school, there is that other teen who sends him to face that werewolf. Snape knows what a werewolf is capable of. He must have been shaken to his bones. Frankly, I'd hold a grudge forever against Sirius, too.
And Dumbledore is forbidding Snape, not the Marauders, not the werewolf, to talk about it. So there's more reason to distrust.
And then that werewolf is made a teacher. At the same time that the (as far as Snape is concerned) hated enemy, traitor and killer Black has escaped. You really don't need to be as screwed up as Snape for getting a bit paranoid about those facts.
Ruining Remus's career, on the other hand, was petty. But at that point Snape still didn't know that Sirius was innocent and Remus didn't try to help him. He only learned that by the end of GoF.
gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 07:42 am (UTC)
Draco Malfoy, on the other hand, shows as early as PS fear of werewolves (scene where they go to detention in the forest). Why? Because he knows Greyback. The monster of your nightmares.

You know, this point has never occurred to me before. That's really excellent, cheers!
(no subject) - miss_sophia on March 30th, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sylvanawood on March 30th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - prettyveela on March 30th, 2006 04:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Nate the Great: Happymajor_dallas on March 30th, 2006 07:39 am (UTC)
Very nice essay, I'm by no means a Snape fan, and honestly don't find him as interesting as many do, the being bullied as a kid was no surprise to me nor is the fact that he has not gotten past it even now.

Neville though does fascinate me more, not because of his link to the prophecy, but to how strong a moral character he's developed into. I like your contrast you've shown between Neville and Snape, Neville even now has made it a point to never be a bully and to stand up against them, whereas at Neville's age, it seems Snape made it a point to embrace being a bully, as evident by his joining the Death Eaters. I don't see Snape being made a DE out of fear of them.

The only point about Snape I want to know is what exactly he said or did to make Dumbledore trust him so, I'm afraid that's the only interesting part about Snape now, I doubt Dumbledore divulged everything to Harry about that, not that he lied, just didn't tell Harry everything.

Cheers
cmwinterscmwinters on March 30th, 2006 11:58 am (UTC)
"The only point about Snape I want to know is what exactly he said or did to make Dumbledore trust him so, I'm afraid that's the only interesting part about Snape now, I doubt Dumbledore divulged everything to Harry about that, not that he lied, just didn't tell Harry everything."
I have a theory, if you're interested, and I believe I can back it up with canon...
(no subject) - major_dallas on March 30th, 2006 02:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alphabet26 on March 30th, 2006 03:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
penguin2006: snape by potter parkpenguin2006 on March 30th, 2006 01:01 pm (UTC)
An excellent essay, clearly set out and well argued. Thanks!

You write: "I think Snape is an absolutely pathetic man." Well, I find Snape fascinating, but the one part of him I can never stomach is the way that he bullies his students. It really is petty behaviour for a grown man. Just grow up, for heaven's sake!

Snape's werewolf fear - interesting point, sylvana.
gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 01:13 pm (UTC)
Snape is endlessly fascinating and engaging, like any one of Shakespeare's tragic antiheroes, I think. He could be a decent person, and he could treat people well, and he could make people see a nicer side to him, but ultimately that he chooses not to do these things is his downfall.
(no subject) - njelruch on March 30th, 2006 01:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Superpansuper_pan on March 30th, 2006 01:27 pm (UTC)
"JKR presents him in a mostly unsympathetic light. While she does want us to understand that Snape is a fantastic example of the consequences of bullying for many people (as if real-world examples such as the Littleton, Colorado massacres didn't teach us as well), she also demonstrates that if any sympathy for victims of bullying is deserved, it is deserved by those who forgive, don't abuse their power, and have no prejudice against others for factors they cannot control."

I disagree with your interpretation of JKR's "intentions". Her wisest and most compassionate creation, Dumbledore, clearly has some some sympathy, compassion, or understanding of Snape, and it always seemed to me that Dumbledore was a mouthpiece for revealing the morals and lessons of Harry Potter.
Certainly not saying Snape is nice, well balanced guy; he's not. But that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve sympathy or pity, or an attempt at understanding, even if he would reject it. Most humans(even if they are fictional!) do.

Also, I think that the differences between Neville and Snape are too obvious and glaring to be a good comparison. A better person to compare with Neville would be Harry. Harry shares qualities with both Neville and Snape.
heartless guttersnipe: neptune + midget = funnyparsimonia on March 30th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
Very nice essay.

I know this wasn't your main point, but I do find the contrast between how Neville and Harry deal with Snape's bullying or unfair treatment in class. To some extent, Harry isn't as bullied by Snape because he doesn't put up with it or accept it the way Neville does.

It may be a just a difference of personality...especially considering that Harry appears to have more confidence, and probably needed it in order to survive Dudely and his bullying. But on the other hand we have Neville, whose confidence is low, and has been perhaps a bit bullied by his Gran and family. I suppose the difference is in that Neville's family does care for him more than the Dursleys have ever cared for Harry? So Neville wouldn't really want or feel the need to build up an internal defense against his Grandmother's comments, because he knows that she does have his best interest at heart (even if she goes about it the wrong way).

It is true that it seems Neville picks his battles, but it's always bugged me that we've never seen him stand up to Snape (except in Boggart form).

I really do believe in the saying "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent", and I think that plays a large role in bullying. Neville doesn't retaliate against Snape's bullying the way Harry does. And it seems as though Snape would rarely ever let someone get away with humiliating or bullying him. Snape puts up a fight in his own defense, and I do have some respect for that, as he doesn't just lie back and take it, the same as Harry.

However, I agree that Snape's bullying of other people without provocation, especially Neville, Hermione and Harry (as they are his students and thus in his care), is inexcusable, and doesn't make him a character one can easily sympathize with.
Magpie: Cousinssistermagpie on March 30th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
Definitely the reaction to bullying is a big issue in the books--Luna, too, is picked on and does not become a bully. Sometimes it seems like there are three possibilities in the Potterverse. You're either a victim, a bully, or a protector from bullies. Victims grow into either a bully or a protector, and bullies and protectors are sometimes interchangable.

It brings up another interesting issue, though, because I remember once jokingly referring to Neville as the "brocolli" of the HP books. I like Neville, it's not that I dislike him as a character. But there's times when he's just so obviously good he might as well glow--he's the perfect Gryffindor, naturally timid but fierce as a lion in terms of moral courage.

And yet here's the thing...Neville doesn't have friends. Including Harry. Harry is really not Neville's friend. Sure by sixth year (after Neville's literally risked his life for him, been part of his army, been one of the few people who always stuck by him) he is ready to be proudly seen with him in public. Harry has always seen Neville as a good person to be defended. But even at the end of sixth year Harry's having realizations like the one about the coins, where he sees that the reason Neville and Luna responded to the coins was because they were the people for whom the DA was their first social circle. "It was almost like having friends," Luna says, and that makes Harry uncomfortable.

I think that sometimes is reflected by fandom's reaction to Snape vs. Neville, and perhaps the Snape/Neville relationship. Snape is absolutely the kid who becomes a bully in response to bullying (and I've met a few of them in fandom, and they're very self-righteous as they bully you) but for a lot of people that's what makes him more likable. They like that he doesn't stay down, that he develops curses of his own. Whatever JKR might have in mind when she writes about both of them, it's hard for me to believe that she doesn't really get why people would like Snape rather than Neville--after all, she hasn't written Neville as becoming popular due to his kinder nature. She doesn't even have Harry really like him--I mean, like him in terms of wanting to hang out with him. JKR seems very aware of the difference between liking someone on principle and liking them as a person. Snape, for all his dreadful personality and his being alone in the Pensieve scene, seems to have formed alliances. He seems pretty popular with his house. I think there are probably plenty of people who were even bullied themselves who might far prefer Snape to Neville, even though Snape's response to bullying is not only morally inferior to Neville's but is worse for him in the long run.
greenwoodside on March 30th, 2006 05:57 pm (UTC)
*blinks* Hear hear. There will be others agreeing with you, but I may as well be the first.

Neville in the books often comes across as a perfectly saintly doormat. Lovely in moral terms, but not much fun for him. :)
(no subject) - gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - etrangere on March 31st, 2006 07:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Sylvana: SNAPE contestsylvanawood on March 30th, 2006 04:04 pm (UTC)
Just adding this little tidbit before I leave for four days (and then all the fun will be over)-- not related to Neville-Snape but to the comparison theme.
There are three half-bloods who are very powerful wizards. Voldemort, Snape and Harry. One is clearly evil. One is clearly good. One is...?
Snape has a LOT of significance in these books. A lot more than just being an ugly, greasy, immature git who deserves to be hated. I can't wait for book 7!
The Despinazoepaleologa on March 30th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, amen. Me too - whatever happens!
(no subject) - subtle_science on March 31st, 2006 08:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
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gunderpants on March 30th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
I don't know how noble it was. It essentially outed his condition to society, thus making him even more of a pariah, and it condemned him to a life of abject poverty. Had he been quietly told to resign things might not have been so bad, but it's an interesting point about the curse, so good point there.
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(no subject) - impinc on March 30th, 2006 10:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - subtle_science on March 31st, 2006 08:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - impinc on March 31st, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pervert_bitch on March 31st, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - subtle_science on April 1st, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)