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29 June 2014 @ 02:28 pm
Snape and Sirius  
Cut: An analysis of Severus Snape and Sirius Black

Snape and Sirius are two of the most popular characters in HP fandom, and sometimes the debate about these two characters can get heated. So, I’m gonna do something different: I’m going to analyze BOTH of them and show how they’re actually not that different. Good thing they can’t see me say this or they’d both curse me!

First of all, Snape:
Anyone who’s read my blogs probably thinks I REALLY hate Snape. Well, that’s partly true. I hate him as a person, because he is so bitter, spiteful and cruel and I just want to smack him and yell “GET OVER IT!!”, but as a character I think he’s perfect. First of all he occupies that grey area that is more realistic but is hard to write. He’s also the wildcard. He keeps you guessing. All signs point to him trying to kill Harry in the first book, then it turns out he was trying to save Harry! Then in the next two books there’s no real reason to suspect him of trying to hurt Harry…until the fourth book and we find out he was once a death eater! It’s enough to make us go “hmmmm”, yet Dumbledore says Snape’s reformed, so that seems to enough, Dumbledore was no fool, so well we’re not entirely sure about him, we give him the benefit of the doubt… until he killed Dumbledore! I read that and thought “WHAT!! OMG SNAPE YOU EVIL TRAITOR HOW  COULD YOU!”. And all through book seven it seemed Snape had indeed fooled Dumbledore…then we find out his backstory and he WAS loyal to Dumbledore, on the good side, etc. It’s brilliant. Also, giving Umbridge FAKE veritaserum was clever. Despite Dumbledore saying we sort too soon, I think Snape is very much a Slytherin, it’s his cunning that keeps him alive for that long. He’s also VERY perceptive, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool him! I like characters that keep you guessing. I like characters that are complex. They’re realistic. As I’ve said, it’s more when he gets re-written into some woobie that bugs me, because it’s missing out on what makes him so interesting, just as painting him all black (I know lame joke) is missing out. Snape is an anti-hero, and anti-heroes are always interesting. Actually, I think if I met Snape I’d say “You really confuse me sometimes”.  That’s OK, it shows JKR’s genius.

On to Sirius Black
First off, I do like Sirius. A lot. I love him. BUT I agree with JKR, he’s not “wholly wonderful”. He can be very cruel to people. I won’t defend the werewolf incident, that was stupid. Snape could have been killed, and Lupin would have never forgiven himself. Good thing James had enough sense to stop it. Sirius was very bitter for a lot of reasons. I don’t think anyone can blame him about being bitter for going to prison for a crime he didn’t commit! However, he was stuck in the past, unable to let go and just forgive, and there were times I wanted to smack HIM and yell “GET OVER IT!!” Sensing a theme? He doesn’t practice what he preaches, telling Harry “If you want to know what a man is like take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals” yet he was cruel to Kreacher. I know, Kreacher was a symbol and a reminder of the home he hated. That wasn't Kreacher’s fault. He tells Harry “the world isn’t divided into nice people and death eaters”, yet he clearly didn’t think that of that when it came to Snape. He was also incredibly reckless, which is what lead to his death. And again, like Snape, he could be unhinged when angered.  In book five, I don’t think Sirius was a good influence on Harry who was already angry and at risk of doing something stupid. Sirius did live through them. And his comment about “You’re less like your father than I thought” was hitting below the belt. I also don’t think James would want Sirius being reckless. Sirius definitely showed he was thinking like a student. But he wasn’t a student, and James was past that mentality when he died. Like Snape, Sirius is an anti-hero. Also, he could be a tragic hero.

It’s hard to take either of them at their words about the other they’re both so biased, it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle …black (sorry, bad pun). Both these characters are complex. Both are bitter and suffer from arrested development and never grew up. Neither of them could forgive, and ironically, the ones who would benefit from forgiveness are themselves. Both however, were capable of some form of love and died for it. Neither of them had happy childhood. They both acted like teenagers especially with regards to each other. Snape taunting Sirius about being forced to stay inside was low, but Sirius calling Snape “Snivellus” which he called him as a child and scoffing at the prank was also low and childish. I think both these men needed a smack upside the head.

What are your thoughts? And please don't rant or complain keep your comments reflecting this post and keep them respectful.
RPowellrpowell on June 29th, 2014 07:29 pm (UTC)
Personally, I think you're right on the mark about both of them.
coppertop1 on June 29th, 2014 07:41 pm (UTC)
They are mirror images of each other, aren't they? Yes, one is in Gryffindor and one in Slytherin. And one grew up poor and abused and the other rich (though very possibly abused, if Sirius's mother was anything like her portrait). But they share so many traits-- and many of the traits were the negative ones. And they both saw James in Harry but not in the right way. It's so hard to say who was worse, so I say neither, They were both equally guilty. If only they could get along they'd be awesome allies. Both are flawlessly written characters because they're deeply flawed people.

I have a seperate blog on another site just about Sirius, maybe I'll submit that.

Edited at 2014-06-29 07:42 pm (UTC)
Billpstscrpt on June 29th, 2014 07:52 pm (UTC)
Someone pointed out here a few years ago that a lot of signs point to Sirius being an alcoholic, and I think they're right.
coppertop1 on June 29th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
I never thought of that, but yeah, could be. He did have the smell of alcohol on him in the fifth book at some point. Drinking to self-medicate? Never good and may also have impacted his judgment.
Amoretteamorette on June 29th, 2014 08:14 pm (UTC)
I've always imagined he drank a lot, especially in OotP when he was lonely and depressed, and quite possibly suffering ptsd. I think JKR was hinting to him self-medicating with alcohol.
coppertop1 on June 29th, 2014 08:18 pm (UTC)
Definitely seems likely. I think Sirius did have PTSD from Azkaban which is why he was was so short-fused.
Amoretteamorette on June 29th, 2014 08:29 pm (UTC)
I agree. I think a lot of characters have PTSD Lol! I mean especially the adults who went through the first war. They went through it being teenagers, just like the trio are in book 7.

What really intrigues me about Snape is he is one character I can't imaging having developed PTSD. I think it's because his life has always been so traumatic that the war wasn't like this big shocker? Hmm...

Actually now that I'm trying to think of actual examples of PTSD, I can only come up with Sirius as an obvious one xD I would love to list all the Marauder-gen and analyze the perceived affect the war had on them. If I ever have time.
coppertop1 on June 29th, 2014 08:33 pm (UTC)
Harry also had PTSD in OOTP, after what he witnessed, and I think many who the second war will just think of those poor Muggle-borns being imprisoned and persecuted.

I think Lupin had his fair share of emotional scars from the first war not to mention serious (um, sorry for the pun) self-esteem issues. There is so little support for these issues in Potterverse. Hopefully that changes with Kingsley being in charge
Amoretteamorette on June 29th, 2014 08:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I agree about Harry having PTSD in OotP. He just couldn't process it emotionally, because it was just *so horrible* to him. Aww :( Poor Harry! He was way too young and unprepared to witness what happened at the end of GoF... But then again, who would be prepared for something like that?
coppertop1 on June 29th, 2014 09:36 pm (UTC)
No one. Fourteen years old, forced to enter a tournament, then kidnapped and witnessing your friend and competitor murdered and the man who killed your parents back from the dead and then being tortured by said man? Yeah. That would mess anyone up. That's why Harry's anger in OOTP didn't bother me. It was realistic and perfectly understandable. If he wasn't acting out, I'd be more put out
drinkingcocoadrinkingcocoa on June 30th, 2014 01:23 am (UTC)
I believe Snape exhibited signs of PTSD in book 3 when his past returned to Hogwarts and he had to teach with Lupin, guard against Sirius, and watch Harry bond with Lupin as well as with a boy (Neville) who resembled Peter Pettigrew as a student. We see Snape's trauma come to a head when he loses it with Dumbledore being nonchalant, once again, about Sirius Black being a danger to Hogwarts students.

I have long wanted to do a study of the parallels between Snape and Sirius. I agree with your premise.
coppertop1 on June 30th, 2014 01:34 am (UTC)
That could be. I do thinks Snape's hostility towards Sirius was largely because it was the man who betrayed Lily (that and well their general history). He didn't know Wormtail was a death eater at that point, I think their timing as death eaters intersected with Wormtail leaving as Snape left. Makes me wonder how much sadistic pleasure he took in making Wormtail his servant (though in that case I'm on Snape's side, Wormtail disgusting and Snape had a job to do)

If you ever get around to doing that study, I'd like to read it. It's interesting to look at two characters who loathe each other but are so similar.

drinkingcocoadrinkingcocoa on June 30th, 2014 01:46 am (UTC)
I think Snape would have had PTSD around Sirius even without the question of Lily. After spending years physically bullying Snape, Sirius tried to actually kill Snape, and that is the memory Snape brings up in his confrontation with Dumbledore in the Hospital Wing at the end of PoA, not Lily. And that's what Snape believes he's protecting Hogwarts students from during that year, when Sirius is breaking into the castle and threatening students with knives (or so it appears) and slashing portraits. And everyone, including Snape, believes Sirius is a mass murderer who killed a huge number of people with a single curse. So I believe just the thought of Sirius fills Snape with terror and loathing.

I am hoping to write this study for Misti-Con 2015, next May, so it'll be available then.
subtle_shadessubtle_shades on June 29th, 2014 09:25 pm (UTC)
Livejournal cuts. Please use them on this and your other post. Your posts are cluttering up my friends page. If I want to read something, I'll click on the link/cut.

Also, as a stylistic thing, rants about people/groups that you loathe and won't take comments from is off-putting, especially since you're not on your personal journal. While I'm normally quite interested in both of the topics that you've chosen to write about, I literally lost interest in your writing when I started to read your first post's intro. The sheer vitriol in it makes it seem like you're unwilling to accept anything but agreement and ass-pats. And I didn't particularly want to read an entire essay written with that tone, much less two, regardless of any views that we may have had in common. So I stopped reading and jotted this note instead.
franciskerst: controllerfranciskerst on June 30th, 2014 08:20 pm (UTC)
I'll be very short: I love Snape as a person and always thought he was the real central hero of the saga: because he's the only one among the main characters who has to make "absolute" choices (Harry, actually, has very little freedom of choice). And all his decisions but one (the first fateful one: becoming a death eater) are made for the common good, totally self-denying, in absolute, desperate loneliness. He really is a tragic hero, Greek style, with all the depth and "grandeur" that this status implies.
metanewsmodsmetanewsmods on July 9th, 2014 06:03 pm (UTC)
Hi, can we link this at metanews?
Crazy Little Writerkeshichan on July 14th, 2014 04:03 pm (UTC)
sorry, I'm not a member of the community but I'm an HP fan
I think that you have good point (or points, taking into consideration that you talked about Black and Snape). I really think that Sirius was too serious in the past that he became bitter towards a lot of things.
Well, I imagine that it was really hard for Snape to let go of his bitterness regarding the whole Lily and James story. But I guess, even though he hated the part wherein he had to save and help Harry, being the son of James, his love for Lily was overwhelming.
Am I blabbing too much? Sorry about that. But, all in all, I loved your explanation.

Edited at 2014-07-14 04:04 pm (UTC)
luvtheheavenluvtheheaven on July 29th, 2014 03:56 pm (UTC)
I really love this post... and the comments. So interesting. I pretty much agree with all of the points made, and I love being reminded of so much specific stuff from the books. ;) I never read too much HP fanfiction about either of these characters, but now I want to read more!
coppertop1 on July 31st, 2014 07:24 pm (UTC)
I haven't read much fanfiction but I've seen some good ones. I love the Marauders era, and I did have a L/J fic but it fizzled. Snape and Sirius are mirror images of each other. They're both equally guilty
tatgoattatgoat on May 19th, 2015 05:01 pm (UTC)
I like your points but there is something you missed.... If Snape had died Remus wouldn't have lived with the guilt, even in Azkaban, he would have gotten executed by the ministry, as it was the law about werewolfs attacking humans...