I’ve been flipping through Order of the Phoenix, but I can’t find it, the bit where Harry momentarily breaks into Snape’s mind and sees Little Snape cowering while a man (probably his dad) yells at a crying woman (probably his mom). You know, I don’t think that’s a throwaway scene. I think JKR’s trying to show us that Snape grew up in an abusive home. Now pair that with the scene Harry saw in the pensieve, of James humiliating Snape at school. That was a harrowing scene, and whose side were we supposed to be on? James wasn’t evil, but he was really nasty to someone who couldn’t defend himself, and he did permanent damage to another human being. Bullying is frequently dismissed as childish and trivial, but it can have really dreadful consequences. Suffering doesn’t always ennoble a person.
I really want Snape to turn out to be good – not in a last-minute turnaround, but to have been a good guy all along. I naturally side with the underdog, and he is certainly that. But it might be that early abuse and schoolyard humiliation stunted his soul and put him on a path he would not otherwise have taken. And how ironic would it be if the actions of the great and noble martyr James Potter were a significant factor in the death of Dumbledore? I think that’s exactly the kind of thing JKR would do. Harry’s a pretty good guy, despite having lived with years of abuse, a point Dumbledore makes at the end of Book 5 (I think). She might want to remind us that it doesn’t always work out that way.
And this points to what I think she’s trying to say about good and evil. Absolute evil exists, people can really truly be that horrible – for a real-world example, just look at Dick Cheney – and all that can stand in opposition to it is us regular folks – people are imperfect, as Melanie says. Well-intentioned, maybe, but sometimes stubborn, selfish or thoughtless. Sometimes fatally so.
Song du jour of the day: Feed My Frankenstein, by Alice Cooper.