Podcast Question of the Week: Episode 186

It’s time for Dumbledore and Snape to face the jury.

Following Snape’s memories speaking on his behalf, Dumbledore is also permitted an opportunity to explain his actions. In the end, these two characters reveal complicated, layered characterizations that place them both in morally gray spaces, often causing fans to have split opinions on the two. Why do some readers react more positively to Dumbledore than to Snape and vice versa? What is it about the two of them that, in Harry’s eyes, places them on even, admirable ground (as evidenced by the naming of Albus Severus Potter)?

Let us know what you think in the comments or by sending us an audioboom with the green button on the right!

  • Emerald

    Dumbledore is very complex and morally ambiguous but I’ll say that he wanted to be a good person and to do the right thing, although he was cowardly in some aspects and very selfish at times in his youth. As for Snape, I think that he is in the middle of the 9 moral alignments—neutral. My brain hurts as always when discussing morality, so I’ll leave it at that haha

  • Elizabeth krafnick

    I find it fascinating that people are never really passionate about both of these characters. I do believe I the end that dumbledore did want to “save” the world but that he was willing to do absolutely anything to accomplish that and at any price. I am no dumbledore fan. Snape on the other hand….I will defend him until my dying day. You can bring me any list of his transgressions, any theory of his relationship with Lily, and pieces of his backstory and I will support the character with logic and passion. He resonates with me. And a hell of a lot of others as well. I used to be grateful to dumbledore for giving Snape a chance to redeem himself and I guess he was given that chance and used it well and bravely but that night I think dumbledore laughed all the way to gringotts knowing that he he had a scared, remorseful twenty one year old boy in his thrall that he could use and manipulate into doing dangerous things. Snape had to grow into the realization of this and the fact that he was trapped. But in case you didn’t notice, life isn’t fair.

    • Wokanshutaiduo

      I think there are many of us, myself included, who like both of these characters. Like you, Snape has always resonated with me. I see parts of myself in him and parts of him in myself.

      The difference in why we’re passionate about one and not the other, I think, is because they have completely different arcs. Dumbledore’s arc is that of a fall FROM grace, with a re-redemption thrown in there as well – but it is the deconstruction and humanisation of his character that is the focal point of this story. Snape’s arc on the other hand is a rise from rock-bottom, an arc of redemption. And depending on your world view and your perception of the Potter story, one of these is always going to resonate more strongly than the other. I don’t think however that they are mutually exclusive by any shot.

      • Elizabeth krafnick

        I find that interesting to look at Dumbledore on a downward arc. Could it be that the power got to him? Or is that too simple? I’ve not spent much time analyzing him except in anger because I always knew where my loyalties lay and have spent most of my energies defending Snape to my companions. In that way I have come to know his character powerfully well. I am a virgin with respect to forums like this however. I am heartened that you thought my basic observation worth commenting on. Thanks!

        • Wokanshutaiduo

          I don’t mean that Dumbledore was on a downward arc in the sense of becoming a worse person. In fact I think he is an excellent parallel with Snape as somebody who once made terrible mistakes and who grew into a better person afterwards.

          I meant a downward arc from a narrative standpoint, and the way his character is depicted and understood by Harry. It’s not a worsening of his character, but a deepening of Harry’s understanding which brings to light the darker aspects of his character.

  • WhoDoYouKnowWho’sLostAButtock?

    We are set up to react more positively to Dumbledore than Snape from the outset. Just look at the physical descriptions! There is also a strong God-Devil connotation in those – I mean, if you look at the descriptions of what Dumbledore is wearing at almost any given time, there are heavenly associations (midnight, half-moon, starry, twinkling). Meanwhile, Snape is draped in black, bat-like, and teaches in a dungeon. A DUNGEON.

    Our coming to terms with the two mirrors a child’s maturing to realize that the people in our lives are neither angels nor devils, but people, flawed, with their own problems. Harry is able to complete his journey. Like the verse says, “When I was a child, I thought as a child, I spoke as a child. But now I have put aside childish things.” Harry puts aside any resentment against Snape or Dumbledore because to cling to those things would be childish in the face of life, death, eternity, and the fate of the world.
    In that way he is better, it seems, than many of us. I personally believe that we are supposed to do as Harry does and realize that there is a larger picture which transcends all of that which came before.

    But readers are human, and are loaded with their own emotional baggage. And often there is a real-life reason why we personally refuse to forgive a specific element about a character. We project our own issues into characters, sometimes. And Snape is still an unpleasant, difficult man with greasy hair and black clothes. And people are influenced by appearances, even in fiction.

    I personally feel that the way a person feels about Snape or Dumbledore says more about that particular person than anything else, once it is all said and done. Jo has showed us the appropriate path in Harry – if we were the truly good person he is, we would come to terms with the people in his life accordingly. But we are not all Harry. People hold grudges.

    Me, I’ve always trusted Dumbledore AND Snape, and never believed Snape was evil. I feel that they are both deserving of forgiveness and the benefit of the doubt, because in the end, they gave their lives to save others, in the pursuit of the greater good, in defense of love and peace, in the fight against evil. To quibble about the rest of it would be tantamount to Harry in King’s Cross, still hung up on Snape taking points from Grtffindor and giving him unfair detentions and bullying him and his friends. Those are such small earthly concerns in the face of life, death, redemption, resurrection, love, war, good and evil.

    • UmbridgeRage

      Very much agree with you on these points. However, we as readers have an ability that Harry does not have. We can time travel. We can (and often do) go back to the moments when Snape was grossly unfair to Harry. We cannot simply let go of those moments because we can so easily return to when those moments actually mattered. The entire series is always “the present” for us.

      I too always believed that Snape would be on Dumbledore’s/Harry’s side in the war. I guess I forgive Dumbledore’s actions more easily than Snape’s because DD’s flawed actions are mostly in service of “the greater good” while Snape’s are for selfish and petty reasons. Dumbledore was concerned with saving the world while Severus wanted to get back at James through his son.

      • travellinginabluebox

        Agree with both of you. I always wanted to believe Dumbledore that Snape was a good person and was really gutted after HBP. But I can see why Harry could forgive both of them. For one when terrible things or times are finally over you tend to be emotionally drained and forgive people easily. And I also think a lot of people can relate to this. Remember when you fight with your friends and in the end you cannot even remember why you did fight. But it doesn’t matter because they are your friends so you will forgive them. In a way by the time Harry meets Dumbledore he is so done with everything he gave himself up for the people he loved. When he then meets Dumbledore he can’t find it in him to be mad at him because it doesn’t matter anymore.
        He can forgive Snape because he sacrificed himself for Harry. And we know that Harry always struggled with the thought of people giving their lives for him. And also his last memory of Snape is a good one and so he can easily forget all the harassment he had gotten over the years by the man. We as readers of course will always remember that especially when we are on a re-read of the series. Harry however would put all this behind him and move on from all the struggle. And also like Dumbledore Harry always sees the best in people. A quality that not everyone possesses. But something we can learn from these characters.

  • Wokanshutaiduo

    I’ve yet to listen to this episode, but this is such an amazing question that I just had to respond! I’d just like to put a caveat at the beginning that this response is going to be Riddled with personal opinions.

    Narratively, we are geared to respond more positively towards Dumbledore and more negatively towards Snape from the get-go. They essentially have the opposite trajectories in how they are perceived. Dumbledore starts off as being the wise old mentor, the one who knows all the secrets but is acting entirely for Harry’s own good, and over the course of the story he is shown to be fallible. Snape on the other hand is immediately set up as a character to dislike from the very first chapter you see him, and slowly you get pieces of backstory that redeem him.

    I think this explains both ways that people see both of these characters. There’s the fact that Dumbledore was set up to be liked and Snape set up to be disliked, causing people to feel that way about them. There’s also the fact that Dumbledore was set up to be liked that made people feel even more betrayed and disillusioned when his failings are revealed; and vice versa for Snape when his redeeming qualities are revealed. On the other hand, there are the readers who like Dumbledore even MORE once his failings are revealed as it shows him rising beyond his mistakes to become a better and more rounded character.

    Then there is also the factor to consider of how relatable the characters are. I think the extent to which people are willing to forgive the respective characters is influenced by how much they are able to relate to them. People (such as Michael for instance) who have lived with a disabled child or sibling and who can relate to Dumbledore; people who have been bullied and can relate to Snape; people who have made mistakes that they’ve regretted and can relate to either or both; people who have loved and lost; people who have had to make ethical or moral decisions on behalf of loved ones; the list goes on.

    For instance, I can’t relate much to Dumbledore on a personal level, and this makes it more difficult for me to forgive him on a subjective level. On an objective one, absolutely! He was acting for the greater good, there WAS no other good choice to be made, and from the sounds of it he had an inkling that Harry would survive. He learned from his mistakes as a youth and used his experiences to better himself, constantly sacrificing his happiness for the greater good. Subjectively, I’m not a fan of his emotional manipulation of other characters, but objectively I think he was the best leader the Light could possibly have had.

    Contrast this with my opinion on Snape, who I’m much more able to relate to! I’m willing to say that objectively, the character has just as many flaws as he does redeeming qualities. But subjectively, he has always been and always will be my favourite HP character – even one of my all time favourite literary characters. It doesn’t matter how many times I re-read the books, watch the movies, participate in debates, read fanfictions – this character always hits a chord in me on an emotional level, and it’s based on this entirely subjective interpretation of the character that I choose to like him and to forgive him.

    In Harry’s eyes, what puts them both on equal footing, to warrant being honoured in his son’s names? They both were instrumental in helping him to survive Voldemort. They both represent the eternal grey, the complexity of human personalities, and they both represent men who gave everything to help him win the war. I would say that given Albus gets the first name that Harry sees him as marginally more worthy – but I do think that, as he says, both of them were two of the greatest Headmasters that Hogwarts ever had, and he chose to honour their sacrifices through those names. (I think the names were cheesy as hell but even so I do like the sentiment!)

    • Soc.forRescueofVanishedAnimals

      You’re right on about the way these two characters resonate with certain readers on a purely subjective, even hard-to-define, level. Personally, I understand and have sympathy for both of them, but have more of an emotional attachment to Snape, probably because I always gravitate toward the misunderstood, maligned, and tragic characters. Conversely, I think some readers feel a sense of righteousness in pointing out these characters’ mistakes, and it makes people feel better about their own morals if they refuse to forgive them. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way; for some people, forgiveness of someone implies condoning their wrong behavior (whereas is does not, in my version of forgiveness), and also, as you pointed out, some readers may have personal experiences that inform that reaction. This question and the whole phenomenon is so interesting …

  • Soc.forRescueofVanishedAnimals

    I think some of the divided response comes down to a reader’s feelings about what each of these characters kept secret — or to use a term that is less loaded, private. Both Dumbledore and Snape guarded some aspect of their true selves from the rest of the world. Snape, in Dumbledore’s words, kept “the best of” himself private — in part because he had to in order to maintain his cover as a spy, and in part because he was protecting his pride. Dumbledore, on the other hand, kept the worst of himself private — his youthful infatuation with power at the expense of his family, and the reasons he delayed seeking out and stopping Grindlewald. Snape hid the best of himself while being completely authentic in his feelings of resentment toward Harry. Dumbledore hid the worst of himself while presenting a pleasant, though partly false, front to the world, never betraying the honest internal regrets and worries that he carried. The immense weight that Dumbledore shouldered during his years of protecting Harry is evident in the King’s Cross chapter; seeing all of his plans come together successfully at last, he can finally be happy: “Harry had never seen the man so utterly, so palpably content.”

    I think that readers who feel the burden that Dumbledore was carrying by keeping so many secrets — about himself and about Harry’s fate — can empathize and forgive. And other readers, who would rather have someone act pleasantly and hide any anger or bitterness, will appreciate Dumbledore more. Conversely, readers who empathize with Snape see someone who is too proud to reveal the best of himself, who also internalizes his positive traits because life experience has taught him that openness and vulnerability are weaknesses and expose you to pain. Further, some cultures value extroversion and misunderstand introverts, which I think affects some people’s willingness to accept these characters’ choices about what aspects of self to keep private. What it comes down to is that both of these men are struggling with great pain and self-loathing, each was simultaneously powerful and powerless, in his own way. All of those things can make people uncomfortable, but I think Rowling wanted us to feel unsettled, right along with Harry, by the revelations of these character’s inner lives, and to grow in our empathy by trying to understand them.

    Harry forgives because he also has felt this pain and guilt and self-loathing, and the desire to numb himself to those feelings. Less an an hour before his conversation with Dumbledore in King’s Cross, Harry is overwhelmed by feelings of culpability for the others’ deaths: “Nothing … could be worse than his own thoughts.” Harry knows what it is like to feel the burden of responsibility for the world’s fate, like Dumbledore, and he understands that somebody had to make the hard, strategic choices that Dumbledore made; in fact, I think he knows that if Dumbledore and Snape had not done the dirty work, he himself might have had to keep those secrets and make even more sacrifices than he already has made.

  • Efthymia

    To be honest, it was when I started listening to Alohomora that I discovered that there are people who not only doubt that Dumbledore is super-awesome, but that actually dislike him. I was very surprised!

    I love Dumbledore and I think he’s great, and I’ve never considered him morally gray (unlike Snape, who is the grayest). I was disappointed to discover that he entertained the idea of wizarding supremacy when he was younger, but that’s pretty much the worst thing he did: he exchanged some letters with Grindelwald when he was young. He spent the rest of his life standing up for Muggles and Muggleborn magical people, developing better relationships with other magical creatures, advancing magical knowledge (uses of dragon blood and what have you), protecting the weaker and serving justice, and having enough self-awareness to know what his weaknesses are and what he needs to avoid in order to help this world be a better place.

    He was against Voldemort from the first moment, and worked to organise those who were also against him. He understood people well enough to know whom to trust, whom to be wary of, who deserved a second chance and who didn’t, who could be useful in fighting the good fight and how. Yet he also understood that he made mistakes and bad judgement calls, so he knew not to jump into trusting and sharing.
    People judge him for being secretive and not sharing information, but just because some people wouldn’t do things the same way Dumbledore did doesn’t mean his choices were wrong. He did what he judged was best, with the best intentions. He had the true greater good in mind. He prioritised the wizarding world in general over Harry, and I’m 100% with him on that.

  • Silverdoe25

    To me, it’s clear why Snape is a gray character. Despite his loyalty to Dumbledore and his status as a double agent, he is not a nice human being. We can perhaps explain away why he is so nasty to Harry, but not to the other characters, like Hermione and Neville. Obviously, never meant to be a teacher in the first place, he gets stuck in the profession via the agreement with Dumbledore. Why do people react so negatively to Dumbledore though? I don’t think it’s over the choices his 17-year-old self made. So, I guess it’s over all the ‘pig for slaughter’ business. This week’s discussion had me thinking more than ever – When exactly did Dumbledore hatch this plan? He always knew that Voldemort would be back. I think he may well have surmised the involvement of a Horcrux from the start. And he also knew that whenever Voldemort returned, he would be gunning for Harry. So, at first, the plan had to be about protecting Harry. Was it in Chamber that he had his first inclination that multiple Horcruxes might be involved? Is that when he began to really look at collecting memories and such? Had he always, over time, done that research? Was it also in Chamber that he began to have an inkling that Harry may also be a Horcrux and realized that Harry would have to die to destroy that piece of soul? To me, it seems as though the “gleam of triumph” moment is Dumbledore’s realization that if he played his cards right, he could possibly pull Harry through this. So, i’m just not sure if it was Dumbledore’s plan all along to sacrifice Harry. I don’t know that the 2 are on even admirable ground to Harry. The inclusion of Snape’s name for Harry’s son seems, to me, to be more a gesture of forgiveness or recognition of his sacrifice.

  • Outspoken1

    As the T-shirt says, “Everyone has something to hide.”

  • PuffNProud

    Such a great question! Dumbledore and Snape are so similar in many ways and yet so different. They both caused the death of someone they loved and as a result chose lives without close relationships. Both hide at Hogwarts for the rest of their lives. Both hide their true selves (or at least their motivation). To some extent I think that it comes down to whether or not you support the idea of greater good as to where you fall in supporting DD or Snape. If you support the greater good, then DD is your man. DD is willing to let many people die; he uses people almost ruthlessly in order to carry out his plan. His world contains many people and is about destruction – destruction of the Dark Lord. Snape’s world is about saving, saving Harry, saving Lily’s memory. He understood the personal torture and pain of healing one’s soul by remorse (as he did this for himself with Lily) and is loathe to inflict this on himself or others. Snape’s world is more based on a person or people (if you include Harry). Perhaps this is why I more often fall on the Snape side – as a parent, I could not conceive of intentionally putting my child in harm’s way, even if for the greater good.

  • Crimson Phoenix

    I think it comes down to how morality is developed. One theory of moral development in psychology states that there are three stages to morality. In the first stage, the person only thinks about morality in terms of “what’s in it for me?” and “how can I avoid punishment?” The second stage evolves to morality surrounding social norms (what a good person looks like) and maintaining social order (break the law – get punished). And finally, the third stage involves the social contract (the greater good) and universal ethics (moral relativism). We see these characters through the eyes of Harry and Harry, through the series, has gone through some pretty complex moral development.

    Growing up at the Dursley’s, and later on in Snape’s class, Harry tries his best to avoid any sort of punishment – Stage 1. When he first hears about Sirius, he clearly exhibits Stage 2 where he thinks Sirius deserves punishment for his crimes. Incidentally, this is also the stage where Dumbledore is looked upon as the image of the “good” person. Finally, Harry has truly reached the third stage when he is in limbo. It’s as if he can now see all of the pieces of the puzzle fitting together. He can see the social contract between Snape, himself, his parents, and Dumbledore, and he can also see Dumbledore’s greater good of getting rid of Voldemort.

    That being said, while I think Harry has reached the third stage of moral development, I think many readers are still learning and developing their moral compass. This is where the different feelings towards Snape and Dumbledore come in. Even if some readers have reached the end stage of moral development, their ideas might be inherently different than Harry’s on the grounds that the third stage is all about the individual making morals their own. And those readers who are in the earlier stages of moral development are less likely to take all of the gray areas into account because those moral ideas are so much more concrete. This was a great question, I hope I explained my point coherently, and I definitely agree with Emerald at the top that thinking about moral development can definitely give me a headache!

    P.S. Y’all said my name on the podcast!!! That was so freakin’ awesome!

  • Laura Albert

    I’ll possibly come back to add my thoughts on the subject matter later but regarding just the question and the asking of the question itself: ‘Can open, worms everywhere.’

  • Carapace

    I think the reason a reader would react more positively to Dumbledore than snape would just be the simple fact that we have been conditioned this way through the entire series. Dumbledore has always been the kindly, quirky, wise, though mysterious grandfatherly figure where snape has always been the crotchety, grudge holding, sadistic “chemistry teacher”.
    The reasons a reader would feel the opposite would be what is revealed to us in book 7. Dumbledore’s flaws are revealed, and some redemptive information is given about snape. Snape becomes the tortured anti-hero to these readers and Dumbledore becomes more human, more imperfect, like the way we view our parents when we start to learn that they, in fact, don’t have all the answers, and are often just as scared and worried as you are.
    I see both of these opinions as flawed. Harry comes to the realization (as should we all) that all people have flaws, no one is perfect, and that Dumbledore and Snape both deserve forgiveness. While neither are perfect, Harry can see them as heroes.
    This yin and yang type relationship where one is mostly good with hidden flaws, while the other is mostly flawed with hidden good gives us the two ends of the spectrum of humanity. We are given Voldemort as an example of perfect evil, he has no hidden redemptive qualities, and has no humanity thus he is only worthy of our pity, but not our forgiveness.

  • GreatHuffleDane

    I have to agree with the people who have said that one of the reasons readers react more positively to Dumbledore than the Snape at least at the beginning of the series is because of the way they are described and also the age at which many of us read those first descriptions as a 8 year old having the book read to me for the first time having Dumbledore described in a way in which he seemed gentle and kind and almost grandfatherly in a sense almost automatically leads you to view him as a nearly infallible character whereas Snape is described in such a way to be scary to a small child he is dressed in black he teaches in dungeons and he is not at all kind to the character in which we the reader see this new world through.

    That being said I think just as our own views of the Grandfathers and “weird slightly mean” family friends or even uncles in our lives change over time as we grow and become more mature so Harry’s view of Dumbledore and Snape changes. We come to realize that these people we put on pedestals are simply flawed sinful human beings who have many of the same vises and struggles we have. Similarly we find that the people who we were fearful or resentful of are not nearly as scary or hurtful as they seemed they too are flawed and have struggles that we face too.

    In this way I think the Harry came to realize the Albus was not the perfect man but he did what he thought must be done for the greater good. As for Severus I think he came to realize that this man although maybe out of selfish desires still gave his life protecting the last bit of the only person he in his mind ever felt love for (weather it was actually love or infatuation or possession doesn’t really matter because in Severus’ mind he loved her and that is why he did what he did).

  • WhoDoYouKnowWho’sLostAButtock?

    I also thought about something — Snape and Dumbledore are a bit of a reverse situation. The reader begins absolutely convinced that Dumbledore is good, wise, benevolent, and will always be there to protect Harry, and that he will tell Harry the truth. But the further you go on, the more you begin to question that. You begin to realize that he might have chosen to do some things that put you in danger, or that you resent him for doing.

    Snape is the opposite. The reader begins convinced that Snape is horrible, evil, petty, destructive, and will always be there to torment Harry, and that he will never do anything to help Harry. But the further you go on, the more you begin to realize that he has chosen to do some things that have helped Harry, that have kept Harry safe, and that he did to help the good guys win.

    Both sides leave you conflicted, because you loved Dumbledore, and then you doubted him, and you hated Snape, and then you’re forced to see his good side. I guess the question is, which is it harder to get over? To forgive a little bad in the generally good, or to accept the good in the generally bad? Does the number of good acts matter, or does the intensity or power of the acts matter more?

    It’s complicated.

  • badonkaTonks

    I know I am probably not saying anything that already hasn’t already been said, but since page one of the books we were expected to like Dumbledore, he was the man who fixes everything, he was who we always knew we could trust, he made us feel safe. Snape was presented in the exact opposite light, the first time we see him, we are trained to not trust him because Harry’s scar hurt, even though at the time we had no idea what meant but it couldn’t be good. To me the beauty in Rowlings writing in these book is that we grow with them. I was older when I first read Sorcer’s Stone but I felt like kid reading them, and much like a child I put my faith in Dumbledore that he would keep us (Harry) safe much like any child will look to mom/dad to keep them safe. But as the story and book went on, and just like in life you mature and the black and white world mixes to grey. We all have that experience at some point where we realizes mom’s kisses will not fact fix my boo boos, and that dad can’t always know how fix what is broken, and that they are just human like we are with faults and short comings. So think Dumbledore gets a more positive reception than Snape because he was built in many ways for us to look at him as a parent, and like our parents we still love them even when they are proven to be human. But it funny we at first saw Dumbledore as Harry’s great protector, but it was all illusion, he was not really protecting but more making sure he moved along to correct path in his master plan, no Harry’s great protector was Snape, and his intentions for doing so aside, he was very brave to protect Harry in the way he did. And maybe that is why Harry put them both on equal ground at the end, Dumbledore was his first symbol of safety but Snape was his true safety. So just like our parents evolve from Saints into “sinner” Harry found parent like figures in the “Saint” Dumbledore and “Sinner” Snape, and as lines blurred into which was which at the all that mattered to Harry was their work for greater good, the wizarding world and his.

  • SnapesManyButtons

    I think it was important to Rowling’s narrative for the reader to see Snape and Dumbledore in black and white at first. Snape has all the stereotypical “bad guy” attributes, black hair, black clothes, greasy hair, yellow, crooked teeth and of course his mean, bitter nature. If he had a moustache we’d expect him to tie innocent girls to a railroad track like in old-timey cartoons. Dumbledore, on the other hand, is stereotypically the good guy. White hair, colorful clothes, twinkling eyes, offering sweets and wisdom to those who need it. We expect him to always be right and always be perfect. Rowling used every preconceived notion we readers have to set these two characters up with the first impression she wanted for them. As is typical for a children’s book, we fully expected the characters to remain in the pigeon holes she set up for them, but the genius of these books is how she turns those preconceived notions on their heads and gives the characters a depth and backstories we never saw coming.

    Where we thought Snape was trying to harm or kill Harry, we find out he had dedicated his life to protecting him. Where we thought Dumbledore was working to teach Harry to survive his confrontation with Voldemort, we find that he is sending him to die. Snape is forced to watch people die but saves who he can. Dumbledore is trying to save who he can but is forced to do it by sending people into mortal danger. And while we never see either with a partner, we find that both loved very deeply and carried that love their whole lives.

    Snape and Dumbledore are two sides of the same coin. If I said we were talking about, “a character whose actions unwittingly lead to the death of a woman he loves. Who loses his best friend, whom he loves, and goes on to never love again. Who then devotes his life to serving the Wizarding World, despite being forced to do things that are abhorrent to him, to ensure the defeat of Voldemort.” would I be talking about Snape or Dumbledore? It could be either. At times they play against type, such as when Dumbledore talks calmly about Harry dying while Snape is horrified. Other times they play to type as with Dumbledore’s twinkling eyes and Snape’s persistent scowl. But neither is just black or white and I think that is the whole point. Harry comes to see this and is able to see that their outer veneers were not as important as their actions, which were both dedicated to helping Harry and defeating Voldemort.

    In a way I think the very fact that Rowling makes Snape so unlikeable is a clue to the fact that he isn’t what he seems and will redeem himself. Snape is not the opposite of Dumbledore, but a reflection of him and thus Dumbledore doesn’t end up the perfect paragon he appears to be. I think it is important that Dumbledore knows he cannot be trusted with power and avoids the Minister of Magic position. He knows he can act against his inclinations but is unwilling to count on it. Like Snape, he followed an evil Wizard who wanted to subjugate Muggles. Like Snape, he turned against him only when someone he loved was threatened and ultimately killed. Like Snape he carried the weight of his past mistakes to the end of his life. Yet for many Snape and Dumbledore remain either Bad or Good.

    The problem seems to be that it is difficult to let go of first impressions. I think these books were specifically designed to read differently on subsequent readings, knowing what you know from the first time. Rather than spoiling the experience, you see things you never noticed before and understand things in a way that wasn’t possible the first time. But as someone else pointed out, some people can’t see the actions of Snape or Dumbledore differently on re-reads, even knowing what they know and are not able to change their view of them. As with any book, the reader’s own life experience and perspective will influence their reactions and we each read the story in our own way. Some people can’t see the events from the viewpoint of the characters within the story, who don’t have the additional knowledge we readers have. They expect the characters to act as if they also know all we readers know or blame them for results that they couldn’t have foreseen. But in the end, each of us reads the story in our own way and the same story can be a different experience for each of us.

  • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

    All my thoughts about how our views of Dumbledore snd Snape are formed seem to be hashed out pretty well by all the previous comments, so I won’t repeat. I will add my thoughts on why he would choose the two of them as namesakes, over other characters.

    I think in the end, Harry took everything Dumbledore and Snape did very personally. They were both in the fight against Voldemort, but everything they both did was very much for Harry himself. Dumbledore, whether we agree with his methods or not, was focused on preparing Harry for what he’d eventually have to do, and giving him the tools to do it. Once a way became evident for Harry to survive, Dumbledore tried to ensure that he would. Snape too, while it may have only been for Lily, was still all about protecting Harry himself. He was protecting and aiding him as Lily’s son, not merely “the boy who lived”, which is evidenced by his reaction to Harry being a pig for slaughter.

    I think therefore, that Harry feels a deeper sense of personal gratitude to both of these characters, in a way that he doesn’t feel towards others who have died. Lupin and Tonks both died because theyvwere fighting for a better world, for their own son and everyone else. They would have been in that battle even if Harry had hightailed it out of there. For them, while they cared about Harry, it wasn’t about him. Same with Moody; he died in the act of getting Harry to safety, but that was just a necessary part of the overall plan in the war at large. I would argue that even Sirius didn’t die FOR Harry. Sure, he showed up at the Ministry initially to save Harry, but by the end I think he’d lost sight of that. He was caught up in the thrill of the fight, all his token wild recklessness shining through, even momentarily forgetting that it was Harry, and not James, there next to him.

    It’s not that I think Harry doesn’t feel gratitude and remorse for the others, or doesn’t recognize them as heroes, it just seems to me that he would feel he owes Snape and Dumbledore personally something more.

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      Good points, they are both revealed to have acted FOR Harry instead of just AGAINST Voldemort.

    • Wokanshutaiduo

      I do like this analysis. I’d just like to point out that Harry did give Sirius a middle name, putting him on equal footing with Snape; and that Sirius getting Harry confused with James was a movie-ism.

      • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

        True, I wasn’t even thinking of the other kids. I think it does say something that Albus and Severus are paired in one child’s name, while Sirius gets paired with James. To me that’s more an honoring of Sirius as father- figure.

        And dammit, you’re right, the calling him James bit is a movieism. I don’t know how I got that mixed up, that usually never happens to me. I think my case still stands though.

        • Wokanshutaiduo

          Oh I definitely think it was appropriate to pair James + Sirius together, and to pair Albus + Severus together. Can you imagine the hypothetical reactions by the dead characters if Harry had named his first born James Severus?

          • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

            Oh dear, Harry would just be trolling everyone then.
            “James Severus Potter, you were named after two men who hated eachother more than anyone I know. Don’t be like them.” Lolz

          • Wokanshutaiduo

            “James Severus Potter, you were named after two men who loved your grandmother. Your name is a cosmic joke on both of them, please don’t fall in love with your sister.”

          • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

            Haha, brilliant

            “James Severus Potter, you were named after a multi-generational feud involving a tragic love triangle between your grandparents and the dead potions master. Let’s see what the Sorting Hat makes of THAT! Muwahaha!”
            I’ve had too much coffee this morning.

          • Wokanshutaiduo

            “James Severus Potter, you were named after the epitomes of both Gryffindor and Slytherin. The Sorting Hat is going to have fun with you!”

          • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

            “James Severus Potter, you were named after two men who were incredible a-holes at Hogwarts. If I were you I’d hope for Hufflepuff.”

          • Wokanshutaiduo

            “James Severus Potter, you were named after two men who gave Professor McGonagall many grey hairs. Please don’t give her a heart attack, I’m rather fond of her.”

          • PuffNProud

            Hilarious! “James Severus Potter, you might as well levicorpus yourself.”

          • ThatTimeRemusWaddiwasiedVoldy

            Nice one!

  • Carapace

    My first answer was flagged as spam for some reason but I’ll try to reiterate my thoughts as briefly as possible. It basically agrees with all the other answers
    I believe the first camp forms their opinions during books 1-6. Dumbledore is the wise, slightly odd, grandfatherly figure and snape is the vitriolic, grudge holding, “chemistry teacher.”
    The second camp has formed their opinions off of the information given to us in book seven, they see Dumbledore’s flaws and their image of him being infallible is shattered, but they see the hidden good in snape and ignore his flaws.
    Harry however sees the good and the bad in both, forgives the bad and holds them up as heroes. My opinion is more akin to this than the first two ideas. Yes they are both incredibly flawed, but flaws are what make us human and this yin and yang type relationship helps to define humanity. One is good exteriorly with hidden flaws while the other is mean exteriorly with some good hidden away. To Harry these seeming opposites are one in the same, human. They represent the ways love and bravery, even when flawed or self serving can come together to fight evil.

  • Slyvenpuffdor

    My immediate thought is that it comes down to an appreciation of context and sacrifice. Although anecdotal, I feel like most people that feel negatively toward Dumbledore and Snape point only to their actions (and I’ll be focusing more on Dumbledore here), “Dumbledore kept so many things from Harry,” “If he was so wise, why didn’t he figure X out?” etc (naturally, this is a gross generalization and there are many complex arguments as to why Dumbledore is frustrating or inconsiderate). What makes me personally connect and sympathize with Dumbledore is that he has given everything to trying to fight an evil. He made extremely difficult and painful decisions in order to maximize the potential of defeating Voldemort. Did he make mistakes? OF COURSE! THAT’S THE POINT! It may also be that in the beginning we are sort of lead to believe that Dumbledore is omniscient angel that is meant to guide and protect Harry, so when his flaws are revealed and he is humanized later on, there’s an aspect of disappointment. Again, in summary, I think readers that have a sincere appreciation for the circumstances that Dumbledore (and Snape) had to navigate will be less likely to have entirely negative feelings about those characters. I think this is also what leads Harry to appreciate them, as in the end they both get to reveal their pasts and explain themselves to Harry.

  • I think it is simple. I’m not going to have a super indepth answer like most that are discussed in the episode, but here it is. Snape was an ass and Dumbledore was a nice guy.

  • daveybjones999 .

    There will be two parts to this comment with this first part explaining why I think others feel the way they do. A lot of people have already said it in the comments but mostly it’s that our initial impressions of the characters color and influence not only how we feel about them, but how we look at their past actions. When we first learn about Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindlwald a lot of people seem to not really care at all about it, because the Dumbledore we know at the time of the series is nothing like that. So our positive impressions of him colors our perceptions and make us give him the benefit of the doubt. However, Snape is completely the opposite. When we later learn about Snape’s past with Lily and Petunia a lot of people still seem to blame Snape for a lot of things and him being a jerk later on in life causes some people to be unfair to young Snape. In other words because of Snape’s present day actions people are unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt when he was younger. I think this was what J.K. Rowling intended because it

    a) makes both characters more complex and
    b) allows people to make their own decisions on whether either of these characters are “good” or “bad”

    Both of those things are what really makes the characters and, this dynamic between them, one of the most interesting, and multifaceted topics in the series.

    • daveybjones999 .

      This is the second and third parts of my much longer part explaining how I specifically feel about the characters and why. For Dumbledore my impressions of the character hasn’t really changed all that much. When I first found out his past during the Rita Skeeter book my thoughts were, so what. I 100% agreed with Hermione who cares if he did something awful at the age of 17 that’s not who he is right now. When Harry makes the argument that they’re also 17 and haven’t done anything bad reminds me of when he saw James bullying Snape. Whenever anyone tries to defend James by saying that he was only 15 at the time and had eventually changed into a better person, Harry responds I’m 15 and I don’t do stuff like that. The thing is you can’t take a snapshot of what someone does when at an early developmental stage in their life, whether it be 10, or 15 or 20, and say that the person in question never changed and continued to do the same thing forever. Yes James was 15 when he bullied Snape, but when he died he was 21. People like to say what he did at age 15 was awful and unforgivable, and he never changed for the better and remained a jerk for the remainder of his days, but he started dating Lily 2 years later and died 6 years later. People can change a lot in only 2 years. I know people, who when I was in 10th grade were jerks who in the course of two years had completely mellowed out and became really nice. To get back to Dumbledore himself, even though he did something unsavory at the age of 17, he isn’t 17 anymore. At the time of his death, according to the Harry Potter wiki, he was 115. That’s over 90 years. People sometimes like to pretend or genuinely believe that people never change and that if you’re a jerk at one time in your life, you will always be that jerk and not ever become a better person. But that’s just not how life works. People can change and change drastically within a very short amount of time.

      Now I’ll look at Dumbledore’s actions during the present timeline of book series. Looking specifically at how he raised Harry to die I personally have always believed that it wasn’t his plan from the moment he was born. I think that Dumbledore didn’t begin to think Harry had to die until the second book when he finds out about the diarycrux. I think that was also the moment he put two and two together and realized that Harry must be a partial horcrux as well. He then started to reluctantly make plans for Harry to die until the fourth book when he starts to suspect Harry can possibly survive after all. He still isn’t sure that Harry can survive but he does add in a few safeguards to try and ensure that Harry does continue living. I specifically believe that Dumbledore gave Harry information about the Hallows both to make him the master of death and have that be able to tether Harry to life, and also to slow Harry down in his quest to hopefully allow him to live a bit longer until he had to confront Voldemort.

      The rest of the decisions he makes are quite manipulative and cause Harry, Snape and many others to have to die, but that doesn’t make me feel like he was a character who only cared about the cause he’s fighting for. He was definitely willing to let the people he knew die for the cause, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he never cared for them. Some would say that you don’t do some of the things Dumbledore does to the people you love, but sometimes reality forces your hands and makes it so that if you don’t do those things more people will die. If you look at all of Dumbledore’s actions from a purely logical view divorced from emotion he 100% does the correct thing and shouldn’t really be criticized for his actions, but because humans have emotions and their own morals, that instantly makes his actions much more problematic and ambiguous than if you’d only look at them through logic. I personally have always believed, because of how Dumbledore is written early on in the series, that all of his actions come from a place of love he has for the people he knows, the decisions he makes don’t come easy for him, and that he wishes that there was another way but doesn’t see one. All of that makes me truly believe that through it all Dumbledore really was a good and virtuous person.

      • Efthymia

        *standing ovation*

    • daveybjones999 .

      This is the third part of my many long comments. My view of Snape has completely changed since I first read the series. He is written initialy as a pure villain character until we get a wrench thrown into that view at the end of the first book when we find out he was trying to protect Harry all along. He’s still completely nasty and stereotyped afterwards, but throughout the series we keep getting more information that throws that view into doubt. From the reveal that James saved Snape from one of Sirius’s fatal pranks and that Snape thought Snape was in on it and was only trying to save his own neck in the third book; that James mercilessly bullied him at school, and that he was abused as a child in the fifth book; all the way to the final book where we finally get the information that Snape was a spy for Dumbledore because he loved Lily the entire time. I know this last point is always the subject of a heated debate among the fandom and for reference I am on the side that it was real love. This is mostly that, in my opinion, to believe otherwise is to ignore, throw out, or be at complete odds with one of the series biggest themes. That love is the most powerful force and is what drives peoples actions for the better. I don’t believe that Snape would have continued to be on the side of good and protect Harry if he didn’t truly love her.

      Does this mean that I think that he was a good person overall, not really. I also don’t think he’s a completely bad person either. On one hand he is absolutely horrible to Harry, because of James; Neville, because he wishes Voldemort had targeted his parents instead of Harry’s; and Ron, and Hermione because their Harry’s friends not because they’re a blood traitor and a mudblood, because I believe that he has completely abandoned that prejudice. To my knowledge we never see adult Snape, even at his worst, call anyone a mudblood or a blood traitor. This is still really horrible and almost unforgiveable, but I feel like if the characters can forgive him for that so can we. That being said we only know that Harry forgives him and never find out whether Ron, Hermione, or Neville do so even that remains in debate. On the other hand we never see him bully Lavender, Parvati, Dean, or Seamus, he treats the Slytherins well, and we never see how he acts to the Hufflepuff’s or the Ravenclaws so I think an argument could be made that he’s not really a bad person to anyone other than the main four I mentioned. We also don’t really know if he’s nasty to any of his fellow teachers, other than whoever the DADA teacher happens to be for that year.

  • Jaye Dozier

    At the end of the day, I believe people connect to both of these characters because they have a deep, complicated association with love – and I believe this is also why Harry places them on even ground. That being said, the way Snape and Dumbledore express, feel, explore, and give love is very, very different. Everyone loves Snape because he dedicated his entire life for his love of one woman, yet we all love Dumbledore because he cared for Harry and, through him, we somehow felt that he would care for us. Although Dumbledore is certainly more charming, likable and desirable to be around, both he and Snape ultimately dedicate their lives to the service of that which they love. We may come to see both of their faults in many different ways (Dumbledore was forced to make tough decisions that I image went against his heart or desires (I cant imagine him gloating over anyone’s death), and Snape zeroed in all of his love into one person, neglecting everyone else in the process) but ultimately, I think we connect the two men, and love them, because they place someone, or something, above themselves completely. (I’m a huge Dumbledore fan so I could talk for a while about why I love him, but I’ll just leave it at that :))