There have been many characters conceived in the mind and given life by the pen. There have been innumerable attempts to capture the imagination and the heart of readers and engendering a true affection for these characters. And there have been a rare few who have achieved the seemingly unattainable feat.
Professor Severus Snape, in my estimation, is one of those rare characters. He was brought to life within the pages of J.K. Rowling’s masterfully woven tale of the boy who lived.
As I have reflected on the death of Alan Rickman over the last twenty-four hours, a variety of tributes have surfaced all over social media and the internet. All of these has been a testament to the life and gifts of this singularly talented man. Over and over again, his reprisal as Professor Snape garnered him a following among devoted Harry Potter fans.
Severus Snape was a man who was loathed and feared, who had seemingly little depth, was able to hide a depth of strength so little found in the human experience. The power of Rowling’s character was brought to life and put on display by Rickman’s interpretation. It is one thing to read the tale but, to watch it and have every one of your senses engaged in the experience truly impressed upon your mind, and dare I say, soul, the beauty of the story.
I cannot rightly explain why Severus Snape has captured my imagination. I do not know what it was about the unfolding drama of his story that pulled me to love rather than loathe him. I am shocked at how deeply I feel his pain and, at times, try to justify his actions.
Even as I write these words, I am perplexed by the seemingly irrational emotions I feel about a person who never existed. And yet, the connection is no less impactful. Could it be that those of us who have identified with Severus Snape have seen our own struggles for acceptance personified? Could it be that, in Professor Snape, we see the nuanced reality of life? I do not know what it is. I just know that it is there.
One of the truly brilliant aspects of Rowling’s story is how she managed to hide Snape’s motives for over 4,000 pages (US Editions). The speculations and theorizings marked the passage of time between the books publications. Then, when the revelations were made and the answers given, I (we?) were left in shock as to what was really driving the potions master. It is almost as if his impenetrable skill at Occlumency worked on all of us as weel. For we were not able to discern or divine the reasons for his actions.
The story of the boy who lived is wonderful and powerful for so many reasons. It is a story that I will continue to read and encourage my children to read as well. However, for me, the story is given its proper context and it is brought into its starkest relief because of another character. That character was Professor Severus Snape, the man who began his journey as the boy who loved.