PCA: Snape as Byronic Hero

The Mysteriously Byronic Allure of Severus Snape
Jennifer Marchisotto, California State University Fullerton

This is a live blogging of the session.

7th book revealed true loyalties of Snape’s life
any doubt that Snape is a hero is routed

Byronic hero long before the final publication

Snape’s development requires audience to remain engaged with the story.

Harry is an unreliable narrator, because he is an 11 (or older) year old boy.

Snape in his dying moments, he gives Harry his memories. Snape loved Harry’s mother and was always following his love for her.

Like Lord Byron:
brusque, looks on himself as best/ others not, treatment of Harry
plays by his own rules

book on Lord Byron in film and movies

Snape has more than his fair sure of hateful qualities.
Plays by his own rules.
Hides his status of good guy within the series.
Harry’s father tortured Snape and this created problems between them.
Every example of Snape’s “dishonesty and evil” is intended to support Harry and keep him safe.

at the end of the first book, Harry’s unreliableness is shown.
Readers are pre-conditioned to doubt Harry’s interpretation of Snapes.

surface relationship with Snape is hatred
hostile relationship

Harry’s decisions drag him to action.
“Snape looks like the bad guy, but is the real teacher.” Applebaum

without Snape, Harry would never be able to make his own journey and triumph in the end.

Harry and Snape is far more interesting than the relationship is between Harry and Voldemort.

uncertain loyalties and presence in the book, calls into question reader’s understandings

Snapes and James hated each other.
Azkaban provides background for their relationship.
Explains his treatment of Harry.

pre-conditioned to question Harry’s understanding
Harry responds to Snape just as James did.
Snape always protects his students.

Snape’s love for Lily…
Snape’s Worst Memory -> James and Sirius advance on Snape. Struggling. Tortured. James and his friends tortured Snape in front of other students.
Relationship in book 5 is shown (discussed in book 3).
James, the father, is a bully who picks on the less fortunate.
Presumably if Harry is so like his father, Harry should be a bully.
James is defined as courageous and loyal, BUT anytime his actions are shown, he was a bully.

Examine the presentation of James.
He must have redeeming qualities, or was Lily a totally idiotic girl in love with the bad boy?

Love interest for Snape?
Who on earth would want Snape in love with them?
Whoever asked that question… I am slightly stunned that you would ask that.
Knowing the relationship between Snape and Lilly, Rowling was foreshadowing events in the final book AND in developing Snape as a Byronic hero.

fan fiction is a way for readers to critically engage with texts.
“Fan Fiction Online” Angela Thomas article
way of exploring the puzzle…

fan fiction = Snape Byronic hero
Isn’t there a chance that a fan fiction writer will get to where Rowling is going before she gets there?

Books are limited to Harry’s perspective.

Sympathy for Snape becomes central to the character.
On the page, authors have god-like control over their characters. Can’t control how their audiences engage with and participate in the creation/reception of the characters.

Byronic trope… centuries (1820 to 2011 does not equal centuries). This is that magical thinking that my students engage in. Whatever they know is real and everything else must be long ago (thousands of years for WWII for example).

So many adults can see themselves in the children characters… Somebody Black

recommended novels to student going through depression to help heal


No one would want to be Snape. Don’t identify with him, but they look at him as a Byronic hero such as we do not have in life. Byronic/romantic image

In an online chat after publication…
Q: Snape hero?
A: Not particularly likable, riddled with bitterness, … but yet he loved and showed loyalty to his love and ultimately laid down his life because of it. –JKRowling

dynamic relationship of Harry and Snape.

3 thoughts on “PCA: Snape as Byronic Hero”

  1. I was always in the camp that Snape was a good guy because he clearly loved Harry’s mother, and one of the things he always noticed/bugged him about Harry was that he had his mother’s eyes. Dumbledor always made a big deal about how important love was in the fight against good and evil. And Snape had, indeed, loved.

    I don’t know. I think there would be a lot of kids who were formerly bullied who went on to become teachers that could and would relate to Snape.

    Maybe it’s because Alan Rickman plays him in the movies that I have a soft spot for him. 🙂

  2. Snapes worst memory was not that James had bullied him. This was his worst moment in life because he called Lilly a Mudblood – essentially severing ties with his one and only love in life. I believe that is even reflected in his name. Severus (sever = to divide) Snape (snipe = to make malitious underhanded remarks).

    Embarrasment fades – his love for Lilly never did. That moment is just too hard for him to think about.

  3. I used to hate snape with all my guts, but I learned his love for Lily, and he makes fanfiction more interesting. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge