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Snape and the Privilege of Empathy by Bscorp
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Snape and the Privilege of Empathy by Bscorp
Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy

by Bscorp


April 09, 2010, 12:01:23 PM

This morning and for the past few days I've noticed a revival in the simplistic Snape = selfish meme leading into the "I dont' think he really redeemed himself" type of comments on the other forum.

I guess what I wanted get at was a couple of things, how someone comes to redemption is not the point, it's what they do when they get there. 2). The ability to feel compassion is correlated to privilege and there are many invisible privileges that many people take for granted. This theme is evidenced in the books over and over again and I can't understand why people will discuss Snape's character without taking it into account. His utter lack of the most basic privileges like family support and "good" social status are a part of his character as much as his "Greasy Hair" and "Hooked Nose." The issue of social privilege- be it by class, wealth, race, whatever- is a personal goat of mine that I react rather strongly too. It seems to me that sometimes people simply refuse to step outside of their own belief system to consider another point of view. Sooooo I drank a lot of coffee and just spouted off my own cathartic rant in reply to all of this. SIP asked me to post my words over here so here goes.

* shyly put this down on the bar and slips back away into crowd *

<begin rant>
The question(s) I'm picking up on here is about motive and how it plays into someone's redemption. What inspires someone to do good, and how/why is one type of motive better than another? If a person who has done some bad things in the past turns toward the light, are we to question why? It is proper to worry that a 'good turn' could only temporary -or made in bad faith. i.e. if that person is not trustworthy, because they might turn again and hurt us/ somebody again in the future.

This boils down to a couple of issues, trust and forgiveness. What extent is someone expected to extend their trust in someone and what is the meaning of forgiveness? And -more intriguing to me- is HOW does someone come to the ability to forgive while others can not?

In the issue of trust, we know the mantra that Dumbledore repeated over and over about Snape- he trusted him completely. He put his own life, and his death in Snape's hands. Of course we see that even Dumbeldore was initially cautious about Snape's motives in the beginning. In the Prince's Tale, back on that hilltop, with Snape "like a mad man", DD was very suspicious and even "disgusted" by Snape's apparent short-sightedness. It seemed to Dumbledore that Snape cared only for Lily and not her son or husband. If this was true, this would show that Snape had not cared or given thought for what Lily cared about. Snape just wanted her to live. This is selfish.

(Aside: This kind of selfish want, is something Voldmeort would have understood as "desire" yet, Snape still came to Dumbledore. Something told Snape that he could not trust Voldemort to protect Lily- as the person Seve knew and cared for. I suspect that Severus knew that Voldmort saving Lily for him would be a nightmarish trap because somewhere deep down inside- he knew that Voldemort worked only to his own interests. The fact that Snape went to Dumbledore IMO, is a huge signifier opposite to Snape's "self-interest". This was Snape's LOVE for her acting- even against his own cognition. A love that neither Dumbledore nor Snape would recognize the extent of till much much later- this step and how it set in motion the whole series --well that's a whole other post.... )


I am reminded of an old adage a friend of mine who was in recovery for alcoholism told me , "Sometimes you don't see the light until you feel the heat." This is true of many people in this world. Not everyone on earth was raised with the capability to make the best decisions, or even good decisions and a many of us were raised with very poor role models- to put it simply, we're human and we make mistakes. As Moody/Crouch we have to work with the tools we have. Many humans tend to be selfish and short-sighted. Does that make them irredeemable? Does a person who spent his/her whole young life as a selfish— for whatever reason —never deserve to be forgiven?

It would be great if everyone who's ever hurt someone else sudden realized the error of their ways by some divine vision granted to them out of thin air- like a sudden thump on the head. But No. That is not reality. The reality is that most people who struggle with bad choices, be it -drugs, crime, violence - whatever- aren't going to see the light without initially seeing it through the same self-centered filter they've carried with them their whole life. It's a first limping step- not the last.

In contrast- those who are able to immediately be aware, caring and feel empathy for the people around them come to that realization with a filter of their own- one that they've been granted by powers beyond them as well. Most empathetic people are raised to some degree with the privilege of seeing empathetic role models of some kind or the other. As dramatic as it is to say this- for some people in this world, the ability to even laugh is a privilege. The fictional character of Harry Potter aside- the fact is that as human beings, we who are able to understand pain and suffering come to this understanding because somewhere along the line someone paid attention to our own.

Snape came to the light as Snape. He didn't have much in the world to care about. There are reasons for this, and I think JKR went out of her way —in the Prince's Tale and in OOP: Snape's Worst Memory— to explain some of how Snape came to be such a difficult, and- according to some- 'contemptible' character. She went out of her way to show us how Snape might have become someone who was self preserving and unsympathetic character; from the visions of his abusive father and his own nonspeaking motionless mother at the train station. to the moment we see on the train where young Sev literally doesn't understand why Lily would be hurt by her own sister's opinion of her - to the vision of his life at Hogwarts where the most popular boy at school goes out of his way to bully and make an example of him. There are reasons Snape became who he was: the how or why he could have been different is up for discussion but as to who he was the moment he saw the light, we have that in canon. And so like most people who spent their lives in a neglected / self-centered / self- protective hole, Snape didn't look outside himself until something he cared about was affected. This is not so uncommon in humanity and I would be willing to bet most readers have moments in their life where they realized something they did hurt someone else - only after they realized how it affected themselves.

One of the glaring flaws in this series, I think is tied to how many people can't accept Snape's reason for coming into the light; it is the lack of understanding as to how one's background and privilege / lack of privilege affects their ability to feel compassion. Yes, I hear the argument "BUT HARRY WAS ABUSED TOO!!" Despite the neglect he suffered, Harry is a shining good boy who makes really good choices in the areas that matter. Yes. I love the boy and I love the idea set forth by his character, but Harry is not a realistic example. He is written as an exception to the rule. This is why he's the "hero" in JKR's world. He has a special power. We are told this over and over and over again and Dumbledore says as much when he comments on how remarkable Harry is in his ability to love and forgive.

But what we need to see also is that Harry did have some privilege. I'm not talking about monetary wealth. He had societal wealth. Harry had wealth of reputation Snape did not. This is confirmed in the contrast of how each boy is greeted by their first introduction the the 'outside' world. Whereas Harry was greeted as "The famous Harry Potter" whom everyone is in awe of, Snape was greeted by Petunia instantly pointing out his last name in the playground, "That Snape boy", as if his very last name were an epitaph. But Even Before Harry got to Hogwarts he had something Snape did not. Despite where and how he was raised, Harry the wealth of knowing his "real" parents were something else, someone he could idolize- someone he could project caring and love onto. And even despite what The Dursley's said about the Potters- Harry had the privilege of know that the Dursleys were not his REAL parents. Thus Harry had a myth he could cling to. Before he knew anything about his parents, Harry still had an ideal he could create of his own. Snape did not. Snape had reality. Sev's parents were abusive and/or neglectful and that was all. Yes, even this little thing makes a difference. The presence of something shapes someone as much as the lack of presence. Yes, even this is a kind of privilege.

The basic privilege of empathy or idealism, is a very first stepping stone that sets one onto a path in one direction or another. Now, that isn't to say that each individual doesn't reach a point in this path when they can and should steer themselves in their own direction, but each step taken in the past affects where we are in the present. Snape came to his moment in the way he did for several reasons but he did so realistically in his own way and no less worthy of redemption.

So yes, it was Lily who brought Severus to the light. What of it? Yes, it was after something that he treasured was threatened that he did a turn around and fought against the dark. Returning to my rehab metaphor; many people who come to recovery meetings are there because they got a DUI or hurt someone while messed up on drugs or alcohol. Many only come because the court ordered them to. They had their license taken away, or their kids, or they're avoiding jail time. Most of them didn't just come off a week long bender and decide, 'oh, ok i think ill go get sober now.' No. But does this mean they should be turned away at the door? No. Does this mean they might never realize something beyond the initial incident of hurt that brought them to that door? Certainly not.

What happens after Snape comes to Hogwarts and begins his path with Dumbledore? The whole thing is laid out in The Prince's Tale. It's shown in a series of memories that shows how Snape deals with Harry- then begins to care about people beyond Harry. (btw, I have to ask: would it be much of a redemption story if Snape adored Harry and reveled in the boy's attention? Isn't it something remarkable in itself that Snape supposedly "loathed" the boy but still did everything he could to protect him? Isn't this what Harry does for Draco and so many others?) We see in the Prince's Tale that he saved Lupin's life (yet even in this act he was misunderstood. He made a mistake, He missed his mark. Forever the flawed man in his path to redemption,) Why? Why did he bother to save Ginny, Neville and Luna from the Carrows? These details were only necessary in order to illustrate that what he tells Dumbledore —that he will not watch those people die if he could do something save them—*is the truth. This is Snape. But his statement to Dumbledore about the lives of others, his saving Lupin, his saving the kids from the Carrows and other such acts are well above and beyond the call of Harry and anything Lily related. By the end of the Prince's Tale Snape confirms that he has come to care about the life and death of others. The quote, (If I recall it correctly) "only those whom I could not save" confirms that Snape has moved beyond even Dumbledore's expectations in his value of human life.

I believe this is what Harry understood when he named his second son after the man. Harry - who had the ability to feel compassion and forgiveness- looked at Severus for the whole and saw someone whom he admired.

</ end rant>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

subtle science
Graduate
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2010, 04:31:23 PM »
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What makes "The Prince's Tale" so affecting, to me, is the progression it shows.

Snape does get hit on the head--when Lily is threatened: suddenly, that pulls everything into focus. JKR established his character--in fractured bits and pieces--as someone who would not actually enjoy pain and suffering (in contrast to Pettigrew, who is presented in bits and pieces in the opposite direction); adding Snape's love for Lily....and how could he not be affected by a threat to her?

Dumbledore's harshness on the hillside is marvelous--it only furthers Snape's epiphany.

And then the rest of "The Prince's Tale" shows how Snape is able to take his own insight, add it to Dumbledore's contribution to his moral growth, and come out with the regret for "those I could not save."

My personal reaction is--that anyone who can't perceive the beauty and optimisim of such a progression is in desperate need of a human heart. They would be the same sort who complained when the father ordered the fatted calf killed for the return of the prodigal son: why would you be so grudging about the saving of a fellow human being?

There's a mutuality in the characters of Harry and Snape, and it's shown in their moral development. It's one thing to be willing to sacrifice yourself for someone you know; it's another to be willing to sacrifice for the good of many;.........and it's a whole other level to be willing to sacrifice for those you think you despise.

Snape risks life and limb for Harry--whom he believes he despises--for the good of all. Harry, at the 11th hour, preserves Snape's memories; at the stroke of midnight, he is still offering a chance for redemption and forgiveness to Voldemort: is that gesture, repeated, possible, if Harry had not learned about redemption and forgiveness from Snape?


Silver Ink Pot
Messenger To The HPN
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2010, 04:36:10 AM »
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Quote:Quote from: Bscorp
We see in the Prince's Tale that he saved Lupin's life (yet even in this act he was misunderstood. He made a mistake, He missed his mark. Forever the flawed man in his path to redemption,)

I thought this was one of the best insights in your essay! If Lupin had been killed with Snape right there, he would have been blamed for yet another death. Since he tried to save two lives and George had his ear blown off, he is blamed for the fact that a popular character was maimed.

And to add insult to injury (literally) Lupin has to say that Snape was always an expert in Sectumsempra - never mind the fact that he used it with almost surgically precision to make one cut and not the way Harry nearly killed Draco with it in HBP. But for some reason that defense of it doesn't enter Harry's mind because he was so convinced that Snape was evil.

Lupin's constant criticism of Snape is really the pot calling the kettle black, considering how flawed Lupin's own life turned out to be. His illness can't explain his absence in Harry's life during GoF, or the fact that he wanted to leave his own wife and child in the middle of a war. But because he always has Harry's trust, he can spout off any nonsense about Snape and everyone takes that as gospel in the canon, no matter how unreliable a narrator Lupin is proven to be over time.

Ellen2
Seventh Year
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2010, 07:59:39 AM »
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And when Lupin says something good about Snape - or when even Sirius does - that somehow falls into a big, communal amnesia.

Off the top of my head, although Lupin does help Harry get out of immediate trouble with Snape when Snape finds the map, he then gives Harry the same criticisms Snape did about risking his life for a trip to Hogsmeade and he confiscates the map that allowed Harry to sneak out (although he returns it, that's arguably at a point where Harry has shown some maturity and growth by doing things niether Lupin nor Dumbledore [by himself] could have pulled off).

When Harry wants to badmouth Snape in book six, Lupin shoots him down. He admits that he and Snape aren't exactly best buds - and, although he doesn't mention it directly, he pretty much does remind Harry (and the reader) of the Worst Memory that Harry had refused to accept any excuses for when he saw it - and points out what Snape has done for him and that he is in Snape's debt.

In book four, Sirius doesn't exactly brim with nice things to say about Snape but he winds up defending him against Harry's suspicions, rejecting the idea that Snape could have been a Death Eater or that he wouldn't be worthy of Dumbledore's trust (Sirius was also in better mental and emotional condition in book 4 than in book 5, so if I were to pick a point where what he said should be given more weight it would be then rather than later).

So, even his enemies give evidence to the pro-Snape faction.

Side thing, but anyone notice how similiar Snape's conversation with Bellatrix at the beginning of book 6 is to his confrontation with Sirius in the kitchen in book 5? When Sirius is trying to cut into him and Snape says the bit about Sirius hiding in his mother's house, as compared to Bellatrix trying to make similar cuts and Snape coming back with how being locked up in Azkaban didn't actually accomplish anything.


B Scorp
Graduate
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2010, 08:43:29 AM »
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Quote from: Ellen2 on April 09, 2010, 07:59:39 AM
And when Lupin says something good about Snape - or when even Sirius does - that somehow falls into a big, communal amnesia.

Off the top of my head, although Lupin does help Harry get out of immediate trouble with Snape when Snape finds the map, he then gives Harry the same criticisms Snape did about risking his life for a trip to Hogsmeade and he confiscates the map that allowed Harry to sneak out (although he returns it, that's arguably at a point where Harry has shown some maturity and growth by doing things niether Lupin nor Dumbledore [by himself] could have pulled off).

When Harry wants to badmouth Snape in book six, Lupin shoots him down. He admits that he and Snape aren't exactly best buds - and, although he doesn't mention it directly, he pretty much does remind Harry (and the reader) of the Worst Memory that Harry had refused to accept any excuses for when he saw it - and points out what Snape has done for him and that he is in Snape's debt.
(...)
So, even his enemies give evidence to the pro-Snape faction.

I always felt there was a reason JKR had it be LUPIN that Snape saved in DH. There is a link here- on her part.


Quote from: Ellen2 on April 09, 2010, 07:59:39 AM
Side thing, but anyone notice how similiar Snape's conversation with Bellatrix at the beginning of book 6 is to his confrontation with Sirius in the kitchen in book 5? When Sirius is trying to cut into him and Snape says the bit about Sirius hiding in his mother's house, as compared to Bellatrix trying to make similar cuts and Snape coming back with how being locked up in Azkaban didn't actually accomplish anything.

What came to my mind about Severus's taunts at Sirius and his "mother's house" is the irony, because where does Snape live this whole time? These two men have a lot in common in many ways.


Silver Ink Pot
Messenger To The HPN
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2010, 11:47:27 AM »
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Quote
One of the glaring flaws in this series, I think is tied to how many people can't accept Snape's reason for coming into the light; it is the lack of understanding as to how one's background and privilege / lack of privilege affects their ability to feel compassion. Yes, I hear the argument "BUT HARRY WAS ABUSED TOO!!" Despite the neglect he suffered, Harry is a shining good boy who makes really good choices in the areas that matter. Yes. I love the boy and I love the idea set forth by his character, but Harry is not a realistic example. He is written as an exception to the rule. This is why he's the "hero" in JKR's world. He has a special power. We are told this over and over and over again and Dumbledore says as much when he comments on how remarkable Harry is in his ability to love and forgive.

But what we need to see also is that Harry did have some privilege. I'm not talking about monetary wealth. He had societal wealth. Harry had wealth of reputation Snape did not. This is confirmed in the contrast of how each boy is greeted by their first introduction the the 'outside' world. Whereas Harry was greeted as "The famous Harry Potter" whom everyone is in awe of, Snape was greeted by Petunia instantly pointing out his last name in the playground, "That Snape boy", as if his very last name were an epitaph. But Even Before Harry got to Hogwarts he had something Snape did not. Despite where and how he was raised, Harry the wealth of knowing his "real" parents were something else, someone he could idolize- someone he could project caring and love onto. And even despite what The Dursley's said about the Potters- Harry had the privilege of know that the Dursleys were not his REAL parents. Thus Harry had a myth he could cling to. Before he knew anything about his parents, Harry still had an ideal he could create of his own. Snape did not. Snape had reality. Sev's parents were abusive and/or neglectful and that was all. Yes, even this little thing makes a difference. The presence of something shapes someone as much as the lack of presence. Yes, even this is a kind of privilege.

I really want to express some admiration for this part of your essay! While Snape is often seen as Harry's "opressor" in some way, whether due to homework, detentions, or things he says about James, the fact is Harry is not truly oppressed in any way except by the Dursleys or Voldemort.

At Hogwarts, there's always someone around to cheer him, say the right thing, help him solve mysteries, or make him feel good about himself. He's lucky and he knows it.

And actually, Snape never bothers Harry during holidays or keeps him from having fun unless there is a good reason - and there were plenty of good reasons for Harry's detentions during HBP. Harry faults Snape for keeping him away from Ginny, but by the end of the book, Harry decides that distance between them is for the best - so was Snape all that oppressive, or just wise?

Anyway, you make some really important distinctions between Harry and young Sev. On the other forum, someone pointed out that Snape did have a good friend, and that was Lily. To me, Sev put all his eggs in one basket so to speak, and when Lily was gone he didn't have anyone else to watch his back, so he had to rely on people like Mulciber and Avery. Clearly they were not his first choice of companions or he wouldn't have been so apologetic to Lily.

Harry on the other hand always had more than one friend around, and even a few extra friends such as Neville, Luna, Cho, and the rest of the Weasley family besides Ron. Perhaps that happened because Harry has a more winning personality than Snape did - that's probably heredity which is also lucky. But as we see in OotP, when the rest of the world turned against Harry and he almost couldn't stand himself, he still had friends who would help him - Mrs. Figg, Dumbledore, and the kids in Dumbledore's Army. But would Harry have had that many people on his side if he wasn't special from the beginning? It's hard to say.

The reason the other kids joined Dumbledore's Army wasn't just to fight Umbridge, but because Harry could help them pass their OWL exams. He had special skills and had proven himself against the Dark Lord. He is special, and the others think it is a privilege to learn from him. So it's not that Harry thinks he is special, or that he wants to be treated that way - on the contrary. He just occupies a special position because he was targeted as a baby and again as a child.



hwyla
Graduate
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2010, 07:04:16 PM »
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And there is one more 'privilege' that Harry had that helped him grow up 'better' - because, let's face it, Harry just should NOT be so well-adjusted otherwise.

Harry has 'his mother's love' with him at all times - even long after she has died. It is literally in his very skin and blood. No other kid in the world is imbued with his mother's love - the rest of the world has to make do with the love our mothers give us in separate incidents. Or in young Sev's case, apparently his mother's neglect or indifference.

I mean he's leaving for school for the first time - she won't see him for months and she barely talks to him or even acts as if he is 'there'


Silver Ink Pot
Messenger To The HPN
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2010, 01:56:05 AM »
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Quote from: hwyla on April 09, 2010, 07:04:16 PM
And there is one more 'privilege' that Harry had that helped him grow up 'better' - because, let's face it, Harry just should NOT be so well-adjusted otherwise.

Harry has 'his mother's love' with him at all times - even long after she has died. It is literally in his very skin and blood. No other kid in the world is imbued with his mother's love - the rest of the world has to make do with the love our mothers give us in separate incidents. Or in young Sev's case, apparently his mother's neglect or indifference.

I mean he's leaving for school for the first time - she won't see him for months and she barely talks to him or even acts as if he is 'there'

I've always wondered about that scene. I'm sure other people probably read it differently than I do, but to me it could mean several things, each more depressing than the last. Snape's mother might have been manic-depressive and just didn't care about life due to her bad marriage. Or she might have been on some type of drugs/potions/alcohol. Unlike Merope, she was still around in body, but not mind which is really worse considering how intelligent and needy her son was while growing up.

It's heartbreaking but I've wondered if Snape might have Imperio'd his mother to get her to the train station. I can't imagine her driving a car by herself, and Sev's father seems to have been out of the picture by then. I usually never bring up that scene because it literally tears me up inside because it's just so tragic. But I do wonder how in the world Eileen got back home after Sev got on the train?


hwyla
Graduate
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2010, 07:24:37 AM »
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I kind of figured they took the train down to London - since they were just going to the train station anyways. I highly doubt Eileen knew how to drive - I actually doubt they even owned a car. They apparently lived in Mill housing with the Mill nearby. While the Mill was open, Tobias would not have needed a car (if he indeed worked there). And once the Mill was closed, a lack of car would have made it difficult to find work elsewhere.

All supposition, of course. They might have got the house dirt-cheap once the Mill closed, tho' doubtful they could afford to buy unless Tobias had a job. Either way, Eileen is either so shut-in to her home as to have no idea of appropriate muggle clothing for her son (and so unlikely to know how to drive) or too depressed (for at least several years) to be able to do magic and transfigure the clothing.

It is also only 1971. IF they had a car - it was likely only the ONE car. I cannot see Tobias 'teaching' Eileen to drive (oh! the FIGHTS!)

IF one didn't live in the suburbs (which the UK is less formed around than the USA) then one could probably make do with just a bike to go for groceries - or even walking. You just couldn't 'stock up'.

But even if Eileen CAN drive - IF there is only the ONE car, I cannot see Tobias letting her drive it to London so his son can go to school - not when there is a perfectly good train going there and he can then have the car still. That is IF they even own one.


Ellen2
Seventh Year
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2010, 08:21:43 PM »
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I have a bit of difficulty seeing eleven year old Snape, who had probably only had his wand a few weeks, being up to smacking an Imperio on his mum. Heck, even with Tom Riddle (if his mum hadn't been dead and all that) it would be a bit surprising.

Jane Austen said that one is a fool to marry for money and also a fool to marry without it. In a broader sense, I would say that it's foolish not to marry because of possible difficulties, but it can be just as foolish to get married assuming those difficulties aren't real and can be discounted. My personal theory on the Snapes is that they avoided the first but fell victim to the second.

From what we saw in Harry's time, it's fair to assume Eileen would have had her share of people telling her not to marry one of those Muggles. The people saying this might have included close friends and even family.

But Eileen married him anyway. I think it's fair to say she was in love.

We don't know that much about Tobias. I have nothing to go on except that the family seems to have owned their own house and my understanding that renting is still much more common in the UK than the US and that it would have been more common in the fifties or sixties when the Snapes set up household.

On that very slender thread, I like to picture Tobias as coming from a once affluent family - maybe even owners of the now closed mill. When he married, he either still had a good source of income or expected his financial problems, with the optimism of youth, to be only temporary.

As money matters worsened or just didn't turn around, it hit him the way it would anyone but he was also dealing with having once been a somebody in this community and seeing that slip away as well. Eileen, who seems to have not exactly assimilated into Muggle society, and who seems to have helped make her son seem "strange" by Muggle standards, wasn't helping.

I also see Tobias as not wanting to move in pursuit of better opportunities and give up the little he had left (he may be the failure who married that weirdo, but at least everyone seems to still know family).

So, Eileen is married to a man who is becoming increasingly moody, etc. She starts talking about how her friends/family were right and she should have married one of her own kind.

Tobias, for his part, complains about how much money Eileen spends and how she never even tries to get along with the neighbors, how she's messing up Severus' life, etc, etc.

So, time for Snape to start school. Yes, there funds for kids who couldn't afford it, but do you see Tobias swallowing his pride to admit his son is one of them?

But, if they're going to spend all this money, why not send him to a good school? Severus is smart. With the right education, he could become a doctor or professor or something, something with prestige in the "real world" (and that brings a bit of luster back to the family name).

So, his parents have probably been arguing about this since Severus got his letter and have definitely been sniping about it all the way to London. Give Tobias a chance to see the "weirdos" at platform 9 and 3/4, and he's probably going right into it ("Oh, I suppose you want your son to be respectable like that guy in the pink dressing gown.").


hwyla
Graduate
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2010, 09:13:40 PM »
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And I wonder whether Eileen 'settled' for a muggle.

IF the HBP potions book was originally 'hers' - altho' it is just as likely merely a second-hand book - but IF it was hers and she really was in NEWT potions 50 years before Harry, then Snape wasn't born until she was 28-29 - rather old for a first-time mother in 1960. And according to her gobstones champ photo, not the prettiest girl either. So, I tend to think they both settled, believing it was better to marry than stay single.

However, I am not sure whether it might not just be part of JKRs 'bad math' since she has Walburga (Sirius' mum) having her first son at an even older age.

Altho' for her it might be excused as part of WWII-Grindlewald war - depending upon just how many young wizards died in it. When she finished Hogwarts, muggle London was still under bombing raids, including #12 Grimmauld Place - the house of her fathers.

But that same possible shortage of marriageable wizards might have hit Eileen when she finished school in '49 (?) - if one didn't find a husband at Hogwarts, you might have had trouble once you were 'out'


Silver Ink Pot
Messenger To The HPN
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2010, 11:00:03 PM »
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Hwyla: You're probably right about the car - I don't think like a British person, do I? And the Weasleys take the train/subway to the station, don't they?

I just wondered about that because in the books the Dursleys always drive Harry to the station, and in the Epilogue they make sort of a big deal about Ron parking the car. But you are right that the Snape's probably didn't even have a car.


hwyla
Graduate
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2010, 05:54:34 AM »
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SIP - it isn't just USA vs UK - but remembering the '70s well. My family was middle class (not poor like the down-by-the-river Snapes) and we only had one car in 1970. We only bought a 2nd car because when my father retired from the Navy and became self-employed. While he had worked in the Navy, Mom could drive him to work and pick him up - but that was because she needed the car for errands, living in the 'burbs.

She was also relatively close to the age Eileen would have been - and would never have learned to drive a car if my father had not insisted on teaching her when they married. At that point in time he was away on ship for 6 months at a time and wanted to be sure she could get around on her own. But that had a great deal to do with their living in San Diego. Not a great town for public transportation.

But I might also be affected by all those PBS programs showing small village UK in the 40s & 50s - where there is always someone it seems who gets on a bike to go shopping or home...

The Weasleys however presumably take the car. I suppose it was cheaper than all those train tickets? At least they did in bk2 - and after that they seem to get a Ministry car as protection for Harry. In bk1 however, Arthur wasn't there at the station - so no idea how they got to Kings Cross, since Molly was anti-enchanted-car. I doubt she drove.

And I tend to see Eileen as a bit of a 'shut-in' - either due to depression or to just not fitting-in. I prefer to think that she wasn't out in the community everyday, seeing what normal, little muggle boys wore. Otherwise it's just even worse the way he was dressed. It's neglectful enough that she apparently brought him home stuff from the charity shop that wasn't appropriate and didn't/couldn't transfigure it (even if one must do it everyday because it doesn't 'stay'). Otherwise he was wearing her hand-me-downs as well as his father's?

That's also a question of privilege - one he shares with Harry. That other people can/should see the neglect based on how the child was dressed. It is interesting however that Harry's misfitting clothes are never mentioned again at Hogwarts (nor Snape's except for his underclothes). I wonder if they both just basically wore their uniforms full-time. Or whether, in Harry's case large clothes just became more 'in' - it was the '90s. I forget now when boys started wearing pants that hang below their butts? It was/is a 'rap' style.

Just to note - I find the comment about James and Snape meeting on the train for the first tie, to really bring home the privilege point. The comparison of James - with the 'air of someone well-cared for'


Ellen2
Seventh Year
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My parents got by with one car for ages. When we did get a second, it was when Dad got a transfer to an area that had yet to grasp the consept of "public transportation."

I've got some minor vision problems make driving a bit more stressful for me. There are times I really wish walking or taking a bus or train was a reasonable option.

My guess on Snape's clothes as a kid is that his mom was determined to make him look wizardly even if she had to buy his clothes in Muggle shops. Hence, a shirt that looks like it's trying to substitute for a robe.

I remember reading a story written by a teacher about one of her students, a little girl whose mom made her the most beautiful - but unfashionable - dresses. Pants were in, and girls who did wear dresses didn't wear ones that went below the knee. It made the little girl the weird looking kid. The teacher realized quickly she'd never get anywhere trying to talk the mom around to pants but, by exerting all her tact, did get her to shorten the dresses to a reasonable length and the little girl finally started making some friends.

Er, right, the point.

The point being that this wasn't a neglectful mother. She put considerable time and effort into her daughter's clothes. But she just couldn't see the negative impact it was having (I will pass on a lengthier commentary about clothes, daughters, and mothers and how I think that triangle was playing out in the above case. Suffice it to say I think the mom didn't see how what she was doing went right against what she was trying to do).
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And I wonder whether Eileen 'settled' for a muggle.

Good point, Hwyla. I also hadn't thought of it in context of the war. We don't know how bad the mortality rate was or what it did to male/female ratios in the wizarding world.

But settling on someone you don't love or don't respect seems so dire.

Also, although the attitudes on blood pureness might have gone up and down over the years, it seems like there would have been more stigma in marrying a Muggle than in remaining single, but I could be wrong about that.

Still, whatever the difficulties in their family, it seems to me that Snape more or less sided with his mother. Part of that may have been spending years as the "weird kid" in his home town and hearing his mom say it was because he was a wizard and special - The other kids just didn't get him - and believing it would all change when he got to Hogwarts.

Mothers remain a soft spot for him. In book 1, he lets Ron of relatively easily for trying to hex Malfoy when Hagrid tells him Malfoy was badmouthing Ron's mum. Later, in his own way, he's a pushover for Narcissa when she wants his help for Draco.

Of course, that might have been the effect of knowing Lily died for Harry.


fifthoffive
Sixth Year
Re: Severus Snape and the Privilege of Empathy
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2010, 09:05:52 AM »
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Quote from: Ellen2 on April 11, 2010, 07:48:04 AM

Mothers remain a soft spot for him. In book 1, he lets Ron of relatively easily for trying to hex Malfoy when Hagrid tells him Malfoy was badmouthing Ron's mum. Later, in his own way, he's a pushover for Narcissa when she wants his help for Draco.

Of course, that might have been the effect of knowing Lily died for Harry.

Could this explain why Snape didn't "get" that Lily wouldn't just allow Harry to be killed to save her own life? I'm not convinced he actually thought about it, but that level of caring by a mother may not have been something he could relate to. It was outside his personal experience at that time.

After Lily died in such a dramatic fashion to protect Harry, Snape's ability to observe and reason may have been able to overcome his early neglect and he may have started recognizing that the mother-child relationship can be something more than what he experienced personally.

Seeing the special magic created by Lily's sacrifice must have given him reason to believe that there was something more to the power of love that Dumbledore spoke of. I think that special magic would be something powerful and sacred to Snape.

It may have secretly galled him that this was another privilege denied to him that Harry had in spades.
(This post was last modified: 06-01-2012 07:56 AM by Silver Ink Pot.)
05-11-2012 10:38 PM
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