Morals & Slytherins
Written August 29th, 2006
Why do I bother with morals, the lessons readers learn from books and movies, when I don't even know what the final moral about Snape is going to be? Well because it's so important that people who are allowed such a wide-reaching audience be conscious of their influence on people, big or small. I myself have an influence and I make sure my points of view are known and clear-cut as much as I can because I wouldn't want some visitors to my page to feel offended or to wonder where the hell they ended up! It's a social morality I impose on myself because if people don't like Snape then they know they should leave, but if they want to learn more they can also stay and discuss.
I was troubled ever since I've read that JKRowling didn't think about the consequences her books could have on readers in terms of morals and lessons to learn. I am because it's a series that includes villains, murderers, psychomaniacs and so on. Though I'm sure 'Evil' will not triumph in the end, I am still concerned about Slytherins.
Here it is:
Sam Dordoy for Ottakars - Your books have a theme of racism with the wizards oppressing other races and halfbloods. Do you think this has changed how people think when they read them?
JK Rowling: do not think I am pessimistic but I think I am realistic about how much you can change deeply entrenched prejudice, so my feeling would be that if someone were a committed racist, possibly Harry Potter is not going to be to have effect.
I would hope that it has made people think, I mean I do not write the books thinking what is my message for today, what is my moral, that is not how I set out to write a book at all. I am not trying to criticise or make speeches to you in any way, but at the same time, it would be great if the people thought about bullying behaviour or racism.
I think she underrates her influence! The good and bad one which is why I'm concerned about all those Slytherins in her universe. I think I mentioned that before. I think the first time I mentioned it was in Book 1 analysis when I wished that in future books, Rowling would show us that all good guys aren't white and that Snape is going to be one character who made a mistake but was able to redeem himself afterwards out of sheer will and conscience that he had to do the right thing. I hope that Slytherins will not all be villains or bad-tempered people of which none have honor as a value! I can't say Slughorn has honor because he wouldn't reveal what he told Riddle, he escaped while he still could and ran away from his duty as Head of House.
When I wrote Book 1 analysis, I already knew Snape had been a Death Eater because I had read his bio, and that is why I was immediately drawn to him, because there was a more realistic character who wasn't all black or white. My point is that I believe Rowling is going to have to accept the lessons she is sending to the kids through her books whether she wants it or not. Not a direct answer, but I still hope she will eventually realize that her books truly influence all of those readers out there. This is why I strongly hope that for once, a Snape-like character (Snape himself in this case ; ) will not be condemned as the villain in the end. Why is it so important? Well, it starts with the same question I started this web site with: why Snape? Why does he look like a villain but he acts righteously? Why is he portrayed as slighted towards his Slytherins so much? Why do people love him still?
Because people can recognize themselves in Snape. They can recognize their inner-Death-Eater, the black part of themselves that would like to brood and be biased, the black part they don't dare to show because they fear others and so we all end up hypocrites, hiding our flaws so much. People also recognize the bullied Severus, the intellectual one, the harsh task-master, the genius, the dark looks and so on. If people can identify to him, then it means a part of him reflects a part of ourselves. It means that if even Snape has fans, if even the greasy git has people to cheer for him because they can related to him, then how many more fans are there for all the other characters in the book? Millions! Maybe not millions of Snape or Draco. No, no, no. But there are people out there who are little Dracos, Goyles, Phineas, Slughorns, Snapes, Narcissas and so on. They don't all share the same characteristics, but they would have been sorted in Slytherin nonetheless. And yet, out of all those people, how many in the present of Harry Potter did Rowling defined as 'good people' or 'nice to talk to people'? Slughorn? Yes, but he's hardly as convincing as a 'good figure' than a 'coward with a nice personality'. In Slytherin, Rowling has shown us that being a good guy is the exception while for Gryffindors the opposite applies: to be a bad guy is the exception.
Here is a real story that will move you surely, it's an e-mail my Italian Lupin friend sent me: "Being the clever girl she is (my friend's 6year old daughter) she got very good grades at the end of school year though the teachers told me after an initial period of shyness she’s been acting a bit naughty in class. The Gryffindor side of a budding Slytherin … hehehe. How do I know? Well, from half June until half July she attended summer classes, which were not real school, just playing, painting, modelling and a bit of homework. Funny how they thought of dividing the children into four groups which they named after the Hogwarts Houses to make them sound more appealing to the children. And this Lupin had to suffer the shock of seeing her little angel sorted into Slytherin! : DDD (no Sorting Hats anyway, just by chance hahaha)As for my daughter having been picked up for Slytherin in summer classes there is a point I would like to share with you,. I noticed after the sorting all the children who had just ended up in Slytherin looked so unhappy and upset that some of them hurried to reassure their parents exclaiming: “I’m not evil, I’m not evil, believe me!”. Witnessing such expressions of disquiet about belonging to Slytherin my opinion about the “moral” necessity that Rowling shows us a really good Slytherin in book 7 immediately resurfaced (of course I would prefer Snape over Draco as the redeemed one, anyway that’s not the point in question at the moment…).
Clearly children have made up their minds about Slytherin House as the only source of absolute evil in the magical world of HP and they feel frightened at the sole idea they could have something to do with it. Along the six books so far Rowling has led the youngest readers to believe that being sorted into Slytherin equals a moral condemnation to evil. A dark mark, indeed. As I wrote Claudia talking with her about this subject a long time ago I really hope Rowling will decide to screw up this apparently clear cut line between all good Gryffindors and all wicked Slytherins, otherwise a conclusion of such kind would result in a strong hint to predestination which is unacceptable in my point of view and according to my moral criteria. And let me say it, I don’t think I am alone in doing such a request to Rowling. All those people in the internet claiming for a good Slytherin, sympathizing with the little snakes, even hating the Gryffindors at times, what does it mean? Oh, yes, it may mean that there are those out there who are bad and consequently take sides with bad characters and it may also mean, like Rowling seems to dismiss it in a rather simplistic way, that some people (female) are affected by the “bad boy syndrome” , but in my opinion it especially means most people are not so keen on accepting the idea of predestination.
A redeemed Slytherin is fundamental as to avoid in the future children think some people are doomed to meet an evil fate only by predestination and that no personal effort will be able to change one’s life and make up for the past mistakes, that there is no room for forgiveness and a new beginning.
Therefore let’s hope Rowling will make Albus’ words come true even in a world of fantasy: it is our choices which tell us who we truly are, far more than our abilities”
Hope I did not bore you with this short speculation but that’s what the children’s reaction after the sorting suggested me and I thought it interesting to discuss it with you."
So what is Rowling going to send her readers if Snape turns out evil: if you are a Slytherin-like person, forget it, you can't redeem yourself because none of the Slytherins in this story ever changed. Once a Draco, always a Draco. Once a Death-Eater always a Death-Eater. That would sound like Moody MadEye and I hope with all my heart that this is not going to happen! I want to see that a character can make it out even if he's not the greatest guy to hang around with. That despite his mistakes and personality, he will choose the Light! I hope that Snape will be his own hero and the dark hero of the Harry Potter books. I also wish that out of Draco and any Slytherins of course. I wish that for everyone, but especially for Slytherins because they are always tagged early on in society, especially school. I've seen so many teachers tag their students as pests while all they needed was just a push in the right direction, just someone to trust or just someone to accept their flaws. And so God help me, I wish with all my heart that this is also going to be what Rowling will decide for her Slytherins because of all those hopeful millions of Slytherins out there, and those who don't understand them now (the Gryffindors, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs) but who could with good role-models from Slytherins who were just as nice as Gryffindors. Maybe I'm just a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I'm sure of it!