On the Way J.K. Rowling Writes Her Characters

There is a huge debate in the Harry Potter fandom about one of the important characters in the series: Severus Snape. Many Potterheads (fans of the series) believe that Snape died a hero, but almost just as many believe Snape was a horrible person. Those who are for Snape cite that he fought for the Order of the Phoenix, spied on the mind-reader Voldemort, and even showed great affection and love for Lily Evans. Those against point out that he was a Death Eater, bullied many students in his class, used racial slurs and was more of a creep than a lover.

On the flip side of this debate is whether James Potter, who might be called Snape’s nemesis, is a hero or a bully. In a scene in Order of the Phoenix, James and his friends use a spell to bully Snape as well as use a mean nickname. On the other hand, James was loyal to the Order’s cause since the beginning, showed good friendship to his band of misfits, and ended up sacrificing himself for his child.

Most who believe Snape is a hero believe that James Potter was a bully, and vice versa.

A much smaller debate in the Harry Potter fandom is about Dumbledore. He is a hero in the eyes of Harry, and much of the fandom. However, there are many fans who don’t see him in the same way. Some see him as manipulative, others dislike his use of young Harry Potter, many don’t like how he left Harry with the Dursleys, and it’s a very common joke about how his school Hogwarts was unsafe and not well-run.

Part of the reason for such differences may be that the Harry Potter series has a large and diverse audience. But I think that it has more to do with how good J.K. Rowling is at making her characters  deep.

Most fans believe one side of each of the previous arguments, and either ignore or forget the other. However, most of what I said above is mutually exclusive. Snape working for the Order – a heroic action – doesn’t make his bullying of children any better, and vice versa. The fact that James bullied Snape during his high school years doesn’t somehow make his sacrifice any less brave. Each of Rowling’s characters have a wide range of both positive and negative traits and do both good and bad things. It’s what makes her characters seem so real.

Of course, then there’s Umbridge. Everyone hates Umbridge.


Image from Pottermore


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