Have made it to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in my re-reading of the HP series. Every time I re-read the series I find it harder and harder to like Snape (even though a lot of people find him heroic or whatever based on the revelations in Deathly Hallows). Even putting aside the personal vendetta he has against Harry because of his resemblance to James, it’s hard to ignore that he is an extremely abusive teacher, verbally and emotionally. Like, there’s this throwaway detail at the beginning of chapter 14 of Goblet of Fire:
The next two days passed without great incident, unless you counted Neville melting his sixth cauldron in Potions. Professor Snape, who seemed to have obtained new levels of vindictiveness over the summer, gave Neville detention, and Neville returned from it in a state of nervous collapse, having been made to disembowel a barrel-ful of horned toads. (185)
First, it’s maybe not a great teaching method to respond to errors in the classroom with punishment. The classroom is supposed to be a place where people who don’t already have a set of knowledges and skills learn a set of knowledges and skills, and do so by practicing things they are not yet good at and therefore are going to make mistakes.
Second, this punishment is particularly heinous given that we know Neville’s beloved pet Trevor is a toad. Earlier in book 3 Snape also tests Neville’s shrinking solution directly on Trevor with the comment that ‘If, as I don’t doubt, he has done it wrong, his toad is likely to be poisoned’ (97). This is some specific and deliberate cruelty designed to emotionally torment a student just because he isn’t good at the subject and it is awful and gross.
3 June 2016
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.Vancouver: Raincoast, 1999.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Vancouver: Raincoast, 2003.