Teacher Snape and Student Harry
Now, it isn't unusual for a children's book to start out with a disagreeable child as it's 'hero', but one would expect that child to undestand, through the course of the book, that it *has* been disagreeable, and then try to 'better itself'. "The Secret Garden" comes to mind.
Harry's story was different, however. I realised *how* different when Harry's attitude towards Snape didn't change after Harry had found out that his assumptions about the man had been false. Instead it was suggested by the author that Harry hadn't been wrong about Snape because "Snape was a mean bully of a teacher".
Point is, I never saw any "bullying mean teacher" at all. I saw a teacher who, when confronted with a disrespectful student in class tries to discipline said student, only to be frustrated by a manipulative Headmaster-with-an-agenda and an author who clearly can't stand anyone, real or fictional, being in authority over her self-insert protagonist.
For instance, in that infamous "first potions class" Snape's impromptu quiz is merely a reaction to Harry's insolence; Harry and Ron are making fun of Snape's introductory speech by "pulling up their eyebrows at each other". As I've said before, I've been in the same situation as a twelve-year-old, when a teacher, who turned and saw me whispering with a classmate, thoroughly embarrassed me, catching me out with an impromptu quiz. I hadn't been paying attention, and blustered and blabbered and I got the point: pay attention! I did not resent the teacher, or thought her "mean" because I had learned to respect a teacher's authority. And there's the rub.
I was born in 1965. All my teachers learned their trade in the fifties and sixties, if not earlier in some cases. Most of them, therefore, expected (quite rightly in my mind) their pupils to have learned to respect adults when coming to school, and as an extension to that, to respect a teacher's authority. And we did. So we learned a lot.
J.K. Rowling however, is of the opinion that her hero Harry is too good and important to pay respect to *anyone* (with the possible exception to her other self-insert Dumbledore), and certainly not to... certain groups of people.
Muggles? Barely human.
Slytherins?! Don't make me laugh.
And so Snape's attempts to have order in his classroom are constantly ridiculed as ineffective and "mean" and vilefied as "bullying".
Some of you might be so influenced by the autor's "voice" that you might agree with her. Ponder, however, the following excerpt from John Rosemond's, "Ending the Homework Hassle" :
In order for one person to learn something from someone else, that person must figuratively “look up” to the other. Without respect and admiration for the teacher’s knowledge and authority, the student will not learn much of value. At best, he may absorb lots of facts, but the likelihood is he will not be able to put them to much use.
Likewise, a child who does not come to school with a previously established respect for authority is not likely to become an effective learner. He will not understand why it is important for him to pay attention to the teacher or do what she (or he) tells him to do. He may also bring behaviour problems with him to school that further interfere with his ability to put his intelligence to good use.
He will probably interpret his teacher’s attempts to discipline him as indications they don’t like him. His parents, neither able nor willing to see their role in his problems, may even support this view. As he progresses through the grades, his attitude toward his teachers, and the educational process as a whole, will probably become increasingly cynical. In his mind, school will become a battleground of “me against them.”
His inability to understand the value of an education may lead him to drop out of school as soon as he is able. Regardless, he’ll probably drop out mentally sometime around junior high school. When he enters adult society, his disdain for authority, for the system, will follow and cause him untold problems throughout his life.
John Rosemond, Ending the Homework Hassle, pp 146-147
Does this not describe our Harry to a T?
So I urge you to take off the "Harry vision" goggles and look at what is really happening in those pages. Disregard all those mood-enhancing red herrings, all those "Harry saw Snape looking at him and knew that Snape was plotting evil deeds" and "Snape sneered" remarks. What the hell is a 'sneer' anyway? A grim smile? The world-weary face of a teacher who has too much of his plate and yet has to teach and guard a shitty little boy who clearly hates his guts?
Take away the disgusting bigotted remarks against Slytherins (so we must all think the worst of Snape for being the Ultimate Slytherin), take away the personal remarks about his greasy hair, his hooked nose and billowing cape (no wonder the American illustrator gave him whiskers, he sounds like the parody of a 19th century villain who constantly twirls his whiskers!) and take away Harry's misinterpretations of the man's actions (see above), and what do you have left?