The scientific personality study focuses on people and the various roles of functioning. Personality encompasses the analysis of patterns of human tendencies such as dispositions, traits, unconscious dynamics and coping mechanisms (Scholler et al., 2018). It involves spontaneous and habitual affective responses, information processing styles, goal-directedness, and biological and genetic factors providing a level of consistency to manifest specific behaviour. Personality theory can be based on psychoanalytic, neo-analytics, biological, behavioural, trait or humanistic categories. The essay would include the character analysis of the chosen character Severus Snape, from the renowned series of Harry Potter, by J.K Rowling. It would present the psychoanalytic perspective by Freud to deeply analyse this character.
Severus Snape is a fictional character and an exceptional wizard in the Harry Potter series. However, his controlled and sarcastic exterior conceals more profound anguish and emotions (Spencer, 2015). He works as a professor in the “Hogwartz School of Wizardry and Witchcraft". He openly has hostile feelings towards Harry Potter, the story's protagonist, for his resemblance to James Potter's father. James had bullied Snape in their childhood during their time in Hogwartz. J.K Rowling has presented Snape’s character to be that of an anti-hero in the series.
With the progression of the series, the character of Severus Snape becomes enigmatic and layered. A mystery is gradually unravelled concerning loyalties. His death happens in the hands of Voldemort, in the last book and movie when the actual story behind all occurrences is revealed. Although Snape was attracted to Dark Arts's ideologies of wizardly supremacy, Snape was drawn to Lily Evans, a mere “muggle-born”. He was compelled to defect from “Death eaters” and became a double agent for Dumbledore. As he fell in love with Lily during his childhood and Lily chose Harry's father, James, his hostility was fuelled towards Harry.
J.K Rowling had not been openly forthcoming about Snape in the entire story, as his true motivations and loyalty were not revealed until the last book. However, readers and viewers have always kept their eye on Snape, suggesting the importance of his love life as well as the redemptive pattern of Snape’s character (Schuck, 2016). The revelation of the storyline where everything shifts, in the end, highlights the actual plot and the reason of its creation. Rowling wanted this compelling character to find forgiveness and redemption. Snape is complicated and a flawed human being, like most individuals. The eccentric revelations made most fans relate to him and sympathize with him. The dying Snape creates a cloud of memories after being killed by Voldemort. Harry Potter also understands the actual scenario right after he died in the last story, leaving readers astonished, melancholic and spellbound. Snape had used his powers of “occlumency” for hiding his betrayal from Voldemort to protect his love for Lily as he got to know Voldemort’s evil intentions. On allying with Dumbledore, he implored it to remain a secret from Harry. He felt mixed feelings towards the child for his love for his mother Lily and deep resentment and animosity towards his father, James.
The Importance of Severus Snape in Harry Potter Series
The psychoanalytic theory of personality is based on the writings of Austrian physician Freud and was developed during the Victorian period (Rennison, 2015). His ideas were primarily radical in nature, and the models created the evolutionary functioning of the human mind. This personality perspective relies on the importance of experiences occurring in early childhood and their representation in an unconscious mind.
He emphasized the levels of human consciousness and approached personality in humans by exploring the interactions between ego, id, and superego (Beneckson, 2022). As per Freud's knowledge, the id represents the basic human primitive drives. The ego is a known aspect of personality wherein self-control and reasoning helps the person to adapt to varying demands in the external world. The ego gains control of inherent desires and channels them in acceptable social ways. The traits also try to seek the gratification of the drives for aggression and pleasure, which according to Freud, were the fundamental motivational forces that drive humans in particular ways (Guntrip, 2018). Ego should be used to guide behaviour realistically to find ways of satisfying demands without facing social difficulty. According to cultural norms, the mind's third structure or superego develops out of the struggle to guide behaviour. The structures in the brain integrally form a harmonious balance for an individual to function healthily. People try to satisfy their essential pleasure and drive to comply with reality in socially coherent ways.
Ego is placed in the domain of preconscious and conscious levels of awareness, whereas superego can be preconscious, conscious or unconscious, and id is just unconscious. The Freudian personality structure demonstrates mental functioning with an iceberg model. The smallest part of the conscious mind remains above the waterline while the rest lies below it (Cozolino, 2017). Snape is portrayed to be calculative, cold, precise and bitter. His intense dislike for Harry and series of insults remain driven by his history with Harry’s father, James Potter. The progression of the series unfolds the reasons for Snape’s treatment of Harry. The bitter rivalries represented past episodes with James when they were in school together.
Freud also viewed the id as the vital aspect in the personality and ego as a weak factor, influenced by stress and constant mediation of inner demands of id and external reality. Superego determines moralistic and critical judgements against oneself, and ego formulates defence mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety-driven by internal struggles. James and Sirius heavily bullied Severus in his childhood, leaving a deep imprint in his tender mind. The theory essentially defences screening out detailed information regarding oneself or situations recognized in pain or conscious awareness (Curtis, 2018). For instance, if someone faces something extremely traumatizing in the past, where some incident has caused him intense pain, awareness is caused to mediate actions in the future. To evade the recurring anxiety, the person tries to be revengeful or tries to forget its occurrence completely. This emphasizes the “Freudian defence of repression”. Defence mechanisms work in lines to a great degree depending on their origin or functional distortion, and the mannerisms display certain aspects of both external and inner experience. This helps in protecting the stability of the person. In the storyline, Severus Snape was a silent, lonely boy who was heavily affected by bullying and repressed expressions, causing him to completely shut himself in. The young Snape has been portrayed to be vulnerable and insecure. However, the adult Snape became confident and self-assured in his abilities and became "full of himself" as he always craved membership in something powerful and extensive. He has a collected and calm demeanour and is never at a loss of words for his wit or never taken off-guard. Sparks are observed in his temperament when Harry, the son of James, is around, or positively flares when he has to deal with the erstwhile tormentor Sirius. He is also engaged for the cause of his unconscious mind when he is accused of cowardice. These reactions stem out of his reminiscent feelings towards past experiences. He has an otherwise aloof and impulsive attitude that arises from a belief that individuals not having control over their emotions are considered weak.
The Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality
Psychoanalysts relate to Freud’s school of thought. They believe in the concept of behaviour to be driven by childhood experiences, the instinctive drives influencing behaviour, and unconscious material found in unintentional behaviour. There are certain limitations in utilizing the theory. It is absurd to create therapeutic interventions that bring out the effect of unconscious material into consciousness to resolve issues. An “unconscious mind” is challenging to test and define. There are no scientific shreds of evidence found for the same. It is hard to understand those who would be qualified to make assumptions when nobody knows about the concept of an unconscious mind. Assumptions are based on behavioural considerations without emphasising broader social problems. In this way, psychoanalysis becomes ignorant of diversity and differences and is often generalized. It can be dangerous to place assumptions directed on children as their behaviour and personality can be modified with time and experience. This theory emphasizes the individual to be the issue instead of the context of the situation. Grievances can be induced if the focus is not laid on predominant concerns. It also does not acknowledge the power of stereotyping in educational environments and other aspects to incur relative resolutions. External factors should be highlighted instead to influence well-being and enhance mental health. Although Snape’s character formulation has been positively derived utilizing this perspective, it does not present ways to assess scientific reasoning or judgment.
The psychoanalytic perspective allows individuals to differentiate perceptions from varying fantasies, speculations from truths and desires from needs. Corrective experiences and insight can help people regain their ability to cater to close ones. The representation of Snape’s character through the principles of this theory that portrays human behaviour to be deterministic has been understood. It is governed by instinctual, unconscious, biological drives and irrational forces. Snape’s character is a profound manifestation of his past.
Beneckson, R. (2022). Personality Theory. Fiupsychology.com. Retrieved 2 March 2022, from https://fiupsychology.com/PersonalityTheory2b.htm.
Cozolino, L. (2017). The neuroscience of psychotherapy: healing the social brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). WW Norton & Company.
Curtis, H. (2018). Everyday life and the unconscious mind: An introduction to psychoanalytic concepts. Routledge.
Guntrip, H. Y. (2018). Personality structure and human interaction: The developing synthesis of psychodynamic theory. Routledge.
Rennison, N. (2015). Freud and psychoanalysis: everything you need to know about id, ego, superego and more. Oldcastle Books.
Schöller, H., Viol, K., Aichhorn, W., Hütt, M. T., & Schiepek, G. (2018). Personality development in psychotherapy: a synergetic model of state-trait dynamics. Cognitive Neurodynamics, 12(5), 441-459.
Schuck, R. I. (2016). “The anti-racist-white-hero premise”: Whiteness and the Harry Potter Series. Wizards vs. Muggles: Essays on Identity and the Harry Potter Universe, 9-26.
Spencer, R. A. (2015). Harry Potter and the Classical World: Greek and Roman Allusions in JK Rowling's Modern Epic. McFarland.
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