Of course, Snape was a center piece to other peoples discussion of this topic so I mention him at the end.
I’m writing my novels from two points of view, that of the characters considered the protagonist and antagonist, chronicling the protagonist’s short, gravely ill, life. Nathanael is altruistic, compassionate and forgiving. Drefan is self-destructive, rageful and biting.
Drefan my antagonist has a (to put it very lightly) shitty life and goes through hell before his mind snaps and he uses the necromantic powers he has inherited as well as the powers of his God to take revenge on the world :/ I do this because I want to know his story, where he was and what brought him to today. I want him to rage at his life and its unfairness, to curse the Gods and himself. Yet Drefan never once asks for sympathy because he sees it as pity and he’s too strong for that.
He refuses to allow himself to feel shame for what he has done after he regains himself and sees that his undead have butchered millions. He realizes if he starts on himself with guilt and shame that he will likely lose his mind again. He won’t ask for forgiveness because he knows he doesn’t deserve it. Drefan surrounds himself, on purpose, with those who remind him of his sins so he won’t forget because there are those who do forgive him regardless of his crimes.
I don’t really want to tell his story as a means of garnering sympathy for him, it would honestly piss him off I did so. Redemption isn’t something he is asking for, he hates that it is Nathanael’s forgiveness which is the last piece that finishes rebuilding his mind.(While this was happening others were piecing his mind back together so this ‘healing’’ does not actually depend as deeply on the boy’s forgiveness as Drefan is lead to believe and the reader knows this.)
He calls Nath weak and foolish for the forgiveness, walking out on the teen almost immediately afterward although Nathanael forgiving Drefan was the focus of the protagonist’s journey. Drefan remains angry and bitter, filled with rage at himself and the world and isolates himself in his own personal hell once he realizes what he has done. But he won’t ever say he is sorry because what difference would that make? Honestly? It won’t bring back the dead.
By the definition of Redemption by Webster I never give him that. It takes him until he’s 50 years old, 20 years post novels to let go of the past and the abuse that saw his mind break to pieces. Even then, stepping out of the palace confronts Drefan with what he has done when he sees the black roses that grow in the cracks of the cobblestone streets. Each of those black roses is a person he had a hand in killing, and the Capitol city is filled with them.
Redemption is atonement for guilt, to atone for faults or mistakes. What the hell could you possibly do to make up for the deaths of over 5,585,627 of your own people? Or of over 7,383,635 people worldwide? Nothing.
If anything it pisses off Drefan and confounds him when anyone forgives him for the Scourge War. He tends to think their simpletons for it (like wtf?)…heh
I don’t think a villain needs to redeemed, I don’t think a character’s past is only told for the sake of sympathy. I want to better understand each character, their motivations, and their pain. But understanding does not have to equal forgiveness.
On the topic of Snape, I could understand his past and still see his later choices as wrong ones. I could find him an intriguing character, feel sad for when he died yet still wish he had been a better man while knowing that he was not. Snape was a bitter and at times vile man whose choices made him who he was. The redemption of villains does not make them interesting characters in and of itself. Some characters, as was previously mentioned, may forgive the villain and many others won’t, much like the readers.
That to me is the most realistic outcome.