Winter is Coming

[In this essay, J. G. details the life of Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and protagonist of George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. In a world where Martin portrays his characters in varying shades of gray, Eddard Stark’s honesty and integrity separate him as a truly good character – but also lead to the demise of himself and the kingdom he lived to serve.]

“Ah,” said Varys. “To be sure. You are an honest and honorable man, Lord Eddard. Ofttimes I forget that. I have met so few of them in my life.” He glanced around the cell. “When I see what honesty and honor have won you, I understand why.” (pg 634)

In the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, men elevate themselves through their birthright, their deeds on the battlefield… or, in most cases, through the game of thrones. George R. R. Martin paints a realistic world, where every character, noble or not, has both redeeming and damning qualities. Eddard Stark, however, stands apart from the rest by being the stereotypical fantasy hero – a war hero, a model father, and an honest, honorable man. His admirable, yet stark nature is what brings upon his end, however, and causes the biggest conflict that Westeros has seen for many years.

Robert Baratheon, the King of Westeros and good friend of Ned, calls upon the Lord of Winterfell to take up the office as the King’s Hand – the last hand, Jon Arryn, died presumably of illness, though Ned suspects otherwise.Despite his reluctance, he accepts, knowing his duty to Westeros is to accept the job. He does this, however, despite an ominous event which happened days earlier. With his children, Eddard Stark finds a dead direwolf (the symbol of House Stark), apparently killed by the antler of a stag (the symbol of House Baratheon). Stoic Eddard ignores the warnings the gods are sending him, though as the novel continues he grows to become more superstitious. As a result, Eddard Stark is thrust into the intrigues of the king’s court, where his honor is feeble armor against men he cannot distinguish as friend or foe.

Eddard Stark knows that there is a deep secret marring the kingdom, and he makes his mission to uncover it. Following on the same path Jon Arryn took, Eddard Stark throws caution to the wind by discovering that Robert Baratheon’s three “children” with his wife, Cersei Lannister, are in reality bastards, born of an incestuous bond between Cersei and her twin brother. Rather than work to uproot the Lannisters from the court, Eddard decides that the honorable thing would be to tell the Queen the truth, and give her the chance to flee- a foolish mistake.

Cersei insisted. ”When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” (pg 488)

Eddard’s flawed personality keeps him from adapting to court life at King’s Landing. His “honor” causes Cersei to pull the trigger on her plot to kill King Robert, and arrests Eddard Stark as a traitor when he tries to confront her. He is executed as a traitor, and the backlash of the event splits the kingdom into five separate factions.
Eddard Stark’s character contrasts with nearly every other character George R. R. Martin has painstakingly worked to create in the world of A Game Of Thrones. Most characters are compelling because of their growth as characters – Eddard Stark, however, is unique in that his lack of growth is what makes him the most compelling. Even despite an ominous dream he has, Eddard Stark is unable to come to terms with the messages the Gods are sending him and is the most responsible for his own demise.

“And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.

“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.” (pg 425)

The dream of his battle with Ser Arthur Dayne and the remaining Kingsguard, the last three men still clinging onto a dying cause, is symbolic of the situation Eddard Stark has placed himself in the present. Dayne’s statement that “it begins” refers only to the now, where Ned’s statement that “it ends” refers to the war as a whole. Eddard Stark believes his battle against the corruption in the king’s court to be just beginning, but his nearsightedness keeps him from realizing that, in reality, it is ending for him as well.

The name Stark itself is very reflective of Eddard’s own personality. He is rigid and unbending, even in the face of certain doom – his refusal to go against his morals to save the kingdom, facing certain defeat he refuses to see, is evident of it. Where the Lords and Ladies of Westeros play their game of thrones via political maneuvers and martial ones, the Lord of Winterfell elevates himself above the conflict, staying true to the ways of his parents and their parents before him. While Eddard Stark’s inability to change with the times is a major flaw in his character, it is a boon to his children, who still learn important life lessons from their father before his untimely death.

Bran had no answer for that. “King Robert had a headsman,” he said, uncertainly.

“He does,” his father [Eddard Stark] admitted. “As did the Targaryen kings before him. Yet our way is the older way. The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.
“One day, Bran, you will be Robb’s bannerman, holding a keep of your own for your brother and your king, and justice will fall to you. When that day comes, you must take no pleasure in the task, but neither must you look away. A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is.” (pg 16)

George R. R. Martin’s Eddard Stark is a complex, yet incredibly simple character. While he is an honorable, honest, good man, he does so to his own dismay, as it costs him his life and the lives of thousands in the conflict he creates. His greatest conflict is between what is right and what is necessary. He confuses the two, seeing his only option to be to do what is right. There are situations throughout A Game of Thrones where Eddard Stark could have seized control from the Lannisters and their plotting and kept the realm together. Rather than see what is necessary for the realm, he judges what is necessary from the eyes of the gods, and would never go against his morals, for any sake.

The words of House Stark are Winter is Coming. The ominous dire wolf, fortelling Ned’s death as a result of the king he dearly loved are the forerunners for the winter that is about to engulf Westeros. Eddard Stark brings winter to the realm, albeit unintentionally, through his unbending honor and morality, and, despite the fact his stubbornness costs the lives of thousands, he is still a unique character in a world where every character has many shades of grey.

(J. G. 2010)

Inglorious Bastards – Illegitimate Children, Their Causes and Effects

[In this essay, J. G. analyzes George R. R. Martin’s use of illegitimate bastards throughout A Clash of Kings, and shows how their misfortunate birth contribute to the novel and to the meaning of the work as a whole]

Jon [Snow] took another swallow of mead. There is only one tale that he might believe. “You say you were there at Winterfell, the night my father feasted King Robert.”
“I did say it, for I was.”
“Then you saw us all. Prince Joffrey and Prince Tommen, Princess Myrcella, my brothers Robb and Bran and Rickon, my sisters Arya and Sansa. You saw them walk the center aisle with every eye upon them and take their seats at the table just below the dais where the king and queen were seated.”
“I remember.”
“And did you see where I was seated, Mance?” He leaned forward. “Did you see where they put the bastard?” (pg 104)

In the kingdom of Westeros, the nobility is well known for siring bastard children. Some choose to look after their bastards, while others leave them in the care of their mothers and ignore them. The last name is significant to each bastard – depending on where they were born, their last name could be Snow, Storm, Flowers, Rivers, Stone, etc. While illegitimate children are accepted in society, they are still shunned as outsiders. With symbolic names representative of the region they were born, a bastard child is reminded every day with what they could have been and what they really are. Despite this, bastards play a significant role in George R. R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings, and all for varying reasons.

With Robert Baratheon, the King of Westeros, dead, the Kingdom falls to his young son Joffrey. However, Joffrey and his two younger siblings are in reality bastards, born of incest between Cersei Lannister, Robert Baratheon’s queen, and her twin brother, Jaime Lannister. Jon Arryn and Eddard Stark, both former Hands of the King for Robert Baratheon, are dead because they found out the truth of the children’s parentage. Stannis Baratheon, Robert’s younger brother, knows the truth, however, and reveals it to the kingdom, causing a great dispute in who should truly be king.

The Lannisters look to cut off any loose ends their incestuous seizure of the throne may have. Robert Baratheon was known to be a womanizer, siring many bastards throughout the realm, and due to the fact they have Robert’s blood flowing in their veins, they are a threat to King Joffrey. A baby girl born of Robert is murdered in cold blood, another bastard named Gendry is forced to flee King’s Landing and take up with a band of outlaws, and Edric Storm becomes a point of contention between the two would-be kings and brother, Stannis and Renly Baratheon.

Jon Snow, baseborn son of Eddard Stark, plays a pivotal role in defending the kingdom from the north, joining the Night’s Watch and rising through the ranks. Outcast from his family, his true dream was to be a true Stark alongside his father. However, he comes to accept his role as the outcast and sees his dreams as selfish, accepting his duty and joining the misfits and criminals on the Night’s Watch in their endless vigil against the North. Ramsey Snow, son of Lord Roose Bolton, is the polar opposite of Jon – rather than accept being an outcast, he instead seizes his destiny by forcing his people to accept him through force, sadistically torturing and murdering his way to become Bolton’s heir and scourge of the north.

In our society, children born out of wedlock are fairly common; so common, in fact, that many don’t even bat an eyelash over something as trivial as a bastard. However, bastard children in the realm of Martin’s A Clash of Kings are, in most cases, abandoned by their noble sires and forced to live on their own. Their name, be it Snow or Storm or Rivers, reminds them that they will never be what their half-brothers and sisters will be, and that they are just a blemish marring a noble family. Eddard Stark treats his bastard son Jon Snow as if he were his own child, in a gesture kinder than most lords would have ever done. However, this is unable to do anything more than serve as an even fresher reminder that Jon can never be a Stark.

Bastard children were born from lust and lies, men said; their nature was wanton and treacherous. Once Jon had meant to prove them wrong, to show his lord father that he could be as good and true a son as Robb. I made a botch of that. Robb had become a hero king; if Jon was remembered at all, it would be as a turncloak, an oathbreaker, and a murderer. He was glad that Lord Eddard was not alive to see his shame. (pg 1012)

Much in the way people profile others due to their race or ethnicity, people in Westeros profile others based on their birth and titles. Knights and Lords are looked up to by the common folk, while bastard children are always seen as bastards. Before they can prove themselves through their words or actions, a baseborn child is judged immediately by their last name. George R. R. Martin’s use of illegitimacy is a statement against our society – while the people of Westeros judge others based on their birth, our society judge others based on our race and religion.

Bastard children are the key to many conflicts in A Clash of Kings. The kingdom is ruled by a bastard, and the revelation of the fact causes factions to rise against the king. The bastards of the former king are hunted by those who wish to eliminate them and their ties to the throne or use them as leverage. However, the growth of Jon Snow as he comes to terms with his heritage is one of the pivotal plots of Martin’s novel.

“Let me give you some counsel, bastard.” Lannister said. “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” (pg 57)

The boy took the skin and tried a cautious swallow. “It’s true, isn’t it?” he said when he was done. “What you said about the Night’s Watch.”
Tyrion nodded.
Jon Snow set his mouth in a grim line. “If that’s what it is, that’s what it is.”
Tyrion grinned at him. “That’s good, bastard. Most men would deny a hard truth rather than face it.” (pg 126)

Jon Snow, through his growth as a character and his heroic deeds on the wall as a member of the Night’s Watch, proves that bastards are no different than common born men. What’s important is that he proves it to himself, though the rest of Westeros is reluctant to accept bastards into society, much like our society was initially reluctant to accept minorities.

George R. R. Martin goes into great detail to describe the way of life for bastards in Westeros, describing the naming process which damns them as another face, alone and separated from the parent who brought them into the world. Bastards also represent how we profile in our modern societies, and paint a darker light on ourselves as one sees from the eyes of a man who faces persecution for his parentage and last name. Despite the fact the illegitimate children of Westeros are unable to prove their worth to their parents and the people who judge them daily, their significance to A Clash of Kings and to the message of the work as a whole is evident to the reader.

(J.G. 2010)

The Conflict for Power and the Concept of Sight in A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

[In the following essay, G.C. analyzes the struggle for power, arguing the constant shift in power and how no one character is safe leads to the overall corruption seen in the novel. Also, this power struggle leads to the aspect of sight in the novel and how characters are constantly forced to face the harsh realities.]

In A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin creates a fantasy world of in which the Seven Kingdoms are ruled by the one king who sits on the Iron Throne in King’s Landing. In this world, the seasons of winter and summer last for years. The North ends with the Wall, a massive wall of ice that acts as a barrier to whatever lies beyond the wall, such as wildlings, giants, and White Walkers. The different families of Westeros are referred to as Houses, each with their own sigil and saying or motto. In this fantasy world, there is a constant conflict for power, whether it is for the Iron Throne or just influence that leads to a shifting aspect of power. Through this constant struggle for power, the characters are forced to face the hard truths of reality and the idea of sight is tested.

Cersei Lannister, wife to the king Robert Baratheon, said to Eddard Stark, “’When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground’” (Martin 488). There is a constant struggle for power, especially following the death of Robert Baratheon, as various individuals rise up to claim rights to the throne. Cersei proclaims that her son Joffrey possesses that right, whereas Ned Stark, calling him a bastard son of Jaime Lannister, claims he has no right. Cersei’s line indicates that in Westeros, there is a clear, distinct line separating the consequences of victory and defeat in the “game of thrones.” Winning results in obtaining immense power, but losing results in inevitable death. Anyone who is entered into such a game must do anything necessary to achieve victory. Eddard Stark, a righteous individual, is not entered into the game to win. He intends to achieve justice and show honor, both of which are of high value to Ned. Ned denies Renly Baratheon’s assistance because Stannis Baratheon is the heir to the throne by law, and he approaches Cersei about his knowledge of Joffrey’s true identity as Jaime’s son. Only in the end does Ned resort to wresting power from the Lannisters as he intended to bribe the city guard to his side in order to prevent Joffrey from sitting on the throne. Only, it was too late. As a result, he loses and was executed. He has lost the game.

This struggle for power results in the corruption of politics. Cersei Lannister hides the truth about her children and her relationship with her twin brother in order to allow her son to sit on the Iron Throne. She conspired to murder Jon Arryn when he found out about the truth of her children all in an attempt to protect herself and her son’s false rights to the throne. Thus, the Iron Throne is a symbol of power. This game or struggle of power continues. As the title of novel indicates, this is a game of thrones. It is not the only game, but rather a game that continues on and on. Regardless of who wins, there will always be another round to be played in which another individual can win. The Targaryens won the game early on, winning power and the Iron Throne. But as the next round starts, they lost and House Baratheon won the power. Now, as another game is played, the Starks lost and so did the Baratheons as the power goes to Joffrey, which essentially hands the power over to the Lannisters. This concept highlights the overall idea that power is not absolute in A Game of Thrones. Rather it is a shifting force that once obtained, can be easily taken away by another individual.

However, this struggle for power is not simply over the Iron Throne itself. Other characters such as Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger) is concerned with self-preservation and maintaining his own power, so he uses deception to betray Ned Stark as Ned prepares to take power away from the Lannisters. The remaining Targaryens, Viserys and Daenerys, aims to return to Westeros to reclaim the land that is rightfully theirs. Viserys hungers for power as he sells and marries his sister to the Dothraki in hopes of getting an army to overtake the Seven Kingdoms. To both of them, dragons are a symbol of power, more so than the Iron Throne. Viserys often threatened others with the line “wake the dragon.” He associates himself with the dragons, long thought to be extinct, by calling himself the last dragon. This is his manifestation of power. However, this idea of power shifted as he lost the game and died at the hands of the Dothraki. The power from the dragons was handed over to Daenerys as she, after accepting her legacy, becomes more powerful. Dragons become a symbol of power, especially for Daenerys. This concept also reinforces the idea that power is shifting. Daenerys had no power under her brother and was stripped of her power following the death of Drogo. However, she obtains new power once she hatches her dragons. “Dany had only to look at their eyes to know that they were hers now, today and tomorrow and forever, hers as they had never been Drogo’s” (Martin 806). Dragons symbolize the land’s once more magical past. Daenerys awakes this sleeping power once she hatches the three dragons.

Overall, there is a constant conflict for power, which causes no one character to be safe. Ned Stark, the head of one of the main houses, was executed as he tries to overthrow Joffrey. Viserys Targaryen was killed by the Dothraki after building up a façade of power. To obtain this power, individuals are willing to do whatever is necessary, just or unjust, or obtain their own goals.

As the struggle for power continues in A Game of Thrones the overall concept of sight is revealed as individuals are constantly forced to face the harsh realities. This idea of sight is manifested differently from character to character. Bran Stark, an innocent playful child who has spent his whole life in the prosperity of summer, was blind towards the cruelty, corruption, and lust for power in the kingdom. However, he was faced with this harsh reality once he sees the Lannisters engaging in sexual activity, which results in him being thrown off a tower. He loses his innocence as he becomes paralyzed. Ironically, this opens his eyes towards the hard truths of society, of corruption, and of winter. This gain in sight is proven in the three-eyed raven that Bran continuously sees following his fall. This raven, along with being able to have extraordinary sight from a bird’s-eye view, also possesses an extra eye. Bran suddenly gains this sight when he has finally seen the hard truths of reality.

Other characters deny such harsh truths and, thus, blinds themselves. Catelyn questions if Tyrion Lannister was truly behind Bran’s murder attempt, but she cannot admit the fact that she may be mistaken. As for Lysa Arryn, Catelyn’s sister: “Lysa had named Cersei in the letter she had sent to Winterfell, but now she seemed certain that Tyrion was the killer…perhaps because the dwarf was here…” (Martin 436). Lysa is in denial and convinces herself that Tyrion is the murderer even though she had originally accused Cersei Lannister. She blinds herself with the lust for revenge. In addition, Sansa Stark repeatedly closes her eyes to the cruelty of Joffrey. She originally believed that life in King’s Landing would be extravagant and glorious. However, multiple times she has had warnings about the harsh realities, but she repeatedly turns her back to them. She sees the cruelty of Joffrey up front before the group even reached King’s Landing. Then, she saw how Joffrey wrongfully treated the butcher’s boy, which ultimately resulted in the death of her direwolf Lady and Arya’s friends. However, she tells herself that this wasn’t Joffrey’s fault, but rather, blames it on her sister Arya and her direwolf instead. Sansa purposely blinds herself, only to face the hard truths of Joffrey’s cruelty and the corruption too late as her father was executed.

Ironically, it is Tyrion Lannister who originally possesses sight and understands these harsh realities when others didn’t. Tyrion is often underestimated by others due to the fact that he is a dwarf, resulting in him getting mocked constantly. However, Tyrion Lannister is one of the smartest, certainly cleverest, character in the novel. He says, “’Most men would rather deny a hard truth than to face it’” (Martin 126). Tyrion refuses to let himself forget who he is—a dwarf. He understands his identity and how others see him, but he turns this to his advantage. He is brutally honest and accepts the reality. As he told Jon Snow previously, “”Never forget who you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Than it can never be your weakness’” (Martin 57). He understands the hard reality associated with being a dwarf. In addition, he also counsels Jon Snow about the realities of the Night’s Watch. He understands that it is not the glorious, dignified brotherhood that Jon Snow had imagined it to be. Tyrion Lannister’s dual black and green eyes manifest this idea of sight as he is able to see what others cannot and at multiple perspectives as well. Each House seems to have their characteristic eye color. The Targaryens are lilac; the Lannisters are green, and the Starks are grey. They have their own way of seeing things from their own perspective. However, the fact the Tyrion has both black and green may indicate how he is able to see beyond one fixed perspective. This provides an ambiguous atmosphere about him. He proclaims his love for his family to Jaime in the beginning of the novel, but he also recognizes his family’s shortcomings as well. Tyrion is one of the few who does not blind himself, but rather accepts the truth.

The concept of sight can also be applied to a more general aspect as well. Catelyn says, “Every noble house had its words. Family mottoes, touchstones, prayers of sorts, they boasted of honor and glory, promised loyalty and truth, swore faith and courage. All but the Starks. Winter is coming, said the Stark words” (Martin 24). The Stark’s house motto indirectly attributes them with a greater sight. While the other houses talk about their own honor, courage, loyalty, or other virtues, the Starks simply states a reality. Winter will come regardless. The Stark’s motto hints at a larger fight that is to come. Rather than the petty game of thrones that the other houses play at, the Starks seem to recognize this bigger conflict because once winter comes, no one is safe, especially with the oncoming dangers brewing beyond the Wall.

Ultimately, there is a constant struggle for power in the Seven Kingdoms. This power struggle not only leads to corruption and betrayal as power shifts from individual to individual, but it also contributes to a prevailing blindness as the conflicts between houses blinds them from the bigger danger beyond the Wall. Some characters intentionally blind themselves from the harsh realities, while others is able to accept it. Thus, this novel is about the corruption of power and the blindness to reality that others subject themselves to.

(G.C. 2015)

Analyzing The Decision Making in George R.R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords”
The third installation of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels is a “Storm of Swords”. In this novel, Martin’s fantasy world of Westeros has been ravaged by war, and the novel is told through the Point of View of 12 unique characters, all with different motives, different backgrounds, and from different venues of the War of Five Kings. And these characters still are just a fraction of those in Westeros, with hundreds of unique goals. In this hellish scenario, characters have to make vast numbers of complex decisions, whether between life or death, or, in one case, how many courses should be served at a wedding. These complex decisions add a fantastic deal of intrigue to the story. Some characters act on necessity, while others are calculated thinkers and strategists. These different styles of decision making from character to character gives no one side a real advantage, and creates a unique and winding tale.
The first type of decision making is those of sound logic or reason. These decisions, typically made by military commanders in “A Storm of Swords”, often prove successful and are designed to be the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The novel’s main tactical think is Lord Tywin Lannister, the Hand of the King. Tywin has returned from war to lead his mighty house from a political standpoint. Tywin is an expert politic, who is obsessed with furthering his family until it becomes a dynasty. Though that goal is always at the back of his mind, Tywin’s brutality leads to him all but winning the War of Five Kings when he designs the Red Wedding (Spoiler Alert) . Tired of losing ground on the battlefield, Tywin makes two new allies in the Boltons and Freys, while all but wiping out the Starks and Tullys. This act of betrayal kept Tywin’s hands cleans, however he felt that justice was served as was necessary, as explained in this passage:
“I suppose you would have spared the boy and told Frey you had no need of his allegiance? That would have driven the old fool right back into Stark’s arms and won you another year of war. Explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men in battle than a dozen at dinner.” (pg 720)

Tywin’s rationalization of this heinous act proves his calculating style of decision making and his supreme support of his family above all.
Another decision making style found in “A Storm of Swords”, and all of Martin’s novels, is the aspect of climbing the ladder for power. Many of the characters in the book are focusing entirely on power. One of my favorite scenes from the novel features a meeting of the Small Council, the group of Lords that rule the kingdom. This group changes hands a lot, as the people who are on it are removed, either by death or other means. When Tyrion Lannister returns to the Council, he is shocked by the new group of lords who now decorate the council. “Too many strange faces, Tyrion thought, too many new players. The game changed while I lay rotting in my bed, and no one will tell me the rules” (pg 255). Tyrion is one of the few people on the Council who will not kiss up to the higher minds. Lords Tyrell, Redwyne, Rowan, Kevan Lannister, Cersei Lannister, Littlefinger, and Varys all act in manners that appease Tywin Lannister. These sycophants have a great deal of power in the realm and still make decisions that would take away their freedom in power grabs. In the same scene, Tyrion compares them to eating:
Highgarden had reaped the richest harvest. Tyrion eyed Mace Tyrell’s broad belly and thought, he has a prodigious appetite, this one. Tyrell demanded the lands and castles of Lord Alester Florent, his own bannerman, who’d had the singular ill judgement to back first Renly and then Stannis. Lord Tywin was pleased to oblige (pg 262).

The drone behavior of the high lords is just another prominent attitude in “A Storm of Swords”.
A final decision variant is that of necessity. In this time of war, while things went well for the Lannisters, they did not for the Starks of Winterfell. Their leader, Ned Stark, was killed in “A Game of Thrones”, so command fell to his young son Robb. Though Robb proved to be an infallible battle commander, his political decisions were less than sufficient. Robb gave too much command to his uncle, Edmure Tully, and married a girl even though he was already engaged. he loses the support of many of his soldiers due to these actions and is forced to escort his soldiers to the Twins, the castle of Walder Frey, and wed Edmure to one of Frey’s daughters. Robb had to do this, because Frey’s soldiers were necessary for Robb to retake his homelands. The Starks are made to be the “good guys” of the novels, and this is evident because they have to make decisions that challenge their innocence. Catelyn Stark, Robb’s mother, makes a decision early in the novel to release Jaime Lannister in hopes that he will convince his family to release Sansa and Arya, Cat’s daughters and Robb’s sisters. The irrational decision to look for one last string of hope is one a parent should never have to make, but Cat is forced to make it regardless. Catelyn’s desperate decision force Robb to make an even harder decision to execute one of his commander’s who butchered prisoners.This chain of events leads to Robb and Catelyn’s deaths, and was predated by a series of necessary decisions.

George R.R. Martin’s ability to weave such intricate character’s together cannot be underestimated. He expresses difficult options that characters must make, and reflects the feelings each character has as they are forced to make those decisions, thanks to his usage of historic diction and varying imagery, sometimes glamorous and sometimes harsh. His combination of different characters is fantastic, and makes all of his novels great reads.

(Q.B., 2015)

In the following essay, K.B. discusses the varying perceptions of the world that characters have within the novel and the events which occur due to these beliefs.

George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones presents a slew of colorful characters, all with varying views of the world and how it functions. These contrasting views are based upon actual desires and perspectives of the real world despite the fantasy nature of the work. Such beliefs are truly revealed due to the several factions competing for power and the limited third person point of view that is provided for a majority of the main characters.
Eddard is depicted as the main protagonist, and is the personification of honor and righteousness. His main concern throughout his life is maintaining honor and striving for what is considered correct in accordance to the laws and the gods. However, this obsession with doing what is honorable can be seen as his fatal flaw. His desire for honor blinds him from how the world actually functions, and leads to his execution. Eddard becomes enamored in trying to ‘do the right thing’, revealing that he is radically different from the rest of those with power in the capitol. The other members of the council are willing to commit dishonorable acts in order to ensure that politics run smoothly. He clings far too tightly to his ideals, to the point where he is willing to approach Cersei and reveal that he knows that her son Joffrey is the bastard son of her brother Jaime and has no right to the throne. This seemingly noble quest for justice results in him being arrested for being a traitor, and ultimately his execution. Eddard confesses confesses to the treason in order to protect his daughter Sansa, who is held captive by Cersei. Thus, it is shown that even in death, Eddard maintains his noble duty to protect his family. This is of interesting note, as his character is consistent, and never truly adapts to the realities of the world as do a majority of other characters. His character is a representation of those who are too focused on their ideals and are therefore not aware of the true mechanisms of the world.
Tyrion is perhaps the character with the most accurate view of the world in the work. Being a dwarf, he has become accustomed to the hard truths of society, as dwarves are considered lesser men and often mocked. Through this recognition of the way he is treated, Tyrion is able to see that despite his status as son of the noble Tywin Lannister, he is still susceptible to the same cruelties experienced by those of a lesser class than him. Due to understanding the viciousness of the world, he has developed a witty personality and a unique way with words. As he tells Jon Snow, the bastard son of Eddard, “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength”(Martin 57). Tyrion uses being a dwarf to his advantage to obtain what he desires, which is often just simply surviving each situation he is thrust into. It is these skills that allow him to survive a variety of perilous situations throughout the course of his journey. Such an example is when he is asked to confess to plotting to murder Brandon Stark. Rather than confess to a crime he did not commit or be forced to return to his cell, Tyrion demands a trial by combat, revealing that he is willing to create his own options rather than choose between two unsavory ones. This occurs consistently throughout the work, showing that Tyrion is always thinking on his feet to achieve the best outcome possible for himself. This can be attributed to his constant reading, as is noted by Tyrion himself when answering Jon about why he reads so much; “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge”(Martin 124). This is what makes Tyrion the character that he is. His attention to detail and constant learning about various topics and people allow him to change his perceived motives and goals in order to appease those who are a threat to him.
Unlike Tyrion, Viserys has little patience with the world. His lust for power and what he deems is owed to him are what consume his mind, and ultimately lead to his demise. As the son of King Aerys Targaryen, he longs to return to the capitol and claim the throne that is rightfully his. However, his lack of respect and knowledge of how the world functions contributes to his downfall. He appears to think that he is the most important individual, and believes that the world revolves around him and his goals. It is quite apparent that he is willing to take any means necessary to rise to power, as it evident by him arranging his sister of thirteen to marry the leader of a large Dothraki army. This is similar to Cersei’s view that any means necessary should be taken to reach a position of power, but is executed in a radically different fashion. Viserys receives a rude awakening when he begins to realize that his sister Daenerys appears to be the central figure to the Dothraki army that he planned to use to reclaim his throne. Due to this, he shows his anger, threatening both the Dothraki and his sister multiple times. This is often portrayed through his usage of the line “You will see the dragon wake”(Martin 106). He attempts to intimidate others through personifying himself as a dragon, which is a symbol of power for his family. The fact that he constantly needs to remind himself and others that he is the dragon tells that he is unconfident and lacks the proper traits to be rewarded with respect. Khal Drogo, the leader of the Dothraki army, eventually meets his demands with a molten gold crown, resulting in an ironic death for Viserys. Clearly, he had played his cards incorrectly, as he was far too demanding and hotheaded to successfully attain the power he strived for. His character serves not only to progress Daenerys as a character, but as a contrast to Cersei. Both aim to rise to power, but Viserys is an example of how to incorrectly go about achieving such a lofty goal.
As stated previously, Cersei is fundamentally similar to Viserys in that she aims to rise to power as well. However, she is far more discreet about her goals, which allows her to not only survive but attain more respect and power as the plot progresses. As she states, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground”(Martin 488). She obviously feels that there are two distinct choices people can make; obtain power through any means necessary, or be those who are trampled on to obtain that power. She of course aims to obtain that power through any means, including being involved in the plot to murder Jon Arryn upon him learning the truth about Joffrey being an illegitimate child. Her position of power as queen allows her to exert force upon anyone she wishes, despite constantly being in the public eye. She is secretive, concealing her true colors from the public while in reality she is the epitome of of deception. Her success in her endeavors adds realism to the work as a whole, as it is emphasizes that sometimes those with terrible intentions do succeed due to their plotting and secretive personalities.
The ideals and morals of all the characters mentioned are exemplified based on their views of the world and how it functions. Eddard and Viserys have personalities characterized by one defining trait, being honor and lust respectively. These characters are the ones to suffer from the harsh realities in life, due to their inability to clearly see how they must act in order to achieve the outcome desired. It is characters such as Tyrion and Cersei, who are discreet, witty, and cunning, that will continue to progress towards what they aim to obtain. This can be compared to the actual world in that individuals who display a variety of traits are likely to be the ones to acquire success. Those who are obsessed with one fixed point of view and desire what cannot be obtained will be greeted with failure.
(K.B. 2016)