I don't have much to add, but I just wanted to give my two cents.
I've read up on the theory of who Jon Snow's parents are and the leading candidates, in my (and I think most people's opinion) are Rheagar and Lyanna. Ned promises his dying sister that "her remains will be taken to Winterfell", a promise he made when she was "on a bed of blood and roses". Ned never wants to discuss who is mother is and says "He's my blood, that's all you need to know". "Blood", not son. Its barely even subtle: I think somewhere along the way they even mention a baby. ( http://www.westeros...._Snows_parents/
So at first I thought that just added to Ned's greatness. He is honorable, so honorable that he would bear the blame of this sin to protect his sister's boy. But then I realised that this bastard son, this slip of his honor, might be the only thing keeping Ned from being a, as they call it, "Mary Sue": an overly principled character that can't do anything wrong and therefore, over time, becomes uninteresting. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue
But there's a difference between your average Mary Sue and Lord Eddard Stark. Namely: Ned's dead. GRRM killed off his Mary Sue, much like he regretted Tolkien not killing of his: Gandalf. Now Tolkien's story arguably had more Mary Sues than just Gandalf, but that's besides the point.
I think the doubt we see in the character reflects our own doubt and disbelief regarding Ned's death. He was their father, their God and now they're just hopeless children trying to get their things together. Ned's death is exactly what makes ASoFaI superior to most previous fantasy stories: it gives us the hopeless feeling we recognize, that feeling we get when we see humanity blunder again and again. ( http://oll.libertyfu...=html&Itemid=27
That's my two cents. To me, ASoFaI has a sense of value and melancholy because the only hero in supposed tale of heroes is dead.
Edited by Ekkoe, 25 April 2012 - 04:32 PM.