I am having keyboard problems, so will present my position more fully later. But meanwhile I'll try to quickly address some of the posits offered:
1) The idea that she'd need to know the extent or particulars re: the consequences of her actions in order for it to qualify.
I say that is false, a strawman.
In order to betray, you only need to know that you are breaking a principle of loyalty; violating a trust. A husband who cheats on his wife is just as guilty of betrayal if he does it in another country, in a way she will never possibly know about and for which there are no consequences other than the betrayal itself. Betrayal is self-defined. It exists as a contrary to a moral imperative or it does not exist at all, and there are merely actions and consequences, and people are only judged on their ability to connect them beforehand.
I would submit that if Ned sides with Renly and they take down the Lannisters to a man, Sansa would be just as guilty of betrayal. It just wouldn't cost as much.
She knew what she was doing was wrong and disloyal, she wanted to do it anyways for (explicitly) selfish reasons, and she did.
To a degree the consequences affect how much we blame her in a broader scope, how much she is the actor in the downfall of her house or whatever, but these are not party to the question of betrayal. I agree that without that context this conversation wouldn't be as charged as it is on both sides, but it would in my opinion still rise or fall on the question itself, not the scope of its repercussions.
For example, Theon did not in any way anticipate the repercussions of his taking Winterfell. Indeed he honestly felt great pain and rage that people he loved were killed when Reek et al unfolded.
But I submit that even if not one person died, or even if the attack was easily rebuffed and only Theon died, he was be exactly as guilty of betraying Robb/Winterfell as he is the way things happened. You don't need to anticipate the scope or particulars that happen as a consequence of your decision to violate a trust to be guilty of violating a trust.
All you need is the knowledge you are (mens reus) and doing it anyway. (actus reus.)
It can be submitted that if you are on the horns of a dilemma between equal but conflicting loyalties (as you can argue Theon was) your action can be seen as less of a betrayal, but in this case Sansa was clearly and expressly thinking only about losing her dream by going back to Winterfell.
2) Framing this within a context of other wrongs done in the book/world.
Again I say 'beside the point'. The question is not 'is Sansa the most guilty of betrayal, or one of the ___ worst, or more so than ____. It merely asks if the act of going to Cersei, knowing what she knew, in the circumstances she knew it constitutes a betrayal of Ned. No more than that. Attributing lesser or greater responsibility to Ned or whoever is tangential; it would be relevant to another question.
3) Punishment/guilt/age. First allow me to repeat that the 'discussion' about what Sansa 'deserves' is in my opinion weird, sophomoric and again, beside the point. We're not sentencing here. We're merely judging a specific action. And her age, all that I agree should be relevant to that discussion, or the ones I listed above in terms of comparing her betrayal with others. But they don't really apply to whether she knowingly violated a trust or confidence. That's all this question asks.
4) Judging the whole. Addressing the broader question as to whether Sansa is, was, or should be a character of sympathy or contempt. I feel this is sub-textual to many of the answers on both sides, or more, the semantic argument is conceded but then side-stepped to address this question. I think this is a natural offshoot of the question as posed, unlike whether Sansa deserves death or that other crap.
But I still feel we do the discussion a disservice to conflate them too quickly. Sansa in a broader sense is part of a story's arc. GRRM enjoys creating moral values and then pecking away at them with actions/attributes that defy the easy conformity of a label. Jaime, the Hound, Theon, Stannis, There have been many examples. But I feel in order to address this question it is essential to isolate.
'Is Jaime a murderer' is a separate question from 'did Jaime try to murder Bran.' Now that we know more about him and to a degree have been allowed to sympathize with him a lot more than we did when the Bran action happened, I suspect the first question would be very differently answered by many here than would have been true if asked midway through Book One.
But the answer to the second question should not change a bit.
Actus reus, mens reus. All that's needed.
I would argue that those citing Sansa as guilty because she later did not kill Joff or whatever are confusing these questions. What she does afterwards has no bearing whatever on whether or not she knowingly betrayed Ned's confidence. It is party to an interesting broader question, but not this one.
My keyboard seems to be responding better, but I don't trust it to begin my overall argument (I know, the fact that above is my being concise is comical) so I'll resort to the crudity of somewhat bastardizing my argument from the other thread. I'll try to remove the parts which are direct responses to other posters, but if I miss some please forgive me.
Here is my partial opinion on Sansa's betrayal, specifically addressing what she knew/did not know, and its significance.
She 'knew' there was serious antagonism between her father and the Queen. She 'knew' something had gone seriously wrong as he father was packing them up and leaving pretty quickly, and 'knowing' her father all her life, she'd have to be pretty stupid to not know it would take a lot for him to do that. She 'knew' the Queen was deadly...she had seen so with regards to Arya's hand/Lady. And she knew about the Butcher Boy, and how innocent he actually was.
Unless she was really stupid, and that's not my impression, she certainly 'knew' enough to NOT go over her father's head without even asking what's up and talk to someone she knows is deadly/antagonistic to her father.
I grant you she didn't know exactly what would happen...but we don't get any idea what she did think would, mostly because she seems only concerned with what she doesn't want to happen; separation from Joff/her dream.
Again, the threshold here doesn't need to be all that high. It's not like those of us who see it as a betrayal were expecting something remarkable out of her. NOT going to an enemy of your father's and explaining his plans doesn't seem to be something people have to be specifically told not to do.
If 'doing what your father says or even waiting to talk to him' and 'going to his antagonist and discussing his plans' were equally normal/explicable options, then I'd say that her not overtly delineating between 'killing my father' and 'getting what I want' would be significant . But they aren't, and the ONLY reason for doing the latter is if your ONLY concern is your own agenda.
Instead of dwelling on the question of 'did she know that by going to Cerei she would be leading to her father death, I posit another
What do you think she thought was going to happen?
Aside from getting what she wanted, how do you think she thought this would play itself out? She's of an age with people running armies and planning assassinations and so forth...so surely some kind of advanced thinking was available to her. If she was looking at more than 'I want'.
My point is not that she knew Ned would die, or anything like that. She didn't. If she'd known, she acts differently. I think we can all agree.
My point is that she never got to the point of thinking what the consequences would be. All she thought about was what she wanted. And in pursuit of that she knowing did wrong and breached her family's loyalty.
People will say that Ned did not fully inform her of the perils of the situation when he told them they had to pack quickly.
I would respond:
To a degree, but I think that expectation unreasonable. It was a perilous situation (she knew) and he gave a clear command. People running around asking for explanations in those situations are generally thought to be harmful and selfish. And that's just in terms of why she'd need more explanation right here, right now. Not even getting to the 'so barring clarification enough for you, don't run to the enemy for a heart to heart.' kind of follow through.
Re: the context of her decision in the light of the events surrounding Mycah, etc. and her decision to lie to support Joff by omission:
The direwolf thing was a betrayal of Arya/the truth. Someone died as a result, and her direwolf too.
And she learned...?
Again, in the grand scheme of things many people have done worse. But that doesn't alter what she did.
Yes, she lied.
Saying 'I don't remember' when you do is lying. If you are testifying...and she was doing the equivalent..and you say you didn't see something you saw, that's perjury. A lie.
I think her father/Septa offered fairly decent grounds for why she lied/tried to tread a middle ground between the truth and convenience, but she still didn't tell the truth when asked specifically to do so, and deaths were the result. If she learns there, aside from a Butcher Boy more or less, I;d say she paid heavily for her education.
But. she. learned. nothing.
And, more, when her priority was again threatened she went to the very person the direwolf situation should have shown her wasn't on her family's side, against whom her father had himself argued re: Lady, etc. She was blinded by one thing, again: her wants.
Which is usually the cause for betrayal, imo. No one is the bad guy in their own movie...people who do bad usually either think they are doing good or don't get past 'I want'.
Sorry for the awkwardness of some of this, I did the best I could. My keyboard is again driving me batty. (Wireless, and sometimes just has a mind of its own.)
Edited by James Arryn, 15 April 2012 - 10:17 PM.