AFFC – Sansa’s Development
Reflecting the narrow mountain passes, and the dizzying heights of the Eyrie castles, AFFC represents the most dangerous stage in Sansa’s journey so far, with Sansa under threat from the seductive machinations of Littlefinger when it comes to game playing, and the personal and ethical conflicts related to her Alayne Stone identity and the treatment of her cousin, Robert Arryn.
*Lies and arbor gold
The first Sansa chapter of AFFC firmly establishes LF’s game playing strategies, which involve being able to skillfully manipulate persons by telling them what they want to hear and privileging the concern for oneself over the suffering of others. By the end of the chapter, Sansa too has come to realise the benefit of this performance, vowing to adopt the identity of Alayne Stone because she knows it is what LF wants to hear, and what will guarantee her the protection she needs:
“I …” I do not know, my lord, she almost said, but that was not what he wanted to hear. Lies and arbor gold, she thought. “I am Alayne, Father. Who else would I be?”
This concurrence marks Sansa’s first real entry into the world of subterfuge and deception that characterises the game of thrones. She is making a conscious decision at this moment to hide her doubts and misgivings from LF and to become someone else, to perform another identity. It’s notable then that her first entry into the game involves her telling a lie to the game-master himself, which parallels Arya’s choice to keep her hiding of Needle from the Kindly man.
Sansa’s arc in AFFC also marks the end of her childhood, and an idealistic outlook that she managed to carry with her even through her worst times in King’s Landing. She is a much more wary and suspicious character in this novel, tempted, but ultimately unwilling to confide in Bronze Yohn Royce:
She considered throwing herself at his feet to beg for his protection. He never fought for Robb, why should he fight for me? The war is finished and Winterfell is fallen.
As she becomes more disillusioned over the fate of Winterfell and everything connected to Sansa’s past, she becomes a lot more comfortable with the persona of Alayne Stone. Her bastard identity imbues her with a greater sense of confidence and courage, qualities that she needs to survive in a world where she can no longer count on high birth to protect her.
*Father and I have larger concerns
We see a much more sophisticated Sansa in this novel; she’s the one called upon to handle Sweetrobin when he is giving trouble, and she’s essentially in charge of running the Eyrie’s household when LF is away. Added to this, she displays a great depth of curiosity about the nature of LF’s plans for the Lords Declarant and how he will be able to win them to his side. She isn’t content to let LF play but the game, but wants to know how
the game is being played and feels gratified when she is able to decipher what is going on:
He bewitched them, Alayne thought as she lay abed that night listening to the wind howl outside her windows. She could not have said where the suspicion came from, but once it crossed her mind it would not let her sleep. She tossed and turned, worrying at it like a dog at some old bone. Finally, she rose and dressed herself, leaving Gretchel to her dreams.
I felt the part about leaving Gretchel to her dreams was particularly symbolic of Sansa’s growth. She’s no longer the innocent young girl, able to dream and indulge in fantasies. Her interests now are clearly concerned with the world of the waking – political schemes and manipulative strategies. It’s important to stress that LF is teaching
Sansa, and although his ultimate goal might be too have her under his control, she can use what she’s learning to negotiate her own freedom.
Sansa is also focused on self preservation a lot more in this novel. She’s faced enough harrowing dangers and lost her trust in too many people and it’s resulted in her taking a rigid stance relating to Sweetrobin and the sweetsleep that the maester warns against giving too frequently. In ACOK we saw Sansa acting on instinct, saving Dontos’ life, and calming the women during the Blackwater, but I got the sense in reading her AFFC chapters that anything she does and say now is carefully considered and measured.
*That day was done, and so was Sansa
Martin makes it clear in AFFC that Sansa is truly in her maidenhood stage, with her thoughts turning to Sandor Clegane and the kiss he took from her, in a memory that is filled with a sense of longing:
As the boy’s lips touched her own she found herself thinking of another kiss. She could still remember how it felt when his cruel mouth pressed down on her own. He had come to Sansa in the darkness as green fire filled the sky. He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak.
Meeting with more experienced women like Randa Royce and Mya Stone also seems like a natural development on this path to sexual maturity, and this is where her bastard identity might give her some freedom to explore future desires of this nature.
I found a comment by Lyanna Stark
on LF’s role in all this to be particularly enlightening:
It was a bit worrisome at first when Cersei seemed to be the only woman with anything else but "dutiful marriage" in mind, but like a lot of things we took for granted in AGOT, that's been turned on its head as well. Asha and Arianne are both examples of where really free spirited women (and absolutely not chaste) are still accepted by their families and incidentally supported by their fathers quite a lot. LF seems to push Sansa into the same general direction. While LF is a super creepy git, he's definitely acting like an enabling father figure here that maybe even The Ned was not able to since his view of Sansa was of his little girl, not of a grown woman able to deceive, lie and play people. As strange as it is, LF is actually in many ways enabling Sansa to reach her full potential.
Although it’s becoming disturbingly clear that LF wants to reap the benefits of Sansa’s physical and sexual development, he’s still playing an important role in providing her with the tools which might utimately enable her to become an independent power player and someone who’s comfortable with exploring their sexuality. What’s noticeable in AFFC is that Sansa is someone who rises to the challenges and responsibilities put before her. Had she remained a privileged girl of Winterfell, she might never have known just what she was capable of and what her true strengths were. Her arc in AFFC highlights her intelligence and natural skill in dealing with others.
However, as I noted in my introduction, although this time is providing Sansa with lots of productive opportunities for growth and personal development, it’s still a significantly dangerous part of her arc, where she has to walk a fine line between looking out for herself, and making sure she doesn’t exploit others in the process (Sweetrobin); not allowing herself to become so involved in the strategies of game playing that she forgets there’s always a human cost involved (Lyn Corbray and the promise of gold and boys); and perhaps most importantly, not burying her innate distrust and suspicions of LF.
Overall, the image of Sansa in the novel:
- Conflicted in the beginning over her complicity in Marillion’s arrest, but gradually becoming more comfortable with lies and lying. She begins to see them as being necessary to ensure her own survival and to keep Sweetrobin happy. She’s not exactly wrong in these estimations, but of course the danger is that the lies continue to escalate until something disastrous occurs.
- Near complete loss of idealism – pretending to be the damsel in distress to soothe Sweetrobin, but no where near that naïve or helpless anymore. No longer finds the innocent pleasure in songs.
- Very perceptive and astute – notices that Corbray’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes. She doesn’t simply accept what the servants say about Marillion, but pays attention to the man when he brought before her. She guesses that LF signed the document making Royce Keeper of the Gates of the Moon so that the man would be beholden to him. Realises that LF did nothing to help her out in KL, but also realises that her life depends on playing along with him for the time being.
- Greater confidence in using her feminine charms to disarm men – seen in her flirtatious behaviour with the knights in LF’s employ.
- Replacement of Sandor Clegane as a conscious sexual fantasy over her old preference in Loras Tyrell. Highlighting just how far Sansa has come in terms of her romantic interests. She’s no longer interested in imagining some fantasy with Loras but rather invests her thoughts on the night the Hound came to her room. Of course, the fact that the kiss never happened is the glaring inconsistency here, but still, I think her inability to imagine Loras Tyrell in a romantic situation anymore speaks volumes.
- Potential Queen of Westeros? LF’s final words are about her retaking Winterfell, but there’s a distinct possibility that he has greater plans in store for her that may involve the Iron Throne and not her Northern birthright. There’s foreshadowing in her arc that might hint at an involvement with the Targaryen storyline, not to mention her own training and natural inclinations are suited to courtly environments.
At the end of AFFC, Sansa’s future still remains very much in the air, and is tied to how much she is willing to sacrifice, and if indeed she longs for more personal peace or to reclaim her birthright. Right now, she’s becoming skilled in how to play the game of thrones, but we still have no direct assertion from her that she’s interested in more than simply making sure that she’s able to avoid her enemies. Just how much does Sansa really want to play the game?
Edited by brashcandy, 21 May 2012 - 12:51 AM.