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Why the Sympathy?


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#21 mormont

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 08:59 AM

Interesting thread. One thing I would note is that we can be fairly sure that the sympathy is not intended as a 'moral guide' for the reader: I think it would be hard for anyone to suggest that GRRM considers Tyrion a better person than Cat, for example. (I'm also fairly sure that GRRM is actually quite fond of Sansa, for what it's worth.)

#22 jons nissa

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 09:07 AM

Cat was set up in opposition to Jon almost from the beginning and it does seem that many struggle with that. Now, I don't know what the author's intent was with this and I don't want to guess


i agree that cat was set up in opposition to jon from the start. if i may put forward a guess as to the intent, i would echo Daphne23 and say it was more for jon than cat and cat's character suffered for that. i think it was meant to show how jon's character was formed and highlight the isolation, sadness, conflict and inner strength that has come to define him. cat never lets him forget who he is (not saying she was correct in this or not) and his complete hatred of his bastard status is only witnessed in one other bastard - ramsey - both because they felt they were treated unfairly for something beyond their control. the other bastards, while not part of a loving extended family with their fathers, don't seem to hate their status. gendry, edric and mya seem far more at peace with themselves. but i acknowledge that we don't know a lot about other bastards in westeros. further, the fact that grrm writes the bastards of westeros very sympathetically doesn't help cat in the "like" department.

I definitely think Martin wrote Sansa as giving a mixed first impression for most of AGoT. That's partially because there needs to be a foil for Arya and Ned, and partially because Sansa's arc requires that transformation from someone who is naive, and a tad unlikeable.

I also definitely think Martin used similar tricks to get us onside with Tyrion, because he knew he'd have Tyrion do some pretty unlikeable things in subsequent novels. Tyrion's shown as clever, compassionate and funny, all of which endear him to modern readers, and seems to be a victim of circumstance; getting locked in the skycells for something he didn't do, giving Bran the special saddle and befriending Jon Snow.


i agree that sansa was meant to be disliked at the start of the series and succeeded in that too much. i believe he wanted the fans not to like her but shift their opinion of her since it's appears that her arc is moving her to a more sympathetic place. but many fans haven't budged from the girl we met in book 1. regarding tyrion and arya, yes, they are favs but again, i think they are going to dark places but fans haven't budged as much with these two although for many tyrion has fallen in esteem.

overall, i think grrm didn't anticipate the first impressions of these characters being as strong or as lasting as they were.

#23 Where Boars Glow

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 09:26 AM

George RR Martin is not a journalist. It is not his job to remain objective. He is a novelist. He is painting a picture of an imaginary place full of what i feel are extremely well rounded and human characters (especially considering the genre). I can't think of a single character that doesn't have both positive and negative traits which we can either relate to, or find distasteful. I think any perceived sympathy you have or don't have for a character comes from your own core values. I think it is unfair to not allow the writer to have core values of his own.

Personally I have favorite characters and I have least favorite characters and Cat DEFINATELY falls on the low end of the totem pole for me. However i think she is a well rounded and well written character. She just makes decisions that do not endear her to me and my core values. I'm not going to get mad at Martin because Jamie gets maimed just because i like his character. Then again i like him better maimed /smile.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':)' />

To me I think it is part of what makes the books so captivating that we as readers are drawn to the characters that are more in line with our modern values lost in a medieval society where they are outsiders. While characters like Cat and Sansa that fit in well within that society are more disliked by the readers. It does make perfect sense though.

#24 The Sleeper

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 09:45 AM

It seems to me that this discussion needs to be based on two assumptions:

One is that there is supposed to be an "average reader". As I liked Cat form the start (in fact I was shocked that there were people who didn't like her when I first started reading this forum), there is nothing for me to discuss on that account. I've always thought that her line to Jon was a singular instance brought on by extraordinary stress.

The second is that Maritn has set up some sort of popularity contest between his characters. I think this is something the readers engage in, not the author.

I think a more meaningful discussion would be what kind of projections the readers make on the characters, why we identify with particular characters and how the text allows or not for it.

Edited by just an Other, 12 December 2012 - 09:54 AM.


#25 Woman of War

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 09:50 AM

By kittykatknits:

In contrast, Catelyn and Sansa are portrayed negatively, with that approach seeming the strongest in GOT as well. Both characters are very much products of their world.
..........
These two characters almost appear alien to us, especially when compared to Arya and Tyrion.

If Martin has applied to the same "tricks" on Sansa and Cat then this did not work with me. Cat, not UnCat, is one of my favorite Characters, i can even relate to her in the moments when I most disagree with her, she is a strong willed character. Elsewhere I wrote that her mistakes would be my mistakes, no, she is one of the characters that are closest to me and no matter if writing her was hard or came easy to Martin, he must have done a very good job.
While I cannot relate to Sansa in the same manner although she has two wonderfully written scenes in these books that really stick out: the Tyrion wedding scene in the bedroom and her building the snow castle. No, she certainly has not been disadvantaged. And we cannot blame an author for having written a character the way this character is. It is the author who is king in his realm.

I think that our likes and dislikes of characters have far less to do with the writing the author delivers but with ourselves. Whom we like or dislike as a fictional person tells a lot about us, how our personal experiences are mirrored in a character, what kind of friends we had as children, if a character's prejudices and fears are our prejudices and fears. Loving characters and identifying with them is therefore not a direct reflection of what the author intended us to feel but what we as readers make of what we get presented. Only this way it is possible that different readers can have so very diametrically opposed opinions about many characters. It is not because those who disagree apparently have not read the books properly and are unable to follow one's own sophisticated interpretation, it is due to the quality of the character descriptions that the spectrum of characters to identify with is so wide.
And with many characters like Tyrion, Arya, Dany or Jaime Martin takes pains to keep them in the balance between "good" and "evil", he carefully leads them on a path at the edge of the knife of morality, he constantly wants us to doubt our own judgements. Do not dare enjoying the ride, reader! Stay awake, don't fall asleep on your sofa, comfortably entertained, THINK!
So if I tell you that I like Cat and Tyrion because ........and like Sansa less because......... this is about me (as it would be about you) and not due to clever intrigue and manipulation by the author.

After all EVERY good literature is manipulation. If it weren't it would be a boring kind of alleged journalism, pretending to be unbiased and objective. Good gripping writing never is, not even good journalism. Tolstoi was in love with Anna! Has he been manipulative when he made us love her as well, the evil adulteress? And did he not understand Karenin too? Literature is the essence of manipulation, we are manipulated to believe into a whole unknown world! After all fictional characters are not entitled to their parent's unbiased just emotions, an author has every right to prefer one or more of his children, the less loved will not suffer from it, they are not real, remember, they are paper, bits and bites, they won't complain but patiently bear their fate. We cannot ask an author to fulfill our many different wishes, this is not books on demand, this is GRRM's story, not ours. We can hardly start a democratic vote how the author should shape this or that character, in that case we could write our own fanfic.

But often the most challenging children are the most beloved since the parent has to invest so much in them.



#26 Kittykatknits

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 09:58 AM

You dont wonder if that happened to present both characters with a challenge? Jon with the "step-mother" hurdle and Catelyn with the whole "kid from another woman" thing? As i said before in that other thread, its credit to Martin that he can write that type of scenario and people being able to sympathize with both characters. I dont think Cat's detesting Jon is an attempt to make her more "grey" as much as it is to provide the opinion of someone with her type of POV. If people still struggle with that in terms of Cat's character, well....i just dont even. /tongue.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':P' />

The way the Cat/Jon relationship is framed is really interesting to me. For one, how we see her snap at him in Jon's POV, not Cat's. I do think Cat is meant to be sympathetic overall but I wonder how much GRRM considered the effects of the Cat/Jon dynamic. I feel that he had to have some idea as to how some people would respond - though I think he's said he is surprised by the amount of sheer vitriol she gets. I'm not saying it's wrong to have written Cat the way he did; I think she's a brilliant character. I just wonder how much he pondered the effects of the whole Cat/Jon thing.

i agree that cat was set up in opposition to jon from the start. if i may put forward a guess as to the intent, i would echo Daphne23 and say it was more for jon than cat and cat's character suffered for that. i think it was meant to show how jon's character was formed and highlight the isolation, sadness, conflict and inner strength that has come to define him. cat never lets him forget who he is (not saying she was correct in this or not) and his complete hatred of his bastard status is only witnessed in one other bastard - ramsey - both because they felt they were treated unfairly for something beyond their control. the other bastards, while not part of a loving extended family with their fathers, don't seem to hate their status. gendry, edric and mya seem far more at peace with themselves. but i acknowledge that we don't know a lot about other bastards in westeros. further, the fact that grrm writes the bastards of westeros very sympathetically doesn't help cat in the "like" department


Great points on the Cat/Jon dynamic. My general viewpoint is that both characters were victims in the circumstances they were placed in. Ned made a promise to his sister and I think Ned was right to save his nephew. He had just recently seen Rhaegar's dead children and he knew that Jon would be vulnerable. So, he made the decision to raise Jon as his own to keep him safe. Of course, Ned's decision to do so meant that a price would need to be paid and his particular solution meant the ones who paid the price are Catelyn and Jon. Both are heavily impacted by his presence at WF, for the reasons each of you already said.

There are also numerous points in series where a particular scene or set of events could be told from the perspective of two different characters. The infamous exchange between Jon and Cat is one example. Othes are the wedding night between Tyrion and Sansa or Dany and Quentyn meeting in Dance, Arys v. Arianne, the Greyjoys during the kingsmoot, and many other instances in the series. The particulars of the plot could happen regardless of the POV we are given as our eyes and ears yet Martin felt it was important to be in a particular head during a particular scene. There thoughts and reactions to a moment are especially important in that moment and Martin wants to communicate where a character is. Martin felt that it was more important to be inside Sansa's head during her wedding than Tyrion, likewise he felt we needed to be in Jon's head when Cat spoke to him. So, to get to my long-winded point, that scene was meant to be a moment of character development for Jon - not as a judgment on Cat.

However, what a reader takes from the text is not, by default, the same as what the author intended. So, a moment that is meant for character development is reframed around Catelyn when it is not supposed to be. We got the chance to get in Catelyn's head earlier in the story already, that was her moment to explain where she was at as a character. It's not that Catelyn is irrelevant in that scene, rather that she served a role in that scene - to help establish who Jon is for the reader. It's not meant to be taken as a way to illustrate or explain who Catelyn is.


Interesting thread. One thing I would note is that we can be fairly sure that the sympathy is not intended as a 'moral guide' for the reader: I think it would be hard for anyone to suggest that GRRM considers Tyrion a better person than Cat, for example. (I'm also fairly sure that GRRM is actually quite fond of Sansa, for what it's worth.)

This is a really good point. In the POV structure, we are in the character's heads with their thoughts. There is no narrator telling us what to think. Our thoughts are about rationalizing our actions and putting our own unique spin on events, interpreting them through our world view. It's natural that we would present events or the basis behind our decisions in a sympathatic manner. There is quite a bit of this going on with Tyrion I think. We can excuse his acts becuse we accept his rationalization. Even though, the hints are there almost from his first chapter that his decisions and world-view are not aligned in the way we might actually thing. His pity towards Jon feels alien towards him and he assumed that Jon's family dynamics were the same as his own. He take a fur from Benjen in a "I'll show him" moment when Benjen merely meant to offer him something from the cold. Small acts sure, but they tell the reader that Tyrion is not as straightforward as we think.

#27 MyLittleDirewolf

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 10:31 AM

This is maybe not a popular view, but I agree with you to some extent. (I also agree that ADWD is the weakest in terms of structure and storytelling, but I think is the weakest in terms of characterization as well - oh Dany, what happened to you?) It is more tightly written than Dance, and better at storytelling, but I agree that there is a certain "This is new to me and I'm not quite sure where I'm taking this" aura about it. I wonder if part of it was that GRRM wasn't sure what the reception would be (I bet he didn't have a clue as to just how popular the ASOIAF series would become!) and also wasn't sure how long he wanted the series to be (I recall it was originally a trilogy). Maybe it was meant to be a bit more of a stand-alone in case things didn't work out.

I agree that Tyrion and Arya, especially, are shown in a much more sympathetic light - it's as if we the readers are supposed to like them, dammit! And agreed that Catelyn and especially Sansa don't fit into conventional female fantasy tropes. I also think that modern readers want and expect the female characters to be spunky tomboy types (like Arya) or plucky underdogs (like Jon and Tyrion) and a classic beautiful princess type (like Sansa) or super-mom (Catelyn) are less popular these days.

I also want to point to Julia Serano's Femiphobia as a great read on why there is so much dislike for the Sansa and Catelyn characters in books in general - it's all about dislike for characters with traditionally feminine attributes. Femininity is given a low status in our society and I think that dislike rubs off on Sansa and Catelyn.

Also agreed that some more world-building in AGOT wrt to what Catelyn faced in an arranged marriage might have helped. I have always felt for her - she loves her husband, and he loves her, BUT there is this reminder of his "infidelity" in her face every day, most noblewomen aren't expected to help raise their husband's bastards, Ned shuts her down when she tries to inquire about Jon's origins, and in general she must wonder why her otherwise loving husband insists on having his bastard in her household. (Never mind that I am pretty convinced that R + L = J, but Catelyn died still convinced that Jon was Ned's bastard.)

Finally, I am going to surmise that perhaps the inverse of Arya and Tyrion is set up with Sansa - and Jaime - in the first book. Jaime is an honest-to-God douchebag who pushed a kid out the window but by AFFC he's undergone tremendous character development and has become a reader favorite. I wonder if this is deliberate wrt Sansa as well - we are supposed to love Arya, Tyrion and Jon at first, but then the tables will turn (and we see it with Arya and Tyrion as of ADWD at least, and I recall GRRM stated that Jon will become grayer too as the story goes on) and by the final book in the series the characters' sympathetic quotient will have completely reversed and there will be a LOT of Sansa and Jaime fans (and there are plenty already).

As for Theon - sure there was character development but I think the torture porn went way, way over the top in ADWD. It was like watching a slow-motion snuff film. It was unnecessary and gross, IMO.

I agree with all of this. To address the bolded, that's the biggest reason IMHO why many readers don't warm to Sansa and Catelyn. They are feminine and they are filling their roles in society with no objections, no secret desire to be a warrior or hating embroidery. Tyrion and Arya are sympathetic in large part due to our modern views on how dwarves and girls should be treated. Girls should not have limitations on what they can be, people should not be discriminated against because of their height or how they look. Think of how most of the newer Disney/Pixar movies have a plucky heroine who defies convention. This is what audiences now expect. Cat and Sansa are seen as weak because they conform to their roles.
Now, I actually like Cat and Sansa a lot. Cat especially, I sympathized with her from the beginning and I was surprised by the Cat Hate. Maybe it's because I'm of an age with her, I'm also a mother, and I'm not much of a spunky heroine who defies convention. Sansa I didn't think much about one way or the other, but I came to like her more after thinking about her circumstances and how realistic it would have been for her to try to do something bold, defy the Lannisters... I don't know, whatever it is that people think she should have done. She's young, sheltered, and naive. I think she's doing the best she can, and she will do something bold soon.
I think the show has done much and more to to inflame the Tyrion and Arya = sympathetic, Cat and Sansa = blech feelings. I did like Tyrion in the beginning but he really lost me after killing Shae and Tywin and then going on his poor, poor pitiful me trip. Arya, still like her, just tired of the Faceless Man journey.

#28 Jon Pauletto

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 11:02 AM

Martin created options to choose

we have a lot of characters and some sides to choose:

In the beggining we had: Stark, Baratheon, Lannister and Targaryen

but when the time flew, inside this house there were also different sides to choose: Dany or Aegon, Stannis or Renly (now he's dead but even though he was an option), Tyrion and Jaime or Cersei, Joffrey and Tywin (I know they are hated but thera are people who liked them), and among them there are Tommen and Myrcella, two innocent children, and the Starks, We have Arya's storty, Sansa's story, Bran's story, Jon's story, even Robb as king of the North, Rickon's story who will be very important in TWOW and ADOS

It's a very complex story, it's stories conect to a huge one, every character has light and dark side, even the bad ones.

let's beggin talking about the characters:

Catelyn: Hated because of her hatred towards Jon, and she died with Robb and everyone's said about it, because they saw her mother desperation, and now she's a zombie who hangs Freys, Lannisters and Boltons, but still hang other people too, what turns her into good and evil.

Jon: From bastard to Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, a lot of people, incluiding me like Jon very much. Some of his Chapter's in ADWD are dull, I agree, but he matured from a book to another, we can see it. And there are people who don't like him for some reason.

Bran: Started as a dull character to a greenseer, he is more important now, and peole are really looking forward to see his greenseer abilities.

Robb: From Heir of WInterfell to King in the North, he's character was maturing, he was winning every battle, but lost the war, because of a wrong decision, a promise break.

Arya: From a tombo-ish girl to an assassin, she always prefer swords than sewing, but he needed to mature faster, she was 8 in the beggining and she had to survive alone in a cruel world at war time. She was more mature than Sansa in ASOS.

Sansa: A silly girl who used to dream about princes, knights and maidens, now has to face living as a bastard, something she was always rude about, she never really liked Jon for example, and now she's living the way Jon's live (be seeing as a bastard), she had to mature, to forget the fairy tales and start to live in the reality.

Rickon: From not important to future Lord of Winterfell, none really cared about him in the beggining, I mean us readers. And now he turned into an important part of the game of thrones.

Joffrey: Shitty king and asshole boy and he never changed, died, well deserved, he didn't mature anything.

Cersei: From the powerful Queen Regent to a servant (I mean she's a sweet beast now, after the Walk of Shame), she tried to rule a kingdom and now she lost her power.

Jaime: From Kingslayer and Incestuous man to an admirable man, because of his story with Brienne, his peaceful sieges in the Riverlands and his despise towards Cersei

Tyrion: Always loved, no matter how many whores he bedded, he's admired for his brains and sharp mouth, and of course, for being a dwarf, people saw his suffering just for being a dwarf, and now for his gentle with Penny, and the Tysha story of course. ah, almost forgot, he killed Tywin XD.

Daenerys: From a great promise to a huge disappointment, lingering in Slaver's Bay people starts to get annoyed with her attitudes, and some of them think she's growing insane. Dany in the beggining was one of the most loved characters (if not the most loved) and now she's starts to be a bit inpopular, for some attitudes.

Varys: Everyone hated him in the beggining, but when he started to appear more, people started to admire him, he's a riddle and this makes him more loved. He's a conspirator and that's what people like in this kind of stories.

Little Finger: Another plotter, started his life being nothing and now he's ruling the Riverlands and the Vale of Arryn, he's as a riddle as Varys.

Theon: He was just getting worse and worse, but suffered so much that some people started to pitty him besides he had killed and ordered to kill a lot of people in Winterfel and betrayed Robb.

Asha: From a respected pirate to Stannis prisoner, Asha will probably play an important part still.

Samwell: From a coward to a future Maester, who would think a coward like he was would become an important men in the Night's Watch? He matured more and more.

Well, I just pick some character who participated more in the story, some of them didn't stay that much in the story (killed in the beggining), some are in the story but just appeared (like Griff (Jon Conninton and Small Griff (Aegon) for example)

Martin wanted us to like and dislike the characters, he can changed our love and hate in a turn of page.

So it's really difficult to have sympathy to one or other character!



l

I just put some characters, the ones who participated more in the story,

#29 Lady of Long Lake

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 11:03 AM

Martin's least favorite characters happen to be Sansa and Catelyn, the same two who he has written in a less sympathetic manner. Is it possible that Martin chose to write his favorites in a more lenient manner, perhaps even unconsciously?


Arya and Tyrion evoked a lot of sympathy right from AGOT because they were written as misfits/outcasts. Both were treated meanly or mocked by some members of their families. Sansa and Catelyn weren't written to be the "underdogs" and it's harder to sympathize with them, especially when they were the ones sometimes bullying or mistreating their family members.

But GRRM wrote ALL his characters lovingly, even the ones that aren't his favorites. If you think about it, he had to work harder when he wrote about Sansa and Cat because they have become more than the "evil step-mother" and the "snotty, bubble-headed sister" they started out as. Look at how well he succeeded because both ladies have huge fan-bases, at least on this forum.

You can tell that George loves all his characters by the caring way he writes their chapters. Mr. Martin may associate himself more with Tyrion and Arya perhaps, and that's why he holds them closest to his heart. They might feel the most "comfortable" to him.

#30 Blue Moon

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 11:13 AM

I am not a Cat hater, I believe she has (had?) many good qualities, but I still find her hard to like at times. While her hateful treatment

of Jon is deplorable, I can understand that it is based on Jon being the constant living reminder that Ned was unfaithful to her.

What makes Cat unsympathetic to me is her treatment of Arya. She so clearly favors Sansa, her beautiful and accomplished daughter.

She is blind to Arya's worth, unlike Ned and Jon, who see Arya clearly and love her for who she is. Cat also selects a septa to teach her

daughters who never misses an opportunity to praise Sansa and humiliate Arya. Even if you might favor one child over another, no

mother worth the name should make it so obvious. When the BWB tell Arya they want to ransom her back to her mother and brother, and

she wonders whether her mother would even want her back, it makes me like Cat less. I don't think Arya would have doubts if her father

or Jon would want her back.

#31 jblair

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 11:49 AM

I agree with all of this. To address the bolded, that's the biggest reason IMHO why many readers don't warm to Sansa and Catelyn. They are feminine and they are filling their roles in society with no objections, no secret desire to be a warrior or hating embroidery. Tyrion and Arya are sympathetic in large part due to our modern views on how dwarves and girls should be treated. Girls should not have limitations on what they can be, people should not be discriminated against because of their height or how they look. Think of how most of the newer Disney/Pixar movies have a plucky heroine who defies convention. This is what audiences now expect. Cat and Sansa are seen as weak because they conform to their roles.
Now, I actually like Cat and Sansa a lot. Cat especially, I sympathized with her from the beginning and I was surprised by the Cat Hate. Maybe it's because I'm of an age with her, I'm also a mother, and I'm not much of a spunky heroine who defies convention. Sansa I didn't think much about one way or the other, but I came to like her more after thinking about her circumstances and how realistic it would have been for her to try to do something bold, defy the Lannisters... I don't know, whatever it is that people think she should have done. She's young, sheltered, and naive. I think she's doing the best she can, and she will do something bold soon.
I think the show has done much and more to to inflame the Tyrion and Arya = sympathetic, Cat and Sansa = blech feelings. I did like Tyrion in the beginning but he really lost me after killing Shae and Tywin and then going on his poor, poor pitiful me trip. Arya, still like her, just tired of the Faceless Man journey.


How does this work, considering most people here generally like Margaery, who does an amazing job of playing the game while still remaining within the traditional female role?

#32 Where Boars Glow

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 11:54 AM

How does this work, considering most people here generally like Margaery, who does an amazing job of playing the game while still remaining within the traditional female role?


Good point I don't have any of the same dislike for margery and Olena that i do for Cat and Sansa.

#33 MyLittleDirewolf

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 11:57 AM

How does this work, considering most people here generally like Margaery, who does an amazing job of playing the game while still remaining within the traditional female role?

Margaery is not a POV character. I've never seen any big huge Marg love threads, it's more like she's there, she's all right. She's also an enemy of sorts for Cersei, which gives her extra points.

#34 Lummel

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 12:12 PM

...There are also numerous points in series where a particular scene or set of events could be told from the perspective of two different characters. The infamous exchange between Jon and Cat is one example. Othes are the wedding night between Tyrion and Sansa or Dany and Quentyn meeting in Dance, Arys v. Arianne, the Greyjoys during the kingsmoot, and many other instances in the series. The particulars of the plot could happen regardless of the POV we are given as our eyes and ears yet Martin felt it was important to be in a particular head during a particular scene. There thoughts and reactions to a moment are especially important in that moment and Martin wants to communicate where a character is. Martin felt that it was more important to be inside Sansa's head during her wedding than Tyrion, likewise he felt we needed to be in Jon's head when Cat spoke to him. So, to get to my long-winded point, that scene was meant to be a moment of character development for Jon - not as a judgment on Cat...


First off I would agree that individual readers do respond to the story and characters differently - clearly this is so looking around the forum and judgements do change over rereads or through conversation - but all the same the author does make definite efforts to push or prompt the reader to respond in certain ways. The text isn't neutral.

Next as Woman of War says all literature is manipulation. Which may sound a bit harsh, but just to explain that telling a joke is manipulation too - you say certain words in a certain order and with a certain emphasis to produce a particular result (well that's the plan but sometimes it can fall flat).

The presentation of character through POV is a big part of GRRM's artfulness, because just like a joke the punchline isn't always funny by itself.

Looking at Tyrion in particular and Arya to an extent I have said in the rereading Tyrion and rereading Arya threads that are currently ongoing it is clear that GRRM is going out of his way to make the characters sympathetic to the reader. My feeling is that this is about reader expectations.

Basically if GRRM had chosen to emphasise in a different way Tyrion's actions during the first few books then his murder of Tywin and Shae would not have come as a surprise and have had no punch or impact on us as readers. It would have been simple to set Tyrion up as a Richard III character, ambitious, scheming and ruthless because all those aspects of his character are there and can be found in his POV chapters but they are countered by more positive representations.

One thing this does is give us a more rounded character, not good or evil but capable of either. The second and I feel more important probably from GRRM's POV is that allows him to take us on a mystery tour with the character. We can't be sure where we will arrive. We can be fooled and appalled. That makes for a richer reading experience than simply having having our expectations set up and confirmed by GRRM.

#35 Woman of War

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 12:13 PM

By my little direwolf:

................readers don't warm to Sansa and Catelyn. They are feminine and they are filling their roles in society with no objections, no secret desire to be a warrior or hating embroidery.Tyrion and Arya are sympathetic in large part due to our modern views on how dwarves and girls should be treated. Girls should not have limitations on what they can be, people should not be discriminated against because of their height or how they look....

Am I understanding you properly, are you saying that Martin gives too much in to political correctness by liking Arya and Tyrion too much? That he has Invented these characters out of fear for being seen as politically incorrect, with all those Lords and Ladies, so he needed the "physically challenged" cripple in the story? In that case Martin could have done better: he could have made Tyrion the good guy without flaws who is always wronged against and never wavers in doing good deeds. Mission in political correctness not accomplished here! The guy is simply too much of a human being to be the alibi cripple for our bad conscience.
And Arya? Is it politically incorrect to invent a politcally correct character, while promoting the politically incorrect girl would be the new correct? Should Martin promote the female agency to live an allegedly feminine life within the frame of conventional expectations towards women?
Is the expectation to be wild and free like Arya seen as the new cage where women feel confined to? You can do whatever you want so go for it or you are a weak loser, a naive stupid girl who does not understand the world !!!.......???
I think the whole debate Arya at the expense of Sansa or Sansa at the expense of Arya reflects exactly this dead end where political feminism has arrived at the moment: are we afraid of our own courage? Feminity as right to passivity and passivity as big Nono in the race for success? Can it be the politically correct solution to demand the right of women to live their personal life confined or happy (as you like) within the social structure that has always been granted to women, the resposibility for their families' welfare? Is refusing to take part in the rat race the new freedom of women or should we call this: leaving the fate of the world to men, as always?
I am trying not to give my personal opinion in this little feuilletonistic political essay. what I am trying is to make you aware of the general weight of this conflict for us women. We are at a fork in the road for women here. This can be seen e.g. in my country by bringing topics like the nature of motherhood and childcare back on the political agenda.
Back to topic: Is it defending women's agency by defending Sansa's right to have conventional ideas and wishes , her dream of children and a nice husband, the dream of many of us? But many of us dream of so much more beyond that. And there the mental comfort zone ends.
Only Martin precisely tells us that Sansa's personal catastrophe was caused by her wish to stay within that mental comfort zone around her.
You see, Arya vs Sansa is a proxy debate about what we want from life and how far we might be willing to go for this, the feminist debate since Hildegard von Bingen. Feminity as new old freedom is a very Western luxury, see the Arabellion and what became of it. In many parts of the world feminity is what it is in Westeros: marital rape, lack of medical care, financial dependency. So feminine to weave the carpet your husband gets the money for.

Now, I actually like Cat and Sansa a lot. Cat especially, I sympathized with her from the beginning and I was surprised by the Cat Hate. Maybe it's because I'm of an age with her, I'm also a mother, and I'm not much of a spunky heroine who defies convention.

This is, as I wrote, the quality of the books: there is room for each of us and especially for women. I am am not young myself and I love my children, so I relate very much to Cat, but I have my own history (in defying convention) that might be different from yours. So Arya for me and Sansa for you?
No, I do not want Martin to write the politically correct answers. Actually though being an incurable liberal I somewhat dislike the unspoken agreement on political correctness and love dirty jokes, the really dirty ones /biggrin.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':D' />

Only I think we should not ask GRRM to unravel our proxy fight over characters for us, he should write his story. I do not need the author to be politically correct, I want complex fascinating male and female characters for the sake of the story!

By Lummel:

One thing this does is give us a more rounded character, not good or evil but capable of either.  The second and I feel more important probably from GRRM's POV is that allows him to take us on a mystery tour with the character.  We can't be sure where we will arrive.  We can be fooled and appalled.  That makes for a richer reading experience than simply having having our expectations set up and confirmed by GRRM

/agree.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':agree:' />

Edited by Woman of War, 12 December 2012 - 12:52 PM.


#36 Vuron

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 12:18 PM

I think that our likes and dislikes of characters have far less to do with the writing the author delivers but with ourselves. Whom we like or dislike as a fictional person tells a lot about us, how our personal experiences are mirrored in a character, what kind of friends we had as children, if a character's prejudices and fears are our prejudices and fears. Loving characters and identifying with them is therefore not a direct reflection of what the author intended us to feel but what we as readers make of what we get presented. Only this way it is possible that different readers can have so very diametrically opposed opinions about many characters. It is not because those who disagree apparently have not read the books properly and are unable to follow one's own sophisticated interpretation, it is due to the quality of the character descriptions that the spectrum of characters to identify with is so wide.
And with many characters like Tyrion, Arya, Dany or Jaime Martin takes pains to keep them in the balance between "good" and "evil", he carefully leads them on a path at the edge of the knife of morality, he constantly wants us to doubt our own judgements. Do not dare enjoying the ride, reader! Stay awake, don't fall asleep on your sofa, comfortably entertained, THINK!
So if I tell you that I like Cat and Tyrion because ........and like Sansa less because......... this is about me (as it would be about you) and not due to clever intrigue and manipulation by the author.


I have to agree with this. I believe that most of us relate each character to our personal experiences, likes, and dislikes. Our personalities also dictate which characters we will be sympathetic or unsympathetic towards. I've been through some of the personality tests and know that I'm very analytical and don't make decisions based on emotion. I know this is one of the reasons that Cat drives me crazy and the reason that I haven't like her from the beginning. I, simply, don't understand how people (real or fantasy) can make decision based on emotion when faced with facts. For this reason, I've never been able to relate to her as a character and it has nothing to do with her relationshipt to Jon.

Sansa, at the beginning, reminded me of Paris Hiton and I instantly hated her for it.

It's all just personal opinion based on life experience and prejudices.

#37 jons nissa

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 12:32 PM

However, what a reader takes from the text is not, by default, the same as what the author intended. So, a moment that is meant for character development is reframed around Catelyn when it is not supposed to be. We got the chance to get in Catelyn's head earlier in the story already, that was her moment to explain where she was at as a character. It's not that Catelyn is irrelevant in that scene, rather that she served a role in that scene - to help establish who Jon is for the reader. It's not meant to be taken as a way to illustrate or explain who Catelyn is.


while i agree that i think this moment was meant to establish jon further, it cannot help but establish cat as well. remember this moment comes after her firm insistence in her own pov regarding jon (The look Ned gave her was anguished. "You know I cannot take him south" ............ Catelyn armored her heart against the mute appeal in her husbands eyes.) this is not meant to endear us to catelyn stark. in the end, cat is who she is, not just a prop in that bedside scene.

and while we've argued the author's intent is different from product, i don't think they are always in isolation. for example, we may not be able to find grrm's literal words to support things such as sansa having a role in her father's "doom" in the books, yet grrm still seems to have conveyed this "knowledge" to his readers anyway and further supports that this was his intent in his comments that are collected on ssm.

eta:

How does this work, considering most people here generally like Margaery, who does an amazing job of playing the game while still remaining within the traditional female role?


if i'm going to be honest, i'm not sure the problem is that of the traditional femine role.

Edited by jons nissa, 12 December 2012 - 12:46 PM.


#38 David Selig

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 01:50 PM

I really don't see Catelyn as unsympathetic in AGOT. Sure, I am a major fan of her but even on my first read 10 years ago, when that wasn't the case and she wasn't one of my top favourites, I never had a problem with her.

Looking at the facts, all the losses she suffers are a pretty good reason to feel sympathy for her. She grasps a magically supersharp dagger with bare hands to save her child. She's shown to be a loving and supportive wife to Ned, an obviously sympathetic character. She's proactive and brave throughout the book. "It should've been you" and wrongly arresting Tyrion isn't enough to outweigh all this, if we are objective IMO.

#39 mcb

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 02:28 PM

The only beef most people, including me, have with Catelyn is her treatment of Jon Snow not just the infamous scene when Jon goes to visit Bran, but also later when Robb states that Jon would never harm a son of his, she replies no more than Ned thought Theon would never harm Bran or Rickon; that was uncalled for.


I actually never had that big a problem with her treatment of Jon. That "it should have been you" line was said when she was at her lowest, at her crippled son's bed, unsure if he'd ever wake up. Give the lady a break... And yes, she was prejudiced against Jon, but I wasn't under the impression that he suffered all that much.
Actually, all that Cat hate was one of a few quite new and surprising things I've discovered on this forum.


Finally, I am going to surmise that perhaps the inverse of Arya and Tyrion is set up with Sansa - and Jaime - in the first book. Jaime is an honest-to-God douchebag who pushed a kid out the window but by AFFC he's undergone tremendous character development and has become a reader favorite.


Let's rather say that he got promoted to a controversial character.

#40 Golden&Crimson

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 02:45 PM

The re-read threads for both Tyrion and Arya have pointed out many narrative tricks that Martin has used to cast the characters in a sympathetic light, starting with their introductions early in GOT. Arya is a modern character and is therefore easy for us to identify with. Her values and attitudes are similar to our own. I've often heard Tyrion described as the author's avatar and it's well known that he is Martin's favorite character.

In contrast, Catelyn and Sansa are portrayed negatively, with that approach seeming the strongest in GOT as well. Both characters are very much products of their world. Sansa has been raised as the eldest daughter of one of the most powerful Houses in Westeros and was being groomed for her future role of Lady Wife. She is portrayed as class-conscious and overly naive, sometimes to the point where it strains credulity. Her actions serve to set her apart from the rest of her family, at times leading to a permanent dispike by some fans. Catelyn is also very much a product of her world. She is a woman who thinks of her family's political needs and carries the negative beliefs regarding bastards. From the beginning, she is cast in oppositon to Jon, a character who is presented as "good" almost from the opening lines of the books. These two characters almost appear alien to us, especially when compared to Arya and Tyrion.


Completly agree with all your post and, specially, with this part.

But, to me, i always found Arya the least interesting character of them all, because i found her story so farfetched, too the point i find her chapters a cheap "ninja-assassin" novel type.

Tyrion, to me is diferent. Until the his murder of Shae and Tywin, i found his chapters one of the best in the books, after that i think the author is forcing a bit too much. Turns in a murder of a defenseless woman, kills his father, abuse slaves, isn´t killed on sight by Jon Connington, go to the other side of the world and is made a slave.

About Sansa and Catelyn: they were always two of my personal favorites, and also two of the best write and rational chapters.
I lamented more the death of Catelyn than Robb, because that means we never get another one of Catelyn pov.