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The motif of blindness - assessment and implications (long)


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#1 Cressen's Fury

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Posted 18 August 2013 - 07:50 AM

The idea of blindness features heavily throughout ASOIAF, with both figurative (meaning ignorant) and literal occurrences. It is my goal to try and find some meaning in the usage of blindness. It still needs some work and is rather disorganised.

Several characters are described, or describe themselves, as blind in some form. For example, Jaime is described by Cersei as "blind as Robert", by Tyrion as a "poor, stupid, blind, crippled fool". Physically, he is blinded in a joust with Sandor when his helm is dented, he rides a half-blind horse when he journeys with Brienne, and suffers blinding pain both when he is loses his fight with Brienne and when he loses his hand. Other (living) characters described as blind are Cersei, Victarion, Brienne, Thoros, Edmure, Bran and Arya.

On the other hand, Doran describes himself as "not blind, nor death" to his sand snakes. Similarly, other characters to promote themselves as not blind are Sam, Val, old Walder, Stannis, while Gilly, Mance, Daario and Merris are described as not blind.

One critical interpretation is that blindness equals death. Several dead bodies and carcasses are found and described as blind e.g. the mother direwolf, Desmond, the garrons on the Fist. Conversely, several characters who were described as blind in some sense, for example Robert, Ned, Renly, Joffrey, Balon. It would seem that being described as blind can be foreshadowing of death for some characters. For example Cersei seems set to die (she is on Arya's list) and is increasingly described as blind. For example, as she takes her walk of shame she convinces herself "I am blind and deaf". She also asks "how could I have been so blind for so long?" Conversely, none of the characters to be described as not blind have died yet.

Another interesting relationship is between blindness and faith. Arya becoming blind is part of her training, and brings her closer to the Many-Faced God. Bran must shut his "blind two" eyes, and open his third eye. Cersei declares that "the gods are blind" and Asha describes her Drowned God as blind. It appears that blindness can also lead to faith.

There also may be a relationship between 'dark blind' and 'light blind'. Several characters are blinded by lightning (Jon), rays of sunlight (Sansa, Bran, Sam, Danaerys, Jon), or the reflection from snow (Sansa). Conversely, other characters are blinded by the depths/ darkness (Arya, Victarion, Davos, Tyrion). Some are also blinded by pain (Jaime, Brienne, Arya) alcohol (Grenn, Jon) or some kind of water (e.g. tears, rain): Sansa, Tyrion, Sam, Arya, Brienne).

Some characters are able to blind others in some fashion e.g. physically, by using light: Jaime, Margaery, Loras, Stannis, Danaerys, Arya, Sandor, Davos, the Weeper. Also, there is an interesting mention of blind white fish in a black river in Bran's POV. I haven't found any kind of pattern in this, but it is interesting.

Interesting characters include the likes of Danaerys, who describes herself initially as "neither deaf nor blind" and not "blind to such things" as a lady would be. She then tries to avoid being blind, she "does not mean to strike out blind again" from Vaes Tolorro. In Mereen she says "she was so blind". Davos used to serve the "Blind Bastard" who was neither blind nor a bastard. He is blinded by mud as he swims under the chain, and thinks he is "god-blind" whilst in a cell with Manderly. Yet he doesn't seem to be so clear cut.

Tyrion is also interesting. He says "I am short, not blind" to Jon at the wall. His more recent POV's seem to be littered with references to blindness, though.

Interestingly, almost every house or entity seems to have a blind charge:

Stark - Arya (temporarily)
Tully- Norbert Vance
Baratheon - a blind soldier in Melissandre's care
Greyjoy - Beron Blacktyde
Arryn - Marillion (briefly)
Martell - Seneschal Ricasso
Tyrell - Ben Beesbury
Targaryen - Drogo (blind before he died. Alternately Aemon)

Night's Watch-Aemon
Faceless Men- a young acolyte
Brotherhood - Wyl (presumably)
Littlefinger has a dog on the fingers
Qarth - Sybassion
Wildlings - Doss

Given this it seems strange that the Lannisters are short a blind member. Could this become Tyrion?

Edit: Removed some off topic stuff.

Edited by Cressen's Fury, 23 August 2013 - 01:29 AM.


#2 Londo

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 03:56 AM

This makes no sense
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#3 Rose of Ice

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 09:21 AM

It does make sense. Straight up, the OP says his/her premise is disorganised and needs some work. If you need a TLDR it is in the 4th paragraph: "It would seem that being described as blind can be foreshadowing of death for some characters. " I think it's an interesting idea that's worth discussion.

#4 evita mgfs

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 12:55 PM

/bowdown.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':bowdown:' /> /bowdown.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':bowdown:' /> Great topic for discussion. I need to find my notes on "blindness" - it is a motif I followed during AGoT reread. I will return once I organize a readable post!

#5 evita mgfs

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 03:23 PM

ONGOING SYMBOLOGY AND MOTIFS:

BLINDNESS VERSUS CLEAR VISION


An ongoing motif in AGoT is “blindness” which Martin establishes symbolically, figuratively, or literally through his characterizations and through his use of literary elements. As an example specific to Eddard’s seventh POV, Martin establishes that Ned sits the Iron Throne which is high above those who gather in the throne room, and this places Ned at a vantage point that permits him to look down upon the people. However, despite Ned’s perspective, he is handicapped by his inability to see clearly the truths that he seeks, which Martin symbolizes through the “narrow” windows set even higher than Ned’s seat.

Before presenting more evidence of how Martin employs Ned as a truth seeker more often than not thwarted by his misguided vision of the players and events, Martin hints at how Ned is as guilty as others who conceal information or who lie by omission as they attempt to control what Ned “needs” to know. Consider this for irony: Ned sends the bastard Jon Snow to the Wall without enlightening him as to the identity of his mother and the nature of his birth. Moreover, Ned conceals facts from his wife Catelyn and his own true-born heirs. Ned’s silence over the fifteen years since the Tower of Joy and the “promises” Ned makes to Lyanna are proof of Ned’s allegiance to his personal code of honor which demands that Ned keep secret any knowledge that may exonerate him from betraying his marriage bed. No matter how noble Ned’s vow of silence may be, Ned dies before revealing “all” to those most needing explanations. And since Martin depicts Ned as having a narrow window through which he filters the truth, readers speculate on whether Ned’s motives are selfless and designed to protect certain parties from real or imagined dangers, or whether Ned’s silence is the result of his own misinterpretation of what he believes to be true. That is, Ned may suffer with his secrets to prevent any harm that may befall Jon Snow or Catelyn by being apprised of the truth. If Jon and Cat “know nothing” they can hardly incriminate themselves.

Martin may situate Ned high above the gathering, but even from this vantage point, Ned does not see the truth any more clearly. He must needs rely on witness testimony from the petitioners who seek justice from the crown.

Martin establishes many evidences in this POV alone to suggest how misinformation can be part of what Ned must process in order to pass judgment on others for their crimes. First, consider that Ned receives three different responses from three different people who are asked the same question: “How many men were there?” (466). Ned anticipates a numerical equivalent so that he can respond with like numbers in his passing judgment. Ironically, the alehouse owner Joss, a smith, and the grandmother each respond with conflicting tallies: "How many men were there in this raiding party?" Ned asked.
"A hundred, at the least," Joss answered, in the same instant as the bandaged smith said, "Fifty," and the grandmother behind him, "Hunnerds and hunnerds, m'lord, an army they was."

In reply, Ned acknowledges the grandmother, "You are more right than you know, goodwoman," Lord Eddard told her” (466). Ned leans more toward the higher count since he assumes that Lord Tywin has men to spare in his camp if he orders such a group to stir up trouble as a mere distraction in the hopes of thinning out the Tully defenders:

“And that may be precisely what Lord Tywin wants, Ned thought to himself, to bleed off strength from Riverrun, goad the boy [Edmure] into scattering his swords. His wife's brother was young, and more gallant than wise. He would try to hold every inch of his soil, to defend every man, woman, and child who named him lord, and Tywin Lannister was shrewd enough to know that”.

Ned interrogates the witnesses further, "You say they flew no banners. What of the armor they wore? Did any of you note ornaments or decorations, devices on shield or helm?" Now, Ned’s questions are as superfluous as the high narrow windows in the throne room of the Red Keep because Ned seems well aware of Lord Tywin’s mastery in executing warfare. Tywin does not rely on the cover of darkness alone to disguise his brigands. They all wear unmarked arms and align themselves with no sigil that might incriminate Lannister. However, Tywin cannot successfully disguise the enormity of his “mad dog” the Mountain that Rides, who Joss describes as “. . . the one who led them, he was armored like the rest, but there was no mistaking him all the same. It was the size of him, m'lord. Those as say the giants are all dead never saw this one, I swear. Big as an ox he was, and a voice like stone breaking."

Others offer testimony confirming Gregor Clegane as the leader of the criminals, and Ned chooses to champion the majority despite Maester Pycelle cautioning the Hand against a rush to judgment, pointing out while maintaining a straight face: “ . . . you cannot know that this outlaw was Ser Gregor. There are many large men in the realm."

Ned reacts to the testimony of the petitioners, determined to send his own command to execute the King’s justice; however, Ned’s motives may be colored by his own personal distrust of all things Lannister, which enables him to believe the worst. Therefore, Martin shows how honest testimonies disclose different perspectives of the tragic events and that “head counts” in a night that’s dark and full of terrors may not agree in number.


Regardless, Ned seeks “the truth”, but Martin demonstrates how Ned is “blind” to reason and to his own unconscious motivations. Ned disguises his resentment, pain, and fury from the attendants in the throne room. Ned’s pride forbids him from displaying physical weakness: “Every eye in the hall was fixed on him, waiting. Slowly Ned struggled to his feet, pushing himself up from the throne with the strength of his arms, his shattered leg screaming inside its cast. He did his best to ignore the pain; it was no moment to let them see his weakness”.

Aside from hiding his resentment toward King Robert for avoiding his duties as a ruler, Ned shows that at least he takes his job as Hand seriously. Despite the pain hammering in his leg, Ned does not compromise the trust the frightened and abused petitioners place in the honor-bound Lord Stark. Ned also does his best to excuse King Robert’s absence by assuring the listeners that "Robert bid me to sit here in his place, to listen with his ears, and to speak with his voice. I mean to do just that . . . though I agree that he must be told." Consequently, Ned honors Robert with the courtesy of apprising him of what has transpired in the throne room by sending Ser Robar to deliver the details in a message. Ned does not keep Robert in “darkness” as to the decisions Ned makes to restore the peace and to deliver the king’s justice to those deserving punishment for their crimes against humanity.

Ned also conceals his pain from those in attendance, although the readers are aware of how dearly Lord Stark suffers in silence. However, Ned does treat Ser Loras Tyrell unkindly which may be the result of Ned suppressing his pain. Despite Ned’s best efforts, his response seems testy and unappreciative of Ser Loras volunteering for the task of bringing Clegane and his band to justice: “I beg you the honor of acting in your place” (469) says the handsome Knight of Flowers. Notice that Ser Loras beseeches Ned by making “honor” a part of his plea, a trait that many know is one that Ned holds dear. However, Ned appears to be “blind” to the sincere intentions of the knight who actually volunteers for the command, which is far more than any other knight or lord does for the Hand. Then, Ned “passes over” his only worthy “volunteer” to appoint others who draw no attention to themselves.

Mystifying is Ned not including the Knight of Flowers in the company, even though Ned may have been “turned off” by the youth’s boldness and haughtiness. Regardless, Ned ignores Tyrell, who receives an insult from Littlefinger instead of a “thank you” from the Hand: "Ser Loras, if we send you off alone, Ser Gregor will send us back your head with a plum stuffed in that pretty mouth of yours. The Mountain is not the sort to bend his neck to any man's justice."

Ned avoids acknowledging Tyrell, which forces the youth to ask, “What about me?” Even then, Ned contrives a lame excuse for excluding the knight, accusing him of wanting “vengeance” and not “justice”. Now, where exactly does Martin demonstrate through words or actions that Loras Tyrell is seeking vengeance? This is where Ned’s decision-making lacks clarity, and this is where the “pain” Ned conceals may make him a bit surly and may be a good reason for Ned dismissing Tyrell with a smack of rudeness. Or maybe Ned sees Ser Loras as too young and not yet “ripe” enough to confront the Mountain because Ned does think of his own son Robb and Ser Loras as being near to one another in age and appearance. So, Ned’s paternal instincts may want to protect Ser Loras by keeping him well away from delivering of justice.

Ned conceals his fury over the Lannister brigands, and he is careful not to show a vengeful spirit in making his decree denouncing the Mountain and his men. Which begs another point: Is it Ned who seeks vengeance and not justice? Does Ned project what he feels onto Ser Loras?


WHY, NED?


Ned’s seventh POV shows that he is as guilty of ignoring wise counsel as King Robert was earlier.

Ned allows his distrust of all things Lannister to rule the decisions he makes, and he disguises his own propensity for vengeance under the power he has to speak with the King’s voice.

Ned determines Lannister involvement in the raids after he listens to the witness testimony. Then, Ned denounces Ser Gregor Clegane and his party without taking the matter under advisement of his council. Furthermore, Ned ignores Grand Maester Pycelle’s wisdom to postpone his judgment until the King returns, especially since the offenders’ crimes are linked to the House Lannister, which is further complicated because the Queen herself is a Lannister by blood.

As this conflict or interest arises, Ned seems even more determined to assert his authority. He is blind to how deeply rooted his own animosity is when he condemns the brigands, even though others in the audience are aware that his wife Catelyn has kidnapped the Imp and that Ned’s closest retainers were murdered under the command of the Kingslayer.

Ned rationalizes that a decision must be made in a timely manner and that it cannot be delayed until the King’s return, which may not be anytime soon. Ned’s “rush to judgment” may be because he suspects that Robert’s idea of punishing a Lannister brigade may be more forgiving.

Martin artfully employs language that foreshadows Ned’s death. After Ned stands to announce his decree of death to Gregor Clegane and “all those who share his crimes” (470). In the next sentence, Martin says “the echo of his [Ned’s] words had died away” (470). Martin selects an apt verb in “died”: like Ned’s words, he will soon die with a blade that severs his head from his body, thereby “silencing” Ned “literally”. Next, Martin has Varys reveal to Ned that he has made a “grave error” by not sending the executioner to oversee the “king’s justice”. Varys speaks with unconscious irony for even he cannot foretell how future events will play out, with Ser Ilyn Payne “literally” swinging the blade that lays low the honorable Ned Stark.

#6 Mirijam

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 03:10 PM

evita, OMG just what kind of notes do you take as you read?!

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#7 evita mgfs

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 10:05 PM

evita, OMG just what kind of notes do you take as you read?!

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

I take too many notes! I am crazy for the novels! But thanks for all the emoticoms! You brightened my night reading and posting!

BLINDNESS in CHAPTER 36 , EDDARD POV / AGoT


“The rain was falling harder now, stinging his [Ned’s] eyes . . .” (381).

  • Ned's vision is compromised by the rain.
  • He is symbolically blind to the danger that awaits him and his men.

Ned rides through a “starless night” (379).
  • The black sky disguises the evil about to come.

After Littlefinger tells Ned about the murder of Robert’s bastard twins in Casterly Rock ordered by his own wife Cersei, all because of an affront to Lannister pride, “Ned Stark grimaced.” Littlefinger adds that Cersei had the mother sold to a passing slaver. “Ugly tales like that were told of every great lord in the realm” (381).
  • Ned excuses Littlefinger’s tale as unsubstantiated malicious gossip whispered about many great lords of the realm. Therefore, Ned is “symbolically” blind at this point. He resists acknowledging the truth about his friend.

“He could believe it of Cersei Lannister readily enough . . . but would the King stand by and let it happen? The Robert he had known would not have but the Robert he had known had never been so practiced at shutting his eyes to things he did not wish to see” (381).
  • Ned is reasoning through what Littlefinger has said, and I am happy that he has come to realize that Robert is “practiced at shutting his eyes to things he did not wish to see”. We are able to see the scope of the story in such a way that we know more than Ned; through this dramatic irony, Martin builds suspense and tension.
  • Ned “may be” moving toward visual clarity as he acknowledges that it is King Robert who is shutting his eyes – or it is King Robert who is literally and symbolically blind. I also proved in an earlier Ned POV that the King does not LISTEN very well, especially to his supposedly best friend Ned.

Ned feels a moment of “blinding pain(384).
  • After the horse falls on Ned’s leg, Ned cries out upon feeling the “blinding pain”, which is a pain so great that it blurs the vision of the sufferer.

Ned lost consciousness more than once” (384).
  • Ned keeps blacking out, then regaining consciousness. Since the Maester will be giving Ned “milk of the poppy” to help Ned get a restful sleep, Ned will still suffer through bad dreams in the darkness


#8 Cressen's Fury

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Posted 25 August 2013 - 12:28 AM

That is rather impressive. The thing I found interesting Ned and his blindness is that it seems to be particularly symbolic of how his ignorance leads to his death. I am still not sure if or how this might extrapolate to the other characters.