PrincessSapphire

Duty vs Love: the bastard and the lord

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Hi, this is my first post, and I want to discuss duty and love, and the way they play into the story, especially Robb and Jon's character arcs. 

Ned raised his children, especially Robb, the next lord of Winterfell, to live with honour, and do their duty. However, he also taught them the importance of love, and protecting those you care about. But what happens when those two principles contradict each other, and the person has to choose, a situation which both Jon and Robb find themselves in. They make different decisions, but both end up with devastating consequences.

Let's start with Robb. He's a fierce fighter and strategic commander who has never lost a battle. However, to gain support, he agrees to marry a girl he's never met, a marriage to seal an alliance. But despite his military prowess, Robb is still a teenage boy, with teenage desires. So when he falls in love with someone else (Jeyne Westerling/Talisa Maegyr), and marries her, he is thinking with his heart, not his head. Unfortunately, Walder Frey, urged on by Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister, takes this as a serious affront, and lures Robb into a trap where he massacres the Young Wolf, his bannermen, and even his mother, ending Robb Stark's brief tenure as King in the North.

Jon has never known a woman before he leaves for the wall and takes a vow of celibacy, and I don't think he ever expected to at the time. I don't think he realized the entirety of what he had to do when the Halfhand told him to infiltrate the wildlings as a spy. He ends up falling in love with Ygritte, a wildling woman 'kissed by fire'. Through her, he gains the trust of Mance Rayder and the other wildlings. But when they plan to take the Watch by surprise and attack the Wall, Jon is torn between his vows, and the woman he's come to love. He chooses duty, and rides to warn the Wall of the coming danger. The Watch is ready for the wildlings when they arrive, and Ygritte is killed in the battle. If Jon hadn't warned the Wall, the wildlings would probably have prevailed, and Ygritte would still be alive, and that thought continuously haunts him. Maester Aemon tells Sam at one point that love is the death of duty. But in Jon's case, duty is also the death of love.

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Posted (edited)

That isn't accurate. Robb married Jeyne from a sense of duty because he took her virginity. He wasn't acting out of love, the show made that up. Robb faced a dilemma of conflicting duties and he picked the one which got him killed.

Edited by Canon Claude

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3 hours ago, PrincessSapphire said:

Hi, this is my first post, and I want to discuss duty and love, and the way they play into the story, especially Robb and Jon's character arcs. 

Ned raised his children, especially Robb, the next lord of Winterfell, to live with honour, and do their duty. However, he also taught them the importance of love, and protecting those you care about. But what happens when those two principles contradict each other, and the person has to choose, a situation which both Jon and Robb find themselves in. They make different decisions, but both end up with devastating consequences.

Let's start with Robb. He's a fierce fighter and strategic commander who has never lost a battle. However, to gain support, he agrees to marry a girl he's never met, a marriage to seal an alliance. But despite his military prowess, Robb is still a teenage boy, with teenage desires. So when he falls in love with someone else (Jeyne Westerling/Talisa Maegyr), and marries her, he is thinking with his heart, not his head. Unfortunately, Walder Frey, urged on by Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister, takes this as a serious affront, and lures Robb into a trap where he massacres the Young Wolf, his bannermen, and even his mother, ending Robb Stark's brief tenure as King in the North.

Jon has never known a woman before he leaves for the wall and takes a vow of celibacy, and I don't think he ever expected to at the time. I don't think he realized the entirety of what he had to do when the Halfhand told him to infiltrate the wildlings as a spy. He ends up falling in love with Ygritte, a wildling woman 'kissed by fire'. Through her, he gains the trust of Mance Rayder and the other wildlings. But when they plan to take the Watch by surprise and attack the Wall, Jon is torn between his vows, and the woman he's come to love. He chooses duty, and rides to warn the Wall of the coming danger. The Watch is ready for the wildlings when they arrive, and Ygritte is killed in the battle. If Jon hadn't warned the Wall, the wildlings would probably have prevailed, and Ygritte would still be alive, and that thought continuously haunts him. Maester Aemon tells Sam at one point that love is the death of duty. But in Jon's case, duty is also the death of love.

In Jon's case, I guess he did not love Ygritte enough. If he loves Ygritre as much as his dad loves his mother, he will choose to abandon his vow and run away with his lover. Duty is not the death of the love. Duty is just the death of inadequate love. 

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4 hours ago, PrincessSapphire said:

Hi, this is my first post, and I want to discuss duty and love, and the way they play into the story, especially Robb and Jon's character arcs. 

Ned raised his children, especially Robb, the next lord of Winterfell, to live with honour, and do their duty. However, he also taught them the importance of love, and protecting those you care about. But what happens when those two principles contradict each other, and the person has to choose, a situation which both Jon and Robb find themselves in. They make different decisions, but both end up with devastating consequences.

Let's start with Robb. He's a fierce fighter and strategic commander who has never lost a battle. However, to gain support, he agrees to marry a girl he's never met, a marriage to seal an alliance. But despite his military prowess, Robb is still a teenage boy, with teenage desires. So when he falls in love with someone else (Jeyne Westerling/Talisa Maegyr), and marries her, he is thinking with his heart, not his head. Unfortunately, Walder Frey, urged on by Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister, takes this as a serious affront, and lures Robb into a trap where he massacres the Young Wolf, his bannermen, and even his mother, ending Robb Stark's brief tenure as King in the North.

Jon has never known a woman before he leaves for the wall and takes a vow of celibacy, and I don't think he ever expected to at the time. I don't think he realized the entirety of what he had to do when the Halfhand told him to infiltrate the wildlings as a spy. He ends up falling in love with Ygritte, a wildling woman 'kissed by fire'. Through her, he gains the trust of Mance Rayder and the other wildlings. But when they plan to take the Watch by surprise and attack the Wall, Jon is torn between his vows, and the woman he's come to love. He chooses duty, and rides to warn the Wall of the coming danger. The Watch is ready for the wildlings when they arrive, and Ygritte is killed in the battle. If Jon hadn't warned the Wall, the wildlings would probably have prevailed, and Ygritte would still be alive, and that thought continuously haunts him. Maester Aemon tells Sam at one point that love is the death of duty. But in Jon's case, duty is also the death of love.

Robb married Jeyne because he preferred to do that rather than take a chance on someone he has never met before.  That, despite what he says to Catelyn, is the reason.  Robb chose with his heart and he tried to excuse it by hiding behind "honor" when what he did was the very opposite of honor.  Robb was not behaving honorably, he was behaving selfishly.  There is nothing honorable in what Robb did.  

The problem that many of us have with Jon is not how he handled the situation with Ygritte.  It's how he handled the situation with Arya, Mance, and Ramsay.  There was no honor in the way Jon handled that situation.  

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10 minutes ago, Widowmaker 811 said:

Robb married Jeyne because he preferred to do that rather than take a chance on someone he has never met before.  That, despite what he says to Catelyn, is the reason.  Robb chose with his heart and he tried to excuse it by hiding behind "honor" when what he did was the very opposite of honor.  Robb was not behaving honorably, he was behaving selfishly.  There is nothing honorable in what Robb did.  

And your evidence for this is what, exactly?  I see no reason to doubt Robb's account of what happened.  It's not as if it makes him look all that good.  It's still an incredibly foolish thing to do.  As for marrying a known quantity, he didn't really know Jeyne either.  In fact, it is likely that he would know more about a prospective Frey bride than he knew about Jeyne when he married her.

 

13 minutes ago, Widowmaker 811 said:

The problem that many of us have with Jon is not how he handled the situation with Ygritte.  It's how he handled the situation with Arya, Mance, and Ramsay.  There was no honor in the way Jon handled that situation.  

It is certainly true that Jon is criticized more for FArya than for Ygritte, although I believe that that is unfair.  Jon sent Mance to rescue a girl fleeing in the wilderness.  Mance went to Winterfell on his own initiative, and possibly for his own (or Mel's) purposes  The thoughts in Jon's POV clearly indicate that as long as she was in Bolton control, there was nothing he could do for her, and he was clearly troubled by the actions he did take when he thought she had escaped.  Jon did not deliberately bring about a conflict with Ramsay.  That is due to Mance going to Winterfell.  Once the battle was joined, though, Jon had no choice but to respond.  While his actions, were, like Robb's, foolish and unwise, I do not regard them as being dishonorable.

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Posted (edited)

I don't think the "love" side of the "duty vs. love" dichotomy in the story should be considered to be exclusive to romantic love of a high order - like fairy tale "true love." I think it includes a broad range of kinds of desire for physical touch, sexual gratification, companionship, compassion, familial devotion, caring for others, and social relationships.

Like when Brienne has to choose between being hanged herself and watching Podrick Payne be hanged, or betray Jaime Lannister and bring him to her for judgment, there are a lot of choices going on between duty and love, but none of them are on that romantic level where the physical and the personal and the spiritual all transcend in a uniform way at the same time.

Just like how Jaime complains that as a kingsguard knight he had to swear a whole bunch of contradictory oaths in the scope of duty that left him without a way to keep all of them, love can be similar in its many dimensions that also sometimes contradict.

By contemporary standards, Jon probably didn't really "love" Ygritte. He cared for her, he cared what happened to her, he was attracted to her, he had sex with her, he was sad when she died - but did he "fall in love" with her in a courtly Sir Lancelot sort of way, or a grand romance sort of way? I don't think it was that straightforward or that complete.

Same with Robb - I think it's fair to speculate that, as a young man, he probably had a range of desires and feelings for Jeyne Westerling, but absent some private time with him to really hash them out, I think we can bucket them all under the "love" side of "love vs. duty" without really saying he was "in love" with her or that was the only reason he did what he did. Just having sex with her puts an aspect of this in the category of "love" without further proof or elaboration. It's a vulnerability and a human need to have that kind of desire - what "the gods have fashioned us for" - and it's not something that certain kinds of duty allow for.

But yeah, I totally agree that it's a big part of the point that the choice goes both ways - that various forms of love and their undeniable importance and power can absolutely torpedo your attempts to keep difficult or complex promises or obligations, and that keeping these complex promises or obligations, which are also undeniably important (as much as we may like to wish that they were not, Bowen Marsh has shown us the truth), makes various sorts of love in various situations impossible.

Edited by GyantSpyder

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I think one case for Ned Stark in all this is that while Ned loved his kids and strove to teach them both how to be dutiful and honorable and how to love each other, Ned's young adulthood was such a flaming unmitigated disaster that he had no idea how to teach them to grow up.

None of them are prepared for the feelings they get in adolescence or what to do with them - Ned saw them as all children who would someday be grownups, but he seemed to have been putting off that day indefinitely, like a lot of parents do, because he didn't know what to say about it.

He's just so hurt over Lyanna - and Brandon, and his dad, and everything else that went so terribly wrong - that he never sits down with Robb or with Jon and talks about girls and women and how to deal with desires and impulses.

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5 hours ago, Nevets said:

And your evidence for this is what, exactly?  I see no reason to doubt Robb's account of what happened.  It's not as if it makes him look all that good.  It's still an incredibly foolish thing to do.  As for marrying a known quantity, he didn't really know Jeyne either.  In fact, it is likely that he would know more about a prospective Frey bride than he knew about Jeyne when he married her.

 

It is certainly true that Jon is criticized more for FArya than for Ygritte, although I believe that that is unfair.  Jon sent Mance to rescue a girl fleeing in the wilderness.  Mance went to Winterfell on his own initiative, and possibly for his own (or Mel's) purposes  The thoughts in Jon's POV clearly indicate that as long as she was in Bolton control, there was nothing he could do for her, and he was clearly troubled by the actions he did take when he thought she had escaped.  Jon did not deliberately bring about a conflict with Ramsay.  That is due to Mance going to Winterfell.  Once the battle was joined, though, Jon had no choice but to respond.  While his actions, were, like Robb's, foolish and unwise, I do not regard them as being dishonorable.

Exactly jon was sending him to find a dying girl on a horse. Not go to winterfell and kidnap (or rescue depending on your view). I think jon did love ygritte but it was more because she was the only women he had been with and had no idea how to handle it

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13 hours ago, Canon Claude said:

That isn't accurate. Robb married Jeyne from a sense of duty because he took her virginity. He wasn't acting out of love, the show made that up. Robb faced a dilemma of conflicting duties and he picked the one which got him killed.

I second this. They probably did have a love of sorts between them, of course. He dupes his mom real well (one of my favorite dialogues in the series) when he sees her for the first time after she freed Jaime. He basically empathizes with her feelings of love for her children so that she can't criticize him for doing the same regarding Jeyne:

Quote

“A mother’s folly?” Lord Karstark rounded on Lord Umber. “I name it treason.”

Enough.” For just an instant Robb sounded more like Brandon than his father. “No man calls my lady of Winterfell a traitor in my hearing, Lord Rickard.” When he turned to Catelyn, his voice softened. “If I could wish the Kingslayer back in chains I would. You freed him without my knowledge or consent . . . but what you did, I know you did for love. For Arya and Sansa, and out of grief for Bran and Rickon. Love’s not always wise, I’ve learned. It can lead us to great folly, but we follow our hearts . . . wherever they take us. Don’t we, Mother?

Is that what I did? “If my heart led me into folly, I would gladly make whatever amends I can to Lord Karstark and yourself.”

Lord Rickard’s face was implacable. “Will your amends warm Torrhen and Eddard in the cold graves where the Kingslayer laid them?”

Martin, George R.R.. A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three (p. 192). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

skip a couple of lines and:

Quote

Robb made no move to detain him. “Forgive him, Mother.”

“If you will forgive me.”

“I have. I know what it is to love so greatly you can think of nothing else.”

Catelyn bowed her head. “Thank you.” I have not lost this child, at least. “We must talk,” Robb went on. “You and my uncles. Of this and . . . other things. Steward, call an end.”

Martin, George R.R.. A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three (p. 192). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Whether it was puppy love, true love, or, to speak crassly, him thinking with the wrong head we'll likely never know.

 

As far as the point where he was acting out of duty (and honor), I thought Race for the Iron Throne's chapter summary (my new addiction) for Catelyn II summed this topic up quite nicely:

Quote

And a big part of the reason for this parallel, as I have said elsewhere is that Robb’s decision to marry Jeyne after he’d slept with her is very much driven by the fact that he is the oldest son of both Ned Stark and Catelyn Tully. This is sometimes a controversial (and misunderstood) point: when I say that Robb was thinking of his father when he married Jeyne, I don’t mean that it’s what Ned would have done (because in marrying Catelyn despite all other attachments and in supposedly fathering Jon Snow, he clearly did the opposite) but rather it’s what Ned ought to have done. Remember, Robb had grown up believing that the worst thing his father ever did, the one time he ever besmirched his honor, is that he sired a bastard. And even if Ned Stark’s example wasn’t enough, you can be absolutely sure that Catelyn had educated Robb, both explicitly and implicitly (given the way that she insisted on her children maintaining the social distance between themselves and Jon Snow) that siring a bastard was a Bad Thing. (I wonder if Robb ever heard the stories about Ashara Dayne?)

I think that this is a very powerful point.

Edited by Traverys

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10 hours ago, Nevets said:

And your evidence for this is what, exactly?  I see no reason to doubt Robb's account of what happened.  It's not as if it makes him look all that good.  It's still an incredibly foolish thing to do.  As for marrying a known quantity, he didn't really know Jeyne either.  In fact, it is likely that he would know more about a prospective Frey bride than he knew about Jeyne when he married her.

Robb's account is that he married out of love. 

Quote

"If I could wish the Kingslayer back in chains I would. You freed him without my knowledge or consent . . . but what you did, I know you did for love. For Arya and Sansa, and out of grief for Bran and Rickon. Love's not always wise, I've learned. It can lead us to great folly, but we follow our hearts . . . wherever they take us. Don't we, Mother?"

In fact he even admits that marrying her actually brought tragedy to her family. 

Quote

 

"Your wife is lovely," Catelyn said when they were out of earshot, "and the Westerlings seem worthy . . . though Lord Gawen is Tywin Lannister's sworn man, is he not?"
"Yes. Jason Mallister captured him in the Whispering Wood and has been holding him at Seagard for ransom. Of course I'll free him now, though he may not wish to join me. We wed without his consent, I fear, and this marriage puts him in dire peril. The Crag is not strong. For love of me, Jeyne may lose all."

 

Robb married out of lust/love. At a period were he was told that Winterfell had fallen and that Joffrey has pretty much won he likely stopped caring about the agreement he made to marry some Frey woman he had never met. Cat's disgust with the Frey's to begin with probably made this an option that Robb never truly wanted to have in the first place. 

He was a teenager, he fucked up. It happens. But he married Jeyne because of what he felt for her. Marrying her actually brought dishonor to her family in the Westerlands. 

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Ned raised his children, especially Robb, the next lord of Winterfell, to live with honour, and do their duty. However, he also taught them the importance of love,

Did he? I have serious doubts about that, if you mean romantic love. They were supposed to have arranged marriages for political gain, and love developing in such marriages isn't that common. He was well aware that his own marriage was quite unusual for his social class.

Quote

And even if Ned Stark’s example wasn’t enough, you can be absolutely sure that Catelyn had educated Robb, both explicitly and implicitly (given the way that she insisted on her children maintaining the social distance between themselves and Jon Snow) that siring a bastard was a Bad Thing.

I really doubt that. Catelyn, like most nobles in Westeros, don't care much about male nobles siring bastards in itself, it's very common and seen as no big deal. What is seen is a big deal and something very much against the custom, is raising the bastard son at your castle while you are married and treating him almost the same as your trueborn children. This is what made her angry. She would have told Robb if he had asked her what to do after he slept with Jeyne and before he married him "Have 5 kids from Jeyne, I couldn't care less, and neither will Walder Frey, as long as you don't marry her".

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16 hours ago, purple-eyes said:

In Jon's case, I guess he did not love Ygritte enough. If he loves Ygritre as much as his dad loves his mother, he will choose to abandon his vow and run away with his lover. Duty is not the death of the love. Duty is just the death of inadequate love. 

Well, you know, he not only abandoned his duties for Arya but also broke his vows.  While he didn't love Ygritte enough to do that he loved Arya enough to do the unthinkable and betrayed the realm for her.  That is not only the death of duty but the death of ethics. 

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