Angel Eyes

In GRRM's world, what is the value of being a good man?

46 posts in this topic

Well, it seems being a good man carries a fatal price. So does love. 

So why do we try to be good men if it earns us six feet under? Why do we love if it hurts everyone around us?

It's a problem I have with the series, since it seems to discredit the value of decency and love. 

Thoughts?

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Being a bad man also carries a fatal price.

Valar morghulis.

The point of being a good man in GRRM's world is being a good man, just as it is in the real world. If you're only being decent because you expect to be rewarded for it, you're not all that decent in the first place.

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2 minutes ago, falcotron said:

Being a bad man also carries a fatal price.

Valar morghulis.

The point of being a good man in GRRM's world is being a good man, just as it is in the real world. If you're only being decent because you expect to be rewarded for it, you're not all that decent in the first place.

Is it a reward to not die?

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How many good men are there in the series? Good men die just as quickly as grey men and bad men. Might as well pick how you go out. If you couldn't live as a bad man, why would you try?

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The value of being a good man is people may think of you more favorably after your death.

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23 minutes ago, Angel Eyes said:

Is it a reward to not die?

It's a reward nobody ever gets, so it's not relevant. If the only reason you're a decent man is that you think you'll live forever because of it, then you're not only not all that decent, but also not all that smart.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure where you're finding this unfairness to complain about in the first place. Did, say, Vargo Hoat live a longer life than Ned Stark? Or die more pleasantly? Did he have more to look back on proudly to temper the sting of death?

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All men must die. Except maybe Bran, and he's a pretty good kid.

Also, if we count Ned as a good character, he did very well for himself, as long as he was in the North, where his experiences served him best.

As for a good character that has been rewarded for being good, how about Davos?  That man has some seriously good fortune, when you consider where he's come from, and how many chances he's taken.  Not to discount the fact that he lost several sons, a fate worse than death in the eyes of most, but he cheats death himself repeatedly, without wavering from his own moral compass.  This is a guy that was born about as poor as possible, and has wound up a major lord.  Honestly, assuming the whole concept of Westeros stays recognizable, I could honestly see several scenarios in which Davos is Lord Paramount of the Stormlands (I doubt it will happen, of course).

Edited by DominusNovus

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The series can be a bit grim at times but it isn't over yet, I believe there will be a more emotionally uplifting finish to the series.

As for rewards for Ned? How about the fact that even after he is gone his people love him and are plotting to put one of his remaining heirs back in charge? 

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It’s easier to be good if you live in a world where your safety and the safety of your loved ones is reasonably assured and most people have adequate shelter, food and clothing. I think it’s something people in the first world take for granted. We like to think that we’re more evolved than our ancestors, but maybe that’s only because life is easier for some of us and our choices aren’t as difficult as their choices were. Would you steal from a starving child if it was to feed your own starving child? Most of us aren't faced with that choice fortunately.

I see a lot of scenarios in the series where doing the right thing and doing the smart thing which gives you better odds of survival and are often in conflict. But there are solutions in that sometimes you can get creative and find a solution which is both moral and smart survival-wise, but it’s tough and a lot of times it won’t work out that way. It’s an aspect of the heart in conflict with itself.

The moral choice vs better odds of survival choice is a bit harder to relate to since this is a medieval-based world, but I think the Walking Dead does a great job in framing the conflict in a way that’s easier to relate to in real-life.

 

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I think George was subtly trying to show the value of Ned's honour in the somewhat weird reaction of the Northern Mountain Clansmen to "rescuing Ned's girl" from the Boltons. I say somewhat weird, because Ned does not appear to have been particularly close to the Mountain Clans compared to his other lords, and none of the other Northern lords seem to have any issues with "Ned's girl" being captured by Ramsay.

Still, Martin clearly tried to show this sense of personal loyalty to Ned and his offspring among the Mountain Clans, which is on a different level to the type of loyalty shown to say Tywin Lannister by his bannermen. I just find it a bit out of place, given that George has not bothered to consistently portray that amongst the even the likes of the Umbers, Mormonts and Manderlys. These might be loyal Stark vassals, but their loyalty is clearly to House Stark, as opposed to towards Ned in particular as a result of his personal honourable behaviour.

The Mountain Clans make a clear distinction that they are doing it for Ned, rather than for House Stark. The Manderlys do it due to their age old debt to the Starks, for example not because of any particular admiration for Ned. One would think that Ned would have been a hero in the North, being the Stark lord that effectively overthrew the Targaryens after 300 years, defeating enemies in the South to a greater extent than any Northern lord in 300 years, and generally doing much to boost Northern honor.

But Martin does not seem to have built much of this into the personal feelings of the various Northern lords towards Ned's memory. Other than among the Mountain clans, as stated.

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44 minutes ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

But Martin does not seem to have built much of this into the personal feelings of the various Northern lords towards Ned's memory. Other than among the Mountain clans, as stated.

Well, the Flints seem to be much more about personal loyalty, and much less about oaths of fealty, than other Northerners.

That does still raise the question of why they're personally so fiercely loyal to Ned. His grandmother was Arya Flint of their clan, and he apparently named his second daughter (the one Stannis wants them to rescue) after her, but it still doesn't seem like that should be enough, and just hearing that he's considered a particularly honorable man wouldn't add all that much. Maybe Ned personally settled some dispute for them in a way they remembered, or showed them respect in a way other lords usually don't, or something like that? I don't think we've read about even an implication of anything like that, but I could be misremembering.

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47 minutes ago, falcotron said:

Well, the Flints seem to be much more about personal loyalty, and much less about oaths of fealty, than other Northerners.

That does still raise the question of why they're personally so fiercely loyal to Ned. His grandmother was Arya Flint of their clan, and he apparently named his second daughter (the one Stannis wants them to rescue) after her, but it still doesn't seem like that should be enough, and just hearing that he's considered a particularly honorable man wouldn't add all that much. Maybe Ned personally settled some dispute for them in a way they remembered, or showed them respect in a way other lords usually don't, or something like that? I don't think we've read about even an implication of anything like that, but I could be misremembering.

There was a stark pov chapter (I want to say Arya) that mentioned that Ned conducted feasts in a very egalitarian fashion. I have to think he showed far more respect to the Northern Hill Clans than most, probably even by Northern standards. Plus, I think the Clans aren't dumb. They're probably accutely aware of how much they could be looked down upon by other noble houses.

I think it was either Wars and Politics or Race for the Iron Throne that did a piece on the long-term strategy of the Starks (as in, over the millennia), and it basically boiled down to them being the best line of defense against both others and the elements (and Others, for that matter). We get the impression in the books that the Starks are the best, historically, of honoring their feudal obligations to their vassals, and that has to count for something after so many thousand years.

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Good men get to die feeling happy about themselves. Same as in this world.

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When we have to endure the harshest conditions, like winter, we do better as a pack than alone. You can't have a pack without trust, and you can't have trust without being a man of your word. I know it's not exactly the same as being good, but being authentic, honest, and a man of your word allows others to trust and respect you which allows groups to band together and survive harsh conditions

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There's no one unified notion of what "good" is, or what it means to be a "good" person. But there are a bunch of different ideas of good, and they each come with their rewards.

Although the biggest rewards for anyone are:

  • Living authentically and connecting with others. Think about Walder Frey, who conceivably doesn't get the kind of personal reward out of his relationship with his wives as people in better, kinder, more generous relationships get.
     
  • The world is in such rough shape that the very presence of all the death and suffering makes life worse for almost everybody. So if you can make the world better, there's a potential (though not rational, by expected value) benefit to you - or at the very least doing something about it makes the terrible problems of the world more tolerable. Think about Lem Lemoncloak, who may have once been Richard Lonmouth, putting on the Hound's helm and sacking Saltpans. It's hard to imagine any of the things he has done as the Brotherhood went down its dark path has made him happy, and it's all made him lose more and more of himself.

But some of the more specific rewards for "doing good" (which is probably a better way of thinking about it than "being good") -

  • Renly is generally friendly and nice to people, and tells the truth more often than a lot of other aristocrats. He is rewarded for this by being popular and trusted and even loved by his knights and fellows. Meanwhile, him turning on Stannis and not seeking out a loving relatoinship with his brother is what leads to his death. (yeah, not necessary a "good person" but the rewards he gets come it are better when he does good things than bad ones) Renly also respects people's privacy and doesn't shame or bully his lesbian wife, and as a reward for that gets to continue his own relationship with her brother. Give along to get along and all that.
     
  • Any degree of peace Sandor manages to find if he survives his wounds and becomes the Gravedigger is likely because of the aspect of his relationship with Sansa and Arya that was kind and protective. Again, he's not a "good man," but he does some good things, and his reward for them is that Arya doesn't euthanize him, and he possibly gets a second chance at life, and he also gets the chance to discharge this horribly destructive part of his personality.

 

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9 hours ago, DominusNovus said:

There was a stark pov chapter (I want to say Arya) that mentioned that Ned conducted feasts in a very egalitarian fashion. I have to think he showed far more respect to the Northern Hill Clans than most, probably even by Northern standards.

That could do it.

Being seated next to one of the rich soft lords at the high table, with the Ned giving silent stern looks to anyone who might be tempted to insult his table manners, seems like something the Flint would remember and respect. And if he asked why he was getting such treatment, Ned would probably say something like, "I'm just living up to my duties as liege. That's my job. All I can expect in return is that my vassals try to live up to theirs."

Plus, I'm assuming the Flints traditionally have even more trouble keeping the lesser mountain clans in line than the Starks have keeping the Flints in line, so the Flint could easily have thought the Ned was an important lesson for his sons to learn from, and told them the tales many times. That's the way you rule people, boys. So by the time they came to a feast at Winterfell themselves, they were already prepared to be impressed, and he had even more impact on them.

So when those sons had the chance to run off and save the Ned's daughter, now I can see it. (And the fact that she's the one named after their great aunt/her great grandmother probably didn't hurt.)

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I guess what I was trying to say is: 

"What lesson is GRRM trying to impart with this downer of a book series?"

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On 9/5/2017 at 8:34 PM, DominusNovus said:

Except maybe Bran, and he's a pretty good kid.

Not even a little bit. The first time he took Hodor's body, sure, maybe chalk it up to inexperience and ignorance, and the need was dire. But then he kept forcing Hodor into the back of his own mind, terrifying him every time, a form of assault we're led to believe in worse than rape, just because he was bored and wanted to explore and didn't give a shit about Hodor.

He's about as evil as it gets.

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36 minutes ago, Angel Eyes said:

I guess what I was trying to say is: 

"What lesson is GRRM trying to impart with this downer of a book series?"

Everyone is morally grey and there is no perfect person or outcome. 

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46 minutes ago, Angel Eyes said:

I guess what I was trying to say is: 

"What lesson is GRRM trying to impart with this downer of a book series?"

I don't think you should necessarily look at a story where a man or woman does something right because it's the right thing to do with no expected reward and tragically dies as a result of it as an indictment of doing the right thing. It's the one thing Jesus and Movie Cowboys have in common - well, that and walking in the desert.

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