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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa V

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Previous thread (Rethinking IV)

This is a thread dedicated to constructive and critical analysis of Sansa's character and arc in the ASOIAF series. Insightful and text-based arguments/critiques are always welcome, as well as serious questions. The thread is based on the original Rereading Sansa project. Find links here.

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Kittykatknits:

We know Sansa was a reader. But, based upon her age, I think it would be more accurate to say her education was cut off than deficient in anyway. From what we know, she was good at her studies. Then, for much of her time in KL, for obvious reasons, her education got cute short. From what we see in the Eeyrie, she enjoys solving puzzles as evidenced by her pride in figuring out Lyn Corbray.

If she had stated in WF, I wonder if she would have had some of the same exposure as Cat did with her father? I would hope so but I don't recall any textual evidence that tells us this would be the case.

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Just a general thought on education, it seems Septa Mordane was brought up north as a concession to Catelyn, but I really have to question how good she was for the children. She seems to have lacked some of the basics teachers need to learn, i.e. to not strongly favour one child over the other and to definitely not degrade a child (like she did with Arya) but to instead be encouraging.

She also seems to have been behind some of Sansa's slightly unpleasant thoughts about how the northern competitors at the Hands Tourney were not nearly as gallant as the southern ones in their finery. The Septa seems to have instilled some of the shallow values that Sansa, as a good girl, came to somewhat perpetuate. Not to say that she was all bad of course since she taught Sansa to use the courtesy armour and lots about how to act around lords and ladies, but there also seems to have been a chunk of, I don't know, snobbery as well?

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If she had stated in WF, I wonder if she would have had some of the same exposure as Cat did with her father? I would hope so but I don't recall any textual evidence that tells us this would be the case.

Given how annoyed Ned was when he saw Sansa present when he sent Beric to punish Gregor, I highly doubt it.

I think Cat was an unusual case in this respect because Edmure was much younger, she was the heir until he was born so had to be prepared. Even after Edmure was born, he was the only son so Hoster was probably preparing Cat politically in case something happens to Edmure.

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Just a general thought on education, it seems Septa Mordane was brought up north as a concession to Catelyn, but I really have to question how good she was for the children. She seems to have lacked some of the basics teachers need to learn, i.e. to not strongly favour one child over the other and to definitely not degrade a child (like she did with Arya) but to instead be encouraging.

She also seems to have been behind some of Sansa's slightly unpleasant thoughts about how the northern competitors at the Hands Tourney were not nearly as gallant as the southern ones in their finery. The Septa seems to have instilled some of the shallow values that Sansa, as a good girl, came to somewhat perpetuate. Not to say that she was all bad of course since she taught Sansa to use the courtesy armour and lots about how to act around lords and ladies, but there also seems to have been a chunk of, I don't know, snobbery as well?

Rapsie would have fun addressing this topic :) When we were doing the re-read she had at one point for her title: "It was all Septa Mordane's fault". I do think that the Septa was extremely snobbish, and this informed a lot of Sansa's early attitudes concerning courtly life. She wasn't an ideal teacher for either girls, but she was definitely more inclined to favour Sansa over Arya due to the former's interest in romantic songs and social etiquette. And as you noted, she wasn't that bad, and gave Sansa some valuable advice on how to survive in that environment and as a married woman. The "find something/anything beautiful" in your husband tip comes to mind, but we know how that ends.

Given how annoyed Ned was when he saw Sansa present when he sent Beric to punish Gregor, I highly doubt it.

I think Cat was an unusual case in this respect because Edmure was much younger, she was the heir until he was born so had to be prepared. Even after Edmure was born, he was the only son so Hoster was probably preparing Cat politically in case something happens to Edmure.

Yeah, I agree with this. Ned wasn't so much of a progressive father. He was a kind and gentle one, but ultimately he expected both girls to fulfil their societal duties as wives and mothers.

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Rapsie would have fun addressing this topic :) When we were doing the re-read she had at one point for her title: "It was all Septa Mordane's fault". I do think that the Septa was extremely snobbish, and this informed a lot of Sansa's early attitudes concerning courtly life. She wasn't an ideal teacher for either girls, but she was definitely more inclined to favour Sansa over Arya due to the former's interest in romantic songs and social etiquette. And as you noted, she wasn't that bad, and gave Sansa some valuable advice on how to survive in that environment and as a married woman. The "find something/anything beautiful" in your husband tip comes to mind, but we know how that ends.

I've wondered before how much Septa Mordane really helped. The idea of learning how to be a wife and mother from someone who has never been a wife or mother strikes me as ironic.

A question for the group as this is something I've wondered about. Sansa' alludes to her courtesy armor, the idea of which came from Septa Mordane. I've wondered before if Septa Mordane just gave Sansa the name to something that seems to be instinctual to Sansa. She tends to be eager to please and is generally a good girl. Sansa also has good instincts with people. I combine all that with the Hound's statement to her on giving Joff what he wants in GOT. Is it possible she would have figured out much of what to do without being told that courtesy is a lady's armor?

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Just a general thought on education, it seems Septa Mordane was brought up north as a concession to Catelyn, but I really have to question how good she was for the children. She seems to have lacked some of the basics teachers need to learn, i.e. to not strongly favour one child over the other and to definitely not degrade a child (like she did with Arya) but to instead be encouraging.

She also seems to have been behind some of Sansa's slightly unpleasant thoughts about how the northern competitors at the Hands Tourney were not nearly as gallant as the southern ones in their finery. The Septa seems to have instilled some of the shallow values that Sansa, as a good girl, came to somewhat perpetuate. Not to say that she was all bad of course since she taught Sansa to use the courtesy armour and lots about how to act around lords and ladies, but there also seems to have been a chunk of, I don't know, snobbery as well?

I agree with you in terms of her teaching Arya, if she had been more attentive she would have noticed that Arya was left-handed, which explained why Arya was doing poorly at knitting since the role of her hands in knitting were arranged in a way for someone who was right-handed, and all that had to be done was switch the roles for her hands.

Septa Mordane also should have known better than to put Arya on the spot in knitting classes, always pointing out Arya's errors in front of everyone in the room.

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I've wondered before how much Septa Mordane really helped. The idea of learning how to be a wife and mother from someone who has never been a wife or mother strikes me as ironic.

A question for the group as this is something I've wondered about. Sansa' alludes to her courtesy armor, the idea of which came from Septa Mordane. I've wondered before if Septa Mordane just gave Sansa the name to something that seems to be instinctual to Sansa. She tends to be eager to please and is generally a good girl. Sansa also has good instincts with people. I combine all that with the Hound's statement to her on giving Joff what he wants in GOT. Is it possible she would have figured out much of what to do without being told that courtesy is a lady's armor?

It's possible, but I definitely think it was beneficial for her to have this ability characterised as a weapon that could actively protect a woman. It wasn't just about playing nice, or giving someone what they want, but an actual defense mechanism informed by considered and deliberate thoughts and actions.

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I've wondered before how much Septa Mordane really helped. The idea of learning how to be a wife and mother from someone who has never been a wife or mother strikes me as ironic.

:agree:

I also thought that while the "see something beautiful in your husband" may be helpful advice, it also perpetuates a rather nasty view on women and marriage in that they should be content with whatever husband was thrust upon them and just do the best of a unappealing situation.

A question for the group as this is something I've wondered about. Sansa' alludes to her courtesy armor, the idea of which came from Septa Mordane. I've wondered before if Septa Mordane just gave Sansa the name to something that seems to be instinctual to Sansa. She tends to be eager to please and is generally a good girl. Sansa also has good instincts with people. I combine all that with the Hound's statement to her on giving Joff what he wants in GOT. Is it possible she would have figured out much of what to do without being told that courtesy is a lady's armor?

Indeed. I think the Septa helped in her getting better at it and in naming it, but I tend to agree with you that Sansa is naturally good at it. Regarding the Good Girl thing, this seems to stand out in Sansa's earlier chapters: she's taught to be a good girl and excels at it, and part of that is what the Hound points out. She's like a trained little bird. Hence I hope that Sansa will keep the ability to use her courtesy armour, but now without really being only a good girl, but savvy with purpose.

I agree with you in terms of her teaching Arya, if she had been more attentive she would have noticed that Arya was left-handed, which explained why Arya was doing poorly at knitting since the role of her hands in knitting were arranged in a way for someone who is right-handed, and all that had to be done was switch the roles for her hands.

Septa Mordane also should have known better than to put Arya on the spot in knitting classes, always pointing out Arya's errors in front of everyone in the room.

Indeed, and even worse, I think Septa Mordane helped fuel the sibling rivalry between Arya and Sansa to really unnecessary levels. Which as we see later on caused the incident with Joffrey to get even more inflamed.

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:agree:

I also thought that while the "see something beautiful in your husband" may be helpful advice, it also perpetuates a rather nasty view on women and marriage in that they should be content with whatever husband was thrust upon them and just do the best of a unappealing situation.

Yes, this has always been my issue with the advice as well. It can benefit a woman, but we have to be mindful that it is advice in service of the patriarchy, i.e. find something of worth/beauty in your husband because you can't do any better and you really have no choice. This is why I think it was such an important moment when Sansa could not find one thing about Tyrion that was appealing. It was a definite break from that ideology of women needing to be tractable and accomodating.

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Well the Septa didn't really understand Arya. Arya is very much a Northern girl, she likes to ride and be out in the wild and is less concerned with hairdos and songs (we see the Mormont girls are like this, and the Karstark girl, Cat mentions how Southern hairdos are much more intricate, and Ned mentions how few singers ever go to the North). And the Septa probably spent her whole life among courtiers, with much more strict gender roles.

Sansa was always more inclined to Southern things, probably because of her mother's and the Septa's influence. She also was very good at traditional lady things (and we don't even know if Arya couldn't have been good at them because she never got the chance to embroider with her left hand).

The Septa was only human. I think it was natural that she show preference towards Sansa, although her behaviour towards Arya was probably very damaging.

Some values the Septa instilled in Sansa were very unhelpful as well, but I have to say that without her, Sansa would have been lost in KL. She was the only one who reasonably prepared Sansa to court.

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Septa Mordane was altogether just a very conservation woman who conformed to the values of her society. In her mindset, young ladies should be dignified, respectful, obedient, and proficient in traditionally feminine pursuits. I think Sandor hits the nail on the head when he states that Sansa was being trained to be a pretty talking bird. The Septa wasn't interested in having her star pupil show or express any defiance or for that matter really engage in any critical thinking.

We see this in the incident after Ned holds court in AGOT and they encounter Littlefinger:

Her father's decision still bewildered her... It had upset her more than she could tell. She had said as much to Septa Mordane as they descended the stairs from the gallery, but the septa had only told her it was not her place to question her lord father's decisions.

That was when Lord Baelish has said, "Oh, I don't know, Septa. Some of her lord father's decisions could do with a bit of questioning. The young lady is as wise as she is lovely." ...

Septa Mordane had been very upset to realise that Lord Baelish had overheard them. "The girl was just talking, my lord," she said. "Foolish chatter. She meant nothing by the comment. "

We know that the reasons for Sansa being upset about her father's decision were fairly childish and naive, but this was still a moment where the Septa could have explained to Sansa that these fairytales of monsters and gallant heroes really only exist in the books, and she needed to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Instead, the Septa shuts down all discourse, and Sansa is left with only LF's cryptic comment about life not being a song; a piece of advice that leaves her with a vaguely unsettled feeling and isn't clarified until it's too late.

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That's not entirely on the Septa though, it's the culture. The only thing Cat ever demands is that Jon leaves. Other than that she pleaded for Bran to stay, hoped to see the girls but was dutiful in all the things as a good lady should be.

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That's not entirely on the Septa though, it's the culture. The only thing Cat ever demands is that Jon leaves. Other than that she pleaded for Bran to stay, hoped to see the girls but was dutiful in all the things as a good lady should be.

Yes, I think I've noted that the Septa is a product of her culture. Still, she's also a teacher, and this implies being able to meet the challenges of having different kinds of pupils, and cultivating critical thinking skills that do not end at recognizing a person because of the helm or armour they are wearing. There were teachable moments for Sansa especially in the lead up to her going to Cersei, and the Septa missed them all.

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You all must have had awesome teachers. All of mine, especially at that age were just like her. Rigid and by the book with their most common phrase being 'becuase that's just the way it is'.

I'd speculate maybe Septa Mordane was low lady on the list and that's why she got sent to the North but I seriously doubt the Faith encouraged any kind of critical thinking especially among the women.

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We know that the reasons for Sansa being upset about her father's decision were fairly childish and naive, but this was still a moment where the Septa could have explained to Sansa that these fairytales of monsters and gallant heroes really only exist in the books, and she needed to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Instead, the Septa shuts down all discourse, and Sansa is left with only LF's cryptic comment about life not being a song; a piece of advice that leaves her with a vaguely unsettled feeling and isn't clarified until it's too late.

It's interesting here as well to note that the two men who initially challenge Sansa's notion of how the world looks are Sandor and Littlefinger, both of whom we see more of later, too. So Sandor and Littlefinger as crushers of the patriarchal structures? :lol: As backwards as that is, they have both helped in their own way in propelling Sansa onto a path of larger autonomy. While the Septa here acts as a gender traitor holding Sansa back! (yeah I know, a bit combative wrt the poor Septa :P )

Yes, I think I've noted that the Septa is a product of her culture. Still, she's also a teacher, and this implies being able to meet the challenges of having different kinds of pupils, and cultivating critical thinking skills that do not end at recognizing a person because of the helm or armour they are wearing. There were teachable moments for Sansa especially in the lead up to her going to Cersei, and the Septa missed them all.

I think one of my main beefs with the Septa is that she seems to have actively discouraged critical thinking, both in Arya and Sansa as a matter of fact.

I'd speculate maybe Septa Mordane was low lady on the list and that's why she got sent to the North but I seriously doubt the Faith encouraged any kind of critical thinking especially among the women.

Probably completely true. Especially judging by how reactionary the new High Septon is I am getting some bad vibes from parts of the Faith.

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This might be a generational gap issue. I don't know the ages of anyone here. I'm 37,in the us, and like I said I see little difference in the Septa and the teachers I had at that age. Martin being even older would likely have the same experience. Even up to Sansa's age and beyond education was little more than memorization of facts and figures. There was no teaching you to think for yourself and believe me that idea was discouraged not encouraged.

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This might be a generational gap issue. I don't know the ages of anyone here. I'm 37,in the us, and like I said I see little difference in the Septa and the teachers I had at that age. Martin being even older would likely have the same experience. Even up to Sansa's age and beyond education was little more than memorization of facts and figures. There was no teaching you to think for yourself and believe me that idea was discouraged not encouraged.

I disagree. And I don't think it has to do with a generational gap, or that we can excuse the Septa's instruction on culture alone. I think this was a very personal failing on the Septa's part, and we have numerous examples of it in AGOT. Just because a woman is trained to look at life a certain way doesn't mean that it removes all individuality or choice. The septa herself is just a very narrow minded, snobbish woman who shows excessive preference for the nobility.

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This might be a generational gap issue. I don't know the ages of anyone here. I'm 37,in the us, and like I said I see little difference in the Septa and the teachers I had at that age. Martin being even older would likely have the same experience. Even up to Sansa's age and beyond education was little more than memorization of facts and figures. There was no teaching you to think for yourself and believe me that idea was discouraged not encouraged.

Nah, I am one year younger than you so no age gap there :P but the good teachers always stood out to me as more challenging you to figure things out more than just feed you information, I guess?

The main issue with the Septa is twofold, I think. Partly because she was just not a very good or pedagogic teacher, evidenced by Arya and her feeling of inadequacy, but also because the Septa actually fuelled the sibling rivalry between Arya and Sansa. The second issue is that she is perpetuating this view of what Sansa and Arya should be that is highly idealised and also extremely patriarchal. To be fair to the Septa, she seems to echo the ideal view of a lady in the south, but as we see, this view is rarely 100% like reality. In fact, in most cases it seems rather far off reality. Whether we use the Tyrells, the court in Kings Landing or someone like Lady Smallwood as example, reality is....not what you would expect. Even Cat knows this despite being the dutiful one.

Cat is interesting as a role model here since she fights against the limitations of the patriarchy at the same time as she accepts her place within it. So Cat is part in perpetuating the proper role of a lady, while at the same time knowing that it's restrictive and often unfair.

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Indeed. I think the Septa helped in her getting better at it and in naming it, but I tend to agree with you that Sansa is naturally good at it. Regarding the Good Girl thing, this seems to stand out in Sansa's earlier chapters: she's taught to be a good girl and excels at it, and part of that is what the Hound points out. She's like a trained little bird. Hence I hope that Sansa will keep the ability to use her courtesy armour, but now without really being only a good girl, but savvy with purpose.

Yes, the couresy armor started out as a good girl thing. I think we are slowly starting to see her use it with purpose. We've seen it come out when LF met with the Lords Declarant for example. She is also figuring out that it is not just armor, but can be a weapon as well as shown how she used it to fight off Tyrion.

Sansa followed her instincts quite a bit in KL and learned how to handle Joffrey rather quickly. I really think she would have figured out what the septa taught her regarding courtesy being a lady's armor on her own. It may have taken her a bit longer but, otherwise, I still think it would have happened.

I also thought that while the "see something beautiful in your husband" may be helpful advice, it also perpetuates a rather nasty view on women and marriage in that they should be content with whatever husband was thrust upon them and just do the best of a unappealing situation.

Yes, this has always been my issue with the advice as well. It can benefit a woman, but we have to be mindful that it is advice in service of the patriarchy, i.e. find something of worth/beauty in your husband because you can't do any better and you really have no choice. This is why I think it was such an important moment when Sansa could not find one thing about Tyrion that was appealing. It was a definite break from that ideology of women needing to be tractable and accomodating.

I always thought that Martin put that advice their for a very careful reason. It seems like a throwaway line but when you look at it, this line says a lot about marriage, sex, and what is expected about a woman. To me it implies that sex is something to be endured, an act that is a duty and a burden. But, if you can find something beautiful, you can make it a less awful experience. It serves the patriarchy and keeps the woman in a very ignorant position. As we saw with Sansa, when it came to it, this advice was not helpful at all. I'd say it made it worse. Sansa couldn't find the beauty in him and that made it even worse.

This line really shows the disparity between men and women.

You all must have had awesome teachers. All of mine, especially at that age were just like her. Rigid and by the book with their most common phrase being 'becuase that's just the way it is'.

I'd speculate maybe Septa Mordane was low lady on the list and that's why she got sent to the North but I seriously doubt the Faith encouraged any kind of critical thinking especially among the women.

As for myself, much of my education was in the states of Washington, California, and Albuquerque, NM which are some of the more progressive places in the US. I very much did not have a by the book education. Several of my teachers would match the label of hippie, I had a couple that made a point to bring in social and political issues pretty regularly. Some of my teachers had a huge influence on who I turned out to be. Just to give you an idea, I did speech and debate in high school and my coach helped me come up with an argument one year that had legalized prostitution as the source of funding. I also had a Spanish teacher who I would have regular conversations with on patriarchy. She was the one that first got me both aware of and intersted in women's issues. I also had a couple of openly gay teachers as well. :)

I don't know if Septa Mordane was low on the list. She may have been but it seems like the faith would see her as an opportunity to bring more of the Faith in to the North, so I'd think that it would be a wise idea to actually bring someone who isn't low on the totem pole. But, she is a woman, so who knows? :dunno:

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This might be a generational gap issue. I don't know the ages of anyone here. I'm 37,in the us, and like I said I see little difference in the Septa and the teachers I had at that age. Martin being even older would likely have the same experience. Even up to Sansa's age and beyond education was little more than memorization of facts and figures. There was no teaching you to think for yourself and believe me that idea was discouraged not encouraged.

I went in to more detail in another post, but I'm only a bit younger, turning 36 in a few months. Sounds like we had a very different education.

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