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brashcandy

From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XV

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Well I didn't quite make that point ;) Sandor definitely is the one who wants Sansa to come to him and is really mindful of her consent and quite ashamed when he gets violent for a moment. Tyrion is concerned about her consent as well, but I'd argue that it's a bit more complicated than what we see with Sandor, and involves a lot of complex self esteem/identity issues on his part. Concerning his methods - as I noted in the essay about the voyeurism, I'd say he does subject Sansa to visual violence, and had she not escaped the marriage when she did, I'm not sure how that all would have played out. LF is absolutely willing to use violence, not against her as yet, but certainly against others in order to manipulate her feelings and implicate her in these crimes. We've talked before of his subtle sexual coercion too, grooming her in a long term plan to lower her defences. I see the point you're making about the three of them wanting her to come to them, but there are crucial differences between the men and their approach to Sansa.

I should have specified physical violence. Intellectual violence seems to be the norm for Tyrion and LF ;) I am aware of the differences between the three men but when I read the books and started not hating Sansa, it seemed to me that the three of them shared a cry of wounded vanity caused by a non-acceptance (or at least perceived so, in the case of Sandor) by a woman in a way that is uncommon, or at least heightened compared to the other male characters in Westeros. I liked for example to read how different their approach was, compared to Brienne's in a land in which sexism is assumed. That was my immediate thread to connect the three of them and it echoed Romantic notions to me. Way before I discovered this thread and all the true literary symbolism :).

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Very interesting posts brashcandy and Milady of York. I wanted to comment earlier but I was caught up by real life. Thank you for posting the links to the short stories as well, brashcandy. I’ll read them for sure ^_^.

I think these two stories highlight something that was already present in Madame de Villeneuve’s tale. By accepting the Beast’s indecent propositions, the Beauty embraces her own sexuality. I read somewhere that it is made easier because of the Beast since the monster figure in tales allows delinquency. I believe it’s a rather accurate description of Sansa’s narrative. Her interractions with Sandor are some of the few opportunities she has to show her true self without the fear of being punished or beaten. Her dream of Sandor could be the recognition of her own sexual desire for him. It is also a nice parallel with the Beauty’s dreams which are erotic in Madame de Villeneuve’s tale.

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I think that this is comparing an acquired deformity to an inherited one, and I’d argue that such a comparison is problematic. The psychological state of a person who is born with an infirmity or a deformity, like Tyrion, is different from that of someone who was made a deformed person later in life, like Sandor, in the same way that a person who is born blind and deaf differs from a person who’s slowly losing sight and hearing due to some illness. Whilst both have the same limitations and must face the same prejudices and rejection from society, their mental functioning cannot and must not be compared if we mean to understand them from an objective standpoint. A person with a hereditary illness must adjust to it yes or yes since they have use of reason or even earlier, as babies; they do not know any alternatives, they do not know how it is to be healthy, whereas a person who acquired a disability has to adjust and re-adjust constantly over the years, both physically and emotionally, they have to rework on a new body image, and they have known what’s it like to be healthy, not monstrous; they have their memories of a former self that they have to discard to create a new identity as a deformed or infirm person, so it’s harder for them psychologically speaking and the sequels last longer.

Moreover, in the case of Tyrion, dwarfism has genetic origins, unlike scars, and was considered a sign that you are cursed by the gods, and there are a lot of negative traits people associated with them that they didn’t with scarred and burnt persons. He may have all the riches of Casterly Rock behind his back and be able to give a woman everything material and protection, but his deformity is hereditary, therefore, even if a woman accepts him either because of his gold or his wits, it carries more weight than in the case of Sandor, and that’s because of biological predisposition, not mere shallowness, for they instinctively know that they could have deformed children, whereas with Sandor once women get past his scars and his rage, they know there is no risk of having a disfigured baby but one big and healthy.

I don't have the capacity to psychologically analize the characters in this depth. I don't question your expertise and you make some excellent points about the genetical risk that dwarves carry. My point was less groomed in the individuality of the characters and more in their shared reaction to a rejection. While I agree that these characters are different in fundamental ways, some emotions seem to speak more about their common human nature than to their divergent life paths. These emotions are interpreted and filtered through their personal lenses and that this brings them to act in dissimilar ways but I still see a thread between these three and their reactions to Sansa/Catelyn. It might very well be something that my mind constructed by itself, but to this day, it still resonates with me.

I'll shut up now and leave you to your very well-researched and enlightening essays :)

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Yup. It goes back to what Lyanna noted upthread about how Sansa has been conditioned to be the perfect lady in patriarchal society, and we know that her beauty has a lot to do with this. Look at how Arya is treated by Septa Mordane, for example. Women are given very little chance in society to have an autonomous identity, since from the time they're born they're already being drafted for whatever role is deemed appropriate.

Well, one could say both Sansa and Arya's self-perception of beauty (or lack thereof) guided them towards the social roles and attitudes they ended up with. You could ask: Would Sansa be all about ladylike grace and conventional behavior if she was not beautiful and thus at great advantage by those terms? Would Arya reject all such things if she did not sense she was at a relative social disadvantage because of her lack of beauty, and thus feel the need to succeed on other terms ?

I pose the questions, but actually I do not believe this is the case. There is evidence enough in the books their physical beauty is unrelated to their behavior. Sansa was "a lady at three", before she could gauge how attractive she actually is. It is just her nature to follow the way of "conventional" behavior and expectations. And just as much, it is Arya's nature not to, and seemingly she has always been willful, wild, and unconventional. Arya's beauty is an open question, and she may in the end be as attractive as Sansa is, but her defiance of social norms and "ladylike" expectations seems hard-wired.

This, I think, really highlights something very important people tend to skip. Sandor is upset when Sansa does not immidiately give her consent. When she looks away from him, or when she uses avoidance. Hence what he is aiming for is not brutalising her; he is after her consent. He wants her to agree to come with him and to accept him. This is also why the "he meant to rape her" makes no sense. Had he the intention of raping her, why be upset at her lack of consent? I doubt Gregor was much upset that Elia did not consent to have sex with him when he raped her.

Further, as is obvious when looked at the situation deconstructed in this fashion is that Sansa was initially afraid, but at the end of the scene she is not afraid. Instead, she reaches out to him of her own volition. She is not forced and not a victim when she does so. It's by her own free will. So I agree very strongly with that it does not take the form of trauma and does not give Sansa a sense of violation, because in the end, she had taken charge of the situation and reached out on her own accord.

I think you oversimplfy what was going on in Sandor's head, or maybe are seeing only those aspects you want to see. Part of him was probably thinking of things as you say, wanting her to want him, reaching out in loneliness, etc.

But remember, Sandor was (is) also a very conflicted character. Part of him is The Hound, the Lannister sword who cut a boy in half and laughed, the one who takes pride in being able to terrify and repel people. That part of him, I think did want to rape her, and may have had it in him to do it - to truly be The Mountain's brother and Tywin's servant. (And he was drunk off his ass too, which doesn't help one's inhibitions and judgnment.) He had just deserted, so his state of mind was probably very nothing-to-lose about a lot of things. Remember what Eddard Stark says about deserters ? Desperate. Dangerous.

Bottom line is: Sandor was not even clear in his own head about what he wanted from Sansa. Think he went there with a single plan or mindset ? Nope. He was drunk, desperate, and in a state of breakdown. Forget rationality, he was mentally all over the map.

Part of him probably wanted to just have Sansa by force, and add one more crime to his (self-hating, condemning) estimation of his own shame and cowardice. Remember deep down Sandor hated what he had become, he was guilty as judged by his own cynical standards.

Part of him wanted to rescue Sansa, be the brave knight and get her out of King's Landing to somewhere safe. Part of him was almost hiding, wanting some sort of rescue and absolution from her. To him, she was this beacon of purity and kindness, untainted by all the evil of the world (which included himself). Being around Sansa had reawakened Sandor inside him, and thus a desire to be brave, and honourable and protect the weak - in other words be a true knight.

Sansa in that situation reaches out to Sandor and emotionally disarms him. She can do this because she sees Sandor when she looks at him, not just The Hound anymore. She does this perhaps unconsciously or naturally - she has a great deal of empathic instinct. That is her strength or unusual ability, I suppose.

That prevented him from following through on any darker urges, but do not doubt those urges were there. (He admits it clearly to Arya later.)

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Seriously, wow you guys are amazing. I just want to say that you guys have definitely changed my life, I never really thought about agency or womans views but wow I totally look at myself with new eyes. I have never really read about feminism, wasn't really offered in school, but if you could give me some feminism 101 books and more I would love to check it out.

Don't worry, you are not the only one who didn't get feminism taught in school. :)

There is actually a blog called "Feminism 101" that has some very good advice and brings up a variety of topics and discussion. They also have some discussion about good introductory reading for people who are interested plus quite a few links to other online resources. I've found it hard to keep up with all the stuff I ought to read since I've been trying to cover it in two languages as well, but I actually grabbed some introductory short textbooks at University level just to get the hang of the terminology and that really helped me initially. If you can find one that explains things briefly and clearly without resorting to too complex language, it could be a good start. Feminism 101 also has a FAQ that deals with common questions and that can be a good start and work as fodder for thoughts. In the end, reading about feminism, I found, is a process of combining the theory with experiences from the world around us, and recognising the very things I've read about. Suddenly, you can put in words things you couldn't do before, if that makes sense.

Personally, I am extremely fond of Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex" since I think she introduces a lot of the thoughts and issues that are still debated today, just with a slightly different lens. To me, she laid a lot of the intellectual groundwork, and other feminists have been adding and expanding on that since. As it's translated from "intellectual" French, it is a bit dense, but ultimately worth the battle, I think. Here's the Introduction that stipulates the beginnings of the famous "One is not born a woman, one becomes a woman". de Beauvoir does not use all the terminology that we have today, like agency, gender, etc. it was "before her time". She also has some old fashioned wordings and has a tendency to view Marxism and Socalism quite positively, but as the book was written in 1949 it's not overly strange. What *is* strange is that although it's dated in places, it's still very, very spot on in many areas. Still, after over 50 years, de Beauvoir's tearing apart of how women and men interact and their roles in society is as urgent and it burns as bright as ever. While the wording may be old fashioned, in 1949 she was able to sharply see things like how women are doomed to passivity (something we have seen a lot of people automatically assume of Sansa) and how women's roles are pre-determined, how family and children can easily become such a restrictive role as to become "reproductive slavery" and completely prevent women to achieve and progress. She calls it "transcendence". Later feminists have often used words like "agency" to better describe it, I think, but in essence it's more or less the same thing.

We also have her pointing out how women value male attributes and "having a place among men" higher than being the first among women. We've seen this reading a lot on the forums too, regarding Arya/Asha/Brienne and their sword/axe fighting being valued higher and they are seen as "better" women for being more like men, while women like Sansa, Cat and Cersei are easier to look down on since they are "too feminine" and traits that are traditionally looked upon as feminine get devalued.

A bit of a sidetrack to the discussion going on, but for those newer to the terminology and discussions, it can be useful to get some background and references, I hope. :) Plus it has relevance for ASOIAF, I think, due to the fact that there are a lot of different women in it, and they occupy roles that are not the stereotypical flat ones often assigned to women, but take up an equal part of the story to the male characters, and are leant more or less the same complexity. We've also noticed through this thread and while discussing Dany, Arya and Brienne, that even if GRRM did not set out to write a feminist novels, he brings up a lot of themes and issues that are debated within feminism, and that are interesting to consider from a feminist perspective. I think while he sometimes slips, he does a good job of actually presenting the female characters as complex characters with problems faced also by real women today, and I don't think he is without knowledge of feminist theory. We found in the Tyrion reread that Shae who is very much put in the gilded cage while being Tyrion's mistress also receives a bird in a gilded cage, and Sansa during captivity is referred to as a "little bird" and she is also in a gilded cage. That seems to be an almost direct reference to Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique", which basically deals with the issue of why kept women (in this case American housewives during the 50s) aren't happy with just being home with their kids being pretty. Why do they aspire to other things and why do they feel like they are caged?

I'm sure others can help out more as I'm actually an MSc and didn't take Literature or anything "properly cultured" at University. ;) (Cue me being banned from making any further analysis. :P )

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Well, one could say both Sansa and Arya's self-perception of beauty (or lack thereof) guided them towards the social roles and attitudes they ended up with. You could ask: Would Sansa be all about ladylike grace and conventional behavior if she was not beautiful and thus at great advantage by those terms? Would Arya reject all such things if she did not sense she was at a relative social disadvantage because of her lack of beauty, and thus feel the need to succeed on other terms ?

I pose the questions, but actually I do not believe this is the case. There is evidence enough in the books their physical beauty is unrelated to their behavior. Sansa was "a lady at three", before she could gauge how attractive she actually is. It is just her nature to follow the way of "conventional" behavior and expectations. And just as much, it is Arya's nature not to, and seemingly she has always been willful, wild, and unconventional. Arya's beauty is an open question, and she may in the end be as attractive as Sansa is, but her defiance of social norms and "ladylike" expectations seems hard-wired.

As someone who firmly comes down on the side of "gender is constructed" I have to disagree with you slightly on that Sansa has any sort of "hard wired" leaning towards a traditional ladylike existance, while Arya is the opposite. Certainly, both girls have personality traits that differ, but the question is: had the ideal role been different, would Sansa then not work as hard to adapt? If Westeros had been a world of warrior women and sorcerers, how would Sansa have fared as the "ideal woman"? Had she still been successful? Would she still be "buying what they were selling" so to speak? It's quite likely that she would have, and that Arya would always feel like an "afterthought" regardless. I agree though that Arya is self conscious about her looks, she is also jealous of Sansa's ability to do things like write poetry, play musical instruments and generall do the courtesy thing flawlessly.

I think you oversimplfy what was going on in Sandor's head, or maybe are seeing only those aspects you want to see. Part of him was probably thinking of things as you say, wanting her to want him, reaching out in loneliness, etc.

I don't think he is reaching out in loneliness, exactly. I think at the time, he was at the very bottom of existence and had nothing left to prop him up. No martial prowess, no Lannisters, no land, no money, no allegiance. The question is what was left? Without all these things, what did he have to revert to?

But remember, Sandor was (is) also a very conflicted character. Part of him is The Hound, the Lannister sword who cut a boy in half and laughed, the one who takes pride in being able to terrify and repel people. That part of him, I think did want to rape her, and may have had it in him to do it - to truly be The Mountain's brother and Tywin's servant. (And he was drunk off his ass too, which doesn't help one's inhibitions and judgnment.) He had just deserted, so his state of mind was probably very nothing-to-lose about a lot of things. Remember what Eddard Stark says about deserters ? Desperate. Dangerous.

I do not deny that he was a very real danger. However, the fact that he gets upset about rejection makes it very, very unlikely that he came there with a plan to rape her. It just makes no logical sense what so ever. A rapist does not ask for permission, ever.

Bottom line is: Sandor was not even clear in his own head about what he wanted from Sansa. Think he went there with a single plan or mindset ? Nope. He was drunk, desperate, and in a state of breakdown. Forget rationality, he was mentally all over the map.

I don't think he was rational, nor that he had a cunning plan either. However, I also think there is a big step from being rational and having a cunning plan to going somewhere with the intent to rape someone, because rapists, too, have their internal logic and planning. Inferring that he went there with the intent to rape infers that it was part of his plan, somehow, and that he had laid down this plan. I do think Sansa was in very real danger from him since he was, as you say, probably the most mentally unstable we'll ever see him being at that moment. I'm certain thoughts of raping her passed through his mind, but there is a difference between planning it, and having it cross your mind, I think. Same as there is a difference between manslaughter and murder. Even so, he chose not to act on that impulse. We've seen with Tyrion that he claims "My cock betrayed me" and that was in a far more gruesome scenario where a hundred men had already raped Tysha, so having horrible, violent thoughts is not an uncommon thing. However, as we see with Sandor here and later again with Tyrion at the wedding with Sansa, despite the thoughts being there, none of them chose to act on the thoughts and impulses.

Both of them have aspects of the monster within them, to be sure.

What is interestint to note, I think, as brash pointed out above, is that what helped them make the "right" decision in these scenarios is at leat partly Sansa's reactions. She managed to reach out and give Sandor perhaps what he really needed: some empathy and compassion, and with Tyrion she managed to convey that she did not want him and that this wouldn't change just because he hoped it would. She's also really, really afraid of Sandor in the beginning of the BotBW scene, and I think with good reason. He's as you say unstable. However, at the end of the scene, she is no longer afraid of him.

Part of him probably wanted to just have Sansa by force, and add one more crime to his (self-hating, condemning) estimation of his own shame and cowardice. Remember deep down Sandor hated what he had become, he was guilty as judged by his own cynical standards.

This I do agree with. Interestingly, I think he's far more honest about the monster inside than Tyrion is, in this context.

Part of him wanted to rescue Sansa, be the brave knight and get her out of King's Landing to somewhere safe. Part of him was almost hiding, wanting some sort of rescue and absolution from her. To him, she was this beacon of purity and kindness, untainted by all the evil of the world (which included himself). Being around Sansa had reawakened Sandor inside him, and thus a desire to be brave, and honourable and protect the weak - in other words be a true knight.

Sansa in that situation reaches out to Sandor and emotionally disarms him. She can do this because she sees Sandor when she looks at him, not just The Hound anymore. She does this perhaps unconsciously or naturally - she has a great deal of empathic instinct. That is her strength or unusual ability, I suppose.

That prevented him from following through on any darker urges, but do not doubt those urges were there. (He admits it clearly to Arya later.)

I more or less agree with this, although I think consciously he was probably more concerned with having "lost all" than of behaving like a true knight of some sort. He really didn't have any friends left in Kings Landing. The only person who had really shown him any small kindness was Sansa. Compare it to how Tyrion thinks of Jaime - he relishes any small kindness thrown his way, even if they are few. So once Sandor has lost all, the only things remaining to him in Kings Landing that have any value to him are Stranger and Sansa.

The fact that he had "darker urges" at some point is very likely true, but I wouldn't take the words he said to Arya completely literally either, but as an expression of utter frustration, self loathing and guilt. Not that he actually really regrets not raping Sansa, but as an expression of regret that when he had the chance, he should have done better and treated her better, plus of course the guilt of feeling an impulse to rape her. He also seems very keen on defining himself as not like his brother to the BWB, so in combination with his outburst to Arya, I think he really dislikes having nearly become a rapist, and that it's not his standard modus operandi; and of course that as you say, he hates what he has become and how low he has sunk. (It makes me wonder if he, like Jaime, has a strong aversion to rape due to having had to stay silent on the sidelines while it went on. We know how strongly Jaime feels about it after having had to guard Aerys while he raped Rhaella and how he felt it was justice to immidiately hang rapists while in the Riverlands. This could further add to the self loathing felt at having experienced those impulses himself.)

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...We also have her pointing out how women value male attributes and "having a place among men" higher than being the first among women. We've seen this reading a lot on the forums too, regarding Arya/Asha/Brienne and their sword/axe fighting being valued higher and they are seen as "better" women for being more like men, while women like Sansa, Cat and Cersei are easier to look down on since they are "too feminine" and traits that are traditionally looked upon as feminine get devalued...

I think this is a very interesting aspect of the role of power and authority in the series and how ASOIAF stands at a angle to a lot of fantasy.

In a lot of fantasy, perhaps better said it is a fantasy to think that, if and when you stick the sword/arrow/plot mcguffin in the bad guy/monster/plot mcguffin the problem is resolved.

GRRM on the contrary is very interested in what happens the day after. King Bob bashes Rhaeger with a big hammer, which could be the climatic (God, typing this it also seems very sexual, notions of masculine penetration as the climax of the narrative) moment of a different novel but here that act is the unstable foundation that drives the story.

It's marriage that unites the realm, lineage - which is to say control over and the restriction of sex, that provides legitimacy. Once we are into marriage then we are into issues about relationships and consent. Marriage is the symbol of or the realisation of the big political themes.

King Bob again proves the essential point that force is not enough. King Bob can force himself on Cersei. King Bob does force himself on Cersei, but Cersei can have her revenge by choosing to have a different father for her children. (eta and I don't think that GRRM is particularly rebellious or innovative here that motive of the relationship and the kingdom being interlinked is there in the King Arthur story, off topic but going back to the sex theme its amusing that he is famous for drawing his sword out of the stone, taking it from the lady in the lake but not for sticking it into monsters or plot mcguffins, is this an impotence metaphor!)

My link back to what Lyanna wrote is that there is a constant dialogue about power in the series. The idealisation of violence as part of the culture of westeros in the form of chivalry is made explicit. But we also see, repeatedly it's limitations and its consequences. One can assume power and attempt to exercise it through brute force, but equally this can be undermined or rejected in favour of gentler, subtler approaches. Robb can win battles with the sword, but he looses his war in the marriage bed.

So the reading that the use of weapons is superior is constantly debated and challenged through the series. The idealisation of violence is repeatedly underlined. For me the Daenerys storyline is the strongest example of this. Yes with swords you can end slavery in a day in Astapor and Meereen but swords can't make a society that is not governed by the legacy and consequences of slavery. Yes dragons can consume armies but they can't sew together a realm. Instead you need a gentler way, the arts of persuasion and relationship. The successes and failures of this are what we see in Catelyn's and Sansa's stories in particular.

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As someone who firmly comes down on the side of "gender is constructed" I have to disagree with you slightly on that Sansa has any sort of "hard wired" leaning towards a traditional ladylike existance, while Arya is the opposite. Certainly, both girls have personality traits that differ, but the question is: had the ideal role been different, would Sansa then not work as hard to adapt? If Westeros had been a world of warrior women and sorcerers, how would Sansa have fared as the "ideal woman"? Had she still been successful? Would she still be "buying what they were selling" so to speak? It's quite likely that she would have, and that Arya would always feel like an "afterthought" regardless. I agree though that Arya is self conscious about her looks, she is also jealous of Sansa's ability to do things like write poetry, play musical instruments and generall do the courtesy thing flawlessly.

Agreed. I think Judith Butler's "Gender Trouble" is also seminal reading for anyone interested in questions of how gender is constructed and performed. It's not who we are, but what we do, going back to Beauvoir's thesis on how one becomes a woman. The only "essential" difference between Sansa and Arya is that one is able to perform the required ideal more seamlessly and seemingly naturally than the other. Sansa's desire to be the perfect lady is based on the normative standards her society has set, and the positive reinforcement she receives based on the success of her performance. This is why we end up with such entrenched ideas aligning femininity with passivity and masculinity with action and authority, because we've been conditioned into believing that these constructs are innate and immutable. Martin has been breaking them down since the very first book as Lummel alluded to above. King Bob, for all his promise of raw masculinity and force, is ultimately an impotent King, leaving the realm in shambles and with no legitimate heirs.

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The construction of identity is a good point because you can't have an identity of woman without man and the other way round.

In book terms if there is an active powerful masculine identity then instinctively one can feel that there has to be a contrasting passive weak feminine identity. And isn't it easy to put Jon, Arya and King Bob (etc etc) in the first 'good' category and the Queen of Thorns, Catelyn and the reader of Harlow in the second 'bad' category.

But to do so is a crude way of reading a book that is a chorus of distinctive, often conflicting, voices. It's not all over until the fat lady sings as the saying goes, but so far being purely or uniquely active, powerful and masculine doesn't look like the winning strategy in westeros.

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It's marriage that unites the realm, lineage - which is to say control over and the restriction of sex, that provides legitimacy. Once we are into marriage then we are into issues about relationships and consent. Marriage is the symbol of or the realisation of the big political themes.

I think the contrast to this is the fact that marriages in Westeros can be deadlier than any battle. Lyanna going off with Rhaegar ended a dynasty while the marriage that set the foundation for the new dynasty became a relentless battle for dominance. Naturally, it ended in murder and civil war.

Robb hacked at the foundations of his kingdom with a marriage and the Freys finished it off with a wedding. The Lannister-Tyrell alliance sealed with a marriage was likened to a sword and started with the Tyrells drwing first blood followed by Cersei after Tommen stepping in his big brothers shoes.

The Boltons celebrate victory by rapping a facsimile of their vanquished foes in their desecrated home, while human flesh is being served at a feast attended by guests sharpening their knives in revelry of treachery and vengeance.

Dany's marriage (or capitulation) is celebrated by spilling blood on sand until a big black dragon lands and set the whole thing ablaze, carrying off the bride in the process.

Marriage is another kind of sword likewise used to kill, subdue and dominate.

I can't believe that you used the word "weak" in the same sentence with the Queen of Thornes, Catelyn and the Reader.

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But Martin doesn’t let us forget; in every chapter he appears afterwards, his face is the centre of attention, and his raspy voice, again and again, and curiosity makes the reader wonder who this man is, and in what circumstances he got the scars and which object caused them. We finally discover more about them through Sansa's eyes:

Very insightful piece, Milady. The fact that it's not the scar itself (gruesome and grisly though it may be), but how he got it goes a long way in explaining the Hound's rage, his insecurities and his outlook on the world. I guess my main question to you would be about the relevance of this to his relationship with Sansa, especially in his oft-repeated demands for her to look at him. My thoughts are a bit muddled, but to connect back to my analysis on the gaze in their relationship, perhaps it explains why the Hound is strangely comfortable with setting himself up as an object in Sansa's vision. The point being that it's not the scar she's supposed to see, but the man behind it. It's a bit of a paradox in that it's only by being held up as object that he can become a subject. I'm not suggesting that this is at all a conscious thought process on his part, but it may help us to understand why he (ironically) can bear the burden of objectification despite having such a terrible facial disfigurement. I'm obviously moving past the interpretation that he wants her to look at him to shock her out of her naivete, which may have been true at the very start of their relationship, but changes quickly over time, and with the understanding that these deeper processes might have always been at work.

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...I can't believe that you used the word "weak" in the same sentence with the Queen of Thornes, Catelyn and the Reader.

er...precisely ;)

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As someone who firmly comes down on the side of "gender is constructed" I have to disagree with you slightly on that Sansa has any sort of "hard wired" leaning towards a traditional ladylike existance, while Arya is the opposite. Certainly, both girls have personality traits that differ, but the question is: had the ideal role been different, would Sansa then not work as hard to adapt? If Westeros had been a world of warrior women and sorcerers, how would Sansa have fared as the "ideal woman"? Had she still been successful? Would she still be "buying what they were selling" so to speak? It's quite likely that she would have, and that Arya would always feel like an "afterthought" regardless. I agree though that Arya is self conscious about her looks, she is also jealous of Sansa's ability to do things like write poetry, play musical instruments and generall do the courtesy thing flawlessly.

I don't think it is a matter of being hard-wired. I also think that there is a vast difference between what meant a "traditional ladylike existence" in Winterfell and what it meant in Kings Landing. In Winterfell Sansa was the pride and joy of her parents, singularly without peer in her immedidate enviornment, someone the other girls her age looked after and wanted to be close to. In the end her differences with Arya in regards to their different pursuits are superficial and the sorce of their conflict is one trait they share. They are both alphas fighting for the same spot. I also think that Arya's frustration at not being included in Sansa's circle is the same kind of frustration she felt when her father took Bran hunting but didn't take her.

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I think the contrast to this is the fact that marriages in Westeros can be deadlier than any battle. Lyanna going off with Rhaegar ended a dynasty while the marriage that set the foundation for the new dynasty became a relentless battle for dominance. Naturally, it ended in murder and civil war.

Robb hacked at the foundations of his kingdom with a marriage and the Freys finished it off with a wedding. The Lannister-Tyrell alliance sealed with a marriage was likened to a sword and started with the Tyrells drwing first blood followed by Cersei after Tommen stepping in his big brothers shoes.

The Boltons celebrate victory by rapping a facsimile of their vanquished foes in their desecrated home, while human flesh is being served at a feast attended by guests sharpening their knives in revelry of treachery and vengeance.

Dany's marriage (or capitulation) is celebrated by spilling blood on sand until a big black dragon lands and set the whole thing ablaze, carrying off the bride in the process.

Marriage is another kind of sword likewise used to kill, subdue and dominate.

I think this is a good point as it underscores that weddings and trhe continuation of the lineage, when transformed completely from the private to the political is just as violent as other political tools, and perhaps more so, too. Lummel has discussed earlier that when weddings and matches between a man and a woman are violent, forced or cynically political with no personal connection what so ever, it adds to the lack of balance in society. For a marriage to be somewhat successful, there needs to be if not love at least mutual respect, understanding and a sense of not being the victims of force. Otherwise, harmony cannot be possible. The Ned and Cat may have been shoved together as a matter of happenstance, but they both showed eachother the mutual respect and both went at least mostly willingly into the match, hence they had a bigger chance of creating something worthwhile. Still we see that even that is fraught with difficulties - Jon Snow and Brandon Stark are two things that still manage to come between them.

I don't think it is a matter of being hard-wired. I also think that there is a vast difference between what meant a "traditional ladylike existence" in Winterfell and what it meant in Kings Landing. In Winterfell Sansa was the pride and joy of her parents, singularly without peer in her immedidate enviornment, someone the other girls her age looked after and wanted to be close to. In the end her differences with Arya in regards to their different pursuits are superficial and the sorce of their conflict is one trait they share. They are both alphas fighting for the same spot. I also think that Arya's frustration at not being included in Sansa's circle is the same kind of frustration she felt when her father took Bran hunting but didn't take her.

I think you are right in that this is what lays the foundations to much of their conflict.

Interestingly, both Sansa and Arya have really been "humbled" and more careful in how they view themselves and their role. While they once took a lot for granted, as we have seen while rereading Arya's chapters (they are both spoilt in their own way) as of AFFC/ADWD, they are two extremely different individuals from the ones we meet in AGOT.

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While I don't consider myself an expert on feminism by any means and like Starkalways I never took any formal feminist classes, thinking about it I realize that this idea of "feminism" and the role of women in a given society has always been something I have been interested in. I was an English Literature major in college because I loved to read, and I ended up concentrating mostly in British Victorian novels. I read Pride and Prejudice at least two times in college and many more since then, and never tire of reading it. In fact, I love Jane Austen so much and have gone on to read all her novels, but the point is, what I love so much about Austen is how she deals with the woman's very restricted role in that society yet how they can triumph over it. Now, some might think that they don't really triumph over anything as, after all, all her heroines end up happily married to the man they fall in love with and end up in a higher social station than where they began. How is that breaking out of the role that a woman must make herself available for being married and hopefully married well (as in to someone with lots of wealth), which is a very restrictive, patriarchal notion? How is that a "feminist" statement? All of her heroines are very feminine as well. None are looking to go off and try manly pursuits after all. But I view them all as feminine yet strong feminist characters also because in the end none of them compromises in what she is looking for in love and marriage.

This is most obvious with Elizabeth Bennet and her best friend Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth recoils at the idea of marrying the buffoonish lickspittle Mr. Collins even if he were the last man on earth. There is no way she will consent to marrying him, though he has a respectable, secure position and in fact will be the one to inherit her family's estate once her father dies as it cannot be passed down to daughters. It would be a very easy solution for her family's future security to marry him but he is such a moron that she just can't and won't. Charlotte on the other hand does agree to marry Mr. Collins, knowing what he is and even knowing that she was not his first choice, because she wants to be secure and gives in to the pressure that she must marry a man of more secure means than herself to do so and she grabs onto it. She fears that if she doesn't marry Mr. Collins then she will never get another chance. She does not reach higher or decide to wait for a real chance at love and accepts her lot in life. She is the foil to Elizabeth who will not settle. So, with all of Austen's stories even though the heroines are feminine and not looking to break out of their feminine roles per se, I still see them as powerful and feminist in not giving in to the patriarchal pressure of marrying at any cost and still holding onto their ideals and morals. To put a modern feminist term to it as Lyanna states above, they exercise their agency. This is also central to Jane Eyre and I would say Esther Summerson in Bleak House as well. (I throw in this last one as Bleak House is written by a man, Charles Dickens, but he has a strong feminine yet feminist character in Esther.)

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Interestingly, both Sansa and Arya have really been "humbled" and more careful in how they view themselves and their role. While they once took a lot for granted, as we have seen while rereading Arya's chapters (they are both spoilt in their own way) as of AFFC/ADWD, they are two extremely different individuals from the ones we meet in AGOT.

I think this is part of the reason they both come off to the reader as familiar and identifiable characters. Growing up, they had far fewer boundaries than the vast majority of other characters (considering, the generally informal climate at Winterfell, even in comparison to other noble girls). Later, their natural tendencies are completely at odds with the expctations in their environment.

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How is that breaking out of the role that a woman must make herself available for being married and hopefully married well (as in to someone with lots of wealth), which is a very restrictive, patriarchal notion? How is that a "feminist" statement? All of her heroines are very feminine as well. None are looking to go off and try manly pursuits after all. But I view them all as feminine yet strong feminist characters also because in the end none of them compromises in what she is looking for in love and marriage.

Very well said Elba, and I think the crucial point you made is that women don't have to suddenly throw over the institution of marriage or do away with their sexuality and femininity in order to feel empowered or affect change. I think that's why I appreciated Angela Carter's fairy tale revisions, because she too leaves the old structures in place, but she transforms the interior dynamics so much that it looks like a whole new building. She wasn't afraid to show that women could sometimes be just as perverse and "wicked" as men, and be actually interested in pursuing sexual relations or power. That's why I'm heartened by characters like Dany and Asha in this series. Yes, Martin may sometimes include some fairly stereotypical representations of his female characters, but I like that he's showing that women do have unruly desires which aren't always going to be directed towards the conventional hero, and they struggle just like any other man who's trying to create change and progress. I've often felt like Dany in particular suffers from the societal constructions of womanhood, where many readers simply don't know how to read her. She has access to a masculine form of power in her dragons, whilst embodying traditional feminine attributes. And I'm not suggesting that (all) those who critique Dany are doing so from a sexist standpoint, but I do believe we have to break down our assumptions concerning female behaviour, and the implicit double standards that inform our arguments concerning their male counterparts. And to realise that women are often laboring under considerably more stringent expectations given the patriarchal society we live in.

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Very insightful piece, Milady. The fact that it's not the scar itself (gruesome and grisly though it may be), but how he got it goes a long way in explaining the Hound's rage, his insecurities and his outlook on the world. I guess my main question to you would be about the relevance of this to his relationship with Sansa, especially in his oft-repeated demands for her to look at him. My thoughts are a bit muddled, but to connect back to my analysis on the gaze in their relationship, perhaps it explains why the Hound is strangely comfortable with setting himself up as an object in Sansa's vision. The point being that it's not the scar she's supposed to see, but the man behind it. It's a bit of a paradox in that it's only by being held up as object that he can become a subject.

Good question, Brash. In my opinion, his motivation for demanding that Sansa look him in the face changed throughout his interactions with her: at first, as you pointed out, he wanted to terrorise her putting himself as an example of the dark side of knighthood, but that rather than a conscious desire, was an almost automatic reaction, since he was used to terrorise people. What changed this behaviour from being a reflex reaction to a conscious decision was her own reaction: she agreed to look at him, even though he forced her to do so, and that made him lower his defenses and encouraged him to tell her his life story. Why? You see, people who have a deformity or a hideous scar, either genetic or acquired, feel a tremendous need to be looked in the face. They don’t take to it kindly if others avoid them or refuse to look at them, because for them the gaze is not so much connected to the sexual aspect as in the case of healthy ones. The gaze means accepting the person with everything she/he is and has, as a human being; for that's what they want above anything else: acceptance. There is a big but here: this is true only of people who have accepted their deformity, who’ve worked on a new identity based on a new image of themselves. A person who has been unsuccessful in this regard will not feel comfortable being in the place of the object, and will try to avoid facing that possibility, they feel better as the subject, they disguise or mask their problem, require of the partner to see beyond their physical characteristics, with the assumption that not doing so would mean narrow-mindedness, or worse. Sandor has accepted his deformity, he has no problem being looked at, he gets upset if they do not, which is why I have constructed the theory that his self-esteem problems stem not so much from his scars as from the fact that he is an attempted murder survivor and an abuse survivor. That’s why I said it’s not the scar, it’s how he got it.

I do not think his insistence on being looked in the face means that he wants the little bird to see the man behind the scars but that he wants her to see the man and his scars, because they are part of himself, part of the Hound and of Sandor. My clinical practice has taught me that “looking past” deformities to see “the real person,” or that the only way for someone to be attracted to them is to ignore how they look like are notions these people –those well-adjusted and accepting of their problems, of course– find deeply offensive and hurtful. Like Sandor, they do not want a relationship with someone who ignores their less-than-perfect body. Quite the contrary: like Sandor, they desire a partner who looks directly at it and can love it, burnt bits and all. Only people who are still struggling with self-image issues are prone to expect such a thing, despite their claims to the contrary.

His issues with his face are limited to that he’s been living on the assumption that his scars are a negative condition that makes it highly improbable to find love or, at the very least, will always remain a burden inflicted upon a potential partner; but no more than that. Unlike people who have not adjusted well to their infirmities and deformities, he doesn’t view his as a personal deficiency, he doesn’t use it to excuse his failings and flaws nor does he place the blame on people’s perceptions of his disfigurement, but on who he has become as a result of that deformity. His attitude isn’t Oh, they hate me, must be because I’m disfigured but Bu… that, they hate me and so they should, they’re meat and I’m the butcher. Therefore, the key to his being so comfortable with Sansa’s gaze and being an object is that he accepts his body and his face, and because of that he wants her to accept it as well.

So you can see, now, what the gaze means to him, and the triple purpose it served over time: to frighten her out of her ideas about ser Perfect in the beginning, to get her acceptance in the second phase, and to see if she was willing to reciprocate his feelings. But I have to add that I never read it as if it were the sense he privileges above other senses. I think it’s a perception we have gotten from reading what he says and unintentionally focusing on it more than on what he does. If we focus on his actions, then an argument can be made that there’s a sense far more important to him, the most important, I daresay: touch. He touched her before he spoke to her, before he began demanding that she look at him. And he was the one who started the touching, the one who does the touching almost in all their scenes together, whereas she’s touched him of her own volition only twice, and when she does, the effect it has on him is powerful. Why? To me, the revelation is two-fold: on one hand, that in his childhood he was not affectionately touched, hugged and caressed as children usually are, and he’s showing one of the common outcomes, which we colloquially call touch hunger, that is craving to be touched or to touch a person one is interested in or is interested in one. Touch is the most important of all the senses from both biological and psychological viewpoints, regardless of gender. Its importance is not limited to sexuality. It’s the primary sense, the mother of all senses, the one who has a disproportionately large amount of neural connections, especially in the fingers and the lips; the first bond –mother and child– is based on touch, babies and children explore things through touch, smell and taste, as their eyes don’t develop fully until much later, and as adults we still use touch more than other senses. A child deprived of skin-to-skin contact will grow to be emotionally stunted (and even physically stunted in severe cases), but later will instinctively seek to touch and be touched, in an unconscious effort to kindle affection, to arouse emotion in the subject, which is the primary function of this sense, and to elicit a response, because touch is a reciprocal sense, in positive and negative ways. In other words, its purpose is proximity seeking, to connect emotionally with that person, as I have said in a previous essay. I have to conclude, then, that what he was looking for was first and foremost an emotional bond with her, expressed in his touching, and the sexual desire came later. That he was the one to initiate touching gives me another argument against the notion that it’s his scar the source of his self-esteem issues, because touch-avoidance, more than look-avoidance, is related to a problematic body image, as any psychologist worth his salt will assert.

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Great explanation Milady, and I agree with most of it, especially your points about Sandor's acceptance of what he looks like, and the importance of touch for healthy development along with facilitating emotional connections. I still believe though, that he does privilege sight, but as I noted in my essay, what Martin does is to undermine that preference, both for readers and Sandor, as we see that his two most meaningful experiences with Sansa come about due to her touching him. If we look at all their interactions together, we see that Sandor often touches her to get her to look at him, or their bodily contact comes about accidentally, and then he holds on for longer periods of time. So whilst I would say that Martin from the very beginning of their relationship signifies that what will be important is touch between them (when Sansa backs into him and he places his hands on her shoulder), I'd still argue that Sandor's conscious inclination is towards the look, even though he ultimately gains more pleasure from their contact.

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