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brashcandy

Becoming No One: Rereading Arya IV

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Welcome to the fourth thread in the Rereading Arya project. As always, we hope to foster critical discussion and appreciation of Arya's chapters throughout the novels, and we encourage all interested boarders to join us in this endeavour :) The same rules apply:

  • Try and stick to the current and previous chapters when commenting in this thread. It's perfectly fine to allude to future events, but if you are about to post something longer about events in future chapters, save it on file and add it when we're there. We'd love to hear your thoughts.
  • This is not a "love" or "hate" thread. It's a thread dedicated to re-reading and critically (as in literary criticism) analysing Arya's chapters, her character development, symbolism, foreshadowing etc. within her character arc.
  • While it's not absolutely necessary to read the chapter in question, it certainly helps. Quotes or references to the text are always helpful and a great tool to use, otherwise it is easy to end up in yet another "I think" "you think" discussion, which we have plenty of in other places.
  • You do not need to be a "veteran poster" to add your thoughts and interpretations, all you need is to be armed with the ASOIAF novels and to be Ready to Read.

Previous threads: Arya I Arya II Arya III

Chapter reviews for the last thread:

ASOS:

Arya IV: Summary & Analysis

Arya V: Summary & Analysis

Arya VI: Summary & Analysis

Arya VII: Summary & Analysis

Arya VIII: Summary & Analysis

Arya IX: Summary & Analysis

Arya X: Summary & Analysis

Arya XI: Summary & Analysis

Arya XII: Summary & Analysis

Arya XIII: Summary & Analysis

We are now moving into AFFC and ADWD territory.

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ASOS - Recap

This is the book where Arya's transformation into no-one begins in earnest. She begins the novel with an escape from Harrenhal and a plan to journey to Riverrun to meet with her brother and mother. However, this path is quickly thwarted by the appearance of Brotherhood without Banners, and instead Arya's journey becomes a circular pattern of disappointment and disillusionment throughout the Riverlands, ending with her departure on a boat headed to Braavos. Arya's association with death continues in this book, along with the intensification of her warg bond with Nymeria. There is also copious foreshadowing of her eventual apprenticeship in the House of Black and White.

The BWB

Arya meets up with the group of former King's men, now turned outlaws in her second chapter of ASOS. In her review of the chapter, Rapsie notes:

Arya’s leadership skills, awareness of surroundings and bravery are one of the first things to notice in this chapter. She is the one who has Hot Pie and Gendry hide while she is ready to take on who ever is approaching. After seeing the mouse evolve into the Ghost and then seeing the experience of the wolf dream, we are now seeing a more wolf like Arya in her role as Pack Leader.

We also meet the BWB and see what became of the men Ned sent out back in AGOT. This is also the first time that Arya is publically recognised as Arya Stark of Winterfell.

This public recognition as Arya Stark only leads to frustration however, as the BWB decide to take Arya as a captive to be ransomed, leading to her fear of being powerless once again. Further conflict ensues when Gendry decides to join the group, and Arya feels a sense of abandonment. Arya's experiences with the group highlight powerfully the theme of innocence and childhood lost, from Harwin's poignant recognition of her as Arya Underfoot of Winterfell, to the Ghost of High Heart's hailing her as "wolf child, blood child."

Arya also has to face some tough truths as she travels with the BWB, learning of her grandfather's destruction of Lord Goodbrook's village and the fact that wolves can be just as destructive and bloodthirsty as lions. All in all, she ends up with a more complex appreciation on the horrors of her surroundings.

The journey to Acorn Hall and the meet-up with Lady Smallwood is also interesting in how it represents a brief moment in time when Arya is able to connect with a mothering figure, and for what it highlights about her development. Lyanna Stark noted in her analysis of Arya IV:

Lady Smallwood gets to act as a positive mother figure for Arya, and even if we normally see Arya shun dresses and ladylike pursuits, we see her having very civilized (if laced with double entendre) conversations with Lady Smallwood, and she does not really protest being put in Lady Smallwood’s daughter’s, Carellen’s, clothes. Arya thinks to herself that she is not a lady, but a wolf, but here she agrees to being taken care of, and she seems to genuinely appreciate Lady Smallwood’s motherly affections, even if it’s not really completely to her taste. We also get Lady Smallwood praising Arya as pretty and telling her to be brave.

For a long time, Lady Smallwood stands out as one of very few positive female role models for Arya. I also think that her interactions with Lady Smallwood highlights how much Arya is missing her real mother, despite their differences.

Arya as a girl and future woman. I touched upon this already, but there are several references to Arya growing up in this chapter, that she is pretty even if she is not a traditional lady. It’s further helped along by references to sex, romantic love and even marriage plus by the Lyanna reference in the last chapter. Arya herself emphasizes that she is growing up and will be a woman grown soon.

It's been clear from AGOT that Arya was never going to follow the conventional script for women in Westeros, and since her escape with Yoren became accustomed to passing as a boy. However, we see that questions of maturity and sexuality are still relevant in considering her development, and that Arya very much identifies as a girl, despite not being interested in traditionally feminine pursuits.

The Hound

Sandor Clegane joins the list of dubious mentor/helper figures for Arya, however their relationship is considerably more contentious and complicated than any of the previous ones. There are significant similarities between the two, and these become further entrenched as they both end up in hopeless circumstances after the Red Wedding, depressed and alienated from themselves and their immediate environment. The themes of mercy, revenge and justice are central to Arya's experiences with the Hound.

Daphne23 made an interesting observation about the events of Arya V, the chapter where the Hound is captured by the Mad Huntsman of Stoney Sept:

... I find the scene with Arya and the crow cages very interesting, for a number of reasons. It's often cited on the board as proof that Arya has not lost her compassionate nature by this point in Storm, and although I certainly don't think that Arya is devoid of compassion, I think that this scene is much more nuanced than a simple act of kindness. Firstly, it seems that it is very significant to Arya that these aren't just any suffering men, but they are Stark men - she sees the crow cages, but does not seem to react, and it's only a few lines of dialogue later that she becomes 'cold' because she realises that they are 'wolves'. When she is afraid of the men, because of their disgusting appearance, she again thinks 'Wolves... Like me. Was this her pack?' and this seems to be the motivation for giving them water. Arya's sympathy doesn't, therefore, seem to be generalised, but is specifically extended to those she considers her 'pack', unlike some of Sansa's kindnesses, for example. Secondly, the theme of justice seems to be in play here: Arya makes a point of asking 'Whose men were you?' and 'What did they do?' before offered mercy, as if this is a mini-trial, which also adds weight to the first point. This is interesting, as it seems that her time with the legally-orientated (if not actually legal!) BwB is already having an impact on her.

The Hound is certainly not a man Arya would consider one of her pack, and in the very next chapter she gets to lay a charge on him for Mycah's killing, and is incensed when he wins his trial by battle. Milady of York noted an important lesson for Arya in this moment:

When the Mad Huntsman suggests that they overlook the outcome of their own trial done according to their own rules and take him back to a crow cage, she agrees, repeating that he killed that boy. At this point, doing this would be just unmistakable murder for vengeance, as there’s not even any pretence of lawfulness once the trial is over. But revenge is never so easy or so fulfilling as one imagines in dreams and prayers once one has a real and clear opportunity to exact it; and that’s what she finds out as soon as she sees the burns on his shield arm, and she cannot do it, he’s wounded and that in a way "shields" him from an immediate stabbing. This passage takes us back to Bran I in AGOT, in which their father is explaining to him the Stark way of taking a man’s life: "… the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words." Arya is doing this here, she’s holding the dagger, she considers him guilty, is looking him in the eye and challenges him to say again what he’s done, which should be his final words in case he were stabbed to death. But the dagger feels heavy on her hand, "And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die" her father had added, and she cannot go on with her intention, and this is just the first time, as there will be another even clearer opportunity later. She loses the dagger to Lem, and ends up shouting at the Hound in frustrated rage.

Arya might rage over justice not having being served, but to take the burden of vengeance upon oneself is not easy, and the pursuit of such can be as destructive to the self as it is to the other. At the end of their time together Arya will refuse to give the gift of mercy to the Hound, but there's also some sense of forgiveness on her part too, no matter the harshness of her final words, and her feelings of bitterness towards him.

The Red Wedding

One of the most shocking events in the novel, and the brutal end of Arya's hopes of reuniting with her family when she is just outside the castle gates. It threatens to throw her into a semi-catatonic state, where all she wants to do is sleep, and it the Hound who has to insist on her getting up and doing daily chores. Any sense of home or belonging has been destroyed, and her only "relief" is in the wolf dreams she has at night - a consequence of her warg bond with Nymeria.

just an Other explained her emotional state at this time:

There is an overbearing sense of loneliness starting from the hole where her parents and her brothers lived and extending to everyone she got to know during her journeys, so far. She goes through a mental checklist of the people she had encountered (and were reasonably friendly). Her parents died, Yoren died, Gendry and HotPie left her, the BwB wanted her for ransom, Lady Smallwood is out of reach, her aunt and and great uncle are strangers to her. Death and abandonment and all sides and the strong emotional bonds that she longed for are nowhere to be found. She even berates her self for wanting it. A stupid, little girl and no wolf at all. A single ray of hope emerges at the end of the chapter that Jon is still on the wall. By contrast, when she describes Nymeria's pack all emphasis is put on the word "hers".

The encounter at the Inn with the Gregor's men gives Arya a chance to get her revenge on the Tickler, but also viscerally highlights her deep-seated scars from all she's suffered and witnessed in the past months.

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Great work all and a superb summary Brash! I've really enjoyed catching up on this re-read. There have been so many brilliant posts from lots of different people (hello and welcome to all the new posters).

I'm going to try and squeeze in time for a small comment at least and that is on the topic of revenge, which I think is something that can be found strongly in Arya's arc, but also in other character story lines.

Arya stabs the Tickler and while it is a cathartic feel for the reader, at least the first time, and it can be argued that the Tickler certainly deserves a horrible fate, there is also Arya's reflection that Joffrey's death does not bring her joy, nor real satisfaction. It touches upon what Elia and Cat got to act as mouthpieces for: In Cat's case, crowning Robb and going to war would not bring her Ned back, and in Elia's case, more revenge would not being her Oberyn back (also in both cases women acting as mouthpieces lamenting their dead men).

Even if Cat's and Elia's situations are not totally similar to Arya's, there is the point being made that revenge doesn't feel half as good as you think it will. It's am empty goblet to drink out of, and it cannot bring back those we want to avenge. Ned and Oberyn are never coming back. Neither are the people the Tickler killed.

It's interesting to note that the characters still hangitng on to glorious thoughts of vengeance are Dany ("my enemies will die screaming") and Tyrion with his vengeful thoughts towards his family. Arya though, I think here she had a taste of his revenge tastes and it's maybe not such a pleasant dish after all. Arya still hangs on to vengeful thoughts though, but it feels like perhaps it's more out of stubbornness and because it's one of the few things she has left when everything is gone.

Looking forward to reading to other people's most likely far more articulated take on the revenge theme. :)

EDIT: Thanks for the well wishes everyone. :)

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...Arya stabs the Tickler and while it is a cathartic feel for the reader, at least the first time, and it can be argued that the Tickler certainly deserves a horrible fate, there is also Arya's reflection that Joffrey's death does not bring her joy, nor real satisfaction. It touches upon what Elia and Cat got to act as mouthpieces for: In Cat's case, crowning Robb and going to war would not bring her Ned back, and in Elia's case, more revenge would not being her Oberyn back (also in both cases women acting as mouthpieces lamenting their dead men).

Even if Cat's and Elia's situations are not totally similar to Arya's, there is the point being made that revenge doesn't feel half as good as you think it will. It's am empty goblet to drink out of, and it cannot bring back those we want to avenge. Ned and Oberyn are never coming back. Neither are the people the Tickler killed.

It's interesting to note that the characters still hangitng on to glorious thoughts of vengeance are Dany ("my enemies will die screaming") and Tyrion with his vengeful thoughts towards his family. Arya though, I think here she had a taste of his revenge tastes and it's maybe not such a pleasant dish after all. Arya still hangs on to vengeful thoughts though, but it feels like perhaps it's more out of stubbornness and because it's one of the few things she has left when everything is gone...

I would agree that revenge is an unsatisfactory dish. Revenge is a cycle of tragedy - illustrated by the Blackwoods and the Brackens. They are stuck - they don't know why they fight, they can't stop fighting for long, fighting each other is what they do.

We have the sense that before Tywin (BT) these cycles of violence were relatively contained but Tywin changed the rules of the game by introducing a new level of violence. We see the results of this in Daenerys and Varys' vengeance plans. GRRM is telling us clearly that if Arya continues down the road to vengeance she will neither achieve personal satisfaction nor relief from the pain of loss, still worse dynastic vengeance will sow the dragon seeds for conflict in the next generation. In which case we will have a perfect circle of tragedy.

At the same time ASOIAF seems to promise to be a Bildungsroman which is the opposite of tragedy. Instead of being stuck in a cycle there is progression, growth and development.

Reaching the end of Tyrion the question was does Tyrion go on to become Tywin and repeat the cycle or can he move in a different direction. The same basic question faces Daenerys. We see the likes of Prince Doran or Lem Lemoncloak on their own downwards paths, echoing the pattern of the bigger characters.

Added to Arya's mix will be the idea of service - but also that all men must die, even without Arya's personal intervention. Maybe I can cling to some optimism in the name of the weapon that Jon gifted her with. A needle mends and stitches back together.

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I've recently reread ADWD and AFFC so I'm excited to see the analysis on these chapters since I adore all of Arya's chapters in Braavos.

This may be a little late, but liberal teapot mentioned the Ishtar myth in relationship to Arya. Interesting that Ishtar had to shed her clothes to get through the gates of the underworld since, iirc, Arya has to shed her 'treasures' and even the clothes off her back in order to stay at the House of Black and White.

However, I believe we'll get to that scene in due time.

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Arya stabs the Tickler and while it is a cathartic feel for the reader, at least the first time, and it can be argued that the Tickler certainly deserves a horrible fate, there is also Arya's reflection that Joffrey's death does not bring her joy, nor real satisfaction. It touches upon what Elia and Cat got to act as mouthpieces for: In Cat's case, crowning Robb and going to war would not bring her Ned back, and in Elia's case, more revenge would not being her Oberyn back (also in both cases women acting as mouthpieces lamenting their dead men).

Even if Cat's and Elia's situations are not totally similar to Arya's, there is the point being made that revenge doesn't feel half as good as you think it will. It's am empty goblet to drink out of, and it cannot bring back those we want to avenge. Ned and Oberyn are never coming back. Neither are the people the Tickler killed.

I`d like to tell a story from Montenegrin history. For those of you who don`t know it, Montenegro was one of 6 ex-Yugoslavian republics, but before that it was independent Kingdom. One of the greatest problem in history of Montenegro was `blood revenge`. Throughout the centuries, the tribes of Montenegro practiced sinister tradition of retaliation for each crime. It was a huge problem, due to Montenegro being small country, and that fact that one murder would lead into vicious circle of revenge. Basically, it would go like this. One man kills another. Than the son or brother of the killed one murder the killer. Than again male member of killer`s family would be obligated to kill those that kill his relative, and so on and on. In one case of blood revenge, near 50 men died in about one year. It lasted until 1870s, until it became legally prohibited by Prince Danilo Petrovic. The most tragic thing is that blood revenge still resonates even today in some rural areas of Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (the last publically known case happened in Cetinje, Montenegro in 1989.). The thing is Montenegrin history taught us that revenge is a dangerous and destructive vicious circle.

When you connect this history data with Arya, you realize that she is also in vicious circle of revenge. Only she is not in spiral without ending, she is in some sort of chain reaction. Each person she wants to kill represent one link of that chain, and her pain and emptiness is what unites those links. One killing continues to another, one death leads to another. Her prayer of death involves more and more men with each chapter of her journey, and every time she stops saying a name, another fills its position. After RW, we have Arya whose list involves countless nameless Freys. As Lyanna wonderfully pointed out there is a cathartic moment, but it lasts for so short, before understanding there are many more to kill, and understanding it brings nothing. Not fulfillment, not joy, only emptiness. And with each death, chain becomes stronger.

But revenge has devastating consequence on Arya. Her wanderings throughout the Riverlands in ASOS finished with massacre at Twins, and she is now completely lost. Her `raison d`etre`, uniting with family, is now gone. And revenge becomes more than just a prayer, it`s became obsession. Before Twins, Arya had something to look forward, but now she is completely blinded. Life has taken her family from her, and revenge is there. But revenge for Arya is so complicated. You can`t deny that revenge will lead her to losing herself in that chain, and on the other hand, you can`t not feel that revenge became one of the strongest connections to her identity. Yes, Arya is becoming No one, but not just by accepting the philosophy of FM, then also by accepting that being Stark changes nothing and the fact that revenge takes bit by bit of who you are. Arya`s revenge is now wandering between No one and Stark identity, and where it ends will certainly shape her. The time of wild wolf pup is over, Arya is on the road to become something far more sinister than just a wolf.

But at the end, even in deepest darkness, light can spring. And the reason why the Needle is hidden, the reason why she reminds herself what Needle represents is all we need to conclude that Arya`s light is her family - Jon, Sansa, Bran and Rickon. And the fact that Ghost is so oftenly described as alpha male(the one that gathers the pack together), the fact that Sansa`s arc is heavily foreshadowed to rebuild what`s broken, and Bran`s to keep an eye on his family, we can say that wolf in Arya won`t be diminished so easily. The real identity struggle is in front of Arya. And whether revenge will destroy her to the point of no return, or leave her destroyed so her family could help her get on her feet, is something reserved we are about to see in future books.

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Arya stabs the Tickler and while it is a cathartic feel for the reader, at least the first time, and it can be argued that the Tickler certainly deserves a horrible fate, there is also Arya's reflection that Joffrey's death does not bring her joy, nor real satisfaction. It touches upon what Elia and Cat got to act as mouthpieces for: In Cat's case, crowning Robb and going to war would not bring her Ned back, and in Elia's case, more revenge would not being her Oberyn back (also in both cases women acting as mouthpieces lamenting their dead men).

While I agree in general, I think the Tickler stands as a special case that goes beyond revenge, hence the difference in the reaction between him, Polliver and Joffrey. Revenge is for things done, for balncing the scales so to speak. Part of Arya never escaped that warehouse where she observed the Tickler at work. The Tickler had left a mark of terror in Arya and the damage was still being done at the time she killed him. More than retribution, the Tickler's death was a necessity in order to find release from the grip he had on her. Even then, the resolution is not complete. The shadow the Tickler left will never be gone entirely.

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Lummel, you are ever the optimist! :)

While I agree in general, I think the Tickler stands as a special case that goes beyond revenge, hence the difference in the reaction between him, Polliver and Joffrey. Revenge is for things done, for balncing the scales so to speak. Part of Arya never escaped that warehouse where she observed the Tickler at work. The Tickler had left a mark of terror in Arya and the damage was still being done at the time she killed him. More than retribution, the Tickler's death was a necessity in order to find release from the grip he had on her. Even then, the resolution is not complete. The shadow the Tickler left will never be gone entirely.

I agree. The death of the Tickler definitely feels "necessary", and as you say, the damage he did to Arya is still ongoing. However on the topic of revenge, killing him will not undo that damage completely, and it cannot undo the changes Arya has gone through. Killing the Tickler will not bring back Arya's lost childhood, if you will, as illustrated with the Ser Soldier doll.

It also serves to highlight that Sandor's wish to kill Gregor is in the end empty and will only "taste like ashes" if he succeeds. The damage Gregor did would not die if Sandor killed him.

Mladen,

That seems like a real life version of what Elia is talking about. When will it end? If you go with an eye for an eye, eventually, there will be very few people left.

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While I agree that revenge is a consuming feeling, I believe that the context these characters live in is, sometimes, a little bit overlooked.

Real world "tradition" of vendettas started by the fact that the communities that practiced it did not have access to formal justice system (such a system either did not exist, or they were too remote from central administration, or they were abandoned from central government and -very often- discriminated). The vendetta tradition started to fade when they were successfully incorporated and people felt they could get justice by addressing to the authorities.

Jaime's narration of how Arthur Dayne dealed with the smallfolk in order to weaken the influence of the Kingswood brotherhood is, I think, an examble to how there can be an end.

In the series, the formal authorities notably fail to deliver justice. For examble, the Martells never get justice for Elia and her children, on the contrary they have to watch their murderers taking charge of the realm (Elaria is right, of course. The main culprits are already dead. To continue this feud on innocents -for this crime, at least- just because they are related to the actual culprits is madness). The failure to deliver justice is, I think, a continuous theme in the series, even in times of stability. Justice stems from the king, the duty passed to, and executed by the local lords. These people are rarely unbiased (in Dunc & Egg, the Bracken vs Blackwood feud is mentioned and someone comments that the Hand will certainly support his cousins), and even if they are, everything depends on their personal sense of justice. This is a systemic problem that makes vendettas inevitable. In this context, "taking justice in one's hands" is, more often than not, the only way. Of course, this cannot be a solution as it creates a vicious circle; justice requires detachment.

Arya's journey in the Riverlands is an exhibition of injustice in its most extreme form. The Tickler is a monster, a criminal in every sense, but he is in service of the King; the authorities will reward him. Killing him won't change the system. The Tickler is expendable; an other tickler will take his place. His victims won't come back, neither his death will protect the people from new ticklers. Revenge does not replace justice, nor can heal Arya's hole in her heart. But it serves as Nemesis (which is an other constant theme of the series, Tywin's fate being the most prominent examble).

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Lummel, you are ever the optimist! :)

I agree. The death of the Tickler definitely feels "necessary", and as you say, the damage he did to Arya is still ongoing. However on the topic of revenge, killing him will not undo that damage completely, and it cannot undo the changes Arya has gone through. Killing the Tickler will not bring back Arya's lost childhood, if you will, as illustrated with the Ser Soldier doll.

It also serves to highlight that Sandor's wish to kill Gregor is in the end empty and will only "taste like ashes" if he succeeds. The damage Gregor did would not die if Sandor killed him.

Mladen,

That seems like a real life version of what Elia is talking about. When will it end? If you go with an eye for an eye, eventually, there will be very few people left.

This reminds me of the saying "an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth leaves the whole world blind and toothless." Perhaps blindness and toothlessness is required for peace. We must overlook transgressions and learn not to bite back when we experience them.

At this point Arya has some recognition that her need for vengence, or revenge, can be empty, but she has yet to fully grasp how to let go of her need for it. Afterall, she is still a child. Her world remains a bit more black and white rather than grey. Hopefully, she can "kill" her need for it and stitch herself back together before she goes needling anyone else.

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Mladen,

That seems like a real life version of what Elia is talking about. When will it end? If you go with an eye for an eye, eventually, there will be very few people left.

This reminds me of the saying "an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth leaves the whole world blind and toothless." Perhaps blindness and toothlessness is required for peace. We must overlook transgressions and learn not to bite back when we experience them.

The thing is it is so difficult for the people to move on. There is a reason why vendettas are still being enforced all around the world. But, as Blisscraft said, if we are left toothless and blind, what then? Martell/Lannisters/Starks/Boltons/Freys/Targaryens, and so on and on. I think that the only people who are ready to let go will stay at the end. Jon and Sansa are figuring like Arya`s best chance for returning what`s left of her old life. Sansa`s snow castle scene is not just foreshadowing about rebuilding castle, it`s about uniting family. And I think that no matter what issues sisters have to deal with. Sansa, and the rest of Stark family will be Arya`s light on the end of very long destructive tunnel.

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The thing is it is so difficult for the people to move on. There is a reason why vendettas are still being enforced all around the world. But, as Blisscraft said, if we are left toothless and blind, what then? Martell/Lannisters/Starks/Boltons/Freys/Targaryens, and so on and on. I think that the only people who are ready to let go will stay at the end. Jon and Sansa are figuring like Arya`s best chance for returning what`s left of her old life. Sansa`s snow castle scene is not just foreshadowing about rebuilding castle, it`s about uniting family. And I think that no matter what issues sisters have to deal with. Sansa, and the rest of Stark family will be Arya`s light on the end of very long destructive tunnel.

That's what I think is happening, all the grudges and enmities of the past are dying with the generation. All the liege lords who lived during Robert's Rebellion are dead or going to die. Robb wasn't willing to let go of his father's death by the Lannisters, Rickard never let go of his sons' deaths and Lord Walder never forgets or forgives. Like Ned told Arya "Summer is the time for squabbles," and winter is coming for those who continue to squabble.

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While I agree that revenge is a consuming feeling, I believe that the context these characters live in is, sometimes, a little bit overlooked.

...Of course, this cannot be a solution as it creates a vicious circle; justice requires detachment...

I think this is all about the ending of the series in a way. Will we see a change in the system or will we simply see Fortune's wheel turned round. The triumph of our favourite characters within the current system would be temporary - they may be at the top but after the end of the story we'd know that that would change in time. That could be bittersweet.

Alternatively we see a change in the system, perhaps even justice on a personal or global scale but that requires peacemaking and compromise - which could also be bittersweet amongst readers hungry for the blood of Freys, Lannisters and so on.

The individual level is echoed by the long season, a family may have its long summer but can be ruined by winter. That is the other level which also requires some kind of system change to achieve a resolution - or will we just see a temporary fix and be left knowing that the events of ASOIAF wil simply repeat themselves in other generations in stories never to be written?

Vengeance as an issue is explicit in Arya's story, so there is a lot to play for. Will her storyline show a way out for individuals only or suggest at a resolution for the wider world? I'm sorry this is a question that is many years premature but maybe there are some hints about Arya's changing attitudes in the upcoming chapters.

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I think this is all about the ending of the series in a way. ...

My ideal happy ending would be a change of the system, justice being met with reasonable punishment (no torture!) for the main culpables (the big fish) and a pardon for the likes of Ilyn Payne etc. A new system that will ensure, in the degree of feasible, that such a situation won't happen again...

But in case it's just a turn of cycle and the "pissing contest" remains the way things are done, then at least one Stark will have to "sacrifice their soul" if they are to be again the Starks of Winterfell. To rebuild it, they have to take it back, one way or an other. Someone will have to dirty their hands. For me, it's worse if someone else bloodies their hands and gets it for them. It would be like Robert getting rid of the Targaryen babies via Tywin, while keeping his own hands "clean".

I feel that this role is in the store for Arya, both in the first or in the second scenario. The second is more likely IMO, but the optimistic option is not out of the way either, as she cares not only for the injustices done to her or her family, but she also cares for the fate of Lommy, the girl gang raped by Chiswick and the Mountain's men, the nameless victims of the Tickler, the original ugly little girl etc. It depends on whether she grows up to see beyond the individual cases and look at the bigger picture what GRRM has in mind.

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In the previous Becoming No-One thread, in one of her posts ShadowCat Rivers posed a very pertinent question: Who is Arya Stark. The most obvious and least helpfull answer would be that she is a work in progress. The same is true for most of the characters in the story, but is made so much more prominent is Arya's case as she is heading toward an institution that is deliberately working to create a state of "tabula rasa" in its acolytes both as an expression of religious devotion and so that a personna created for utilitarian purposes may be adopted (facades being another prominent and a related theme). In those terms the RW as well as the subsequent chapter seem to conclude a stage in Arya's arc that could be named de(con)struction. During what appears as the series of cycles that appear to comprise her arc, as Mladen noted at some point in the previous thread, everything external that idenitfies her as Arya Stark is stripped away. Her home, her family, her life as highborn, the friends she had and those she made along the way. The changes harldy stop at the surface though.

Through a process of grinding, many if not most of Arya's instilled beliefs and assumptions are slowly eroded away. She loses the environment where people were unfailingly open and frienldy to her as well as her faith in their willingness or ability to stand up for what is right, as the people of Winterfell first fail to protect Mycah and Lady and are later killed. She learns by series of enemies starting with Joffrey that there people more powerful than her and her father and that they mean them no good. She is confronted about her own childishness and wolf blood by her father and its dire potential consequences. She discovers that doing what she thinks is right can have the opposite of the desired outcome, when she fought Joffrey. She discovers her parents and big brother are not invincible. She learns on the road with Yoren and later at Harrenhal when she squandered her two of her three wishes that she is not the center of the world. She loses hope and courage in the face of the Tickler and her time in Harrenhal. She learns by Roose Bolton that her side isn't necessarily the good guys and from the BwB that the good guys aren't necessarily on her side. She is confronted with the great divide that seperates her from the common people she encounters and witnessing the damage her class can do to them and finally when Hotpie and Gendry leave her. She is confronted withthe idea that her parents were not infallible. Lady Smallwood shows her what she has lost and what losing her and her brothers and sister would mean to her own mother. She even discovers that revenge or justice might mean little when she learns of Joffrey's death. Finally, she gets to see her own reflection in the Hound, a man who is by all accounts an enemy. She learns that no taboo can keep someone safe and there is no limit to how bad things can get. She forgets why it is wrong to steal, to lie and eventually loses all inhibitions about killing.

Much of this is or should be a consequence of growing up and to a degree these convictions stay with us our whole lives and inform the basis of our adult personalities. The interest thing in Arya's case is that she is neither grown up and these convictions did not evolve over time and gradual exposure to new experiences but were brutally assaulted by a world was for the most part indifferent, hostile and cruel. Along with her external circumstances all social constructs have been thoroughly demolished for Arya. The question in her case takes two new form. What is left when all this has been stripped away and what is it that makes someone who they are.

There is also the other side of the coin, however. ShadowCat in that post also spoke of Arya's liberation and as harsh as it sounds I believe it to be perfectly true. Arya's life as the daughter of a great lord was inevitable to lead to a life of contentment and wandering about roads not taken at best, or suffocation and bitterness at worst. Arya has seen herself's and the world's bare foundations, has developed formidabble self-discipline and decisiveness, has honed her perception, getting back up form the edge of dispari has given her resilience, teetering on the edge of desperation and bravery has given her nerves of steel and dancing between repression and self-control has forged an iron resolve. She has seen more of the hard truths Tyrion talked to Jon about at the start of the series, and can tell a lot about suffering and consequences.

I think this is a large part of her arc in AFFC and ADWD and the answers we get depend on how Arya will process what has happened to her. Arya is in the rare position to decide who she wants to be and has the information to know what this would mean. After all, no-one can become anyone.

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Lady Smallwood shows her what she has lost and what losing her and her brothers and sister would mean to her own mother.

Brilliant post Just and Other.

I especially liked the part above as I think it again helps reinforce Arya's link to her mother, and how she misses her mother and craves her love. It's also worth noting that she does not object to being washed and put in pretty dresses by Lady Smallwood, pointing towards that she is ready to accept a more "ladylike" role to please her mother in order to win her mother's affections. We also see how Arya hides her real actions through double entendre when she speaks to Lady Smallwood, mirroring how she fears what Cat would think of her if she knew the truth of what Arya had done and been through.

The Smallwood acorns are also among the sigils she directly can identify at the Twins. Arya also wore the Acorn dress. The Acorns are themselves interesting as they are seeds with hard shells that will grow up to strong trees in the future, perhaps mirroring Arya's hidden potential?

Arya's link to Cat is definitely something to keep an eye out for in future chapters too, as she continues to have a strong link to her, without it being completely obvious. (She is, after all, "Cat" of the Canals. :) )

Arya I of AFFC will be up on Sat/Sun.

Yay! Will make an effort to spare some time for Arya AFFC as it has been ages since my last re-read. Really looking forward to it and the great discussions I am sure it will bring! These re-read threads really are my favourites of all time, narrowly beating Nedbert.

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Arya I of AFFC will be up on Sat/Sun.

Great - I haven't been participating in this re-read much recently (was it always in the re-read forum? I feel like I mislaid it!) but am really looking forward to getting into Feast. The Arya chapters in Feast and Dance are my favourite part of her character arc so far, and I think there'll be a lot to discuss.

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The question of "who is (or are) you" is an ancient one. It is the question Polyphemus asks Odyesseus in The Odyssey. It is the answer famously given in the first sentence of Moby Dick: "Call me Ishmael," which may or may not be the narrator's real name. Arya Stark, regardless of the guises she has assumed so far remains Arya Stark. The "acorn," if you will, of her identity, as Lyanna noted above, is an example of how much and well Arya understands to whom she belongs. Although she circles away, (which is perhaps one of the reasons why Martin uses the images of circles so liberally in her storyline), she returns again and again.

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Brilliant post Just and Other.

I especially liked the part above as I think it again helps reinforce Arya's link to her mother, and how she misses her mother and craves her love. It's also worth noting that she does not object to being washed and put in pretty dresses by Lady Smallwood, pointing towards that she is ready to accept a more "ladylike" role to please her mother in order to win her mother's affections. We also see how Arya hides her real actions through double entendre when she speaks to Lady Smallwood, mirroring how she fears what Cat would think of her if she knew the truth of what Arya had done and been through.

The Smallwood acorns are also among the sigils she directly can identify at the Twins. Arya also wore the Acorn dress. The Acorns are themselves interesting as they are seeds with hard shells that will grow up to strong trees in the future, perhaps mirroring Arya's hidden potential?

Arya's link to Cat is definitely something to keep an eye out for in future chapters too, as she continues to have a strong link to her, without it being completely obvious. (She is, after all, "Cat" of the Canals. :) )

Yay! Will make an effort to spare some time for Arya AFFC as it has been ages since my last re-read. Really looking forward to it and the great discussions I am sure it will bring! These re-read threads really are my favourites of all time, narrowly beating Nedbert.

Thank you and brash for your kind words.

The double entendre with Lady Smallwood reminded me of another bit of foreshadowing that I don't remember if ti was mentioned. Lady Smallwood told Arya that the gods give each person a gift and it can be a prayer to excercise it earnestly and to the best of their ablity. Doubtless if she knew what Arya was talking about when she was talking about needlework and what she is really good at, she might have rephrased.

A few thoughts on revenge and justice. Those two are inextricably linked. Desire for revenge is at its core a desire for resolution, of setting the world to rights, what justice is meant to achieve. As far as desires for revenge go Arya's seems fairly healthy. It is aimed at particular people for particular deeds which are hardly trivial, it involves a genuine condemnation of the acts which landed them in her prayer and so far has demonstrated no desire or thought to enact it on other people who are merely associated with her targets. Many of them did not even hurt her personally. If it weren't for her personal stake in it, it could be called a deisre for justice. Contrast this with the actions of lord Karstark or the Sand Snakes. The other two options for resolution are forgiveness and letting go. Forgiveness is a two way street. It involves the perpetrator acknowledging and repenting his/her actions and the willingness to change his/her ways. This possiblitiy does exist for Arya as her refusal to kill the Hound twice has demonstrated. As for the rest of the people in her prayer, have exhibited none of those things. On the contrary they reap rewards for their behavior. Letting go involves the recognition of the futility of the pursuit or the recognition that the act itself was circumstancial and attributable to the fallibillity of human nature. Barring those however, it involves an acceptance and legitmization of the act and that Arya just won't do.

Many of the consequences described above revolve around the obssessive nature of the desire for revenge. This can, however apply to any passion or desire or even principle that is pursued regardless of reason, reality and intended result. This has been a dominant theme in the series and is indeed shown to be a destructive and consuming force. I don't think it applies to Arya, as far as revenge goes anyway. She has allowed desire for revenge take precedence over practical considerations one and a half times (Chiswyck and Weese) and regreted it almost immediately and I don't see her dooing it again. Also, she has had a chance to enact revenge on two of her people in her list and on of them she did not kill. As pprominent as her prayer is, I don't believe it is important itself, but rather for what it signifies, something we will have a chance to explore through her stint with the FM. Again contrast this, with the actions of lord Karstark and Oberyn Martell.

That still leaves the question of the kind of resolution violence and punshment can achieve and whether it is worth the price the person asking for it has to pay, regardless of how good his/her reasons are. In fact, I think the FM, their whole philosophy and the sacrifices they demand both of their members and supplicants are a treatise on that very question.

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