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The Cat-Jon-Ned Debacle (long)

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Along the same lines as my previous Catnapping thread, I thought it would be useful to take a thorough look at the Cat-Jon-Ned relationship. In the case of the Catnap, this closer look sought to exonerate Cat from most, if not all, criticisms of her actions of Tyrion’s arrest, yet I don’t believe the same sort of exoneration is either accurate or the point wrt the household dynamic. That is, I do think Cat’s feelings toward Jon are a personal failing such that absolving her of this would be undue whitewashing, but I want to try to delaminate exactly where I think it’s fair to say this failing has occurred. Apologies for length, but I think this is really complex, and needs to be addressed from multiple considerations.

1. The situation: hiding moral good with deceit

Ned arrives at Winterfell with his sister’s son and a wet nurse prior to Cat and Robb’s arrival, refusing to explain himself. There is extremely good reason for this; as the Targ heir, Jon would suffer the same fate as his half-siblings, and Ned’s harboring Jon makes him an enemy of the state. Not telling Cat is both prudent and merciful; he barely knows Cat, so there is concern wrt whether she could be trusted to sympathize with his treason and keep this secret, and merciful in the sense that he doesn’t make her complicit in his treason. It is also merciful to Jon in the event that should Cat ever be in a position to divulge Jon’s origins to save her own family, Ned removes this risk. There is also another layer of prudence here in that if in the event he divulged this to Cat and she consequently raised Jon as one of her own with Ned, this would appear incredibly bizarre to anyone who saw; keeping this division in place via secrecy works to preserve the deceit that contributes to Jon’s safety.

I don’t think Ned “should” have divulged the truth to Cat, either initially or later. I don’t even think Ned “should” have spun a story of half truths, such as offering closure by providing a fake name for Jon’s mother or necessarily being more “open” about the whole affair (this would make the eventual reveal of the truth later far worse and less credible). I’m not convinced that Ned “should” have sent Jon off to foster somewhere, in the event that rumors and questions of Jon’s parentage—true and otherwise—would be raised; I get that Ned wanted complete control over this given the political gravity and Jon’s personal identity. Though I’m unclear about why Ned didn’t keep a surrogate mother figure for Jon as a nanny of sorts (I suppose Old Nan fills this role somewhat), I don’t think that Ned’s operations here were problematic or wrong. That is, I don’t blame Ned for creating this home situation and I accept it as a given due to the fact that he’s protecting an innocent through this deceit. If anything, Ned is being a "good person" while simultaneously being an "unfair husband."

2. How does Cat feel about Jon?

Cat is not actually bothered by the idea of Ned’s having bastards, stepping out or providing for any extra-marital offspring; rather, it’s the fact that he brought this bastard home for “all the north to see,” and that this child was already settled at Winterfell before she even came, making her the outsider:

(from Cat II aGoT) He had a man’s needs, after all, and they had spent that year apart, Ned off at war in the south while she remained safe in her father’s castle at Riverrun. Her thoughts were more of Robb, the infant at her breast, than of the husband she scarcely knew. He was welcome to whatever solace he might find between battles. And if his seed quickened, she expected he would see to the child’s needs.

He did more than that. The Starks were not like other men. Ned brought his bastard home with him, and called him “son” for all the north to see. When the wars were over at last, and Catelyn rode to Winterfell, Jon and his wet nurse had already taken up residence.

That cut deep.

More galling is the fact that Ned refuses to speak of the matter, shutting Cat out from this part of the story, letting her assume the worst in terms of how fiercely he loves Jon’s mother, refusing to discuss the parameters of how Jon ought to be raised as well as potential fostering, and actually frightening her to silence:

Ned would not speak of the mother, not so much as a word, but a castle has no secrets, and Catelyn heard her maids repeating tales they heard from the lips of her husband’s soldiers….It had taken her a fortnight to marshal her courage, but finally, in bed one night, Catelyn had asked her husband the truth of it, asked him to his face.

That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. “Never ask me about Jon,” he said, cold as ice. “He is my blood, and that is all you need to know. And now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady.”

Whoever Jon’s mother had been, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away.

So Cat accepts infidelity and provision for bastards, but the critical factors are Cat’s inability to escape from Jon (so not Jon himself, but his constant presence) and Ned’s refusal to give Cat any information or, more importantly, say on the matter (Ned usurps any and all parental imperatives and decision-making Cat could be argued to have as his wife). He foists Cat and Jon together, yet removes all conditions that would render Cat a parental figure to him, which would include her ability to discuss raising Jon. Ned makes all Jon-related decisions, and that’s final.

But here is the turn. Cat has a legitimate grievance against Ned here; even though Ned behaves this way for the right reasons, it does not negate that his foisting Cat and Jon together and totally removing her from all discussion on the matter is not right to his wife. Yet, Cat finds it in herself to love Ned despite this very legitimate grievance while finding herself unable to love Jon:

It was the one thing she could never forgive him. She had come to love her husband with all her heart, but she had never found it in her to love Jon. She might have overlooked a dozen bastards for Ned’s sake, so long as they were out of sight. Jon was never out of sight, and as he grew, he looked more like Ned than any of the trueborn sons she bore him. Somehow that made it worse.

Now, I see no reason why she must love Jon; this in and of itself is not a moral failing in my view. I see a failing here in that she is able to love the person who wronged her but transfers her shame and frustration to Jon’s presence instead. Cat seems to believe that this is a failing of sorts too; she thinks on how she never “found it in her to love Jon,” which means that being a mother to him was something she had considered and simply couldn’t. While I think part of her inability to “love” or nurture Jon stems from Ned’s usurpation of all parental rights, I think the fact that Cat doesn’t focus her anger at Ned is where Cat’s failing lies. That Jon, or more specifically, Jon’s presence is the object her emotion, especially when seen adjacently to her love of Ned, is problematic.

3. The Winterfell household: non-contemporary structure

To call Cat any sort of mother-figure to Jon according to contemporary understanding is misguided I feel, given both the way the Winterfell household is structured as well as the structure Ned imposes on all Jon-related matters.

I want to be clear that I’m not attempting to explain anything with cultural relativism. That is, I’m not suggesting that certain behaviors are excusable due to normalization of those behaviors in a certain cultural context. I’m quite vocal about judging behaviors in the series according to modern morality (as so much overlaps), so I think arguments like “Cat was better to Jon than Cersei was to Robert’s kids” are extremely weak.

I am saying, however, that attributing modern conceptions of terms like “stepmother” to Cat to determine that she was negligent and abusive doesn’t work because this analogue is structurally non-existent.

I agree that Martin does posit a notion of nuclear family identical to how we understand it: mother, father, kids. What is much different, however, is the notion of “household” as we see it at Winterfell. Most of the tasks of raising a child that today would fall to the parents and teachers are divided up amongst a small army of people, and parent-child interaction is quite different. Bathing, hobbies and crafts, arms tutelage, schooling, bedtime stories, monitoring of behavior and punishment, and playtime are all conducted by people who are not the parents; that Cat likes to send the servant away and brush Sansa’s hair herself, and when Ned came to talk to Arya after the Trident incident are fairly unique cases where the parenting resembles our own idea of it. (note: I’m not trying to normalize absentee parenting or anything; I’m trying to make a point about how role analogues are flawed).

What’s also different is that this small army of subjects and servants have children of their own, raised alongside the Stark children and are part of this “household.” Additionally to the Starks and Jon are Theon, Beth, Jeyne, Palla and numerous other kids who attend the same lessons and sit at the same table at meals. Yes, there’s a difference here in that Ned is not these children’s father. However, between the fact that parental duties are diffused across a wide range of people and the fact that the Stark household is constructed utterly differently in terms of who comprises it from modern examples, it seems bizarre to categorize Cat’s role to Jon as that of a modern step-mother, with all of the imperatives that suggests.

Further, beyond the non-analogous household set up, Ned removes any question of whether Cat should be seen as a “stepmother” to Jon. Not telling Cat of Jon’s real or fictitious origins in one thing; removing all parental duties from her is quite another, and therein lies the rub. Ned makes it abundantly clear that Cat is not Jon’s mother, that is, he removes Cat entirely from all matters pertaining to Jon. If we want to judge this from the perspective of Cat’s being Jon’s “stepmother,” then wouldn’t the fact that Ned has compartmentalized the subject of Jon so tightly that completely removes her from all parental decisions and duties be against this analogue? Ned, rightly or wrongly, has assumed all parenting of Jon on himself—not as a reaction to Cat’s feelings, but as the de facto premise of taking in Jon in the first place. The fact that this wall exists is one strong reason why any “stepmother” comparison is faulty.

One last consideration in terms of modern analogues is the question of divorce. To insist that we view Cat’s role as “stepmother” based on modern understanding seems incomplete without thinking through the whole scenario from this understanding. Yes, technically speaking Cat, as Ned’s wife, would be Jon’s stepmother today. However, today, Cat would have also had the option to divorce Ned as soon as he insisted Jon would remain, threatened Cat over asking questions about it, and completely shut her out of any decisions pertaining to Jon (all of which I think, we can agree, are not the way modern blended families work). That Cat doesn’t have this option also renders the “stepmother” analogue moot in my mind; it’s just another factor that makes this parallel structurally unsound.

Mind you, if Cat did have the option to divorce Ned, but chose to remain and not be a “stepmother” to Jon, I’d find this worthy of contempt.

4. Cat and Ned’s actual behavior toward Jon

Cat is presented as Jon’s major antagonist in the sense that she’s emphasized as the person set up who draws the distinction between Jon and his trueborn siblings. Indeed, from the text we see that Cat explains the illegitimacy to Jon’s siblings, and is determined to draw and uphold these societal distinctions. She both makes the limitations of Jon’s status known to his siblings, and will later counsel Robb against making Jon his heir. A frequently-cited SSM reinforces this:

Thus, the question I have is if Catelyn went out of her way to mistreat Jon in the past -- and which form this might have taken -- or if she rather tried to avoid and ignore him?

"Mistreatment" is a loaded word. Did Catelyn beat Jon bloody? No. Did she distance herself from him? Yes. Did she verbally abuse and attack him? No. (The instance in Bran's bedroom was obviously a very special case). But I am sure she was very protective of the rights of her own children, and in that sense always drew the line sharply between bastard and trueborn where issues like seating on the high table for the king's visit were at issue.

And Jon surely knew that she would have preferred to have him elsewhere.

So what was the everyday Jon-Cat dynamic? Evidence from the text suggests that she was chilly, distant and mindful of the social distinction; yet, there is no evidence of any Jon-Cat interaction outside of Jon II aGoT. Without interaction, how did Cat “draw the line”? From Arya, Bran and Sansa’s POVs, we know that Cat made them aware of Jon’s legal status. It would seem that Cat did not interfere in Jon’s ability to cultivate relationships with his father or siblings, merely made this social distinction known. Of particular interest is this passage from aSoS, when Jon contemplates Stannis’ offer: ““I’m Lord of Winterfell!” he cried, as he had a hundred times before. Only this time, this time, Robb had answered, “You can’t be Lord of Winterfell, you’re bastard-born. My lady mother says you can’t ever be the Lord of Winterfell.”

Jon XII aSoS sets Jon up to reflect on the most contemptible treatment by Cat, that is, to elaborate on the extents of his interaction with Cat, but such direct interaction is notably absent. She tells Robb about Jon’s legal limits, which are, technically correct, yet does not encourage Robb to reject Jon. So, fine, we know that Cat wanted everyone to be aware of Jon’s legal limitations. Then we see this: “She was looking at him the way she used to look at him at Winterfell, whenever he had bested Robb at swords or sums or most anything. Who are you? that look had always seemed to say. This is not your place. Why are you here?” That the worst memory here is a cold look says a lot about the extents of Cat’s coldness. Yes, this was cold on Cat’s part and does make an impact on Jon (discussed later), but I want to be very specific about the reality of her behavior so that there is no misconception. Looks, rather than verbal interaction is evidenced as the norm and extent. It is often brought up that verbal abuse is still abuse; this is a non-sequitor though, as the issue of verbal abuse is not even a question here, because she did not interact with him verbally.

Other than serving as a reminder of his status, and not even directly, but through the proxies of Jon’s siblings, Cat has never been shown to deny Jon any part of the Winterfell household (how Jon feels about whether he was begrudged will be discussed in more depth below). From aGoT, Jon I, we are told that sitting away from his siblings is highly uncommon. Jon attributes this to Cat, and I do think it’s fair to say that in political situations like this, Cat did speak up about issues of propriety wrt Jon’s status.

YET, who has the final word on all matters concerning Jon? NED. Yes, Cat appeals to social distinctions in politically-charged environments, yet Ned is the one who enforces this! When we are informed in the feast chapter that sitting separately is both uncommon and that Cat is the reason why Jon is sitting away in this instance, it’s a form of projection on Jon’s part. It is easier for both Jon and the reader to attribute Jon’s not being part of the family to Cat rather than Ned. Not unlike the way Cat wrongly transfers her anger from Ned to Jon, Jon blames Cat for drawing these distinctions even though Ned reinforces and enforces them just as clearly.

Not only did Ned see the sense of seating Jon separately and ruled in favor it, Ned is the one who decides to send Jon to the Watch. It is true that Cat refuses to let Jon stay at Winterfell when Ned and the siblings go away, yet as Lady of Winterfell and not Jon’s stepmother, Jon has no reason to be there, especially because the person who has assumed all responsibility for raising him is leaving. Ned could take Jon to court; while there are decorum issues wrt seating Jon at the high table, there is no reason why Jon could not simply come to court, stay removed from the political side of things, and even become a squire given that Jon did, in fact, want to become a knight. Even though there are loopholes here, it’s Ned who highlights the social stigmatization of bastards as a reason not to bring him. For all the criticism against Cat for making Jon’s status known to him, Ned subscribes to these distinctions just as much as she does, and in so doing, decides Jon’s course in life.

5. Is this abuse?

To summarize, this is the reality: Cat tells Jon’s siblings that he is a bastard and will not inherit, but doesn’t interfere with their relationships otherwise, gives Jon icy looks but doesn’t interact with him otherwise, and tries to avoid him.

I think the problem is not the fact that Cat avoided Jon or drawing the legal distinctions of status. Cat’s not being a stepmother and Ned’s full assumption of all parenting removes the question of her avoidance being called “neglect.” The question really boils down to the extent to which icy looks are “abusive” and thus, morally reprehensible. In the full context, I actually do think that these icy looks, and the message behind them of “you do not belong here,” are, in fact, moral failings. While these looks are less detrimental to physical or verbal abuse, I think they can fall under “abusive” by virtue of the fact that it was a tacit and insidious way to make her negative feelings known to an innocent party.

6. Sympathy, bastards as a political threat, was Cat’s coldness “smart?”

While I do think the looks fall under “moral failing,” I simultaneously find Cat’s actions forgivable in context (not justifiable—I’m not exonerating her or saying it was ok in any way). Although the objective reality of transferring blame to an innocent party and acting negatively against them is wrong, I find Cat worthy of sympathy here. Jon represents the single, significant void between Cat and the man she loves, and I fully understand how painful this must be.

I am also sympathetic to Cat’s instinct to protect her own children as it pertains. Though a lot of Cat’s actions are fueled by emotional anguish, she has a rational point wrt the potential threat Jon could face toward her own kids. Jon was settled at Winterfell first, which haunts Cat in terms of which child belongs there. There’s considerable precedent for a bastard to challenge a trueborn’s claim, and it’s a reasonable concern for Cat to see that her own children’s rights are protected. Given how fiercely Ned guards Jon, Jon’s mother and everything Jon related, it seems that the notion of whether Jon would somehow fall into the line of succession because of some perceived favoritism was a real concern. Reinforcing that Jon knew his place, borne out of a desire to protect her own kid’s rights, is understandable to me, even if one of her methods, the looks, is not justifiable.

I would, however, offer a different sort of criticism. In much the same way I would argue that offering warmth to Theon might have been more lucrative for the Starks, I’m not sure that Cat’s strategy was entirely smart here. That is, if preventing Jon from challenging her kids was a concern, her methods could have easily rendered Jon resentful and more determined to make such a challenge.

6. Objectively wrong, subjectively forgivable: “It should have been you”

Terrible thing to say, and not justifiable, because, objectively speaking, it’s wrong to tell someone that they should have died regardless of the relationship. Although this passage strongly colors our perception of the Jon-Cat dynamic, it stands alone in the series as one-time incident, and the previously cited SSM confirms this.

It should be pointed out that in Cat’s following chapter, she lashes out at Luwin, so this is not simply a Jon-centric breakdown, or an indication of some residual hatred for Jon particularly (and from Cat II we see that she doesn’t actually hate Jon).

Though objectively wrong, I personally find it forgivable in the context of Cat’s extreme grief.

7. What does Jon feel about all this?

In DwD, Jon reveals this: “Jon wondered how Lady Catelyn’s sister would feel about feeding Ned Stark’s bastard. As a boy, he often felt as if the lady grudged him every bite.” Between this and his reflections in Jon XII aSoS, it’s clear that Cat is the party Jon feels made him feel unwelcome at Winterfell.

But to call Jon traumatized or to say that he’s suffered by Cat’s hand is a bit misleading, or at least, incomplete. As mentioned above, Ned drew the societal distinctions no less than Cat had, yet, it is both easier for the reader and Jon to attribute this to Cat than acknowledge Ned as another primary source. Just as Cat wrongly transfers emotion from Ned to Jon, Jon also transfers blame from Ned to Cat on this issue. Cat’s presence, regardless of her treatment of him, reinforces his status as a bastard, not unlike how Jon serves as a constant reminder to Cat. Yes, Cat is less innocent than Jon here, because she gives him icy looks which is arguably abusive, but it should be pointed out that Cat’s presence to Jon mirrors Jon’s presence to Cat, and that a similar transference occurs.

In terms of looking at the “damage,” Jon appears rather untraumatized by Cat’s icy stares as a discrete entity. While Jon struggles with worth and identity because he is a bastard, Cat was not the single source of this identity crisis, as Ned perpetuated this distinction himself. The stares do seem to have hammered home the point that Winterfell could not belong to Jon, but again, I think some of Jon’s resentment toward Cat over this glosses over Ned’s and the rest of society’s role—that is, Cat becomes the reader’s and Jon’s “lightening rod” of anger over this.

Jon is definitely shaped by both Cat and Ned’s treatment of him, for good and worse. In terms of Jon’s recurring “sufferings,” however, he seems most traumatized by the fact that he has no idea who his mother is. This is the major question that haunts him rather than the extent to which he felt welcome at Winterfell or the reception of icy stares. This is not to say the icy stares had no effect, but I think Cat’s actions should not be exaggerated in terms of damage.

TL;DR:

A. Cat was objectively wrong to tranfer her feelings from Ned to Jon. This is a failing on Cat’s part, but arguably forgivable in context.

B. Cat was objectively wrong to give Jon icy stares. This is a failing on Cat’s part, but arguably forgivable in context.

C. Icy stares are the extent of “abuse” Cat actually committed

D. Ned enforced the social distinctions surrounding bastardy, yet both Jon and the reader tend to place blame for this exclusively on Cat. Reinforcement of the legal distinctions is not in and itself a form of abuse.

E. Given the structure of the Winterfell household, Ned’s assumption of full parental duties, and the lack of other modern analogues like divorce, Cat does not fill the role of “stepmother,” and as such, there is no imperative to treat Jon as a son.

F. “It should have been you” is not representative of the Jon-Cat dynamic; while objectively wrong, it is arguably sympathetic in the grief context.

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TL;DR:

A. Cat was objectively wrong to tranfer her feelings from Ned to Jon. This is a failing on Cat’s part, but forgivable in context.

B. Cat was objectively wrong to give Jon icy stares. This is a failing on Cat’s part, but forgivable in context.

C. Icy stares are the extent of “abuse” Cat actually committed

D. Ned enforced the social distinctions surrounding bastardy, yet both Jon and the reader tend to place blame for this exclusively on Cat. Reinforcement of the legal distinctions is not in and itself a form of abuse.

E. Given the structure of the Winterfell household, Ned’s assumption of full parental duties, and the lack of other modern analogues like divorce, Cat does not fill the role of “stepmother,” and as such, there is no imperative to treat Jon as a son.

F. “It should have been you” is not representative of the Jon-Cat dynamic; while objectively wrong, it is sympathetic in the grief context.

I only read this for now.

Here is what I think. Cat did not have to treat Jon like a son. Ned is to blame for putting Jon and Cat in this situation.

Icy stares are not the extent of abuse, the 'It should have been you' is verbal abuse of the worst kind, and it doesn't make sense in context given that Bran is also Jon's brother and Jon was there to see Bran one last time before he leaves, Cat should have kept her mouth shut.

Edit: wrong quote.

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I wish that Ned had told Catelyn a merciful lie about who Jon's mother is instead of just shutting her down and refusing to speak of it. He could have invented a low born girl. Instead Catelyn hears rumors about Ashara Dayne and seems to conclude she is Jon's mother. A bastard with two highborn parents is probably more likely to be legitimized and challenge a trueborn heir. Maybe Jon would seem less threatening if he was the son of a tavern wench or something.

It's understandable that Ned didn't come out with the full truth, but saying nothing is just mean. I can't even imagine how I would react if I were Catelyn.

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I've said my piece on the other thread, but I will say that the extent to which the OP and others rush to defend Cat from charges of abuse is a bit alarming. We have no problem calling a spade an abusive spade where other characters are involved. I'm not sure what makes Cat special, other than her gender. Various "defenses" I've seen for Cat:

-abuse is a modern concept, so it wasn't abuse (I guess Tywin didn't abuse Tyrion either, then...good to know)

-Cat and Jon didn't have a relationship, so it wasn't abuse (even though she was his father's wife and cohabiting with the other Starks)

-Cat didn't have Jon beaten, so it wasn't abuse (so I guess physical abuse is the only kind that counts)

-she didn't have to treat him with any kindness whatsoever, since she wasn't his stepmother, so because she had no moral obligation to be nice to him, she didn't wrong him (so not even basic human decency or sympathy?)

-Jon doesn't seem traumatized, so he couldn't have been abused (I'd love to see someone argue that Sansa doesn't seem traumatized in the Vale by Joffrey's abuse of her--and honestly, she barely thinks about it--therefore she wasn't abused by him)

-icy stares and isolation are not abuse (not verbal abuse, certainly, but emotional?)

-Jon was physically well cared for, so he wasn't abused (completely false...physically secure people can still be abused)

In any other context, these arguments would be pure abuse apologia. Is it because the person committing it is female that posters try to defend her? Or do they not want to think of a character they like as an abuser?

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In the case of the Catnap, this closer look exonerated Cat from most, if not all, criticisms of her actions of Tyrion’s arrest

That is misinformation right there, in the first paragraph :P

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I only read this for now.

Here is what I think. Cat did not have to treat Jon like a son. Ned is to blame for putting Jon and Cat in this situation.

Icy stares are not the extent of abuse, the 'It should have been you bastard' is verbal abuse of the worst kind, and it doesn't make sense in context given that Bran is also Jon's brother and Jon was there to see Bran one last time before he leaves, Cat should have kept her mouth shut.

Yes, I agree with you on the fact that telling someone that they should die is neither morally good, nor exactly rational in this circumstance.

The reason I find it "forgivable" (which I don't mean to impose on everyone), is because the raw grief Cat felt over Bran destroyed her. She wasn't being rational here, as she believed she was going to lose her kid and was overcome with justified emotion. Contrary to what I sense is the common belief, that Cat descended into this grief-trance is pretty abnormal. That is, she normally doesn't act poorly due to emotion, and the only other time we see this is when she kills Jinglebell during the RW.

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I've said my piece on the other thread, but I will say that the extent to which the OP and others rush to defend Cat from charges of abuse is a bit alarming. We have no problem calling a spade an abusive spade where other characters are involved. Various "defenses" I've seen for Cat

.................

In any other context, this would be pure abuse apologia. Is it because the person committing it is female that posters try to defend her? Or do they not want to think of a character they like as an abuser?

Abuse is the sort of thing that people get sent to jail, or have their children removed, for.

A few cold looks don't constitute abuse.

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Sad situation, Ned was extremely lucky Cat was at heart, a good person with minor faults, as we all have. And I think we all have the right to hate someone, for no particular reason. It's sad when it's a child, but Jon doesn't have any lasting scars because of it, at least no bigger than being a bastard already brings on its own.

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/snip

I believe you have made good points, and mostly agree with you. :agree:

My only fear is that there isn't any way to give an objective answer to this thread discussion.. ..because once again the real intent is establishing whether or not Catelyn can be objectively blamed or not for her actions, despite the fact this choice resides in everyone's heart and subjective opinion..

I didn't like the behaviour that she had in respect to the boy, yet I understand that people do commit certain errors and can not always behave better than the feelings they have inside allow them to do. With the feelings she had toward jon, I believe she behaved pretty much better than she could have if she ever stopper restraining herself. Jon's life has had a great impact from this experience, beyond any doubt. Hope he'll find love again in a woman to heal his wounds, now that Ygritte is no more with him..

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I've said my piece on the other thread, but I will say that the extent to which the OP and others rush to defend Cat from charges of abuse is a bit alarming. We have no problem calling a spade an abusive spade where other characters are involved. I'm not sure what makes Cat special, other than her gender. Various "defenses" I've seen for Cat:

-abuse is a modern concept, so it wasn't abuse (I guess Tywin didn't abuse Tyrion either, then...good to know)

-Cat and Jon didn't have a relationship, so it wasn't abuse (even though she was his father's wife and cohabiting with the other Starks)

-Cat didn't have Jon beaten, so it wasn't abuse (so I guess physical abuse is the only kind that counts)

-she didn't have to treat him with any kindness whatsoever, since she wasn't his stepmother, so because she had no moral obligation to be nice to him, she didn't wrong him (so not even basic human decency or sympathy?)

-Jon doesn't seem traumatized, so he couldn't have been abused (I'd love to see someone argue that Sansa doesn't seem traumatized in the Vale by Joffrey's abuse of her--and honestly, she barely thinks about it--therefore she wasn't abused by him)

-icy stares and isolation are not abuse (not verbal abuse, certainly, but emotional?)

-Jon was physically well cared for, so he wasn't abused (completely false...physically secure people can still be abused)

In any other context, these arguments would be pure abuse apologia. Is it because the person committing it is female that posters try to defend her? Or do they not want to think of a character they like as an abuser?

Jon wasn't isolated from the rest of the household. He ate with the rest if the family on normal non royal visit days. He grew up alongside Robb and got the same education and training. He was close with Arya and Catelyn never attempted to put a stop to that as far as we know.

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I've said my piece on the other thread, but I will say that the extent to which the OP and others rush to defend Cat from charges of abuse is a bit alarming. We have no problem calling a spade an abusive spade where other characters are involved. I'm not sure what makes Cat special, other than her gender. Various "defenses" I've seen for Cat:

-abuse is a modern concept, so it wasn't abuse (I guess Tywin didn't abuse Tyrion either, then...good to know)

-Cat and Jon didn't have a relationship, so it wasn't abuse (even though she was his father's wife and cohabiting with the other Starks)

-Cat didn't have Jon beaten, so it wasn't abuse (so I guess physical abuse is the only kind that counts)

-she didn't have to treat him with any kindness whatsoever, since she wasn't his stepmother, so because she had no moral obligation to be nice to him, she didn't wrong him (so not even basic human decency or sympathy?)

-Jon doesn't seem traumatized, so he couldn't have been abused (I'd love to see someone argue that Sansa doesn't seem traumatized in the Vale by Joffrey's abuse of her--and honestly, she barely thinks about it--therefore she wasn't abused by him)

-icy stares and isolation are not abuse (not verbal abuse, certainly, but emotional?)

-Jon was physically well cared for, so he wasn't abused (completely false...physically secure people can still be abused)

In any other context, these arguments would be pure abuse apologia. Is it because the person committing it is female that posters try to defend her? Or do they not want to think of a character they like as an abuser?

It is because we know in Cat's place, we probably wouldn't do any better, maybe worse. Maybe you are Lord/Lady Perfect, but I can't blame Cat for any minor faults she has, especially when she has so many admirable qualities.

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I've said my piece on the other thread, but I will say that the extent to which the OP and others rush to defend Cat from charges of abuse is a bit alarming. We have no problem calling a spade an abusive spade where other characters are involved. Various "defenses" I've seen for Cat:

Newstar, it would behoove you to try reading this (I know it's long), as the majority of your concerns here are strawmen in relation to what I actually wrote.

-abuse is a modern concept, so it wasn't abuse (I guess Tywin didn't abuse Tyrion either, then...good to know)

Not even remotely what I argued. If you bothered to read it, you'd see I called Cat's icy stares "abusive," and pointed out that this is the only interaction these two characters actually had.

-Cat and Jon didn't have a relationship, so it wasn't abuse (even though she was his father's wife and cohabiting with the other Starks)
Between the structure of the household, Ned's complete usurpation of any sort of Cat's being any sort of parental figure and the fact that the entire construction of marriage is different, attributing "stepmother" responsibilities to Cat doesn't make sense in this context. Taking icy stares out of this, the remainder of Cat's behavior doesn't make sense as "abusive."

-Cat didn't have Jon beaten, so it wasn't abuse (so I guess physical abuse is the only kind that counts)

Out of interest, did you actually read any of this? I FUCKING SAID THAT CAT'S ICY LOOKS AT JON COUNT AS ABUSE.

-she didn't have to treat him with any kindness whatsoever, since she wasn't his stepmother, so because she had no moral obligation to be nice to him, she didn't wrong him (so not even basic human decency or sympathy?)
Does Cat not sympathize with Jon? She reflects on Jon and his mother in aCoK, and feels a degree of empathy. Again, giving Jon looks was not right, but I'm not really sure what you visualize as behavior that would render her actions moral in terms of showing kindness and nurturing.

-Jon doesn't seem traumatized, so he couldn't have been abused (I'd love to see someone argue that Sansa doesn't seem traumatized in the Vale by Joffrey's abuse of her--and honestly, she barely thinks about it--therefore she wasn't abused by him)
It's now abundantly clear that rather than actually reading the OP, you spent your efforts inventing strawmen. The last part of the OP about the impact on this to Jon states that her icy stares have had an effect on him pretty plainly. I even supplied the passage about how Jon felt she begrudged him food.

-icy stares and isolation are not abuse (not verbal abuse, certainly, but emotional?)
How many times do I have to point out that I called icy stares "abusive?"

-Jon was physically well cared for, so he wasn't abused (completely false)
please read the OP

In any other context, this would be pure abuse apologia. Is it because the person committing it is female that posters try to defend her? Or do they not want to think of a character they like as an abuser?

Rather than turn this into an excuse to make sweeping generalizations about the fanbase and play with strawman arguments, is it too much to ask to have you read the OP? Because none of what you presented here as "counterpoints"/ rants was in contradiction to what I wrote.

That is misinformation right there, in the first paragraph :P

lol, I was trying to make it clear that while my goal in the Catnap thread was to explain why I thought Cat's moves were justified against the most frequent critique, such exoneration was not my goal with this one, as I think it's a morally grey circumstance.

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We have no problem calling a spade an abusive spade where other characters are involved. I'm not sure what makes Cat special, other than her gender.

Yes, that is why Ned gets so much hate for abusing Theon, Stannis gets so much hate for abusing Shireen, and Jaime gets hate for abusing Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen saying how they all treated those respected child in a similar manner to how Catelyn treated Jon.

People have less problems calling Randall and Tywin abusive as it is obvious that their actions are abusive seems they are actually doing something more then being just distant and giving cold looks.

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6. Sympathy, bastards as a political threat, was Cat’s coldness “smart?”

While I do think the looks fall under “moral failing,” I simultaneously find Cat’s actions forgivable in context (not justifiable—I’m not exonerating her or saying it was ok in any way). Although the objective reality of transferring blame to an innocent party and acting negatively against them is wrong, I find Cat worthy of sympathy here. Jon represents the single, significant void between Cat and the man she loves, and I fully understand how painful this must be.

I am also sympathetic to Cat’s instinct to protect her own children as it pertains. Though a lot of Cat’s actions are fueled by emotional anguish, she has a rational point wrt the potential threat Jon could face toward her own kids. Jon was settled at Winterfell first, which haunts Cat in terms of which child belongs there. There’s considerable precedent for a bastard to challenge a trueborn’s claim, and it’s a reasonable concern for Cat to see that her own children’s rights are protected. Given how fiercely Ned guards Jon, Jon’s mother and everything Jon related, it seems that the notion of whether Jon would somehow fall into the line of succession because of some perceived favoritism was a real concern. Reinforcing that Jon knew his place, borne out of a desire to protect her own kid’s rights, is understandable to me, even if one of her methods, the looks, is not justifiable.

I would, however, offer a different sort of criticism. In much the same way I would argue that offering warmth to Theon might have been more lucrative for the Starks, I’m not sure that Cat’s strategy was entirely smart here. That is, if preventing Jon from challenging her kids was a concern, her methods could have easily rendered Jon resentful and more determined to make such a challenge.

This is my favorite part of the Cat-Jon-Ned situation. Perhaps someone with more Cat knowledge than me will be able to provide some more detailed analysis.

Cat seems to be very concerned, perhaps irrationally concerned with protecting Robb's rights. She mentions the Blackfyre's etc. when thinking of all the problems bastards have caused.

What gets me here is that, she only specifically seems to ever be concerned with her situation, which when looking objectively, seems secured. She meets Maya Stone and doesn't ever worry about the realm and what harm Edric Storm may cause. Basically, I am saying she is only ever concerned about bastards in her own specific context. She never gives examples where bastards had tried to usurp their siblings rights in a Lord of Winterfell sort of situation, only that she has heard of it, IIRC.

Don't get me wrong, I understand why she's more concerned with her situation since it is her situation. To me, her concern over Robb's rights later in life, when she can obviously tell the boys love each other as brothers, are best friends, seems irrational. She seems to use it as a crutch for her attitude towards Jon, that she was protecting her children, when the reality is, at their age, it seems unlikely that Jon would make a play for Robb's inheiritance.

To some extent, I wonder if subconsciously, the prejudices that are normally used against bastards, manifest in Cat with respect to Jon. I am NOT saying Cat is prejudiced towards all bastards. She seems to only think of all the harm bastards have caused when thinking about Jon or her situation, never about any of the good examples, Bloodraven etc.

Great post butterbumps!

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I've said my piece on the other thread, but I will say that the extent to which the OP and others rush to defend Cat from charges of abuse is a bit alarming. We have no problem calling a spade an abusive spade where other characters are involved. I'm not sure what makes Cat special, other than her gender. Various "defenses" I've seen for Cat:

This was definitely worth reading, and I don't think it's really logical or fair to counter the OP with generic defenses of Cat that other people in other threads may have used.

I don’t think Ned “should” have divulged the truth to Cat, either initially or later. I don’t even think Ned “should” have spun a story of half truths, such as offering closure by providing a fake name for Jon’s mother or necessarily being more “open” about the whole affair (this would make the eventual reveal of the truth later far worse and less credible). I’m not convinced that Ned “should” have sent Jon off to foster somewhere, in the event that rumors and questions of Jon’s parentage—true and otherwise—would be raised;

Really? I mean, I guess the way he chose to handle it worked out after a fashion, but I think that things would have been more pleasant if he had been more open about some of these issues, perhaps not in the timeframe of the series but at some point. The Blackfyre shadow is something that hangs over all of Westeros, with the War of the Ninepenny Kings and other Blackfyre Rebellions taking place just a few years before Cat was born. I think a discreet word to her at some point of the truth might have helped her warm up to Jon or at least not view him as a threat to her children, although I can understand the counterarguments to this (if Jon is a Targaryen bastard, his nature would have had to remain a secret for his entire life -- as far as anyone knows).

Besides, as you say later on in your post the fact that he won't talk to her at all about him or let him have any say in the parenting decisions is pretty alienating by itself. Even setting aside the politics, that just sounds frustrating and annoying to me and I can see why Cat would displace some of that onto Jon even though obviously that isn't fair to him.

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I read the OP! Despite the frightfully misleading first paragraph still.

Without getting too much into what was what (I agree her main fault was transfering from Ned to Jon), I have a problem with the use of the word "forgivable", especially in conclusion. It is purely subjective and not a factual statement. Also, definitions of "forgivable" might wary wildely from person to person.

Is the idea of this "forgivable" that it is "no big deal" or that "Cat should apologise, if she had such an option"?

Also, whoever mentioned Jon/Arya being left alone to become close, it is a nice point.

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She seems to only think of all the harm bastards have caused when thinking about Jon or her situation, never about any of the good examples, Bloodraven etc.

Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't Bloodraven have a negative reputation by the time of AGOT?

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Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't Bloodraven have a negative reputation by the time of AGOT?

Maybe. He was the first one that came to mind. He is also a famous example of a bastard who stuck by his true born siblings side.

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6. Sympathy, bastards as a political threat, was Cat’s coldness “smart?”

While I do think the looks fall under “moral failing,” I simultaneously find Cat’s actions forgivable in context (not justifiable—I’m not exonerating her or saying it was ok in any way). Although the objective reality of transferring blame to an innocent party and acting negatively against them is wrong, I find Cat worthy of sympathy here. Jon represents the single, significant void between Cat and the man she loves, and I fully understand how painful this must be.

I am also sympathetic to Cat’s instinct to protect her own children as it pertains. Though a lot of Cat’s actions are fueled by emotional anguish, she has a rational point wrt the potential threat Jon could face toward her own kids. Jon was settled at Winterfell first, which haunts Cat in terms of which child belongs there. There’s considerable precedent for a bastard to challenge a trueborn’s claim, and it’s a reasonable concern for Cat to see that her own children’s rights are protected. Given how fiercely Ned guards Jon, Jon’s mother and everything Jon related, it seems that the notion of whether Jon would somehow fall into the line of succession because of some perceived favoritism was a real concern. Reinforcing that Jon knew his place, borne out of a desire to protect her own kid’s rights, is understandable to me, even if one of her methods, the looks, is not justifiable.

I would, however, offer a different sort of criticism. In much the same way I would argue that offering warmth to Theon might have been more lucrative for the Starks, I’m not sure that Cat’s strategy was entirely smart here. That is, if preventing Jon from challenging her kids was a concern, her methods could have easily rendered Jon resentful and more determined to make such a challenge.

Great post! To further complicate the bastard/ trueborn situation, Jon looks like a Stark and Robb looks like a Tully. Robb was fathered on Cat/Ned's wedding night, but since Ned leaves the next day, it could be easy for people to argue that Robb is also a bastard. Afterall there's no proof tht he is a Stark.

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