Study Guide

A Clash of Kings Manipulation

By George R.R. Martin

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Don't bother, sweetling, Tyrion thought, swirling the wine in the cup. He cares not a whit about carvings. The eyes he boasts of are his own. What he means is that he was watching, that he knew we were here the moment we passed through the gates. (4.Tyrion.140)

By entering Tyrion's thoughts, the narrator gives us a glimpse into how words are manipulated in the King's Landing court. In many ways, this rhetoric is the kind we use in our literature studies, where an image symbolizes something very different, with an ear for the language.

[Theon] did not think the captain approved, and that was amusing as well, watching the man struggle to swallow his outrage while performing his courtesies to the high lord, the rich purse of gold he'd been promised never far from his thoughts. (12.Theon.15)

Many of the upper-class members of society manipulate the lower-class people to get what they want out of them. Some do it with promises of rewards; others with threats of punishment. Theon is perhaps the bluntest of manipulators as he just waves a giant bag of money around.

Pycelle was lost. "But that is from the grayscale that near killed her as a babe, poor thing."

"I like my tale better," said Littlefinger, "and so will the smallfolk. Most of them believe that if a woman eats rabbit while pregnant, her child will be born with long floppy ears." (16.Tyrion.28-29)

Littlefinger may be the master manipulator of Westeros—he knows how to take truths and add just the right amount of fiction to have people think what he wants them to. Of course, while he's letting others in on his game, Tyrion's taking notes.

The memory brought a wan smile to her face. Such an obvious ploy, that, yet deft for a boy of fifteen. Robb knew how ill-suited a man like Greatjon Umber would be to treat with a man like Renly Baratheon, and he knew that she knew it as well. (23.Catelyn.20)

Ah, but did he know that she knew that he knew she knew…? Robb may not be a master manipulator yet, but this fledgling attempt shows the boy is growing into his role as a Seven Kingdoms' politician.

"Do all maesters lie so poorly? I told Varys that I was giving Prince Doran my nephew Tommen to foster. I told Littlefinger that I planned to wed Myrcella to Lord Robert of the Eyrie. I told no one that I had offered Myrcella to the Dornish … that truth was only in the letter I entrusted to you." (26.Tyrion.128)

Tyrion shows just how adept he is at the game of thrones. By giving each member of the small council different information, he's weeded out his sister's informant. As a maester, Pycelle isn't supposed to support anyone but the king, showing how powerful duty is when compared with manipulation at King's Landing.

I rely too much on Varys, [Tyrion] reflected. I need my own informers. Not that I'd trust them either. Trust would get you killed. (42.Tyrion.19)

But who manipulates the manipulator? One of the problems Tyrion faces is that he can never be sure he isn't being played in the same way he is playing others. In many ways, Seven Kingdoms politics is like poker—that is, if you don't know who the sucker at the table is, then the sucker is you.

Again she turned to the right-hand door. When she pushed it open she faced yet another small antechamber with four doors. I am in the presence of sorcery. (49.Daenerys.29)

Either sorcery or the Qarth version of the Winchester Mystery House. It's really difficult to tell if the sorcery or magic featured in the novel is truly supernatural or simply manipulation in the form of a magic trick.

The High Septon stepped forward. "Your Grace, the gods hold bethrothal [sic] solemn, but your father, King Robert of blessed memory, made this pact before the Starks of Winterfell had revealed their falseness. Their crimes against the realm have freed you from any promise you might have made." (66.Sansa.19)

While kings and queens profess to follow the ethics of their religion, the Septon bends and twists the commandments of said religion to fit the political necessity of the time, namely giving Joffrey an excuse to wed Tyrell's daughter.

When the drawbridge was lowered, a chill wind sighed across the moat. The touch of it made him shiver. It is the cold, nothing more, Theon told himself, a shiver, not a tremble. Even brave men shiver. (67.Theon.40)

Theon shows that manipulation is a two-way street in this quote. Many instances of manipulation show people manipulating others, but here Theon is manipulating himself by believing that what bothers him is simply the wind.

"Ser Rodrik had you five-to-one."

"Aye, but he thought us friends. A common mistake. When the old fool gave me his hand, I took half his arm instead. Then I let him see my face." The man put both hands to his helm and lifted off his head, holding it in the crook of his arm.

"Reek," Theon said, disquieted. How did a serving man get such fine armor? (67.Theon.115-117)

Just when you think Varys or Littlefinger would win the coveted Most Manipulative Maestro prize, along comes Ramsay Snow from behind to win the gold. Ramsay was willing to pretend to be a servant, be thrown in jail, and kill two children to serve his political ends, and he succeeded no less. He's not only horrible; he's horribly effective.

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