Study Guide

A Game of Thrones Coming of Age

By George R. R. Martin

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Coming of Age

1. Yet in that moment, Will thought, he was a boy no longer, but a man of the Night's Watch. (1 Prologue.89)

This notion of growing up and being "a man of the Night's Watch" is echoed when Jon joins the gang: "You knelt as boys…. Rise now as men of the Night's Watch" (49 Jon 6.70). But we might ask what is it that makes them grow up in that moment. Is it standing up to danger (as Waymar Royce does) or accepting the responsibilities of the Night's Watch?

Tyrion grinned at him. "That's good, bastard. Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it." (14 Tyrion 2.61)

Sure, this book has a lot of Coming of Age stories, but many of the Stark kids are already pretty mature at the beginning. Here, Tyrion lays down a distinction between simply being adult ("most men") and actually being mature (facing a hard truth). That's going to be a large part of Jon's coming of age.

"This willfulness of yours, the running off, the angry words, the disobedience... at home, these were only the summer games of a child. Here and now, with winter soon upon us, that is a different matter. It is time to begin growing up." (23 Arya 2.72)

Eddard makes a connection between the seasons and growing up, but he also points out the geographic reason for maturing: in the north, we were at home, but here in the south, when we're surrounded by enemies, we have to be more adult. Makes sense to us. It's like how we can run around in our own backyard, but we need to be a little more careful when we're not on our own turf.

His auburn hair had grown shaggy and unkempt, and a reddish stubble covered his jaw, making him look older than his fifteen years. "Sometimes I think they know things... sense things..." Robb sighed. "I never know how much to tell you, Bran. I wish you were older." (38 Bran 5.19)

Robb feels that he can't share with Bran because Bran may be too young for these crises. But in fact, Robb was probably too young for these crises when he started dealing with them, too. The simple act of encountering them matured him pretty quickly.

Robb seemed half a stranger to Bran now, transformed, a lord in truth, though he had not yet seen his sixteenth name day. (54 Bran 6.35)

Bran loves his brother Robb, but sometimes he feels a distance when Robb is self-consciously being "Robb the Lord." Growing up changes people and their relationships, but can coming of age ever separate family? What do you think?

And even the other Burned Men feared Timett, who had put out his own left eye with a white-hot knife when he reached the age of manhood. (57 Tyrion 7.11)

In the Seven Kingdoms, there don't seem to be a lot of adulthood rites. No bar/bat mitzvahs or confirmations. What we have for most people is an informal set of goals, like becoming a squire or having sex (see Tyrion's story of Tysha for that). But the Burned Men Mountain Clan has a very specific adulthood rite: self-mutilation. It's one of the few things we know about that culture.

Some of them stared at her boots or her cloak, and she knew what they were thinking. With others, she could almost feel their eyes crawling under her leathers; she didn't know what they were thinking, and that scared her even more. (66 Arya 5.16)

Okay, so there's a lot of growing up that gets done in this book. In this chapter, Arya witnesses her dad's execution, which instantly adds a couple years to one's maturity level, we think. But these are still children: it's important to remember that Arya is only nine or ten.

Sansa stared at him, seeing him for the first time. He was wearing a padded crimson doublet patterned with lions and a cloth-of-gold cape with a high collar that framed his face. She wondered how she could ever have thought him handsome. His lips were as soft and red as the worms you found after a rain, and his eyes were vain and cruel. "I hate you," she whispered. (68 Sansa 6.19)

It takes her a while, but Sansa does finally realize that life isn't like a story in a book: talk about a coming of age. Here, newly-mature Sansa realizes that Joffrey isn't the hero of this story, but a villain.

Robb got to his feet slowly and sheathed his sword, and Catelyn found herself wondering whether her son had ever kissed a girl in the godswood. Surely he must have.... he had ridden in battle and killed men with a sword, surely he had been kissed. There were tears in her eyes. She wiped them away angrily. (72 Catelyn 11.61)

Catelyn has her own view of Robb's coming of age. Like many parents, the idea of her child growing up makes Catelyn teary, though Catelyn has additional reasons to be sad. After all, he's maturing in a world of war and violence.

<em>The fire is mine. I am Daenerys Stormborn, daughter of dragons, bride of dragons, mother of dragons, don't you see?</em> (73 Daenerys 10.54)

A lot of kids in this novel experience a coming of age: Bran becomes more thoughtful, Robb partly transforms into a lord, and so on. But Daenerys undergoes a complete transformation from little sister who gets beat up to widowed <em>khaleesi</em> who sacrifices a woman for her dragons. Wow. And what is new Daenerys like? You'll have to read the next book to find out.

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