Study Guide

A Game of Thrones Gender

By George R. R. Martin

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His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick and black and soft as sin. "Bet he killed them all himself, he did," Gared told the barracks over wine, "twisted their little heads off, our mighty warrior." They had all shared the laugh. (1 Prologue.15)

"[O]ur mighty warrior" is about as close to humor as you'll find in Night's Watch. And we must admit, we did chuckle. Gared is talking here about Waymar Royce, a young boy who is probably is better at dressing himself than fighting. Obviously, this won't fly with the manly members of the Night's Watch.

Arya cocked her head to one side. "Can I be a king's councillor and build castles and become the High Septon?"

"You," Ned said, kissing her lightly on the brow, "will marry a king and rule his castle, and your sons will be knights and princes and lords and, yes, perhaps even a High Septon."

Arya screwed up her face. "No," she said, "that's Sansa." She folded up her right leg and resumed her balancing. Ned sighed and left her there. (26 Eddard 5.52-4)

Sure, Ned is an understanding dad who even gets his daughter lessons in sword-fighting. But it's pretty clear that he doesn't love the idea of his daughter stepping too far outside the socially-accepted roles for women. (That sigh at the end seals the deal.) Unfortunately for Arya, her dreams for herself will only be seen through by her sons. Fingers crossed for a Y chromosome.

Whatever pride his lord father might have felt at Samwell's birth vanished as the boy grew up plump, soft, and awkward. […] His passions were books and kittens and dancing, clumsy as he was. But he grew ill at the sight of blood, and wept to see even a chicken slaughtered. (27 Jon 4.82)

Remember good old Ned? He might wish Arya was less of a tomboy but, hey, he still loves and supports her. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Lord Randyll Tarly, who threatens to kill his son because he's not masculine enough. Yikes.

Cersei's face was a study in contempt. "What a jape the gods have made of us two," she said. "By all rights, you ought to be in skirts and me in mail." (40 Eddard 10.78)

("Jape" means "joke".) Does Cersei believe in the gender roles that society gives her and her husband? Or is she just using this line (paraphrase: "you're not a real man") in order to hurt King Robert's feelings? And if so, does it work?

If she choked on the blood or retched up the flesh, the omens were less favorable; the child might be stillborn, or come forth weak, deformed, or female. (47 Daenerys 5.3)

Daenerys eats a horse's heart to prove her child will be strong. But check out the alternative. If she fails her child might be (a) stillborn, (b) weak, (c) deformed, or (d) God forbid, a girl. Clearly the Dothraki are hoping for sons, too, just like our friends in Westeros.

"You look very handsome and splendid this morning, Ser Boros," Sansa told him. A lady remembered her courtesies, and she was resolved to be a lady no matter what. (52 Sansa 4.15)

Sansa is lying through her teeth here, but hey, that's part of remembering one's courtesies. Unlike Arya, Sansa is determined to fit into the gender role that society gives to her. Is there anything wrong with that? Or is this way of life equally as valid as Arya's? Does the author pass judgment on this?

Stout, grey-haired Maege Mormont, dressed in mail like a man, told Robb bluntly that he was young enough to be her grandson, and had no business giving her commands... but as it happened, she had a granddaughter she would be willing to have him marry. (54 Bran 6.35)

Maege Mormont and her daughter Dacey break the gender role of women: they are warriors. But check this out: Maege is a warrior <em>and</em> a mother. What are we supposed to make of that?

Tyrion suspected her delight was feigned, but she did it so well that it did not matter. That much truth he did not crave. (63 Tyrion 8.49)

What does this scene tell us about the gender roles during sex? Are there other examples that could provide more insight?

King Joffrey's face hardened. "My mother tells me that it isn't fitting that a king should strike his wife. Ser Meryn."

The knight was on her before she could think, yanking back her hand as she tried to shield her face and backhanding her across the ear with a gloved fist. (68 Sansa 6.20-1)

Women are pretty vulnerable to violence in this book. Although the knightly code says that men should defend women, it doesn't seem to be put into practice: Robert hits Cersei, Meryn hits Sansa, the Dothraki rape the Lhazareen women. Are these moments of violence particularly upsetting because of the gender dynamic? Or are both men and women equally as vulnerable to violence in such a violent world?

"Tell me what the women say." (69 Daenerys 9.50)

Daenerys wants to know the truth about her stillborn (and possibly monstrous) child, so she asks to hear what the women think. As we've witnessed with Old Nan and her stories, women are often the keepers of the truth in an oral tradition.

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