I swear that this blog is not going to be all about, or even mostly about, A Song of Ice and Fire (known as Game of Thrones to the TV series watchers). I swear it. However, right now, I am reading A Storm of Swords (book 3), so it is heavy on my mind, and, seeing that the series did inspire the name, it seems fitting to have my first post be about A Song of Ice and Fire.
One thing that I love about George R. R. Martin’s writing is that he knows how to build characters that make you feel confusing, but real, emotions about them. Maybe I just have not read widely enough, but so often it seems like the “antagonist”-type characters are just crappy people with no complexities or redeeming qualities. Sometimes, that’s fine, but I love it when I can feel more than just hatred toward these characters and see them as multi-dimensional, just like “real-life” people.
[SPOILER ALERT – if you haven’t read or seen the series and don’t want to know what happens, sorry, but this post isn’t for you! Also, this only discusses events up to page 1009 of A Storm of Swords.] Take Jaime Lannister, for example. At first, he has no likable characteristics. He’s a cruel, vain, arrogant man, and does horrible things like pushing a child out of a tower window so his secret affair with his twin sister wouldn’t be revealed, assaulting Ned Stark & co in the streets of King’s Landing, and then goes off to start a war. It’s easy to hate him through the first couple of books. Then, his adventures with Brienne of Tarth lead him to undergo character growth. He builds some redeeming qualities that, while I still feel disgusted and creeped out, also make me think that maybe he isn’t just a bad guy – maybe he does have the ability to become a decent person.
Consider his relationship with Brienne – she is this big, freakishly strong, homely woman that would be more comfortable if she were a man. People like to make fun of her and generally treat her like crap, including Jaime, at first. He does start their time together insulting her and being a jerk, but eventually they grow to have a respectful relationship. He saves her from rape, and later saves her life, when it would have been easier on him to not even consider her. He opens up to Brienne, and we find out the true story of why he murdered King Aerys, and how much being called “Kingslayer” really hurts him. His story reveals more about how horrible Aerys really was, and how Jaime saved the population of King’s Landing from a madman. He was doing what was right and heroic, but people only had contempt and spite for him, since he was part of the Kingsguard and had sworn to protect the king. He had justifiable motives for offing Aerys, and even though many people are glad he did, he’s still seen as a dishonorable oath breaker for killing the one he vowed to protect.
Throughout the books, he was captured, released on the condition that he would return Catelyn Stark’s daughters to her once he was in King’s Landing, kidnapped on his way home, had his land lopped off, and was released again. When almost home, he learns that Catelyn Stark has been killed. He could consider himself released from the vow he swore to Catelyn. His father reworks Ned Stark’s Valyrian steel greatsword, Ice, and gifts one of the two new swords to Jaime, when Jaime arrives back home. Jaime names it “Oathkeeper,” signifying how much he truly wants to be seen as an honorable man again, and gives it to Brienne, asking her to go find the Stark girls (or at least Sansa, since they think Arya is dead) and keep them safe, so their vow to Catelyn Stark is honored.
Even though I still kind of hate him (he still came back home after this character change and went immediately back to his twin, Cersei…gross!), I feel like there is enough depth to his character that I can’t completely judge him as a just a 100% horrible person anymore. He desperately wants his honor back, and has done a lot of good things in his life as well, so he can’t be all bad, right? Everyone makes mistakes! But… he’s made some pretty horrible ones. The fact that I can’t make up my mind on how I feel about him makes him “realer” (more real?) to me. It is more common for me to find a person that I have mixed feelings about in real life than for me to find someone I outright hate.
Do you have any complex characters that you really love or hate? What makes a character real to you? Share in the comments below!