Shifting Alliances in Reading

[WARNING: Game of Thrones SPOILERS are in this post, so only continue reading if you are caught up in the books and the show.]

This is a post relating specifically to Game of Thrones, but generally to any story long enough to expose its readers to multiple characters in various different lights. I have been thinking a great deal, in light of the unfolding of Season 6 of the HBO show and my re-reading of the first book, that my alliance as a reader has shifted a great many times. Obviously, there are two reasons for this:

  1. The story is long enough, presumably a series, that readers are exposed to several perspectives and a series of events that have changed their opinions of certain characters and
  2. The author is a good enough writer that readers are compelled to follow their lead from one opinion to the other.

Take for example, Jaime and Cersei Lannister (the former more so than the latter). Fans of the books and show will see this image


and cringe with fear and writhe with anger because you know this is the scene that Jaime Lannister shoves his dagger through Jory Cassel’s eye, eliminating Ned Stark’s Captain of the Guard. This is after he pushes Bran Stark, a mere boy of 7, out of a window for discovering his secret affair with his twin sister, paralyzing the boy. Suffice it say, at this point in the show, you are NOT a fan of Jaime Lannister. If he met some ill fate worse than Jory’s, you would only welcome it. I know I said as much. In fact, come Season 2, this scene


is incredibly uplifting. He’s a prisoner! Of Robb Stark’s! This story is going exactly how I wanted it to! It gets only better when he loses a hand in subsequent episodes from some outlaws. From your perspective as a reader and a viewer, things are going swimmingly and you are happy with where Jaime ends up at the end of Season 2.

Now think of this. If you’re watching Season 6, this sight


is glorious! Jaime riding to the defense of Queen Margery. If nothing else, he is standing against religious radicalism and a government ruled by a nut-job who doesn’t wear shoes and thinks justice is stripping people naked and parading them through the street like cattle to be spit upon and have feces flung at them.

Wait. What just happened? We were just talking about how happy we were to see Jaime in chains and without a hand and now we are applauding his triumphant entry on the screen? We’re treating him as a hero?? This is where perspective comes in.

Just for fun, and a less dramatic example, let’s look at Cersei. Here she is in Season 1,


insisting that a direwolf pay for the “suffering” of her son. Nevermind that the wolf who ends up headless had NOTHING to do with the incident in question. As an animal lover, I wanted to chop HER head off. Following this, and other unfortunate incidents involving this sour queen, I welcomed this scene,


especially after the Red Wedding. Joffrey dying at his own wedding with Cersei there to cradle him in his final moments…just beautiful. Best part of the show up to that point. I’m serious, the emotions that George R.R. Martin is able to invoke in this series is striking. So much hate, FOR FICTIONAL CHARACTERS! Anyway, by the time we get to this scene,


I’ve softened toward her a bit. A BIT! Calm down, I didn’t say I liked her. Cersei’s transformation is not nearly as clean as Jaime’s, and even his is still shaky at times. But let’s face it, this scene


is slightly pitiful. A fallen queen with no power who has just been humiliated in front of the whole city is now barred from attending her own daughter’s funeral, the second child she has had to bury?? Come on, we’re not that heartless. On some level we feel for her. Yes her children were the bastards of incest, but Myrcella was an innocent victim in the game of thrones.

The point of this long post is to say that as we progress through this series, our opinions and emotions change. In the books, it may be in part due to the fact that Jaime and Cersei¬†begin receiving their own POV chapters starting in books three and four, respectively. POV has a lot to do with how we view a character. The narrator is that character and you are inside their mind, not simply seeing events unfold through someone else’s eyes. Granted, if Bran’s fall had been told through the perspective of either twin, I still think we’d want them dead, but wouldn’t we see the scene differently? We’d see a different motive.

As a writer, I am challenged by this. Even if I don’t write a chapter from the perspective of all my characters, I am at least interested in writing a backstory or maybe even a chapter for my own benefit. Slip into the mind of all your characters, so that when they are featured in your book, you understand them, even if your audience does not. It’s up to you whether or not you reveal those perspectives, but it seems to have worked for George R.R. Martin. I look forward to seeing what else this series had in store…..Well, maybe not…

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