Friday, 14 June 2013

6. 'I'll make her be good'

[Spoilers through A Feast for Crows.

A particular phrase that is associated with Sansa, and later, seems to transfer to Jeyne Poole, is the idea of being a ‘good girl’; a related idea seems to be that of having a ‘gentle heart.’ What is particularly interesting is that Sansa’s lupine alter ego, Lady, does not seem to be innately ‘good’, although she is characterised as ‘gentle.’ Septa Mordane is the first to note that Lady threatens Sansa’s ‘good girl’ status: ‘You’re a good girl, Sansa, but I do vow, when it comes to that creature [Lady] you’re as wilful as your sister Arya’. [GOT, 139]. When Sansa pleads for Lady’s life, she tells the king ‘No, not Lady, Lady didn’t bite anyone, she’s good... don’t let them hurt Lady, I’ll make her be good, I promise, I promise...’ [GOT, 157-8] The idea here is that Sansa, the ‘good girl’, will have to make Lady be a good wolf, even though she is hardly aggressive at the moment, as Ned reflects: ‘She was the smallest of the litter, the prettiest, the most gentle and trusting’. [GOT, 158] Unpicking the relationship between Sansa’s identity as a Stark, her relationship with Lady, and the significance of Lady’s death is torturous, with much of the evidence pointing in different directions, but here, at least, it seems that while Lady represents gentleness, sharp observational skills (see below) and strength, she doesn’t fit with Sansa’s image as a ‘good girl'.

The reasons for this become clear as Game progresses, and it becomes obvious that Sansa uses ‘good girl’ to refer to the ideal, obedient lady she is meant to be, a figure that stands in direct contrast to the rebellious Arya. When she sneaks off to tell Cersei of Ned’s plans, she thinks ‘She was the good girl, the obedient girl, but she had felt as wicked as Arya that morning, sneaking away from Septa Mordane, defying her lord father’ [GOT, 548]. Speaking up for Jeyne, she asks ‘Where are you sending her? She hasn’t done anything wrong, she’s a good girl.’[GOT, 546] and, when frightened by Cersei after being told Ned is a ‘traitor’, she protests ‘I’m not like Arya... She has the traitor’s blood, not me. I’m good, ask Septa Mordane, she’ll tell you’ [GOT, 549]. This refrain comes to be automatic for Sansa: ‘She woke murmuring, “Please, please, I’ll be good, I’ll be good, please don’t”’ [GOT, 742] and when she first puts on her ‘courtesy armour’, the ‘good girl’ language blends into that of the courtesy defence: ‘She was a good girl, and always remembered her courtesies.’ [GOT, 750]. The ‘good girl’, then, once Sansa’s aspiration, becomes her mask. While she realises the restrictions of being the ‘good girl’, and having no agency in her own life, she retains her ‘gentle heart.’ Catelyn reflects on Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion, Mother take mercy on her. She has a gentle soul’, and Lady Tanda tells Sansa, who is crying after Joffrey’s murder, ‘You have a good heart, my lady... Not every maid would weep so for a man who set her aside and wed her to a dwarf,” although Sansa, who is crying for quite different reasons, thinks ‘A good heart. I have a good heart. Hysterical laughter rose up her gullet...’ [SOS, 832]. Unlike the rigidity of the ‘good girl’ persona, Sansa’s ‘gentle heart’ becomes her strength, and her future may depend on whether or not she can retain it.
Both Catelyn and Arya’s character arcs indicate the danger of being ‘heartless’ or ‘hard-hearted.’ Catelyn reflects, after hearing of Bran and Rickon’s deaths, that ‘There is an empty place within me where my heart was once.’[COK, 572] This mirrors Arya’s reaction to Catelyn and Robb’s murders: ‘She could feel the hole inside her every morning when she woke... It was a hollow place, an emptiness where her heart had been’ [SOS, 883]. In the House of Black and White, she uses a similar image: ‘I have a hole where my heart should be, she thought, and nowhere else to go.’ [FFC, 394]. This imagery reflects Catelyn’s new identity – Lady Stoneheart – and links this idea of heartlessness to the pursuit of vengance. The Ghost of High Heart makes this point explicitly when she tells Arya ‘I see you, wolf child. Blood child. I thought it was the lord who smelled of death... Begone from here, dark heart. Begone!” [SOS, 593] However, lest we should assume too neat a division between ‘gentle-hearted’ Sansa and ‘dark-hearted’ Arya, Martin plays with the reader by associating Sansa with Lady Stoneheart as well – in her alias, Alayne Stone. If Sansa allows her natural sympathy to be corrupted, he seems to be saying, she might well follow a path as dark as her sibling’s.

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