At the feast held for Robert, Jon talks with his uncle, Benjen Stark, about his aspirations to join the Night’s Watch, the group that defends the great Wall at the north of Westeros. Benjen tells Jon that he is too young to join the Watch. Drunk, embarrassed, and angry that he is a bastard with no place in a noble house like Winterfell, Jon leaves the table and walks outside, where he finds the dwarf Tyrion. Jon becomes angry when Tyrion refers to him as a bastard. Having been labeled “The Imp” his whole life, Tyrion advises the boy not to let such labeling bother him. He tells Jon to armor himself with the knowledge that he’s a bastard. Then it may never hurt him. As Tyrion leaves, Jon notices that Tyrion’s shadow stands as tall as a king.
After the feast, Luwin delivers a message from Catelyn’s sister Lysa. The message claims the Lannisters murdered Lysa’s husband, Jon Arryn. Though Ned does not want to be the new Hand, Catelyn and Luwin convince him that he now must take the position in order to protect Robert and bring Jon Arryn’s murderers to justice. Ned reluctantly agrees. Since Jon will be welcomed neither by Catelyn nor by the royal court in King’s Landing, Ned allows him to join the Night’s Watch. Ned fathered Jon by a different woman not long after he married Catelyn, and Catelyn is still bitter that Ned brought Jon back to Winterfell with him rather than leave him with his mother. She thinks that Ned’s honor compelled him to take Jon in.
Later, Arya, Sansa, and Princess Myrcella practice needlework under the watch of Septa Mordane. Sansa angers Arya by calling Jon a bastard. When Septa Mordane asks to see Arya’s shoddy needlework, Arya storms from the room in embarrassment. Outside, she finds her direwolf, Nymeria, which she has named after a warrior queen from ancient history. Sansa has named her direwolf Lady. Arya and Nymeria meet up with Jon and his direwolf, named Ghost. Together they watch Robb and Joff train at fighting in the yard under the watch of Rodrik and the Hound. Arya wishes she could practice sword fighting instead of needlework. Robb bests Joff in the fight. Angry, Joff demands that they fight with sharpened steel blades instead of practice swords. When Rodrik denies him, Joff insults Rodrik and Robb and leaves the yard.
Before leaving the castle to ride south to King’s Landing with his father, Bran goes to climb over the rooftops and walls of Winterfell one last time. He is very good at scaling Winterfell’s towers, and from atop the castle he feeds the crows and studies the castle architecture to learn its secrets. While climbing up the First Keep, he hears the voices of Jaime and Cersei. The two are discussing Ned’s motivations for accepting the position as Hand. They think that Ned is dangerous to them, and they fear that he or Lysa Arryn will accuse them of murdering Jon Arryn. As he continues to listen, Bran sees the siblings start making love. When Cersei spots Bran, Jaime pushes him out the window.
Four days later, Tyrion is in Winterfell’s library reading about war and the changing of the seasons. As he leaves to go to breakfast, he finds the Hound and Joff. Joff complains about the direwolves’ howling. Tyrion slaps Joff and orders the characteristically rude prince to find the Starks and offer his condolences for Bran. At breakfast, Tyrion remembers how Jaime was the only person who showed him friendship or respect when he was a boy. Cersei says the direwolves scare her, and Tyrion tells her that he senses a strange connection between Bran and his wolf that is keeping Bran alive. Tyrion tells Jaime, Cersei, Myrcella, and Tommen that Bran might live, and wonders aloud what Bran would have to say when he woke up. Jaime asks Tyrion what side he is on. Tyrion smiles and says he loves his family.
Jon and Arya both feel themselves to be outsiders in some regard, largely because both feel out of place in the Stark family. Jon feels this way because he is a bastard. Ned is his father, but Catelyn is not his mother. He is always keenly aware that Catelyn dislikes him and that, in the eyes of society, he does not enjoy the status of a legitimate son. Arya, on the other hand, feels as she does because she is female, and society expects women to play a particularly limited role. The names they give their direwolves reflect these feelings. As if in defiance of what people expect of her as a noble lady, Arya has named her wolf after a warrior queen. As if in acceptance of the way he is invisible in the eyes of noble lords and ladies, Jon has named his wolf Ghost.
In chapters 5 and 7, both Arya’s and John’s frustrations at feeling like outsiders come out in nearly identical fashion, as both abruptly exit public scenes. Jon rushes from the great hall embarrassed and near tears because of his anger at being excluded from both his family and from the Night’s Watch. Arya storms from the room where she is practicing needlework because of her embarrassment at her poor stitching and her jealousy of her sister Sansa. Arya finds comfort in Jon’s company not only because he is kind to her, but because she feels he understands her feelings of being an outsider. Notably, after Arya runs out of her sewing lesson, she and Jon watch from a distance as Prince Joff and Robb train in the yard. Both she and Jon would like to take part in the training, but both have been excluded from the same activity for unfair reasons. Arya is a girl and Jon is a bastard, and so neither of them may train at sword fighting in Prince Joff’s presence because it would be considered demeaning to the prince.
Tyrion, himself accustomed to feeling like an outsider, proves himself extremely smart, humane, and cunning in this section, and we begin to see the conflicted feelings he holds regarding his family. As a fellow outcast, Tyrion obviously feels some sympathy for Jon, and when he tells Jon that all dwarfs are bastards in their father’s eyes, it is clear he is speaking about his experience with his own father. His words suggest a strained relationship. Moreover, he appears to truly love Jaime for showing him affection while all others find Tyrion grotesque, but Tyrion also seems sarcastic when he tells Jaime that he loves his family. With Joff, Tyrion recognizes the boy’s status as heir to the throne, but it is also clear he dislikes the boy. When he slaps him, for instance, there seem to be several reasons: because he feels for the Starks’ grief at the terrible injury to their son; because he realizes that it is politically important for Joff to at least pretend to be kind to the new Hand; and lastly, because he delights in the chance to strike the obnoxious prince. In every case he is loyal to his family, but he doesn’t seem to like them as people. Notably, Tyrion is also the subject of some very literal foreshadowing when he returns to the feast and his shadow looms as tall as a king. The small man could be destined for great power.
The ill will between Robb and Joff as they practice combat does not bode well for future interactions between the boys and the houses they will lead. Foreshadowing aside, these boys are the heirs and eldest sons of two powerful families, and they will grow up to lead and wield power. Already there is bad blood between them as they fight with no more than blunted swords. Tyrion in particular appears to be aware of this fact. Right after he finishes reading a book titled Engines of War, he finds Joff and insists that the boy show some courtesy to the Starks to ensure smooth relations between the two families. Jaime, however, in asking Tyrion whose side he is on at dinner, implies that he and Cersei already view the Starks as enemies. Having received Lysa’s message about Jon Arryn, Catelyn feels the same way about the Lannisters. Bran’s coma and the Starks’ lack of evidence require that the brewing conflict remain hidden, however.
Jon Arryn’s assassination, and the hidden note Catelyn receives about it from her sister, set the book’s primary plot in motion. The murder creates the need for a new Hand, leading the king to ask Ned Stark to take over the role. Ned feels torn between his love for his family and his duty to serve Robert, his king and friend, since he knows being Hand means moving away from Winterfell and his family. But the note that blames the Lannisters for the assassination forces Ned to take the position as he knows he must protect the king. (It is worth noting that the lens which reveals the hidden message about Jon Arryn's assassination introduces sight as a motif. The lens literally and symbolically makes clear what is not easily seen). Moreover, it creates a sense of suspicion about the Lannisters, establishing two rival camps in the novel: the Lannisters, who are portrayed as morally corrupt, and the Starks, who come across as dutiful and honorable. When Bran discovers Cersei and Jaime Lannister conniving together and having sex, leading Jaime to push Bran out the window, it cements this rivalry and emphasizes the difference in character between the two families.