A Clash of Kings

by: George R.R. Martin

Tyrion’s Conversation with Pycelle-The Reeds’ Arrival at Winterfell

Summary Tyrion’s Conversation with Pycelle-The Reeds’ Arrival at Winterfell

Analysis

The political maneuvering in King’s Landing reaches new heights in this section as Tyrion plans an elaborate scheme to both shore up support for the Lannisters and find out who on the royal council he can trust. The novel adeptly mimics this maneuvering in the storytelling itself by revealing some, but not all, of the thoughts and motivations of the characters. The reader, therefore, sees how characters behave, but only learns later what their intentions were, much as the characters in the novel often do. Here, for instance, the novel does not say what the contents of the letter are Tyrion asks Pycelle to send to Doran Martell. It becomes apparent only in the second Tyrion chapter that he must have offered Myrcella to Doran in the letter, and that Pycelle revealed this information to Cersei. The reader suddenly becomes aware that the letters were a trap. This method of storytelling reinforces the idea that nobody can be trusted to be totally transparent in their motivations and behavior. Much like the characters in the novel, the reader is often left trying to figure out the real intentions behind the actions she sees.

In addition to showing the success of Tyrion's plot to out Cersei's informer on the royal council, the second Tyrion chapter also gives attention to the military strategy that plays a role in the book. At present, readers do not know what Tyrion plans to do with all of the wildfire he has ordered, just as they do not know what he plans to do with the giant chain he has the city’s blacksmiths making. Nonetheless, some sort of plan for defending the city clearly has entered his mind. Moreover, through Tyrion's conversation with Cersei we learn of Tywin's strategy in his fight against Robb Stark. It looks as though Tywin simply waits at Harrenhal, but Tyrion explains that the appearance of doing nothing can be deceptive. Time is the Lannisters' ally, in this case, and by doing nothing he is actually allowing Robb's forces to grow weaker. With this conversation, the novel gives readers a sense of the vast and complicated strategic game that is playing out in Westeros. But there is irony here too: just as the assumption that Tywin is doing nothing is false, the assumption that Robb is idling away at Riverrun—an assumption that Tyrion willingly embraces—may not be true either.

The novel continues to chip away at Sansa's naïve and idealistic worldview in this section. Sansa has long believed in the romantic songs of heroic knights and beautiful ladies she has heard all her life, and she hopes that the note she received means that she will be rescued by a valiant knight. Having her would-be rescuer turn out to be the drunken fool Dontos, however, forces Sansa to consider whether her reality will ever match the fantasies she believes in. Dontos tries to win Sansa's trust and faith by appealing to her romantic nature and casting himself and Sansa in the roles of Florian and Jonquil, respectively, two characters from a popular song. But the effect is essentially the opposite of what Dontos intends: Sansa sees how great a divide there is between the fable and her reality. Her faith in stories hasn't yet entirely eroded though, and she accepts Dontos as her would-be rescuing knight, albeit perhaps more because she feels she has no other choice if she wants to escape King's Landing.

Arya’s situation goes from bad to horrible in her chapter as her safety becomes less and less secure. Not only do she and her companions get captured (or killed, in Lommy’s case), she also discloses the secret of her identity to Gendry. The ruse that she was an orphan boy named Arry was one of the few things keeping her safe from pursuit by the Lannisters, and now someone else knows her real identity. That Gendry knows isn't necessarily dangerous to Arya in itself, but his capture by Lannister-backed raiders means Arya's identity could become known to them as well. The novel shows the wanton cruelty of the Lannister forces through the bodies hanging from the gibbet and their cold-blooded murder of Lommy, suggesting they would have no qualms about harming Gendry as well. These events all imply that Arya's identity could soon come out. Heightening the suspense further—and again highlighting Arya's strong sense of morality—Arya decides to rescue Gendry rather than flee as quickly as possible.

Bran continues to grow up fast, and his chapter suggests some new developments may soon significantly shape the course of his growth. Despite his young age, Bran finds himself now hosting a great gathering of northern lords with confidence and aplomb. He is mature enough, in fact, to recognize that the cheers of the northern lords are not really for him, but for his family and the idea of regional unity. But the arrival of Meera and Jojen Reed may be the most important event for Bran. Like Bran, Jojen seems to have a mystical ability, as revealed by his comment about knowing that he will not die that day. Jojen’s remarks about the direwolves deepen the sense that Bran and Rickon have some connection to the wolves beyond merely having them as pets, a sense that is only emphasized by Bran's dream of Summer. Moreover, Jojen's comment that Bran is more powerful than he knows indicates that Bran will soon find an unexpected strength that will likely be linked to Bran's connection with his direwolf.