A Game of Thrones

by: George R.R. Martin

Important Quotations Explained

“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”

Tyrion Lannister first says these words to Jon near the end of chapter 13, but the words echo through multiple times over the course of the book. Robert is perhaps one of the best examples of a character who avoids hard truths. As Littlefinger points out, Robert has a great deal of practice closing his eyes to things he would rather not see, and he does so in the novel in instance ranging from Lady’s death to Jaime’s crimes against Ned. But several other characters also seem to ignore difficult realities. Catelyn appears to realize she has wrongly imprisoned Tyrion but can't admit it, while Lysa is so deep in denial that she likely believes her own lies. Sansa closes her eyes to the truth repeatedly, including to Joff’s wickedness and her role in Ned’s death.

Not all characters fall victim to this way of thinking. Most notably, Tyrion never allows himself to forget what he looks like and how others see him as a result. Rather than avoid the truth, he confronts it at every turn and even finds ways to turn it to his advantage. He counsels Jon to similarly embrace his status as a bastard, and as Jon begins to do so, he also begins to understand his upbringing was more privileged than he initially realized. Samwell Tarly also confronts the truth about himself, acknowledging that he is a coward rather than pretending otherwise. Throughout the novel, Tyrion’s quote, like Syrio’s parting advice to Arya, plays into the sight motif. Syrio tells Arya that she must see instead of merely watching. That is, he advises her to actively search for the truth beneath appearances. Tyrion’s quote points out that most people choose not to see a hard truth, but only by doing so can one see a situation—or oneself—clearly.