The execution in chapter 1 introduces a baseline sense of what Ned views as proper justice. A man who deserts his comrades is punished with execution, but not before he is questioned. Temporary insanity is clearly not a valid defense, since Ned later admits that Gared was scared half-mad. After the execution, characters do not discuss whether Gared was guilty or innocent, but instead, the manner in which he died. Ned explains that the judge must carry out the execution himself if he believes his decision to be just. Even though other lords have executioners, Ned holds himself to a higher level of accountability. Considering Gared’s sound advice and repeated warnings to his young leader, Waymar, the reader is left to decide if Gared’s death was truly just.
The direwolf dead in the snow is a startlingly clear symbol to nearly everyone but Bran, the chapter’s perspective character. The direwolf is the symbol of House Stark, while the stag is the symbol of House Baratheon. The sight of a direwolf slain as a result of the antler of a dead stag is more than enough to shock Ned’s men into silence. If it is indeed an omen, it can only mean bad things for the houses Stark and Baratheon. The reappearance of any member of the direwolf species is ominous by itself. The animal’s presence south of the Wall further indicates that problems from north of the Wall, such as those described in the prologue, may be headed south. Even the animal’s name, with the prefix “dire,” warns of future days as dark as the Stark words, “Winter Is Coming.” When Jon points out that each pup has a corresponding child in the Stark family, he marks them as symbols for the children as well. Jon’s outcast albino pup seems to match up very well with his identity as a bastard child by the surname Snow.
Daenerys’ chapter provides a distinctly different perspective from the other point-of-view characters in the book. Her knowledge of the history of Westeros is the distorted version of reality that Viserys has told her, and so the narrator refers to Robert as the Usurper in Daenerys’ chapters. According to Viserys, Robert and his treachery against Aerys Targaryen are the cause of all Daenerys’ misfortune. Nonetheless it is immediately clear that Viserys’ pride, cruelty, and even stupidity are to blame for Daenerys’ unhappiness. Her brother threatens her, molests her, sells her into marriage, and tells her that he would gladly let forty thousand men rape her. Daenerys is terrified of him, but she believes that the only way home is through his plan to regain the throne. Even if Viserys had a more realistic plan, Daenerys would still have difficulty returning home, since she is unsure what home means to her. The red door motif represents her fading memories of her temporary home in Braavos.
The Stark words, “Winter Is Coming,” warn that dark times are ahead. At face value, the words are always true regardless of the time of year. Though Westeros’ seasons change in length, they inevitably pass from summer to winter and back again. Even if the weather is warming, the Starks are certain that before long it will be winter again, and so their words advise preparedness. Symbolically, the words imply the inevitability of hard times. Good fortune comes and goes, and the Stark words warn that even if things are going well, one’s health and prosperity can and will always be worse at some point. Catelyn finds the words troubling because although they are pessimistic, they are unavoidably true. The words of other houses make claims about honor, pride, and glory, but the Stark words are a statement of fact.