A Game of Thrones


Chapters 5-9

Summary Chapters 5-9

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.