A Game of Thrones

by: George R.R. Martin

Chapters 15-19

These difference between the girls plays a significant role in the fight that develops between Arya and Joff, and in Sansa's refusal to tell the truth in front of the king later. Arya clearly cares nothing for Joff's title as prince. She doesn't hesitate to attack him and then throw his sword into the river. The butcher's boy, by contrast, obviously fears Joff too much to even defend himself against the prince's blows. Sansa, however, is so concerned with upsetting Joff, because he is the prince and because she wants to marry him, that she refuses to reveal to the king that Joff initiated the fight. She also seems reluctant to upset Cersei, wanting to gain her approval as much as possible. She faces her own difficult decision between loyalties, as her parents have faced their own in previous sections. As a result of Sansa’s refusal to stand up for her sister, her direwolf is put to death. If the direwolves are interpreted as symbols of the children who own them, Lady’s death could foreshadow the destruction of Sansa’s connection to the Stark family and its values. Nymeria’s disappearance could represent a similar sense of alienation to come for Arya.

Robert's reluctance to make difficult decisions as king is made plain in this section as well. Robert’s initial solution to the fight between Arya and Joff is to avoid dealing with the argument altogether. Instead he demands that Cersei and Ned discipline their children on their own. When Cersei disagrees, Ned demands that Robert at least execute Lady and hold himself accountable in the same way that Ned does by executing Gared in chapter 1. Robert has nothing to say in reply, as if to admit that he has no defense because he knows his decision is wrong. In chapter 4 Robert admits to Ned that “There are nights I wish we had lost at the Trident,” suggesting the duties of being king are too much for him. Significantly, it is at the Trident, in the same place where Robert killed Rhaegar and won the Iron Throne, that Arya and Joff have their confrontation. On the battleground where Robert and Ned once fought together, the scuffle between their children now causes them to fight with one another instead.

Jon realizes that, despite being labeled a bastard his whole life, he has nonetheless had a relatively privileged upbringing compared to most of the new recruits at the Wall. Jon seems to look down on many of his fellow new recruits initially. They are crass, unskilled at swordfighting, and many are of questionable integrity. Jon shows them no mercy as Thorne sends the boys up against him, and his resounding victory seems to confirm to him that he is better than them. But when Noye tells Jon about their lives and backgrounds, Jon understands that he has had several advantages the other new recruits have not. Though he never felt fully part of the Stark family, he was nonetheless raised as a Stark, always being fed and cared for and receiving an education and training in swordfighting. Consequently, Jon's attitude toward the other new recruits changes drastically, and he determines to try to help them rather than diminish them.

Bran’s mysterious dream implies that he has some prophetic ability, and it also foreshadows what may come in the future. In his dream, Bran peers down from the sky and sees things he could not possibly know about. The reader knows that Sansa and Arya have been fighting, but Bran was in Winterfell while the skirmish on the Trident took place. He also sees Catelyn looking at a bloody knife, a reference to the attempt on his life that left her hands cut up, but Bran was still in his coma during the attack. He also dreams of things that haven't happened in the story up until now. He sees Ser Rodrik seasick on a ship, and he looks east to Vaes Dothrak and sees dragons. Most ominously, he looks north past the Wall and feels an intense fear. These images suggest what is to come, though exactly what shape these events will take remains vague.