5. “Can it be? They took my sword hand. Was that all I was, a sword hand? Gods be good, is it true?

Jaime thinks these words to himself shortly after losing his hand, while Brienne convinces him to try to survive. Jaime’s loss of his hand prompts a crisis of identity in him in which he suddenly doesn’t know who he is or what value he has. From a character perspective, Jaime undergoes the most radical transformation in the book. He begins the story cruel and arrogant. He undermines and insults everyone around him, partly out of frustration, and partly because he seems to have a sadistic streak. Because of his skill with a sword he commands a great deal of respect, and a healthy measure of fear, from those around him, and living by his sword as a knight gives him a sense of purpose. But once he loses his hand, Jaime is suddenly weak and alone. He feels extraordinarily vulnerable for the first time, and he feels useless. He no longer commands respect and is called a “cripple” and derided. He no longer knows what his value is to himself or others if he can’t fight.

The transformation he undergoes in the novel involves him discovering where his value lies. Brienne plays a significant role in this process, as he learns to recognize and deeply respect her sense of honor. Later, as he reads the White Book where all the histories of the knights of the Kingsguard are recorded, it puts his own life into perspective, and it seems to prompt him to try to restore his own tarnished honor. For years he’s been considered among the least honorable knights of Westeros for having murdered King Aerys Targaryen while he was part of the Kingsguard sworn to protect Aerys. To rehabilitate his honor, he resolves to lead the Kingsguard nobly, and he does everything he can to keep his promise to the deceased Catelyn Stark. He gives Brienne the sword Oathkeeper, and sends her to find and save Sansa.