Tuesday, July 2, 2013

An analysis of Sansa Stark

A guest essay by Mitchel Tweedie

Sansa, like Catelyn, who I have already analysed here, is probably one of the characters people are most partisan about, and it is understandable why this is. For starters, first impressions die hard, but perhaps more importantly is Arya (and the rest of the Starks + Jon I suppose, but Arya mostly).

Sansa’s story arc and character development seems to be meandering towards becoming a player (versus a piece). However, as these are incomplete, and GRRM could always pull a GRRM, it is ambiguous where she will end up. That said, while Sansa isn't Petyr 2.0, and is unlikely to become so any time soon, she isn’t what she was (thankfully). I will move onto the topic of Arya now, because this topic has already been discussed at length on the forums (plus the source material is incomplete).

What many people seem to forget is that Sansa is what she was made to be. Arya (like Asha, Brienne, and the Mormonts) is an exception to the rule. The women of Westeros are trained to be Sansas (note the word trained). Even the women who are players (as opposed to pieces), such as Catelyn, Cersei, Daenerys, Margaery, and the Queen of Thorns, are more like Sansa than they are like Arya. So while Sansa’s character is annoying at times (though admittedly less annoying as time goes on) the amount of criticism she cops is grossly unjust, especially when one considers two things.

First, I think we should all admit that while Sansa could not have survived Arya’s journey, Arya could not have survived Sansa’s. Considering the dire plight of the Starks, Sansa thinks she is the last IIRC, survival is of paramount importance. Remember: this is a medieval-esque society, and the House Stark is as old as the Age of Heroes, there is a lot on Sansa’s shoulders. Also, since she did escape eventually, surviving two years in King’s Landing (with her maidenhead as well) is an achievement and a job well done.

Second, while Sansa makes mistakes, so too does everyone else, even Arya makes mistakes. It have always found it odd how seldom people criticise Arya’s handling of Jaqen H'ghar. Three names, three deaths, and she kills two people of no consequence and helps some people, who were going to escape anyway, escape. She accomplishes nothing, and could have accomplished so, so much. With three words, Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, she could have killed all of the Lannister claimants, putting the Lannister’s in a tricky position. She could have caused as much havoc by naming Tywin, Jamie, Tyrion. In a swish the male line of the greater branch of Lannisters would cease to be. Alternatively, she could have named Tywin, Kevan, Ser Gregor, in which case the leadership of the only remaining Lannister host opposing her brother, the King in the North, would be shattered. She could have named any of these, heck, she might have been able to say Tywin, Jamie, Jaqen H'ghar, then offered to retract the third name if he killed Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen. Obviously, GRRM did not want to turn the series in on its head, so Arya and her names has basically no impact whatsoever. While I, and just about everyone can forgive Arya of this, she is one of my favorites after all, many people cannot forgive Sansa, which is more than a little odd. Let us face it, Sansa’s mistakes are quite few and far between. Obviously, Sansa’s main mistake was telling Cersei Eddard’s plans, however, it is difficult to see how she had any relevance to what followed. Eddard had made one mistake after another. For example, Eddard had rejected Renly’s swords only to ask Petyr to bribe the Gold Cloaks. Eddard had also told Cersei what he knew and his inventions. If anything, Sansa was following Eddard’s example.

aGoT Sansa is annoying, but she is growing out of her naivety. Perhaps she is doing so slowly, but she has not had many, if any, opportunities to grow. While we all love Arya, we cannot ignore the fact that she makes mistakes too. Every character makes mistakes, and every character has flaws, and Sansa is not as bad as some of the haters say.


  1. While I do agree with pretty much all of these points, I will still defend Arya and continue to dislike Sansa for one fundamental reason. Yes, Arya does make a mistake in not naming more important people to suffer a death by Jaqen's hands, but she realizes and admits the mistake she made.

    This is in contrast to Sansa, who runs to Cersei and tells her of her father's plans, arguably getting herself captured and her father killed single handed. Throughout the course of the books so far, she has yet to even acknowledge she fucked up.

    Not only that, it theoretically happens again when she was about to be whisked off to High Garden with the Tyrells to marry Willas. However, she tells Dontos, who then tells Littlefinger of the Tyrell plans, which ends up with her marrying Tyrion.

    In both of these instances, she shoots herself in the foot and fails to recognize that she had anything to do with it. I may be comparing Apples to Oranges, but this is why I don't defend Sansa.

    1. Since your comment was anno, and I am late, I doubt this will be read, but who cares :) You raise some interesting points, however, the more I evaluate them the weaker they seem. Firstly, that you prefaced your argument with the claim that "[Sansa gets] herself captured and her father killed single handed" is a is cause for concern. There were many more important factors going on in those scene to attribute Sansa much agency at all, let alone total agency. As for the whole realizing/admitting notion, she does realize and admits trusting the Lannisters was a mistake, repeatedly even. You are right, IIRC, that she does not realize, and thus cannot admits, her mistakes regarding Ser Dontos, however, since Littlefinger has plot armour and subterfuge I can forgive her of that.

      Thanks for commenting.