Game of Themes: Honor and Betrayal

CliffsNotes July 24, 2014




We always talk about honor in literature, right? Whether you’re a man or a woman, a king or a janitor, honor is something you can’t sell or break, but it can define you, and according to Game of Thrones, it can definitely get you killed.

We lost our own honorable Eddard Stark due to his unshakeable honor and his need to do the right thing. Would he have kept his head if he had told a lie or two? Is Westeros more corrupt than the racist south of Lee Harper’s To Kill a Mockingbird? Atticus Finch, another honorable guy, bound by duty to do right by his family and society, faced liars and cheaters, but he got to keep his head squarely on his shoulders.

Of course literature has plenty of examples of people who are dishonorable – and live miserably for it. Just look at our girl Anna Karenina, who was so head over heels for her bae Vronksy that she betrayed her saint-of-a-husband only to end up killing herself when their romance became less Lord and Lady Stark and more Tyrion and Tywin – our personal favorite odd couple.

Alas, Game of Thrones is not all punishment for the good and reward for the bad. Poor Theon Greyjoy has received more than his fair share of retribution for his sins. His favorite toy removed, his identity seized and reshaped, Theon lost the arrogance and weak will that led him to betray his friend and surrogate brother Robb Stark (another do-good-and-be-killed type of bloke) and is now a plaything for the irreverently psychotic Ramsay Bolton.

And what of Brienne of Tarth? Of all the grown women on HBO’s GoT, Brienne inspires the Joan of Arc-like bravery and stalwart honor reserved for great men of literature such as Jane Austen’s Colonel Brandon. Brienne hasn’t yet met a member of any house who doesn’t grow to adore her – save the Hound, who…well…no longer has the chance.

Maybe there is hope for honor in Westeros. But Ned Stark definitely isn’t the guy to ask. 

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