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Changing Perspective

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I first read A Game of Thrones in the summer of 1998.
I was 17.

I found myself wholly fixed in the mindset of House Stark, and its associated sympathetic characters.  I was drawn into their point of view so strongly, and so completely, that when Cat seized Tyrion, I saw it as justice.

This almost blind cognitive loyalty to House Stark continued up to to end of Storm of Swords.

Then, sometime between finishing reading Storm and picking up Fear for Crows (which I did the day it was released, as I have for every book after the first), something changed.  I found myself reading, not from the point of sympathy of the Starks, but from a broader perspective.  I stopped seeing the series as a story about characters, and started seeing it as a story about the world.

One could argue that with so few Starks left, that this change was a necessity, and maybe it was, but I still find it's consequence interesting:
While there are some character whom I feel more sympathy more than others, I am no longer "rooting" for them.  I am no longer on any "side," save that of "The Others really shouldn't win."

This has enabled me to understand other characters far better than I used to, and get a better view of just how rich and living a world George has created.

I was wondering if anyone has had a similar experience?

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I would suppose it depends on the reader, the age of said reader, and on whether or not the reader knows of Ice & Fire's deconstructive nature going in (by which I mean, how it turns the classic elements of fantasy and myth on their heads in order to produce something much more realistic). I started reading these books last March, when the "A New Original Series From HBO" edition of A Game of Thrones with Sean Bean on the cover came out, as I collect such books and had been interested in the series for some time, since long ago when some friends tried to get me into this then-CCG. Amusingly enough given this topic, the reason I didn't get into it then was because I didn't know which starter pack to choose, since I didn't know who the good guys were.

I too immediately sympathized with the Starks upon reading the first book, and I feel that in large part we are meant to. They, specifically Eddard and Sansa, act as windows into the story, in that they embody and expect, respectively, the qualities a reader familiar with the works of Tolkien, T.H. White, and others is given initially to assume are true of the world of Westeros.  But I also felt strong sympathy for Daenerys due to the strife she has had to endure, both at the hands of society and her own brother, through no fault of her own. And her personal growth through the books is one of my favorite aspects of the series, which is why I've been trying to become better at playing House Targaryen.

Generally, I think there is going to be at least one character a reader can identify strongly with. Even Cersei is portrayed sympathetically despite being an antagonist, and while I may despise some of the things she does, I can't say I genuinely hate her. Joffrey is probably the only character I couldn't wrap my head around, though one could say he is largely the product of his parentage, because his mother has always lived in her father's shadow, and at least to some degree, she tries desperately to raise the boy up to be the king she could not be, with devastating consequences.

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One of the many reasons that GRRM is such a master of storytelling, is the fact that he presents no 'good' or 'evil' characters, in the traditional senses. At least not what we're driven to expect from fantasy.

Since all modern fantasy is compared to LotR, we always assume there is some faceless, dark evil at the end (eg; Sauron), and one could argue that The Others may represent that in GRRM's world, but they have nowhere near the plot-pull (so far), as Sauron did in LotR.

It became very clear to me when Jaime became my favourite character during A Storm of Swords, that there were no 'sides' to choose anymore. You can't just 'root' for the Starks, because you'd be crying constantly, seeing as they're constatly getting hammered so hard.

To be frank, I knew somethign was up from the moment I read that Ned Stark was murdered, and then kept on reading, just casually asuming that it wasn't actually him. Then, about twenty pages later, it started to dawn on me that he had in fact died.

No characters are all black and white. Contrary to what Melisandre will have you beleive, ("A half-rotten onion is a rotten onion" - which was ironic, her saying that). All the characters are diverse enough to find humanity, and therefore sympathy, within. Here are a few:

- Jaime Lannister: Even before he earns our love in ASOS, consider this: He killed Aerys Targaryen. The Mad King. He broke his oath, because ths man he'd sworn to protect with his life murdered innocent after innocent. We as readers were largely blind to this point from the beginning.

- Theon Greyjoy: He was taken captive by strangers when he was a young boy. At that point, to him, all they were were the 'bad men' who killed his brothers and defeated his Father. He has no place in Winterfell growing up, and when he finally returns to his Father, Balon shames him as well. He's torn. And he's the lonliest character in the series.

- Jon Snow: We're set up to view him as a hero, but Donal Noye points it out very quickly in AGOT; he's an arrogant bully. He doesn't want to go to the Wall and join the watch because it's a noble cause. He wants to go there and join the watch because it's better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.

And there are dozens more, I'm sure.

- PC

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