Like my Father: Masculinity, Legacy, and Game of Thrones

9:12 PM

First I must apologize to my loyal readers for the tardiness of this post. I spent the latter portion of the long/holiday weekend in a place that's technological amenities are not so far removed from the medieval-esque innovations of Westeros...My mother's house. cable. I have no idea how she entertains herself when I am not there to visit. But I have finally found the time to watch. Here are my thoughts:

This week's episode has proven to keep in line with the strong story-telling of the past several episodes of season 6. Much like me this past weekend, Samwell returned home. Fortunately for me, my mother is much more proud and accepting of me than Samwell's father is of him. This segment really made me think of the way in which this show both sets up expectations for and simultaneously values legacy.

Clearly Randyll Tarly's vast disapproval of Sam exists as a result of Sam's inability to live up to the legacy of his father's military prowess. Randyll takes every chance he can to shame Sam as insufficient both physically and in regards to his talents (or lack thereof of those skill he deems appropriately masculine). Sam's father is not a fan of the fact that his son prefers books and learning to the physical trials of hunting and war.

Melessa Tarly clearly disapproves of her husband's dismissal of their son. However, she very clearly still propagates the notion that father's ultimately want their sons to grow up in their image. As she takes her new grandson into her arms, she states that she believes her grandson will someday be a scholar just like his father. Her comment here suggests that there is a commonly felt notion among men that sons should grow to exhibit whatever iteration of masculinity that is held by the father.

This rift in acceptable masculine display as it plays out between Samwell and Randyll is similar to other iterations on this theme that have played out amongst other father/son pairings in the world of Game of Thrones. For example, Tyrion, although he is much like Tywin in political prowess, is often denounced by his father as a result of his dwarfism. Tyrion's inability to possess the ideal masculine body is seen as a failure to live in his father's image. Later in this episode we see a similar interaction transpire between Tommen and Jaime. Jaime is disappointed that his son is allowing his power to be taken by the Sparrow. Tommen's meek nature is a disappointment to Jaime who is more assertive. These sons being unable or unwilling to live according to their father's legacies causes the perception  that both father and son have failed.

As much as I have spoken of this idea of legacy in terms of fathers and sons and those sons who tend to fall short, I want to touch upon this theme in a different manner. There are certainly pairs that demonstrate the value of aspiring to be like a parent as well. I would really like to talk about this as it relates to Arya. Arya is arguably quite masculine and although she is not a son of Ned Stark, this episode seems to suggest that she aspires to be more like Ned. There is a moment in this episode when she walks back stage to add poison to Lady Crane's drink and she walks past the prop head of Ned Stark. Even before Arya returns to stop the poisoning that she set in motion. I  knew at this moment that she would not allow the murder to take place and would, in fact start the "return" of Arya Stark (as opposed to pursuing being No One). Arya clearly found a degree of honor in her father's way of living. She clearly is seeing a fault in the Faceless Men's killing paradigm - one that she cannot condone as a relatively honorable person. Although her choice my come to her detriment, as the Waif is now under orders to kill her, she will at least go out knowing that she did the honorable thing: the thing her father would have done.


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  1. No worries about your post being later than usual. I will be in a similar situation this week as a result of moving. This is a very interesting article. It got me thinking that the series has done a lot with comparing/contrasting sons with parents, but not so much when it comes to daughters. It has been done a few times but not to the same degree.

  2. Re Arya, we should also remember that the idea that men kill with swords and women kill with poison came up a few times around Joffrey's death--also a variation of that with the question of whether Jaime could be responsible for the murder attempt on Bran. How could we ever accept Arya going by a gender sterotype of Westeros. I am intrigued as to whether that's part of the test Jaqen had in mind for her--had she really forgotten her previous self. I hope they explain soon why they targeted the actress--as of now it seems like the understudy had hired the assassins.
    All of what you said about Fathers and Tarley/Tyrion is certainly true. I think Martin writes about this relationship very well--you wonder about his own background.


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