Sterner Stuff: Why Sansa Stark Is A Political Powerhouse

By Mira Waters Sansa Stark is easily one of the most hated characters in George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, and by extension, of its...
By Mira Waters

Sansa Stark is easily one of the most hated characters in George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, and by extension, of its television adaptation, Game of Thrones. She is considered stupid, shallow, vain, disposable, and deserving of the abuses she suffers soon after her father’s death. Many argue that she learns nothing, does nothing, and that surely she’ll die soon.  GRRM, while seemingly a “kill everyone” writer, makes his arcs and parallels painfully clear, and through his subversion of tropes and archetypes, gives his audience a clear indicator of who will survive. Despite the wishes of fanboys everywhere, Sansa Stark is here to stay, and may be one of the most important characters in political-fantasy to date. The young girl, trained in courtesy and domestic arts, began coming of age, gaining political awareness, and fighting for her own survival before many other characters in this series, and has the potential to become the most powerful player of “the game of thrones” in Westeros.

As the eldest daughter of Eddard “Ned” Stark, the Warden of the North, it is only natural that Sansa be brought up to be a lady: a loyal subject to the crown, a pleasing addition to the jovial pageantry of court, a dutiful wife and mother. At the age of 11, Sansa already excels at all that is expected of her. She sews, dances, sings, takes lessons in the high harp and the bells, dresses well, and is already considered an absolute beauty. The dichotomy of feminine Sansa and her tomboy little sister, Arya, coupled with the modern tendency to champion a misunderstanding of feminism in the form of “strong women” only, erroneously causes many readers and viewers to assume that Sansa is somehow in the wrong from the very beginning. They view her through the misconception-colored glasses of “femininity=weakness”, and assume she is weak, soft, and shallow.

However, the tourney in honor of Eddard Stark’s new title of Hand of the King is one of the first instances of us seeing Sansa’s domestic skills weaponized:

Jeyne covered her eyes whenever a man fell, like a frightened little girl, but Sansa was made of sterner stuff. A great lady knew how to behave at tournaments. Even Septa Mordane noted her composure and nodded in approval.

Jousting is brutal. Jeyne and Sansa are of an age, and both squeal with excitement and delight throughout the tourney, but only Jeyne shies away from the more brutal moments. Sansa’s training has taught her to do many things that modern day likes to ascribe to weakness (which is in and of itself false), yes, but it has also taught her that brutality and violence are an accepted part of her society, and a part of the lives of men, men who she will one day marry and serve, and Sansa looks on it without flinching. Even when the knight from the Vale dies, she maintains her composure:

…Sansa sat with her hands folded in her lap, watching with a strange fascination. She had never seen a man die before. She ought to be crying too, she thought, but the tears would not come. Perhaps she had used up all her tears for Lady and Bran. It would be different if it had been Jory or Ser Rodrik or Father, she told herself.

Despite the strange fascination of seeing death for the first time, and the disconnect she felt to this stranger, Sansa still finds a way to empathize. She uses her fascination with songs and stories to humanize a dreadful situation:

The young knight in the blue cloak was nothing to her, some stranger from the Vale of Arryn whose name she had forgotten as soon as she heard it. And now the world would forget his name too, Sansa realized; there would be no songs sung for him. That was sad.

In this one instance, before she is ever truly terrorized by Joffrey or Cersei, before she has any experience or growth in the cut-throat realm of politics, Sansa has used her lessons from Septa Mordane to behave, to maintain composure in the viewing of violence and even death, and to go beyond that and feel for a young knight who meant nothing to her, nothing to anyone present.

Admittedly, Sansa does not enter this series with guile and armored awareness, but she does immediately showcase her ability to use what she has been taught in high pressure situations. She is a problem solver, provided that she has the tools to do so. Early on in A Game of Thrones, she handles the potential fiasco of people being terrified of her direwolf Lady with grace and charm. She plays along with Renly’s game, using her knowledge and courtesy and etiquette to do so without angering her betrothed, the already volatile Prince Joffrey:

He smiled at her. “Now, wolf girl, if you can put a name to me as well, then I must concede that you are truly our Hand’s daughter.”

Joffrey stiffened beside her. “Have a care how you address my betrothed.”

“I can answer,” Sansa said quickly, to quell her prince’s anger. She smiled at the green knight. “Your helmet bears golden antlers, my lord. The stag is the sigil of the royal House. King Robert has two brothers. By your extreme youth, you can only be Renly Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End and councillor to the king, and so I name you.”

Ser Barristan chuckled. “By his extreme youth, he can only be a prancing jackanapes, and so I name him.”

There was general laughter, led by Lord Renly himself.”

While Sansa does not yet understand that she is playing the game of thrones, she is an excellent judge of character, and adept in using her knowledge and social graces to convince people to like her and comfort her. She even responds to sibling rivalry with the mindset of a queen:

Sansa stalked away with her head up. She was to be a queen, and queens did not cry. At least not where people could see.

Sansa’s eagerness to please, idealization of chivalry, and reliance on ordered societal roles has a darker side, however. Exemplified by this are her relationships with Petyr Baelish (“Littlefinger”) and the queen Cersei Lannister.

Instinctively, Sansa does not trust Petyr.  Her first observation of Petyr is very astute: “He had grey-green eyes that did not smile when he did.” Her instincts immediately encourage her to remove herself from any situation Petyr is in. When he speaks to her, she feels vulnerable, naked. Unfortunately, Sansa shoves down her intuition and engages him in the name of courtesy and decorum, which gives him all the power he needs to begin grooming her, even before he’s solidified the downfall of the Starks and her complete dependence upon him.

With Cersei, Sansa initially respects, admires, and comes to trust her, because it never occurs to her to question a queen. Sansa’s admiration of Cersei both confuses her relationship with Joffrey and strains her relationship with her father during his discovery of the true lineage of the Baratheon children. Cersei gives Sansa enough compliments to soothe her and convince her that she is doing everything right — and enough information and semblances of trust to make Ned’s reluctance to share what he knows as hurtful as it is perplexing.

Though Sansa’s relationship with these two characters are marked as failures and idiocy by many, they provide her with excellent lessons. With Petyr, she learns that her initial instincts are invaluable. (This, much later, is the only thing remaining to her once she’s fully in his grasp, the only thing that helps her hold onto her identity as Sansa and not lose herself in Alayne entirely.)

Both Petyr and Cersei are present in Sansa IV, A Game of Thrones, where one of her most important lessons take place. During Joffrey’s bloody ascension to the throne, Sansa is imprisoned in her room. She is unaware of the true situation, though she hears the sounds of fighting all around her and is told by Jeyne that everyone is being killed. After several days, Sansa is taken before the Small Council. (Where she says of Petyr, “…she could feel Littlefinger staring. Something about the way the small man looked at her made Sansa feel as though she had no clothes on,” again ignoring her intuition’s red flags because of learned behaviors.) Sansa is told her father is a traitor, but per her established pattern of behavior, she tries to use courtesy and logic in equal measure to assure the Council that this could not possibly be the case. Cersei quickly reprimands and guilts her, and Sansa realizes that she has to do what it takes to protect her family.

Per the instructions of the Council, Sansa writes a letter to her brother Robb, telling him not to take up arms, but to swear fealty. This move is frequently criticised (second only to her choices regarding Nymeria, Arya, and Joffrey before King Robert), but she does not do it because she believes it to be true. Sansa is confused and conflicted, but knows something isn’t right. The lesson she learns here will be the most important lesson in her arc: the truth isn’t what matters. In this moment, her deftness with courtesy and presentation begin to meld with the necessity to play-act for preservation.

When Sansa goes before the entire court to beg mercy from Joffrey for her father (a courageous move that she is not given nearly enough credit for), she uses her mother as a guide, as the basis for her role: “I must be as strong as my lady mother.” She uses all the tools she has — her courtesy, her political lessons, even Joffrey’s love for her, to save her father’s life. Unfortunately, she soon learns that love is nonexistent, and Joffrey’s promise of mercy is horribly broken.

Before tragedy strikes, Sansa has every tool she needs to become a political ruling force to be reckoned with. (“Courtesy is a lady’s armor.”) In the face of complete despair and ruin, her will only gets stronger, her choices shrewder, her skill and new capacity for performance only improving with her hatred of her captors:

Once she had loved Prince Joffrey with all her heart, and admired and trusted her his mother, the queen. They had repaid that love and trust with her father’s head. Sansa would never make that mistake again.

From A Game of Thrones to A Dance With Dragons, Sansa is ever more maligned and abused, but also grows smarter. She takes in information from every source — from Joffrey, Cersei, Petyr, Sandor Clegane, Tyrion Lannister, Ser Dontos, the Tyrells, and Lysa Tully — and turns it into a lesson.  The last we saw of Sansa Stark, she was in the palm of Petyr Baelish, but ever aware and ever wiser. (“He is serving me lies as well.”) Sansa still clings to anger, plays her part as a piece for the moment, but does not forget who she truly is or what was done to her:

…Littlefinger was no friend of hers. When Joff had her beaten, the Imp defended her, not Littlefinger. When the mob sought to rape her, the Hound carried her to safety, not Littlefinger. When the Lannisters wed her to Tyrion against her will, Ser Garlan the Gallant gave her comfort, not Littlefinger. Littlefinger never lifted so much as his little finger for her.

Sansa’s arc is dependent upon her finding her agency and becoming a player in the game of thrones. (Though she may also have potential within the magical arc of the series.) Her passive action is not weakness or stupidity. It is her only option and she is working it to the best of her abilities, toeing the line between survival and destruction, identity and dissociation, self-care and necessary self-denial. From the beginning of this story, she has had every tool she needed to rule. Sansa Stark was a sheltered child thrown into emotional and political turmoil. And despite her grief, her guilt, and her longing, she has carried on, “…to porcelain, to ivory, to steel”. She is a wolf, a Stark, and at home in winter and turmoil, high functioning in peril. Her courtesy is not only armor, it is easily weaponized, she only needs the realization and the opportunity. Sansa Stark is very well the political Chekhov’s gun of this series. Not only will she live through the barbaric and oppressive nature of this society, she will be better than it.

She had always heard that love was a surer route to the people’s loyalty than fear. If I am ever a queen, I’ll make them love me.

 

Categories
Media
  • DRF

    You are giving book-Sansa WAY too much credit. People call her stupid and dull because she is. Book-Sansa does nothing but parrot back what she’s told to say–yes, because she’s afraid, yes, because she knows she’ll be killed if she does not, etc. etc., but it isn’t smart or fun to read about. She does not take on any agency; she merely flounders as other characters push and lead her from place to place. She drifts. She might not be as wretched as people make her out to be, but she is entirely passive and relatively boring.

    The Sansa of the TV adaptation is another matter. She’s shown learning the court doublespeak. She’s still a bit stupid and naive but also shown making her own decisions (escape with Littlefinger or stay and marry Loras?) and they even added one scene in Blackwater where she taunts Joffrey for not fighting in the vanguard. Wonderful! The real appeal of Game of Thrones is that they made almost every female character smarter and more interesting, and Sansa is where these changes are most visible.

    • owls

      Dude, she’s a thirteen year old girl. Also, she does have moments of agency, she just knows when to pick and choose so she doesn’t, you know, get fucking murdered. She refuses to kneel when Tyrion asks her to, a clear statement that she does not want this marriage and does not consent to it, but the only safe statement to make. She save Ser Dontos, yes. If you watch Game of Thrones and think they are doing the females characters more honor than George RR Martin is, I don’t think you’re paying attention. They add even more rape scenes, even more silent, naked young women for the audience and male characters to oogle, take away a lot of Catelyn’s statements and importance.

      Also, to add to your comment below – Sansa is not “nice” to Tyrion because he is a Lannister. He is part of the family who had her father, mother, and brother killed, who is threatening her and forcing her into awful situations at every turn. Jaime, Cersei, Tywin and Joffery are all awful, selfish, power hungry people. Sansa does not have the luxury of reading Tyrion’s PoV chapters as we do. Why the hell would she trust him when the rest of his family are awful, terrible people with no thought for her well-being? And if you say, “Well, he’s been sort of nice to her and stopped her from being beat that one time!” don’t. Because Sansa has no real control in this situation. She is a thirteen year old hostage of war engaged to the sociopathic, awful king, who is constantly threatening her, who is being mistreated by the entire court. She has been taught, very brutally, not to trust the Lannisters. Everyone complains that she trusted Cersei and Joffery in the first place, but then complain that she does not magically know to trust Tyrion, despite barely knowing him and having his entire family to set the precedent that hey, the Lannisters are dicks. Sansa gets far too much hate, and I really wonder if it’s largely because people forget that she does not have the benefit of omniscience that the reader does.

      • DRF

        Sansa’s faults may be understandable, but that does not make her either admirable or interesting.

        The pick-and-choose idea is true of TV-Sansa but not of book-Sansa. Even if you don’t think that refusing to kneel at her wedding was a petulant way of making Tyrion look stupid, you’d still have to push just as hard to make it out as a political statement. She did not accomplished anything by it and did not intend to. She was reacting to her feelings, not acting on a plan. And yes, book-Sansa has her reasons for being mean to Tyrion, but they’re emotional, shortsighted reasons. Sure, not noticing that he’s on her side and has a heart like the ocean is an understandable failure given her circumstances, but it doesn’t make her a heroine or a feminist figure. It makes her meh. Blah. Whatever. Well-I-guess. Victims are boring.

        Uh, more rape scenes and silent, naked young women? Maybe it’s that silent, naked women are easier to overlook when they’re one line of text instead of an actress on a screen, but there were a whole lot of them in the books.

        • Celesse

          But the thing is, Sansa’s passivity isn’t weakness. It’s precisely what makes her strong. Not bold, not reckless or fearless, but strong. To still be ~alive in this world is an accomplishment, and considering the fact that she is a child who has endured significant trauma I’d say that having to remain still and silent throughout all of that is astounding. I know adults who would not be able to live through half of the stuff this character has experienced. I personally find Sansa fascinating (and perhaps, one of the most fascinating characters in all of the books) as we watch a girl’s innocence be utterly destroyed in every single way, which in itself is interesting but we get to see her ~survive through that. I’m constantly wondering with Sansa whether she’s finally going to break and so for this girl to maintain composure through all this shit with such inner turmoil I find Sansa Stark to be engaging, powerful, and even more interesting in the way that her power is so ~subtle which is something I rarely see with any character.

          • DRF

            You are giving her way too much credit. Book-Sansa’s passivity isn’t calculated or proactive; it is reactive. She doesn’t stay still and silent, hiding her emotions; she weeps, she faints, she cowers in fear. This doesn’t make her hateful. It only makes her normal. However, that isn’t strength. It’s just an understandable and excusable weakness. She’s like a flower that makes it through the winter because she happened to be growing next to a hot vent. She survived through no virtue of her own. That’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t make her admirable or fun to read about. Perennial victims can be like train wrecks–some people like to watch them, but they aren’t art. As of the events of Feast for Crows, she might be starting to change (considering she’s gone from fourteen to seventeen during this time, that makes sense) but we haven’t actually seen any of that so far.

          • WendyNerd

            There are clear moments when it’s made clear that her passivity is calculated, and that she purposely holds her tongue. Oh, also, in the books, she DOES, in fact, “rally the noblewomen” during Blackwater with a hymn. And after that, she also takes the wounded Lancel Lannister to a Maester. Also, they give her less agency in the show by putting Dontos on a bus. In the books, she not only takes an active role in trying to plot her own escape right after she saves Dontos [which is part of the reason she didn’t go with the Hound. In the show, they really don’t give a clear reason at all and just completely botch that. Not only with Dontos omission but also by making the Hound thing less creepy and violent and omitting many of their prior interactions]. Also, when she first goes to meet Dontos, not knowing what is truly up, she brings a knife with her, ready to kill any potential attacker and herself in case it turns out to be a trick. So she not only knowingly risks her life to try and maneuver her own escape, she also consciously has a safeguard in anticipation of what can go wrong. And yes, much of her passivity IS calculated. She actively reminds herself to hold her tongue so Joffrey won’t beat her. She carefully calculates how she confides in Margaery, wanting to warn her away from Joffrey. When Margaery responds that Loras will protect her, Sansa thinks of how Loras could end up another Ser Aemon the Dragonknight/Kingslayer, but does not speak it aloud because she knows referring to secret brother sister relationships and Jaime in such a manner would be stupid considering the current climate. Also, if her actions at the Tyrion wedding were merely the result of her not being able to control her petulance and emotions, then how do you explain how she managed to keep herself composed when she was informed of the marriage? She purposely held in her feelings throughout almost the entire affair, including when Tyrion had brought her to bd, had her strip, and groped her. She even tells herself to find the beauty in him. And when Tyrion tells her Lancel, the younger, better looking cousin is an option, she refuses. So yes, many of her actions are calculated. She also actively tries to manipulate Joffrey and sometimes succeeds. Not only is there the Dontos thing [which was spur of the moment, but she DID follow up on it with the Name Day luck lie, so she has calculated follow through], she also actively convinces Joffrey not to run down some poor woman and gets him to throw a coin at the woman instead right before the bread riots. Even Tyrion Lannister notes herself how she operates socially. At Joffrey’s wedding, she actively charms Ser Kevan Lannister and Lancel— both influential and powerful confidantes to the queen and Tywin. When Tyrion observes her, he actively admires how good she is at this.Yes, anger and resentment does play a part in her refusing to kneel at first, but it also an act of defiance.

          • DRF

            That’s not what “calculated” means. A calculated action is one planned out in advance with an eye toward its eventual consequences. Sansa’s conversation with Margaery and most of the other things you’ve mentioned were spur of the moment and emotionally motivated. She felt sympathy and pity for Margaery. That’s not bad but it’s not the same as taking control.

          • WendyNerd

            Um, emotional motivation does not mean it wasn’t preplanned in any way. She purposely chose to voice her concerns in the kings wood where there were less spies around. Doing it on the basis of emotion and sympathy does NOT mean there wasn’t any prethought. The fact that she chose to say this to Margaery out in the woods when they are more alone shows that there was. Just because she gives herself one last emotional push to go through with it by thinking of Margaery as a sister does not mean no thought went into how she did it beforehand. So yeah, the word is used correctly. Also she does show a lot of thought of eventual consequences beforehand.

          • DRF

            And “planned in any way” does not mean “calculated.” Book-Sansa’s conversation with M (and other actions) are not part of any larger plan to secure her own survival or further any other goal. She shows up, feels for Margaery, and helps her with information. That means Sansa would be a good person in real life, but it doesn’t make her either a strong character or an interesting one. As for her conversation being preplanned at all or Sansa thinking about consequences–I don’t recall that the book shows Sansa planning out “I must help Margaery by warning her about Joffrey and then she will help me escape later” but it’s been a while. Is that in there or are you inferring it?

          • WendyNerd

            I didn’t say all her actions we’re for the same go and you seem to be under this assumption. I never implied Sansa warned Margaery out of a hope it would help her escape— especially since Sansa at the time already thought Margaery was going to help her escape via the marriage to Willas. I said calculating, Not coldly calculating for the purpose of one goal. I said she thought ahead with thoughts to yes, long term consequences—just not in regards to her escape, but consequences for Margaery.

          • DRF

            No, you didn’t. What you did say was that Sansa’s actions were calculated, and you cited the conversation with Margaery as an example. No that conversation was not calculated. It was emotional and reactive. Sansa was following Margaery and her grandmothers’ plan to marry her to Wilas, not her own. This is just one more case of her passively doing what others tell her to do. Then you said that the conversation could have been planned in advance and what I’m asking you is do the books show that it was planned in advance or are you extrapolating that it was?

          • WendyNerd

            For crying out loud I never said she was involved with plotting the Willa’s thing. I pointed to her actions, in context, of trying to warn Margaery discreetly. In the books, she purposely warns Margaery IN THE KINGSWOOD WHERE LESS SPIES ARE AROUND. And yes, it does state she thought about it before, and right before she speaks, she gives herself one last emotional push. This had nothing to do with her planning her escape and I never said it did. Yes, the books do say she’d given thought to speaking to Margaery further. And right in the KINGSWOOD, when she has the opportunity, she thinks that she couldn’t let a sister marry Joffrey and speaks further on the subject to Margaery, where she can be sure they are alone. And yes, her POVs do make note that there was more privacy then, and she knows cersei’s spies are all over the palace, so she speaks to Margaery when they’re in the woods. And yes, despite emotional involvement, thinking about margaery’s well being does show thought towards long term consequences. So: advanced thinking and planning on how and why she should do something with the consequences in mind.

          • DRF

            I never said that you said that. You used the conversation with Margaery as an example of how Sansa can be calculating and now I’m using it as an example of how Sansa is not calculating. Sansa’s escape is one possible goal to which a calculating person might work. It too is an example.

            What advanced thinking and planning? You haven’t cited any yet. The conversation with Margaery is kind, but it isn’t FOR anything; it doesn’t further any goals that Sansa might have.

            When Sansa was thinking about it the night before, was she thinking primarily about sparing Margaery the pain of being Joffrey’s plaything or was she planning to escape (OR any other goal)? Again, this is a reactive choice, an emotional choice. It shows that Book-Sansa would be a good person in real life, but she is not a calculating or proactive character. She’s reacting to Joffrey, reacting to the Queen of Thorns, reacting to Littlefinger. She never thinks up a plan on her own and executes it.

          • WendyNerd

            Yes I did. I gave you my reasoning for why this was preplanned with thoughts towards consequences. I’ve now described practically half that POV chapter. I’m not giving you exact quotes because I’m on my phone.
            And you are just fundamentally wrong about that being the only go someone can employ calculating thinking with.

            I find it interesting that you’re just repeating yourself over one point over and over out of the half dozen I’ve presented though. Also, saying why one example out of the many offered is a good argument over why Sansa isn’t calculating out of the many examples of agency, active thinking, insight, and deliberate action I’ve offered you is in fact a logical fallacy. Even if you were right about the KINGSWOOD exchange, one example of Sansa not being calculating does not mean she never is. She preplans with thoughts toward consequences on multiple occasions that I’ve mentioned that you keep not actually addressing.

          • DRF

            I did not say that a calculating person or Sansa in particular could have only one goal. I specifically said that her escape was one example of one goal.

            Sansa isn’t calculating because she never creates and executes a long-term plan. Let’s define long-term as involving three or more steps. My point is negative (that someone isn’t something or that something didn’t happen) so of course there’s no example from the books. That IS the proof.

            Sansa saves Dontos but she does it on the spot as a reaction. Sansa’s part of the plot to kill Joffrey but she didn’t come up with that plot (and didn’t even know about it until later). Sansa’s part of Littlefinger’s multi-step, calculated political plan, but again she’s not the one who came up with it and for most of the time she’s not even privy to what’s really going on (surprised when Petyr kills Dontos, etc.).

            If you think that Sansa’s conversation with Margaery was part of a calculated plan, then what do you think Sansa’s goal was? To establish Sansa as a proactive and calculating character, we have to have at least one case of her taking initiative for a non-emotional reason.

          • WendyNerd

            Alright fine: here’s a reason: there not being a kingslayer /dragon knight situation vis a vis Loras.
            An yes, I’ve given you an example. You’re pretending it isn’t one, but it is. I describe a scene in the books with book context and reasoning. You are failing to acknowledge this and using lack of MLA format to try and validate it. And now you’re just straight up using the absence of evidence = evidence of absence fallacy here which doesn’t even apply. Also I never said the decision to save Dontos was not a spur of the moment decision. I said the opposite. And I’m just ceasing to have fun or stay interested talking about this because you’re becoming a broken record. Obviously, this is fruitless.

          • WendyNerd

            Also, you keep making references to claims that have not been made or are in direct contradiction to what has actually been said. I never claimed she plotted joffrey’s assassination or was calculating on that end. In fact, I straight up said the opposite, so what’s the point.

            Also, btw, you don’t need a goal with a lack of emotional motive to think of consequences and plan actions accordingly. Emotion is not the opposite of thought. Another fallacy. Littlefinger’s own plots an machinations were motivated by irrational, megalomaniacal emotion and sexual fixation. He’s still calculating.

            Also: I said she was active on the plot escape front, which she was. I straight up told you how. I didn’t equate being active and attempting agency with being a chess master. The only part I implied to be calculating was her decision to bring the knife: planning in advance with an eye on consequences. In this case the possible consequences of this being a trap.

            Alright, I’m done. There’s a pattern to your replies. I am tired of it. Have a nice life not reading.

          • DRF

            I never said that you made those claims. I gave those examples to 1) prove my point and 2) make it easier for you to see what I’m asking you to show. The Joffrey assassination and escape with Littlefinger are examples of complex plans in which Sansa is a passive rather than active participant. Can you name any similar events in which she is an active participant or any similar plans that she comes up with herself? I’m pretty sure there aren’t any.

            Excellent point with Littlefinger. I’d argue that he was able to put his emotions aside to develop that plan. Littlefinger is calculating because he’s able to conceal his real motives, keep lots of parts of his plan working, time his actions, etc. Can you show that Sansa ever did any planning of that kind, emotions aside or not?

            Bringing a knife to a meeting isn’t stupid but it doesn’t make Sansa a calculating character. The risk was staring her right in the face, so she brought it. Bringing a knife to an event that she had to FIGURE OUT was dangerous would have been calculating, but Sansa has every reason to expect that people in KLanding will harm her.

            What do you mean you told me how Sansa was active in her own escape? To my memory, she only ever did what Petyr Baelish told her to do. In what way do you think Sansa was active during the escape plan?

          • WendyNerd

            You’re bad at context and subtext. Also reading my replies. You purposely ignored the very specific argument I made. Which you keep doing. I specifically told you two acts/decisions Sansa made on her own. The end. You’re ignoring them in purpose. I’ tired of typing the same damn thing. Btw: she did choose to do what littlefinger’s told her. He didn’t force her into the gods wood, didn’t force her to wear the hairnet or go with Dontos. Her making the decisions to do this, was in fact a display of agency as it was her choice, even if that choice wasn’t defiant and/or not part of lf’s plans. You keep presenting counters to arguments not being made. Just read the damn books regarding the thoughts on Loras. Also, maybe your argument regarding absence/evidence would work if this wasn’t an incomplete series that does in fact actually have evidence to support my argument. But it is and it does. Just read the books again and try to pick up on framing, context, pattern, and not-so-subtle characterization and implications regarding events and action.

          • DRF

            I did not purposely ignore anything, but the fact that I don’t agree with you might be making your reasoning less obvious to me. What two acts are you talking about? Talking to Margaery? That’s emotional and reactive rather than proactive. (Again, if you see this as an example of Sansa being calculating, then what do you think Sansa was trying to accomplish and through what steps?) Bringing a knife to the meeting? Again, emotional and reactive and not necessitating any calculation on Sansa’s part.

            No, no one forced her into the godswood or a hairnet, but it wasn’t her idea either. Someone else presented her with an offer and she decided to take it. That’s reactive, not proactive.

            The books contain a great deal on Loras, but they can’t tell me what YOU think about him. I did read all of them and clearly didn’t come to the same conclusion about him that you did–to the point where I don’t know why you even brought him up.

            If by that you mean that George Martin might write something in future books in which Sansa does something proactive, then sure. He might. You could even argue that that’s where the character’s going, but we haven’t seen anything like that yet.

          • WendyNerd

            I’m only going to answer the Loras question because every other one I’ve answered and yes, you are purposely ignoring that. Yes, you are. I told you what she was thinking, what she was worried about, how she went out of her way to speak to Margaery when fewer spies are around, and what she was trying to do. I’ve repeated it ad nauseum. I’ve been explicit in what I’ve been trying to explain. The only way you could possibly think I haven’t explained it to you is if you’re determined to believe I haven’t or you just aren’t reading. I told you what she wanted to accomplish and how. I did. I am done bringing up that scene because I am sick of repeating myself on it. I have said all that can be said. I have said it multiple times.

            And I wasn’t referring to anything in the future. I have purposely ignored any and all blatant foreshadowing regarding future actions by Sansa and just focussed on things that have taken place.

            People who also think Loras could end up being another KS/DK: Jaime and Cersei. Three different characters see that future in Loras. Jaime. Cersei. Sansa. Both Jaime and Cersei consider these things in AFFC. They would know. Sansa was just the one who figured it out first. Jaime thinks about it when he first arrives in KL, taking a look at Loras and realizing he’s basically looking at his younger self. Cersei thinks about it when observing Margaery and Loras during the Tommen wedding. And no, I’m not referring to an incest element. I’m talking about hot-headed violence and determination to defend a queen that is his sister and the unending trouble that results from that. It’s part of the reason Cersei sends Loras to Dragonstone, to get Loras out of the picture so that he wouldn’t be around to defend Margaery when Cersei brought up the charges against her. (Spoiler: he ends up doing something super hot-headed and dumb that a young Jaime would have done, just as Cersei hoped for.) The end.

          • DRF

            Why would you think I ignored that point? I responded to it. In that case, Sansa is acting emotionally and immediately; she’s not planning ahead. Sansa’s not a complete airhead but that doesn’t mean she merits the word “calculating.” But what does that have to do with Loras?

            Yes, you’ve repeated yourself a lot but that doesn’t mean I’m ignoring you or that I don’t believe you. It means I don’t AGREE with you. I don’t find what you’re saying convincing or accurately interpreted.

            You THINK you’re being explicit. You think that your reasoning is obvious, but not everyone sees things the same way you do. Why would I think it’s “obvious” that Sansa’s showing agency by doing X if I don’t think that X is agency at all? You think that X is agency and I don’t, so you must point it out if you wish to be understood.

            Yes, the Queen of Thorns and her “recipe for Kingslayer soup”: The idea that Joffrey might mistreat Margaery and that Loras might kill him. But what does that have to do with Sansa’s agency or being calculating?

            There’s no need to worry about spoilers; I’ve read all the books.

          • WendyNerd

            Yeah, obviously you really don’t get it. It’d be obvious to anyone who is actually reading with any other motivation than to contradict.

            Read the goddamn chapters because I am fucking sick of this. I purposely said I wasn’t applying her figuring out about Loras as her being calculating. I said it was insight. I said her methods of warning Margaery were calculated.

            You’re making up new conditions to support your very, very, very bad points. No, not having circumstances ruin her choices isn’t a condition for her trying to exercise agency.

            And the dagger/seatbelt comparison fails. She was never prompted or warned to bring a dagger. You’re coached to use your damn seatbelt from age five. I used it as an example of her thinking ahead and being smarter and considering consequences. And yes, exercising agency. In the chapter, she actively thinks about the message being a trap, of it possibly being the Lannisters hoping to trap her in an act of treason and decides she’ll bring one to either kill a potential attacker or kill herself.

            If you think you have to be a damn giant plotter to have agency or even being calculating (which, yes, can have fucking levels), then you are the one who fails at vocabulary. Those are not conditions to having agency. Someone making decisions and taking action for their own interests and for the interests of others is what is needed. I’ve given you examples. You’re pretending they’re something else. I’m guessing because you hate subtlety.

            Just stop replying. We’re getting nowhere. You don’t want to get anywhere. My lack of response in the future is just me getting sick of this.

          • WendyNerd

            For the love of God: DAGGER. I’ve already explained how that was an entirely independent choice and why it showed her thinking ahead with a mind toward consequences.

            Also, she CHOSE to cooperate and yes, did have a choice. Her choices to wear the hairnet, meet Dontos, etc, were her taking action. Maybe it was PROMPTED action, but still ACTION. Which involved CHOICES SHE MADE. THAT IS STILL ACTION. ACTION IS NOT THE OPPOSITE OF COOPERATION. SHE ALSO TRIED TO ABANDON THE DAMN PLAN, CHOOSING FOR HERSELF TO GO WITH THE TYRELLS. THAT IS STILL ACTION. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE THE ULTIMATE PLOTTER/CHESSMASTER TO TAKE CONSCIOUS ACTION.

            Either you don’t actually know what choices and actions are, or you’re being a troll at this point.

          • DRF

            Bringing a dagger with her doesn’t mean she merits the word “calculating.” If I buckle my seatbelt when I get into a car, I’m acknowledging that there’s such a thing as car accidents, but that doesn’t mean I have a complicated long-term plan to secure my goals.

            Yes, she chose to cooperate in other people’s plans; no one’s contesting that, but that’s not the same thing as taking an active role in securing her own escape. She is doing what she’s told; that’s passive, not active.

            To show agency on the level discussed in the article, Sansa would have to do more than just follow along with someone else’s ideas. She’d need to 1) have her own idea of how to meet her goal and 2) take action on her own. Working with someone else’s idea doesn’t do it and sitting there passively doesn’t do it. She’d need to SUCCEED in deviating from other people’s plans. As of book five, she never has.

          • DRF

            I don’t AGREE with you that Sansa’s emotionally driven reactions should mean that she’s proactive or calculating. That doesn’t mean that I’m pretending.

            Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence in the REAL world, but it is in fiction. If it were possible to search every atom of the world, we’d be able to say that there’s no such thing as X, Y, or Z. However, it IS possible for us to read every word of these books, so if Sansa never once behaves proactively or executes a plan, then yes we can conclusively say that she’s not a proactive or calculating character.

            “Not being a ks/dk vis a vis Loras”? I don’t know what you mean. What does MLA format have to do with anything?

          • WendyNerd

            Also you spoke in absolutes, saying that aside from saving Dontos, she takes no deliberate action. I gave you several examples where she does, and does so with forethought. You also spoke as of it is only TV Sansa who shows signs of learning doublespeak, using courtesy as armor, and playing politics with any aptitude. She DELIBERATELY stops Joffrey from running down that woman. She DELIBERATELY takes Lancel to the maestro and comfort the women with the hymn. She DELIBERATELY chooses to take a knife to her first meeting with Dontos to protect and/or kill herself.

          • WendyNerd

            In the books, when she’s in the vale, furthermore, she figures out Lynn Corbray is on littlefinger’s payroll. She repeats the courtesy is a lady’s armor thing to herself and to Tyrion in the books. She is one of the only people in the books to pick up on the nature of baelish’s dual nature and craziness in the books. I can’t cite it all directly because I’m stuck on my phone for the moment. But in the books, not the show, she shows plenty of developing political acumen and skill. Even Tyrion Lannister notes in the books that “she’s good at this. She’d have made Joffrey a good queen if he’d had the good sense to love her”. Keep in mind that this is Tyrion thinking this about a girl who is thirteen years old.

            Also as to your complaint that her actions aren’t taking control when you first complained about my use of the word calculating…. I didn’t say she took control, I said she took action. Sansa simply cannot take ‘control’ in such ways, not the way you seem to be framing it. Her situation is simply too precarious, but she does make conscious decisions and takes action when she can and even influences situations and seizes opportunity when she can. Also, for the record, she does try to take some control. She had a choice of engaging with Dontos, of wearing the hair net, of meeting him, of leaving the purple wedding with him. If she were completely passive, she’d have never answered the note to meet him, much less brought a knife with her in case of a trap. She also did have a choice to tell Dontos about the Willas thing and told him she no longer wanted to go along with their plan. That’s her making a conscious decision and trying to choose for herself from the options available to her. Unfortunately, Dontos betrays her. And frankly, wanting to go along with the Tyrells was a better choice. She knew of the Tyrell’s power, but had no idea who Dontos was working for. The Tyrells gave her what the plan was, who it involved, what the destination was, and how they’d go about it. Except for the reason ring her claim, they were upfront with her about nearly everything upon their first meeting. Meanwhile, she’d met with Dontos repeatedly and got practically nothing, just BS. And she called him out on it. Unfortunately, this decision was stolen from her. But it was her trying to make a choice —in this case a smarter one—- in a nearly impossible situation. Actions taken. Choices made. Agency.

  • Joshua

    I think the main criticism of Sansa I’ve come across is that she is ungrateful to others. The other Starks are all shown recognising loyalty and assistance from others sincerely.They are characterised as humble, or at least capable of showing humility, whilst Sansa often scorns the people who are most loyal to her. I feel that people often view her as a traitor to her family for this reason. It doesn’t help either that the reason she is alive at all is because she adopts “un-Stark-like” behaviours, whilst “true” Starks are getting martyred left, right and centre.

    • DRF

      Yeah. I hope TV-Sansa doesn’t end up being as mean to Tyrion as book-Sansa was. So far so good on that.

      • WendyNerd

        She is not mean to Tyrion. She just doesn’t love him and she shouldn’t. “Mean”? She remained courteous to him. Not kneeling once and not wanting to sleep with him was not “mean”. It was natural. For crying out loud. She actively notes that Tyrion helped her in the Joffrey beating. She hates the idea of being married to him and sleeping with him. Which she should. Tyrion expects her to just totally confess all her troubles to him and love him and resents her for not doing so when there is every reason in the world for her not to want him. Yes, reasons other than appearance. She was offered a better looking alternative [Lancel] and refused because she knew Tyrion at least saved her while Lancel was active in a beating and she also wanted to be smart and decent about it. And don’t try to tell me Tyrion was loyal to her. He had no more reason to be loyal to her than she did to him. After the beating, Tyrion offers her his Muntain clan people to her as guards. She refuses because she feared they’d report to him about her meetings with Dontos and Tyrion would report it to his family. And he WOULD have done so. Tyrion was an active player in the war and though he balked at Cersei’s machinations, he also did everything he could to keep the Lannisters in power. They NEEDED Sansa as a hostage, he knew that better than ANYONE and made it clear that she would not be goinghome, and the second Tyrion would have found out about her plotting with Dontos, he’d have stopped it. Show me her unkind words to Tyrion. Seriously. She was nothing but courteous and respectful to him. Tyrion at one point gave her a choice and she took it. She showed him enough trust to ask him what he’d do if she never wanted him to touch her. A point HE brought up. God forbid the mentally traumatized twelve year old girl whose family was actively being killed off by the Lannisters didn’t want to fall in love with the husband she was forced to take. What a bitch.

        • DRF

          Now it’s your turn to be careful about what claims I did and didn’t make. Not wanting to sleep with Tyrion is perfectly natural. I never said that she was mean in that way. Not kneeling once …in front of everyone Tyrion ever met or wanted to impress and so publicly humiliating him? Yes, one could say that’s mean. There are a few other cases where that happens in smaller ways–there’s a scene in a carriage whose details escape me at the moment.

          Again, if you’ll look at my first comments in this thread, you’ll see that I agree with you that Sansa’s weaknesses are understandable. That doesn’t make them strengths. Again, Sansa would be a good person in real life, but that doesn’t make her fun to read about. The fact that she’s fourteen and scared means that her failings make sense but it does not mean that she’s a political powerhouse or strong or interesting or proactive.

          • WendyNerd

            Yes, the person to feel sorry for in the child bride wedding was Tyrion there. POOOOR BABY that she didn’t kneel once. Yes, that situation was so humiliating for him and his traumatized child bride was such a big meanie. She should have thought of his feelings, obviously. Later when he molests her, there’s nothing wrong there (and yes, he did, even if he decided not to rape her at the last minute).

            The carriage scene you refer to? All she does is say, “Yes My Lord” and Tyrion bitches that she doesn’t love him and doesn’t want to see Casterly Rock. Throughout the entire time during their marriage, Tyrion has internal monologues about her not cuddling up to him and loving him and BS and being so “cold”. That’s the scene you’re thinking of. She doesn’t do or say anything rude or mean or anything. She just sits there and is like, “It would please me to please my lord husband” and, as usual, mentally tries to process the fuckery that is her life while Tyrion sits and sulks that she’s not cuddling up to him and crying on his shoulder. That is what happens.

            Trust me: Tyrion (one of my fave characters), was the dick in that relationship.

            If you don’t like Sansa, fine, it’s just that your arguments for her are bad. I don’t care if you find her boring. Find her as boring as you want. But your suggestion that she was “so mean” to Tyrion suggests a really disturbing list of priorities. Also, your free admittance that you don’t even remember most of the scenes in the books makes you ill equipped to argue this point anyways.

          • DRF

            There’s no rule that says only one person can be a jerk in a relationship. At the wedding, the person for whom to feel sorry is both of them. The fact that Sansa’s lashing out at Tyrion is understandable does not make her a feminist character, a proactive character or an interesting character. It makes her a victim.

            No, it wasn’t that scene. And I didn’t say that I didn’t remember “most of the scenes” in the book. I said that the details of one scene escape me. If you’re going to complain that I’m not reading your posts closely enough, then you should read mine more closely.

            If you didn’t care that I find book-Sansa boring, then you wouldn’t have written all these posts about how you think I’m wrong.

          • WendyNerd

            I didn’t say it made her a feminist character. I don’t really even think I’ve said the word “feminist” once until now. (cue you going “I NEVER SAID YOU SAID SHE WAS A FEMINIST CHARACTER READ MY POSTS RIGHT!” Don’t BS: why bring that up at all?)

            I also never said that I cared about you finding her boring, I objected to the flat out BS in your arguments that have nothing to do with any boredom factor and straight up inaccurate statements regarding events in the books. I have friends who find Sansa boring and I just go, “Whatevs”. But if they said half of the things you did, I would argue with them on those points. I don’t care about the boredom. I care about “so mean to Tyrion”, “no political savvy”, “no signs of her becoming smarter or gaining political skills”, “no agency” and “no action comments” that are fundamentally wrong, and your stated inaccurate statements regarding book Sansa. THAT is what I think you’re wrong about. I find a number of the Bran chapters dull, but I wouldn’t complain that he has no agency. If I did, I would totally understand why someone would object to that. If I made some statement like, “Book Bran didn’t give a crap about Jojen or Meera” or some shit like that, people would justifiably object to that. You’re just painting everything I’ve said with one big brush and applying singular points to an argument I have not made in order to try and twist things around so you can feel like you’re right.

            And that’s the only scene involving any sort of “carriage” between them both (it’s a litter, BTW). So it’s likely you’re just making one up in your head where she was “mean”. There are scenes of them in a litter going back and forth between the sept and Red Keep during the royal wedding. Any other scenes of them interacting during their marriage in the books go as follows:

            The wedding
            The wedding night
            A brief dinner scene where she apologizes for peas being burned
            A brief description of when he told her about the Red Wedding
            The scenes surrounding the royal wedding.

            So yeah, that’s really the only scene you can possibly be referring to. And I know this, because I’m currently rereading ASOS for a project. You characterized the scene wrong, which is not surprising since by your own admission it “escapes” you. So I gave you some helpful information to show you that you’re misremembering the only scene you could possibly be referring to. And you’ve just decided that you want a scene of Sansa being mean, so you’re pretending there’s one that exists that fits your point. I don’t even know why you’d bother pushing that point since, once again, according to you, you don’t even remember what you’re talking about. Why do you keep bringing up scenes you don’t have an accurate memory of? If you want to use them as evidence, why don’t you actually check to make sure if your claims are correct?

            Also, pretty much every scene between them involving their marriage goes like this: Tyrion says something. Sansa gives emotionally detached but courteous reply. Tyrion has a resentful internal monologue about Sansa hoarding her emotions to herself. Like a douche. Sansa had one brief moment where she showed perfectly justified resentment towards Tyrion. Tyrion spent weeks if not months creepily staring at and resenting his child bride for not loving him.

            And I meant most of the scenes you’ve brought up. Like her not having comforted women with the hymn at Blackwater— which she did. Her not doing anything she wasn’t told to do. The ones that so clearly escape you.

          • DRF

            I see what’s going on here: Not everything that I say is a specific reaction to something that you said. Some of it’s a response to the original article. Some of it’s a response to the general perception of Sansa in the fandom.

            Read my post as closely as you want me to read yours. I didn’t say, “Wendy said Sansa was a feminist character.” I said, “that doesn’t make Sansa a feminist character.”

            Book-Sansa doesn’t exhibit agency or political savviness and doesn’t appear to be getting smarter as the story goes on. She does show kindness but that’s not the same thing. Would you care to give a counterexample? Let’s take Bran as an example. He’s also boring, but he does show agency: The decision to go north is his. The decision to send Rickon south with Osha is his. He has goals–to walk again, to find the three-eyed raven, and he takes deliberate actions to meet them, though he’s not always successful. Can you give a case of Sansa working toward a goal the way Bran does? Because I didn’t see any. Give an example of her doing something as part of a plan that was her own idea. Give an example of her making a decision on the same level that Bran does.

            Yes, Tyrion can be a jerk; we’re not in disagreement there. (He can also be a good guy; I don’t think we’re in disagreement there either.) However, it is possible for Sansa and Tyrion to both be jerks.

          • WendyNerd

            Bran in fact is lured by both the children and Jojen. Your comparison is bad. Like, REALLY REALLY REALLY bad. The kid was driven out of his home and sent on a mission by freaking GODS. I’m not saying he has no agency, but you’re exaggerating his actions to a painful degree.

            Also: SERIOUSLY? I am pretty much convinced at this very moment that you may be reading entirely different books if you don’t think Sansa gets any smarter/politically savvy. BECAUSE GOD DAMN. WOW. JUST WOW. WOW.

            If I had to list ALL of the examples, I’d basically just have to give you summaries of every damn chapter she has. BECAUSE DAMN. “She doesn’t appear to be getting any smarter as the story goes on”? SERIOUSLY??????????

            You’re asking now not for examples of intelligence or political savvy. You’re now asking for grand master plans that don’t exist and were never part of any argument I made.

            As to her showing intelligence and growing political savvy (aside from realizing what a rat’s nest it is, learning how to properly guard her tongue, learning how to manipulate Joffrey, being the first to figure out how fucking insane Littlefinger is and his dual personality, becoming capable of manipulating people on instinct in how she manipulates Robin Arryn, her little anti-Machiavelli comments regarding Cersei, etc): Figuring out Lynn Corbray was on Littlefinger’s payroll. Boom. Done. Not that such a thing will matter to you.

            Now I’m pretty convinced by that “she doesn’t get any smarter” that you have no idea what the Hell you are talking about. You have such a blatant lack of understanding of the character and are so desperate to ignore the points I’ve made that it’s pretty clear. You really shot yourself in the foot with that.

            I need to stop here. Because I’m sure every example I will give will be ignored (such as the dagger thing, the “carriage scene” that doesn’t exist, the hymn thing, every other painfully WRONG statement you’ve made regarding the books that you’ve not addressed) or you’ll claim something else that has no basis (you’ll likely turn this into a Bran argument, which I have no interest in). This has stopped being about Sansa or the books. I don’t even know what books you’re reading at this point. Or what character you’re referring to. I’m almost convinced that you’re purely a show watcher that has never actually read the books but is basing all your arguments on things you’ve heard second hand from other book readers. Or you’ve read the books too long ago and haven’t revisited the Sansa chapters at all and don’t really remember much about them and instead of actually caring to check anything, you’re just arguing points about a character you don’t give a crap about for the sole purpose of feeling right. You keep asking for references and evidence from the books from me, yet fail to do the same yourself. Vague illusions to scenes that “escape” you don’t count.

            Don’t ever join a debate team.

          • therainbowhub

            We’re going to step in here and ask this discussion to end. The debate has become circular, and one party is continuously dipping into misogynistic-based reasoning to argue. There are many, many places on the internet to use such arguments against this particular character, and we do not want our site to be one of them. You both are welcome to discuss other elements of this character, but do not continue debating the above discussion on the lack of “intelligence”, especially after canonical evidence has been given to the contrary.

          • DRF

            Brandon’s decision to leave Winterfell was driven by the place being somewhat on fire, yes, but after that, he’s the brains of the outfit. Jojen’s the navigator and Meera’s the muscle, but Bran’s the one calling all the shots. Not to mention that the goal of reaching the tree is his. Whether you think that’s a lot of agency or just a little, we never see anything remotely like it from Sansa.

            TV-Sansa definitely gets more savvy but Book-Sansa doesn’t. The only time she manipulates Joffrey is when she saves Dontos, and that’s a spur-of-the-moment decision, not a calculated decision. She’s reactive (which is not the same as being passive) not proactive.

            The only thing Sansa learns to do regarding “guarding her tongue” is parrot back what she’s been told to say–the Hound even refers to her as a parrot.

            You sound like you need to take a break from this conversation.

    • WendyNerd

      Also bullshit. Sansa actively thanks Tyrion, The Hound, and Dontos for helping her. Other Stark misjudge people, their loyalties, and their feelings CONSTANTLY. Almost no one displays loyalty to Sansa. She begs for her father’s life. She tries to see to Jeyne Poole’s safety. She tries to warn Margaery away from Joffrey in thanks for the kindness Margaery showed her, which turned out to be BS. She is CONSTANTLY being double-crossed and disappointed by people. She’s aware of social class in a damn feudal society, but also also finds the bright side and freedom in masquerading as a bastard. Lots of true Starks show callousness to people loyal to them Jon is callous to Sam when he takes over the Night’s Watch. He also alienates his friends because “Lords shouldn’t be friends to his men”. Eddard is suspcious of Varys but trusts Baelish.

    • WendyNerd

      Oh, and Robb? Who doesn’t trade for his sisters not wanting to anger his banner men. But breaking a marriage contract he agreed to and thereby giving up a quarter of his army for the sake of “love”. Even though he knows that there is a good chance of Sansa being married off and killed once she has a kid for winterfell (he says so when he gets news of the Tyrion wedding). He also chooses to listen to Theon over his mother. So, you know, BS about her being the only one who doesn’t judge or reward loyalty. Or unstarklike my ass. She doesn’t get along with her sister and is practically betrayed, neglected, and/or exploited by EVERYONE around her. ( And yes, that includes Ned, who at one point leaves his eleven year old daughter in a city he knows to be a cesspool after the hand’s tourney so that the Hound has to see her home safely. He also decides Sansa “must” wed Joffrey despite “troubling tales” because he doesn’t want the Lannisters suspecting him of investigating Jon Arryn. Essentially, he sells his daughter in the interests of a dead man. More loyalty to Job Arryn and Robert Baratheon Oh, and Robb? Who doesn’t trade for his sisters not wanting to anger his banner men. But breaking a marriage contract he agreed to and thereby giving up a quarter of his army for the sake of “love”. Even though he knows that there is a good chance of Sansa being married off and killed once she has a kid for winterfell (he says so when he gets news of the Tyrion wedding). He also chooses to listen to Theon over his mother. So, you know, BS about her being the only one who doesn’t judge or reward loyalty. Or unstarklike my ass. She doesn’t get along with her sister and is practically betrayed, neglected, and/or exploited by EVERYONE around her. ( And yes, that includes Ned, who at one point leaves his eleven year old daughter in a city he knows to be a cesspool after the hand’s tourney so that the Hound has to see her home safely. Also he decides Sansa “must” wed Joffrey despite bad things he’s heard because he wants to investigate Jon Arryn’s murder and doesn’t want the Lannisters to suspect him of disloyalty. Essentially putting the interests and loyalty to Robert and Jon Arryn (a dead man) over the safety and future of his daughter. So yeah, bullshit.)

  • Mark

    Can we please stop pretending that it’s feminists who hate Sansa’s perceived weakness? Most of the bitching I read about it comes from men who are watching GoT for the tits and twat.

    • Direwolf

      I think you might be hanging out with the wrong type of people. The majority of people I know watch it for the storyline, the unconventional way major characters can die at any moment, and they well thought out politics behind it all, with a massive back story. The “tits and twats”, as you so eloquently put it, are just a bonus.

  • Hana

    I really hate it when people talk shit about Sansa. She didn’t fought her war with sword, but with courtesies, even though I know she was sick of it. If I ever heard people talk shit about her again, I’m going to hunt their asses down.

  • https://www.facebook.com/porcelainivorysteel Mira Waters

    The author here! Sansa and Arya are not intended to be a foil. A foil is a character that exists solely to highlight traits of the main character. So, while I see what you mean, that is incorrect. They are both characters independently of one another, but are “two sides of the same coin”. Valar morghulis, valar dohaeris. All men must die, all men must serve. In reading Arya’s chapter, it is actually very clear that Arya wishes she could please people the way Sansa could and that she feels awkward about being bad at these things… so at no point should you take sides. That isn’t GRRM’s point AT ALL, and isn’t suggested in any place in the narrative. Let’s all reevaluate our feelings on Arya in relation to Sansa and make sure we’re seeing them as two individuals, not viewing them through a lens of internalized misogyny. Also, let’s not say we wanted to smack a character who goes on to be violently abused, okay? That is uncalled for and incredibly triggering. Please keep in mind that while you can read all of the POV chapters, Sansa cannot. Her reactions make perfect sense and are perfectly reasonable and not worthy of any level of violence considering the information she has.

  • Dorme

    An excellent analysis and I could not agree more with the views you present! I have wanted to slap Sansa a few times while reading, and while she is far from my favourite character I can not sympathize with all the hate towards her.

    If she was meant as a foil for Arya who we’re supposed to love then I failed at this miserably, because I actually much prefer Sansa to Arya. I suppose Martin is such an excellent writer that his characters are not meant to be good or bad – Sansa is an excellent example.

  • Pingback: The Week in Review: November 10th, 2013 | The Literary Omnivore()

  • Pingback: Link Roundup | Feminist Fiction()

  • AD

    Loved this analysis of Sansa. She’s my favorite character in the series and there’s nothing I hate more than when people disregard her, or mistake her passivity under captivity as weakness. I specifically loved how it explained the majority of dislike for Sansa stems from the warped lens of feminism. Well said and very insightful.

  • http://larksandlittlebirds.tumblr.com MyrcellasEar

    This is an awesome analysis of Sansa’s strength throughout the series. While I understand the instinct to dislike Sansa at first – because we are introduced to her through Arya’s rivalry – it’s important to notice how adeptly she wields the tools within her sphere of influence.

    She’s far from the only ‘good’ character to make tragic mistakes early on in her arc, but she IS one of the few characters who manages to get progressively better at what she’s doing. And manages to do it while keeping a clear distinction between her outward actions and her inner life.

    I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Sansa ends up being the Stark in Winterfell after A Dream Of Spring. Perhaps as Rickon’s regent, or perhaps the North will give way to absolute primogeniture.

    • T

      Sansa’s character is easy to hate. Not because of what happens to her compared to others but the way her chapters are written. Her personal analysis and cares are boring, simple, and privileged. I think Martin does this on purpose to make her unlikable so that when she does become important and interesting it will be a huge plot twist.

      • joeschmo

        Sansa has been important and interesting. Her character development is fascinating, as is the fact that she is the only truly empathetic character in the series. She has vengeance in her, no doubt, but her empathy for others (especially those who have wronged her) often times trumps that. And does it really need to be said why she’s important and has been throughout the series? She is central to at least three characters’ plot lines, as well as being a main character on her own.

    • joeschmo

      I’m so glad you pointed out how Sansa is introduced to the reader in the first book, because it’s pretty singular in terms of the Starks. She is literally the very first thing in Arya’s first chapter, so it really isn’t surprising that readers’ gut reaction is to side with the younger, rougher-going sister who maybe feels displaced within her family even though she of course isn’t. I’ve always felt it was a disservice on Martin’s part to both Arya and Sansa to establish their relationship as first and foremost antagonistic in a sense when their seems to be much more there.

      • Sean C.

        Sansa was created at first to be a foil for Arya, so it’s not surprising that he’s introduced in that capacity.

        But Martin clearly never anticipated the degree of antipathy she (and Catelyn) would inspire based on their first appearances, perhaps have overestimated people’s ability to appreciate complexity.

        • D.

          I so much agree with you! Same with Catelyn: Martin made such an interesting character by making her a major POV, but she seems to attract so much hatred just because she doesn’t fit into the stereotype of the bland all-loving-spineless mother.
          Just see how she is called “emotional” and “irrational” when those adjectives apply better to many other male characters.

RELATED BY

  • The Dark Knight 3 The Master Race #2 Review

    As Carrie matches wits with Yindel in the main event and Lara spars with her mother in the Eduardo Risso drawn minicomic, legacy and parenting weigh heavily on the...
  • Saga #32 Review

    It’s easy to forget between bounty hunters, Lying Cats, and endless cycles of death, destruction and devastation, Saga is essentially a story about one family trying to keep it...
  • Pretty Deadly #7 Review

    In my review of the last issue of Pretty Deadly, I mentioned that the story immediately showed itself as a race against time once Fox made the deal to...
  • Constantine the Hellblazer #7 Review

    There’s something very exciting about the idea of a ‘DCYOU’ John Constantine book; a comic slick, witty, inclusive and modern that belongs next to Batgirl, Grayson, Black Canary and...