Game of Thronesis adapted from a fantasy fiction A Song of Ice and Firewritten by an American writer George Raymond Richard Martin. It describes aendless mortal struggle between several major families in Westeros to attain to power and sit on the Iron Throne. This article is based on the American TV series Game of Thrones, combined with the original work A Song of Ice and Fire, starting with the growth experience of Arya Stark, a female image, and making multiple comparisons across descriptions of other women. So readers can clearly see that Arya Stark has gradually grown from a naughty aristocratic little girl to the first female assassin in history of the FacelessMen. The purpose of this paper is to help the three-dimensional characterization of Arya Stark, enrich the connotation of character, and further explore the rise of this female image.
Key words: Game ofThrones;A Song of Ice and Fire;Arya Stark; female image
1.1 A Brief Introduction of A Song of Ice and Fire
A Song of Ice and Fireis a fantasy fiction written by George Raymond Richard Martin. In July 2011, A Song of Ice and Fire: Game of Throneswon the nomination of the 63rd Emmy Awards Outstanding Drama Series. This work mainly describes a series of fightsamong families for power and moving stories in relatives on a fictional continent—Westeros. It includesa variety of fantastic elements, such as: Dragons, God, the White Walkers, Giant, Son of the Forest, etc. In 2011, A Song of Ice and Firewas adapted into theTV series Game of Thronesby the American HBOtelevision network. The greatest success of the work lies in the creation of distinctive and unique characters, which has aroused a repercussion in the history of contemporary literature.There are plenty of characters mentioned in the book. Charactersall havedifferent identities and their own personal growth stories. The author introduces charactersseparately, making this work more vivid and real. Although this is a fictional world, readerscan experience personally, feel pleasure, anger, sorrow, joy of characters. Also people willfeel ecstatic for the reunion of characters in this work and grieve for their separation and death.This work demonstrates Martin’s superb artistic creativity and extensive literary knowledge, and its description in characters enhances the depth and artistry of this novel and enriches its connotation (袁元, 2013).
1.2 Writing Background
In 1989, when Martin began to write his essay, a scene suddenly flashed through his mind when he conceived the novelAvalon: That’s a Direwolf, being gored by a deer and leaving several cups which are raised by six children of House Stark. This thought rekindled Martin’s creative passion and finally it became one of many classic scenes in the follow up to Game of Thrones (張未, 2018). In the course of writing, as the storyline continues to build and expand, the planed trilogy of novels, A Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons,The Winds of Winterisincreasedanother four novels, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dream of Spring. The story is also more dramatic and fascinating, plus a complicated plot with a quirky twist. The first work, Game of Thrones, was published in Britain in 1996, and Martin finished the second book A Clash of Kings with a separate section on the last part. And, in 2011, the serial novel, A Song of Ice and Fire was adapted into Game of Thronesby HBO.
1.3 Writing Technique
Thisstory is based on a kind of writing technique namedPOV, Point of View. The chapter is named after a character in the book, and this characteris the dominating figure in the chapter. The purpose of this writing technique is to putreadersin characters’ position to feel what theyhave experienced, furthermore have a thorough understanding of the whole story.As the story progresses, each character not only grows up in temperament, cognitionand other aspects, but also transformsthe way theythinkingafter goingthrougha series of events.There is no absolutedefinitionfor each character, for the reason that the different events they experiencehave transformed them. Some of them have changed from bad to good people. For example, Jaime Lannister, who hasan affair with his older sister at the beginning.And that thing is discovered by a little boy, Bran Stark. Later, Jaime dropsthe eyewitness, a poor boy from a high place, causing him to break his leg. But along time later, when Brienne of Tarth is about to be humiliatedby others, Jaime offershelp and subsequently his right handis cut by those people.Some decent people change, such as: theMotherof Dragons,Daenerys Targaryen,she is a perfect paragon of progress of outstanding women at the beginning. She hasnothing atthe firstand gradually holdspower in her hands to take everything backthat belongs to her, which is taken for a few years. She is so kind-heartedwho rescuesslaves in several countries and givesthem freedom and equality. Butlater,she turns out to be a villainand massacresseveral innocent residents of the whole town. Peoplecanneither define onecharacter with the first impression of him, nor regard him as a positive character with a one-sided goodperformance. What should people do isto review it in multiple aspects.They are not immutable images, their mentalitiesand perspectivesof things all willchangeasthe situationtransforms.
Foreign researcheson A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Throneshavethe following perspectives.For example, Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper than Swords,written by Henry Jacoby,philosophically interprets Game of Thronesand brieflyanalyzes power struggles and killing of characters. And Mark Buchanan’s A Song of Fantasy Traditions: How A Song of Ice and Fire Subverts Traditions of Women in Tolkienesque Fantasy,says A Song of Ice and Fireoverturningthe fantasy literaturewriting model in which women submittomen, from a female perspectiveto study this work, A Song of Ice and Fire. Also, Girls Coming of Age in A Song of Ice and Fire: Arya and Sansa Starkof Huiswan Kand Cultuur E Ttakes two female roles of Arya and Sansa as examples to analyze the growing dilemma of women in the patriarchal society.
1.4.2 Studies at Home
The domestic researches on A Song of Ice and Fireand Game of Throneshavethe following perspectives.For example, the perspectives of characters, feminism, and archetypal analysis. In this paper, the author chooses the description of female image in domestic literature about A Song of Ice and Fireand Game of Thrones. Lin Jingyan’s A Song of Ice and Fire: The role creation of three-dimensional female image, taking the image of Cersei as an example, mainlytalks about a female villain, Cerseiand showsdifferent characteristics through this character’smany identities.Yu Jia’s work, Choicesin the Crossroads: The Tragic Fate of Catelyn Stark in ASong of Ice and Fire, is based on Catelyn Tully, andstartswith her dual roles as mother and wife, to dissect the choices she makes when shefaces the big momentin her life.The embodiment of female consciousness in Game of Thrones, written by Luo Juan, reveals that the female consciousness has been embodied and risesin the novel by analyzing three main female characters, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Arya Stark. Zou Linfeng’s workGame of Thrones: Female Image Analysis, analyzes three kinds of different female images from the ethical and moral angles. Song Lina’s work, Game of Thrones: Interpretation of Female Image, describes that women in the subordinate position seekchances of survival and fight for their rights through different ways.
2.Analysis of Arya Stark’s Growth Experience in Game of Thrones
2.1 Introduction of the Main Character, Arya Stark
As Buchanan Mark(2014) puts, traditionally in the fantasy genre,women are frequently marginalized, nevertheless Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fireseries subverts the traditions of the genre by giving his female characters integral roles in the plot.Leading character of this article, Arya Stark, the second daughter of Eddard Stark, Duke of Winterfell and guardian of Northland, good friend of Robert Baratheon, who is the king of the seven kingdoms. Her mother,Catelyn Tully, is the eldest daughter of the Tully family in the Riverrun City. Virtually, she is not the heroine in thisnovel, and does not occupy the mostpartsin comparison with other female characters. But such a normal noble girl can defeat the Night King in one fell swoop with a Valyrian steel dagger in her handsin the last almost annihilated war of survival in the story. With a marvelous and immortal White Walker army and a dragon taking awayfrom Daenerys, the Night King seems to be invincible. However, when peoplehold the viewthat theystandon the edge of a precipice, the Night King is defeated by a little girl, and his army disappearsafterwards. Thus, thousands of people’s livesaresaved. This surprisesquite a fewaudiences, but with careful analysis, they canfind that all these are reasonable, not whimsical and illogical design.
An ordinary little girl growsinto a heroinewho savesso many people from suffering, and all the hardships and dangers,encounteringalong the way turnsout to be a weapon in her hands when she risesup in revolt. Just as Simona de Beauvoir, described by French President Fran?ois Mitterrand as the most outstanding woman writer in France and the world, putsit in The Second Sex—Woman: The first thing a woman must do is to abandon tradition in pain and pride, and then to engage in her learning in the process of transformation.That is to say, to live in freedom(李書生, 段志東, 2001(4)). Arya clearly realizeswhat she really wantswhenshe is still a child. In the conversation with her father, she revealsthat she is unwilling to marry a Lord or to have children. This is not the life she wants. She appreciatesthat her pursuit is not to be a good wife and mother, but to be a knight. Her thinking is clear. She likesa comfortable and carefree life. It is her determination, together with inducements of death of her family membersthatmakes her arm herself. Thanks for her forbearance and all her efforts in the early stage, Aryahas laid the foundation for everything after that.Instead of succumbing to the suffering the world has inflicted on her, the harder shegets, the stronger shebecomes. Arya Stark choosesto breakaway from traditional restriction and rigid rules of what women should do. What shines in her growing up is the dazzling light that emanates from the insideas a woman.
2.2 Arya Stark’s Growth Experience
2.2.1Arya Stark’s Feminine Consciousness
Feminine consciousness is the product of women’s self-awakening, which is the self-consciousness that women generatesthrough acquired learning. Feminine consciousness is that women regard themselvesas a natural person with independent personality on the premise of their own gender identity. Women with feminine consciousness for the most part have the ability to think independently. In regard to genders, characteristics, responsibilities what the society imposed, they will take into account and analyze,thereafter selectively accept it(Net 1).
There is no doubt that Arya possesses thiskind ofspecial quality. What she embodies is feminine consciousness that refuses to attach to a patriarchal society and constantly strives for self-improvement. She is all alone in her growing up, with stumbling, learning and reflectingon herself, finally achievesa remarkable transformation.
Women are inherently and physically delicatein the Westeros land. What makes them grow up and become strong enough to shoulder responsibilities alone?It is relentless war, everlasting killing, and unbearable oppression. Eventually, they do not want to attach to the protectionof men, so they choose to improve themselves, armedwith a variety of ways to pursue equality and freedom. In order to revenge, they adamantlysurvive, enduringan army of sufferings and strengtheningthemselves step by step.The road to success is full of difficulties and pitfalls, but they are careful to move forward, and eventually reach the other side of success.
Women, as the weakside in the cruel world,they regard marriage and family as the goal of struggle, and lack of self-awareness and the ability to survive alone(宋麗娜, 2015).These womenmore or less know how to relyon menplus the rule of survival in a patriarchal society. They shouldkeep their identityand status untilgettingwhat they want, waitingfor the opportunity, only in this waycantheystand firm in the Westerosland.They must choose some friends who can give them shelter, so that they can survive in this complex and murderous world. Cersei has allies,Qyburn, Gregor CleganeandJamie; Daeneryshas threedragonsand several troops;Sansa has a pretty faceand the identity of the eldest daughter of Winterfell; Margaery Tyrell, hashuge family background and intelligent mind. In contrast, Arya is a teenage girl. She has nothing but tenacityin her blood. Thelove toher family supports her to pass the long way of revenge. In the whole series, she is the only heroine who grows up with her own efforts. Her growth is slow, clumsy, bumpy and humble,and for the reason that,she is more heartbreaking and her revenge is particularly worth waiting for.
Her Growth experience is full of difficulties and hazards. Arya has her hair cut and dressed as a boy, following the Night’s Watch armies to the Great Wall. She is in rags and mingles with the lowest crowds. She is forced to serve wine as a civilian girl beside her enemy Tywin Lannister. Also, she relinquishes her noble identity in House of Black and White, and determines to become a Faceless Men. Just like Martin (2005) writes in A Feast for Crows,akindly man in House of Black and White asks Aryaevery day, whois she? Aryaanswers, no one.She isArya of House Stark, Arya Underfoot, Arya Horseface,Arry, Nana the cupbearer, a grey mouse, a sheep, the ghost of Harrenhaland so on. But she is Arya of Winterfell, the daughter of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn, who hasonce had brothers named Robb and Bran and Rickon, a sister named Sansa, a direwolf called Nymeria, a half brother named Jon Snow.
When the Hound (Sandor Clegane) is stabbed by Brienne, he asks Arya to kill him. Arya turns down his request. Her cold expression indicates that she is on her way to be a real assassin, so she leaves the Hound and gives his fate to the death. She learns to be cruel from the Hound. Arya is stubborn and strong. She has no choice but to choose the road for her families.
2.2.2 Arya Stark’s Training Process
Jaqen always shows indifference to Arya, but virtually, he is Arya’s best teacher. He teachesArya in many aspects, bringsher into the House of Black and White, and trainsher to be an outstanding FacelessMen. Does death take away the wicked and leave the good? All men must die (喬治·馬丁, 2000).He teachesArya quite a fewskills and principles, hoping to bring the girl out of the shadow of the death of her relatives with the equality of death, so that she can regain the hope of life.
Arya is ordered to kill Mrs. Klein. So after the poison is put in her favorite rum, Arya is about to leave, but Mrs. Klein detects her. After a conversation, she asks Arya’s name. Arya tellsher, Mercy.As Varys, the eight clawed spider, holds a torch and asks Arya’s father Eddardin the dungeon, what madness letsEddardtotell the queen, he knowsthe truth about Joffrey’s birth.Eddard says, the madness of mercy. Arya grows up to be more and more like her father Ned. She has a kind heart like her father. She can kill enemies without blinking her eyes. But she can’t hurt thoseinnocent people, bravely resiststhe task given by her master Jaqen.
After a series of tribulations, Arya is finally qualified to become a Faceless Men. All her experiences in the House of Black and White have honed her will, making her stronger, braver and more clear about her goals. The training process is exceedingly hard, and Aryaendures cruel beating and torture. But in order to revenge, she persists. Arya is brave and fearless in such a tough living environment, she has the same unyielding “wolf blood” characteristic as her aunt Leanna Stark. It is with such firm belief and emulative characteristics that she is able to revenge for her family and friends. Fear cuts deeper than swords. This is a lesson Arya learnswell from her Braavossword master. And these words become a recurring refrain in her mind whenever she needs to find some inner strength and push on(Irwin & Jacoby, 2012). In Harrenhal, Arya makes her first revenge list: Geoffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Poliver, the Tickler, Mountain, etc(Martin, 2000). She reads these wordsseveral times before going to bed at night, just to make herself remembers it all the time and never forget her enemies. The hatred against the enemies supports her to pass many difficult night. Her road of revenge officially starts from now on.
2.2.3Arya Stark’s Revenge Plan
184.108.40.206 Revenge on the Hound
Prince Joffrey interveneswhen Arya and her partner Mycah arepracticing swords. After that Arya’s direwolf Nameria, bitsJoffrey’s wrist, then the prince is so ashamed for this reason he ordersto kill the direwolf, Nameria and the boy, Mycah. Later, the Hound is under orders to kill Arya’s little companion, Mycah, the son of the butcher. A long time later, after being seriously hurtby Brienne of Tarth, the Hound hopesthat Arya to kill him directly, but instead, Arya leaveshim to die slowly. Arya could have crossed out one person on the list of revenge, but after a long-term living together, she recollectsthat the Hound helpsher out of danger for several times on a long journey, takingher back home in exchange for ransom as an excuse. Arya has to admit that she has already had a different kind of crush on him, so she can’t kill him.There’s no doubt that Arya can clearly distinguish the kindness and hatred, and she remembers the help the Hound has given her during this difficult journey they’ve had together. She bears all of this in mind. It also shows that, after undergoing these things, she’s grown up inside.
220.127.116.11 Revenge on Meryn Trant
Meryn Trant kills Arya’s fencing teacher, Syrio Forel, a top swordsman and former chief swordsman of Braavos. Later, Arya encounters Marlin Trant and his subordinates in the streets of Braavos, and the fire of revenge begins burning. So Arya pretends to be another girl with a human skin mask. When Marlin Trant tortures three underage girls in the night, Arya bears the pain without a word of complaint or even a moan. She knows that if she wants to capture Marlin’s attention, she has to be dissimilar from the other girls to get the chance to stay alone with him. When others leave, Arya says to him, he is just a nobody, he is nothing. Then she stabs him in his throat, which is the first one on her revenge list. At length, she avenges her teacher Syrio Forel. As a successful killer, Arya endurespain and torture that no one else canendure in order to achieve her goal. Arya is cold-blooded to the wicked, and will not hesitate to killthem. Everyone shekillsso far is villain. In the face of the person shouldbe killed, Arya doesnot hesitate to act,without mercy. She is too calm to be a child, much less a girl.
18.104.22.168 Revenge on Walder Frey
As one of the masterminds of the Red Wedding, Walder Frey, under the guise of the wedding, tricksCatelyn Tully, Rob Stark and some relatives into attending wedding and slaughtersthem at the feast. On the day of revenge against Frey’s family, Arya sneaksinto Walder Frey’s house, pretendsto be a maidservant, killsWalder Frey’s two sons, Black Walder and Roseau, makesthem into meat cakes, and then feedsWalder Frey. Arya tellshim, she isArya Stark, andshewantsto tell Walder Freythat the last scene hesee in the world is a Stark laughing at hedie. After killinghim, Arya takesoff his faceskin. Arya putson Frey’s skin mask and pretendsto be him, holding a party to celebrate rule over the Riverlands, gatheringthe accomplices who killsArya’s family member at the Red Wedding. Arya letsthem drink the poisoned wine, but letsthe innocent maid stand asidewho donot participate in the massacre. She liststheir crimes one by one, and says, people here don’t kill all Starks, once the wolves haven’t gone, there will be no peace for the sheep. Successfully revengingfor the mother, brother and sister-in-law and other people, Arya leavescontentedly. At this time, Aryacan killthe enemieswithout blinking an eye, but she is very kindto those weak and innocent people, she will never kill them. Her heart is warm and hasalways sympathized with the weak,she inheritsthe excellent quality fromher father, Eddard. From beginning to end, she isnot the bully, even not apersonwithout principles.
3. Comparison of Other Important Female Characters’ Growth Experiences
3.1 Women Who Fight
Looking at the female images in Game of Thrones, they either rebelsagainst the bondage brought by the patriarchal society or dares to against the unfair fate, they all haveawakenedin their thoughts and put them into action. Some women have strong belief to fight with oppressionsuch as Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark, and Lyanna Mormont.Like Arya, they havea strong will,and the trials and tribulations of lifemakes them stronger.
3.1.1 Daenerys Targaryen
Daenerys Targaryen has many titles, such as: Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen; rightful heir to the Iron Throne; Queen of the Andals and the First Men; Protector of the Seven Kingdoms; the Mother of Dragons; the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea; the Unburnt; the Breaker of Chains; Protector of the Realm; Queen of Meereen; Princess of Dragonstone and so on. Daenerys is forced to flee from home with her brother, and given to Drogo as a gift, the horse king of the barbarians of Dothraki, in exchange for 10000 Dothraki cavalrymen to assistViserys Targaryen in regainingthe Iron Throne. After her husband Drogo dies, Daenerystakesthree dragon eggs and walksinto fire. The next day, she isalive and comesback with three newly hatched dragons,they are Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion,hence she iscalledMother of Dragons. From the beginning of having nothing at all, with her personal glamour and actual strength, Daenerys harvests a group of loyal followers and strong armies. They kill slaveholders, savethe unsullied and givethem freedom. They launch wars to two city-states, later abolish slavery and rescue thousands of slaves, who call Daenerys—Mother(張麗, 2018).
3.1.2 Sansa Stark
She is innocent at the beginning, just like a carefree little dove. After witnessing her innocent father is put into prison then killed by Joffrey’s order, and knowing that her mother and brother havebeen killed while attending someone’s wedding ceremony, being forced to marry Ramsay Bolton and so on,Sansa Stark nevergivesup, but growsup. As the IMP Tyrion Lannister putsit at the firsttime he meets Sansa, she would outlive us all. In the end, Sansa Stark’s forbearance makes her the first lady of Winterfell(Huisman, 2015).
3.1.3 Lyanna Mormont
Mormont’s family is sparsely populated. As a girl in her teens, Lyanna resolutely and determinedlydecidesto take on the obligation of the whole family and refusesto hide in a cellar with some old women and children when the Great War coming. Instead, she choosesto fight with her subordinates and finally dieswith a giant. Her death is gloriousand significant.
3.2 Women Who Compromise
Unlike Arya, who daresto fight, some women cannot resist in thatsituation, so they compromise. Craster, who lives outside the Great Wall, nurtures his daughters as wife and beats them all the day. He scolds and humiliates them. His daughters never think about resisting, but choose to suffer in silence. He also sacrifices his son forthe White Walkers in search of peace. Cersei, as the mother of king at the time, who just likescargoes, can not fightagainst her father’s command to marry Loras Tyrell, knight of the Flowers. Cersei cravesthe freedom of boys to fight on the battlefield since she is a little girl, but she canonly hide in a cellar with a flock of ladies shivering like hens when the Great War is coming (林婧妍, 2018). In the early stage, Sansa isunder house arrestin Kings Landingandunder the control ofking Joffrey after her father is murdered. She is mocked and humiliated by Joffrey, and forced to watch the head of Eddard, exposing to wind and rain, hanging on the city wall. Later she is compelled to marry Tyrion, the IMP. After that Sansa marriesagain with Ramsay Bolton, who torturesherseverely (鄒林鳳, 2015).In the patriarchal society at that time, male dominates, not only persecutes women in action, but also tormentsin the thought of women, so that women form a habit of submission to men, without any resistance. Combination of cowardice of character and idea of obedience to fate in these women revealsthe dark nature of the society at that time.
In an ephemeral period of time, Arya loses several family members, becoming an orphan and vagrant from a well cared noble lady. On the escaping road where death may come at any time, Arya has barely a sword called Needle by her side, along with a growing list of revenge bear in mind. Arya changes her name, sleeps in the wilderness, eats leftovers, and roves around. Arya also wants to be an innocent little girl as before, but she has no other choice. She has to grow up, arm herself and become sturdy enough to avenge her family. She can no longer conceal in the arms of her parents. Now she can only rely on herself with no one to lean on. She can only turn the anger into power, turn the resentment against the enemies into a weapon, and send them to hell with her own hard work. As the famous painter and calligrapherin Qing Dynasty,Zheng Xie puts in Bamboo and Stone: “From whichever direction the winds leap, I remain strong, though dealt many a blow ”(Net2). Arya, just like bamboo, is strong and courageous. She keepsthe faith all along and never wavers under the blow of enemies. Arya’s fencing teacher, Syrio Forel, tells her,the only God in the world is death and the only thing we can say to death is: not today. Arya always bears this sentence in mind, so that she frequently avoids the death(羅娟, 2019).
In general, as a fantasy works, Game of Thronesuses the unique writing technique of POV, letting readers feel vivid scene as if they are here and evoking inner resonance of them with the detailed description of emotions among characters. This novel contains a wealth of feminine consciousness, and lays the foundation for the further shaping of the female image. Arya, the typical female character in the novel, is shaped as a lifelike three-dimensional image: a carefree noble lady, a mischievous younger sister and a resolute avenger. Arya is in patriarchal society but unwilling to accept the limits imposed by the society to the contemporary female. It reflects the multiplicity and complexity of this character from her growth. Arya grows from weak to strong, and finally wins a place for herself, Arya is a rebellious, strong and independent female image, it is because there is such a character, making this work shining in a different way.At the end of the story, a white horse suddenly emerges in the light, and Arya rides it through the ruins. This light, like the dawn of a new world, separating her from the dirty world to pursue a new self and realize spiritual sublimation. No longer being imprisoned in the old world, Arya tries to challenge herself, gets out of the original limit, and then obtains a new lease of life.
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