Exploratory Essay #1 In A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, the Iron Throne symbolizes the corruption of power and how having power can define a person depending on how one uses that power. Martin uses winter not just as a season but as a symbol of evil used to show how preparing for winter is also a way for preparing for evil. The corruption of power is a convention of high fantasy that is seen in A Game of Thrones. The Iron Throne is more than a seat made of many metals; it is a symbol of power because whoever sits on it is the ruler of the Seven Realms.
Robert Baratheon, king of the Seven Realms, is portrayed through the eyes of his longtime friend Eddard Stark—more intimately known as Ned. Instead of ruling with reason, his actions are ruled by his emotions and desires. Robert is described to have “always been a man of huge appetites” (34). He is a stoutly man who enjoys food, but his huge appetites also refer to his desires. After Robert seized the Iron Throne at the Battle of Trident, he was forever a changed man. Ned has known Robert since they were both young, little boys, so it is significant when Ned admits that “the king is a stranger to [him]” (299).
The Robert that Ned knew as a young boy was not the same man as he knew now, but that man “had never been so practiced at shutting his eyes to things he did not wish to see” (319). “Robert was never known for his patience” (356). He is still a good man. “I should not have hit her. That was not…that was not kingly” (359). Robert is described to have “always been a man of huge appetites” (34), which refer to his huge appetites for food and wine but also refers to his appetite for power. At the battle of Trident, Robert displayed his desire for power when he seized the throne.
Once he sat on the Iron Throne, his love for power made him negligent of the duties that come with power. He has no patience or desire to sit with the commoners and listen to their complaints. His disregard for the Night’s Watch at the Wall displays how little he treasures human life. He does not see how important it is to provide a visit to the Wall because “[the] Wall has stood for […] eight thousand years [so] it can keep for a few days more” (37). His disregard for human life is an example of how power has corrupted him be become a negligent king, shown most apparently when Robert “vowed to kill Rhaegar for what he did to [Lyanna]” (36).
He admits that killing the late Targaryen was not enough. It is this desire for revenge that exemplifies how being in power allows power to corrupt an individual and their decisions. As a king, Robert feels as if he is able to give power to the people below him to do his bidding while he gives in to his carnalities. When push comes to shove, Robert always takes the easy route out When Robert commands that Sansa’s wolf, Lady, be killed, he is unable to do what Ned says is the more honorable thing to do.
If one is going to take another one’s life away, then the executioner should give the one receiving the punishment a final respect for he takes away another man’s life. Instead of looking into Lady’s eyes, he takes the easy way out and tells Ned to do it. Robert’s inability to show respect for human life in his seat of power is also apparent when he commands Daenerys Targaryen and the child inside of her womb is killed. In that moment, Ned realizes that the boy that he once knew Robert to be no longer exists. The king who sits on the throne is not the same man who fought at the Battle of Trident. He has become an adulterer and a cheat.
In contrast to the corruption of power in Robert Baratheon is Ned Stark and Ned’s desire to be righteous, even in the face of danger, because the Starks’ motto “Winter is coming” prepares them for the evil that is to sweep the land. It is apparent that winter is more than just a season in A Games of Thrones. When winter is referenced, there is a connotation of evil, which explains why it is important for the Seven Realms to have the Night’s Watch at the Wall. Robert indulges in the summer days and nights in the south, so he does not prepare for winter, which is a representative of evil, making him more susceptible to the corruption of power.
Ned lives by the Stark’s household saying. He prepares for winter, so he is less vulnerable to the corruption of power. This is clearly shown in Ned’s interaction with Robert. Ned scrutinizes Robert negatively for his many vices: adultery, indifference, and overindulgence. Robert, in lieu of acknowledging the bastards that he possibly has fathered, he treats the women he has had sexual relations with as expendables, another example of Robert’s disregard for human life. Ned’s honor that is contrasted with Robert is also shown through Jon Snow, the bastard son.
Instead of leaving the blood of his blood to suffer with Jon’s mother, he chooses to bring Jon to Winterfell. Ned knows that breeding a bastard is a faux pas, but he faces the scrutiny and acknowledges his son. This shows that Ned—being a mere human—has made immoral mistakes, but what sets him apart from others is that he is able to repent and acknowledge his mistakes. Robert, on the other hand, chooses to take the easy way out. He does not acknowledge his bastards nor does he repent on his adultery. His high sense of righteousness is seen when Robert places the death penalty.
Ned goes out of his way to give Lady a proper, Northern death where the executioner looks into the eyes of the one being punished. It is also apparent when Robert wants Daenerys and her child killed. The corruption of power in King’s Landing makes him “want nothing so much as to return to Winterfell, to the clean simplicity of the north” (269). He gives up his position as Hand of the King, showing how little his love for power is. The convention of the corruption of power in high fantasy is seen through the politics of A Game of Thrones.
Ser Petry Baelish described the Red Keep to be home to “those who are loyal to the realm, and those who are loyal only to themselves” (269). Robert’s disregard for the Night’s Watch, the men who guard the realm from the unknown evils at the end of the world, shows that he cares little for what happens to the realm. He takes from the power that the throne entails to sate his carnalities and is “practiced at closing his eyes to things he would rather not see”, which is why the game of power is exclusive for the rich. While the king’s cabinet struggle to outsmart their colleagues, the poor struggle to meet their physiological needs.
The northerners are not referenced to be poor, but they are like the commoners of the south because the northerners do not worry about who reigns. They live off the land and worry only about surviving winter. The south, on the other hand, is more cultured, but their government is more concerned about who will win the game of chess. The commoners have little interest in the game between the politicians because they have realized that just because someone is in a seat of power does not mean he or she will use it wisely.
Cersei Lannistier, like her husband Robert, abuses her power and does what is best for her, not the realm. The opposite can be said for Ned. The moment he steps into office as Hand of the King, he attempts to rectify all that has gone wrong in King’s Landing: the financial deficit, Jon Arryn’s death, and even Robert’s bastard’s situation. Both Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark have had exposure to the Iron Throne and winter, but it is how the individuals react to the power that decides whether power will corrupt them or not. Robert bathes in immorality and wickedness without ever noticing that he has gone astray.
Ned, on the other hand, stands upright and aware of what is right or wrong. Works Cited Martin, George R. R. A Game of Thrones. Vol. 1. New York: Bantam, 1996. Print. A Song of Ice and Fire. Warner, Rosalind. “An American Game Of Thrones. ” Weblog post. Rozwarner. N. p. , 21 July 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://rozwarner. wordpress. com/2012/07/21/an- american-game-of-thrones/>. West, Thomas. “The Timeless, Powerful Themes of ‘Game of Thrones'” Yahoo! News 5 Sept. 2012: n. pag. Web. 21 Oct. 2012. <http://news. yahoo. com/timeless- powerful-themes-game-thrones-182800955. html>.