Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Originally Posted by lawyerdad Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Pio has a good point about the vow-breaking. And if one is going to be truly absolute about it, then of course nobody is "purely" good or evil. They're intended to be human beings. But while Sam may be annoying and cowardly [at least in unimportant ways], etc. , I think it's pretty hard to argue that he's not a fundamentally good person. I think the same can largely be said about Bran. I also think that at some point, if you're going to be fair, you need to choose what values really make a good person. You fault Sam for oath-breaking, but you fault Ned for an overly-rigorous (and perhaps overly prideful) adherence to the concept of honor. That said, I should add that I'm enjoying your close and thoughtful discussion.
Thanks for the nice words; I've been hanging around SF quite a bit, but just started posting recently, and I could talk about ASOIAF all day. To be clear, I'm not personally advocating any of the these little put-downs; I'm just trying to point out that they're usually there. I agree completely that Sam is fundamentally a good person. But he took a vow of celibacy when he joined the Watch -- a vow that he personally took/takes quite seriously -- and he broke that vow... because he happened to be stuck in a closet for a month (or however long that cruise is, don't quote me on that) with the only girl who's ever even given him the time of day, and it just so happens that he also saved her life and comforted her through her separation from her infant son. I mean, in that situation I think even Varys would've ended up getting some action. It's undoubtedly a "letter of the law" thing, and that's not a strict liability offense in my book... but it is for some people, like Aemon in the show the other night.
Additionally, it should be mentioned that Sam's passivity is not entirely harmless. When he and Aemon are standing on the deck of that boat in the middle of that driving storm, Sam (who himself is freezing) stands there and essentially watches a blind, feeble centenarian catch the pneumonia that will kill him a few days later. I'll refrain from discussing the extent (if any) of Sam's duty to act (in deference to your expertise, natch...) but if you go back and re-read that scene it's kind of tough to read because Sam is standing there noting to himself how increasingly urgent it is to get Aemon out of the rain ("Egg, I dreamed that I was old...") I love the guy though, don't get me wrong.
My original point a bit earlier in the thread was just that it seems to me that people tend to zero in on figuring out whether or not someone is "pure" anything, which suggests that lots of people consider it to be an important question to answer, because, to speculate a bit, I think some people are uncomfortable walking through all of the questionable or unfortunate decisions that their favorite characters make (or fail to make), and/or are uncomfortable considering certain details that may (even if it's just a teensy bit) mitigate the "evilness" of their most loathed. Of course, you're ultimately right, and making the correct judgment -- Sam is a fundamentally good person, and that's the bottom line (Stone Coldhands...?), and arguing otherwise requires untenable mental gymnastics. TL:DR, I wasn't trying to argue otherwise, I was just trying to point out that these characters are real -- and therefore flawed -- people, because, as you said, no one is actually purely good or evil. I could probably keep rambling but I'll cut the cord there.