Originally Posted by munchausen
Really, though? These are flaws, mistakes, but not the kind of thing that tips the moral scales that much. I dunno, I kind of feel that too much is made of this "moral ambiguity". Are there a lot of novels written for adults in the last century where the heroes are flawless and perfect? Even Lord of the Rings wasn't like that.
It doesn't tip the moral scales for Sam (although Bran's path is, I think, less clear), and I wasn't trying to imply that it does, which probably wasn't all that clear, my fault. I wrote a longer post a little after that one that explained what I was thinking a bit more.
I'm glad you brought up LOTR, because I think that avoiding the binary morality scheme of LOTR animates everything GRRM writes. I've read a bunch of interviews with him where he has talked about how he set out specifically not to write his homage to LOTR, which he (correctly) pointed out has been the dominant m.o. for a huge swathe of the genre. Rightfully so, because LOTR is the
modern fantasy OG. But I would challenge anyone who reads too much depth into the morality of the characters, and, as far as the larger story itself goes, there really is no depth. It's clear who's good and who's bad. The longer ASOIAF goes on, the clearer it becomes that trying to pinpoint good guys and bad guys is a fool's errand. I don't mean that on a micro, character-by-character level, I mean that on a macro, the-entire-story level. Saying that every character in the story has personal shades of gray -- undoubtedly true in ASOIAF, quite a bit less so in LOTR -- is entirely different from grappling with the fact that ASOIAF has totally abandoned any semblance of a traditional protagonist-antagonist structure. We can debate the extent to which that statement is accurate, but I am pretty convinced it is as it stands now, and looking back, I think it becomes easier to understand that that was always the case, we just didn't see it (at least I didn't). This never was Ned's story, just like he never was "the only honorable man in Westeros," or anything like that.
In the absence of good/bad, or even a central conflict, it can get hard to casually discuss the big characters casually without trying to defend them as being "on the right track" or at least operating in service of a broader, not immoral/bad objective. I don't mean casually in the sense of unemotionally, I mean casually more in the sense of chatting about the story and where it's headed (or where you'd like it to go) without ending up having to take a butter knife to what appears to be a Gordian knot of interconnected conflicts. That's when the gray pops out in individual characters, and when it's floating out there all by itself, without the black or white of a larger conflict frame it against, understanding the story can get kind of frustrating. A big reason this happens a lot in ASOIAF (in my mind) is because I really think that GRRM might be the best writer in the game at characterization. He lives and breathes these characters, for better or worse, and it comes out in the story. Gurm fumbles stylistically here and there -- he's not Fitzgerald or anything, and stuff like trenchers and rashers of bacon and lamprey pie dribbling all over everyone can end up coming off pretty thick.
But I think he just hits the characters out of the park, and then the slow realization of just how freaking messy this story really is makes it hard to talk about good and bad, which is only natural whenever you're talking about people who are physically fighting each other in a medieval fantasy epic. Take Davos. Undoubtedly a great guy, right? But he is unflinchingly loyal to Stannis -- it's arguably his defining characteristic -- and Stannis has had some extremely close brushes with outright brutality in this story. Is it possible for a truly good man to live his live in service of a tyrant? The best example of what I'm trying to say is Jaime, who gets my vote for "best" character in the series. Sorry for another wall of text! TL;DR -- carefully consider after-dinner coffee when you eat dinner at 845 PM.