Now that it’s high season for all things related to A Song of Ice and Fire, on account of the fifth season of Game of Thrones, I decided that I wanted to post some more on this subject than just episode reviews. Since I have an affinity for graphs and numbers and plots and whatnot, I decided to do something different, more illustrative if you will.
Below are a couple of pictures presenting my view of the main characters of A Song of Ice and Fire. The first one plots each character’s benevolence-malice vs rationality. The simple explanation of this is that impulsive characters are to the left, calculating ones to the right, compassionate ones higher up and sadistic or merely callous one further down. The vertical scale can be seen as good versus evil, but the horizontal one does not measure intelligence, but rather the extent to which the characters can override their own emotions. It goes without saying that the results are based on my own subjective opinions.
I assume that after having looked at that you have a couple of questions as to why in the hell certain characters are where they are, so here goes:
Tyrion: This post deals with series averages rather than how the characters are at any given point and therefore I put Tyrion as significantly more benevolent than he is in A Dance With Dragons. After having killed Shae and Tywin and learned the truth about Tysha and what Jamie did, Tyrion sort of degenerates morally, and a plot of character positions in ADWD would probably have him a bit further down.
Varys: There are two possible interpretations to be made when it comes to Varys’ motivations, either he indeed partially means what he implies to Ned and Kevan and others, that he wants peace and order and safety, or he is just a shill for the Blackfyres. Here I have taken the slightly naive approach of assuming the former without further ado.
Jamie and Cersei: On the horizontal scale, Cersei has at times acted as a restraining influence on Jamie when he wanted to do impulsive stuff like kill Robert and so on. With regards to their vertical positions, Jamie on occasion hurts people but doesn’t go around fantasizing about it the way Cersei does in AFFC.
The second diagram will be familiar to anyone who has played Dungeons and Dragons, or a few other classic pen-and-paper role playing games. It shows characters’ alignment according to two measures. Each character is either good, neutral or evil, and each character is either lawful, neutral or chaotic. I’ve taken the good-evil axis to mean that a character is willing to cause physical harm to others, while lawful-chaotic measures to what extent characters have any ideological/philosophical/spiritual/whatever beliefs besides the well-being of those around them.
Certain points need to be made here. First of all, good and evil here means good and evil relative to eachother, in real life and in absolute terms I would have considered almost everyone in the diagram evil, but it’s not interesting to collapse one whole dimension like that so the measurements are normalized around the people involved.
Finally, my approach to lawfull vs chaotic may differ from what some are used to. The classic example of the marauding orc being chaotic evil and the scheming lord being lawfull seems to me simplistic. Littlefinger for example rarely overtly brakes laws, he is pretending to go along with the system while Melisandre is a renegade by in-world law. She does however believe in something more than herself and the individuals she cares for. They are both evil however, Melisandre likes burning people alive and Littlefinger would do anything to anyone for fifty bucks.
Likewise, Cersei stays at chaotic evil while Roose makes it to neutral evil. Cersei cares about her children, not the Lannister family name but Tommen, Myrcella and Joffrey in particular. Roose however seems to care for the prestige of house Bolton as an abstract value, to some extent beyond his own survival or that of his children. As does Tywin, and thus they’re both evil but not chaotic evil. Roose is closer to chaotic than Tywin though.