musician, music lover, sound engineer, aspiring renaissance man, young and weird and invincible. looking for a set of strings to pull me along like everyone else, and a heart made of real gold.inquiries communication
So I’ve seen a lot of people talking about Arya’s “most girls are stupid” line and the fact that it’s consistent with her character because she’s disdainful of Sansa’s traditional femininity. I kind of want to talk about this because it makes me feel like I’m reading their relationship really differently.
Arya, Sansa, Jeyne, and Myrcella are doing needlework. Arya is on the outside looking in at this group of girls who are good at domestic skills and therefore are good at what their culture values in young women. Arya is not good at these things. To my understanding, Arya kinda wishes she were.
The septa examined the fabric. “Arya, Arya, Arya,” she said. “This will not do. This will not do at all.”
Everyone was looking at her. It was too much. Sansa was too well bred to smile at her sister’s disgrace, but Jeyne was smirking on her behalf. Even Princess Myrcella looked sorry for her. Arya felt tears filling up her eyes.
It wasn’t fair. Sansa had everything. Sansa was two years older; maybe by the time Arya had been born, there had been nothing left.
Sansa enumerated skills involve sewing, dancing, singing, playing instruments, and looking beautiful. These are all performance tasks; they demonstrate Sansa’s aptitude at fulfilling the social expectations of highborn women. Sansa is good at performance because she’s embraced a culture that uses courtesy to cloak atrocity; Arya is bad at it because it feels disingenuous to her. She doesn’t see performance as a means, she sees it as something that is itself false. Arya isn’t good at pretending to be other than her nature, and she’s not good at tasks that present her as such. Arya’s outlook is at odds with her culture. But the thing that stands out to me in this chapter is that Arya isn’t disdainful of the other girls for, I guess we would say, conforming. She is the object of disdain, not its perpetrator. It’s not that “other girls are stupid,” it’s that she is the other, and it bothers her. It embarrasses her enough to cry about it.
One day she came back grinning her horsey grin, her hair all tangled and her clothes covered in mud, clutching a raggedy bunch of purple and green flowers for Father. Sansa kept hoping he would tell Arya to behave herself and act like the highborn lady she was supposed to be, but he never did, he only hugged her and thanked her for the flowers. That just made her worse.
i think it’s easy to forget that Sansa has also worked to perfect her courtesies. Her behavior is learned. She’s done everything her mentors, parents, and culture have asked her to, and yet all this work hasn’t made her exceptional; it’s only allowed her to live up to expectations. In Sansa’s eyes, Arya has put in minimal effort to fulfill her family’s expectations of her, and yet shares equally in their love. Arya has achieved by bucking the rules what Sansa has achieved through painstakingly adhering to them, and that, to her, feels profoundly unfair.
Sansa knew all about the sorts of people Arya liked to talk to: squires and grooms and serving girls, old men and naked children, rough-spoken freeriders of uncertain birth. Arya would make friends with anybody. This Mycah was the worst; a butcher’s boy, thirteen and wild, he slept in the meat wagon and smelled of the slaughtering block. Just the sight of him was enough to make Sansa feel sick, but Arya seemed to prefer his company to hers.
When Arya refuses to accompany her to the wheelhouse, Sansa feels “alone and humiliated.” She is, I think, frustrated that for all her devotion to learning social niceties, it hasn’t made her family any more uniquely devoted to her. Arya sees her sister as smugly perfect and doted upon, but Sansa feels deprived of special affection that should be her reward for learning her lessons so well (which is why she’s so susceptible to the idea of an attentive Prince—at last, her reward of affection).
Arya feels unable to behave the way she’s expected to, and therefore is constantly removing herself from the scene of those expectations. While to Sansa it may seem like Arya is gallivanting around with confidence, Arya’s exits are often a product of feeling ashamed and out of place. To me, her chapters never exude confident or particular anger at more socially normative girls. They involve resentment, but it’s directed toward the expectations themselves and the extent to which she feels marginalized because she can’t fulfill them.
For me, that’s why “other girls are stupid” isn’t a good choice. Can you argue that it’s consistent with Arya’s worldview? I mean, I guess you could claim that she resents girls who are able to learn those social niceties because she’s jealous of the relative privilege gained by their ability to do so. Arya’s character is an interesting critique of gender and social norms, no doubt. But what gets lost in HBO’s adaptation is that she’s never totally comfortable with that. She isn’t anti-feminine or intentionally anti-normative, she’s just trying to be genuine to her sense of self.
The show’s assertion that she regards other girls as vapid and stupid simply because they act like they’re expected to is a misrepresentation, in my eyes. It attempts to give her an agenda that I don’t really think she has in the books, and furthermore seems to expect us to applaud that agenda, which, really, I’m not sure we should.
Basically, I just think HBO is imposing its own commentary over these characters by tweaking their personalities and motivations, and none of it is very nuanced or revolutionary and feels like a step backward from what’s in the text.
Yes yes yes, this this this!
when you put all those words in that order it’s all pretty much right.