Literary Devices in Game of Thrones
If you are anything like me, you are eagerly awaiting the premier of the third season of Game of Thrones on HBO. Touted in some circles as one of the best television series of all time, it closely follows the gripping narrative of Game of Thrones, the first book in George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. HBO has done an absolutely suburb job bringing the world of Westeros and its many characters to life. At close to 1000 pages each, George R. R. Martin's books are serious works of fiction. He employs many literary devices in the novels, which have been adapted into the screenwriting for the TV series. Let's take a closer look.
WARNING! This Hub contains spoilers. If you have not seen Season 1 and Season 2 of Games of Thrones, or read the books, and you want to, stop reading now.
Foreshadowing is a technique used in storytelling where an author gives a hint of something that will happen later in the plot. Having seen Game of Thrones trough to the end of Season 2, it becomes clear which events in the story were harbingers of things to come.
During Season 1, Arya Stark's direwolf, Nymeria, bites Joffrey when he threatens Aria Stark and a local boy. Robert Baratheon settles the matter, but Cersei insists that anther direwolf, Lady, who belongs to Sansa Stark, be killed in lieu of Nymeria who has run off. This act is particularly objectionable in light of the fact that it is Sansa's pet and she may end up as Joffrey's betrothed. The event makes Robert Baratheon's loss of honor and Cersei and Joffrey's viciousness and psychopathy very clear. As the Wolf is the symbol of the Stark House, its demise is also symbolic of Ned Stark's sacrifice at the end of Season 1 at the hands of Joffrey.
During Season 1, wildlings attack Bran Stark while he is riding in the Forrest. Robb Stark kills some of them, but Theon Greyjoy fires an arrow at another, nearly hitting Rob and Bran in the process. Even though Theon saves them, he does so in a particularly reckless way in keeping with his character. Rob lashes out at him in anger, emphasizing that Theon is not his brother and not his family. This bit of tension between two men who are normally best friends, foreshadows Theon's reckless betrayal of Robb and the Stark family in Season 2.
Symbolism is used frequently in Game of Thrones. Sigil is Latin for “seal.” In Magic, sigils represent the magician's desired outcome. The sigils of the various houses are symbolic of the character of the family. The Stark family uses a wolf sigil. Wolves are symbolic for loyalty, intelligence and cunning. The lion is representative of House Lanister, and symbolizes the Lanister family's pride, regality, and ferocity. The Berathion sigil is a Stag, symbolic of swiftness, nobility, and strength. The Dragon, sigil of House Targaryen, represents reptilian cunning, destruction and the element of fire.
Crows and ravens also feature prominently in Game of Thrones. They are the messengers, carrying news from place to place. The crow is symbolic of flexibility, change and self knowledge, while the raven represents wisdom, magic, and courage. Bran dreams about a raven with three eyes. The third eye is symbolic of psychic powers and knowledge beyond the limits of the physical senses. Crow is also the nickname give to the Nightswatchmen by the wildlings.
Seasons are also used symbolically in Game of Thrones. The Stark House motto is “Winter is Coming.” This foreboding motto is a warning of things to come, and the necessity of preparing for them. Winter is symbolic of scarcity, despair and death.
As anyone who has watched the show or read the books knows, there are hundreds of plot twists in Game of Thrones, many of them shocking. One form of plot twist is the use of a false protagonist. Eddard Stark is presented as the main character at the beginning of Game of Thrones. We are drawn to Ned because of his honesty and sincerity. We tend to think that there is no way that the most morally pure character and main driving force in the story is going to be killed off at the end of Season 1. Yet he was, and we are still reeling from the shock of it an entire season later! While we are similarly repulsed by Viserys Targaryen, and lukewarm on Robert Baratheon and Kahl Drogo as characters, we are used to them and the roles that they play in the story. Yet none of the characters make it past the first season. George R. R. Martin claims that he likes to kill off major characters in his works because the audience will have no idea which characters will drive the plot and make it through to the end.
Season 3 is due to premier on HBO this Sunday, March 31. Happy viewing everyone!