In Defense of Sansa Stark

Sansa Stark must be one of the most hated characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. The vitriol levelled against her is often frightening in its intensity, surpassing that for actually horrific characters like Joffrey and Ramsey Bolton. Her crime? The unforgivable fact that she is a pre-teen girl.

As a massive fan of Sansa, even I must admit that she is difficult to like at first. She’s spoilt and a bit bratty. She fights with her fan-favorite sister and trusts characters who the reader knows are completely untrustworthy. She is hopelessly naive and lost in dreams of pretty princes and dashing knights. She acts, for all intents and purposes, like the eleven year old girl that she is. Most of us were pretty darn unbearable to older people at that age (and that’s fine, because they were also pretty unbearable to us). Robb and Jon, although older than Sansa, are similarly misguided and bratty, with Jon’s constant “poor me, I deserve so much more” attitude at the Wall, and Robb’s clumsy attempts at being the Lord of Winterfell. But these mistakes are only reprehensible to readers when they come from a girl, interested in girly things and making girly mistakes. Because viewers have been taught that “girly“ is automatically bad.

I love bad-ass, sword-wielding heroines as much as the next person (Arya and Brienne are two of my other favorite characters in anything ever), but the focus on this sort of female character — the oft-cited “strong female character” — seems to suggest that femininity is still bad, and that women can only be strong by adopting stereotypically male roles and attitudes. There’s nothing wrong with Arya declaring that being a Lady does not suit her and forging her own path, but saying that all female characters must take this attitude is as sexist and dismissive as saying that all female characters must be weak and take a backseat in events. Femininity is not bad, just as masculinity is not necessarily good.

Sansa plays an important role in the narrative, because she shows how societal expectations of women completely screw them over. She believes in everything that her parents and her septa have taught her. She believes in stories, and she believes that the greatest thing she can do is marry the prince (who will, of course, be chivalrous and honorable and handsome and kind) and have his children. She has spent her life in the cold castle of the North, dreaming of stories of tournaments and beauty in the south. Because people want her to be that way. That is how they think the ideal young woman should be. And it almost destroys her. Worse, it brings the reader’s hatred down on her, because even though women are told they are only “good” if they fit into this role, the role itself is seen as weak, manipulative, stupid and generally inferior. It is the Catch 22 of being a woman, both in Westeros and in our own world: no matter what you do, you are criticized, especially if you don’t act like Arya Stark and fight to become “one of the boys.” And so some “fans” of the series declare that they wish Sansa would get raped, a woman’s punishment for daring to act how she has been taught. For daring to act feminine, and making mistakes while doing so.

And all this hatred misses the fact that Sansa is one of the strongest individuals in the entire series. In a world where people drop like flies, in an abusive situation that would break so many people, Sansa survives. Sansa endures. She stays strong, and she never gives up.  As Brienne says to Catelyn, she has a “woman’s courage.” She learns how to play the game. She wears her courtesy for her armor, and she listens, and she adapts, and she keeps her cards close to her chest. She learns how to smile and curtsey and use her words to keep going long after other, older, more experienced players, including her father, are destroyed. But she will not kneel. She will not weaken. She remains strong, and she remains determined, because the North remembers, and her day will come. Her “woman’s courage” keeps her alive and in the game where characters like Arya would not last five minutes.

Most impressive of all, Sansa maintains one key part of her personality that others might dismiss as “weak” or “feminine”: her kindness. She manages to be brave and gentle and caring, despite the trauma she goes through. She shows love and affection to little Robert and to Tommen. She puts herself at risk to save Ser Dontos, using her words and her courtesy to trick Joffrey into doing as she desires. She cares for and calms the people of King’s Landing during the Battle of the Blackwater, despite the fact that she is so young and so inexperienced and few of them have ever done anything to help her. She knows that if she were Queen, she would make the people love her, because she cares about other people, even when her own life is torn apart.

Traditional femininity is not innately inferior. It has its own kind of strength and its own kind of power, and Sansa Stark demonstrates that better than any other character I’ve encountered. She is not fierce or rebellious. She is not ruthless or brutal. But she is strong. She is a survivor. And that should not be dismissed.

160 Comments on In Defense of Sansa Stark

  1. Hannah
    May 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm (804 days ago)

    PERFECT POST.

    Reply
    • Michael
      April 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm (473 days ago)

      Sansa was my least favorite Stark in the books, but the TV series has shown me that, in fact, she is the strongest Stark. She is the only one that is alone and has lost her freedom. Jon is alone, but he gave up his freedom, as was able to make choices about sex, loyalty, etc. Arya was alone, but she was able to make choices about where to go in Westeros. Sansa could make no choices about her own life, and had no one to support her. I can’t wait until she is the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms (although, that is just a guess, but one I would like to see by the end of the series).

      Reply
      • corectorobit
        May 17, 2013 at 7:09 am (433 days ago)

        Jon did not give up his freedom. His father and Lady stark had him join the watch because she would not care for neds bastard while he was away. And ned couldnt bring his bastard to kings landing. Yes it was something he thought he would like to do. But only before he got there.

        Reply
        • Mariana
          October 20, 2013 at 5:29 am (277 days ago)

          But he could be a desertor with the wildlings, couldn’t he? Maybe not, because he knew they would lose (?) but he could have stayed at their side.
          And it seems to me that he never really wanted to come back, except in a few cases that involved conflicts with his relatives.

          Reply
  2. Amee
    May 22, 2012 at 6:55 pm (792 days ago)

    I’m really impressed by your style of writing. It was highly entertaining and I absolutely agree with every word. :)

    Reply
  3. Lena
    May 23, 2012 at 2:22 am (792 days ago)

    You have said all that I could not express so eloquently about why Sansa is a character that I respect. Great article.

    Reply
  4. Mia
    May 23, 2012 at 11:24 am (791 days ago)

    HERE LET ME LOVE YOU

    Reply
  5. Claudia
    May 23, 2012 at 11:57 am (791 days ago)

    THIS IS BRILLIANT. AMAZING. PERFECT. WE NEED TO SIT EVERYONE DOWN AND READ THIS. I LOVE YOU AND YOUR AMAZING WAY OF WRITING. YOU ARE EVERYTHING A FEMINIST SHOULD KNOW AND DO AND ASPIRE TO BE.

    Reply
    • Brandon
      June 17, 2012 at 2:40 am (767 days ago)

      I see no issue w/ disliking a character because she is a weak willed naive fool. She doesn’t get a free pass because she’s playing by society’s expectations, that just make’s her lack strength of character.

      Her character is obviously developing into something more, and maybe then I’ll respect her. But not before.

      Reply
      • Kat
        June 17, 2012 at 10:55 pm (766 days ago)

        She starts as 11 years old. That explains the weak will and naivety. She would have been murdered had she not played by society’s expectations.

        Have you read past the first book? She would have no character to speak of if she were dead. The interesting part of her character is the destruction of her childhood naivety and how she picks herself up and survives.

        Her character does not demand respect until she is proven strong after her father’s death. She doesn’t even become an important character until after that. I have a hard time believing you are very far into the series if you do not respect her. I get that in the first book she was an annoying 11 year old with dreams, but the LOSS of those dreams has made her who she is.

        Reply
        • me
          March 12, 2013 at 5:12 am (499 days ago)

          Arya was younger but she wasn’t as naive as her OLDER sister. Besides, past the 1st book, the only good thing about Sansa is that she realized that not all fairy tales have happy endings. Even after his father’s death she still get dreams of being saved, she still couldn’t look straight at the Hound because of his hideous face, (even when the hound was trying to help her) and further on in the story when she gets to the Eyrie, she locks young Robert’s bedroom door coz she’s disgusted with the kid (not saying details). What’s so “brave and gentle and caring” bout that?

          Reply
          • Chocolatepot
            March 12, 2013 at 3:10 pm (498 days ago)

            In some ways, Arya was more naive in GoT than Sansa – she thought she could get by behaving unconventionally as a noble girl of Westeros. If the drastic events that put her in a place where her behavior was helpful hadn’t taken place, she would have had big, big problems. If Ned didn’t go to Cersei and Sansa had married Joffrey as planned, Arya would have been the crown prince’s sister (and eventually the king’s sister, and probably would have been married to someone else high-ranking), and it would have been completely unacceptable for her to keep running around like a child, playing at swords with commoners. Ned sheltered her quite a lot from reality.

            People don’t tend to see this because in fiction girls who want to learn swordplay are always right and more admirable than girls who don’t want to physically fight, but I’m pretty sure GRRM meant to show that both of them were naive and self-centered in different ways.

          • Mirime
            May 10, 2013 at 11:25 am (439 days ago)

            she locks young Robert’s bedroom door coz she’s disgusted with the kid (not saying details
            Except those details are pretty important… Her seven/eight year-old cousin wanted to nurse at her breasts. That is an important part of the whole thing. It was already creepy when it was Lysa, but considering Sansa is just thirteen, it is downright squicky. Or maybe you think she should have endured what practically equals to a sexual molestation otherwise she’s not brave and gentle and caring? Seriously, context matters…

    • João Romano
      March 26, 2013 at 3:08 am (485 days ago)

      Chocolatepot, excelent point of view. Liked your post, copied it to my facebook where I started a thread.

      Reply
  6. suze
    May 23, 2012 at 4:33 pm (791 days ago)

    Sansa Stark has one of the best transformative arcs in the whole series in my opinion. No one should have a problem with her character post GOT. Well said!

    Reply
  7. CC
    June 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm (768 days ago)

    I found this to be quite enlightening and eye-opening. It is true that Sansa wasn’t ever a favorite character of mine. I read her chapters as more of a ‘ok time to find out what happens on that side of Westeros’. I don’t hate her, but her chapters are considerably more dull compared to say, Dany, Arya, or Tyrion. I’ve felt that way about some of Jon’s chapters too, before he went north beyond the wall, as it was just a lot of errand boy work, then a lot of just walking around and being cold.

    Reply
  8. GR
    June 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm (768 days ago)

    Yes—and no. She ends up getting her prince with all the chivalry that a person could hold in those days, but she can’t see past his size and reputation to realize no prince could be better to her (though, not necessarily for her). It’s a powerful irony.

    Of course, that just makes her less than perfect, not a weak women. I’m interested to see where GRRM takes her for the rest of the series.

    Reply
  9. aiyanajane
    June 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm (768 days ago)

    I’ve never understood the hatred of Sansa, as you said, she’s just a young girl following her dream and the societal expectations. To me she was always a character deserving of empathy, as she was stuck between a rock and a hard place. (..or between the wolf and the lion)
    Despite the differences between her and Arya, she still cares for her family and tries to help them, although unfortunatly due to age and inexperience its not often that she succeeds. She’s always been a character I enjoyed reading, and I always felt for her. Imagine being bethrothed to an asshole like Joffery! She’s a lamb in a lions den and somehow has kept herself alive, which is more than many of my favourite characters can say! Great post!!

    Reply
    • J
      June 22, 2013 at 1:20 am (397 days ago)

      This is why I hate Sansa:

      Ned wants to send her away from King’s Landing for her safety and tells her that they will find a man worthy of her and will treat her with kindness.

      She cries and protests exclaiming that she wants to open her legs for the insufferable douchebag Joffrey even after she’s seen him try to kill her own sister and is indirectly responsible for the death of her dire wolf.

      It’s one thing to be feminine, another to be a silently suffering doormat.

      Reply
      • Rhiannon
        June 22, 2013 at 10:57 am (396 days ago)

        I think it’s pretty disgusting to describe a naive 11 year old girl as “wanting to open her legs.” Jesus Christ, she’s a child. A child thrown into a political situation that kills her own father because the players at King’s Landing are so good at what they do. But clearly, she is a doormat and a slut, amirite?

        Reply
      • Chocolatepot
        June 22, 2013 at 11:33 am (396 days ago)

        Tell me: do you judge all of the other characters for the whole series based on single episodes that happened in the first book? I expect you find Jaime nothing but a cold-hearted and gross villain, and Dany only a passive victim.

        Also, what Rhiannon said about your disgusting remark. It shows your fundamental lack of understanding of her character that you think it’s about sex.

        Reply
      • Sabrina
        June 23, 2013 at 2:43 am (396 days ago)

        “Open her legs”? God, she’s 11! With this age, every girl dream about finding her Prince Charmig and marry him. Sansa thinks her dream is coming true, and her life will be a fairytale. And Joffrey is her first love, she thinks he’s in love with her, and is acting as someone in love (how many adults don’t stay in bad marriages and terrible lifes because of love? And they are much older and experient than this young girl).

        Really, read this kind of comment make me sorry for the human race.

        Reply
  10. Kastas
    June 15, 2012 at 9:35 pm (768 days ago)

    I agree with your critiques here but, for myself, anyway, I find that Sansa is a…less than favorite character of mine not because of what she does or does not do, but because she shows us the helplessness of our own situation. She makes me angry because the only smart thing for her to do is to fit the mold that is given to her, which I find depressing. It is…unfortunate, I think that being proud or fighting back is seen as something masculine and, therefore, an option that “feminine” characters like Sansa don’t have. An excellent critique, and an enjoyable read!

    Reply
    • Matt
      August 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm (713 days ago)

      ‘being proud or fighting back is seen as something’ logical, forget innies versus outties. instead of examining a situation and challenging it or adapting herself, Sansa wallows in non-committal. It’s difficult to respect someone who agrees with whatever idea is fashionable at that moment.

      Reply
      • Chai Latte
        December 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm (569 days ago)

        Except Sansa doesn’t do that.

        She tells her captors what they want to hear so they’ll leave her the fuck alone.

        Reply
      • AG
        February 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm (515 days ago)

        What Chai Latte said.

        Also, she’s a PRETEEN GIRL who’s lived a very sheltered life until this point. I don’t know what you expect of her. Sheesh.

        Reply
  11. Grace
    June 16, 2012 at 5:25 am (768 days ago)

    I really appreciated this post! Especially because I felt so much empathy for Sansa during both seasons. Little girls act frustratingly self-centered and self serving, but that’s just a natural phase and I thought she truly grew out of it and did what she needed to do to survive. She was put in a horrifyingly bad situation.

    I’ve had a certain amount of annoyance for woman who demean the more outwardly feminine woman. I find that some women dislike a girl using what comes naturally to them to succeed or survive in trying situations. I’m a real girly person, a polite person, but that doesn’t say a thing about how strong of a woman I am.

    I loved that we saw such strength from both sisters, and how differently that strength comes across.

    Reply
  12. Avery
    June 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm (767 days ago)

    I disagree. I think she is hated because she is dishonorable, doesn’t show loyalty to her family, and is incredibly naive. She lies about the incident with Joffery and the wolf, leading to the murder of an innocent child and her own wolf, while getting her sister into trouble. She fails to recognize what is going on around her during the purge of the Starks around her. She doesn’t form any alliances with other characters at the Red Keep. She doesn’t leave with the hound in the finale even though it would greatly help her brother. The only thing she does is get abused and avoids saying she hates the king.

    There are other characters who display feminine characteristics, and they aren’t hated for them (Daenerys and Catelyn Stark come to mind).

    She isn’t hated for being a pre-teen girl, she is hated for being one of least effective characters in the story. Give Sansa some intruiges of her own, and have her make some moves for the characters around her. She’ll be well loved.

    Reply
    • Diana
      June 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm (759 days ago)

      Oh, but have -you- being a 11 year-old with a rival sibling? This is quite normal not to back them up, and Arya doesn’t help other. Arya is egoistic, spoiled and arrogant, and thinks only about her own pain (although she -is- my favorite, it is also true).

      She didn’t get Arya into trouble, ARYA’s actions got her into trouble when she decided to hit Joffrey – and not listen to the pleas of her sister not to. I can see WHY Arya did it, and he -is- and asshole, but that doesn’t mean she can completely disrespect him physically when he didn’t do -her- any harm. Arya could have -talked- to him, -told- him not to do anything with the boy (I don’t think he would listen much, but still, that was the way to go), for up to when she started beating him, he was -complaining that the boy was hitting her-.

      Arya DESERVED to be punished for she DID break the rules, and if she wasn’t so spoiled and pampered she might have noticed that no one – except, perhaps, his betters – gets leave to hit the heir to the throne. She always gets away with her crap, and that has failed to teach her that even if she’s a lord’s daughters it doesn’t make her untouchable.

      (Now, I’m not saying that I -agree- with the system, but surely there’s no point in evaluating a character from modern perspective in a feudal setting. The boy was his to punish, and he didn’t do him any lasting harm and it doesn’t even compare to the beating Arya gives him. She starts trowing a rock in the back of his head big enough to make it bleed, for fuck sake.)

      And then, after her sister is missing for days and being looked for some really creepy man, and she has to tell the fucking King that his precious boy and her betrothed (the man she will spend the rest of her life with!) is an ass. How could she -not- be terrified? She didn’t say anything against her sister either, she kept her silence and that’s her best armor in that moment. Not taking part in a row between your sister and your (future) husband is a very good idea as far as relationships go, specially considering that you won’t be able to get rid of either for the rest of your lives.

      It’s not the fault of either child when Lady is killed, that was Cersei’s deed alone.

      But, from your comment, I gather that you haven’t read the books, which makes a rather big deal of the reaprochment between Sansa and Joffrey after that day, as well as between Sansa and Cersei. And, as everything else, it does have an important plot point in all her actions, even if they are deemed ineffective; whose ends will be shown in due time. ;)

      Reply
      • Tony George
        October 24, 2012 at 6:55 pm (637 days ago)

        go read the book again. sansa was one of the major reasons all this happened in the first place. her father Ned told her to stay in her room till he could send her and arya back to winterfell to safety, but no, sansa just had to go say farewell to her beloved prince joffrey and by doing so letting Cersei know of Ned’s intentions and making all the arrangements to have joffrey ascend the iron throne right away.

        so read the book again, before arguing that arya’s more to blame lol

        Reply
        • stonebiscuit
          November 2, 2012 at 11:47 pm (628 days ago)

          I maintain that if Ned had bothered to tell his children “we’re in terrible danger and cannot trust anyone, and we have to flee this place because of it,” things might have gone differently. As it stands, he left them with no information other than “we’re leaving because I said so.”

          Reply
          • Nicholas Walls
            March 12, 2013 at 7:05 am (499 days ago)

            He is their father and the head of a major household. Why on earth would he have to explain things to them? A Lord or Lady is rarely in the habit of explaining themselves.

          • stonebiscuit
            March 12, 2013 at 3:14 pm (498 days ago)

            Except when he explained tough things about life to Arya, and Bran, and presumably his older boys. Because Ned and Cat were trying to be good parents. Regardless of whether or not it was something that Lords and Ladies “do,” he should have done it, especially when he saw that Sansa was so upset.

        • Mirime
          May 10, 2013 at 11:12 am (439 days ago)

          How about Littlefinger’s betrayal of Ned? Even if Cersei had been informed only by Sansa (which is very unlikely), with the Gold Cloaks Ned would have an advantage. Ned was actually prepared for Cersei’s actions, too bad he trusted Baelish to back him up.

          Reply
    • Daniel
      November 20, 2012 at 1:46 am (611 days ago)

      thank you. i never heard anyone say they hated sansa this post was new to me, i like her. some. but you just nailed it. She Lied on her own sister. being a girly girl is not disliked. even being naive not disliked. lying on your family. Lying to protect someone in the wrong. thats never respected.

      Reply
    • Josh A
      March 3, 2014 at 5:22 pm (142 days ago)

      You are mistaken. Catelyn Stark also gets a lot of flak from fans for similar sexist reasons. She is hated for her treatment of Jon, which is my opinion is perfectly understandable. And her treatment of Jon is much more generous than what most noble ladies in Westeros would do to their husbands’ bastards. Catelyn gets unfairly blamed for starting the war with her arrest of Tyrion, which is once again completely ridiculous. It’s Joffrey who starts the war by beheading Ned. This is something that even Tyrion recognizes. Catelyn is often judged unfairly as a terrible mother because she left Bran and Rickon alone in Winterfell, nevermind the fact that she did so in order to protect them because she wanted to ensure that the people responsible for Bran’s assassination attempt were brought to justice. Catelyn is also heavily criticized for releasing Jaime, which I believe is her worst mistake in the series, but I also understand that she was grief-stricken at the loss of Ned, Bran and Rickon (whom she believes have been killed by Theon). Although I disagree with the action itself, I understand why she would release Jaime in a desperate attempt to save her daughters.

      The sexist double standards go beyond Sansa and encompass many other female characters in the world of Westeros.

      Reply
  13. skylerschrempp
    June 16, 2012 at 7:18 pm (767 days ago)

    What I love about the Sansa narrative is it shows how a female character has to survive in the court world. While Sansa could never survive in Arya’s world of fighting and vagabonds, Arya would not have made it a day as a prisoner of Cersei’s court. Sansa is incredibly skilled at staying alive and (somewhat) afloat in a very toxic environment. Courtesy is a lady’s armor.

    Reply
  14. Cis Straight Middle Class Heterosexual White Male
    June 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm (767 days ago)

    There are way too many ‘in defense of X female character’ posts floating around and this is the most pointless one, in my opinion, because I don’t know anyone that still hates Sansa after the first book. She gets all the interesting chapters, hangs around with multiple fan-favorite characters, and we can identify with her more than anything over her hatred of Joffrey. I don’t see how anyone can ‘hate’ her after the first book. Likewise, I think the only ‘in defense of x female character’ that you can really justify is Catelyn.

    Reply
    • jen
      July 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm (369 days ago)

      i have multiple male friends who loathe sansa. from men whove only watched the show, to men whove read all the books multiple times.

      Reply
      • Josh A
        March 3, 2014 at 5:31 pm (142 days ago)

        You are right. I visit several forums and Sansa gets a lot of hatred, even for her actions in A Feast for Crows, where her character is completely different from the naïve, self centered brat we first meet in A Game of Thrones. And it’s usually the male fans that continue to hate her. I think that says a lot about the pervasive sexism that still prevails in our society.

        Reply
  15. itsbedtime
    June 16, 2012 at 8:11 pm (767 days ago)

    i don’t typically post comments on blogs but this analysis of the character of sansa stark was wonderful. thank you!

    Reply
  16. Mark
    June 16, 2012 at 9:12 pm (767 days ago)

    I agree. A lot of fans of the series hate her for 1 mistake she made, and they claim it got her father killed even though the bigger mistake was made by Ned Stark. Arya, Robb, and Jon all make dumb decisions at one point, but they are forgiven a lot by fans.

    I like Sansa Stark as a character. Of all the characters, she is one that I think deserves a happy ending. I like that she kept her kindness despite her situation. I also think her sympathy is a lot more genuine than Dany.

    I am interested to hear thoughts on Catelyn and Cersei, who were probably raised in a similar manner. I’ve always thought Cersei was not happy with her role. She was bitter that she would not inherit Casterly Rock, and even after becoming Queen, she probably wondered why she couldn’t be King. I think Catelyn is stuck somewhere in the middle. She is smart, but often holds back her advice because she doesnt want to make Robb/Edmure look bad. But she also decides on taking a more active role for Robb/Ned (negotiating with Walder Frey, being an envoy for Robb, leaving Winterfell to investigate the assassination attempt on Bran).

    Reply
  17. Frasse Swahn
    June 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm (767 days ago)

    Jon’s constant “poor me, I deserve so much more” attitude at the Wall, and Robb’s clumsy attempts at being the Lord of Winterfell.

    Dont you think its because they have VASTLY more responsibility? Not to mention that their own lives and lives they care about is at stake.

    Reply
    • Room
      May 7, 2013 at 6:18 pm (442 days ago)

      Jon his whining attitude is before his life is at stake, it’s when he is still at Castle Black and gets annoyed because he thinks he is too good to be steward. So I think the writer was talking about before Ned died and the war started. On top of that, Sansa’s life is just as much in danger. All the Starks have their own strength and flaws.

      Reply
    • Josh A
      March 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm (142 days ago)

      Wow!!! Really?? You think that Jon and Robb have VASTLY more responsibility than Sansa??? Why? Because they are male and she is female?? You seem to forget that Sansa was chosen to marry Joffrey. She was meant to be Queen of Westeros. How is that not a vast responsibility and tremendous pressure?? Sansa’s life is just as much at stake as Robb and Jon’s. So, I think you are grossly underestimating Sansa’s role within the political dynamics of the Starks, Baratheons, and Lannisters.

      Reply
  18. Elijah
    June 17, 2012 at 1:01 am (767 days ago)

    An interesting article, but Sansa is still the most annoying character in the series.[potential spoilers] As a book reader, you get a better insight into each character than you do in the show, and that just reveals how inferior Sansa is as a character. I will admit, Sansa is placed in some very terrible situations, but how she acts in each situation is the most annoying part. She trusts anyone who simply says they might help her. Anyone. After trusting a very untrustworthy character, she is then surprised when her trust was once again misplaced and she is in yet another bad situation (Ser Dantos and Littlefinger) Also, she expects literally anyone else to save her instead of actually trying to help herself. I personally find her the most annoying character.

    Reply
    • Rhiannon
      June 20, 2012 at 6:42 am (764 days ago)

      I am a book reader. :) You’re right that Sansa is still too trusting of the wrong people, but it’s difficult to know who the right people would be, and I do not think she could escape King’s Landing entirely by herself. Keeping her head down, playing the part of a good hostage and subtly trying to find people on her side *is* her way of helping herself. If she did anything more, she’d most likely end up dead.

      However, I do really hope that she continues to grow throughout the series and ends up taking decisive action for herself — turning her from a passive to an active character, once the moment is right. I think she has better chances of that in the Eyrie than she did in King’s Landing.

      Reply
      • Josh A
        March 3, 2014 at 5:50 pm (142 days ago)

        Sansa’s character can be easily compared to Theon. Although Theon is treated well by his captors, essentially both Sansa and Theon are political prisoners. They both play the role of a good hostage in order to keep themselves alive. In fact, Theon is much more naïve than Sansa. He develops some sort of Stockholm syndrome and secretly yearns to be a Stark. His resentment for the Starks comes from the fact that he realizes that the Starks will never truly accept him. Sansa has no such delusions. She keeps her head down and behaves like a good hostage to gain time.

        We can argue that falling into the hands of Littlefinger is a bad situation. But Sansa’s circumstances are quite different. She is no longer being mistreated and abused. And her relationship with Littlefinger is much more as equals. Littlefingers trusts Sansa with some pretty damning information. This is information that Sansa can use to her advantage at a later time. Littlefinger also wants to restore Sansa to a position of power. Sansa is no longer in a position of helplessness with Littlefinger as she was in King’s Landing. So, I think this is quite an improvement for her, despite that we know that Littlefinger is a conniving snake.

        Reply
        • Rhiannon
          March 9, 2014 at 8:17 pm (136 days ago)

          That’s a really interesting perspective! I’ve never heard anyone compare Theon and Sansa before, but I can definitely see the similarities.

          Reply
  19. Pug
    June 17, 2012 at 6:29 am (767 days ago)

    Thoroughly enjoyed the read. However I do have one quibble.
    To me the problem with Sansa after the first book(where she makes most of her mistakes) is exactly what you seem to describe as her greatest trait. She’s a survivor.

    Allow me to be clear, there are plenty of strong female characters in the book and show. Cersei, Daenerys, Margaery, Catelyn, Gilly, Brienne, Arya and later the Sand Snakes among others all stand out as being strong, usually while remaining quite feminine.

    And that leads to the biggest flaw and main reason, I and I imagine many others, dislike Sana. All those women I just listed ACTED. They plotted, they schemed, they went after goals, considered how to achieve them and attempted to achieve them. They are proactive in trying to get what they want, and it works out to different degrees. While it may not always end happily, at least there is movement and plot.

    Sansa however, simply survives. She reacts to whats going on immediately around her and nothing more. She does not plan, she does not act, she makes no effort to better her position or save herself. She is merely carted around by other characters as a token or prize. Sansa is, for the most part, not really a character, merely a narrating set piece.

    Indeed Sansa does survive. But so do cockroaches, and frankly I like them both about the same.

    Reply
    • Alyssa
      June 9, 2013 at 5:02 am (410 days ago)

      Spoilers ahead.

      Not all situations are the same. You can bake a batch of brownies in a bakery, but you probably can’t do it in a post office. The women you listed acted because they had more freedom to act:

      1. Cersei is queen of the realm and mother of the king. She has the support of the Lannisters, the wealthiest family in the realm. She hates everyone around her, but not once is her life threatened because of another’s actions (excepting the attack on King’s Landing where the action she was going to take was killing herself and her youngest son).

      2. Daenerys does not act for the early parts of the first book, when she is still under Viserys’s thumb and slowly gaining Khal Drogo’s affection. After his death, she is admittedly Khal of a depleted khalasar, but she has dragons and is making all decisions for herself and her people. None of her actions (including her taking of the Free Cities) would be possible without the inherent power she holds in these situations.

      3. Margery comes in as a power player. She has multiple support systems already in place (most notably Lady Olenna and Loras). Her family is not at war with the king, and they are necessary as a food source at the time. Her actions are limited, and while she does make them, they will never fall on her head. With the exception of Cersei’s threats on her, and subsequent imprisonment, she is never threatened, and even then her alliances free her.

      4. Catelyn is another character who is always free. Whenever she comes into contact with enemies, she has protection- the majority of the series she has some protector or another with her.

      5. Gilly would not have left without Sam’s presence. That’s not dissing her character because I like Gilly, but she didn’t take action until forced and then she had support she could rely on.

      6. Brienne does face some imprisonment, and is also nearly raped. She doesn’t have the Stark army to avenge her, so she does face a more fatal fate. However, it’s not during this point when she acts. At this point, she realizes there’s very little she can do, and acts accordingly by fighting the bear to the best of her ability before Jaime returns. But otherwise her actions are limited.

      7. Arya also faces some time being imprisoned, but she is able to pretend to be a mere peasant. She has the help of Jhagar and the confidance of Gendry. All of her actions are driven by the powers of others to help her (and man does she waste some opportunities herself!) and taking what opportunities she can to head towards Robb.

      8. When are the Sand Snakes ever around enemies, thus far?

      Randomly searching for allies would not have helped her- no one in that court could have gained from that affiliation. So what actions could a preteen surrounded by her enemies have taken? Appear innocent? Check. Do as little as possible to anger or aggravate her enemies? Check. Use prayer to escape their view for a few minutes? Check. Sansa does take action when it is feasibly provided to her by someone she feels she can trust. Was she manipulated, and can she really trust those people? Unfortunately, she should not have trusted Ser Dontos and she was manipulated, and yet, had she stayed she would have been framed for Joffrey’s murder. Ever since the end of GOT she’s made the best decisions for her survival, and not one of those has hurt the people she cared about. Not one.

      Yes, she made some mistakes in GOT. But what other alternatives could she have taken? Telling the truth about the Arya v. Joffrey showdown would not have resulted in punishment for Joffrey- it would have caused more tension for her. Making up with Arya would have been wise, but Arya wasn’t really pushing for that either. Ned certainly wasn’t taking her into account in his plans, and at best her following his word would have meant their servants lived. She couldn’t do anything for Ned, who brazenly approached Cersei. Her subsequent letter to Robb and Catelyn wasn’t paid any attention, and her pleas to Ned to confess didn’t do any harm to him either, since it was in the end Joffrey who decided to kill him.

      Sansa gets a lot of blame for not being a power player, and yet some pretty great offenses which she could not have affected are laid down at her feet. Her job is to survive, since there’s nothing else she can do in her situation. Obviously, she’s done a good job so far.

      Reply
  20. Thelikelylads
    June 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm (766 days ago)

    @ Avery

    ”She doesn’t leave with the hound in the finale even though it would greatly help her brother. ”

    You do realize that scene was way different in the books right? In the books the Hound is way more frightening. He lays on top of her and he demands she sings a song and he’s very drunk and honestly, I thought he was going to rape her at that moment, and Sansa probably thought that too. Why the hell would she leave with a guy like that.

    Reply
  21. Ally
    June 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm (766 days ago)

    Sansa is not athletic, sassy, or aggressive like her sister. She is petite, ladylike, and self-controlled, and she plays to her strengths. She uses what she knows, and she uses it well.

    Some people have argued that her simple survival is not praisworthy, that Sansa doesn’t actually DO anything, but I think in her situation doing nothing is a real feat. The discipline and inner strength she displays is inspiring, and I doubt that I would be strong enough to get up in the morning to keep saying “yes, m’lady.” Just because her means of survival lack drama doesn’t make them any less valuable.

    Reply
  22. Mark
    June 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm (766 days ago)

    Sansa could not survive on the road like Arya. She knows that, and that is part of the reason she doesnt go with the Hound (another being that it looked like he was going to rape her). Minor spoilers, but there are other occasions with characters traveling to one location, all of who can be considered more “useful” than Sansa, and almost none of them make it to their destination unharmed.

    Even if she did escape and made it to Robb, then what would’ve happened? He just would’ve aranged another marriage for her to make up for one of his mistakes or end up at the Twins with her family. Worse, she could’ve ended up with Ramsay Snow.

    My only complaint is that she trust Ser Dontos. That guy was always creepy.

    Reply
  23. Julian
    June 17, 2012 at 8:25 pm (766 days ago)

    Agree with mostly everything except the opinion that Robb is bratty. He has been victorious as the king of the north, and his mistake was leaving no garrison at his castle, but instead, trusting Theon. Robb’s flaw that he learned a great deal from is that he acted too trustingly. He trusted his mother, as well, and she decided to give the kingslayer back to the lannisters in exchange for her daughters.

    Reply
    • Rhiannon
      June 20, 2012 at 6:37 am (764 days ago)

      Although I did have some issues with Robb’s characterization in season two, the comment about Robb actually came about while rereading the first book. It isn’t something he should be blamed for, as he is also a young guy in a situation that expects too much for him, but he does have a rather misguided reaction to both Tyrion’s return to Winterfell and the news about Benjen’s disappearance, to say the least.

      Reply
  24. Vlad
    June 17, 2012 at 11:30 pm (766 days ago)

    Interesting analysis, but I feel like it misses the mark a bit. Is it Sansa’s femininity that gets her such harsh criticism, or her naivete? I would say the latter, and I would furthermore be *very* careful not to equate naivete with feminity. (As so many societal forces would have us do…) After all, as others have pointed out, there are plenty of other characters in the series who do a fine job of being both feminine and quite savvy. It’s not her spot-on parroting of socially acceptable behavior that makes her hard to deal with; it’s her slow pattern recognition when it comes to who and what to trust. Granted, that shouldn’t really be enough to trigger flat-out hate, and wishing for her to get raped is most certainly out of line, but watching her step nimbly out of the frying pan and into the fire repeatedly is galling, and, at least in my opinion, a more likely source of unpopularity than the fact that she knows which fork to use at dinner.

    Reply
    • Alex
      June 19, 2012 at 2:58 am (765 days ago)

      Well they established that Jon Snow and Robb were also both naive. I guess the biggest difference aside from femininity is that the boys at least face the reality of death, while Sansa’s fantasy is unrealistic on all levels.

      Reply
    • Rhiannon
      June 20, 2012 at 7:04 am (764 days ago)

      I agree that naivete is one of the traits that societal forces often expects from “feminine” women, and I do think that Sansa’s naivete is therefore *part* of the femininity that earns Sansa such a vitriolic response at times, rather than the fact that she’s well educated about social conventions. Not because girls or women who act in a stereotypically feminine way are naive, but because girls (especially girls in Westeros like Sansa) are often *encouraged* to be naive and then disliked and dismissed precisely because of that behavior. I agree, though, that Sansa is slow about learning who to trust, and that that might make her harder for some people to like… but she’s still a young girl in an impossible situation, where she can do little to help herself, but is completely surrounded by untrustworthy people. To Sansa, it must seem like she must find someone to trust or else she will remain forever at the hands of the Lannisters, and considering the choices available to her, she doesn’t do too badly at staying alive.

      Reply
    • mea
      September 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm (665 days ago)

      I do not see being naive as a bad thing per say. She trust people and that is part of her all loving nature.

      Reply
  25. Emmanuel Aguila (@EanAguila)
    June 18, 2012 at 7:02 am (766 days ago)

    Thanks for this article. I enjoyed reading it.

    My love for Sansa grew as I read book after book. But there are also other strong “feminine” characters in A Song of Ice and Fire like Margaery and Olenna Tyrell.

    Reply
  26. A.J. Patterson (@ajpat)
    June 18, 2012 at 8:38 am (765 days ago)

    I would love to see one example of a fan saying they “want Sansa to get raped”. Ridiculous.

    Reply
    • Rhiannon
      June 18, 2012 at 5:07 pm (765 days ago)

      Luckily, most examples are moderated pretty quickly, but that disturbing undercurrent does exist. I’d rather not spend time googling for offensive things that I have mostly seen on Tumblr and in tweets, or forum posts that vanish soon afterwards.

      However, a quick google search brought up this forum discussion, which seems relevant. http://fop1.forumopolis.org/showthread.php?t=22533 The original poster insists their statements were “satirical,” but seem to mean “hyperbolic”… but even stating such things as *exaggeration* is fairly disturbing, in my opinion.

      Reply
    • Alex
      June 19, 2012 at 2:55 am (765 days ago)

      She’s already been raped in pretty much every sense except the literal one. And she almost got that too. So idk what they’re talking about.

      Reply
  27. Alex
    June 19, 2012 at 2:54 am (765 days ago)

    I see Sansa as a perfect foil to Cersei. Sansa is enamored with the Disney Princess archetype, but ultimately finds herself in a different story entirely where she must struggle to survive amongst some of the most despicable people imaginable. Cersei wanted to have more of a tomboyish Arya-type “strong female” character arc, but instead she was stuffed into the role of princess. This leaves them each similarly disillusioned for the polar opposite reasons.

    Reply
    • Rhiannon
      June 20, 2012 at 6:56 am (764 days ago)

      Although I’ve thought a few times about how similar Cersei and Sansa are, I’d never noticed this! They have such a fascinating relationship.

      Reply
  28. c4tuna
    June 20, 2012 at 3:12 am (764 days ago)

    http://i.imgur.com/I6e3p.gif

    She’s an inaccessible character in the books to people who don’t understand what’s so exceptional about being a ‘wolf cub in the lion’s den’. She doesn’t have dragons or warging or gold or armies at her back, but she has an incredible tenacity and the empathy, courtesy, and self-control to keep on trucking where others would have run out of gas long ago.

    However, I find your thinly veiled resentment of people who don’t connect to her character to be no less ignorant of human nature than the sexism you vilify. Yes, it’s a shame that they cannot see what you see, but it’s also foolish to expect that they *can*. I think the show’s done a far better job than the books to make her, Theon, and Catelyn in particular more personable characters to people who would otherwise have a difficult time understanding their motives.

    Reply
    • Rhiannon
      June 20, 2012 at 6:34 am (764 days ago)

      People can, of course, like or dislike whichever characters they choose. Everyone has different opinions on what makes a character a good one. However, I was interested/concerned with the fact that so *many* people hate Sansa (despite the fact that, unlike Theon, she is not presented as a villain character), and the level of vitriol that some people express against her. It’s the trend and the extremity of the reaction that I’m talking about, not the fact that individual people do not agree with my own feelings.

      Reply
      • Dingo
        June 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm (762 days ago)

        Theon isn’t presented as a “villainous” character, he’s presented as conflicted, pressured, and in turmoil. The moment that sealed his fate as an unwitting villain was when he burned the letter to Robb.

        Sansa, in the beginning, was just vapid and naive. She does have an interesting arc after that, though.

        Reply
  29. Dingo
    June 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm (762 days ago)

    I hated her until she started having that odd relationship with the Hound. And, I was very happy with her role with Joffrey in the books (upcoming in the series). She saved Dontos’s life, so that’s got to be worth something. The thing that still irks me about her is that she never seemed to give a shit about Arya, even though Arya thinks about her and wants her, grudgingly, to be alright. 

    Reply
    • Diana
      June 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm (759 days ago)

      I think she’s pretty sure that Arya is already dead. She has no reason to think otherwise, and after her experiences with common people, she probably doesn’t believe her sister would survive even with all her will, alone in the road. She has no reason to believe Arya survived after she was kept enclosed in the Red Keep. Arya, on the other hand, is very much aware that Sansa is still alive, as Sansa is on court (until she flees) and she gets to hear things about court quite often – and she doesn’t really seem to worry until Sansa disappears from King’s Landing.

      It does bother me that she never cared the slightest about Jon, but he doesn’t seem to care much about her either… (although the point where she does think about him is so deeply warm that makes up for it)

      Reply
  30. Maximus Decimus
    June 24, 2012 at 9:01 pm (759 days ago)

    Two cents:

    I believe that the main problem readers have with Sansa is not that she is feminine and fragile, it is that she takes waaay too long in the books to start learning that there is no one she can trust in King’s Landing. It is not that she is naive, is that she keeps being naive much later than what is expected from all her suffering.

    In the series, at least, they made her more hard, as in that part where she tells Tyrion that she prays for his return as she prays for Joffrey’s, while still maintaing the pure girl facade (if I recollect well, this is not part of the books). That was the kind of thing expected of her after all the suffering. However, since in the books it is all viewed from her point of view, we can see that she is still deluded that people may still treat her good, even though she should have known better.

    However, later in the books, she does finally grow as a character and start to have a more cynical view of what is told to her, which is what is expected. The only problem is that she should have changed much earlier.

    Reply
    • runes
      February 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm (534 days ago)

      dude shes ELEVEN. lol not every is a rebellious 9 yr old genious like arya

      Reply
  31. Ben
    July 5, 2012 at 5:59 am (749 days ago)

    Sansa is most similar to Theon, and both a (rightly) disliked early on. Both are naively playing at the roles that they think society expects of them, always trying to impress everyone, with disasterous results for themselves and everyone around them.

    We end up liking, or at least pitying, both of them because of what they endure as a result of their own stupidity. Sansa gets a lot more positive growth than Theon, too.

    I’m surprised that anyone truely *hates* Sansa after Book 1, although I can understand them being disinterested. Personally I quite like her, and loved her interactions with the Hound.

    As others have pointed out, Sansa is one of the weakest main female characters. Not because she’s female, but because she’s weak. Just as Theon is weak. All the characters have their flaws, regardless of sex. And I think we see Sansa’s flaws repeated in male characters, who are similarly disliked for them.

    Long story short: nothing to see here :-)

    Reply
  32. Holly
    July 10, 2012 at 7:30 am (744 days ago)

    Interesting post. I never really understood the Sansa hate. The first time I read the books I didn’t care much for her until the sack of King’s Landing when all of a sudden we are thrust into this deadly game and the woman’s war. Just sitting and waiting to die. That’s scary as hell. After that, and subsequent re reads, I’ve never grown to love her but I’ve never hated her. Her story is far too interesting for me to waste time hating on her. And, as you say, she is a survivor. She does what Arya can’t. She keeps her courtesy on the outside and her true thoughts inward. Sure her naivete is annoying but I love character arc and development and boy does she ever get one.
    I’ll admit to being pissed off when she gave away Ned’s plans but then, she was a love sick girl being taken away from a city she loved and she didn’t understand the reasons why. She was also extremely young and foolish. It was also inevitable. The law of good fiction and hero journeys says that the mentor, the father, the wizard or the guy with nothing to offer but answers to puzzles needs to die. It had to happen some how, and think about it, if she hadn’t done what she did everyone would be safe and happy and we would have no story. So while I was rolling my eyes at her stupidity, Cersei telling the tale to Tyrion pretty much summed it up.

    “She was practically wet with love. Until Joffrey cut off her father’s head and called it mercy. That put an end to that.”

    The only time I can truly say that I might have felt a little bit of hatred to Sansa? Her treatment of Tyrion after they are married. No, I’m not talking about not having sex with him, I would never expect that. I’m just referring to her behavior. We know and she should know that he’s a decent human being. He saved her several times in Clash of Kings, refused to touch her despite the Court mocking him and she can’t even kneel down to accept the robe at their wedding or speak to him as a person and not just through a three feet wall of courtesy armor? I get he’s a Lannister and she doesn’t trust anyone but he’s also treated her with nothing but kindness yet she is behaving in a bratty way, basically the speaking version of the “silent treatment”. Again, I know, she’s what 15? And expected to behave like this but it just made me angry. But not angry enough not to read her chapters or lose interest in her story. Or wish someone would rape her. Really people?

    The only characters I truly dislike and habitually skip their chapters both in the books and the series are Jon and Dany. Jon is far more naive, entitled and whiny than Sansa could try to be (she at least has manners) and his chapters pretty much revolve around honor, duty and why am I forced to do things that are SOOOO beneath me? Dany, meanwhile, was interesting at first but I think she’s just as crazy as her relatives and shudder at the thought of her ruling a country. Once again, entitled, self righteous, ignorant, whiny, power mad and a little blood thirsty. These are not good qualities in a Monarch, I don’t care how many cute widdle dragons she’s got. Oh and any character from the Iron Islands. I hate and am bored with all of them equally.

    Reply
  33. Sharon
    July 21, 2012 at 2:51 am (733 days ago)

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Love this thread.

    I love that GRRM shows us that ‘fighting’ – with swords and weapons isn’t always winnable, and there is a high cost. I love that he shows the battles of wits and minds that go into wielding real power, rather than just physical power.

    I also love that Sansa isn’t the stereotypical tomboy heroine. (And I do love Arya too – but she is that stereotype).

    I love that GRRM has given us a girl who as young girls do, believes the dreams and fairy tales and who is obedient and compliant, and seems to have the fairy tale come true …for a short while.

    And then it all turns ugly.

    And she not only survives – she smartens up, learns that people politics is everywhere and that she can be beaten up by it, or learn how to play it herself. All these horrible experiences, and she has few, but crucial choices to make – and though she doesn’t always make good ones – she learns from each one.

    I suspect she may never wield a sword. But she may yet come into her own power. I suspect that power will be rooted in her beauty, her sexuality and her intelligence. I think when Cersei told her that tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon, her best one is between her legs…..that Sansa heard….didn’t know what to do with that information – but she will later. I think Sansa may avoid rape – but make a strategic decision about when and with whom to give up her virginity – and that it won’t be ‘romantic’ – it will be about her becoming powerful.

    So far Sansa has been thrown about with all that’s happened, and has floated not drowned, but she’s been taken along where other people and events have led her. I think we are all waiting to see if she chooses to swim….where to, and why?

    I think, given she thinks she has little or no family left, she will make a decision what it is she wants for herself. That maybe she decides that even if there are no true knights – she wishes to be a true Queen or Lady. And then it will be interesting to see what it is she has learned from court politics and the machinations of power.

    Reply
  34. JR
    July 23, 2012 at 11:59 pm (730 days ago)

    I came around to Sansa by the third book. At first I thought, bratty all the way. But when Lady was slaughtered, and Joffrey started beating her – wow, I got…not impressed, but rather understanding of her situation.
    I think it’s interesting that, for all the differences of Sansa and Arya, they both hold their hates and vengeance close: Arya recites, every night, who she wants dead, while Sansa never loses her boldness of small rebellions that people can’t act against.
    What I do take issue with is her disgust with Tyrion and Jon. Even though everybody was whispering in her ear that they were despicable…Jon’s her brother, and I’m a big believer in family, and Tyrion takes all this abuse because of her and never complains.

    Reply
  35. Parag
    August 5, 2012 at 9:04 am (717 days ago)

    I hated Sansa in the first Book, chiefly because of two of her reactions (aside from her personality and relationship dynamics with Jon/Arya):

    Lying about Joffrey and getting Lady killed and Nymeria had to be abandoned by Arya.

    Revealing Ned Stark’s plans to Cersei Lannister.

    But as the series progresses, I realized that she was just brainwashed early on like most highborn girls, and unlike Arya she believed all the nonsense. But, slowly and surely, she’s adapting and will be groomed to be a powerful player by Littlefinger in The Game of Thrones.

    On a side note, now I hate Eddard Stark more than Sansa. Sansa did what she did in AGoT because that was what she was conditioned to believe and act simply that from such an early age. On the other hand, Ned Stark is a veteran. In spite of that, he revealed, like a total retard, to Cersei Lannister, the knowledge he had about her children, and trusted Littlefinger instead of taking her children hostage. Sure, it fits with his character about being honorable and his and Sansa’s actions essentially push the plot further…still I hate and admire him. Here, Eddard is shown to be much more naive than Sansa (The chief reason why most people hate Sansa is her naivety, although that is a direct result of her “girly training”)

    Reply
    • Rhiannon
      August 6, 2012 at 9:00 am (716 days ago)

      I had a really similar reaction to both Sansa and Ned. When I read Game of Thrones, I definitely saw Ned as the hero, and was really frustrated with Sansa. But now, even though Ned is definitely a good character, I find him completely infuriating. He definitely contributes to his own downfall, far more than Sansa does, by convincing himself that the Lannisters are more evil than they actually are, and, at the same time, completely underestimating how they’ll react to a threat. For a leader who has already survived one brutal war, I find this beyond frustrating.

      Reply
    • Robert
      October 5, 2013 at 8:47 am (291 days ago)

      I always thought there was a similarity between Ned and Sansa; whether you call it ‘naiveté’ or simply stupidity, the fact is that they both end up completely out of their depths when confronted with the villainy of the southern lords and ladies. One early difference between the two, of course, is that Sansa is drawn giddily to the princes, pomp and pageantry of King’s Landing, while the cold heart of Eddard Stark is loath to depart the familiarity and relative safety of Winterfell, making the journey south solely for the benefit of his old friend, King Robert Baratheon.

      However, I can’t find it in my heart to dislike or hate either Sansa or Ned.

      Sansa may have revealed Ned’s intentions to Cersei, but she did so out of normal pre-teen frustration with her parents, having faced the proposition of being parted from her future husband and king, Joffrey, and thrust back into the cold of the North to be married off to a lesser family (perhaps a Bolton, or a Frey). It is worth noting that Sansa was among the first characters to leap to Ned’s defence in the court of King Joffrey, and actively tried to play down the accusations against her father after his arrest. She also made an emotional plea to her beloved ‘Joff’ for her father’s survival, albeit on the condition of sending him to the Wall (arguably a longer, more drawn-out version of death, but no less inevitable).

      So Sansa, an 11-year-old highborn girl, attempted to negotiate mercy for her father with a cruel and unpredictable young king, thus risking accusations of treason against herself in the process. That sounds like quite a brave action from the young Sansa, in my view – the type of action that is only possible when a person is afraid, to paraphrase Ned’s earlier advice to his son Bran.

      Ned, on the other hand, made the grievous error of trusting Petyr Baelish with the details of his investigation into the royal lineage. This was a man that he knew to be envious of him for marrying his childhood love, Catelyn Tully, and who bore Ned and House Stark no love for having wounded his pride years before. Trusting Littlefinger was a mortally foolish decision, on Ned’s part, exacerbated by Littlefinger’s constant jabs reminding Ned not to trust him. Had he listened, things would perhaps have turned out differently.

      I’m inclined to agree that Ned dropped the ball by failing to ally himself with Renly Baratheon on the eve of his arrest. Renly’s proposition (holding the Baratheon/Lannister children captive until his evidence could be brought before the court) was immoral and dangerous, but arguably would have have set the record straight on the Lannister twins’ fornications, and their subverting the monarchy from within. But old honest Ned, full of honour and heavy of heart, refuses to dishonour Robert’s dying hours by pursuing Renly’s plan.

      In my eyes, and with some exceptions (siring bastard sons, and so on), Ned would always do the right thing, but often at the wrongest of moments. Though I think to myself what a fool Ned was, I still can’t hate him for it, no more than I could hate Sansa for acting the way she had been conditioned to. If the ASOIAF books have taught me anything, it’s that people need to adapt to their conditions in order to survive; Sansa did, Ned didn’t.

      Reply
  36. Kavita Singh
    August 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm (716 days ago)

    I’ve tried very hard to like Sansa and I’ve partly succeeded. She’s a character I would like to like because she’s beautiful, kind, a survivor and that she can see the good in some pretty nasty people as long as they are kind to her. On the other hand, she’s a bit brainless. She might eventually develop some of the cunning that will help in maneuvering socially but she hasn’t demonstrated any will of her own. I give her credit for wanting to toss Joffrey off that bridge but after that, she went back to being a singing bird in a cage; all words and empty in the head. Also, I want to say that blaming “girly training” is ridiculous. Think of most of the characters in the series, both highborn and lowborn, and think of how many of them simply believed wholesale in the “role of a woman”. Not even prim, lady like Margaery Tyrell acted as blithely and stupidly as Sansa. The girl has her good points but it seems to me that she may always need a man to do her thinking.

    Reply
  37. puplove55@hotmail.com
    September 19, 2012 at 1:06 am (673 days ago)

    I loved your words on defending my favorite character in ASOIAF!! your last paragraph brought tears to my eyes because it was so well-expressed and i think that sansa is like a breath of fresh air in my experience because she is feminine yet remains good throughout the entire 5 novels. i’ve always liked Scarlett O’Hara & Becky Sharp a lot, protagonists who embraise their feminity full-heartedly, but in the end social climbing and surviving at all costs end up tormenting them for years on end, whereas we see Sansa Stark enduring so many emotional and physical abuse for so long, and yet she hasn’t been broken or beaten down, and i can only imagine great things for her, whether she becomes a queen, lady of winterfell, regent to rickon, or just a happy wife with children, she will i hop be allowed to choose for herself the path she wants to take- which would be quite the thing in Westeros, so yeah, thanks for defending Sansa so well!! :D

    Reply
  38. Bia
    October 3, 2012 at 9:50 pm (658 days ago)

    I never hated her for being stupid, naive or feminine. Other characters have the same qualities and are well-loved. Sansa was disloyal to her family and unbelievably selfish even for a eleven-year old. Joffrey threatened to hurt Mika very badly, she didn´t care for it. When Arya reacted, Joffrey ran after her with a SWORD in hand saying that he would KILL her sister and all she could think about was how they were ruin HER dream! Arya is a (lovely) brat, but she´s her sister, and Joffrey just some lad that she just met. After that she went after him saying “oh, my poor prince”. She is to blame for Lady´s death and she should be willing to lie to protect Arya, but she wouidn´t even say the truth, even as Robert was urging her to, reminding her that lying to a king is treason. She saw Joffrey and Cersei cruelty then and still she chose to trust them instead her father. She also despised Jon and reacted to Mika`s murder as if Arya was complaining over the death of a cockroach. That showed that she only cared for high-born people and that´s not sweet to me. After Ned´s death she started to see the people around her, but even then she wasn´t able to reflect upon her role in her father´s murder and still blamed Arya for Lady´s death.
    She´s changing, but not enough to make me forgive her.

    Reply
    • runes
      February 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm (534 days ago)

      woah- chill… no one said she was perfect. author was just pointing out the extra scrutiny sansa gets cause shes a giril versus for example what theon gets even though hes a steaming turd. fans still humanize him with this whole “he was socialized that way” and almost “boys will be boys” mentality. sansa gets no slack or humanization like theon does. i see more posts from fans humanizing viserys than i do sansa LOL and thats all abt ppl wanting to sympathize more with guys with troubled circumstances who take the wrong path than girls w/ similarly crap circumstances who take the wrong path.

      also come on ragging on joffery would have also fucked her and her family over in the long run- there was no winning either way ned and catelyn would have gone to see what was up with bran’s attempted murder and jon arryn and the shit would have hit the fan w/ the lannisters.

      Reply
      • Bia
        February 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm (532 days ago)

        I think she’s got extra scrunity because she’s a Stark, and the Starks are supposed to be noble and just, and she’s selfish, brainless and coward. I think that was the point of getting Lady killed, it’s symbolic that Sansa is the real bastard in the family. Also, Theon is humanized because his character was much better developed, his conflicts explained and he suffered a lot, physically and emotionally. He was punished for his sins. I don’t mean Sansa should go through the same, just that readers can’t hate him anymore after that, and I would like Sansa if she realized how wrong she was, and she didn’t. She never thinks. Theon truly regrets what he’s done, he understands why he done such terrible things and so do we. Sansa, on the other hand, is a mystery.
        Her age doesn´t explain her behaviour and the way she thinks, because Bran (not to mention Arya) is younger and he’s not like that, he cares about others. Being “girly brainwashed” doesn’t explain either because other girly-girls are smarter, and her mother showed more than once that emphatizes with others regardless of the social status. Catelyn would at least feel sorry for Mika.
        Also, Sansa didn’t have to rage against Joffrey, she just had to tell the truth.

        Reply
        • Bia
          February 6, 2013 at 4:16 pm (532 days ago)

          I just realized that Bran is not a good example after his crush with Meera. But it doesn’t change the fact that being eleven doesn’t justify her not care if Arya lives or dies.
          And I disagree that Sansa is more realistic than Arya. GRRM shows us that one of the reasons Arya chose to be a tomboy is the fact that’s the only way she found not to be on her sister’s shadow. Arya’s POV is full of complaints that she can’t sing, sow, dance, play and do a lot of other things just as well as her sister, and she’s punished for it, for not being Sansa, even though she’s younger, has less time of practice and therefore cannot be expected to be as good. At one point Arya thinks that when she was born, there was nothing left for her, so she decided to not try anymore, because she always get bad feedback for her efforts. When given the chance of doing something different, and is has support (Jon, Ned, the water dance teacher…) she takes it.
          A lot a like Brienne, she doens’t fit one role so she tries another. We don’t know Sansa so deeply, we don’t know why her values were so different from her family, even her mother. That’s what is frustrating.

          Reply
        • Chocolatepot
          February 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm (532 days ago)

          because she’s a Stark, and the Starks are supposed to be noble and just

          But then why isn’t Robb hated for his mistakes? He caused the Red Wedding by sleeping with and then marrying Jeyne. He accidentally helped the Lannisters at the Battle of Blackwater. He (and Catelyn) lost the Karstarks. These are seen as tragedies coming about through various people’s choices and actions, unhappy coincidences that nobody realized would end in so much bloodshed.

          Sansa’s mistakes are in the same line. Her poor choices are also part of these chains of bad decisions, but people treat them as isolated incidents. Never mind that Joffrey lied, that Nymeria hurt him, that the adults made a complete bosh of the situation – Sansa refused to back up either story because of her conflicting long-term interests, it’s her fault Lady died and serves her right for not having a wolf later when she needed protection. Never mind that Ned showed his hand to Cersei, that he failed to have a backup plan, that he didn’t really explain to Sansa why they needed to leave – it’s her fault he died, end of story.

          Sansa’s treatment after her father’s death is absolutely horrible, I don’t see how you can seriously claim she suffered nothing and wasn’t punished. Theon went on much longer before he began to be redeemed. Other “girly girls” in the books are significantly older and/or haven’t had as many opportunities to fuck everything up.

          Arya makes good decisions from the beginning because she fits in the stereotype/archetype of the tomboyish noble girl, which usually involves being able to see through courtly manners (usually from disliking them). But the reason people point out that she’s so young is not that nobody around 11/12 is ever perfectly clear-headed and generous and wonderful, it’s that it’s somewhat extraordinary when they are, so it’s unfair to hold them all to that standard.

          Reply
          • Bia
            February 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm (530 days ago)

            How did Robb helped the Lannisters in the battle of Blackwater?
            Robb made a terrible mistake by sleeping with Jeyne, but he had weight of the world on his shoulders. Nevermind, still a mistake. Then, he married her. Another terrible mistake, a very stupid one, but honorable too. He disgraced himself so he could protect Jeyne’s reputation. It was not really his fault that he lost the Karstarks.
            First, they attempt against Jaime’s life despite the fact that he was under Robb’s protection, as a captive. He had to punish them, otherwise his authority would be seriously compromised. Then his own mother used her influence to set him free. He should have put her in shackles, but he couldn’t kill her like a betrayer she is, not only because he loves her, but because he would be cursed. It’s a great taboo.
            On the other hand, we know that Theon despite everything he’s done, loved Robb like a little brother so trusting him was reasonable given the circumstances.

            “Sansa’s mistakes are in the same line. Her poor choices are also part of these chains of bad decisions, but people treat them as isolated incidents. Never mind that Joffrey lied, that Nymeria hurt him, that the adults made a complete bosh of the situation – Sansa refused to back up either story because of her conflicting long-term interests, it’s her fault Lady died and serves her right for not having a wolf later when she needed protection. Never mind that Ned showed his hand to Cersei, that he failed to have a backup plan, that he didn’t really explain to Sansa why they needed to leave – it’s her fault he died, end of story.”

            I’m sorry, but Sansa’s mistakes are not in the same line. She didn’t make any mistakes for honor. She wasn’t betrayed by her family or friends that she had known her whole life. She was the betrayer.
            She lied to protect a sociopath instead of protecting her sister. How is her interest to marry a boy who beats children, younger, weaker and unarmed? He could only be an abusive husband.

            What would happen to Arya if Nymeria hadn’t hurt Joffrey?
            How being eleven years old explains one feeling nothing towards the fact that an inocent kid got chopped to pieces, that kid is one’s sister’s friend and she is hurt, and that one still feels nothing?

            The problem with first book Sansa is that she doesn’t care about anyone but herself. And is not about age. One thing is you not care if other kid doesn’t the same toys as you, another is not care if other kid was murdered by orders of your future mother-in-law or even your bethroted. And not care that your future husband could have killed your own sister. How is it too much to ask?

            That much care is level 1 human being.
            Nevermind her lying. Let’s say she was too scared to utter a word. But afterwards a boy got murdered and she thought that she was the one who suffered an unjustice, because of Lady.

            And if was Cersei who demanded Lady’s death, it was pretty clear what kind of person she was: cruel, unjust. How telling a cruel, unjust woman doesn’t qualify as telling someone of his father’s plans?

            I’m not saying that she’s to blame for Ned’s death, or that her actions were the most grievous. I’m saying her motives were the worse or at least not clear. Ned showed his hand to Cersei because he didn’t want her kids to suffer, he didn’t arrest them while he could because Robert was still alive and he didn’t want go against his King.
            Robb wouldn’t have any problem if the just left Jeyne alone, but he didn’t for the sake of her honor. He cared more about her than himself. Plus, both Ned and Robb died for their mistakes. Not saying that Sansa should die, but is not that interesting dwelling over the mistakes of the dead.

            Even Theon, he was a douchebag, then a murderer, then a child murderer, but had a more complex conflict. He was conflicted between his house, his family, who treated him bad but he didn’t remember that part exactly and his captors, with whom he spent half of his life, who treated him better than his own family, but captivity still hurt.
            He wanted to be heir to his father, wanted to get back the respect of his family, but wanted also to be Ned, to have the love and respect that Winterfell’s people had for their lord. He was divided by two opposite loyaties
            and he tried to reconcile them. Two people he loved. And after all the horrible things he’ s done, he regreted, he truly admitted his wrongs and regreted, felt guilty, his actions hurt him, not because he was tortured but because he cares.

            Sansa had family and her own well being on one side and social status on the other and she chose the last. She didn’t love Joffrey, she loved his rank. All she cared about was that he was Prince, didn’t matter that he was cruel, a liar, a coward.
            Ned’s death hurt her, she suffered a lot, but even after that she never gives her actions and her motives a single thought, she never lamented for poor Mycah or reflected what her father meant by “not tell anyone”, or her treatment of her sister. She never regreted.

            She does changes the way she sees other people afterwards, but she never looks back.

            And the fact that she is a Stark and she’s the only (super) entitled (yes, Jon is a little bit entitled) selfish lying brat is meaningful.
            The family’s values normally influence one’s character. The Ned Stark’s family values says that the noble, the powerful should protect the weak. She should be shocked, terrified and ofended by Cersei and Joffrey.

            Anyone even by age 11 should feel the same actually.

          • Chocolatepot
            February 9, 2013 at 12:35 am (530 days ago)

            Robb accidentally helped the Lannisters by throwing them back and sending Tywin’s army to King’s Landing, rather than keeping them in a chase until Stannis got there to help smash them. If Tywin hadn’t turned back, there wouldn’t have been enough Lannister forces at Blackwater. I know Robb’s mistakes were mistakes, that’s my point – he makes avoidable mistakes as well as Sansa, but his are seen as understandable and tragic while hers are seen as despicable. Sleeping with Jeyne wasn’t done for honor. He didn’t fail to achieve his objective with Stannis and Tywin because

            The whole Arya-Joffrey-Mycah incident is more complex than “she lied when she should have told the truth, end of.” Arya hit the heir to the throne with a stick in the back of the head, hard enough to bleed; Nymeria could have stopped Joffrey without actually breaking the skin, but she didn’t. When Sansa lied to try to help both sides (she could have said true things that would have gotten Arya in trouble, remember), Arya physically attacked her. But also, there are several books after GoT, and if people can handle Jaime being redeemed – unless you’re excusing his pushing Bran out the window because he did it for family? – then certainly Sansa’s later storyline should be considered when condemning her as a character. Again, one has to ask why the unwillingness to do so in the case of the little girl.

            Losing Lady was an injustice, even if it wasn’t as big of one as Mycah dying. Lady did nothing and may have never done anything violent or uncontrollable in her life, if she’d been allowed to live. No, Sansa was not in the right, here, and she was still in her thoughtless aristocratic ways of not considering the smallfolk, but losing Lady – considering the psychic/magic bond the kids have with their wolves – is a huge deal. And the thing about Mycah is, he was dead before Sansa held her tongue. He was dead from the moment he ran and Sandor went after him, which puts the majority of the blame on his and Joffrey’s shoulders, with a little bit on Arya’s for not handling the situation better.

            Ned showed his hand to Cersei because he was honorable and noble, but in the end it also derived from a failure to understand how ruthless she was. (The fact that she managed to regain Sansa’s trust is a testament to how good she is at manipulation, and how much Robert frightened Sansa.) It is interesting to “dwell” over the mistakes of the dead, because people act like Sansa’s the only one who made mistakes, or that her mistakes are the most important, and if you’re going to maintain that you need to compare them to the mistakes of people who got themselves killed.

            Sansa can’t look back. She has to use all of her brains and ability to protect herself in the present. Mycah’s death was tragically pointless, but you can’t reasonably expect her to spend time on it when her father was killed in front of her, as was her aunt, and she’s witnessed battles that have killed thousands.

            She’s not “an entitled selfish lying brat”, sorry. You seem to have read the books, yet your characterization of her is grounded in the first one. She’s suffered and changed, and just because she’s focused on survival instead of repentance doesn’t make her entitled or selfish or a brat. What does she think she’s entitled to, at the present time? At most, she’d like someone to love her for herself and not for her position. (Everyone in these books lies, so I’m not really taking that one too seriously.)

            Anyone even by age 11 should feel the same actually.

            Nah. That’s a silly opinion. But it’s nice to know you were never, ever fooled by anyone before you hit puberty.

          • Bia
            February 16, 2013 at 3:32 pm (522 days ago)

            ‘ “Anyone even by age 11 should feel the same actually.”

            Nah. That’s a silly opinion. But it’s nice to know you were never, ever fooled by anyone before you hit puberty.’

            I got fooled a lot of times. Even now. But not by a child murderer, who killed my pet and wanted my sister maimed.
            If you think that’s trivial, that is not enough to impress a 11 year-old girl and you would be fooled just the same, than you are a terrible human being, just like book 1 Sansa. Ask yourself, would you, really? Notice that this wasn’t a random death on the news, it was a kid, your sister’s friend, someone you know, ordered by someone you also know.

            ” The whole Arya-Joffrey-Mycah incident is more complex than “she lied when she should have told the truth, end of.” Arya hit the heir to the throne with a stick in the back of the head, hard enough to bleed; Nymeria could have stopped Joffrey without actually breaking the skin, but she didn’t. When Sansa lied to try to help both sides (she could have said true things that would have gotten Arya in trouble, remember), Arya physically attacked her. ”

            Arya did made things worse, but she did so to protect her friend. And she realized that, and suffered and blamed herself a lot, even though she’s the younger one in the whole situation. You may think that her intentions are not relevant, that the likes of Mycah are doomed to be play things and punch bags to the likes of Joffrey so why care? That depends much on how high justice is on your value scale.
            But that doesn’t change the fact that Arya acted to protect her friend, moved by a sense of justice; that Robb could have suffered no consequence for having sex with Jeyne if he just have let her disgrace herself; that Ned warned Cersei to protect her children. They all made mistakes, terrible ones, but their hearts were in the right place. That’s not interesting? You must be a Lannister fan then. It’s a lot harder doing right and not get screw over than screwing others over for your own benefit.
            Sansa on the other hand, worries that Mycah and her sister being in physical danger ruin everything for her. Can you blame Arya for physically attack her? Really? How did exactly her lie helped both sides? Why should she help Joffrey’s side?
            I think she wanted to help herself, because that’s what we know from her point of view at that point.
            And I think she wasn’t fooled, she did it to herself. She commited to anything but becoming a queen, that’s why she chose to blame Arya for Lady’s death instead of Cersei, why she was in state of denial towards Joffrey’s real character. That’s not love at all, that’s ambition desguised as a infatuation because it was hard to admit to herself that becoming a queen is more important than almost anything. And Cersei would not acknowledge that either because she looks down on Sansa, she wouldn’t admit that they were a lot alike.

            By the way: Nymeria showed a great amount of self-restraint when attacking Joffrey. She’s a direwolf, a big scary wild animal, and he was attacking her master. It was more likely that she would rip his throat open like Summer did to the man sent to kill Bran.

            Joffrey had a real sword, while Arya and Mycah were playing with sticks. That is serious, if Sansa had told the truth, Arya’s “attack” would be irrelevant. Joffrey bled, but he was mildly hurt actually. What really hurt him was the fact that he was overpowered by a skinny little nine year old, he being 13 and really tall for his age. Renly mocked him, he knows he behaved all whiny, for a scratch when he should be hardened for leadership, for battle, like his father.

            Robb didn’t throw Tywin’s army back to King’s Landing, he planned to make them chase them all over the Riverlands. It was his uncle that wanted to be a hero and disobeyed him.

            On the point of evolved Sansa, she is the one who is getting better, when the others are falling into disgrace. But she didn’t have a lot to do to scape her situation, she was traped, and I think it gives one a lot of time and occasion to reflect upon life. When she does look back, it is still bad. One moment when she was with Margaery she thought how unfair it was for her to have a sister like Arya. Her probably raped and dead sister, not the sister she sees everyday. That’s how sweet she is.

          • Chocolatepot
            February 16, 2013 at 6:05 pm (522 days ago)

            Once you tell someone they’re a terrible person just because they think Sansa’s not a worthless, unforgivable character, you have proved yourself pointless to argue with. I didn’t even bother reading the rest of your comment, as it’s obviously ridiculously overblown.

          • Bia
            February 16, 2013 at 6:44 pm (522 days ago)

            Your kind of argument is “your opinion is silly” and I am overblown.
            Never said she is worthless, not that is unforgivable. She is unforgiven so far. And that her feelings and motivations are nearly sociopath. I didn’t accused you, I made an assumption, I tried to make you think if you would feel the same, you would understand if you bothered to read the rest.

          • Chocolatepot
            February 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm (522 days ago)

            “That’s a silly opinion” =/= “you must be a terrible person”. Do you understand the difference between “silly” and “terrible”? Or “your opinion” and “your personality”? And you are basically saying Sansa’s actions in the first few chapters of the first book should overshadow everything else she does, that sounds a lot like saying what she did then was not forgivable.

            The idea that your particular moral objection to Sansa should be universal is silly, and frankly, your reading of the scene and storyline – that Sansa actively lied, that she should have only felt anger toward Cersei and Joffrey – is simplistic.

          • Bia
            February 16, 2013 at 7:45 pm (522 days ago)

            “that she should have only felt anger toward Cersei and Joffrey – is simplistic.” It is simplistic, it is simple. I asked before why should Sansa help Joffrey, why should she still want to marry him. What else could she feel toward Cersei and Joffrey? If you know what, tell me.
            My whole point is that she gets less symphathy because of her motivations, that are considered far less noble than other characters who also made mistakes, worse mistakes even, lot worse. Because she doesn’t think of her actions even afterwords. (Back to the dead characters, they can’t regret ,because they are dead. ) Not because she can sew, sing, dance, etc. The story shows that those are not useless skills at all. Arya actually envy those skills, she is a tomboy also because she can’t compete with Sansa, that completely overshadow her in that sense. As I said before.
            My comments are focused in book 1 because this article says that people who critize Sansa do so for prejudice of her lady-like manners, and so do you. My point is that it is not the case. It is because of what I and others (also in this comments) think are moral flaws. My particular moral objection is not universal but is not unique.

          • Chocolatepot
            February 9, 2013 at 3:33 am (530 days ago)

            Re: “she’s a Stark” – what I don’t get about this argument (that she should be held to a higher standard because of her ancestry) is that it’s just plain not interesting for an entire family to be innately good and never have selfish impulses, from birth. None of the Stark are actually perfect; Ned comes the closest, but he’s also the oldest, which gives him the most time to figure out life and learn what’s most important.

            In general, I think readers have been somewhat brainwashed, through an overwhelming amount of fiction, with the idea that a girl who wants to fight rather than be a lady is inherently “acting good”, and that a girl who has no interest in physical pursuits is denying nature (because traditional masculine attributes = natural, what people want to do/have unless they’re socialized otherwise or are making an effort). Liking to sew and dance and play an instrument and be “useless” (although sewing is an incredibly useful skill in a time and place where people need to make their own clothing) actually tends to be seen as a negative trait, even though it sounds silly when you think about it – but in historical fiction, how often is the heroine bad at these things, how often is her mother portrayed as unfair for forcing her to learn them, how often is the rival good at them or content to do them? So Arya’s violent tendencies and lack of courtesy/people skills are not looked at in a critical light, even though they are big problems in the setting, and a “girly girl” gets immediate suspicion until she performs some especially good deed, maybe a boyish one, to prove that she’s worth it despite what we’re trained to take as hints to badness. Oh, and Heroines don’t care about romance for its own sake, they have adventures and then whatever guy they’re adventuring with ends up in a relationship with them – while Non-heroines sigh over boys and dream about getting married. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. But when you read enough books and reader reactions while keeping the idea of these rather ridiculous good/bad traits in mind, it really becomes striking, regardless of whether or not individual readers are sexist. (Which is my way of saying that I’m not saying your individual dislike of Sansa is sexist, in case you thought I was going there.) It’s very, very rare that a girl with the “bad” traits gets to be a viewpoint character.

  39. Maria Eduarda
    October 15, 2012 at 7:37 am (647 days ago)

    Hm, interesting point of view. However, Sansa is basically hated in the first place for not letting her sister be who she wants to be or to do anything to see her prince charming, play against her sister when she knew Arya was right, at that moment lying wasn’t truly necessary since Robert was still king.
    Even though, the hatred lowers after she is held captive (if it was arya she wouldn’t be caught hahaha or if she was she would have died honorably standing on what she believes is right) and begins playing their games. She endures really, but she does not even a single attempt of changing her situation.
    Sansa was a brat at first with childish thoughts of choosing boys over her sister and bullying her, but she grew stronger.
    People are still hung up on the fact that she was an idiot.

    Ladylike manners are not looked down by the readers, like Catelyn Stark, she is truly a lady and when she needs to be she can also lead and make decisions. So your point is irrelevant.

    And yes, the idea of her being what they want is deemed as weak, fragile, manipulative, because it is. There is no strenght in that. At least at first when she wasn’t thinking properly.

    Reply
  40. Maria Eduarda
    October 15, 2012 at 7:41 am (647 days ago)

    Actually is pretty much what Bia said.

    Reply
  41. delilah
    October 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm (641 days ago)

    Sansa in my opinion is the most interesting character and the most realistic with a good; solid psychology. She evolves. She is a dreaming little girl who try to survive. I think she is far away realistic than her sister Arya.

    Reply
    • runes
      February 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm (534 days ago)

      ditto, i love how human she is. i feel like she never set herself up to be perfect even if she was a shallow 11 year old and even then i liked her from the start i could just tell she was going to get a lot of character development and i love when that happens. i feel like the characters who start as shallow and mean spirited- but not sociopathic always have some of the most interesting development especially when they realize they are wrong- which sansa does on multiple occaisions (ie they all say i’m stupid, i think they are right- she actually says that she sees her faults) this is what makes her so interesting to me shes my fave POV character!

      Reply
      • jo
        May 5, 2014 at 12:25 am (80 days ago)

        In what way is SANSA mean spirited? Unlike arya. I don’t seewhere you all see shallowness in her either

        Reply
  42. Steven
    October 28, 2012 at 9:19 am (633 days ago)

    I can’t tell you how much I agree with your assessment. Sansa is a very well-thought out lady who shows that being a feminist doesn’t have to translate into donning armour.

    Martin is a genious, because he dispels all sorts of myths – what courage is really about, and how the reality of stories are often bloodier than real life.

    I think that Sansa is a lady to watch in this series.

    Reply
  43. critical thought
    November 18, 2012 at 6:19 pm (612 days ago)

    This is just so extremely biased it’s unbelievable… Your assumptions really need some critical thought, and this needs revision. For starters: “Worse, it brings the reader’s hatred down on her, because even though women are told they are only “good” if they fit into this role,” YOUR hatred or a few other readers hatred does not mean EVERYONE feels that way. While I do agree Sansa is portrayed with the characteristics in the books which you mentioned, it is not true that everyone sees her as some poorly misunderstood strong surviving woman. Nor can it be ignored that her ability TO SURVIVE is not solely her own. The vast majority of the individuals wielding power in Westeros want to use her, and as such want to ensure she stays alive. That is not some unique gift she possess.

    Reply
    • Rhiannon
      November 18, 2012 at 6:43 pm (612 days ago)

      As you could probably understand from this post, I don’thate Sansa. However, many readers do and express it quite vehemently, which caused me to try and consider why. You’re contradicting yourself here, by the way. You claim I think everyone hates Sansa, and then claim I think everyone sees her as a strong, misunderstood young woman. It cannot be both. Some people hate Sansa, and some people, like me, think she is strong and a survivor… even though she’s something of a pawn to the Lannisters, she is not that valuable, and they could easily have killed her if she stepped out of line.

      Reply
  44. Nimmermaer
    November 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm (609 days ago)

    To be honest I hated Sansa when she betrayed Aria for Joffrey, but I grew rather fond of her after she had to endure so much and learned from her past mistakes. A wonderfully written character for sure, worthy of your articulate defense.

    Reply
    • Bia
      November 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm (604 days ago)

      She is or was hated because people expect more from her because she’s a Stark. Everybody hate Joffrey’s and Ramsay’s guts but they are just so evil that there’s no point in comment on it. There is no controversy, no reason to discuss on such characters so you don’t feel the hate. On the other hand Sansa, along with the Hound and many others behave in ways that arouse ethical arguments.

      Reply
    • stonebiscuit
      November 26, 2012 at 9:20 pm (604 days ago)

      I’m not convinced “betrayed” is the proper word here. All she said was she didn’t remember. Given that she was drunker than she’d ever been at the time of the event, and the farce of a “trial” (seriously, Robert Baratheon, you are a giant coward and I hate you) was in the middle of the night, I think we can reasonably assume there’s a degree of truth there.

      Reply
  45. RVCBard
    November 27, 2012 at 11:16 am (603 days ago)

    Thank you thaThank you thank you for this!

    I’ll admit that at first Sansa’s simple-mindedness got on my nerves, but as I learned more about the world she lived in and really see what she was up against, I started to understand her better, and now I root for her.

    Sansa’s situation is unique in that she has little direct power of her own. She doesn’t have wealth, an army, or political connections she can count on. She can’t fight or ride dragons or run away to live in the woods. So how does she survive when surrounded by people who will not hesitate to use her for their own schemes regardless of what it would cost her? She doesn’t let on how much she knows. She tells them what they want to hear. She goes out of her way to present herself as posing no threat, and that no one would have anything to gain by harming her.
    As a Black woman, I can identify with this. Chances are, it was the Sansas among my ancestors who are largely responsible for me being here and being able to type this comment.

    Reply
  46. Sara
    December 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm (594 days ago)

    Thank you for writing this! As I read the first book, I found Sansa to be very irritating with her dreams of chivalrous princes and fancy princes, and that she was so obsessed with Joffrey and completely blind to the fact that he was a sadistic psycho and not the kind prince of her dreams. But, I knew she would eventually grow out of it – she was eleven years old, and naive. I was a naive 11 year old girl once too, and made stupid decisions sometimes, and tried to tell myself that stupid boys were the man of my dreams too.
    Sansa has gradually really grown on me as her story progressed, but since it was such a gradual process I could never really articulate why. Your article really articulated it for me!
    I had also been annoyed by her thinking that Cersei really liked her and whatnot, and was afraid that Sansa was, in some way, no longer a Stark, but just another pawn of the Lannisters or of Littlefinger’s. But when she built that little replica of Winterfell in the snow, I realized that despite the front she puts up for people like Cersei, Joffrey, or Littlefinger in order to survive and not get herself killed, she is still a Stark! THE NORTH REMEMBERS!

    Reply
  47. Rhaego
    January 21, 2013 at 4:33 pm (548 days ago)

    I think you oversimplify the reasons behind the vitriol towards Sansa. As you stated, she starts off as an elitist brat, yet you blame Ned and Cat. While they both deserve a share of the guilt, it would seem that the other Stark children learned to love their brother Jon, yet only Sansa spits on him like her mother. She also didn’t think it was unchivalrous of Joff to attack her little sister and an unarmed butcher’s boy with a sword.
    Until that point, I only disliked her, because nothing in her personality was relatable. What makes her universally hated is her lying in favor of Joffrey, which leads to (imo) the saddest death in the series. She was always less of a Stark than the others, but after Lady’s death, I wanted her out of the books. In my mind, she was irredeemable after that.

    You may see her as a brave victim who overcomes torment or a benevolent heroine coming into her own. I see a brat who was victimized by a sociopath, then escaped by landing right in another sociopath’s web. And she’s not even that sweet. If anything she is pulling Robin’s strings so he is less obnoxious. She doesn’t love him. She nannies him.

    I could entertain the idea that SHE is a sexist, because she hates that
    Arya is dirty and tomboyish. All women would be forever doomed to the bedchamber if the Sansas had their way.

    Reply
    • Eric
      April 21, 2013 at 9:46 pm (458 days ago)

      I agree with this. When reading her PoV through the 4 books (she isnt in the 5th) I am constantly disappointed in her non-action.

      Personally, I dislike her only because she lets the worst people use her to their own ends. She has been used often, but continues to believe liars even whilst knowing they lie. Then when she is betrayed she is surprised.

      I am surprised she is still alive to be honest.

      Reply
  48. Chocolatepot
    February 5, 2013 at 9:49 pm (533 days ago)

    Aaaah, it was so nice to come across this post! I started out with the show, and was immediately on Sansa’s team because my youth was so full of books about oppressed tomboys who wanted to wield swords that I assumed I was supposed to hate nasty collaborative ladylike Sansa; I was reassured that this was not the case, and then when I started reading was pleasantly surprised at how even-handed the narration was with them.

    But then I was unpleasantly surprised to see how violently people hate her. I do somewhat understand the argument that the evilevilevil characters are so bad as to not really be worth talking about, but the thing is that I can’t get away from the idea that if Sansa hated dresses and needlework like Arya, or were Bran’s older brother, her mistakes would get more sympathy and be seen as tragic rather than proof of some enormous, contemptible defect.

    I also have to wonder if the people who so vitriolically speak against her realize how wonderful it is for some of us to see a character who both is traditionally feminine/kind/good and has a viewpoint and a lot of strength. Those two sets do not often go together, especially in fantasy – a traditionally feminine character is likely to be a villain, or to be weak apart from, perhaps, a single defining moment of strength.

    Reply
  49. evan
    February 18, 2013 at 1:10 am (521 days ago)

    Sorry, i have to disagree. Being a delusional swooning teenager does not mean she was raised to betray her family. This is why people dislike Sansa so much. She didn’t stick up and support arya when she was accused of attackin joffrey. This results in sansa’s wolf dying, yet she still blames arya for it all.

    Secondly, if you read closely, Ned stark had his escape from kings landing planned out, but Sansa went and told Cersei that they were leaving the next day which ultimately god Ned captured and killed.

    Yes sansa may grow braver etc etc, but ultimately she doesn’t change as a character because she fails to accept responsibility for everything bad that happened to her and her family at Kings landing.

    Reply
  50. Rafael
    February 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm (517 days ago)

    I disagree. I don’t like Sansa but I also don’t think only the “manly” female characters, such as Arya and Brienne, are interesting in the series. For example one character that I especially appreciated was Oleanna Tyrell, who is not a warrior, but is able to manipulate man and control her House without taking her son out of the game. The same can be said about Margaery Tyrell.
    Other character that is not stupid but don’t lose her female way is Catelyn Stark.

    Reply
    • Jo
      May 5, 2014 at 12:55 am (80 days ago)

      Margaery HAD said grandmother to train her since probably day one. and she’s not the political genius the show portrays her as, in the books I mean. Margaery has also been shown to be not only very spoiled but not always so clever herself and heavily reliant on Olenna and her brother.

      as for Olenna, LOL are you seriously comparing a shrewd old rich lady with years of experience in the Game to a little girl? honestly?

      as for Cat, do you really want me to post all the hate people have for her?

      Reply
  51. k-m
    February 25, 2013 at 9:03 am (513 days ago)

    Absolutely. Initially Sansa is just a young girl, and naive and selfish and so on, but when she is on her own at Kings Landing, she is amazing, learning to survive in an extremely hostile environment which can be just as lethal as any battle field, and which is dangerous not only to yourself but your family and friends as well. I think few people would have the strength and talent to navigate that situation, whether in the series or real people.
    Even thinking about her situation makes me want to explode, I don’t think I could successfully live in it.

    Reply
  52. jayme
    February 26, 2013 at 9:15 am (512 days ago)

    Urgh, what the hell? I am crying so hard right now. People need to not underestimate what an asset kindness is. I need this queen.

    Reply
  53. Siofra Corry
    March 17, 2013 at 11:28 pm (493 days ago)

    Excuse me? Why on earth are we focusing on the fact that Sansa is a pre-teen girl? As a preteen, I was never that shallow.

    Sansa Stark transforms into an amazing character…she get’s strong..but here’s the thing…she only did so because she had to.

    Sansa Stark’s naivety is not what made me annoyed at her..it’s the fact she started it as a spoiled brat. Sansa grew up being good at everything,and basically hating her sister because she didn’t fit in with her narrow idea of the world. “As wicked as Arya”.
    What about the incident at the trident? Sansa didn’t stand up for her sister, and then blames Arya for Nymeria’s death.

    Sansa is also shallow…she loves Joffrey at the start of book one for being beautiful, despite him showing his psychopathic tendencies.And it’s pretty clear that her problem with both the Hound and Tyrion is their appearances.

    The idea that any of these traits are feminine is idiotic…infact, that any traits are female are idiotic. Sansa is flawed, like all other characters….but this has nothing to do with her or her sex, or the fact that she is girly…it’s just that her negative traits are rather annoying,and seemingly inactive. It’s because we don’t like screaming at a character…we like them to be superhuman.

    Sansa Stark grows up a lot..but she remains shallow. Not because she was an 11 year old girl..but because she is just shallow.

    Reply
    • Chocolatepot
      March 18, 2013 at 1:00 am (493 days ago)

      infact, that any traits are female are idiotic.

      I think you’re missing the point there. Nobody here seriously believes that traits belong to one gender or the other – but there are traits that we are socialized to see as feminine/masculine, that many people don’t think about too hard. Think about the many things that get “like a girl” added on the end: throwing/running badly, crying, gossiping, screaming. All women aren’t prone to those, and all men aren’t necessarily free from them, but people unthinkingly make that association.

      More positively, people tend to associate being nurturing, compassionate, sensitive, and intuitive and avoiding direct conflict with women. Physical aggression, strength, and action, however, are often associated with men. You end up with a strange correlation where both people who don’t think at all about these things or pick up on them consciously find characters with “masculine” traits more interesting than characters with the “feminine” traits (and if you haven’t seen this, you haven’t looked very deeply into this fandom), and many people who tend to talk about feminism and fiction and the way that female characters can get boxed in with the “feminine” traits and completely excluded from “masculine” ones, who focus on the “masculine” traits as the ones all characters need to have … and then you end up with these pariah-like “feminine”-traited female characters that get a lot of hate for not being active. If that’s not your beef with Sansa, the essay’s probably not about you.

      I really don’t think Sansa was ever a brat. She didn’t throw tantrums, she didn’t manipulate people – in the show they made her rather more insulting and self-centered, but in the book her conflict with Arya was because Sansa was just naturally the good little lady.

      Reply
    • Lex494
      March 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm (484 days ago)

      Call me crazy, but I think her problem with the Hound is the fact he’s drunk half the time he’s awake and he’s walking around talking about how great it is to kill people and that she should die if she can’t protect herself. And her problem with Tyrion is that he’s a Lannister.
      Yes, she focuses on their appearances too, but hell, every freking woman would prefer a handsome guy to a man without half a face and no ear or an ugly dwarf with no nose.

      Reply
    • Jo
      May 5, 2014 at 12:50 am (80 days ago)

      You aren’t all preteen girls.

      That doesn’t make her shallow, unlike you finding people attractive makes *you* shallow too. She is surprised he’s angry with her but what can she do? he’s going to be the king and even as a noblewoman she lacks the power to stand up to him without getting in trouble herself.

      She didn’t stand up for Arya? No kidding. She also didn’t stand up for Joffrey. She took a neutral position because thanks to her idiotic little sister, she was forced into a pretty awkward position. If she tells what Joffrey did, she’s basically calling the son of the realm’s most powerful family a liar (which he is) and a jerk and bye-bye marriage proposal. if she makes Arya look bad, not only does Arya get in BIG trouble, so does her family, and STILL say bye to the marriage.

      Why don’t you put any blame on Arya? Was it Sansa who attacked Joffrey? Sure, she had good reason to, but it was also stupid and impulsive and she was incredibly naive to not see anything wrong with whacking the crown prince in the head with a stick. I could also add the fact that Joff had been, um, trying to get her drunk. She notes that the wine “was making her dizzy”.

      “basically hating” lol says YOU. YOU hate HER, which makes you hypocritical here. Sansa resents her sister being a little barbarian (rightfully so- she hardly tried to ever act like a lady like she was supposed to and got away with it all the time). Then we have perfect little Mary Sue Arya constantly belittling her sister’s interests, going so far as to call them stupid.

      You people don’t know how to read well, do you? This is all your own biased opinion, next to nothing, if anything, coming from the actual books.

      Reply
  54. voodooqueen126
    March 24, 2013 at 7:25 am (487 days ago)

    Sansa is actually my favourite character.
    I think Sansa secretly believed that Arya was spoilt: ie that Arya got away with not trying hard at embroidery, singing and got to behave however she wanted to. For instance Sansa who loved Joffrey (I personally was in love with someone as unpleasant as Joffrey till I was 16) had to give him whilst Arya got to bring her ‘stupid dancing master’ with her back to Winterfell. Ned also explained to Arya that they were in terrible danger… Where as Ned just took Sansa’s obedience for granted.
    It reminds me of the prodigal son, and I have always hated that story.

    Reply
    • Jo
      May 5, 2014 at 12:43 am (80 days ago)

      that’s a very good point I had never even noticed, and apparently neither has anyone else! Arya really was the more spoiled one. Even ignoring the Syrio thing, she was obviously given a lot more freedom than Sansa, who was held up as the example, as older sisters typically are- you know, she’s supposed to be the responsible one who keeps her little siblings out of trouble. And she does, but Arya is allowed to do whatever she wants and I don’t blame Sansa for resenting that, any kid would.

      Reply
  55. Lex494
    March 26, 2013 at 6:43 pm (484 days ago)

    I love Sansa! And I love her partially because she is not perfect. yes, she has flaws. Yes, she acts like a spoiled naive little girl at first. But the way she handles herself in King’s Landing is just remarkable. Arya would’ve had herself killed within a week, but Sansa just kept holding on. They humiliated her in every possible way and she still managed to get herself together every freaking time. I especially love the scene where they give her a choice of either marrying Tyrion with dignity or being dragged there and forced to do it. And then Tyrion says something like: “I know I’m not what girls dream of, but I’m not Joffrey” and she’s like “You’re not” and goes on to marry him. I truly believe she would’ve been totally different with him if he wasn’t a Lannister. I think she could’ve learnt to see past his looks and love him eventually if he wasn’t Joffrey’s uncle, Cersei’s brother. Plus, the Hound hated him and she kinda trusted Sandor’s judgement.
    I think she’s grown into a very intriguing character and I’m really curious to know what happens to her later. I think she’s actually started getting kind of crazy, passing as Alayne for way too long, but that makes her even more interesting. Well, she’s never gonna be a warrior like Arya, but she might become a pretty clever Game player.

    Reply
  56. E
    March 30, 2013 at 5:39 pm (480 days ago)

    Great post. Well stated.

    Reply
  57. Manawyddan
    April 10, 2013 at 8:06 pm (469 days ago)

    I originally dislike Sansa for her lying about what happened between Arya and Joffrey, and her betrayal of her father to Cersei. But what made me detest her was that she never took responsibility for her actions. I am convinced that she still blames Arya for Lady’s death. If there had ever been a scene in which she sat and regretted the consequences of HER OWN actions, I’d have had a very different view.

    I have come to care for her more in her latest chapters, and actually I have softened my view of her a bit on the show, where the actress is so good at looking pathetic and desperate.

    I also, originally, hates the way she treated Tyrion, but when I reread the book I changed my mind. She actually was fairly gentle with him … but she had been burned before trusting Lannisters, and just because he had been nicer than the others didn’t mean she was going to accept him with an open heart.

    Reply
    • Eric
      April 21, 2013 at 10:04 pm (458 days ago)

      Fairly gentle? She was false submissive, scared, and loathing. She wouldn’t kneel to be at the same height as him during their wedding. He didn’t force himself on her and treated her with respect. She subtly made him look weak and useless in every situation. Tyrion saw that all she was concerned in was looks and not character.

      This is Sansa’s flaw. She believes in pretty faces and pretty words. She seems to have difficulty figuring out the difference between noble words and noble deeds.

      She learns at the expense of other peoples lives it seems.

      Reply
      • Rhiannon
        April 24, 2013 at 8:13 pm (455 days ago)

        But why should she be kind to Tyrion? She’s forced into a marriage with him, and although he might be kind enough to her, she’s had Lannisters be kind of her before, and that didn’t exactly end up well. She’s learned NOT to trust in pretty faces and pretty words, and especially not to trust the Lannisters. If she wasn’t scared, that would be very strange, and if she wasn’t false-submissive, she’d be dead. No wonder she also loathes her situation. Who wouldn’t?

        Reply
        • Chocolatepot
          April 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm (455 days ago)

          Sansa trusts someone who puts in effort to seem trustworthy: “Why does she trust everyone? She’s so stupid.”

          Sansa doesn’t trust someone who only gives her a little reason to trust him: “It’s so dumb of her not to be trusting, he could help her.”

          Reply
          • Jo
            May 5, 2014 at 12:35 am (80 days ago)

            ^^hahaha, so true!

  58. Chocolatepot
    April 26, 2013 at 11:58 am (453 days ago)

    For all the people who think Sansa’s not enough of a Stark to be worth liking: A Stark in Truth.

    Reply
  59. Aurore
    April 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm (452 days ago)

    Sorry for the possibly mistakes, I’m french and I found the article so interesting that I enbeded me even with my poor english level ^^
    I’ve never loved Sansa because I thought she was such naive, self-centred, completely blind in front of the real personality of Joffrey-Charming-Prince, and unable to think and see what is good or wrong. But now I’m advanced in the story, I’ve changed my mind. I thought she would betray her family but finally, she defended her father with loyauty and sincerity ( before I was the feeling that she wasn’t honest like the other Starks ), at least during his dad’s custody. Then she is in the worst possible position than the others, because they can act beeing loyal to their family, according to their opinions, while she is stuck between the 2 sides, a treater for the 2, and she has to be very careful in all her acting… Even if I don’t really feel sympathy for her, i understand she is in a very delicated situation, and her attitude suprised me. In fact… she’s not that stupid ! She denies her family in front of the Lannisters and the court, but she’s not hypocrite. She manages to save her life, without totally betraying her family, and she has been very clever because she has the perdect attitude given the situation. She’s also extremely strong ( if my future husband tried to kill me in order to have fun in front of the whole court… I don’t know what I would do ) because she’s always impassive, keeping a cold head and her dignity. I dunno, maybe I have this impression because we don’t see that much her feelings, her doubts – though it’s why I feel no sympathy for her… However, maybe Sansa isn’t a great warrior-boy-looking, but she fights with other arms, arms of a Lady. Though I think it is the force of Game of Thrones : the female characters can have a strong and respected role of clever women, and still be ladies ( like Catelyn, who is always listended and respected, Cersei who has a decisive politic position…)
    But their are noble and well born… the case of the women of the people, the prostitutes is more complicated. They are considerated as things and mistreated – sometimes I’ve been shocked and afflicted by some pictures, but maybe it’s just realistic… ?

    Reply
    • Rhiannon
      May 1, 2013 at 3:48 pm (448 days ago)

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love the complexity of the female characters in the series too… and how you can have characters like Arya and Brienne, who do break the traditional feminine mold, but also characters like Sansa, who appear weak and foolish at first, but have a lot of inner strength that comes out over the books.

      Reply
  60. Vivi
    May 12, 2013 at 8:18 pm (437 days ago)

    Absolutely second your post. This has annoyed me for so long!

    Reply
  61. Kim
    May 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm (434 days ago)

    I just discovered the site and I’m glad you posted this. I recall a comment I believe in Season 1 by Tyrion about how Sansa is surviving in King’s Landing, so I’m very interested in the relationship these two will forge and how she will develop out of it, since I like both characters (although I’m with you, Arya and Brienne are my favorites).

    Reply
  62. Sabrina
    May 19, 2013 at 7:36 pm (430 days ago)

    I couldn’t agree more! Both in the books and in the series, Sansa is probably my favorite female character. Even in the worst moments, she uses her smiles and nice words to survive in the most difficult place of Westeros: the royal court, in King’s Landing. Of course, Arya is great, she’s completely amazing and I still love her chapters. But Sansa is the one that most evolve, suffer more transformations, and always becoming better. Dany (who, I admit, I really hate since the first book, for no reason) changes to a khalessi, then to a queen, but lose her “raison d’être”, and her priorities. Brienne kinda act against her honor. Arya is the one who discover herself in a completely different place and situation, but are still lost, and (i think) being used.
    Ok, that’s all. Love you text.

    Reply
    • Rhiannon
      May 20, 2013 at 11:20 am (429 days ago)

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your thoughts! (And your English doesn’t suck at all) :)

      Reply
  63. Sabrina
    May 19, 2013 at 7:37 pm (430 days ago)

    Oh, and sorry ’bout the bad English, I suck at this language (I’m brazillian).

    Reply
  64. Samuel
    June 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm (412 days ago)

    I don’t dislike Sansa nor do I think her worse than any of the evil characters. I just would agree with one of the earlier posts that she makes decisions constantly that puts her in danger then whines about it when she finds herself stuck there. When she really should have told the truth to Robert about the attack which might have led him to take a more active role in training him to be a king, she chose to lie and when it came back to bite her in the ass she blamed Arya as much for the death of Lady as Arya blamed her for the death of her friend. Neither was correct in their blame but where Sansa wanted to blame Arya so she wouldn’t have to blame Joffrey.
    Sansa also betrays her family for someone who treats her like shit and threatens to rape and/or kill here several times. In the end when she realizes it she chooses to accept it and let events work themselves around her instead of taking an active role. In the end she shows herself to be not just annoying but weak. Which is not an assumption I come to based on gender but an observation of her character based on her actions. Again I do not hate her for it nor do I harbor any ill will towards her. I just consider her to be a rather weak character. I hope as much as anyone that she becomes stronger and takes a more active role in the story.

    Reply
    • Chocolatepot
      June 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm (412 days ago)

      The good news is: she does become stronger! You say she does these things “constantly”, but all your examples are from the first book.

      Stamina is strength. You say she’s passive and lets events happen around her – I say she uses her inner strength to endure and her intelligence not to put herself in more danger. It’s sad that much of fiction teaches us that the only way to be a strong character is to fling yourself about with a sword, but so it goes.

      Reply
  65. Ambaa
    June 23, 2013 at 12:33 pm (395 days ago)

    Thank you. Sansa is the character I most relate to. I’ve always been a super girly girl and reconciling that to modern life is challenging. Like her, when I was young I was taught to believe in righteous, good men who would protect and shelter me. I didn’t rebel from that. I believed in it with all my heart even when it bit me in the ass.

    Reply
  66. Alia
    November 21, 2013 at 10:04 pm (244 days ago)

    Thank you so so much for this great post, I have to say I could not agree more my husband will always tease me somewhat telling me that Sansa is stupid, etc. she believes anything etc. I’ve always felt she had some of the best qualities of both of her parents and has to be one of the strongest young female characters I’ve read; there were many times she could of chosen to end her life and yet she did not… even when she believed most of her family to be dead. She carried on it takes a survivor to go on when all it stacked against you and an even better character to still believe that good people can still exist. That is true courage to not become cynical, conniving and full of despair. I think that is one reason why I cannot have nothing but pity for Cersei as she chose her sex to try to control those around her and still hasn’t learned she has none and its her greatest weakness. Thank you for a great post I rarely ever comment on people essays.

    Reply
  67. Josh A
    March 3, 2014 at 5:01 pm (142 days ago)

    Thank you for such an intelligent analysis of Sansa. It’s really infuriating to see so much hatred thrown against Sansa for mistakes she did in the first book, and basically rationalizing that everything bad that happens to her later on is well deserved punishment for her mistakes. No one deserves to be beaten and terrorized for being “naïve”, “immature”, or “passive”. I find it very interesting that so many fans LOVE Jaime Lannister’s redemption arc, yet are completely unwilling to give Sansa the benefit of the doubt. It’s a reflection of the sexism and double standards against women that still exist in our society today. In my opinion, Jaime throwing Bran out a window is one of the most heinous acts of the entire series, certainly worse than anything that Sansa did during the first book (which we can all agree, that the first book includes her most objectionable actions), yet Jaime gets a pass for trying to kill a child, while Sansa is the most heinous character that ever lived and gets blamed for her father’s beheading, which is something that Sansa could have NEVER anticipated. In fact, she tried to save him, and would have succeeded if Joffrey wasn’t such an impulsive, blood-thirsty, moronic jackass. Ned’s beheading is not Sansa’s fault. Blaming Sansa for it, basically implies that Joffrey and Cersei are blameless for it, which is ridiculous. Sansa also gets vilified for her treatment of Tyrion. I like Tyrion but she doesn’t owe him anything. His family massacred her family. Yet Tyrion fans, expect Sansa to throw herself at him because he is fan favorite Tyrion Lannister who can do no wrong. Sorry, but Tyrion is far from perfect and he willfully serves his family’s interest even though he’s perfectly aware of the kind of people they are. As far as Sansa knows, he’s as untrustworthy as the other Lannisters. Why is it then, that Sansa is the only one that gets criticized for going along with the marriage when she is a political hostage?? Tyrion doesn’t want to marry her either, but he does it anyway, yet the fans never call him weak, passive or stupid?? Funny, how the double standards never really work in favor of female characters, but they always work to justify a male character’s behavior no matter how questionable it is.

    Reply
    • Jo
      March 20, 2014 at 2:06 am (126 days ago)

      …except it is largely feminists who do all that you complained about.

      Reply
  68. Wariya
    April 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm (106 days ago)

    I admire Sansan’s tolerance, but staying in Westeros that long, the character should have learned something by now. There are plenty ways to be moral but not submissive.

    Reply
  69. walter
    May 20, 2014 at 4:31 pm (64 days ago)

    I “hate” Sansa because she’s always a pawn in someone else’s game. She began making Lady Killed to protect the prince who was about to dismember her younger sister and making the butcher’s boy killed. Then they beheaded her father, and she was forced to marry Joffrey; then he chose Margerey, and she has been manipuleted to make her marry Loras. Then she’s been forced to marry Tyrion, then Joffrey died and she immediatly decides to trust ser Dontos who brings her away and now she’s a pawn in littlefinger’s game, forced to marry robin, ops no, forced to marry Lord Peter Bealish. Has this girl ever determined one only event in her miserable life if not with silence? maybe “she’ll survive us all” like Tyrion once said to her, but wtf

    Reply
    • Mirime
      May 23, 2014 at 9:41 am (61 days ago)

      Judging by your words, I think you never read the books, did you? Because the show minimized Sansa’s arc awfully compared to what it was in the books. I guess you are objecting to Sansa’s ‘lack of action’ if I’m understanding you correctly. The concept of passive resistance rings a bell? Sometimes you just gotta keep your head down and weather what’s happening around you. Sansa’s doing that and that is, in a way, more heroic and admirable than swinging a sword around.

      Reply
  70. Becca
    June 6, 2014 at 3:18 am (48 days ago)

    I love this post! I think that another reason people may dislike Sansa is the fact that she’s actually so realistic, and in many ways, she reflects our own notions of chivalry and knighthood right back at us. If ASOIAF is essentially a deconstruction of the medieval archetype, spitting back images of pointless violence, questions about blind honor, and scenarios in which the “bad guys” win, then we go through Sansa’s journey of having our childish ideals dissected in the most brutal ways.

    You know what they say: You dislike those most who remind you of yourself.

    Of course, Sansa is way braver, stronger, and cooler than I’ll ever be. I can’t wait to see where her arc takes her. Ideally she’ll become queen, everyone will love her, and she’ll marry Podrick. Because after everything she’s been though, she just needs to end up with a nice guy with a big dick…and an even bigger heart.

    Reply
  71. Kat
    July 7, 2014 at 6:10 am (17 days ago)

    Jesus fucking Christ, stop equating assertiveness with masculinity and submissiveness with femininity. You’re not doing feminism any good by calling Arya and Brienne ‘masculine’ – it just reinforces gender stereotypes that we should be trying to get rid of in the first place. Sure, Arya might have taken offence to the term ‘lady’ for the social role that it implies, but she REPEATEDLY corrects people who mistake her for a boy; she doesn’t aspire to be masculine, she’s naturally stubborn and independent and doesn’t give a damn about the fact that it’s not what is expected of her. The two sole reasons for her pretending to be male after she flees from King’s Landing are not being recognised by people who want to kidnap her and not getting raped by all the men she’s travelling around with.

    I hated Sansa in the first season for being a stuck up high-class brat and putting her own whims before ethics, which is by no means inherent to 12 year old girls (however naïve and childish I was at that age, I would never have treated my own siblings the way she treated Arya when the Joffrey and Nymeria thing happened, and I know countless women who can say the same). Afterwards, seeing how sorry she felt for the whole ordeal, how she realised the Lannisters were terrible and how awful her situation got, I really couldn’t hate her anymore. Right now I see her as a victim of a bunch of horrible people that abused her and a fucked up patriarchal society that made her submissive; she really can’t be faulted for being terrified, feeling helpless and not knowing how to act, and she does indeed show strength in putting up with all the horrific shit around her. It’s pretty much impossible to get angry at her if you have an iota of compassion in your brain.

    Sansa gets all my sympathy, but don’t call submissiveness and believing in fairy tales feminine. These expectations shouldn’t even exist for women at all.

    Reply
    • apricot
      July 7, 2014 at 10:36 am (16 days ago)

      I’m not sure why you’re taking the writer as making some grand gender essentialist statement. In our society and in Westeros, these traits are considered variously masculine and feminine. Pretending that pointing this out is setting feminism back is laughable.

      You clearly do feel for Sansa, and that’s why your own reasons for disliking her are not exactly relevant. There are people (many in this very comment section) who go “of course I don’t hate Sansa because she’s stereotypically girly! It’s because she’s such a brat and she never does anything!” when she is no longer at all bratty (though TBH I never found her very bratty in the first place). These are the people whose deeper motives are being speculated on in the article.

      If you have a problem with anyone, it ought to be with GRRM, who was very obviously setting the sisters up as masculine/feminine opposites. (Arya not wanting to be thought a boy has nothing to do with it at all.)

      Reply

8Pingbacks & Trackbacks on In Defense of Sansa Stark

  1. [...] recently read an interesting piece titled “In Defense of Sansa Stark” that viewed the character from a feminist perspective. The author argued that Sansa is so widely [...]

  2. [...] to the theoretical lens of the Stark family with this commentary from a feminist perspective: http://feministfiction.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/in-defense-of-sansa-stark/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in [...]

  3. [...] reblogged around the place. I’m sorry, FF. But the main reason for that’s because the subject was my least favourite ASOIAF character, Sansa Stark. (Less unfavourited now, [...]

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  5. [...] In Defense of Sansa Stark – artigo interessante e polêmico (a julgar pelo número e conteúdo dos comentários) em que a [...]

  6. [...] Even when she seemed to be a major character, she was reviled. Why? Well, mostly because she was the most typically feminine. Over at Feminist Fiction they write: [...]

  7. [...] likes her or not is a different story, I guess. Here's an interesting discussion of the character: In Defense of Sansa Stark | Feminist Fiction "With age came wisdom. Sometimes wisdom came with an ass kicking, too. And nothing could [...]

  8. [...] even begin to claim geek status: Even if you’ve never read A Song of Ice and Fire, this discussion on “strong female characters” is worth reading for its take on the way “girlie” behavior is so often seen as [...]

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