One of the main things that make a good story is its characters. A reader sympathizes and often associates with the characters of a book. As well as well-developed characters may improve the story, the primitive ones may destroy it. The characters of George Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire are the examples of those which make the interesting story better. In order to show a realistic, sympathetic, and interesting characters, George Martin made them complex and controversial personalities as well as he put them in difficult situations that inevitably changed them.
Firstly, to make a character realistic, a writer has to make him or her round, which means that like every human being, the character has to be controversial. If a character is ultimately good or evil, he or she will not be interesting for the audience, and this character will be characterized as flat. Since the 20th century, round characters became popular, which is easy to observe on the example of the genre of western. The classic hero, which was usually a character of John Wayne, became too worn-out, and the character of Clint Eastwood from the Dollar Trilogy shocked and fascinated the audience with cynicism and moral ambiguity. This controversy made the character of Eastwood more believable and realistic. In the same way, George Martin created his characters in The Song of Ice and Fire. The characters of the series of books appear to be not the marionettes that do what the author wants them to, but they are real people with own interests, different values, and personal understanding of what is good and what is evil. One of the vivid examples of the round characters of The Song of Ice and Fire is Jaime Lannister. On the one hand, he is a villain who killed his king, slept with his sister, and threw an innocent boy, who was an accidental witness of the incest, out of the window, but on the other one, the king was a madman who wanted to burn the whole city with thousands of people, his sister is the only woman he ever loved, and their love appears to be pure (Martin). Thus, the example of Jaime Lannister show that there is no black and white truth, and evaluation of each situation depends on the point of view.
Secondly, the changing opinion of the viewer towards the character is made by Martin by telling the story from different perspectives. The author used the third person limited technique that presumes the narration from the point of view of the character instead of the all-knowing author. Along with the knowledge of the character-narrator, such character tells the reader his or her opinion about the events and attitude towards the other characters, which is often based on the rumors and unreliable information. What is more, the number of the character-narrators is 31, which means that every one of them influenced the reader’s opinion in their own way. Furthermore, unlike most of the literary works, in The Song of Ice and Fire even main characters die, and they do it frequently and unexpectedly. Thus, the character takes a lot of attention of the reader to be understood and sympathized, and at the moment when a reader starts liking the character, he or she may accidentally die.
Finally, the characters of The Song of Ice and Fire are dynamic, which means that they develop with the flow of time. The thing is that the author puts his characters in challenging situations, which reveal their true nature. Moreover, these challenges influence characters so that they change inevitably. One of the most vivid examples of the character development is the story of Jaime Lannister. Jaime was captured by the outlaws who chopped off his right hand (Martin). Being a knight, Jaime held a sword with his right hand, and without it, in order to win his enemies, Jaime had to win the battles without fencing but with the power of his mind (Martin). Before the captivation, the reader hates Jaime Lannister, but after it, Jaime reveals the truth about killing the mad king, and it appears that he broke his oath to defend the liege in order to save thousands of lives (Martin). Thus, he became a noble character for a reader who also sympathizes his because of his wound. In other words, the character of Jaime Lannister evolved from a villain in a true hero.
To sum up, a well-developed character has to be round and dynamic. However, George Martin adds two more features to make his characters interesting. Firstly, his characters are mortal, and they can die literally at any moment of the story, which makes the reader worry about their lives. Secondly, The Song of Ice and Fire is written in third person limited, a method that perfectly balances between the inner world of a character and the description of the events. Without even one of these four constituents, the work by Martin would be uninteresting for the readers, and the popularity of the book series would be far less.
Martin, George R. R. Game Of Thrones, Bk. 1. Bantam, 1999.
Martin, George R. R. A Storm Of Swords. Random House Publishing Group, 2011.