In contrast to the rather simplistic and unchangeable tradition that is Eddard Stark, Ser Jaime Lannister experiences several transformations throughout the series that repeatedly reinvent his character and his masculinity. Therefore, while Ned is a completely stationary character without any form of evolvement, Jaime is a highly dynamic and complex personality who continuously evolves in response to the events unfolding around him. George R.R Martin waited until the third instalment of his series, A Storm of Swords (2000), to provide Jaime with his own narrative point-of-view chapters. This choice deeply influences the reader’s opinion of him in the first two books and results in a drastic reevaluation of his character once his own thoughts and perceptions are made known in the third book and onwards.
The events of the first two books, A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, are mainly narrated from the viewpoints of the Stark family and especially Eddard Stark is notoriously hostile and distrustful of the entire Lannister family. Being introduced to Jaime Lannister from Ned’s viewpoint therefore results in a highly negative portrayal of Jaime. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Ned is immovable in his animosity towards any man who lacks honor and in his opinion, Jaime is one of those men. His distaste of ‘the Kingslayer’ influences every mention of Jaime in the first book. King Robert says, “Why should I mistrust him? He has done everything I have ever asked of him. His sword helped win the throne I sit on.” His sword helped taint the throne you sit on, Ned thought” (1-109). Since the reader becomes intimately acquainted with Ned in the first book, sympathizes with his struggles and recognizes him for an honorable and honest man, his hostility towards Jaime seems justified and the reader naturally sides with him against Jaime.
In addition to Ned’s enmity, Jaime performs some seemingly unjustifiable acts in the first book – he pushes young Bran Stark out of a tower window, aiming to kill him but permanently crippling him instead; and he orders the killing of all of Ned’s guardsmen in the streets of King’s Landing, just to teach Ned a lesson,
“Still… we wouldn’t want him to leave here entirely unchastened, so” –through the night and the rain, [Ned] glimpsed the white of Jaime’s smile– “kill his men.”
“No!” Ned Stark screamed, clawing for his sword. Jaime was already cantering off down the street…” (1-371).
Jaime’s cold smile and the fact that he does not take part in any of the fighting, but lets his men do it for him, reinforces the image of him as the coldhearted and detached villain. At the surface, Jaime seems to embody the ruthless, dominant and aggressive male, which according to Andrew Kimbrell is believed by many radical feminists to be the natural inclination of a man53. After Ned’s death, his hostile opinion of Jaime is preserved in his wife Catelyn. She acts as an extension of Ned after his death, vocalizing his views so clearly that he might as well still be alive.
Jaime seems to be the very embodiment of the hegemonic masculine ideal. His physical appearance is that of a tall, handsome and strong man “with flashing green eyes and a smile that cut like a knife […] This is what a king should look like, [Jon] thought to himself as the man passed” (1-48). Like a proper man with a strong masculinity in evidence, Jaime has a temper and is easily provoked into aggression, for instance after his brother Tyrion has been captured by Catelyn Stark:
“Your brother has been taken at my command, to answer for his crimes,” Ned Stark said. Littlefinger groaned in dismay. “My lords –“
Ser Jaime ripped his longsword from its sheath and urged his stallion forward. “Show me your steel, Lord Eddard. I’ll butcher you like Aerys if I must, but I’d sooner you died with a blade in your hand” (1-370).
Jaime and Ned are portrayed as two dominant males clashing in the streets to nurse their own feelings of slighted pride, while Littlefinger stands between, tries to mediate caution between these testosterone brutes and groans at their male stupidity, which solves nothing.
The warrior ideal of battle and victory is what Jaime Lannister lives for and he succeeds at it by being a brilliant fighter and army commander. Once the Starks and the Lannisters go into open conflict on the battlefield, Jaime is soon “covering himself with glory” (1-591) and this warrior-aspect of his character pervades many of his actions outside of combat as well. Whenever there is a threat of violence in the air is the time when Jaime feels most at ease, most in control of the situation, often acting with humor and mockery: “Lannister raised his head. “Lady Stark,” he said from his knees. Blood ran down one cheek from a gash across his scalp, but the pale light of dawn had put the glint of gold back in his hair. “I would offer you my sword, but I seem to have mislaid it” (1-676). The reason that he is able to act with such calm is that he is genuinely unafraid of dying – as long as it will happen while he has a sword in his hand. Jaime believes that dying in glorious combat would be the highest of honors, which makes him a reckless and fearsome warrior. Similarly to Ned Stark, Jaime encourages the demands of hegemonic masculinity upon men that they should be willing to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of honor, glory and the protection of the weak. In addition, the fact that Jaime is exceedingly comfortable with violence suggests the notion that it is a natural part of a man’s identity – that men have a natural affinity with violence, which seems a less deliberate idea to be expressed on George R.R. Martin’s part.
Growing up Jaime dreamed of becoming the kind of knight that others admired, one whose renown would go down in history after his accomplishments in battle. He is an active and energetic man and feels ill at ease at the royal court in King’s Landing, being much more comfortable on the road with his fellow soldiers. Similarly to Ned Stark, Jaime has no patience for the intrigue, manipulation and plays for power that are continuously happening around the royal court. In fact, he and Ned are similar on quite a few accounts, however unlikely they are to ever admit it. Jaime, too, has only disdain to offer men like Littlefinger who try to avoid physical fighting by using whatever deceitful and vile means are possible in order to succeed in their goals. But Jaime differs from Ned in that he is aware of the level of deceit that exists around any position of power. Unlike Ned, he is not naïve but understands the new societal circumstances emerging where friends and foes alike are likely to stab you in the back for an edge in the political game. And while Jaime grew up with the same ideals as Ned’s (of honor, honesty and the protection of the weak), as an adult he has come to realize that these ideals are rarely carried out by the realm’s elite families and leaders. As an adult he has accepted what is also Anthony Synnott’s conclusion: that one’s masculinity has to be proved to others in order to exist at all and ruthlessness is preferable to ‘soft’, ‘feminine’ emotions that might call his manhood into question54.
In a rare moment of truth (helped along by a flagon of wine), Jaime expresses his disillusionment at the pressure imposed upon honorable men,
“So many vows… They make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.” He took a healthy swallow of wine and closed his eyes for an instant, leaning his head back against the patch of niter on the wall” (2-720).
He acknowledges that the ideal he was taught to uphold as a boy is too big a challenge. It is impossible to satisfy everyone and impossibly wearying to try. Jaime is a knight of the Kingsguard, sworn to defend the king with his life – while his father is an excessively ambitious man who is constantly fighting to increase the power of their House, the Lannisters, even if that fight encourages him to work against the crown. From a young age, obeying your king and obeying your father has often meant opposing actions for Jaime, making him intimately acquainted with the mental struggles of honorable men and laying the foundation for his divergence from the traditional ideals of chivalry. In addition, this can also be said to symbolize men’s struggles to uphold the hegemonic ideal, because too much is asked of them.
Jaime’s finest hour as a young man, when his head was still filled with dreams of honor and greatness, was when King Aerys chose him as the newest member of his Kingsguard. Jaime was fifteen and the youngest ever to be chosen for that honorable station. But not long after, he comes to realize that Aerys only chose him to spite his father, Tywin Lannister. A knight of the Kingsguard remains so for life, relinquishing any claim to an inheritance; therefore Tywin is robbed of his heir and left with Jaime’s younger brother, Tyrion, a dwarf and huge disappointment to their ambitious father. “That was the first time that Jaime understood. It was not his skill with sword and lance that had won him his white cloak […] Even now, all these years later, the thought was bitter” (3.2-35). This knowledge shattered any joy that Jaime felt at his promotion, diminished his own role in achieving it. He was irrelevant in the matter, simply a political pawn, and this act of robbing him of his personal agency turned him onto a path of bitterness. It served as a harbinger of his future emasculation and suggests a complete role reversal of genders, as it is now the male who is used as a pawn and left with no agency of his own.
His appointment as a knight of the Kingsguard is further tainted as he slowly learns the true nature of the king he is sworn to protect. A king is expected to be the very best a man can be – righteous, great and driven by integrity and a force of justice – but the Mad King Aerys is cruel, vicious and corrupted by power, and his sanity gradually deteriorates. He finds satisfaction in torture and brutal murder, while Jaime’s vow forces him to stand aside and let the king do what he will,
“[…] Jaime and Jon Darry had stood at guard outside [the queen’s] bedchamber whilst the king took his pleasure. “You’re hurting me,” they had heard Rhaella cry through the oaken door. “You’re hurting me.” In some queer way, that had been worse than Lord Chelsted’s screaming. “We are sworn to protect her as well,” Jaime had finally been driven to say. “We are,” Darry allowed, “but not from him” (4-261).
When it seems that the woman, Brienne, is about to be raped by the men who have captured her and Jaime, he tells her to “go away inside” because it will be quicker that way and less brutal and he thinks to himself, “That was what he’d done, when the Starks had died before him, Lord Rickard cooking in his armor while his son Brandon strangled himself trying to save him” (3.1-418). Whenever Aerys performed his sickening murders, Jaime had stood by because he could do nothing else. His thoughts show us that he feels his experiences with Aerys were those of a mental rape, equally as damaging as a sexual assault would be. It was the deepest form of emotional violation as he stood there and watched, and tried to hold on to his own honor as brave men were murdered before his eyes.
When Aerys, consumed with paranoia and insane fears, orders the entire capitol city burned to the ground Jaime can stand by no longer and kills the king before he murders thousands of innocents. He regards this act as his finest hour – for all of ten minutes, until Ned Stark and other noble lords arrive to realize what he has done and damn him for an oathbreaker. Everyone agreed that Aerys had to die (if not Jaime, then Robert Baratheon or Ned Stark would have had to kill him after they rose in rebellion against him). But Jaime was a sworn member of the Kingsguard, his sole purpose since his appointment that of protecting the king’s life, laying down his own if needed – and therefore he lost all honor the day he went back on that vow. At the time of Aerys’ murder, society in Westeros seems to have still been ruled by the ideals of chivalry, honor and duty – Jaime’s act of killing Aerys was based on a modern and more practical way of thinking, one in which the end justified the means. Unfortunately for Jaime, society then was still ruled by a rigid upholding of the chivalric ideal and any reasonable arguments he may have uttered in his own defense were ignored.
His decision to kill the Mad King has shaped the rest of his life in incontrovertible ways, intermingling both his highest glory and his deepest shame. From that day on, Jaime is met by constant contempt and scorn from men who consider themselves honorable, “They called him the Lion of Lannister to his face and whispered “Kingslayer” behind his back” (1-48). But one of the core traits that define Jaime Lannister is defiance, something that has seeped into his very appearance – on his breastplate is sewn a golden lion “roaring its defiance” (1-48). He is a powerful and above all proud man. When met with constant ridicule and disgust by those who think of him has a lesser man, Jaime gives up trying to defend his actions against Aerys. Gradually he becomes the man they all think him to be: the Kingslayer. “Believe what you will, I’m past caring what people say of me” (2-718), he tells Catelyn Stark while a captive in Riverrun. If this reaction of Jaime’s is indicative of how men have reacted to the dogma of misandry for the past few decades, it seems to signify that the act of man-hating only manages to reinforce and, indeed, cultivate a negative behavior in men. Jaime’s conduct indicates that misandry breeds the very behavior that it condemns.
His Kingslayer-persona is the character introduced to the reader in the first two books. This persona is all that Ned Stark, his wife, and all the other people who deem themselves honorable believe Jaime to be: dishonest, treacherous, coldhearted, uncaring and selfish. This persona is all that radical feminists have portrayed men to be in general, according to Andrew Kimbrell55. When Catelyn calls him Kingslayer to his face, the lion lashes out:
“I don’t think I’ll fuck you after all, Littlefinger had you first, didn’t he? I never eat off another man’s trencher. Besides, you’re not half so lovely as my sister.” His smile cut. “I’ve never lain with any woman but Cersei. In my own way, I have been truer than your Ned ever was. Poor old dead Ned. So who has shit for honor now, I ask you? What was the name of that bastardhe fathered?” (2-722).
There is a harsh element of truth to his words, but the cruelty is pervasive and makes Catelyn’s disgust of him even deeper. When Jaime lays siege to Riverrun, the old knight Brynden ‘Blackfish’ Tully comes out to parley with him and their conversation is a clear example of how other men’s contempt provokes Jaime into defiantly giving them exactly what they want – playing into their hands, as it were, all in the name of concealing the hurt he feels at this treatment,
“The girl has been pardoned. No harm will come to her. You have my word on that.”
“Your word of honor?” Ser Brynden raised an eyebrow. “Do you even know what honor is?”
A horse. “I will swear any oath that you require.”
“Spare me, Kingslayer” (4-637).
Jaime swore a vow to Catelyn when she freed him from the dungeons to never harm a Stark or Tully again. But when the Blackfish throws insult after insult in Jaime’s face, his resolve to be honorable weakens and he thinks to himself, “He would need to storm the castle. Well, what’s one more broken vow to the Kingslayer? Just more shit in the bucket. Jaime resolved to be the first man on the battlements” (4-639). Just like that he slips into the Kingslayer-persona, giving up on redeeming himself. Everyone seems dead set on treating him like a villain, so why not give them what they want? It is easier and far less hurtful. Gradually, Jaime starts to believe everything that people say of him until the Kingslayer-persona is who he is. He embraces the villainy of the Kingslayer as a defense mechanism to not appear weak. As both Andrew Kimbrell and Anthony Synnott argue, emotional invulnerability is a central characteristic of hegemonic masculinity, the masculine ideal which the Kingslayer mostly succeeds at upholding. His humor in dangerous situations, his laziness and boredom all express indifference, as if he could not care less what happens to him or what people think of him: “You should be the Hand.” “Gods forbid,” a man’s voice replied lazily. “It’s not an honor I’d want. There’s far too much work involved” (1-77).
Once Jaime is provided with a narrative voice of his own, it soon becomes clear that the indifference is just an act; one that he has kept going even to himself for many years. “Jaime had decided that he would return Sansa, and the younger girl as well if she could be found. It was not like to win him back his lost honor, but the notion of keeping faith when they all expected betrayal amused him more than he could say” (3.1-287). He is unable to admit to himself that his decision to reunite Catelyn Stark with her daughters is an attempt to reclaim his honor; instead he convinces himself that it is just in the name of some private joke. This ‘amusement’ smacks of bitterness, though he is unable to recognize it as such. By the time Jaime’s chapters make an appearance in the third book, he has accepted wholeheartedly that he is a lost cause who will never regain his honor. It has become a usual practice of his to use his perceived dishonor as a defensive argument,
“Urswyck spread his hands. “What Timeon means to say is that the Brave Companions are no longer in the hire of House Lannister. We now serve Lord Bolton, and the King in the North.”
Jaime gave him a cold, contemptuous smile. “And men say I have shit for honor?” (3.1-293).
Jaime has learned to use his own perceived dishonor as a counterattack; something his brother Tyrion is very apt at doing and from whom he has mastered this tactic. Being a dwarf, Tyrion has been met by ridicule and scorn all his life and in the first book he tells the bastard, Jon Snow, of the harsh lesson life has taught him: “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you” (1-54). At one point, Jaime thinks back to his youth when one of the greatest knights of the realm, Ser Arthur Dayne, Sword of the Morning, slew an outlaw and robber called the Smiling Knight. The outlaw was a madman, cruel and vicious, and in Jaime’s mind his Kingslayer-persona has become the equivalent of the Smiling Knight, using humor and cruelty as a defense mechanism to hide the fact that he is not invulnerable to emotional hurt, “[He] had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but someplace along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead” (3.2-342).
Prior to his own narrative chapters, when he still embraces the Kingslayer-persona wholeheartedly, there are a few instances when cracks become visible in his emotional armor, signifying that he may not be as invulnerable as he seems. When Catelyn visits him in the dungeons of Riverrun, he asks her, “If there are gods, why is the world so full of pain and injustice?” She replies “Because of men like you” and he counters “There are no men like me. There’s only me” (2-715). Catelyn perceives his words as arrogance, as if he means to say that he is superior to other men – a cut above the rest, one of a kind, a warrior unique in his skill and bravery in battle: “There is nothing here but arrogance and pride [Catelyn thought], and the empty courage of a madman. I am wasting my breath with this one. If there was ever a spark of honor in him, it is long dead” (2-715). However, in hindsight Jaime’s words seem rather to express that he is not the man she believes him to be, that he has been misunderstood and only wishes not to be categorized as a villain because there is more to his personality than the cruelty and the lost honor. As she turns to leave, he calls her back and apologizes for his discourtesy – for once he seems vulnerable, wishing not to be left in the dark dungeon alone, yearning for company even if it is that of his enemy. This exchange between Jaime and Catelyn is symbolic of men in a postmodern society objecting to the image that radical feminists have been wont to impose upon them; that they are naturally inclined towards a coldhearted and arrogant behavior that is unavoidable.
After Catelyn receives news of the deaths of her youngest sons, Bran and Rickon, she disregards the orders of her son and king, Robb Stark, in a fit of motherly grief and sets Jaime free from the dungeons. With his freedom she hopes to buy the freedom of her two daughters in King’s Landing. But she does not trust him to hold to his word, so she sends him along in chains accompanied by the female knight, Lady Brienne of Tarth, whose mission it is to see Jaime safely to King’s Landing and then to return with Catelyn’s daughters. Brienne is a tall and strong woman who is clearly uncomfortable in her own body: “Out of armor, her body seemed ungainly, broad of hip and thick of limb, with hunched muscular shoulders but no bosom to speak of. And it was clear from every action that Brienne knew it, and suffered for it. She spoke only in answer, and seldom lifted her gaze from her food” (2-315). She is a highly capable sword fighter and has an intelligent mind. If she had been born a man, she would have upheld all the ideals of a hegemonic male in a chivalric age. Unfortunately for her, she is not a man and that fact has caused her to be ridiculed and mocked for her entire life. Needless to say, the Kingslayer sees her as an easy target for mockery as they commence their journey south to King’s Landing – however, meeting Brienne ultimately changes Jaime’s character in such drastic ways that he is virtually unrecognizable by the end of their journey.
The Kingslayer’s mockery of Brienne always refers to her sexuality, her lack of femininity and the challenge she poses to traditional gender roles,
“My name is Brienne,” she repeated, dogged as a hound.
“Lady Brienne?” She looked so uncomfortable that Jaime sensed a weakness. “Or would Ser Brienne be more to your taste?” He laughed. “No, I fear not. You can trick out a milk cow in crupper, crinet, and chamfron, and bard her all in silk, but that doesn’t mean you can ride her into battle” (3.1-21).
The Kingslayer is portrayed as a merciless predator who strikes as soon as he senses weakness. He amuses himself on the journey by imagining Brienne wearing Cersei’s silk dresses and repeatedly comparing her to a cow. He refuses to call her by her name and insists on calling her “wench” instead, and at first it is meant as a derogatory term. However, Brienne soon snaps back with well-known insults to his lack of honor and cruelty and for once, one senses an underlying layer of guilt in Jaime’s reactions:
“A man who would violate his own sister, murder his king, and fling an innocent child to his death deserves no other name.”
Innocent? The wretched boy was spying on us. All Jaime had wanted was an hour alone with Cersei” (3.1-21).
Jaime readily disregards Brienne’s insults about violating his sister and murdering his king – in his mind, the love between him and Cersei is the purest thing in his life and no violation; and murdering King Aerys was his finest deed. However, the mention of Bran and the way he pushed him out the tower window clearly makes Jaime uncomfortable. He starts justifying his action to himself, arguing internally how the boy was hardly innocent and how Jaime had been feeling jealous and lonely on the road without Cersei, as if to say that he was not in his right mind. But his self-defense sounds perilously close to guilt, showing the first real crack in his Kingslayer-armor. Jaime grew up with the ideals of chivalry and even now, as the Kingslayer, insulting and mocking a woman does not feel right to him. It is discourteous and somehow hearing the insults that he knows so well from a woman cuts him deeper than ever before. He does not have the same need to lash back and mend his pride when a woman is the one who shows contempt.
In truth, Brienne and Jaime are very similar characters. Both have raised almighty walls to hide their emotional vulnerability, unwilling to show weakness of any kind. Brienne does less well at acting indifferent to the ridicule and scorn, while Jaime has managed quite successfully at seeming invulnerable to the many insults by hiding behind his Kingslayer-persona. On the eve of battle when they first meet, Brienne says to Catelyn Stark, “You don’t feel so helpless when you fight. You have a sword and a horse, sometimes an axe. When you’re armored, it’s hard for anyone to hurt you” (2-589).
Soon an involuntary respect grows for Brienne as she shows strength, bravery and cleverness as they journey south, “Brienne considered [the crossroads] briefly, and then swung her horse onto the southern road. Jaime was pleasantly surprised; it was the same choice he would have made… Well, she may be ugly, but she’s not entirely stupid. Jaime gave her a grudging smile” (3.1-154). The land has been ravaged by war and they are surrounded by bands of outlaws and ‘soldiers’ who will switch allegiances twice a day if it earns them more riches – men who have been corrupted and consumed by the war, turned into vicious and bloodthirsty rapists and murderers while glorying in the gory violence. Brienne and Jaime’s common goal of getting him safely to King’s Landing creates a connection between them and gives them an incentive to cooperate with one another.
However, they are captured by the Brave Companions who soon threaten to rape Brienne and thereby awakening in Jaime a long forgotten urge to protect the female sex: “Ugly and stubborn though she might be, the wench deserved better than to be gang raped by such refuse as these” (3.1-292). He saves Brienne – for another night at least – with cleverness and earns a beating for it. They each try to protect the other from beatings and torture, deepening their feelings of sympathy and respect towards one another. In the end, however, there is nothing to stop the Brave Companions from proceeding to cut off Jaime’s sword hand at the wrist for no other reason than personal pleasure at bloodshed and seeing a man brought low, especially a nobleman such as Jaime.
This is the most pivotal turning point in Jaime’s development as a character. The loss of his sword hand symbolizes the end of his hegemonic masculinity, of his identity as a warrior and of his Kingslayer-persona. And since his entire identity is intimately tied to the warrior ideal and his physical fighting skill, this turning point results in a complete loss of self in the days following. “Urswyck leaned over and slapped him lazily across the face. The sheer casual insolence of it was worse than the blow itself. He does not fear me, Jaime realized, with a chill” (3.1-295). Fear has been a well-used part of Jaime’s defensive arsenal since he was old enough to pick up a sword. It is the reason men have whispered Kingslayer behind his back instead of spitting it in his face. Losing that aspect of his character terrifies him, for a Kingslayer without fear is nothing. “But Jaime’s walls were gone. They had taken his hand, they had taken his sword hand, and without it he was nothing. The other was no good to him. Since the time he could walk, his left arm had been his shield arm, no more. It was his right arm that made him a knight; his right arm that made him a man” (3.1-417). He is treated with constant ridicule and mockery, which shames and emasculates him more and more. He has never experienced anything of the like and the agony of this powerlessness feels much worse than the physical burn of his wound. He weeps at the unbearable pain and is taunted even more for his weakness. The Kingslayer-persona has been ripped away and left him with nothing and soon he is wishing for death to end his torment. This state of being that has been forced on him is an exaggerated symbol of what men in a postmodern society go through when they lose their jobs. The descriptions of how men feel who have been forced into unemployment are very similar to the emotions that Jaime goes through at the loss of his employment as a warrior and help to explain why some men who are forced into unemployment proceed to lose everything in their lives, become estranged from their families and end up living on the streets.
Brienne becomes his unlikely savior. The men make her clean up Jaime whenever he has been sick from the pain or soiled himself in the saddle and she does so gently. “His world shrunk to the throb of agony that was his phantom hand, and Brienne pressed against him. She’s warm, at least, he consoled himself” (3.1-415). After having his masculinity ripped from him it soothes him to be taken care of by a woman, even one such as she, because it is his manhood that needs mending more than his actual hand. And finally, she jars him back to life by calling him a coward for thinking of giving up:
“Jaime, what are you doing?”
“Dying,” he whispered back. […]
“Are you so craven?”
The word shocked him. He was Jaime Lannister, a knight of the Kingsguard, he was the Kingslayer. No man had ever called him craven. Other things they called him, yes; oathbreaker, liar, murderer. They said he was cruel, treacherous, reckless. But never craven. […] Craven, Jaime thought, as Brienne fought to stifle her moans. Can it be? They took my sword hand. Was that all I was, a sword hand? Gods be good, is it true? The wench had the right of it. He could not die” (3.1-416).
The defiance that made him create the Kingslayer-persona instead of succumbing to the contempt and disdain after killing Aerys makes an appearance again and convinces him to continue living. At first he attempts to hide his weakness,
“Is that a slight on the honor of my House?” Jaime picked up the cheese knife with his good hand. “A rounded point, and dull,” he said, sliding his thumb along the edge of the blade, “but it will go through your eye all the same.” Sweat beaded his brow. He could only hope he did not look as feeble as he felt.
Lord Bolton’s little smile paid another visit to his lips. “You speak boldly for a man who needs help to break his bread” (3.1-512).
Soon he realizes that his weakness is so obvious that he might as well give up trying to hide it. Slowly he recovers from his trauma and starts to act with humor again – but after the destruction of his inner Kingslayer, his sense of humor is no longer mocking towards others but rather self-deprecatory, “What is this woman to you?” “My protector.” Jaime had to laugh, no matter how it hurt” (3.1-425). His sense of humor is no longer a defense mechanism to hide weakness. He brings attention to it instead and thinks it ironic and comical that the brave knight should need protection from a woman. There is an element of bitterness involved as well, but he is no longer as adverse towards admitting weakness. This is one of the major differences that have followed in the wake of Jaime’s ‘emasculation’. He confides in Brienne, admitting to feeling doubt, fear and pain at being branded as an oathbreaker. He admits how deeply the prejudice against him hurts and almost admits to Brienne and to himself how he wishes above all to reclaim his lost honor, to redeem himself in the eyes of the world. This process of finally admitting weakness is not an easy one. At first Jaime tries to make excuses for his trust in Brienne, a trust solely based on the fact that she is an honorable person – excuses like thinking he must still be feverish, lightheaded and not himself. After having bared his soul to her, Jaime is in a highly vulnerable position as she does not speak for a long time, “Has my tale turned you speechless? Come, curse me or kiss me or call me a liar. Something” (3.1-507). The silence is insufferable and so is her passivity. He needs a reaction from her in order to gauge if it was a mistake telling her. But he gradually realizes that his trust in her is not a weakness; it is a restored belief in the chivalric ideals that he thought had died within him long ago. After a while he no longer thinks of it as being naïve… He simply has faith.
Before being captured by the Brave Companions, Jaime manages to get hold of a sword and though still chained, he and Brienne fight each other at the river’s edge. Jaime has seen her stand up to outlaws and is eager to pit his own strength against hers. The ensuing struggle is described in distinctly sexual tones,
“The swords kissed and sprang apart and kissed again […] He pinned her against an oak, cursed as she slipped away, followed her through a shallow brook half-choked with fallen leaves. Steel rang, steel sang, steel screamed and sparked and scraped, and the woman started grunting like a sow at every crash […] They rolled, kicking and punching until finally she was sitting astride him” (3.1-289/90/91).
When the outlaws find them struggling, Jaime thinks to himself, “She looks as if they caught us fucking instead of fighting” (3.1-291) with her clothes all askew and her face red with embarrassment. At first Jaime thinks of Brienne more as a man than a woman, which makes it easier for him to come to terms with the respect that he is starting to feel for her. Thinking of her as a fellow soldier is less discomforting than admitting that she is a woman. In this way do the boundaries between masculine and feminine merge where Brienne is concerned. Although he would never think to find her physically attractive, big and mannish as she is, she is nonetheless the object of his awakening sexuality after losing his hand, “Jamie caught a glimpse of the thick blonde bush at the juncture of her thighs as she climbed out. She was much hairier than his sister. Absurdly, he felt his cock stir beneath the bathwater” (3.1-504). Brienne therefore not only helps him regain some of his old strength and defiance, but his sexuality as well. The fact that she is the only woman to ever see his true vulnerability, learn his innermost secrets and not judge him for what she found, has made him capable of recognizing the real beauty of her character. The attraction is therefore a much deeper and stronger emotion than a purely physical one – and while Jaime would never describe his relationship with Cersei as purely physical, he has never let his twin sister see the depths of his soul the way he lets Brienne see. After acknowledging this fact, Jaime is suddenly capable of recognizing some of Brienne’s physical beauty, “Blue is a good color on you, my lady,” Jaime observed. “It goes well with your eyes.” She does have astonishing eyes. Brienne glanced down at herself, flustered” (3.2-432). Previously Jaime has been unable to recognize these flashes of true beauty in the tall and awkward woman.
Early in their relationship, after Jaime has been released by the Brave Companions to return to King’s Landing for a ransom, he has a prophetic dream that takes place at his childhood home of Casterly Rock. “The Rock” (3.2-39) weighs down on him with the expectations of his father as he is forced to descend into the underbelly of the dungeons. He panics, terrified of facing the guilt and demons of his past that he knows await him in the caves down below, and wishes he had a sword so he could fight his way out even though he knows a sword cannot help him destroy his inner turmoil. Cersei appears with a torch only to turn away and abandon him in the dark, but suddenly Brienne appears with two swords and they slay the shadows of his demons together. The message of the dream is clear: Brienne is the one to help him recover from his past – and while this message remains obscure to his waking psyche, when he wakes the next day inexplicably he decides to return to the Brave Companions and save Brienne who is still a captive. He jumps into a bear pit to save her, exhibiting true heroism as he saves the damsel in distress and reconnects with the hero inside that has been constrained and suppressed by his Kingslayer-persona who only ever acted bravely for the sake of his own interest. He does not recognize the significance of the fact that he only found true bravery after losing his ability to fight. As they are riding away, Brienne asks him, “… you were well away. Why come back?” A dozen quips came to mind, each crueler than the one before, but Jaime only shrugged. “I dreamed of you,” he said” (3.2-49). Henceforth, Jaime is unwilling to accept the insults and ridicule that she grew up with, for example from a man she was supposed to wed as a young girl,
“She was a sow in silk, though most sows have bigger teats […].” Connington glanced into the pit. “The bear was less hairy than that freak, I’ll –“
Jaime’s golden hand cracked him across the mouth so hard the other knight went stumbling down the steps […] “You are speaking of a highborn lady, ser. Call her by her name. Call her Brienne” (4-459/60).
His temper is fierce, his anger swift and spontaneous. In this moment he is less than rational as he acts instinctively to defend a woman he respects and admires (– maybe even loves? That remains to be seen until the series has been concluded). As the narrative develops, it becomes clear that Brienne has a positive effect on Jaime, and that her influence stays in effect later when circumstances separate them from one another.
When he and Brienne finally return to King’s Landing they are met by the news that Catelyn and Robb Stark are dead and therefore Catelyn’s daughters cannot be returned to her. Brienne idolizes the virtues of chivalry above all and losing this quest results in a loss not so very different from Jaime’s, although in a milder form. Jaime thinks to himself, “Since that day Brienne had been like one half-dead. Even calling her “wench” failed to provoke any response. The strength is gone from her” (3.2-272). By now Jaime’s use of the word “wench” has become affectionate rather than mocking, taking on a completely different meaning than at first. Jaime is worried about this woman who has become the most unlikely of friends, so he decides to send her on a new quest. He realizes that an honorable cause to fight for is bread and butter for Brienne. She needs purpose, so he provides it for her: He sends her out to retrieve Sansa Stark who has disappeared from King’s Landing and make sure she makes it back to her next of kin (Arya Stark is believed dead). He gives her a Valyrian greatsword to help on her quest, one his father gave to him upon his return, and asks her to name it Oathkeeper. “Her big hand wrapped tight around Oathkeeper. “I will. And I will find the girl and keep her safe. For her lady mother’s sake. And for yours” (3.2-435). Her response to him expresses that Catelyn Stark is no longer the only person she fights for; Jaime has earned her respect above all and he is worthy of her fealty as well. Her faith in him enables him to hope for a regaining of his lost honor. He replies brusquely, clearly uncomfortable and finding it difficult to react to gratitude and respect, being as unused to it as he is – which testifies to the defensive walls he has surrounded himself with and his lingering discomfort with ‘soft’ emotions like gratitude and compassion.
His appointment as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard signifies a new beginning for Jaime and he determines to fight for honor henceforth, to do his duty to the new king (his own son, Tommen) and to no longer be coerced by his father into putting family before crown, because he has come to regard that as dishonorable behavior. “Ser Gerold Hightower had begun his history, and Ser Barristan Selmy had continued it, but the rest Jaime Lannister would need to write for himself. He could write whatever he chose, henceforth. Whatever he chose…” (3.2-436).
However, starting a new and honorable way of life is not a simple matter. Jaime is still met by contempt wherever he goes and it becomes clear that his personal reputation relies on the actions of his family as well as his own. The power of association is strong. Even after his father’s death, his past actions have the ability to tarnish Jaime’s own reputation. He is judged from a generalized perspective and simply assumed to be as vile and treacherous as others of his family as if he had a personal hand in all the wrongs ever committed by a Lannister or a Lannister ally,
“This defiance serves no purpose, ser. The war is done, and your Young Wolf is dead.”
“Murdered in breach of all the sacred laws of hospitality.”
“Frey’s work, not mine.”
“Call it what you will. It stinks of Tywin Lannister.”
Jaime could not deny that. “My father is dead as well” (4-637).
As Jaime returns to King’s Landing his father and Cersei, who have not been present to experience the transformation he has undergone, are expecting to see the Kingslayer-persona return to King’s Landing. Conflict arises as all three characters realize that each of their ambitions and ideals have changed in a fundamental way. Jaime’s movement away from his family pervades the very phrasing of his narrative, “In his white cloak and white scale armor, Jaime felt out of place amongst that river of red” (4-255). Even though Jaime has been met by repulsion and disgust by those hinting at his incestuous relationship with Cersei, he has always felt that the love he bears for his twin is the purest and best thing about him. His very first sentence in his very first narrative chapter expresses the importance Cersei holds for him, “An east wind blew through his tangled hair, as soft and fragrant as Cersei’s fingers” (3.1-18). Their connection is a deep and visceral thing that has existed for both of them since birth. “Even in the womb” (3.1-286) he loved her, Jaime thinks to himself. However, their new relationship is soon defined by bitterness and contempt. Jaime claims Cersei’s body as soon as they meet again, in the sept beside the body of their dead son Joffrey – his action shows a desperate need to reclaim his manhood in the most primitive and carnal of ways. And while this love has always been a very emotional and relentless compulsion on his part, Cersei has become increasingly corrupted by power over the years as she has lived as queen in King’s Landing, and her love for Jaime is increasingly called into question. While Jaime has never lain with another woman because that would violate their pure love, Cersei feels free to use her sexuality as a tool for achieving her political goals while he is away. Traditional gender roles of hegemony are therefore reversed as Cersei coldly uses sex for her own aims and Jaime cherishes the intimacy whenever they are together.
Jaime gradually realizes that he has not lost his masculinity – rather he is moving towards a new form of masculinity, one that is honorable and emotional and unafraid of showing vulnerability. After his father’s death, his aunt surprises him by saying “… but Tyrion is Tywin’s son, not you. I said so once to your father’s face, and he would not speak to me for half a year” (4-568). Although Jaime has the appearance of a Lannister, tall and strong and golden-haired, he does not have his father’s propensity for ruthlessness or cruelty. Tyrion may not have been provided with the long legs of a proper man, but his mind has the capacity of coming up with the most nefarious and cunning ploys just like his father. Jaime’s true nature, on the other hand, is more inclined towards compassion and protectiveness, a part of his nature that has been denied ever since he became embittered to the brutality of his father’s politics.
Cersei, however, starts to feel nothing but contempt for him; she prefers his Kingslayer-persona and hegemonic ideal, cruel as it was,
“All I want is you.” He made to touch her cheek. Old habits die hard, and it was his right arm he lifted.
Cersei recoiled from his stump. “Don’t… don’t talk like this. You’re scaring me, Jaime. Don’t be stupid. One wrong word and you’ll cost us everything. What did they do to you?”
“They cut off my hand.”
“No, it’s more, you’re changed” (3.2-279).
Cersei’s increasing revulsion for Jaime’s stump symbolizes her increasing revulsion for the ‘soft’ man he is becoming. She wants to restore the ruthlessness and the strength of the Kingslayer, a persona that compliments her own cruelty and ruthlessness, but Jaime starts acting with increasing compassion and emotion, “I crossed a thousand leagues to come to you, and lost the best part of me along the way. Don’t tell me to leave.” “Leave me,” she repeated, turning away” (3.2-279). For the first time in his life, Jaime starts to recognize the manipulative aspect of Cersei’s nature. Her main focus has become to maintain her own level of power, while she sees enemies everywhere and orders assassination after assassination with ease, willing to kill every last person in the world who might be a threat to her position. Jaime starts to compare her to the Mad King in his mind, recognizing the signs of corruption and paranoia. Similarly to Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon’s relationship, Jaime attempts to be Cersei’s voice of reason, tempering her rage with words of caution and patience (Cersei also starts drinking like Robert did, hinting at an inner turmoil that she cannot express another way). By now, Jaime has completely discarded the Kingslayer-persona who was known for his recklessness and impatience, signifying that his true nature is nothing like that façade he created in the past. Looking to the past now, he recognizes the madness that was his love for Cersei, “As I was fucking her, Cersei cried, “I want.” I thought that she meant me, but it was the Stark girl she wanted, maimed or dead.” The things I do for love. “It was only by chance that Stark’s own men found the girl before me. If I had come on her first…” (4-517). All Jaime ever did was for love and he would have done anything for the object of his affection, suggesting that he is at his core an infinitely emotional person – an aspect of his character that has been suppressed, denied and destroyed for years as he lived up to Cersei’s (and society’s) ideal of a man, performing the most vile acts to please her.
When Cersei’s vindictive power plays backfire and she is threatened with execution, she summons Jaime, pleading for his help. It is a point of no return for Jaime when he decides to ignore her summons and leave her to her fate. He has abandoned the Kingslayer-persona completely, one that Cersei is intimately connected to and which he has come to realize is toxic for him. It was never who he really was and from this point on he can never turn back.
As he settles into his new role as Lord Commander, he does so with a deep sense of humility, something the Kingslayer-persona never would have admitted to. He feels unworthy to be counted among the renowned and honorable knights who came before him, “How could the Kingslayer belong in such exalted company?” (3.2-339). Jaime was taught by his predecessors that “All knights must bleed, Jaime,” Ser Arthur Dayne had said […] “Blood is the seal of our devotion” (4-139). This lesson supports Anthony Synnott’s assessment that self-sacrifice is a central element to that of being a knight (or man). If he does not bleed, he is not a true knight; he is not a true man. The position of Lord Commander of the Kingsguard is all he ever strived for, and yet now that he has achieved it, his own sense of guilt and lack of confidence make him feel as if he is tainting this noble office. That he did not earn it. But as he encounters the same scorn and contempt from the new knights of the Kingsguard that have been chosen by Cersei, his natural defiance lashes out. The man he has become refuses to be judged by men who from his perspective have even less honor than he – they were ready to obey their previous king, Joffrey, without qualms as he ordered them to beat his betrothed, Sansa Stark, for his own twisted pleasure. Jaime refuses to show weakness in front of his new ‘brothers’, judging that it would be lethal to do so. He feigns the capability of fighting with his left hand, uses threats and cutting remarks to make them all submit to his authority – all the while praying that they not find out exactly how vulnerable he is: “Though fat, aging, and never more than ordinary, Ser Boros could still have hacked him into bloody pieces. But Boros does not know that, and neither must the rest. They feared the man I was; the man I am they’d pity” (3.2-345).
Jaime’s first attempt at knowingly reclaiming his honor is when he frees Tyrion from the dungeons of King’s Landing after the dwarf lost his trial for the murder of Jaime’s son and king, Joffrey, and is to be executed,
“You’ll have to help me with my last words, my wits have been running about like a rat in a root cellar.”
“You won’t need last words. I’m rescuing you.” Jaime’s voice was strangely solemn” (3.2-489).
Tyrion notices the change in his brother who has always behaved with a detached sense of humor, even in the most dire of circumstances. Jaime has been gripped by the same heroism that made him jump into a bear pit, one-handed and without a weapon, to save Brienne. While leading Tyrion to freedom he resolves to be completely honest for once. He confesses to a long-hidden truth kept from Tyrion by Jaime and their father; that the woman Tyrion fell in love with as a young man in fact was not merely a hired whore as he had been told by Jaime to put an end to the relationship. Tywin manipulated Jaime into thinking that the lie was in Tyrion’s best interest, but their father’s cruelty tainted the whole experience and when Tyrion learns the truth he lashes out at Jaime with fierce rage and hatred,
“You poor stupid blind crippled fool. Must I spell every little thing out for you? Very well. Cersei is a lying whore, she’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy, for all I know. And I am the monster they all say I am. Yes, I killed your vile son.” [Tyrion] made himself grin. It must have been a hideous sight to see, there in the torchlit gloom. Jaime turned without a word and walked away” (3.2-492).
Tyrion proceeds to murder their father in an impulsive act of vengeance before fleeing King’s Landing. His violent reaction puts an irrevocable blemish on Jaime’s grand act of heroism and destroys any pride he might have felt at saving his brother’s life. Up until this moment he felt liberated and hopeful for a future bright with honorable intentions – and with one fell act out of grief and rage, Tyrion rips all the positive away from him. Tyrion is unaware of the deep impact his words and actions have on Jaime’s character; but despite what others think, Jaime is not a strong man emotionally. He is haunted by his old demons and without Brienne present in the city to help him overcome them, slowly but gradually Jaime slips back into the Kingslayer-persona. It is history repeating itself, as he has now lost once more the fragile conviction that he has a chance to reclaim his lost honor.
“Edmure raised his hands from the tub and watched the water run between his fingers. “And if I will not yield?”
Must you make me say the words? Pia was standing by the flap of the tent with her arms full of clothes. His squires were listening as well, and the singer. Let them hear, Jaime thought. Let the world hear. It makes no matter. He forced himself to smile” (4-648).
His worthless reputation has become the object of his own intense loathing. He hates the Kingslayer-persona by now and the things it enables him to do. Everyone will always believe the worst of him and while he tries to feel indifferent and defiant as he did before, he is now defined by a deep sense of bitterness. Without Brienne near to remind him of the good in him and the valorization of chivalric ideals, he succumbs to feelings of hopelessness and bitterness instead.
But in Brienne’s absence, he finds solace in another unlikely companion. Ser Ilyn Payne, the royal executioner, had his tongue cut out by the Mad King many years ago when he dared speak against him and since then his silence has inspired terror and fear in all who meet him. Jaime, however, finds it liberating confiding in this man who is physically unable to pass on his secrets to others. Payne has had his own sort of crisis to deal with as he lost all ability to communicate with others (his very name seems symbolic of the trauma he has had to overcome) and these two broken men find a common cause in training Jaime’s left-hand sword fighting. Their training is a source of both hope and devastating failure for Jaime as he attempts to reconnect with his old strength, and Ser Ilyn is a vault in which he can pour all his secrets, doubts, hidden wounds and hopes for the future.
In King’s Landing, Jaime’s father had a golden hand crafted for him to hide the stump and remind people of his continued power and wealth simply from being a member of the Lannister family. But Jaime comes to regard this golden hand as a corrupt and dishonest object, often connected to his feelings of bitterness and confusion for Cersei,
“The golden hand was the occasion for much admiring comment over supper, at least until Jaime knocked over a goblet of wine. Then his temper got the best of him. “If you admire the bloody thing so much, lop off your own sword hand and you can have it,” he told Flement Brax” (4-446).
He dislikes the dishonesty the hand symbolizes, since it conveys that he is as strong as ever – he thinks of it as “a golden lie” (4-442). As Jaime takes to the road with Ser Ilyn and a band of soldiers to set the war-ravaged land to rights, he removes the fake hand and refrains from wearing it. This is an act of revitalization for Jaime. Leaving the nest of vipers that is King’s Landing and his sister behind lets him breathe freely again and his dedication to honor and honesty slowly returns. The small acts of justice and chivalry he performs hereafter help to mend his torn and fragmented soul. As he orders the hanging of a band of rapists and outlaws (men similar to the Brave Companions who cut off his hand), he thinks to himself, “It felt good. This was justice. Make a habit of it, Lannister, and one day men might call you Goldenhand after all. Goldenhand the Just” (4-450).
Brienne’s influence on his character again takes effect and enables him to act honorably in several situations. He saves the girl, Pia, from rape and later encourages his squire to initiate an innocently romantic relationship with her simply because it would make them both happy. “He could make her a washerwoman, he supposed. His squires did not mind raising his tent, grooming his horse, or cleaning his armor, but the task of caring for his clothes struck them as unmanly” (4-455). The phrasing suggests that Jaime fails to see the logic in the squires’ thinking, which in turn suggests that Jaime’s perception of masculinity has changed. After suffering such a tremendous slight to his own masculinity, he regards these small issues as inconsequential. He continues to act chivalrously on the road: he orders his soldiers to eat their own provisions instead of straining the resources of peasants who are already hard-pressed to survive; he stops some of his Lannister allies from mentally tormenting Ser Edmure Tully (Catelyn Stark’s brother) while he is their captive because he feels pity for the man, and instead he treats Edmure with the respect owed his station; he treats Robb Stark’s widow with courtesy and gentleness, protecting her from her own mother’s harsh treatment; and he acts with courtesy and honor towards Lord Blackwood who yields his castle to him after a long siege. He declines Blackwood’s offer of supper, thinking to himself, “The castle was starving; no good would be served by Jaime stealing food from their mouths” (5.2-122). It is Brienne’s influence that has now made Jaime a champion of good. It is said that the true nature of a gentleman lies in the manner in which he treats his enemies – Jaime’s kind behavior is a testament to how far he has distanced himself from the Kingslayer-persona and the cruel nature of the hegemonic masculine ideal.
As Jaime tells his son and young king, “The world is full of horrors, Tommen. You can fight them, or laugh at them, or look without seeing… go away inside” (4-143). These are the options Jaime’s life has been defined by. During the reign of the Mad King, Jaime hid himself away inside and sheltered his own sanity by thinking of Cersei whenever Aerys struck at innocents with his sadistic tendencies. As Kingslayer he learned to laugh off the pain and raise a wall of indifference to hide his own vulnerability. Yet losing his sword hand has become the best thing that ever happened to him because once freed from the restraining bonds of a hegemonic ideal, he has now found, hidden deep within himself, the courage to fight the horrors of his past and move towards a sense of self that is true to his nature.