Tywin & misogyny
‘He has been a great man. I shall be greater, though. A thousand years from now, when the maesters write about this time, you shall be remembered only as Queen Cersei’s sire.’
We meet Cersei after the death of Tywin, which has catapulted her into a key point of perceived freedom, which rather than bringing peace, really works to bring forward her PTSD and narcissistic delusion of power and grandeur. Cersei does not love or grieve her father, who has controlled and manipulated her for his own gain. She does, however- as do her brothers- compare herself to his legacy, and value pleasing him or living up to his memory:
‘No, that cannot be. That is not the way a lion dies. The Queen felt strangely calm. Now there is a hole in the world where father stood, and holes need filling.’
‘There will be no more talk of forcing me to wed again. Casterly rock was hers now, and all the power of House Lannister. No one would ever disregard her again.’
Cersei experiences a great deal of internalised misogyny, based on her upbringing as a pawn for Tywin whilst watching him revere Jaime (at least, treat him with as much respect as Tywin was capable of). This has led to her frequently rejecting femininity, viewing strength and success as masculine: ‘Cersei did not weep, no more than her father would have. I am the only true son he ever had.’
Cersei has experienced admiration and praise for the traditional value of this time- being beautiful:
‘Men had been looking at her that way since her breasts began to bud. Because I was so beautiful, they said, but Jaime was beautiful as well, and they never looked at him that way. She was startled by how differently men treated her when they thought she was Jaime. Even Lord Tywin himself.’
She has been taught to be beautiful, to be graceful, to be a lady, and yet has been used as a pawn for these qualities. She has been a ghost in relation to her interactions with men and has internalised this as being her problem for being female, rather than the fault of a misogynist world. Cersei will often distance herself from gender, referring to herself as the ‘real man’ in her family, and often belittling women or being sexist. Cersei’s attitudes and actions parallel Tywin’s, as she starts to think and the feel similarly to he who has hurt and shaped her. It’s difficult to get into Cersei’s psyche a lot of the time, but I believe this is her main reason for choosing to be with Jaime. He saw more of her than anyone else and truly loved her, helping Cersei to feel better about herself. Their relationship also allowed Cersei to defy her fate and lack of a choice as a woman; she chose who would have her children and who to love.
How Cersei and Jaime dealt with Tywin’s death really put distance between them and highlighted their differences. I believe that it signalled freedom- and guilt- for Jaime but brought up some of Cersei’s unconscious guilt for being in an incestual relationship. This is paired with Cersei’s extreme stress regarding the prophecy, and her fear that Tywin and Jaime can no longer protect her from Tyrion. Jaime’s chapters frequently reference Cersei- he is obsessed- but her obsession is Tyrion and the fate she believes will unfold:
‘He is in the walls. He killed father as he killed mother, as he killed Joff.’
I want to come back to this belief that Tyrion ‘killed’ his mother and the impact of this on his psyche when I get to his chapters. For now, I’ll focus on Jaime, and Cersei’s belief that she is the smart one, the thinker, whilst he is more impulsive. We see stark examples evidencing the opposite- Cersei had an affair with her cousin, she shouts at and acts out her council, makes rash decisions. This is heightened by her drinking and paranoia: ‘Their father had been as relentless and implacable as a glacier, where Cersei was all wildfire, especially when thwarted.’ (Jaime).
Cersei also frequently underestimates her rivals, despite her mistrust of everyone. She will disregard or refuse to hear council regarding the North or Daenerys. Instead, she believes or convinces herself that she has won- she, not Tommen- and is loved and admired as Queen. This makes the blows to self-esteem more crushing when she experiences misogyny or is reminded of the value Tywin placed on her, one instance being Kevan asking her to remove herself from court:
‘I am the regent’, she reminded him. ‘You were, Tywin did not intend that you continue that role.’ ‘You are not your father. And Tywin always regarded Jaime as his rightful heir.’
Relationship with Robert and Cersei’s ruling
‘Cersei did not mean to give it up until Tommen came of age. I waited, so can he. I waited half my life. She had played the dutiful daughter, the blushing bride, the pliant wife. She had suffered Robert’s drunken groping, Jaime’s jealousy, Renly’s mockery, Varys with his titters, Stannis endlessly grinding his teeth.’
Cersei is, as all good characters, extremely layered and morally grey. I absolutely do not dispute that she has layers of evil, and I find her extremely unlikable. Her chapters make difficult reading as we are really engulfed in the mind of a narcissist (in my opinion), and the constant paranoia, isolation, pride and grandiosity that it brings.
Cersei has experienced the loss of her mother, a bullying father, the prophecy, and loss of her child, so I feel that it’s interesting that Cersei as a character is so hated amongst readers whilst Jaime is often a favourite. It’s completely understandable that he is more likeable due to his redemption arc, however, I feel that GRRM wrote in a way to make us less sympathetic towards Cersei despite her having similar experiences to Jaime with her own trauma added on. I feel that this was written as a commentary on feminism, and the ways that readers can be more accepting of a man’s actions. It also reflects how Cersei has always been treated as lesser than Jaime as a result of her gender, which has undoubtedly contributed to her actions and beliefs.
Cersei also dealt with the forced marriage to Robert in which she was humiliated, ignored, and assaulted. He was an abusive alcoholic, hurting her at night then denying it or gaslighting Cersei during the day. Her marriage to Robert signified the end of her dreams and idealism. Please see below prophecy paragraph for Sansa parallels!
‘The wrong man came back from the trident. She would close her eyes and pretend her was Rhaegar.’
These experiences have shaped Cersei into someone who cannot trust, and who has never felt safe. As she has with Tywin, Cersei is beginning to mirror Robert and some of his characteristics that she herself hated. She is becoming reliant on alcohol, which leads to her impulsive actions- PTSD, fear and alcoholism are a great combination. We also start to see Cersei noticing little signs of ageing and effects of drinking. These contribute to her fear of the prophecy coming, and her desperation to cling on to her beauty, or as she has been taught, her ‘value’. Btw, I know about the pregnancy theories, but I don’t believe them, the prophecy states 3 children. If she is pregnant, I think there will be a miscarriage that won’t be overly relevant to current plots, but will maybe contribute to Jaime’s jealousy and her demise?
‘There is no one I can rely upon, not even Jaime, she realised grimly. I will need to sweep them all away and surround the king with mine own people.’
As a ruler, Cersei is paranoid and begins to isolate herself. Her and Jaime’s dynamic becomes increasingly toxic, and he no longer enables her. In classic narcissistic form, it scares Cersei that she can no longer rely on Jaime to serve her narrative, and so she convinces herself that she will be happy when she starts again with people who will:
‘I was wondering. Are you drunk or merely stupid?’ (Jaime). ‘She would not suffer it, especially from Jaime. I need to rid myself of him, and soon’.
Cersei is unravelling, becoming more delusional. I genuinely feel sorry for her, because I believe her thoughts and actions and down to her upbringing and personality disorder combined with a lack of love and support. Get some CBT pls. She is in over her head, and without Jaime as her comfort she is heading down the reckless path to narcissistic collapse. Her interactions with Qyburn show us how far she has gone, sacrificing women to his dungeons and finding others to blame to justify her actions and rid her guilt, a ‘woman’s guilt’:
‘Cersei felt ill. Part of her wanted to close her eyes, to turn away, to make it stop. But she was the Queen and this was treason. Lord Tywin would not have turned away.’ The blame of course falls to Margaery as it tends to with Cersei: ‘Her scheming forced this on me. She has soiled me with her treachery.’
The pinnacle of her reckless decisions leading in part to her downfall is in reinstating the power of the faith:
‘Cersei could not help but smile. Even her lord father could have done no better. At a stroke, she had rid King’s landing of the plague of the sparrows, secured Tommen’s blessing and lessened the crown’s debt by close to a million dragons.’
‘My son is safe, Cersei told herself. Yet every time she looked at Tommen, she saw Joffrey clawing at hit throat… I cannot let them see me cry. A woman may weep, but not a Queen.’
Cersei genuinely loves her children, however, in her case, love does not save or redeem her, rather it contributes to her impulsive actions and ruin. She has experienced great PTSD following Joffrey’s murder and believes that her Tommen and Marcella will be killed. Cersei has begun to raise Tommen in the way in which she was likely taught by Tywin, shouting at him or having him hit for being ‘weak’ or crying. Her feelings towards Joffrey were complex, as we see her reflecting on his nature and almost admitting to herself her failings. She does, however, fiercely love him:
‘It is beautiful, she thought, as beautiful as Joffrey when they laid him in my arms. No man had ever felt as good as she had felt when he took her nipple in his mouth to nurse.’
The threatened loss of Cersei’s children is deeply poignant and sad, as Cersei believed that motherhood was her chance to be happy, to experience unconditional love and have something of her own, breaking the toxic dynamics of her own family. However, as is often the case with narcissistic personalities, she holds on to them in a way that is controlling, and in doing so drives them away. They were almost doomed from the start due to their parentage and Cersei’s toxic marriage to Robert. Her children were partly brought into the world out of spite. One example of Cersei’s control is her obsession with Margaery and keeping her from influencing Tommen. She spends majority of the book mercilessly plotting Margaery’s demise with the chosen huntsman of her story, Osney, asking him to have an affair with Margaery. One of the hardest parts of Cersei’s story to read is her when Osney coerces Cersei into sleeping with him:
‘All I do, I do for Tommen… Robert had hands like that, she thought.’
Cersei is at the peak of her isolation during this chapter and is desperate to be rid of Margaery. She feels that she has no choice but to agree to Osney’s will, using her beauty to her advantage as she has been taught to do all her life. We see Cersei’s desperation as she is once again abused, and really see her PTSD from the trauma she experienced with Robert. Cersei has genuinely convinced herself that this action, and every action related to Margaery is for Tommen’s own good. We see her resolution:
‘The younger Queen whose coming she’d foretold was finished. No golden shrouds, no valonqar, I am free of your croaking malice at last.’
When Cersei is made to atone, it is Tommen who brings her the strength ‘Tommen is waiting for me. My little king. I can do this. I must.’ Cersei continues to justify her actions, and it is for Tommen that she does so:
‘Forgive me. High Holiness, but I would open my legs for every man in King’s Landing if that was what I had to do to keep my children safe.’
Prophecy & fairytales, Sansa parallels.
‘Queen you shall be. Until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.’ ‘Will the King and I have children?’ ‘Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. Gold shall be the crowns and gold their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.’
GRRM can’t always resist a fairytale trope, and Cersei is the evil queen of snow white if ever I’ve seen one. I also think there are mythology parallels e.g. Circe, Hera, but I already wrote about them in another post. In this version of the story, Tyrion is the dwarf Cersei wants to have killed, and Margaery plays the role of Snow White (at least Cersei believes she does).
‘The man who brought her the dwarf’s head would be raised to lordship, she had proclaimed, no matter how mean and low his birth or station.’
From the beginning of Cersei’s POV, she is obsessed with Margaery, and we see her thoughts and doubts slipping in even before we are given the prophecy. Cersei resents Margaery’s youth, beauty, closeness to her son, position as the Queen, charismatic personality and relationship with Loras: ‘they were more alike that she and Jaime. That annoyed her too.’ It absolutely does not help Cersei’s ego to hear comments such as this around court: ‘To both our Queens!’ he chirruped. ‘To the young queen and the old’.
Cersei believes that Margaery is the foretold princess, and this leads her to underestimating others. She is obsessed with eradicating Margaery. I believe that the prophecy actually accounts for a number of youthful, beautiful ‘rivals’; Margaery, Daenerys, Brienne, Arya even. I do, however, believe that Sansa is the true rival. Sansa has had direct encounters with and influence on Cersei, Joffrey and Tyrion, and we see her future arc with Jaime and Brienne. Sansa shows us who Cersei could have been and wanted to be, and I truly believe they were written in this way because Sansa is going to be the one to fulfil the prophecy, having a significant part in the North’s uprising. At this moment, however, Cersei does not perceive the North to be a threat, and the rage she feels for Sansa is purely personal:
‘Your lady has forgotten the Lady Sansa’, said Pycelle. ‘I most certainly have not forgotten that little she-wolf.’ She refused to say the girl’s name. ‘I fed her, dressed her, tried to make her a little less ignorant about the world, and how did she repay my kindness?… ‘She is not dead… but before I am done with her, I promise you, she will be singing to the Stranger, begging for his kiss.’
We get to see through Cersei’s memories that she was once childlike, Sansa like, full of hope. She sincerely wanted to marry Rhaegar and become a traditional, loved Queen:
‘Had any man ever been so beautiful? He was more than a man though. His blood was the blood of old Valyria, the blood of dragons and gods. She had drawn a picture of herself flying behind Rhaegar on a dragon, her arms wrapped tight about her chest.’
She lies to Jaime about this, hides this from him. This is more evidence that her love for Jaime is at least partly about self-esteem and safety and is transactional. She is not as loyal to him as he is her. Cersei is also obsessed with the Targaryen legacy. I do find some of the Lannister’s as secret Targ children theories interesting, but think I’ve gone too far reviewing the whole books to dive into that particularly wormhole. Instead, I think Cersei’s interests in the Targaryen’s it just used to show their influence on her upbringing, particularly her god complex. When thinking about Rhaegar, we read passages of Cersei’s POV that could have easily been Sansa’s:
‘Cersei had almost been drowned in the depths of his sad, purple eyes. I will mend his hurt when we are wed. The prince is going to be my husband, she had thought giddy with excitement, and when the old king dies I’ll be the Queen.’
She is given the advice ‘You must be especially beautiful’. Cersei literally had the ‘I can fix him’ complex. She did all that was asked of her and was beautiful, and yet their betrothal wasn’t to be. She became disillusioned and was instead forced into marrying Robert: ‘She had never forgiven Robert for killing him.’ Cersei blamed Lyanna for this, and I think this links us again to the North and the prophecy, foreshadowing Sansa’s part in it- and possibly Arya’s!
I do think the valonqar will be subverted, and I love all the theories. I’m either in favour for the Jaime or Arya one. There are so many amazing posts about the theories already out there, so I’ll just leave it with one example of the foreshadowing that Cersei and Jaime are both going to die, likely together:
‘We will leave this world together, as we once came into it.’
I think wildfire links to Cersei’s death, at least in being the cause for Cersei losing her children and Jaime fully breaking away. Cersei often references wildfire, with frequent foreshadowing of her burning the Great Sept (should it happen). In all instances, Jaime is shown to see a different side of Cersei or find her more difficult to ‘tame’: ‘Wildfire is treacherous.’ When she burns the tower of the hand, we see true mania in Cersei: ‘All of them are burning now, she told herself, savouring the thought. They are dead and burning, every one, with all their plots and schemes and betrayals. It is my day now. It is my castle and my kingdom.’ This may be Cersei’s ideal, but it seems to me that she is going to be lonely in this kingdom, having successfully isolated everyone who has tried to help her.
‘Words cannot hurt me. I am beautiful, the most beautiful woman in all Westeros, Jaime says so, Jaime would never lie to me. Even Robert, Robert never loved me, but he saw that I was beautiful, he wanted me.’
Cersei experiences what I believe to be narcissistic collapse when she is made to take part in the walk of ‘atonement’. Her misogynistic beliefs and equation of beauty with self-worth come into question. Cersei’s self-projected majesty, power and respect are stripped from her during this walk, and she begins to acknowledge that she is not liked or respected by the people she is meant to serve. Cersei tries to cling to the idea of her beauty to cope, however, it is heart-breaking to see her breakdown as she believes this final layer of worth has now been taken too:
‘She did not feel beautiful though. She felt old, used, filthy, ugly. There were stretch marks on her belly from the children she had borne… I should not have done this. I was their queen, but now they’ve seen, they’ve seen, they’ve seen. I should never have let them see. Gowned and crowned she was a queen. Naked, bloody, limping, she was only a woman, not so very different from their wives, more like their mothers than their pretty maiden daughters.’
I also loved the inclusion of Cersei’s version of an epiphany. As her mask shifts and her truer, more vulnerable self is revealed, Cersei allows a little empathy for others and begins to consciously think about the impact of some of her actions. It’s such an enlightening moment and fulfilling as a reader having come along this journey with her:
‘It came to her that stood in this very spot before, on the day Lord Eddard Stark lost his head. That as not supposed to happen. Joff was supposed to spare his life… I would have made Sansa a good marriage. A Lannister marriage… If Joff had only done as he was told Winterfell would never have gone to war, and Father would have dealt with Robert’s brothers.’ And of Ned’s death: ‘and after that there was no turning back’. ‘She saw Ned Stark, and beside him little Sansa with her auburn hair and a shaggy dog that might have been her wolf.’
If not fully an admission of guilt, Cersei at least puts herself in other’s shoes for a short time, and begins to sympathise, particularly for Sansa. This is the most in synch with Jaime’s development that she has been. Unfortunately, I think in Cersei’s case, such thoughts are circumstantial and lack permanence. We already see her brain plotting as she meets the mountain and we as readers reach the end of the books so far with the understanding that she will not let any epiphany get in the way of her self-destructive nature.
‘No, that she could not believe, would not believe. Jaime would be here once he knew of her plight. Come at once, she had written. Help me. Save me. I need you now more as I have never needed you before. I love you. I love you. I love you. Come at once.’
I’m not going to go too much into Jaime here as part one focused on him, but I do want to reflect a wee bit on his journey and possible conclusion with Cersei. He asks Cersei to relieve him of his duty, and his time with Brienne has clearly influenced him to want to make something of himself and get a bit of distance from his family. He finds his thoughts often landing on Brienne in some of the spaces Cersei used to fill: ‘Unbidden, his thoughts went to Brienne of Tarth. Stupid, stubborn, ugly wench. He wondered where she was. Father, give her strength.’ He still has a long way to go, as his misogynistic Freudian slips show, but he is trying and is secretly proud of his efforts: ‘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.’ Jaime is making fun of himself here but is beginning to picture his new life and his place in the world. He’s lost most of his arrogance and front, and is making space for a simpler, more honest life: ‘If truth be told, he liked this life. He felt more comfortable amongst soldiers in the field than he ever had at court. And his men seemed comfortable with him as well’. I liked Jaime’s interactions with Pia. They were subtle and not deeply significant to the plot, but I do think Pia helps to give Jaime some perspective, and I enjoy the subversion of the white knight saving the maiden trope: ‘Jaime thought back on the head he’s given to Pia. He could almost hear his little brother chuckle. Whatever became of giving women flowers?’ Pia parallels Jaime in ways. She has experiences loss through this war- the loss of her beauty, lifestyle and reputation. She has, however, decided to carry on and make what she can of her life. Through Pia, Jaime gets to see normality (at least normality of this world) and interact with people who live without Lannister scale agenda. He is learning not to be so absolute, that he can carry on and carve his own path.
I mentioned in the previous post that Sansa is significant to his future and redemption, but he is also beginning to consider Tommen more and play around with the idea of himself as a father figure: ‘My place is with my king. With my son. Would Tommen want to know that?.. He would need to find some way to winkle Tommen from her clutches before the boy became another Joffrey.’ Tommen is, however, still tied to Cersei in Jaime’s mind and his complicated feelings regarding her: ‘Once it yielded, he would be free to return to King’s landing. To the king, he told himself, but another part of him whispered, to Cersei’. We get to read some interesting contrasts between the pair in this book, which I enjoyed, for example: ‘She wants something of me… For a moment he dared to hope that all she wanted was the comfort of his arms’ whilst Cersei in her cell reflects: ‘Cersei dreamed a long, sweet dream where Jaime was her husband, and their son was still alive.’ Jaime understands more of Cersei’s nature now and resents her for it, but when Cersei is stripped of her power and distractions, we see that she does genuinely love him. I also enjoyed the contrast between: ‘’He was a warrior, and that was all he would ever be.’ and ‘She hated feeling weak. Oh, for a sword and the skill to wield it. She had a warrior’s heart, but the gods in their blind malice had given her the feeble body of a woman.’
Jaime and Cersei both compare one another to the Stranger in this book, perhaps the most significant link to the valonqar theory and their role in it. ‘I thought that I was the Warrior and Cersei was the Maid, but all the time she was the Stranger, hiding her true face from my gaze.’ They are both in need of resolution and their lives are too deeply embedded to truly part, but we are yet to see how their story arcs will play out. They are definitely two incredibly interesting characters to read.