escalating-identity

Police are being rewarded for not shooting people

A report published by the Associated Press Tuesday revealed that a growing number of U.S. law enforcement agencies are rewarding officers for showing restraint. 40 Philadelphia officers earned medals recently for not shooting, clubbing or using lethal or excessive force. Meanwhile, some police unions have spoken out against these rewards with surprising reason.

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Why Do We Care About Sansa Stark’s Rape But Not Jeyne Poole’s? A Discussion.

 Since episode 505 of Game of Thrones aired, a question that I have seen pop up more than a few times is “Why does the rape of Sansa Stark bother people, but not the rape of Jeyne Poole?” I have been thinking about this, and I wanted to share my thoughts for discussion before episode 506 airs tonight. 

The fundamental difference between the rape of Jeyne Poole and the rape of Sansa Stark is that Jeyne Poole isn’t just raped, but rather endures intense and systematic psychological torture. The same torture that Theon Greyjoy has endured at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. To enumerate the differences, both Jeyne and Theon have gone through:

  • Implementation of paranoia in the mind
  • Physical Harm (other than rape)
  • Threat of Physical Harm
  • Erasure of Identity
  • Humiliation 
  • Sexual Torture (Rape in the case of Jeyne Poole, Castration in the case of Theon)

The distinction between rape and torture is an important one, because Jeyne Poole is, essentially, a minor character, and part of Theon’s storyline and character arc. Theon was tortured by Ramsay Bolton, and has lost his identity for the identity of Reek. Reek will do anything that Ramsay tells him to do, without question. Or Reek did, until the character of Jeyne Poole came along. When Jeyne Poole is introduced into the story, Reek questions his identity when he is asked to pass Jeyne off as Arya Stark, when he hears the Godswood whisper “Theon”, and most importantly, during the rape of Jeyne Poole. 

On the surface, the rape of Jeyne Poole in the book may seem gratuitous, but while it is horrible, I do feel it serves a purpose. Reek goes into the bedchambers questioning his identity, even thinking about using a dagger on Ramsay, which is a big deal for Reek, and something a lot of fans downplay:

“He could feel his missing fingers cramping: two on his left hand, one on his right. And on his hip his dagger rested, sleeping in its leather sheath, but heavy, oh so heavy. It is only my pinky gone on my right hand, Theon reminded himself. I can still grip a knife.”

–The Prince of Winterfell, A Dance With Dragons

This is something that Reek would have never thought about before he started questioning his identity. The dagger plays an important part in the Jeyne Poole rape scene, as Ramsay forces Reek to cut Jeyne’s dress away with it. Reek, the entire time, is having an internal battle as to whether or not to use the dagger on Ramsay. The internal struggle is symbolic of Reek’s battle to regain his identity. He loses:

“Somewhere in the Godswood, a raven screamed. The dagger was still in his hand. He sheathed it. Reek, my name is Reek, it rhymes with weak.

–The Prince of Winterfell, A Dance with Dragons

The inclusion of the raven from the Godswood is an important clue that this scene is really about Reek having an internal battle between his identity as Theon and his identity as Reek. What is happening in the rape of Jeyne Poole scene, is Reek realizes that the torture he has undergone, and the loss of his identity is turning him into a person like Ramsay. This realization culminates in the Jeyne Poole rape scene when Reek is forced to initiate the torture he went though onto another person. Reek is now torturing people the same as Ramsay does, essentially. George R.R. Martin even alludes to the fact that Ramsay’s true intention is to make Reek torture someone else:

She is no kin to Lord Eddard, Theon almost said. Ramsay knows, he has to know. What new cruel game is this?”

The Prince of Winterfell, A Dance With Dragons

It is never confirmed or denied that Ramsay actually knows “Arya Stark” is really Jeyne Poole, but it seems that he does know. It seems Ramsay doesn’t really care if Jeyne Poole is Arya or not, he just wants Reek to be the one to initiate the torture that this woman will endure for the many chapters to come. I think it is also important to note that this is the only torture scene we get with Jeyne Poole; the rest of her torture is either alluded to by other characters, or can be seen in the change in Jeyne when Theon goes to rescue her. Interestingly, the same thing is true for the torture scenes of Theon, especially in the beginning when he is first captured. The readers do not get actual scenes of Theon’s torture but rather allusions to it through the books. I don’t understand why the showrunners couldn’t have also done this with Theon’s torture, instead of showing it in grisly detail. A lot of fans of the show say that we would never believe the change in Theon if we had not seen all the torture he endured, but that is simply not true. There are plenty of films and TV shows, especially in the horror genre that decide not to show the monster or villain. This allows the audience to build up the threat to something far greater and scarier than it could possibly be if it was simply shown. The “allude don’t show” rule is used to great effect by GRRM in the books with both Theon and Jeyne, and I don’t see why the showrunners couldn’t have done the same. Now it seems that the torture scenes with Theon are used as an excuse whenever any other character is raped or otherwise put through a great ordeal. 

Theon ultimately loses the battle for his identity in the Jeyne Poole rape scene, but he regains it during the escape sequence. In between the rape of Jeyne and the escape of Jeyne and Theon, is more evidence that Jeyne was not just raped, but tortured: 

“Sour Alyn had been saying that Ramsay kept his bride naked and chained to a bedpost, but Theon knew that was only talk. There were no chains, at least none that men could see.”

–The Turnclock, A Dance with Dragons

Then during the actual escape, Theon must embrace his true identity, so that Jeyne will trust him enough to go with him. Through several of the Theon chapters, Theon thinks that he cannot be Theon Greyjoy because Theon Greyjoy was a man, Theon Greyjoy would help Jeyne Poole, and Theon Greyjoy would have courage. During the escape sequence, Theon has to embrace his true identity, which transforms him from Ramsay’s dog to a man, he helps Jeyne Poole, and he has the courage to pull the plan off, and then jump off of the battlements instead of turn back. None of this would have been possible without the Jeyne Poole character, and without Theon’s participation in her torture, which allowed him to question his identity in a very real way. 

We can have a healthy debate as to whether or not rape and torture should be used as a plot device, especially one that furthers another character’s arc, but that is for another post. My point with this post is that the torture of Jeyne Poole had many different purposes: thematic,symbolic, character development, and plot development. The rape of Sansa Stark in the show will probably have none of the purpose that the torture of Jeyne did. 

Sansa is most likely not going to be tortured as Theon was, and Theon, while he watched, did not participate in her rape. Therefore, Sansa cannot be a foil character for Theon, and the driving force behind his identity crisis. If the rape is portrayed as the driving force of Theon’s identity crisis in the show, I think it will be lackluster at best, especially since we have so far not gotten any scenes of Theon in the Godswood. We may get one or two later, but by then the escalation of the identity crisis will be skewed, and the scene may even seem to be out of place. 

What the writers of Game of Thrones did, essentially was take a scene, which was horrific (and was meant to be) and stripped it of all of its meaning by replacing the character. Just because Sansa Stark and Jeyne Poole are both women without families, does not make them interchangeable. I think this is the fundamental difference between the show and books. All of the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, male or female, have a distinct character arc and purpose. It would be impossible within the books to simply interchange two characters. The rape scene with Sansa instead of Jeyne was stripped of its meaning, and I don’t think it will be able to get the meaning back. Therefore, the Sansa rape scene was in the purest sense, completely gratuitous and unnecessary.