“In the last homework assignment, I asked you to examine the ethics of ‘Les Misérables,’ in which a man steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. Would you please read your first paragraph here?” “’Everyone in this story sucks and belongs in the Bad Place. The thief is bad. The officer chasing him is bad. All the whiny prostitutes are bad. Plus, they’re all French, so they’re going to the Bad Place automatically.’” “Do you see how you’re already off topic?” (x)
When Stannis and Davos are arguing about Edric Storms fate and Stannis says "What is one bastard boy compared to a kingdom?" And Davos says "Everything". I get that it touches upon the choice of killing one to save the many but I don't think I understand it completely. Ik it's important to the series and its themes but I can't find a way to connect them. Can you elaborate on the importance of the line. Im a new follower btw and Ive been reading all your stuff & it's amazing-my favs the DLC stuff
Thank you so much, you’re very kind! So, in ASOS:
“… what is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?“ “Everything,” said Davos, softly.
As you say, we’re looking at the choice of killing one to save many. It’s Team Dragonstone’s Trolley Problem, which is supposed to be a thought experiment in ethics. What is the right choice in this situation? Should Stannis take action and murder a child? Or should he do nothing, and (he thinks) by his inaction let everyone in the Realm die in the darkness that is coming? [Helpful fanart]
The underlying question here – the question that GRRM asks throughout the series – is this: how much is an individual human life worth?
So how much is a life worth? For Stannis, a boy’s life is worth a kingdom. For Viserys, his sister’s life is worth the promise of a crown. For Catelyn, Robb’s life is worth far, far “more than a song”. “And your daughter’s life, my lord? How precious is that?” In King’s Landing, a baby can (allegedly) be bought “for a jug of Arbor gold.” “What had Jon Arryn wanted with a king’s bastard, and why was it worth his life?” Tywin would say that the lives of Lannisters are “worth more” than the lives of anyone else. In ADWD, Penny and Tyrion are sold as slaves, “Five thousand silvers for the lot.” Jorah fetches only three hundred on the auction block, after selling men into slavery himself and earning an exile to Essos.
And Daenerys, Breaker of Chains … Daenerys who was bought and sold, Daenerys who died on the Dothraki Sea and was reborn in flame … Daenerys says no. “They are slaves no longer.” She works to end the slave trade, because you cannot put a price on someone else’s life.**
And that is what Davos is saying. Stannis cannot decide how much this innocent boy’s life is worth.
Stannis doesn’t get to dehumanize this child and think of him as a means to an end; that’s why, in the paragraphs just before, Davos reminds his king of Edric’s name, of Shireen’s love for him, of “the cost” to Stannis’s soul.