You are one of the few people who believes that Arya will survive and reunite with her family. Can you explain why? To me it always seemed like Arya is too damaged to live a normal life after the series ends. And there is FM problem. I doubt, that they approve of deserting, so even if Arya survives, one day they'll come for her. I always assumed that her story will be the bitter part of the ending. Dying in the North and leading the wolf pack. Long wolf dies but the pack lives. What's your take?
Damn! Am I really “one of the few people” who thinks that Arya makes it through? I am so bad at determining what the fandom thinks! Ludicrously, entertainingly bad!! Everyone watch me be bad at this!!!
Anywho. I’m sorry to be a pedantic dick about this, but: “normal life” means precisely squat. I guarantee that if I asked you to straight-up define what “normal life” means, and why those outside of it should be considered more likely to die, you wouldn’t have a coherent answer. Moreover, Arya’s a Lord Paramount’s daughter, so she was never going to live a “normal life.” This is what was going to happen to her if her father’s downfall had never happened…
“You,” Ned said, kissing her lightly on the brow, “will marry a king and rule his castle, and your sons will be knights and princes and lords and, yes, perhaps even a High Septon.”
…and that sure as shit ain’t the average experience of her time and place! (This, btw, is part of why I’m leery of interpretations of ASOIAF as a radical revolutionary text: almost all of the POVs are elites. Even Davos has been knighted by the time we meet him. Deconstructing the elite perspective is not the same as presenting the working-class perspective, and genuinely revolutionary texts tend not to grant POV status to inconveniently monstrous peasants like Chett and Varamyr. ASOIAF is a reconstructive text, not a revolutionary one.)(Hey I’m an anti-Marx leftist, can you tell??)
Anywho. If Arya was really going to succumb to the Faceless Men and/or die in their service, I don’t think GRRM would have bothered with this:
“It’s just a sword,” she said, aloud this time…
…but it wasn’t.
Needle was Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and her father, even Sansa. Needle was Winterfell’s grey walls, and the laughter of its people. Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan’s stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow’s smile. He used to mess my hair and call me “little sister,” she remembered, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes.
Polliver had stolen the sword from her when the Mountain’s men took her captive, but when she and the Hound walked into the inn at the crossroads, there it was. The gods wanted me to have it. Not the Seven, nor Him of Many Faces, but her father’s gods, the old gods of the north. The Many-Faced God can have the rest, she thought, but he can’t have this.
This is the ultimate thesis of Arya’s time among the Faceless Men: she is terrible at being a Faceless Man. She’s good at the mechanics of assassination, don’t get me wrong, but she’s failing utterly at the crucial ego-death part of it, because she has a pre-existing identity in which she’s still super-invested. She cannot be No One, because she is Arya Stark, and will always be Arya Stark. Her whole story hinges on that central tension: will the hell she goes through be enough to destroy her sense of self? I adamantly come down on the side of “no.” She will reclaim her identity, and like Theon, her true name will return to her chapter headings.
Why? Because Arya Stark is the goddamn Batman (from the traumatic parent-death to the ninja training to the stubborn desire to fight for the powerless even as your world tells you to be a nihilist), and GRRM knows that Batman means nothing without Bruce Wayne. Everything about Arya’s relationship to home and her Stark identity suggests to me that this is a “pull yourself back just before you’re lost forever” story. The Faceless Men bring that struggle to the brink, because their whole thing is destroying identity in the name of a perfect death. But between Needle and Raff, Arya is clearly not passing that test. She’s still “the Ned’s girl.” Which IMO will be her triumph in the books to come–reclaiming the Stark identity that has been put in such danger.
Now, if you were GRRM, and you wanted to spark that reclamation of self, how would you do it? Would you maybe take a girl Arya knows, and have her passed off as “Arya Stark,” and send her to Braavos to spark the true Arya’s homecoming, bringing Arya’s identity arc to a head by having her actively retake her Stark self from the young woman burdened with it? Because…I think that’s exactly what GRRM is doing! I firmly believe this is why he had Stannis send Jeyne Poole (feigned as Arya) off with Justin Massey in Theon I TWOW–to provide Arya with precisely the challenge she needs to abandon the FM and all they represent, as well as a way back home. The spectacle of someone else claiming her name will IMO be the perfect thing to bring Cat/Mercy/whatever else back to Arya Stark.