So this post got me thinking about how the Starks and Lannisters function as parallels in asoiaf, and although I do think they are set up like this initially, I agree with joannalannister that it’s not a complete parallel, and I don’t think it’s intended to be. That’s what’s interesting about GRRM’s characters, because they exist as more than narrative devices, even when they do exist as narrative devices, and I really admire him as a writer for that.
Specifically, the discussion of character parallels got me thinking about how Jon and Tyrion function as parallels, but I didn’t want to reply to the post directly because I’m going on my own little tangent here.
Jon and Tyrion function as parallels and foils for each other, to an extent, at least at the beginning of A Game of Thrones. Tyrion makes explicit what links Jon and Tyrion together, that they’re both “bastards”, but what also interests me about Jon and Tyrion’s interactions is how they’re different from each other. Of course Tyrion is the older, wiser character who tells Jon about how the world works, and in that way he also functions as a mentor figure to Jon. (Tyrion is also a deconstruction of the wise mentor, a role that is usually given to otherized characters like Tyrion, but that’s another discussion.)
But I think it’s interesting that in Jon and Tyrion’s second conversation, Jon is shocked when Tyrion reveals some truths about his family and the anger he has at the way they treat him, and Tyrion reacts by telling Jon that he knows he’s felt the same way. Even though Jon has his fair share of feelings of being treated unfairly, Tyrion is a lot more jaded about being an outcast than Jon is, and actually makes Jon cry when he tries to get Jon to admit how he feels about Catelyn’s bitterness towards him.
And I think Tyrion does this because he’s angry that Jon can still be this optimistic and naive. Tyrion wants to think that Jon’s family treated him as badly as he was treated, because I think that on some level he doesn’t want to admit how much it hurts him. And it hurts him to see Jon at fourteen still retain some of the innocence that Tyrion lost. And Tyrion does feel instantly guilty about making Jon upset, because he empathizes with Jon as a fellow outcast.
But I think a lot of people only see the surface level of Jon and Tyrion’s interactions and praise Tyrion for imparting wisdom onto Jon (that “never forget what you are” quote), but in some ways I think Jon is wiser than Tyrion, because he doesn’t turn it into self-hatred the way Tyrion does.
I mean, I’m not trying to say that Tyrion’s bitterness is unjustified (Tyrion my poor baby) and Tyrion was treated worse than Jon ever was, but there’s a lot more going on in that scene than just Tyrion giving advice to Jon Snow, and I think it’s interested how GRRM compares and contrasts these two characters.