As the second novel in George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy of dragons, kings, and war, ‘A Clash of Kings’ shows how the world of Westeros plunges into chaos after the death of the beloved Ned stark and his friend, Robert Baratheon. With new knowledge of Cersei’s infidelity, chaos ensues as the battle for the Iron Throne begins.
Themes of A Clash of Kings
War is the primary theme of ‘A Clash of Kings.’ The entire story shows the war between the so-called kings of Westeros after the death of Robert Baratheon. With Stannis Baratheon discovering the secret of Cersei’s illegitimacy, he declares himself the rightful heir to the throne. He realizes that his brother, Renly, also has claimed the throne, and Robb Stark has been declared the King in the North.
The instability of Westeros breeds chaos as the War of Kings begins. With the beginning of the war comes death, hunger, and sadness as the continent bleeds. Meanwhile, in Essos, Daenerys, a mother to three dragons, struggles to find her place in the world with a tiny Khalasar on the brink of collapse.
Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow and Lord Mormont uncover a plan by Mance Rayder, King of the wildlings, to attack Westeros with a powerful army of giants and mammoths. The story screams war as battles are won and lost, and soldiers bleed.
Politics and Societal Class
Though war ensues in Westeros, the political struggle in King’s Landing continues. Tyrion returns from the war front with a letter from his father stating he is the new Hand of the King. On becoming the Hand of the King, Tyrion discovers that the political state of King’s Landing is so terrible that corruption has become its language. Gradually, he tries to weed out the corrupt people that may be detrimental to his position and King’s Landing. However, he discovers that his acts made people hate him more.
The political decadence in King’s Landing causes a riot between the people and the elite. As the news of Joffrey’s paternity spreads throughout Westeros, everyone begins to hate the crown as the hatred for Jaime and the Lannisters is already present. Finally, the scales tip over, and King’s Landing becomes a death sentence for its citizens and even the elite.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys tries to play politics by giving herself to Xaro. She thought he was all she needed to get ships and men to march down on Westeros. However, Jorah Mormont opens her eyes to the politics around her. She realizes that her dragons are a commodity any lord will kill to have, and her realization forces her to back down.
Another theme in the story is societal rank. As Lord Stark’s daughter, Arya had everything she needed. However, when she leaves King’s Landing as an orphan boy, she learns the nature of suffering the poor face.
Struggle for Survival
Dead men tell no tales; this is why the living strife to stay alive. ‘A Clash of Kings’ shows how people will do anything to stay alive. With a war raging among kings, many people begin flocking into King’s Landing to be safe. War becomes a disease that people do all they can to avoid.
When Arya leaves King’s Landing, her journey of suffering begins as she beholds the grime nature of warring and battles. She runs from harm and even has to feed on worms to stay alive. The intense fighting causes her and others to act solely on survival instinct.
What is the story of ‘A Clash of Kings’ without hatred? The entire premise for the beginning of the war of kings is rooted deep in hatred. Robb declares war on the Lannisters because of their hatred for what they did to his father. Stannis grows hateful towards his brother, who claimed the throne.
Arya’s resentment for the Lannisters, Chisiwyk, and Weese intensified as she experienced the suffering and hardship of the war. Tyrion’s resentment for his nephew grew to staggering heights as he realized the hateful mindset he had.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys gets happy when she hears the news of Robert’s death. Her joy was genuine because it stemmed from the hatred against him as he killed her brother, Rhaegar. The intense hatred emanating from the story explains the nature of war and why it never ends peacefully.
Coming of Age
In ‘A Clash of Kings,’ we see the young children of Winterfell mature into young adults. Robb, only a boy when his father left Winterfell, becomes King in the North.
Daenerys becomes the Khaleesi and mother of dragons. Jon, the lone bastard, becomes the right hand of Lord Mormont, commander of the Night’s Watch.
Joffrey Baratheon, a prince, becomes King. Sansa, a naïve girl, becomes a mature lady who begins to understand the world. Bran, a young boy who dreams of becoming a knight, becomes the Lord of Winterfell. Throughout the story, many characters mature and grow in wisdom and experience as they face the reality of living in a corrupt world governed by sinister people.
Betrayal and Loyalty
What is war without betrayal? In the story, betrayal becomes a deadly weapon against Robb Stark. When he sends Theon Greyjoy back home, Theon begins plotting with his father to take back the title of the ruler of the North. Theon’s betrayal eventually causes his downfall as he gets arrested by Ramsay Bolton, the bastard son of Roose.
When Arya gets captured by the Lannisters, she gets taken to Harrenhal. Though the suffering is almost unbearable, she adapts, and when an opportunity arises, she takes it, causing the reclaiming of the castle. However, she soon realizes that her loyalty holds no value as war has two sides, the winner and loser.
Analysis of Key Moments in A Clash of Kings
- A red comet flies across the world.
- Maester Cressen of Dragonstone dies after he tries to kill Melisandre of Asshai.
- Yoren takes Arya out of King’s Landing, and she meets Jot Pie. In King’s Landing, Sansa saves Dontos from getting killed.
- Tyrion returns to King’s Landing as Hand of the King.
- Arya meets a gruesome scene of dead people, and some guards try to take a boy called Gendry, but Yoren stops them.
- Stannis sends a letter to lords stating that Joffrey is an illegitimate child.
- Theon visits his father, Balon Greyjoy. Balon rejects the proposal for an alliance with Robb.
- Daenerys meets some strangers from Quarth.
- Sansa receives an unknown letter from someone stating he could rescue her. However, she gets disappointed to meet Dontos.
- On hearing about Renly Baratheon’s march on King’s Landing, Tyrion tries to ally with Dorne.
- Gendry makes Arya reveal she is a girl. He and Arya get captured by Gregor Clegane.
- Tyrion gets terms from Robb to free Jaime. He asks for his father’s body and sword.
- In Winterfell, Bran begins to see through the eyes of his direwolf, Summer, in his dreams.
- Catelyn meets Renly and tries to make an agreement with him on her son’s behalf, but he says Robb must bend the knee.
- In the Night’s Watch, Jon Snow and Lord Mormont prepare for the search for Benjen. Jon meets Craster, a man who marries his daughters and gives his sons to the cold gods. He learns that Mance Rayder, the new King of the wildlings, is amassing men to march on King’s Landing.
- Arya and her friends get taken to Harrenhal.
- In Quarth, Daenerys learns of Robert Baratheon’s death and the war of the kings.
- Bran makes friends with Meera and Jojen Reed. Jojen tells him he has greensight, but maester Luwin argues that magic is dead.
- Arya meets Jaqen H’gar, and he tells her to name three people for him to kill. She chooses Chiswyck and Weese, people she hated.
- Renly gets killed by a shadow sent by Melisandre. Catelyn and Brienne, his guard, witness the event, and Brienne gets accused of his death. She escapes back to Riverrun with Catelyn.
- Beyond the wall, Jon’s direwolf, Ghost, finds a Night’s Watch cloak with dragonglass.
- Theon hatches a plan to take over Winterfell and asks his uncle to lead an attack on Torren’s square.
- Lord Tywin starts marching out of Harrenhal to fight Robb. However, his army gets beaten by the young King. Arya aids in recapturing Harrenhal for Roose Bolton.
- In Quarth, Xaro, a warlock of the city, asks for Daenerys’s hand in marriage, but Jorah tells her Xaro only wants her dragons, and she will not get the army she needs from him.
- After Tyrion sends Mrycella to Dorne, a riot ensues in King’s Landing, and some nobles lose their lives.
- Stannis takes over his brother’s castle and begins to march against King’s Landing.
- Daenerys hallucinates in the House of the Undying and gets rescued by Drogon, her dragon.
- Theon takes over Winterfell, but Bran and Rickon disappear with the help of Meera, Jojen, and Osha. They later decide that Bran will head North with Hodor, Meera, and Jojen to learn more about his powers, while Osha will take Rickon and his direwolf to White Harbor.
- Catelyn believes her sons are dead as Theon lies that he killed them. She gets Jaime drunk and uncovers the truth of Bran’s fall from the tower.
- In King’s Landing, the battle of Black Water begins, and Tyrion almost loses the city but gets saved by his father and the Tyrells.
- In Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton arrests Theon. Ramsay takes charge of the castle.
- Beyond the wall, Jon meets Ygritte and lets her go. Later, Qhorin, his fellow watchman, tells him to infiltrate the wildling camp no matter the price. When they get captured, Jon gets asked to kill Qhorin, and he does.
Style, Tone, and Figurative Language Used in A Clash of Kings
‘A Clash of Kings’ employs George R. R. Martin’s use of limited third-person perspective to dive into the story of Westeros. The use of limited prescience in the novel makes the reader understand the perspective of each character from whom the story gets narrated.
Tones of danger, death, despair, and sadness get used in ‘A Clash of Kings.’ As the War of the Kings ravages Westeros, agitation gets used to make the reader understand and feel the intensity of destruction the war caused.
In the Night’s Watch, a tone of looming danger ensues as Jon goes out to find his uncle. Gradually, the tone shifts to fear and terror as Jon discovers that Mance Rayder not only has a large army but has an army of giants and mammoths marching to destroy the veil that has kept Westeros safe for eight thousand years.
There was a rich use of figures of speech throughout ‘A Clash of Kings.’ From metaphors to simile, personification, hyperbole, and paradoxes, the rich use of figurative language made the story profoundly realistic. Martin’s expert use of figures of speech, lore, and history to compare the fictional world with the real made his story a reflection of reality.
Symbols Used in A Clash of Kings
‘A Clash of Kings’ uses many symbols throughout its story. Here is a list of some:
After her husband dies from his injuries, Daenerys enters the fire and comes out with three dragons. With the birth of the dragons comes a realization that a new power has awoken in the East. Soon, warriors from Quarth decided to take in Daenerys. The dragons symbolize extreme power, pride, and rebirth.
After Bran’s fall, the world becomes cruel, and everything no longer has meaning to him. Then he meets the three-eyed crow. An entity shrouded in mystery. The crow tells him to fly, and from there, he becomes different. Bran soon begins to walk in the body of his direwolf Summer. The Three-eyed crow came with power that no one had after the fall of magic.
When the War of the Kings began, each major house in Westeros had to choose who they wanted. In the war, House Sigils became a symbol of allegiance.
Throughout the events of ‘A Clash of Kings,’ a comet cuts across the sky of Westeros and Essos. The blood-red comet symbolizes terror as it flies across the sky when the war of the kings begins.
Robb’s direwolf built a personality for him in the eyes of his enemies. Shaggydog and Summer served as protectors for Rickon and Bran.
What are the themes of A Clash of Kings?
‘A Clash of Kings’ contains themes of war, politics, power, societal class, coming of age, hatred, and betrayal. The story’s themes resonate with the views of its characters as they experience the brutal, cruel, and corrupt nature of the world they live in.
Why did the men of the Lannisters fear Robb Stark?
After Robb Stark defeated and killed Kevan Lannister, he became a dreaded entity. The men of the Lannisters began spreading rumors that Robb was a supernatural entity. His direwolf also added to the superstition, and many claimed the beast was no ordinary animal as it tore people apart.
Was Robb filled with hate in A Clash of Kings?
After his father got killed by Joffrey Baratheon in ‘A Game of Thrones,’ Robb declared war against the Lannisters. Partly fueled by hate and a desire to free the North from the rest of Westeros, Robb launched an assault against Tywin. Though hatred for the Lannisters was a key determinant for Robb to wage war, he also wanted to get his sisters back.
Who are the cold gods in A Clash of Kings?
The cold gods are also known as the white walkers. When Jon and Joer meet with Craster, Jon learns from his daughter that her father gave their male children to the cold gods.