Motherhood As Presented By Lady Catelyn In A Game Of Thrones


A Game of Thrones is the first novel of an epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire which is written by George R.R. Martin. This epic series told about the quarrel between houses to claim the throne of the kingdom and also the quarrel between human and mythical creatures. This first novel was first published in 1996. The story sets in a medieval like time in the fictions kingdom of Westeros, in The Wall which is located in the northern part of the island Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. The writing style of George R.R. Martin made this fantasy story seems so realistic. The conflicts (other than those involving mythical creature like dragons and direwolves) are very familiar and ordinary. It is a kind of reflection on the conflicts in our society like political strain, civil wars, quarrel over authority, and also the psychological conflict in individual level like dealing with fears, faith on religion, personal traumas, loyalty to friends and family, sexuality, hierarchical and patriarchal society etc.

The story was told in the third person point of view of eight different characters. The first is Lord Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell which later in the story chosen to be the Hand of the King and received death penalty as accused of becoming a traitor. The second is Lady Catelyn Stark of House Tully, Lord Eddard’s wife, a tough and selfless mother who struggled to keep her family away from harm. The third is Sansa Stark, the daughter of Eddard and Catelyn, a naive girl with her innocent dreams. She is an obedient child, gentle and lady-like. Next is the tomboy Arya Stark, the other daughter of Eddard and Catelyn who possess the qualities opposing her sister. Arya is a rebel child as she likes to do things girls are not allowed to do. She likes to play in the dirt and do masculine activities and hobbies such as sword-playing. This character is one of some in the story that is presented to push against the boundaries of the gender stereotpes and role in the patriarchal society of Westeros people. Next is Bran Stark, the crippled child, a brother of Arya and Sansa. Then there is Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Eddard Stark. Next is Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf, brother of the queen. Last is Daenerys Targaryen, the princess who has dragons and later claim the throne as well.

In short, this novel tells three parts of stories. First is the story on how the Stark family, brought from the point of view of Eddard, Catelyn, Sansa and Arya deals with conspiracies and political affairs in the Seven Kingdoms. Second is the story on the struggle of Daenerys Targaryen in overcoming her childhood traumas and how she gets her dragons. The last is the story that follows Jon Snow, the bastard son of Lord Eddard who decided to be the man of the Night’s Watch on The Wall. Issue of gender and classism is very strong within the story. The role of each gender are very distinct. In the story, there are some figures of mothers presented. Lady Lysa Arryn, Cersei Lannister and Lady Catelyn Stark.

Theoretical framework

Characters and Characterization

Characters are person or creature (could be animals in fables) which is presented in a literary work. Each characters possesses their own quality and responsible for the plot flows of the story. Those qualities each character possesses are considered as characterization. It is the personality and traits that can be grasps in the story through some ways such as personal description, characters as seen by others, speech, past life, conversation of others, reactions, direct comment, thoughts and mannerism (Murphy 161-173). In this work, the character that will be analyzed is the mother character Lady Catelyn Stark.

Mother and Motherhood

Motherhood is generally understood as the social system in which mothering is performed (Rose 28) and mothers are generally understood and defined as women who bore children. In academic field, the definition of mothers are quite debatable and more fluid regarding the gender and biological consideration (sex). Ruddick in Maternal Thinking defined a mother as a person who takes on responsibility for the children’s lives and for whom providing child care is a significant part of her or his working life (40). Rose stated that mothers are defined as those performing mothering labor within social constructions of motherhood (28). These two definitions does not limit mother to a certain biological sex. In this case, mothers are merely socially constructed figures. If we look at traditional gender role, we would see that the biological class who play the role as mother are women.

Mothers have been the focus of many fictional works throughout literary history (Salwak 2018). They reflects social realities and the ideology of the society toward gender of a society in a certain period of time. Generally there are two types of mothers in literary works, good mother and bad mother. Good mothers in literary work, are often become emblematic of the love we all yearn for meanwhile bad mothers are often become cautionary tales of the depths that human can sink to (Salwak 2018). Speaking that good and bad are somewhat relatives adjectives, the judgment is based on the historical and social context of the work. In a patriarchal society, motherhood is seen as women’s experience and part of womanhood as women are expected to take care of the household and the children. This position often made women powerless, helpless and dependent. Since motherhood is idealized that way, women who fail to fill that expectations are judged as bad mothers.

Radical Feminism and its perspective on motherhood

In 1960s to 1970s, a new branch of feminism emerged bringing the revolutionary perspective and proposed that it is the nature of men and women to differ as biological classes. Radical feminists claimed that women oppression is more fundamental than other forms of human oppression. According to Alison Jaggar and Paula Rothenberg, this could mean five things:

  1. That women were, historically, the first oppressed group.
  2. That women’s oppression is the most widespread, existing in virtually every known society.
  3. That women’s oppression is the hardest form of oppression to eradicate and cannot be removed by other social changes such as the abolition of class society.
  4. That women’s oppression causes the most suffering to its victims, qualitatively as well as quantitatively, although the suffering may often go unrecognized because of the sexist prejudices of both the oppressors and the victims.
  5. That women’s oppression provides a conceptual model for understanding all other forms of oppressions.

Although the basic principle of radical feminists is that sexism is the deepest form of human oppression, radical feminists are split into some branches depending on their different views on the solution of this oppression. As they believe that patriarchal system and patriarchal heterosexuality is beyond repair, radical-cultural feminists offer the solution of destroying the system so that women can fully live and liberated from the oppression.

All the feminist theories work around the basic notions of women’s difference and their ability to become mothers. As motherhood came to be recognized as the major reason for ‘women’s difference’ and defined as a sex-specific gender role, it then became a vital concern of feminist movements. Feminists believe that motherhood is a patriarchal construct which disserves women as child caring often drained both mental and physical health. Women were expected to live up the idealized standards of motherhood, and if due to some reason they could not they were humiliated and publically labelled as ‘bad mother’s’ (Parmar 26-28).

This work will specifically see motherhood through the perspective of radical feminist as it believes that the oppressions of as a biological class are due to their biological possessions (sex). Women are the biological class that has the ability to deliver children (and become mother). It blamed the constraints imposed by motherhood upon women as a major cause for the subjugation. The Radical Feminist theorists encourage women to guard their feminist with care and gain control over their body. The Radical feminists (radical-cultural feminists) suggest that women should rather take pride in then ability to reproduce. Though the Radicals concentrate on the female body as a major cause for female oppression, but at the same times they also viewed it as a form repressing ‘women’s difference a reason to celebrate it (Parmar 39).


Lady Catelyn’s Characterization

Physically, Catelyn Stark was described as a beautiful, strong lady with auburn and long hair. Mostly from the third point of view of the character, we found that she possesses these personalities:

Intelligent and Wise

Lady Catelyn is very smart and wise. Eventough the inner conflict of this character with her emotions are strongly told in the story, she always made decisions considering rational thoughts. She is so well in hiding her emotion when it comes to decision making. When she know that a choice is the best, even if it hurts her, she would do it anyway for the sake of her family. One example of her intelligent and wise counsel is the one she carefully told her son, Robb Stark when he became the battle commander. She gave away alternatives of solutions carefully without making his son’s pride hurt as she let him think by his own and considers her solutions.

“I do not know, Robb. What I do know is that you have no choice. If you go to King’s Landing and swear fealty, you will never be allowed to leave. If you turn your tail and retreat to Winterfell, your lords will lose all respect for you. Some may even go over to the Lannisters. Then the queen, with that much less to fear, can do as she likes with her prisoners. Our best hope, our only true hope, is that you can defeat the foe in the field. If you should chance to take Lord Tywin or the Kingslayer captive, why then a trade might very well be possible, but that is not the heart of it. So long as you have power enough that they must fear you, Ned and your sister should be safe. Cersei is wise enough to know that she may need them to make her peace, should the fighting go against her.” 

Another intelligent decision she made, more like a trick, is when she announced to people that she will bring Tyrion Lannister as her prisoner to Winterfell in front of people in the inn. Instead she brought him to her sister’s place. It is probably because she had to carefully restrain the information spreading about their position so there will be no Lannister guards stand in their way.

After the attack by local riders to her party on her way to Vale of Arryn with Tyrion Lannister, he wisely let Tyrion keep her weapon with him despite his status as her prisoner. She decided it in case there will be another attack and she realized that they need all the weapons and all the men force they have to fight another attack.

Gentle and Courteous

Lady Catelyn has this image of the ideal and honorable lady. Besides the beauty of her physical appearance which is described to be fair, and has beautiful auburn hair, she has all the traits expected of a lady from a noble family. She is gentle and courteuous, qualities of a woman which are expected in the society in the settings took place.

Catelyn took her husband’s hand. “There was grievous news today, my lord. I did not wish to trouble you until you had cleansed yourself.” There was no way to soften the blow, so she told him straight. “I am so sorry, my love. Jon Arryn is dead.” 

She talked with very polite and gentle words to her husband in the quotation above. She also consider the time to deliver the bad news and said some simpathetic words to him. She even warned her husband to mind his courtesy when he spoke impudent words about Queen Cersei whom he despised.

“Prince Tommen is seven,” she told him. “The same age as Bran. Please, Ned, guard your tongue. The Lannister woman is our queen, and her pride is said to grow with every passing year.” 

Even when she talked to Tyrion Lannister, the man she suspected the cause of her son’s harm, she could manage and control her emotions, not letting it out as a rage and still mind her courtesy in language.

Tyrion cocked his head. “Why, every man at court has heard him tell how he took your maidenhead, my lady.” “That is a lie!” Catelyn Stark said. “Oh, wicked little imp,” Marillion said, shocked. Kurleket drew his dirk, a vicious piece of black iron. “At your word, m’lady, I’ll toss his lying tongue at your feet.” His pig eyes were wet with excitement at the prospect. 

In that chapter which told about her journey with Tyrion Lannister who was so impudent, she didn’t let her fury and anger took away her courtesy and honor in responding to Tyrion. Instead, when the men offered her to do something about him, she refused and let Tyrion talked.


Even though Lady Catelyn is very devoted and loyal to her husband, she always had her own sense. She always speak up to him of what she has in minds and sometimes headstrong about it and ometimes she involves in her husband’s decision making. We can learn it from Eddard’s saying in

“You listen to too many of Old Nan’s stories. The Others are as dead as the children of the forest, gone eight thousand years. Maester Luwin will tell you they never lived at all. No living man has ever seen one.” “Until this morning, no living man had ever seen a direwolf either,” Catelyn reminded him. “I ought to know better than to argue with a Tully,” he said with a rueful smile. 

Lady Catelyn often argues with her husband when he’s about to make a decision. Her role is very important in giving her husband insights and opinions in his decision-making. When Eddard Stark was offered to be the Hand of the King, he had a talk with Lady Catelyn at night and they were having different views and she was so headstrong about her view.

“I will refuse him,” Ned said as he turned back to her. His eyes were haunted, his voice thick with doubt. Catelyn sat up in the bed. “You cannot. You must not.” “My duties are here in the north. I have no wish to be Robert’s Hand.” “He will not understand that. He is a king now, and kings are not like other men. If you refuse to serve him, he will wonder why, and sooner or later he will begin to suspect that you oppose him. Can’t you see the danger that would put us in?” 

Brave, courageous and sacrificial

Catelyn thought of the three children she must lose. It was not easy keeping silent then.

He was right; Catelyn knew it. It did not make the pain any easier to bear. She would lose all four of them, then: Ned, and both girls, and her sweet, loving Bran. Only Robb and little Rickon would be left to her. She felt lonely already. Winterfell was such a vast place.

At a point when her son she love Bran fell into commas after he fell, Catelyn seemed to be a weak person. She grieved too much about his son misfortune. She sleep less and won’t leave from his side. Yet after the incident of a man trying to kill him, she got up from that situation and found her courage and sense back. She was very determined to avenge her son and found out the murderer. She then decided to go to King’s Landing herself to solve the puzzle and to warned Eddard Stark and her daughter so they will be safe. Instead of sending other men, she trust herself most and sacrifice herself to a long, risky and dangerous journey.

She looked at Ser Rodrik with his great white whiskers, at Maester Luwin in his grey robes, at young Greyjoy, lean and dark and impetuous. Who to send? Who would be believed? Then she knew. Catelyn struggled to push back the blankets, her bandaged fingers as stiff and unyielding as stone. She climbed out of bed. “I must go myself.” 

When she took the journey to his sister’s place with some men and Tyrion Lannister as her prisoner, they were attacked by some riders and Catelyn act bravely. Holding the dagger, she marched in the fight, defending herself and trying to help the men kill those riders.

Tyrion ducked under his sword, lashed out with the axe, the man reeled backward.. and Catelyn Stark stepped up behind him and opened his throat. 

Devoted (Family-Oriented)

Despite the fact that her marriage with Lord Eddard Stark is arranged as political action (which is common in the society), Lady Catelyn is very devoted to her husband and children. Well, in fact, perhaps she also agreed to marry him for the love she bear her father. She loves her husband, Eddard Stark deeply as well as all his children she bore. Every decisions she makes and the motifs of her actions throughout the story is to keep away her family from harm. She went to Kings Landing, risking herself trying to save her husband and her daughters as well as finding the person who attempted to murder her son.

Catelyn’s heart went out to him, but she knew she could not take him in her arms just then. First the victory must be won, for her children’s sake. 

It was a hard way for Catelyn to be away from her husband and her children when Eddard was asked to be the Hand of the King. Yet she agreed because she knew that it’s the only option to keep all of them safe.

He was right; Catelyn knew it. It did not make the pain any easier to bear. She would lose all four of them, then: Ned, and both girls, and her sweet, loving Bran. Only Robb and little Rickon would be left to her. She felt lonely already. Winterfell was such a vast place. 

Fierce and vengeful

It might seem contradictory that in the previous points, Lady Stark is proven to be gentle. Yet at some point, she is so fierce and vengeful. She could be gentle to the people she love yet if anyone messes with her family, she would hardly grant them mercy. It can be seen on how she loathed her husband’s bastard Jon Snow. She was jealous on the thought that her husband must have loved Jon Snow’s mother fiercely for nothing she said would persuade him to send the boy away. Catelyn tensed at the mention of the boy name. She is full of anger. When they were in their chamber and discussing of which of their children Eddard must brought with him to King’s Landing and came to mention Jon Snow, Catelyn was angry in silent.

Ned felt the anger in her, and pulled away. Many men fathered bastards. Catelyn had grown up with that knowledge. It came as no surprise to her, in the first year of her marriage, to learn that Ned had fathered a child on some girl chance met on campaign.

It was the one thing she could never forgive him. She had come to love her husband with all her heart, but she had never found it in her to love Jon. She might have overlooked a dozen bastards for Ned’s sake, so long as they were out of sight. 

We can also see that she is vengeful in how she was determined to found out the man who attempted to harm Bran, her son. When she suspected Tyrion Lannister and met him, she eventually seized him and took him to the Vale of Arryn to then judge him with her sister even though the road was hard and many men died taking them there.

Gender Stereotypes and Motherhood in the Story

In the society of westeros, proud, honor (keeping their oath), wealth and authorithy are the best quality anyone could possess. For men, they are expected to be physically strong, brave and courageous. In the beginning of the story, when Eddard beheaded a man, he wanted her son Bran to see him doing it. Bran was expected to not look away and be brave to see such violent for a man should have the art of fighting for they may went to battle field some day. In the story, the knights is also glorified. Every houses prepare the son to be a knight. If one didn’t possess such masculinity and failed in the art of battling, they are seen las less of a man. We can see it from the portrayal of the character Samwell of House Tyrell. His father abused him then abandoned him and send him away to The Wall because he is such a coward. He failed to master the arts of fighting. As it is impossible for him to become a knight and bring honor to her House, he is considered as a shame to her father

A dozen masters-atarms came and went at Horn Hill, trying to turn Samwell into the knight his father wanted. The boy was cursed and caned, slapped and starved. One man had him sleep in his chainmail to make him more martial. Another dressed him in his mother’s clothing and paraded him through the bailey to shame him into valor. He only grew fatter and more frightened, until Lord Randyll’s disappointment turned to anger and then to loathing.

Whatever pride his lord father might have felt at Samwell’s birth vanished as the boy grew soft and awkward. He also has hobbies and likes which are far from what the society thinks of masculinity, the quality a man have to possess in order to be considered manly.

Sam loved to listen to music and make his own songs, to wear soft velvets, to play in the castle kitchen beside the cooks, drinking in the rich smells as he snitched lemon cakes and blueberry tarts. His passions were books and kittens and dancing, clumsy as he was. (Martin 260)

Meanwhile, women are seen as the asset of the house to strengthen the authority, pride and honor. Arranged marriage are common as political act to bound houses and make allies. Daughters are raised to marry son of any honorable Houses. We can take the example of Robert the king who offers his son to marry Eddard’s daughter, Sansa. The Stark family, Lady Catelyn and her husband Eddard Stark accepted it.

“Sansa must wed Joffrey, that is clear now, we must give them no grounds to suspect our devotion. And it is past time that Arya learned the ways of a southron court. In a few years she will be of an age to marry too.” 

Women’s goal in their motherhood is to bore children for the family. Lady Catelyn aware of her ability as a woman to deliver children and she enjoyed her role.

“Her loins still ached from the urgency of his lovemaking. It was a good ache. She could feel his seed within her. She prayed that it might quicken there. It had been three years since Rickon. She was not too old. She could give him another son.” 

Women are also expected to be gentle and gentle and courteous. The ideal lady presented in the story is Lady Catelyn who possesses both quality. Sansa Stark is so yearning to be like her mother. She is so lady like. Unlike her sister Arya, everyone thinks that this girl needs refinement as her manners are far from gentle and courteous.

Sansa would shine in the south, Catelyn thought to herself, and the gods knew that Arya needed refinement. 

Sansa and Arya are given the course of needling, a gentle and ideal to a feminine characters hobby. Sansa was good at it meanwhile Arya always ruined it. Because of it, the septa sees Arya less of a woman.

From those qualities of men and women which are society expected in the story, we can say that this society of Westeros is generally patriarchal. Women are often objectified as family asset as well as sexual object. Women are expected to fulfil the role of delivering children and see their need. In this kind of society, motherhood is the time when a woman are expected to be gentle, lady-like, family-oriented and caring to her children.


Kingdom of Westeros is a patriarchal world where women are often objectified as family asset as well as sexual object. Women are expected to fulfil the role of delivering children and see their need. In this kind of society, motherhood is the time when a woman are expected to be gentle, lady-like, family-oriented and caring to her children.

The character Lady Catelyn presented as gentle, corteous, family-oriented. Those are the qualities of ideal lady in that society. But she also possesses some qualities that are breaking the gender stereotypes such as brave, fierce, headstrong and vengeful. In the society of Westeros, as a mother, with those qualities she possesses, Lady Catelyn is fills the criteria of a good mother.


  • Martin, George. R.R, “A Game of Thrones” (2011). London: Harper Voyager.
  • Parmar, Jasveeram, “Motherhood as Institution and Experience” (2015). Guru Nanak Dev University.
  • Rose, Martha Joy, 'The Journal Of Mother Studies: A Peer Reviewed, International, Interdisciplinary, Open-Acess, Digital Humanities Hybrid Project' (2015). CUNY Academic Works.
  • Ruddick, Sara. “The Maternal Thinking.” Feminist Studies 6. 2. Summer (1980): 342-67. Sage, Lorna. Women in the House of Fiction: Post-war Women Novelists. London: Macmillan, 1992.
  • Tong, Rosemarie, “Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction” (2009) Boulder: Westview Press.
16 August 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now