The Cloak Soiled Him: The Life and Times of Jaime Lannister

Let’s talk about Jaime Lannister. Whether you love him, hate him, or don’t quite know what to do with him, if you’ve touched a single episode of Game of Thrones with a ten-foot pole, he has made an impression.

Since he lost the hand that killed the king and threw the Stark boy from the tower, Jaime’s been through some interesting times, and he can be a difficult character to categorize. Is he a complicated hero or a complex villain? Is he a disappointed idealist or a hypocritical narcissist? Will he die an ignominious death, a heroic death, or will he defy the odds and survive the series? Under all the debates over whether Jaime is good or bad and stands any chance of redemption, the question is: what kind of story is George R.R. Martin writing with this character?

There are many relationships and roles to describe him, but to the audience, he’s arguably most notorious for being a lover to his twin sister Cersei. Before he becomes a POV character, he can be seen as a loving big brother to Tyrion, a source of frustration to his father Tywin, an unknown father to his sister’s children, a pivotal antagonist to the Starks and Tullys, and a desperately problematic Kingsguard knight. Within the story, his reputation revolves around having killed the king he’d sworn to protect, and yet there he is, still employed in protecting the next king. In this essay, I will argue that there are two primary roles that drive Jaime’s character arc, and they are the incestuous affair with Cersei, and his role as a Kingsguard knight. These are the two forces that have most powerfully influenced Jaime’s behavior since his adolescence, and it is from these two angles that we can best answer the question of what kind of story is playing out through this character.

Depending on who’s speaking and whether he’s present, Jaime is known by several names, including but not limited to: Kingslayer, Lion of Lannister, Goldenhand, Oathbreaker, Man Without Honor, Lord Commander. Under all those epithets, he still remembers:

Jaime. My name’s Jaime.