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Creation of a Hero: Dramaturgy, Identity, and Costume in “Ms. Marvel: No Normal”

[Super-hero sized spoilers ahead.]

In high school, I avidly read the Legion of Super-Heroes reboot that began in 1994. Eventually, I cooled out on the series, although my love of graphic novels began when I wrote a paper on Maus by Art Spiegel in college for an English course. Recently, I found an unexpected treasure when I sat down to read my spouse’s copy of Ms. Marvel: No Normal, the first compilation of the new Marvel comic series. The series is an exploration of identity: Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American teenager who struggles with being a second generation immigrant, especially in terms of identity. The volume also focuses on the challenges she faces with differing gender roles between the broader U.S. culture she and her friends are embedded in with those of her parents’ country of origin.  In a Los Angeles Review of Books article, The Subversive and Liberating World of G. Willow Wilson, Hannon points out that Wilson:

wants us to resist the presumptions that Muslim women need saving simply because they are Muslim and female. Wilson’s work and her characters, in pulpy form, embody this refusal since they are not waiting to be saved, but are doing the saving. They may strike at oppression—but they never strike at their Muslim culture.” In a society that views women, especially Muslim women, as powerless or victims, how does one show empowerment?

Ms. Marvel: No Normal shows empowerment through the transformation of Kamala into the role of a hero while navigating all the other aspects of her identity. I’ve written many times about Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis on this blog because I’m fascinated by how people construct, play, and modify their roles in different social settings. This link will take you to a brief overview of dramaturgical analysis, as well as a clip of Kanye West going “off script” to discuss his feelings about race and class during Hurricane Katrina. Dramaturgy views how we play roles, use scripts, and wear costumes in the different settings we navigate throughout our days.

In terms of “Ms. Marvel: No Normal,” Kamala is dealing with her identity in terms of being a young woman, a teenager, a Pakistani-American, a Muslim, and finally, she is trying to figure out how her desire to be a hero fits in with all these other roles. The volume explores how many gender roles, particularly those associated with Muslim women, make it challenging to take on the mantle of hero. Kamala is also a teen. One of the major aspects a teenager must figure out about her (or his) identity, is what costume to wear. Obviously, this is important for a superhero in terms of identity, too. All of these roles are impacting Kamala simultaneously.

The story does an excellent job of exploring intersectionality. Intersection theory is an analysis that allows connection between the different systems of oppression to one another as they impact individual’s lives. For a better understanding of the origins of intersection theory, this article explores the emergence of intersection theory to help African American women in court cases where they were being ignored due to the intersection of race and gender. Intersection theory can be applied to social class and other categories, as well. Returning to Ms. Marvel, Kamala must deal with being a minority in a culture that privileges being white and expects young women to take on certain roles. This volume explores the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and age.

While there is a villain in the series, the conflict in this volume mainly arises from Kamala becoming an independent young women in a world that expects women (especially younger women) to make themselves small, to be beautiful (in a extremely narrow sense), and to be protected. To be a “beautiful” woman in the U.S., unfortunately, women must deal with a beauty standard that assumes that women are sex objects. Kamala gets overtaken by a strange fog and she “sees” Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Captain America, who are real people in her world. Captain Marvel asks Kamala:  “’Who do you want to be?’” Kamala replies, “Right now, I want to be beautiful and awesome and butt-kicking and less complicated. I want to be you. Except I would wear the classic, politically incorrect costume and kick butt in giant wedge heels.” Captain Marvel replies with a raised eyebrow, “You must have some kind of weird boot fetish.”

I adored this scene.  For years, the comic book industry had been critiqued for its depictions of women in art.  In this volume, the characters address this concern. When Kamala loses control and “transforms” into Captain Marvel, she is wearing one of the revealing outfits that many critics have complained about in the comic industry, in video games, on book covers, etc. The comic actually confronts head on the impracticality of these images of women. Kamala herself has absorbed the rules of American culture: beautiful women are Caucasian, wear high heels, and short skirts. In fact, Kamala soon realizes that she needs a very practical costume so she turns next to her Muslim identity. She takes the burkini, which is a swimsuit that covers the whole body for modesty, for her costume. She notes that she would have never actually worn it for swimming. For her shoe wear, she appears to be wearing high top sneakers. She doesn’t succeed on this mission. When she returns home, her father tells her, “You don’t have to be someone else to impress anybody. You are perfect just the way you are.”  She realizes that it takes too much energy to change sizes in the previous costumes. Finally, she gets Bruno, her friend, to help make her a stretchy costume that looks more like a superhero costume. She adds the symbol to her costume herself. This relates a great deal to the intersectional struggles that arise for young minority women, particularly a second generation immigrant, to belong.  As she tries on her identities, she realizes that she doesn’t fit into the typical American view of who she is, but she also finds aspects of the Muslim-American view to be restricting. Instead, she uses ingenuity to forge a new path. (This reminds me of the discussion of code-switching in my previous post on M.L. Brennan’s Millennial character, Fortitude.) Her friend and classmate, who happens to be an inventor, helps develop a material that is flexible enough to flow with her. This portrayal for a second generation immigrant really resonated with me.

In terms of dramaturgical analysis, having a proper costume helped Kamala to have the confidence to play her new role her own way—letting go of aspects of both cultures while taking on others. Returning to a different dramaturgical concept, other people in the settings that Kamala is participating seem to want her to fit into certain gender roles. They want her to play certain parts. For example, other characters want to protect her due to her the intersection of her age, gender, and religion, often working at cross purposes with Kamala’s own desire to be brave and heroic. Many scenes with her parents fit the bill, but the one I wish to discuss is one with her friend Bruno.

It’s revealed early on that Bruno has romantic feelings for Kamala and has been protecting her since they were children. Obviously, this plays into traditional gender roles in the U.S.  When Kamala calls him out about it, he admits that he is unnerved by this role reversal as she develops superpowers. And why Bruno is a good ally is that he accepts Kamala the way she is and contributes to her wellbeing in other ways (like using the polymer he invented to help her with a stretchy costume that means she can spend more of her energy focused on the fight.) He accepts her strength, and after a brief adjustment period, seems to accept the new role she is playing.

At the end of the volume, an effigy of Kamala is left at one of the settings she frequents with her friends, the Circle Q convenience store. She says to the gathered crowd: “This guy thinks he can threaten us where we live? Ms. Marvel has a message for him…This is Jersey City. We talk loud, we walk fast, and we don’t take any disrespect. Word.” In the end, Kamala saved the day, at least temporarily. She comes into her own. Kamala Khan has fully embodied her role as a superhero, and I look forward to seeing how her identity continues to unfold. For more information about the writer, G. Willow Wilson, you can look at her website or this interview with her. I can’t wait for the second volume of Ms. Marvel coming out next week!


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Discussion of Marxist Theory and Emotional Labor in Gilmore Girls

“Karl Marx has come alive for me today…”

Paris Geller

As a sociology professor, I have to say I loved the episode of Gilmore Girls calledWe’ve Got Magic to Do” in Season 6. Since Netflix released all of the seasons, I’ve been tearing through them quickly, as I missed the show when it was first on. It’s a fabulous show for discussing both gender and social class politics with a dash of commentary on race and ethnicity.

The core interpersonal conflict of the show is between Lorelai Gilmore and her wealthy parents, Emily and Richard Gilmore. Years prior to the beginning of the show, sixteen year-old Lorelai rejected and fled from her parents upper class life with her newborn, Rory. When the show begins, Rory is the same age as her mother when she ran away. Rory aspires to attend Harvard.  Lorelai, who is managing a successful inn, requests help from her estranged parents to help pay for Rory attend a prestigious, private, prep school.

Rory attends the school and winds up attending Yale, her grandfather’s alma mater, instead of Harvard.  When at private school, she meets Paris Geller, an intense, wealthy, young woman.  Over time, one learns that Paris rarely sees her parents at all, and she is essentially raised by her Portugese nanny, whom she loves. While attending Yale, there is a point where wealthy Paris losses everything due to her parents committing tax evasion.  Rory, who is running a benefit for the Daughters of the American Revolution, offers her a job to help. The theme is a United Service Organization event, explaining the setting and the costumes.  Paris works as a server, and she explains and supports Marxism in this short scene.  Her sudden fall though the social classes allows her to move past some of her social class privilege to understand and identify with the workers. This scene would be great to supplement a discussion on Marxism in an intro class. Paris notes that it isn’t right that the wealthy become rich off the backs of the laborers. Near the end of the clip, she asks how much Rory is getting paid to do this and speculates that Rory gets to eat in a separate place from the other workers.

Rory is also having social class related woes due to her boyfriend being from an extremely powerful and wealthy newspaper family.  In the past, his mother rejected Rory as not good enough to date her son due to Rory’s family and “lower” status. Therefore, when his mother arrives to the function late, she expects good treatment, despite not RSVPing. Rory is frustrated that her boyfriend’s mother can just waltz in, and she yells in the kitchen that she hates her.  In the end, though, Rory performs emotional labor and provides the wealthy woman with a table.  This makes several great points: (1) the rich aren’t subject to the same rules or laws, (2) working class and middle class people have to manage their emotions when it is clear that the wealthy do not have to do the same labor, and (3) the back-stage is a safer place for workers to discuss their ire towards the wealthier patrons who dehumanize hem. This episode illustrates Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis quite well, in addition to Hochschild’s emotional labor.  Finally, Rory minimizes her experiences at the end of the clip saying that she’s just hungry.  This takes an individual analysis of the situation, as opposed to the structural analysis that Paris takes. This invalidation of Rory’s feelings is disturbing, and it relates to the idea that emotional labor may come at a high cost for workers including alienation.

The entire episode would be great for a discussion in a sociology class about topics like social class, capital, alienation, commodity fetishism, prestige, Karl Marx, the means of production, the proletariat, the power elite, Marxist revolution, etc. I might analyze the series more fully later, as there are many scenes and episodes dealing with inequality.

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“Caliban’s War”: Part 1: Women as Point of View Characters

[Spoiler’s ahoy!!]

One of my first blog posts last year covered “Leviathan Wakes,” the first book in “The Expanse” series by James S.A. Corey.  The book grew on me over time, and I gave it as a gift to several friends this year.  While I enjoyed the book, I had some reservations about the portrayal of gender.  One of the two authors of the series, Daniel Abraham commented on my review and said that I should try the second book, “Caliban’s War” to see how women are treated as point of view characters.  Often in literature and films, women are either treated exactly like men (with women’s names) or as stereotypes of women. The women in “Caliban’s War” were treated as whole persons with a mixture of masculine and feminine traits.

For example, I adored both Bobbie Draper, who begins as a sergeant in the Martian Marine Corps, and Chrisjen Avasarala, the assistant to the undersecretary of executive administration.   Bobbie’s story arc is an amazing one.  Her team is destroyed at the beginning of the book by nonhuman creature described as being “covered in chitinous plates” with its head “being a massive horror.”  It rips her counterparts apart, and Bonnie lives merely because the creature exploded.  Bonnie’s character development includes her having to work through this nightmare experience, as well as her breaking her ties with her former life because she realizes that the threat of this “monster” is greater than any Earth-Mars tensions.  Her position as a marine was extremely important to her. Although I won’t give away the ending, Bonnie regains her strength, and her actions amaze.  She is a resourceful, powerful, strong, and large woman who is attractive despite not matching traditional gender roles.  I thought that it was interesting that, due to her size, men often wanted to either have a sexual relationship with her or were intimidated by her.  Bobbie embraces her sexuality in a healthy way; furthermore, she is not viewed negatively for her sexuality.  I never felt when reading this novel that Bobbie was just a woman character who acts exactly like a man. She felt like a fully developed human being with her own talents and goals.

I’ve discussed dramaturgical analysis before, and I believe that Bobbie’s presentation of self roughly matched who she was.  On the other hand, Avasarala, an older woman and diplomat, had to find ways to play her role as the assistant to the undersecretary of administration  successfully in the male dominated field she worked in.  Before addressing the specifics of “Caliban’s War,” I want to discuss some of the findings related to women working in fields dominated by men.

In work sociology, an important topic to address is the tokenizing experience of minorities like women in workplaces. Rosabeth Kanter, faculty in the Harvard business school, for example, found that minorities in a workplace are highly scrutinized by their peers until about 15% of the workplace is comprised of that particular minority.  Therefore, a lone woman working in a field dominated by men would be monitored closely, as well as having her behaviors explained in terms of traditionally feminine stereotypes.  Women in this type of situation would have to learn to negotiate this tokenism. Kanter’s research has also been critiqued as oversimplifying the complexities of gender discrimination in the workplace, as it relates to gender.  If you’re interested in this topic, Kanter’s book from 1977 is called “Men and Women of the Corporation.”  Incidentally, Dr. Kanter (@RosaBethKanter) often tweets helpfully about leadership and innovation.

Returning to “Caliban’s War,” Avasarala’s spouse asks her, “‘The mask is heavy today?’”

Avasarala reflects on this idea. “The mask, he called it.  As if the person she was when she faced the world was a false one, and the one who spoke to him or played painting games with her granddaughters was authentic.  She thought that he was wrong, but the fiction was so comforting she had always played along.”

It seems that Avasarala either sees both versions of herself as authentic or only the version of herself at work as authentic.  This fits in with the dramaturgical analysis: she performs different roles in the different settings that she’s in.  It doesn’t mean that one is necessarily more “real” or “true” than another. Avasarala worked for the United Nations and was a tough character on the surface who learned to appear certain ways to work with the men in her field.  Avasarala finds certain masculine behavior distasteful, while embracing other aspects to fit in, perhaps like cursing. She is the, or one of the, most intelligent characters in the book and is one of the first characters to realize the dangerous potential of the entity on Venus from the previous book. Her behavior throughout the book is impacted by the realization that infighting between Earth and Mars might be harmful in a fight against a new enemy.  One of my favorite aspects of Avasarala is her willingness to get her hands dirty while still holding onto certain norms like protecting children.  Her arc allows for her to fall, briefly, in power, and then to rise higher than she started.

Both Bobbie and Avasarala felt like full human beings with their own histories, hopes, and goals.  I was pleased with their portrayal in this book, and I hope to write another post soon that looks more generally at the politics happening in the book, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

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Culture Shock: Hopscotch Meets Debutante Ball

I attended Raleigh’s music festival, Hopscotch, earlier this month, and I highly recommend checking it out next year. This post is about my experience of culture shock while at Hopscotch. Due to my love of Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis, I usually enjoy watching crowds, in addition to observing the actual performance. The people in the crowd perform at events, too. I saw twenty-eight different performances over three days, and I noticed great diversity among the festival attenders. This makes sense, as there was a great deal of variety in both the performers and the venues.

The first performer I saw was Nathan Bowles in the Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. As you can tell from the picture in the link, it’s a formal venue.  He played the banjo. On the other hand, I also saw a couple of rock bands play in Deep South The Bar, a music venue next to the Amphitheater. The ambiance in Deep South was perfect for the bands, but, as you’d expect, vastly different from the Opera Theater. When crowd watching outside, viewers wore a variety of outfits from casual to night-on-the-town clothes. I personally chose to wear jeans, a t-shirt, and purple Converse. As I attempted to find a theater on the back side of the Center for Performing Arts, I got trapped as an enormous group of people flowed out of the building. I felt like I was trapped in a movie with hundreds of brides and their parties. In reality, I was in the middle of Raleigh’s Debutante Ball. Trapped in the middle of this enormous crowd and feeling extremely out of place, a few hysterical giggles escaped my lips. I realized later that I had just experienced an example of culture shock in my own city. After I escaped the mass of people, I talked to a couple of Hopscotch attenders at the fringe of the crowd, who laughed about it with me.

I’ve been teaching my sociology students about culture shock this week. Although most people have experienced culture shock before, it’s worth noting that culture shock occurs when an individual experiences personal disorientation when exposed to unfamiliar cultural values or norms. Applying dramaturgical analysis, my performance was that of a concert attender. In my attire that *should* have been appropriate, I suddenly found myself on the wrong stage, and I didn’t know my role or my lines. Additionally, I felt deviant and confused. All in all, it really was one of the most amusing moments in my life and a great example of an experience of culture shock in your own country and city.

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Dramaturgical Analysis of Butlers and Gentlemen in “The Remains of the Day”

Two nights ago, I stayed up late finishing “The Remains of Day,” by Kazuo Ishiguro.  In the past, I’ve read Ishiguro’s book of short stories, “Nocturnes,” his novel, “When We Were Orphans,” and I’ve seen the film based on his book, “Never Let Me Go.”  The bittersweet themes in his work resonate a great deal with me considering the fact that most of our lives include both positive and negative elements.  Ishiguro writes fantastic first-person narratives, and he manages, at least in the books I’ve read, to show flaws and changes in his characters’ personalities.  Furthermore, he relates the individual characters’ lives to the larger social and historical forces surrounding them.

In “The Remains of the Day,” the narrative displays the sociological concept of dramaturgy, shows how the profession of butler changed over time, and demonstrates international changes in power and relationships.  Dramaturgical analysis, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is Goffman’s idea from his book, “The Presentation of Self in Every Day Life.”  Basically, we are performing in what amounts to stage plays in the different settings of our life.  We play certain roles, use certain scripts, wear particular costumes, and attempt to create certain impressions in the minds of those around us (Goffman).

This idea is implemented in multiple ways in the novel. First, the entire book is about the narrator, Stevens’, role as a butler for one of the “greatest” Lords in England and their lives in Darlington Hall.  The main character discusses the how dignity is part of the role of a butler.  He spends time outlining what exactly this means throughout the book: loyalty despite personal feelings.  For example, Steven’s father, who is briefly a character in the book, managed to serve the general whose actions likely led to the death of his other son despite his personal feelings and desires.  This demonstrates professionalism.  In terms of dramaturgical analysis, it means playing a certain role or sticking to an expected script.

If analyzing the occupation of butler as presented in the book, emotional labor seems a key trait.  According to “The Managed Heart: The Commercialization of Feeling” by Arlie Hochschild, emotional labor amounts to the idea that people are required to manage their feelings through controlling their facial expressions and body language, as well as a deeper type of acting in which they actually try to change their emotions.  A person would have to manage his or her emotions in order to fulfill their work obligations.  Hochschild, and many subsequent sociologists, have asked the question of how does emotional labor impact us.  She proposed that it could have a negative impact on our lives to distance ourselves from our emotions.

The narrator, Stevens, actually manages his emotions for his role as a butler and denies his feelings for Miss Kenton, who also works in Darlington House.  The book explores what he (and she) lost due to the role he played.  However, in classic Ishiguro fashion, the ending is bittersweet.  Stevens and Miss Kenton, who is now Mrs. Benn, discuss their past, and she returns to her husband.  He returns to the American who now owns Darlington Hall, which is no longer used to its full capacity.  The American owner, Mr. Farraday, puzzles Stevens at the beginning of the book because he attempts to banter with Stevens, which is nearly impossible for Stevens.  Steven believes that this directness is due to Mr. Farraday’s American nationality.  He worked so hard to be a great butler to a great household that he didn’t learn the skill that most people know of how to get along with other people.  During his travels, he realizes that bantering is how people connect with one another.  It isn’t just an American trait. At the end of the book, though, he notes:

“It occurs to me, furthermore, that bantering is hardly an unreasonable duty for an employer to expect a professional to perform.  I have of course already devoted much time to developing my bantering skills, but it is possible that I have never previously approached the task with the commitment I might have done…I will begin practising with renewed effort.  I should hope, then, that by the time of my employer’s return, I shall be in a position to pleasantly surprise him” (245).

The role of butler changed during the decades shown in the book;  the larger world stage changed, too.  The gentleman that Stevens serves follows traditional norms for interaction for people of his station.  For example, while Germany was an enemy in World War I, he felt that the treaty of Versailles caused too much harm to Germany.  He brings diplomats and important people from all over Europe to his home to discuss altering the terms of the treaty.  An American, who is exposed as a villain at the time, tells them “Let’s take our good host here.  What is he?  He is a gentleman.  No one here, I trust, would care to disagree.  A classic English gentleman.  Decent, honest, well-meaning.  But his lordship here is an amateur” (102).  He goes onto states that the international stage needs professionals, not gentlemen to make decisions.  As the book continues, Stevens reminisces about the mistakes that his employer made due to not fully understanding the world stage that he was playing on.  He introduces many people to Hitler’s associate in the book,  Herr Ribbentrop.  And as Stevens notes, Lord Darlington was one of many to err in this way.  The world changed in this era.  The role of leadership changed, similar to the role of the butler.  “The Remains of the Day” exemplifies how social forces change both occupations and the lives of individual people in a particular society.

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Culture in “A Song of Ice and Fire:” “A Dance with Dragons” Review (Part 4 of 4)

“Man wants to be the king o’ the rabbits, he best wear a pair of floppy ears” (ADWD 36)

[The worst spoilers you can imagine, in which I discuss the end of “A Dance with Dragons.”  Read at your own risk!!]

To conclude my review of Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, I will be reviewing his most recent tome called “A Dance with Dragons.”  I thoroughly enjoyed all of the Hugo nominees that I read this year.  And I’ve discussed several of them in previous posts.  While I didn’t put “A Dance with Dragons” at the top of my list, it’s a wonderful piece of fantasy literature.   In some ways, it was a difficult read, as well as a rewarding one.  “A Dance with Dragons” and the previous book are actually chronologically concurrent, meaning that Martin split one gigantic book into parts focusing on different characters.  Many people have complained about the pacing of Martin, in terms of “nothing happening” in “A Feast of Crows”  and ADWD.  To be able to enjoy either book, I think it is important to recognize the place of both of these in the overall story arc.

If you think of “A Song of Ice and Fire” as one enormous novel, instead of a series, then I think that we are at (or near) the low point for all of the main characters, in terms of their situations and their psychological states.  He is setting up the proverbial chess pieces for he endgame.  One of the reasons that I really enjoyed “A Dance with Dragons” is that the tension is built nearly as high as it can be for most of the main characters.  Dany, Jon, and Tyrion, have all sunk to various lows in the past two books.  Both Jon and Dany have gotten mired in politics as novices, for example, and while they make some good decisions, they also make terrible ones.  In different ways, both real and metaphorical, these characters struggling with getting knocked to their knees.  The titular characters, the dragons, finally seem to be coming into their own, leading to the main characters’ realization of just how dangerous dragons are.  They aren’t just sweet little pets who you can train to perform tricks.  People who dance with dragons have a way of getting burned.

Although I remain uncertain, I wonder if one of the themes that Martin is exploring is that of the danger of personal loyalty and nepotism.  Our love for others can lead us to participating in heinous acts that we would in no other way participate in.  When I say this, I think of young Arya, murdering a man because of his treatment of her half-brother Jon Snow.  Also, if Ned Stark had actually kept to his values instead of recanting to save his daughters, Sansa and Arya, then would the entire story of ended differently? Similarly, at the end of ADWD, Jon makes a choice that I think was based at least partially on family honor and loyalty to a sibling that leads him to dire straights.  In thinking about the whole story, many characters have died because of feuds between families and over bloodlines.  Especially during this time of war, there is not a system of justice as we would think of it today.  I was already convinced before this book series that vengeance isn’t the right answer; however, in terms of reading the story, there is more than one scene in ADWD in which I find myself actively hoping for vengeance, particularly against Ramsay Snow.  Yet, I don’t think that vengeance is the answer.  Where does the path of vengeance lead?

One of the themes in the book that is the most fascinating to me is that of taking on roles and identity construction.  In sociology, dramaturgical analysis is a method for considering any social setting as if it is a stage play.  This idea comes from Irving Goffman in “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.”  To play our various roles, we have costumes, scripts for behavior, among other stage related terms.  There is a different script and role for me when I’m teaching sociology in the classroom than if I am hanging out a bar with friends.  In “A Dance with Dragons, ” it seems that many of the main characters are playing roles.  A great deal is mentioned about Jon trying to take on his role as Lord Commander, and his discomfort playing this role.  Tyrion is literally play acting role with Penny, as if he is merely an actor in a side show instead of a Lannister.  I think that Dany’s role is the most interesting.  She is trying to fit in as a Meerense, taking the advice of a minor character that stated the intro quote at the beginning of this blog post.  She considers the meaning of wearing the costume, a tokar, many times.  While she considered banning the tokar, she ultimately decided not to alienate the people and began wearing the costume.  This came at the high price of her integrity and identity.  Near the end, she casts off this role including the costume and escapes with one of her dragons.  Arya is also learning to not just play different characters but to “be” different characters for the group of assassins she is training with that revere The Many Faced God.  They are quite literally taking on faces, taking this metaphor even farther than the other examples.  Theon Greyjoy has taken on the role of “Reek” to survive the abuse of Ramsay Snow so long that he has literally become Reek.  Throughout ADWD, he begins to reclaim himself.   This theme extends to many other characters who are taking on roles that do not belong to them.  At what point do you stop pretending and start becoming the character you are playing?  Obviously, this is just as applicable to our world.

To conclude this review of “A Dance with Dragons”, there were some great payoffs in this book and even more cliffhangers.   I have confidence in Martin’s ability to strongly finish the series.  But I hope that it doesn’t take a decade!

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