Lover of books, rats, and things that are nifty. Atheist, liberal, historian, scientist.
Disclaimer: I’m not actually proposing that GRRM wrote the story with this in mind, and I’ve been told that Sansa was created initially as more of a foil to Arya. Nor am I saying that everyone should personally identify with Sansa Stark. I’m just saying that it’s an interesting lens through which to view her character.
I stumbled upon the “Sansa as reader stand-in” idea over a year ago on the internet. Unfortunately, the person didn’t really expand on it much. But it’s pretty easy to see where the thought comes from.
Because tbh, if anyone in this series would be a reader stand-in, it would be Sansa—or Sam, really. And it might also be a reason some people sort of dislike her but are unable to really explain why (this is aside from the victim-blaming she can get, and the people who just don’t connect with her, etc.)
Because I’m guessing that a significant amount of people don’t want to read about themselves in a fantasy novel. They just don’t.
But consider this about Sansa:
She is the character initially with her head the most in the clouds, generally preferring otherworldly fantasies to the harsh reality of her world; her habit of choosing stories over what’s in front of her is one of the qualities that can grate. At the beginning of ASOIAF she is full of life and joy, so certain that this story will be like all of the others she’s read, and that she’ll get her happy ending. And she keeps thinking that right until the moment they cut off her father’s head.
If all of that sounds oddly familiar it’s because I’m also describing the reader. I know that I’m certainly describing myself when I started the series, anyway.
Sansa’s story has been heavily centered on adapting to her environment, and she has had much less room than her siblings to act rather than react. She possesses no sword, or really any weapon at all. She has never slain a foe, or birthed a dragon, or ruled a country, as characters in fantasy novels are wont to do.
But she has learned. She’s learned from the experience of witnessing her father be beheaded, and that’s something that she won’t ever forget.
Sansa’s storyline has thus far been tied into the mundane rather than the supernatural; she has had essentially no contact with magic, and reflects the reader in this way as well. She does not have her brother Bran’s connection to his direwolf—in fact, she doesn’t have a direwolf at all. Nor does she possess Arya’s remarkable skill set, or the gift of a super-assassin friend; even Sansa’s “knight” was really a drunken fool.
In these ways Sansa is almost “stripped down” in comparison to some of the other characters, and this is neither a good thing or a bad thing. At the heart of it all, Sansa is an everyday girl—intelligent but not a prodigy, capable of being both intensely empathetic and rather cold, utterly lacking in magical accessories, weapons, or animals… you get the point. And like most people (I’d like to think), she is also essentially good at heart, while we have ruthless villains aplenty in Westeros.
Sansa wises up as the series progresses, and so does the reader. This wising up is significant because no other POV character has been so utterly disillusioned on the page: the other Stark children harbored their own fantasies and delusions, but none so prominently as Sansa. As we become accustomed to the truth of Westeros, so does she. She stumbles, of course, but that’s to be expected. She isn’t a master Game player; she’s a thirteen year old girl doing her best to survive in a world that she hadn’t even known to truly exist, in part because the picture in her head was so much more beautiful.
So no, while Sansa was probably not intended as a reader stand-in, I believe that framing her as such is a legitimate lens through which one could potentially understand her character a little better.
And if you ever hear someone criticize Sansa for her love of fantasy and knights in shining armor, just remind them of what series they’re reading, and suggest that they may have something in common with her after all.