HERE BE SPOILERS!
I think I’ve just written my favorite post on Quora. So here, I’m sharing it with you: I’d like to dissect Tyrion for a while. One thing I have in common with Martin (as well as our love for fantasy and writing) is that Tyrion is our favourite character in Game of Thrones.
Tyrion has experienced a terribly abusive childhood. He had no part of love from his parents (mother died at birth and his father blamed him for her death) or his siblings (although a case could be made for Jaime). As such, besides Tyrion facing childhood trauma, he was also solitary in his experiences.
His childhood has led to the desire for violence and revenge, to a slightly depressive personality (although he is funny to us, I doubt his life predicament seems funny to him) and to the need for refuge.
“I’m not particularly good at violence, but I’m good at convincing others to do violence for me.”
Furthermore, Tyrion has been a lifelong victim of his aesthetics. Society labels him as a monster, imp, dwarf, or half-man. He has not been allowed to participate in social exchanges as an equal, mostly due to his appearance. His only friend (besides Jaime) is Bronn that charges him for that right. Yes, lately we have seen Varys join this picture. However, I think this friendship is of an utilitarian nature.
It is remarkable that Tyrion has not fallen into the pits of depression and is able to still find humour in life. This probably comes from his interpretation of being smarter than everyone else, using wit and sarcasm to dull his raging desire for attention. Tyrion has also developed an inability to conform to social norms. He often uses his appearance as an excuse for his actions.
“Never forget who you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
“I just want to stand on top of the Wall and p*ss off the edge of the world”
Tyrion has developed a strong survival instinct. His refuge has taken the shape of wine, whores and books. Wine is a depressant, which is associated with lower risk of depression, used in order to dull his senses. Books have made him witty and knowledgeable (since he can’t chop a horse’s head of in one swing, he was forced to other methods of violence).
“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge. That’s why I read so much Jon Snow.”
Tyrion has turned to whores due to his need for attention. He has the coin, so he gets to feel loved (or make love) for it. At least this is what Freud would say. Although Freud has developed many faulty theories, I believe there is some insight to develop here. Is Tyrion not looking for attention as and when he brings Shae to his quarters in King’s Landing, even after Tywin said he would kill the next whore that he sees him with? Why would Tyrion do that when he knew of the high possibility that she would get caught and the consequence of it? It boils down to the fact that his affection for her was actually a need for attention and his desire to control his own life.
Tyrion’s life has turned him into a genius character. Martin has done a mesmerizing job of creating a character that is full of emotion and that comes off the paper. His actions make us want to break free of our own social construct chains. This is probably what makes him so appealing.
I was asked to analyze Tyrion’s leadership abilities by a fellow writer on Quora. So here’s my edit:
I was asked to comment on Tyrion’s leadership qualities and abilities. And so I shall!
Tyrion prides himself on being cunning. In fact, he argues that it is:
“The only gift that the Gods have seen fit to give him.” (please tell me I’m not the only one reading this in his voice)
Being cunning definitely means that one must spend a great deal of time in planning. As such, it could very well be that his decisions are often interpreted as defensive (see the Battle of the Blackwater). However, there is more to his leadership approach than mere planning. Due to Tyrion’s life experience, he has become a survivor (although not a very heroic one at that). His calculations don’t often consider how flashy a victory must be, but rather that victory means survival at all costs. An example is the fact that Tyrion did in fact take to the field in the Battle of the Blackwater when he thought that his defensive position would no longer be the best choice.
Tyrion is probably the most loyal person to their position. His abilities are always put to very good use when he is allowed to service the Crown. As Master of Coin he managed to show (and attempted to solve) discrepancies in the treasury. As Hand of the King, Tyrion managed to secure an alliance with the Martells, point to vicious and scheming individuals (Pycelle) and keep the Lannisters on the throne. The dwarf is probably one of the very few that does more work for the public good than for his self-interest (although this exists, as it does with all characters in the show). He takes his tasks seriously due to his desire for attention. acknowledgement, praise and attention are the things Tyrion seeks most, more than whores, wine and physical pleasures.
These last lines are probed by this absolutely great insight into Tyrion Lannister:
“I can’t see Tyrion bashing everyone’s head in on the show so he surely doesn’t have a violent predisposition.” Really? Let’s get things straight.
A person commented on my analysis that Tyrion is in fact not a vengeful or violent character and that any person that had been through the abuses that he endured would react the same with Tywin and Shae.
Here was my answer:
I believe that you’ve actually answered your own question, at least partly.
Tyrion is the type of person that bottles up their emotions. Individuals that deal with their emotions in such a way tend to have violent outbursts at some point. For Tyrion, the moment involved Shae and Tywin. Just because a person bottles up emotions and desires, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a certain predisposition. By the way, this desire for revenge and violence can be controlled.
You’ve stated that any person with an abusive childhood due to their father and sister would end up taking revenge as he did. Although this is false, it actually also shows that you are contradicting yourself. Not every man that would have went through what he did would go killing their loved one and father. Would they be inclined to react this way? Well, maybe. However, he was in fact subject to childhood and lifelong abuse and this resulted in an outburst that meant two deaths. This is predisposition. It does not need to be manifested at all times.
I am not saying that Tyrion is the most vengeful or violent character in Game of Thrones. In fact, he is probably on the lower end of that spectrum. However, it cannot be said that he does not have a predisposition (which as you said would be ‘normal’ for someone in his predicament). Moreover, we cannot compare him and Joffrey. A predisposition is someone open to some actions. Joffrey is more likely a psychopath. There is a clear distinction here. There are many people who suffer from violent predispositions due to stressful and ungratifying workplaces.
I could remember another instance where Tyrion exerted some of his revenge, although it was paired with utility. Sending Myrcella to the Martells. He had no idea what would happen to her there, and would have been killed in all probability (as did happen). This was a way of taking revenge on Cersei. Now, being a practical man, as he is, Tyrion has employed Bronn for his violence. I remember a moment on the show where he actually tells Bronn this. As such, Bronn has become an extension of Tyrion’s violent side.
I am not going to say that living in those days meant that society was without violence. In fact, many times lords needed to employ it. However, we are not analysing the Game of Thrones society, but Tyrion himself. Although, clearly the context, world around him, family, just the environment in general does affect a person’s behaviour.
P.S. The character in the book has more frustrations and predispositions than the one in the show.
I forgot to mention. Season 6 shows how taking a person out of their environment can alleviate their predispositions.