I think we can all agree that Robert Arryn from A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the most obnoxious kids to ever appear in literature or television. I can find hardly anyone who doesn’t dislike him. And watching Sansa slap him in “Mockingbird” was probably one of Game of Thrones’s more satisfying occasions since Joffrey died.
Robert is not a big character in either the books or the show—we rarely see him—but even with limited appearances, he is one of those characters who can easily and very quickly leave a negative and long-lasting impression on the viewer. For me personally, whenever I see Robert in the television show or come across a book chapter he happens to be in, I don’t know who I hate more: Robert, or every person who had a hand in his upbringing. And speaking of hating Robert, I’m not even sure it’s really fair of me to hate a small child for being a horrible product of a horrible environment. In some ways, I pity him. Sadly for Robert, as entitled, spoiled, and pampered as he is, his mother—and I suspect his father as well to some extent—has abused him since the day he was born.
I think that we can all understand a mother’s desire to protect her child. For someone like Robert’s mother Lysa Arryn, who has already had numerous stillborn children before giving birth to Robert and is herself just a bit neurotic, this is taken to the utmost extreme. I don’t blame Lysa for wanting to keep Robert safe from harm or for wanting to protect him from the horrors of the world. And considering that she has already lost children and that Robert is incredibly sickly and was lucky to live past the first few years of his life, Lysa’s protectiveness would be entirely understandable if she didn’t take it as far as she did.
The sheltered environment Lysa has chosen for Robert’s upbringing has ensured that Robert is unable to mature or psychologically progress as he gets older. He has been infantilized—he gets whatever he wants when he wants it, has been taught that he is special, is incapable of viewing the people around him as anything more than toys, is still breastfeeding when he’s nearly seven years old, and has learned that there are no consequences for his actions. Additionally, by raising Robert in the Eyrie, where there are no children Robert’s age and while also refusing to let Robert experience any sort of hardship, he has been further psychologically stunted by an inability to deal with societal conflict. Essentially, if this continues, Robert is going to grow up into being what I have heard described as a “child-adult”. That is, even upon reaching adulthood, due to his upbringing, he will still have the emotional capacity of a child. As such, he will be less likely to take initiative and develop good-decision making skills. Since Robert is Lord of the Eyrie and in a leadership position—a position he is in no way prepared for—this will probably have a lot of negative consequences for a lot of people.
Sadly, as much as I pity Robert for his upbringing, if he wasn’t so infantilized by his mother, it is entirely possible that he may not have lived as long as he has—but that’s only because his mother breastfeeds him. Robert has very poor health, and he is also prone to seizures. Breast milk does provide a lot of health benefits, even to adults and older children, which would be essential to someone in Robert’s situation. It’s not as though Robert has access to modern day healthcare, after all. However, though breastfeeding long past what is acceptable by society’s standards may have saved Robert’s life, the fact that his mother was still breastfeeding him at the age of seven is a little worrisome. Robert is old enough when we first meet him to have been weaned already without suffering certain death.
Additionally, though I could maybe have seen it as understandable to keep him breastfeeding longer than normal due to his health, since Westeros is advanced enough to know that breast milk is healthier than other milk, it is not understandable for Robert to be infantilized in the other aspects of his upbringing.
Most worrisome is that Robert has been raised to enjoy executing people. Whenever someone displeases Robert, he wants to make them “fly”, as in, “shoved through a hole in his mountain home to plummet to certain death”. Robert tends to scream for this whenever someone he doesn’t like is in the same room as him—such as Tyrion—and even when told that he cannot make someone “fly”, he gets visibly upset. The hole in his mountain home was designed for the execution of criminals, since the Eyrie lacks an executioner. Though we can rant about the morality, or lack thereof, of the death penalty another day, Robert has been raised to view “making someone fly” as something for his own satisfaction and not something to only be done to criminals slated for execution. It is clear from this that he views other people and their lives as less important than his own selfish desires. They’re not people; they’re toys for his entertainment that he can literally throw away when he’s done with them.
While people like Robert are certainly victims of their environment and should be pitied as a result, they unfortunately grow up to victimize the people around them—and this can especially be seen with Robert and his desire to make people “fly”. Now that Lysa is gone and Robert is being raised by Petyr and Sansa who are less likely to give into his selfish desires, it’s entirely possible that Robert may eventually progress into a decent human being. Unfortunately, once someone in Robert’s position has been given such a sense of entitlement, that sense is hard to take away.