Inspired by this thread on /r/asoiaf, I have some thoughts on whether Jon Snow actually does break his vows to the Night’s Watch when he decides to march on Winterfell to take on Ramsay Bolton. Also: shout out to @BryndenBFish and @PoorQuentyn for putting up with my tweeted pleas for help and ideas.
His decision, announced after he reads the “Pink Letter” to the hall full of wildlings and Watchmen, has fatal consequences. It is seemingly the final straw for many in the Watch, who take it upon themselves to exact justice on the Lord Commander who has broken his vows.
Many fans agree that when he declared he would ride to Winterfell and fight Ramsay, Jon openly and clearly breached his vows to the Night’s Watch, and thus what the For The Watch-ers did was completely justified. I’ve always found this a little hard to swallow. Now I’ve finally figured out a way to credibly argue that Jon was looking at the bigger picture.
TLDR: Jon’s decision is in keeping with his vow to defend the realm of Men from the Others, except there was no way in hell that he could ever adequately explain that to a Night’s Watch that has forgotten that keeping the Others at bay, and not keeping the wildlings out, is its raison d’être.