Monday, August 25, 2014

Silent Hill 2 Analysis - Chapter 4: Betrayal, Violence and Homicide

During Silent Hill 2, the impression that we get from James is that he’s a good man that only killed his wife because he had pity of her suffering. Mary was sick, bedridden and wasn’t herself anymore. The frustration that she felt due to her medical state, lead her to say horrible things to James, that contributed for his mental exhaustion and lead him into a potential depression. James knew that there was no cure for Mary’s disease and even so he took care of her for three years, before eventually killing her. We also know that James was tired of his situation and wanted his life to go on. Such thing would only be possible after the death of Mary. Nevertheless, knowing all this why would James feel such tremendous guilt to the point of completely forgetting about his own actions? It is certain that he would have preferred not to have killed her and that the doubt of how much time would she have lived is present in his mind. It’s also certain that he loved his wife very much, but I don’t think these are enough factors in of themselves that would lead someone into a state of self-induced amnesia, especially when the person in question can logically justify his wrongdoings.

The amnesia condition in itself occurs when one of the following factor sis present: cerebral damage, disease or psychological trauma. Parcial amnesia also may be cause by various sedatives and psychedelic drugs. Having in mind what James forgot, we can assess that he forgot them because of psicological trauma and because of his consumption of sedative substances. We know that James drank ‘a fair bit’ of alcohol, has he himself suggests in Heaven’s Night.

With these factors in mind we may be able to explain his state of amnesia, but even so there are a lot more weird things about James’s behavior. Take for example the supposed letter he receives from Mary. Throughout Silent Hill 2 the contents of this letter change themselves from a single paragraph, to a blank paper to not existing at all, revealing its illusionary nature. In other words, James invented this elaborated lie as an excuse to go to Silent Hill. 

Certainly, this has nothing to do with amnesia, and one can’t argue that the ‘town called him’ since he only went there because he received the letter in the first place. Besides that, a town cannot send letters to people and ‘the mystical powers’ are only present in the town itself and not outside of it. I suggest that there’s something else entirely about the nature of the events and about James himself. I suggest that James is dead right from the beginning of Silent Hill 2 and the entire game is a sort of purgatory trough which he must suffer in order to purge is sins.
James, a soul trapped in Purgatory;
During the game we find various allusions to the possibility of James being dead. The first sign of this is the many corpses that there are scattered around Silent Hill which have clothes similar to James’s. The second sign is in the apartment 208, where we find a body identical to James, covered in blood in front of a television. 

The third sign can be found in the Toluca prison, in the cafeteria. There we can find a curious painting of the cafeteria itself seen from the exit door. Because of this angle, this painting appears inside of itself creating the illusion of infinity. By the lower right corner we find a dead person with the same clothes as James. 

Notice how before James enters the prison he must unlock a door with a special key. That key has a 3 inches long cylinder attached to it with the following message written on it: "Tis doubt which leadeth thee to Purgatory". The doubt is referring to the uncertainty that James feels about if he really killed or not his wife. It is this basic conflict of conscience that lead him into this situation – the purgatory. 

According to catholic belief, a soul becomes trapped in purgatory until all its sins have been purged, and only then it may travel to paradise. For that reason James will be trapped in Silent Hill forever, unless he successfully atones for his sins. This is the purpose of the Red Pyramid Thing and of all the other manifestations, to help James finding his way out.

James, a prisoner;

Before the fight against the two Red Pyramid Things, where one would normally find one save point, we find instead nine, disposed in a square formation. 

 Many believe this to be the way that was found by the developers of ensuring that the player would save the game before progressing. While this is true it’s not the only reason. These nine save points are found in various promotional images and products of Silent Hill 2, for example in the cover of both the Japanese release of the game and the official guide.

Besides that, notice how each time that the player saves the game, James’s face appears behind the menus, as if reflected in a mirror. This is reminiscent of what we see James doing right in the beginning of the game.

He contemplates his own reflection with a bit of perplexity and takes is hand to his face as if washing it, or metaphorically, trying to recognize himself. 

During the first time that the player saves the game, James comments that looking at the strange red paper causes him headaches. He feels a strange sensation, like if someone is ‘groping around’ inside his head.

Notice that these papers are red and that that is the color that is associated with the Crimson One. The presence of this mysterious papers around Silent Hill reveals that the Crimson One desires James to reflect upon his own actions, and therefore upon himself. It’s interesting that when the player saves the game he himself is forced to stop for a moment allowing him to rest and possibly reflect upon the game.
It is only after we contemplate the quadrangular shape found on the wall in the Lakeview Hotel that we notice the optical illusion created by this formation. The blank spaces in between the red squares form a series of bars which are illusionary, represented in yellow on the images below:

These bars are evocative of the ones usually found in cages or in jails. Notice how during the game certain parts of the scenario are blocked of by strangely placed metal bars.

The fact that these bars are an illusion created in our minds because of the placement of the squares creates an automatic parallelism between us and James, who is trapped inside an illusion himself. Besides that, James feels imprisoned because of his guilt and by is fear of being caught by his crime. Each time that he looks into a mirror (or each time the player saves the game) he is reflecting upon all of this. 

There are other things that make James feel imprisoned and those are his memories of the traumas he has suffered during his childhood, and also his wrongdoings toward his ex-wife besides the murderer.

James, the victim;

Let’s start by explaining why I believe James mistreated his wife or other women regularly. As we know the victims tend to try to identify themselves with the abusers so that they can understand them better. This happens especially when the abuses happen at a young age.

Having in mind the all the characters are a representation of a part of James, then Angela is a representation of his victimized side. I claim for that reason that James was a victim of physical and sexual abuses as a child by his father Thomas.

Notice how during the second encounter with Angela, on the floor there’s a torn photograph. 

In that photo we see a couple and two children – a girl and a boy, but the place where the boy is placed is damaged making it impossible for us to see his likeness, which is a bit strange. On another photo of Thomas we find the boy again, but this time we can see how he looks.

Both the children are blond, like Thomas and his wife. Angela on the other hand has dark hair but on the photo where she supposedly appears her heir is very blond. I know that as one grows older, the color of the hair becomes darker but in this case it is too much. This means that the person in the photograph isn’t Angela but James. 

In the Labyrinth, James must fight the Abstract Daddy – a representation of sexual abuse. The room where this fight takes places is also very suggestive. The walls and the floor are of what seems to be an organic material, like if we are inside of a human organ. The walls have various round holes through which cylindrical shapes move back and forth. This fight is more than what it seems – James is facing his trauma.

After killing the Abstract Daddy, James must jump onto an open grave with his name on it, in order to be able to proceed. This is symbolic and means that James will be reborn after he has overcame his childhood trauma.

James, the traitor;

Another aspect of James that is frequently overlooked is that he is a womanizer and that there’s probability of him having had a lover while Mary was still alive. The first time that this becomes apparent is in the apartment 307, when we see the Red Pyramid Thing in suggestive activities with two mannequins. Note that by this time James hasn’t yet met Maria so this couldn’t be about him feeling guilty for wanting to go to bed with her.

When the Red Pyramid Thing finishes what he was doing, he drags one of the mannequins by his leg, then rotates his arms in the general direction of the mannequin and this reacts to the movements as if being hit by the arms. James as if by impulse shoots against the monster, making him leave the apartment. Having in mind that the Red Pyramid Thing serves the purpose of making James remember all of the wrongdoings of which he feels guilty about, than it becomes obvious that this has nothing to do with his supposed sexual frustration, as some might say. 

The fight in the Brookhaven Hospital against three Flesh Lips also suggests the existence of another woman. Notice how when James first enters the room where the fight takes place, there are only two Flesh Lips but when he kills one of them, another one appears. I suggest that the two first FPs where a representation of Mary and the lover, and the third is a representation of Maria. Or maybe, two of them are Mary and one is the lover. 

After defeating them James is transported to the ‘otherworld’, lying down on top of what appears to be an ambulance stretcher. 

James enters the otherworld due to a crisis of conscience, and not because of some ancient cult. Take note that the doctor tells us about a mysterious mental condition that under the right circumstances can take anyone to the ‘other side’.

The third time that the betrayal theme is brought up is in the Toluca Prison. Here the player will have to solve a puzzle that revolves around displaying three tablets into three slots, under the gallows. Each tablet presents a different illustration that reflects a different subject of James’s guilt. The first tablet is the one of the oppressor, the second is the tablet of the gluttonous pig and the third is the seductress.

In the gallows there’s a curious illustration where two Red Pyramid Things are surrounding a hanging man.

Being that there are three slots under the painted figures one can assume that they are related to them. That being true then we can assess that the hanging man is the gluttonous pig that is being judged by the crimes of domestic violence and treason. This gluttonous pig is of course a representation of James. After putting the tablets in place we hear a man screaming. This is a manifestation of the deep desire that James feels of being punished by is sins.

James: the abuser;

The violent aspect of James’s personality can be hinted at by the behaviors of both Eddie and the Red Pyramid Thing. Eddie because he kills people by impulse for various types of absurd reasons. RPT because we see him mistreating and sexually assaulting creatures that are present in the apartments. The scene in the apartment no. 307 is extremely relevant and suggests domestic violence and abuse of alcoholic substances by James. 

This scene in particular was inspired by a scene in the movie Blue Velvet by David Lynch. In that movie, Jeffrey, the protagonist, hides inside a wardrobe so that he mey not be seen by a couple in their house. Through the door cracks he is witness to a sickening scene of rape and domestic violence.

In the movie, Jeffrey sees the abuser inalling drogs while beating on the woman. In the game, James sees the Red Pyramid Thing struggling to remain standing up and violating the mannequins. Having this in mind we can understand that the scene in Silent Hill 2 is a direct reference to the one in the movie Blue Velvet. But it is more than a reference – it is a clue. It allows us to better understand both James’s and the Red Pyramid Thing characters. In the movie the protagonist was witnessing the wrongdoings of a horrible man but in Silent Hill 2, the protagonist is witnessing the wrongdoings of himself.

The second time that the sexual abuses theme is brought up is in stairs on the apartments, where James will face the Red Pyramid Thing for the first time. Upon entering the room we see the Red Pyramid Thing in suggestive activities once again with one of the monsters, and besides that we hear moans of pleasure.

The typical explanation of the sexual frustration of James that is manifested in the environment does not make much sense in this context. It is obvious that the Red Pyramid Thing does not represent James’s guilt of having felt the desire to have sexual relations with his wife, but the guilt of having forced her, or other woman, into doing them. 

Notice that after the fight against the Abstract Daddy, an image shows up on the screen for a fraction of a second, after Angela throws a television against it. Of what we can perceive from this subliminal image is that this seems to be a still of some moments just before she throws the tv. But why? And why first of all is there a television in this room of all places? Notice how in the subliminal image there appears to be a blood splatter on top of the tv, in pretty much the same manner as in the tv on the apartment 208.

This would be a detail I would have easily ignored if it wasn’t for the fact that during the scene where we see Maria dead in the Labyrinth, another subliminal image of this precise fight against the Abstract Daddy appears.

Take note that the door of the room where Maria is lying dead has the numbers 208 written on it. 

The parallels between the two places don’t end there. In the apartment 208 there are some newspapers placed on top of a table and in the corridor preceding the fight room we find too some newspapers scattered around the floor and walls. 

If you are still not convinced, than notice the similarities between the events that lead James into entering both of this rooms. In both cases we hear a loud distant scream and James reacts in precise same manner. 

All these separated aspects create an automatic parallelism between the fight against the Abstract Daddy and the apartment number 208. Because we see a smear of blood on the television in room 208, and Angela throws a television against the male figure of her abusive father, we may conclude that James is in fact a sexual offender.

Click on the following links in order to go to another chapter:
Chapter 6

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