OK, so this has been bugging me for some time now... As time has gone by, I've been thinking more and more about it. It has become gradually apparent to me that the devs wanted such a discussion to take place. Or maybe an internal quest monologue...
I know it's been said numerous times that what James did was bad; and it is. Of course, that's easy as an outside observation and it doesn't tell the whole story. It's a moral, deceitfully definite description, one created by humans. Nature sees no “good” or “bad”. It sees cause and effect. Action and re-action. Decisions and consequences. Experiments and cycles. Multiple resolutions.
The devs did a pretty subtle smokescreen setup. Like a bait to get you drawn in and begin the journey. One that can trap you in a situation where you question the exterior, but can prevent you from questioning more deeply. It took me years and years of thinking about that well-decorated exterior to actually decide to step in and take a deeper look.
You see James starting at a normal looking scenery, before taking the forest trail and going deeper into the town. That's the exterior. Not before taking some time to look in the mirror. Not without making a judgement and an initial assessment of where he stands. What didn't hit me for years later, was that could also be seen as a spiritual journey into his own psyche. We see he's there to find his wife, but he's actually there to find himself. That is also very apparent with the downward [inward] spiral in SH4. An exploration of the psyche (in SH4's case, someone else's psyche and motives). In that light, you can view the town (and in SH4's case, Henry) as the medium/vessel in which you make the inward journey from different perspectives.
I always thought that the “sexual deprivation” argument was rather shallow at worst, half the story at best. The most immediate and easy thing to do is to think that Maria symbolises what a lowly, lustful and uncaring being he is; one who will shit all over his current life in the quest of something new and exciting. But Maria can also symbolise his longing for sweetness and tenderness. Which are also things he's lost. That's also why Maria can be very dynamic. Pretty sensual and suggestive at times, really fragile and threatened at others. It's also a symbol of a purely internal struggle James is having. Should he let go of Mary and move on with his life? Should he have been always there no matter what? Should he stay stuck in the past or look into whatever future he could build? Maybe just give up?
What about the scene where Maria is found dead in the cell? That can also be a lot of things. It could be implied that PH killed her (or not) and that also could mean numerous things: a) The town is punishing James by claiming his newfound comfort, b) James is punishing himself by telling him he doesn't deserve something like Maria, c) James has lost it and the town is trying to make him remember and realise things, d) PH is a construct of James, a mirror, in a sense his personal punisher (maybe his conscience), who inflicts pain on him by trying to kill him (James killing himself) and depicting violent things at some parts, while standing still at others, like a mirror telling you to stop and think. [In this sense, PH could be transferred as a “personal punisher/weapon” in Homecoming too, instead of just a spooky monster; acting for you, but also being you or your strongest desires or questions; same in Downpour (more consciously; it's Murphy)] In this sense, PH [the villain] could theoretically apply to anyone and everyone. Which reminds me of “They look like monsters to you?”. [Personal perspective, personal filter, experience, ...]
Same can be said about the elevator scene: Is James leaving Maria back on purpose because he's selfish? Is it just how he is and in his panic forgets about her? Is it a symbol of him leaving Mary behind? Was it him just killing her or also his neglect? Maybe it's his regrets and conscience again?
The other characters are also in their personal quests and struggle with their personal stories. For example: Is Eddie bad? Was he made bad? His acquaintance with Laura seemed to be kinda special for him. Maybe his being with Laura was his solace and a comfort. He pushes James away because he instinctively knows that him being in a similar situation meant he wasn't particularly “clean”. Maybe the town/she/he wasn't so critical of him[self]. Maybe he's in denial. Is Angela just depressed and suicidal? Has Angela also killed her family and is also on the same quest from a different perspective? Her fire is her own pain. Both her and James are in pain, but they experience it differently. Angela also instinctively knows that there must be something wrong with James and she's also learned to fear and distrust others. The other characters are different flavors.
There's also the symbol of broken promises or promising too much or not really meaning it. Taking Mary back to SH/the hotel was a broken promise. James ending up there is in a twisted way a fulfillment of that promise. “Coming back” [/being truthful/meaning it] is a broken promise that's showcased a lot.
Sticking around, being consistent and honest is another subject that's thrown around a lot. Visiting Mary could be one. Angela's question “Will you love me? Will you heal all my pain?” is particularly strong in that. She asks for full attention, for commitment. James wants to sound optimistic, caring and supportive but falls short when he actually has to show it. It's a comment on James, but also on humans as a whole. That also makes one think: Was Mary too demanding? Was James too weak? Are they maybe both at fault? Even neither of them? Needs and wants can't always be fulfilled for various reasons. This actually applies to my own, real life. It's not just an abstract concept. Here's a short story: My family has similarly struggled with my grandma who initially had a stroke she survived, but which left her with some movement impediments. She got so ashamed and depressed at people staring at her and commenting that she decided to never go out again. And she didn't. For years. Maybe she viewed it as weakness or shame. I'll probably never know. She has a very strong, stubborn and dramatic character. Been through wars, through a troubled marital life. She eventually had a second and third one which left her paralysed from the waist down. More years inside, now unable to serve herself, various phases of depression. My parents and some other relatives going in-and-out to help her. Meanwhile getting worse financially, with some of her children also being away and not always caring and 3 or 4 relatives baring most of the weight (in terms of presence and money). Eventually it became difficult to afford in-house help and put her in an elderly home for the past year or so. Sometimes she goes on about everyone having abandoned her, not loving her... Sometimes she wants to leave, but everyone knows that's difficult. Whether she knowingly does it or not, she does demand full attention and commitment. Which pragmatically means time taken out of everyone else's life to devote to her. Is it selfish? Is it proper? Is it moral/immoral? Ethical/unethical? My father is heavy-handedly pragmatic, me and my mother are torn (What if it happened to you? It's ethical, but also non-pragmatic etc.), one aunt has grown tired and cold (still paying, but doesn't really care), one other being more emotional, while also ultimately not wanting to constantly be around... I'm sure most people have stories like that.
Maybe also Mary was torn? Was she mad at life and she lashed out at the more immediate target? Did she have clues James was cheating on her? Did she think she deserved to be cheated on? Did she know inside her that he'd eventually move on and hated it? Was she selfish in demanding attention? Did she have moments she wanted to die? Did she have moments she actually encouraged him to move on? And the cycle goes on...
Facing these situations is difficult. It was similar with my uncle who died of cancer. I was too young then and not really around his house at the time, but I have fond memories of him. Similarly with my grandpa later, when I was actually around for most of it. My grandma bared most of the weight, along with me, another uncle and my parents. It was quite a bit of work and quite disheartening watching him get worse. My grandma cried at times along the way, same at the funeral and a few days after it, but then she got better and is quite normal now. Sometimes I caught myself thinking the sooner he passes, the better for everyone. In reality, I was hoping he'd somehow get cured but I knew it was highly unlikely. So, I logically leapt to the pragmatic solution/conclusion. It also makes me think how it was probably deliberate that Mary's disease was 'heavy' but undefined. And that empty stare they have towards the very end is a pretty strong experience. I first noticed it with my uncle, but it really hit me with my grandpa the second time around. You almost don't know if they're still there. It's really strange. After a while it feels like a burden has been lifted. Something's gone and it's both good and bad. There's some relief at least. Anyway... (What do I mean “Anyway”? Things are what they are)
That gets us to the nature of the town. It's been said that the town itself is a character. I see how that holds water, as it seems that it passes judgement on the actual characters. I used to think it just acted on its own the way it sees fit, but then I also thought that characters have their own triggers and maybe they can trigger some events themselves. Maybe the town is partly a blank canvas on which the characters draw. Just like with Alessa. Was it all her power? Was it the town's “energy” she could channel? Did the town also play its own parts? It gets quite complicated here. That's one facet at least. For me, there's also the possibility a lot of what we see is very cerebral, almost as if large parts of it (could) take place in the characters' heads. Maybe the town also knows what's in their head and it makes the “proper” displays. Sometimes it feels punishing, some others more like a guidance to realisation and resolution. Maybe what the characters think about themselves also plays a role. In this sense, the multiple endings stand in a new light because they're not just gameplay elements for the sake of variety, but they imply anything could happen depending on the circumstances and the actions and decisions made. It also makes you think about possibilities and different shades and takes on various events. Anything could happen, depending on your decisions, how far you'll go and the direction. Much like in life.
At this point, I'd like to talk about Laura, but allow me to consolidate some previous similar posts of mine here, that add some more bits:
“I find it mostly revolves around what is good or evil, or better, that good and evil are human creations and, depending on the situation and the individual, you don't really know how things will turn out and how far you're willing to go. In that sense, I find it even more fitting that there are multiple endings.
Most characters are at different points of this spectrum.
Also, am I the only one who thinks that the game keeps implying that James had found another woman? Or, at least, that he had a stong urge to find something antithetical to what Mary had become? Not because he wasn't getting laid, but because he wanted out of his new routine.
And, (I don't remember; excuse me if I'm mistaken), Angela is looking for her mother and I've seen people say that (I'm paraphrasing a bit) she killed her entire family and kind of lost it and thought she [her mother] was alive and looking for her because after all, she wanted her there. Couldn't it be that her mother actually ran away and left her with her father? Thus, Angela snaps and kills everyone and then wonders why her mother left her behind and didn't take her along to live a calmer and more sane life?
Maybe the fog world for her is the wondering for her mother [and contemplating killing herself] and the fiery otherworld is her other personal hell; her pain. (She does say "For me, it's always like this" but I'm not sure she refers to the fire but moreso to the constant pain; although I find it interesting that the line is served at that point. I have a feeling she summons her own otherworld whenever she feels the pain is too much to bear and gets trapped there. Much like getting stuck into certain thoughts when you're depressed. Fire is dynamic and intensifies and dies down like feelings, too. Also, to me, it doesn't seem like she died when she went up the stairs; she most likely just didn't have anything more to say to James.)
Laura, on the other hand, is the only character that's pure and innocent. In other words, it's a manifestation of James' conscience. Or a manifestation of morality. Maybe even the town's impersonated "judge" and moral trigger. The town is using her to poke at his mind. It doesn't matter if she's real or not. And, if she is, I wouldn't expect her to see anything more than the normal version of the town. Certainly not anything disturbing.
Also, Maria - when her Mary essence breaks out - says they have to find Laura, she's all alone etc. I draw parallels to "She's all alone and helpless" > "I am/was all alone and helpless [and you weren't there]". "Where is your morality/humanity?" But "I don't want your pity". In the end: "Do you love me enough to be here, anyway?" "Anyway? What do you mean, anyway?" It's caring for Laura but also an accusation towards James.
Have a look here for my theory about Laura:
I'm not saying these theories are flawless but they're thoughts I've made.”
Silent Wanderer wrote:Couldn't it be that her mother actually ran away and left her with her father?
That's exactly what the official Silent Hill 2 novel says through Angela's words and is the reason that Angela couldn't forgive her mother.
Btw, now that I thought of it again, the bowling scene could also very well be about Angela if you think about it.
In a parallel sense:
Laura = Young Angela
Maria = Angela's mother (What she should be doing - According to a moral system, if I may add)
By a stretch > James = Angela's father (Could even be a depiction of her parents fighting over her)
Thus, the accusation could now be directed to Angela's mother, too. ("Why did you/she leave her alone in that hell?")
In another sense, you could also regard the town as a purgatory that just lets the characters face their issues and find closure. So, it doesn't [just] act on its own moral system but acts as a mirror, a trigger to the characters to let them clear out their issues themselves. In a way, realising and spawning their own psyche and confronting their issues.
The way Laura, Cheryl, even Josh and up to an extent Lisa and Angela are depicted makes me lean more towards the previous theory though. But it could also be a combo depending on the character. (The town has its own plans but also lets characters spawn their own stuff when they "need" to or it determines it helps their "therapy")
Depending on the individual character and how strong their feelings are, thus letting them tap into the town's energy or whatever. And here it gets more complicated if you try to add in the cult (1 & 3), Alessa etc. I'm not gonna go into that as this is about SH2 and I'm drifting away, but I think you can figure out where this goes. (Not being exclusively about Alessa and not being exclusively about the town; in a way, the potential of a background conflict between strong-feeling characters and the town's wishes - Implying that the town obeys to an even bigger force which could be God or this "natural balance system") [If not God, then the individual or the collective mind] [Humans against a perceived natural order or system? Or against their own created systems of morality?]
(Lisa or Angela could be examples of a combo situation where maybe the town thinks she's a lost cause but she hangs onto her feelings and thoughts to linger there; a kind of common body)
After all, all this acts as a mirror and food for thought for the receiving end (the player). Making them ponder and figure out where THEY stand. (What we're doing by analysing it)
It gets kind of hard to follow after a point.
Tells me a lot about the world the devs managed to create though. Even if they didn't intend most of this, it's fascinating how it all comes together."
"For me, Laura is a very interesting case. Firstly, I'd never consider the concept of her being able to grow up. It always felt to me like she contributed to an SH "justice" or "appreciation" system which paints the town even more as an actual character... (In a way SH talked to James through Laura) An icon. A carrier. A vessel. Like an alive moral/ethical compass or a judge compared to (but not faced against) the town acting as a mirror to one's self and the collective view of the world. For me, that's DEEP.
It pointed me to an "innocence" theme. [Something 'sacred', like Nature is considered to be the quintessence of balance and "innocence"; and even that contains some or a lot of violence - Only humans can question or actively alter that and you get to movements like Transhumanism and the advent of technology and its power to upset the natural balance as well as morality, ideas, ideals... I mean, fuck, you could even draw parallel lines with THE Advent] It felt like what SH is doing to its tortured residents or visitors was leading to that theme. And, further, shaping the characters to understand and aim for that. To make things right, in a way. To balance. To "clean".
Human/moral chaos against natural (physical) balance. Only humans can form, accept and enforce a moral system and a moral compass. One could even consider [grown] humans as defiants of the natural balance. Unnatural in a way. How can they question God? How can they alter its world? In the end, what's their place?
And, again, felt the same for Alessa/Cheryl. The town kept Cheryl (or her spirit or essence or whatever you wanna call it) safe to guard her from the evils of the town (or better, its residents) [Or even what the town itself perceives as evil. Funny, isn't it?] and the world at large. Project that innocence and help it be recognised. I could never accept that there was even a possibility she saw the horrors that Harry saw. Even more, when you think she acts as a guide to Harry (a "good" person). A guide.
Reproving/rebalancing the adults (the "tainted" and what they stand for) and protecting the children (the "innocent"/"clean" and what they stand for).
Could say the same for PH in a way, if you're willing to accept him not being attached to James but being used by the town as a "punisher". A shower. An actor. A shocker. A guide, but in a different manner (for the same purpose). It can work even if PH was spawned initially (just) for James.
It also felt like a tip of the hat when Gans said something similar in the movie. And the movie felt like an embodiment of this view.
The quintessential clash that could happen in SH would be to make a character see all that and bring them against the town, morality, themselves, God, the universe itself.
I find that beautiful and moving."
Laura in a way impersonates humans in their truest form, as children. Before they are colored by difficulty and the issues and subleties of everyday grown/adult life. Children can be brutally honest. They ask questions. They can be annoying. They're quite helpless. They can make spot-on remarks. They can be very heartfelt and emotional. For example, maybe she allowed Eddie to be more true to himself and have some company he enjoyed; or maybe she annoyed him. Firecrest said he'd rather eat pizza, but maybe James ruined it for him or it was a fleeting moment, dunno. Maybe he really doesn't care for her and just lets her go. Which again shows his character. Maria worries for her. Which is a clue that shows that maybe she bears some of Mary's essence. For James, she can ask all the hard questions and accuse him. And also make him think of others more. What possible motive could she have (other than love and questioning)? She just speaks honestly and brutally. And gives more perspectives on how the characters' actions could be looked upon. Laura is the catalyst.
Lisa is another interesting example. She is kinda weak and innocent, she seems nice. She seems to have got lost on the way and is in her own little world, looking to cling to something.
James also goes through some cleansing, especially in the hotel, where everything mouldy and old gets thrown away. He finally faces what has happened and can choose what to do from there. He's liberated or doomed. It' up to him and, ultimately, us.
It made me see the devs asking: Are you sure about your initial assessment? Maybe you should take a look inside you and see how this applies to your own life and start asking questions.
This made me wonder about the natural balance again. In an open nature someone who's really sick, old, helpless would just be recycled. But for good or bad we have all these systems in place that prolong, extend, assume, force, expect...
It's ultimately a fight between what is and what could be, with all the in-betweens.
Some other bits leading up to this sum-up:
viewtopic.php?f=21&t=437694 (Not my own, but partly inspired me)
Of course, I have to say that the game is pure genius. It has transcended pure gameplay and story for me and has become like a book that never quite gets its final chapter and a philosophical quest. For such a cerebral and theorising being as me, it's absolute bliss. Thinking about these games, is like thinking about life itself.
As always, this is an assortment of ideas contributing to the collective pool and perspective. Nothing is definite. Anyway, thanks for reading and hopefully you got something out of it.