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 Post subject: A much more depressing interpretation of the endings
     
         
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Missing since: 15 Apr 2004
Notes left: 11052
Last seen at: In the anals of forum history
I've thought about the Leave and Maria endings in a way I'd never done before, and it makes me interpret the whole character of James Sunderland in a slightly different way. I think we may have all gotten it wrong about what these two endings say about his personality and motives in this story.

To properly challenge the predominant perception, I have to outline what that perception is.

James is a man who is dedicated to his wife, Mary, and has suffered a great deal of anguish as a result of her inexplicable and hopeless slide into debilitation, both mentally and physically. He is not a perfect man in spite of his love for Mary, and finds himself unable to handle her mood swings on top of all the other burdens that are crushing him, and avoids seeing her for a long period of time. Eventually, he brings her home for one last visit, during which he decides to give her a merciful finish in place of a staggering, painful one. The trauma he suffers from this event leads quickly towards the events shown in the game.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
LEAVE: The game rewards James for remaining dedicated towards unraveling the mystery of the letter he carries. He doesn't know if he will find a ghost, or a living Mary, something horrible, or nothing at all, but his faith and his love overcome his doubt, and he discovers that he was a decent person who couldn't quite handle it when the whole world collapsed in on him. He may or may not deserve forgiveness, but he is willing to make the best of a second chance he has more than earned.

MARIA: If James is not 100% sold on following through on this letter, it may reflect the fact that he was less than 100% dedicated to his wife in a time where her need of him couldn't be greater. Maria's role is to distract James from his goal of finding whatever lies waiting within the Lakeview Hotel, and James has obviously become so distracted that he wants something entirely different. He cares about himself more than anything else. He's clearly selfish and kind of an asshole, sounding dismissive and uncaring when Maria begins to cough.

IN WATER: James is a man who has made some pretty bad mistakes, and his decision to deliver Mary from her illness via pillow was as much a gesture of loving mercy as it is an irrevocable admission that life as he knows it is over. In this ending, he is faced with all of his conflicting motivations and ends up finding satisfaction in setting aside all doubts about his decision. He may be ending his own life, but it is on his own terms, and he will drift off secure in the hope that there is an afterlife, and perhaps another chance waiting for him to arrive and find it.

REBIRTH: Even the idea of summoning what might be a demon isn't too much of a stretch for James, whose desire to see his wife once more has driven him to the point where he will at least try it. We never know what this ritual is, nor do we know what James sees when he says his wife's name. One may charitably think he gets what he wants, but this isn't the most charitable of environments.



I have come up with an alternative interpretation to each ending:

[Reveal] Spoiler:
LEAVE: James is a man who is willing to forgive his own flaws. In fact, he is a man who isn't very aware of the fact that he has some big ones. James leaves town with a second chance that he feels he deserves. Life really was unfair to him, but he did what he had to do, and he got a result that could be considered ideal, under the circumstances. One of the things he had to do was to let Maria fend for herself. In fact, he is helped towards this ending as a reward for letting Maria fend for herself. She clearly sought his presence for comfort and protection, but he is actually given bonus points towards this ending if he deliberately arranges for Maria to be harmed. James wanted to find Mary once more, and James won't allow his distressed companion to distract him from what he wants, which is to chase after his own guilt-inspired delusion. Mary may have needed James more than ever in her final months, but James did not want to feel bad and so James decided to let Mary fend for herself. By being completely selfish, worrying only about his own well-being and concerned only with his own motives, he leaves with the understanding that he was a victim of circumstance and never to blame for any of his problems. Laura follows him, having been the key to all of his secrets, but she now serves him no more purpose. He'll ditch her as soon as he can. Unless, he decides that she knows a little too much. James isn't a murderer, but he is a man who does what he has to do.

IN WATER: James chased his delusion all the way to the Lakeview Hotel, with a stop in hell along the way. He has had his soul laid bare and open, and in a manner of speaking, he is the one who was really doing the cutting all along, exposing all of his own darkness to the light of truth in the hope of finding, what, exactly? The ghost of his dead wife? Some sort of clue as to how to piece the fragments of his life back together? A truth with some sort of practical value? In the end, it really should have been easy to predict. Putting himself through this crucible has indeed led James to the truth: the nightmare of Silent Hill is just the last and worst stretch of a horrible, three-year long barehanded crawl over broken glass, and much of it was his own doing. He understands now the real reason he came to this town. It wasn't for Mary, or forgiveness for his sins. It was because merely existing was too much of a burden. When he delivered Mary from her suffering, he did it in a way that left no going back for himself. He knew right from the start how this was going to end. All he found in Silent Hill was validation of his original intentions. All that leaves him is his car, his wife's body, and the lake. For a man who has been so savagely abused by fate, the mere fact that it does finally end for him on his own terms is the best thing that's happened to him in at least three years.

MARIA: There might have once been a time when James could look at himself in the mirror, but other than his moment at the start of his adventure, it hasn't happened much recently. Sure, being there for Mary wouldn't have saved her, but it would have made things better. He thinks so, anyway. But, he couldn't help it. He suffered, too. He wasn't even allowed to admit it, or to get sympathy, because she was suffering much more. If only she hadn't made a target out of him. When he was there, all she did was complain about a problem he could do nothing to fix. When he was there, he served no purpose other than to be the lightning rod for all the impotent rage she built up, day after day, surgery after surgery, treatment after treatment, false hope after false hope. He was a failure to his wife, but given the chance to protect Maria, to do for her what he was too weak to do for Mary, maybe would be something like atonement. Maybe. What happens, however, is that he can never again trust his own motives, even when he is doing something selfless and good, even for someone who is manipulative and undeserving of his goodness, he can never be sure he's doing it for a good reason. He'll never be sure he's a good person. When he comments about her cough, all he can think is how it came out sounding like he was an asshole. James is a basically decent person who fucks up now and then, but his problems are his own fault. Nobody likes someone who acts like a victim. Perhaps it's a good thing he's absorbed by his own shortcomings, because it'll be much easier to pretend that what he's doing with Maria doesn't prove that he abandoned any hope of sanity quite some time back.

REBIRTH: Who cares what this so-called God is, or what it wants? The demon can have the world and every filthy soul stinking it up. If the demon can give him Mary, James will give him the universe. Let all of creation be its kindling. There is nothing in it for James. It wouldn't be much of a trade.

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Rosewater Park Attendant
 Post subject: Re: A much more depressing interpretation of the endings

Missing since: 12 Jan 2008
Notes left: 1299
That's a fascinating interpretation...

Not sure if spoiler tags are necessary in a 13-year-old game, but I'll follow your example.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
LEAVE: The general interpretation is that this ending features James totally taking responsibility for his actions, that he regards his "second chance" as an act of grace (from Mary if not God), and that he finally understands that Maria was nothing more than an elaborate attempt to punish himself. It's also generally believed that his intentions toward Laura are good, even if he has no parental feelings for her. I've personally never been able to buy the idea that he adopts her, but I've always believed that he at least takes her somewhere where she can be returned to "the sisters".

Your interpretation is that James instead generates some form of justification for his actions, he cares not a bit for Laura, and that his quest for Mary was the real guilt-inspired delusion. An interesting theory, to say the least.

REBIRTH: Since the souls of the universe are not James's to damn (and he undoubtedly knows it), there's no way to determine whether his attitude, in the event of this ending, is that bleak. But it's plausible: certainly he's willing to promise this unholy deity SOMETHING in return for Mary's life; his own soul is one of many possibilities.

MARIA: I've always been of the mind that it's odd that selfless actions on James's part (looking out for Maria) generate the ending in which he's at his most selfish. Is that your rationale here as well?

IN WATER: I've always regarded this ending as the worst of the three initially available, to the point that it's a glorified "Game Over". In it, James accomplishes exactly nothing, fighting for his life throughout the course of the adventure only to end it. Again, you invert this, and regard it as (in James' mind at least) the best thing that could happen to him. For James to die at the end is tantamount to finding a run-over raccoon gasping in agony by the side of the road and putting a bullet through its head. Given the warnings that the game presents during James time in "dark" Silent Hill, I can't agree... but again, an interesting premise.

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