Monday, July 20, 2009

1:5 White Rabbit

This episode is all about searching. Jack searches for his father, both in Australia and on the Island, Locke searches for a water source, and Kate and Sayid search for the missing water bottles. The title of the episode comes from Locke:

LOCKE: Why are you out here, Jack?

JACK: I think I'm going crazy.

LOCKE: No. You're not going crazy.


LOCKE: No, crazy people don't know they're going crazy. They think they're getting sane. So, why are you out here?

JACK: I'm chasing something—someone.

LOCKE: Ah. The white rabbit. Alice in Wonderland.

JACK: Yeah, wonderland, because who I'm chasing—he's not there.

LOCKE: But you see him?

JACK: Yes. But he's not there.

The Alice in Wonderland motif introduced here is one that comes up over and over again in LOST. The Lewis Carroll books (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) explore themes of logic, imagination, time and perception. The first book begins with Alice daydreaming on a riverbank on a boring summer day. Suddenly, she sees a white rabbit run by, checking his pocket watch. She follows him down a rabbit hole into a new strange world with a skewed reality. In "White Rabbit," the rabbit is Jack's father, Christian Shepard, who just so happens to be dead.

The flashbacks deal with Jack's troubled relationship with his father. In the first scene we see a young Jack getting beat up on the playground for sticking up for another boy. His father, instead of consoling or scolding him, tells him not to take chances:

"You don't want to be a hero, you don't try and save everyone because when you just don't have what it takes."

In a later episode, Jack tells Michael that he listened to his father "a little too well." Given Jack's demise into alcoholism and suicide attempts after leaving the Island, his father's words sound prophetic. Jack couldn't handle the fact that he had left others behind. In "White Rabbit" he can't cope with the fact that he couldn't save Joanna from drowning. Jack doesn't have what it takes to stop caring about people, to detach from his failures to save them. We probably wouldn't like him as much if he did. His drive to help people and fix problems is his most admirable characteristic, even though it's also his biggest flaw.

Jack's search for his father is really a search for redemption and forgiveness. In Australia and on the Island, both searches are in vain. When Jack finds Christian's empty coffin, his rage encompasses the frustration of both searches; he never is able to reconcile with his father. The Christ symbolism is thick here: Christian's body is no longer where it was laid. But Jack's Christ is a distant one, one who left in anger and who shows no signs of offering forgiveness or acceptance. (In a later episode some of that forgiveness will come from an unlikely source.)

Moving on from character analysis and on to Island mythology. The season 5 finale gave us some information about who Christian Shepard might actually be, or how he was seemingly resurrected. John Locke's body was apparently used by Jacob's nemesis for his own purposes. Doc Arzt and others have suggested that maybe JN has been the one appearing as dead people throughout the series. I love his theory about bodies: every dead character who has reappeared was someone who died on the Island*. Remember The Others' funeral for Colleen, when they sent her body out to sea? And remember when Richard asked the Dharma people for the bodies of his people? Maybe if a body remains on the Island, it can be used by JN.

Something else to speculate about: Locke tells Jack about his experience with the monster. He says "I looked into the eye of the Island, and what I saw was beautiful." Later (in season 3) he compares his experience with Eko's and he tells Eko he saw a bright light. Eko says "That is not what I saw." This might indicate that they didn't really see the same thing. We know that Eko saw the smoke monster, but we never see what Locke saw. Maybe it was a different entity, not the smoke monster at all.

*The one exception to this I can think of is Ben's mom, who died while giving birth to Ben near Portland, Oregon.


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