Part 19: Plot Analysis
Chapter Intermission - Get your plots here!Before we start, a disclaimer...
I am not right!
That's the beauty of Silent Hill - it's open for many different interpretations. In this post, I'll try to summarize the most plausible / popular of these theories, and hopefully answer more questions than I create.
In a town called Silent Hill, a cult devoted to a certain pagan God (Samael) exists. One of its prominent members, a woman by the name of Dahlia Gillespie, has formed a plan to let this God be born into our world. To do so, the demon must be planted in the womb of her daughter, Alessa. During the 'impregnation' ritual (), Alessa get burnt heavily, either by accident or on purpose.
Alessa, barely alive and unable to move, is treated in the hospital by nurse Lisa. Lying alone in the darkness for many nights, suffering through unspeakable pains, she develops a hate for every living thing, just like her mother wanted her to, because the God feeds on her pain and hatred. There is, however, still a part of Alessa that loves her mother, and in a desperate attempt to save her own soul and to keep the demon from being born, she splits off this part. This part of her soul manifests itself as an infant. Lisa takes the infant and places it on the side of a road, where it is found by Harry and his wife.
Since her soul is now split in two, Alessa is too weak to give birth to the God. Eventually, after several years, Alessa's constant pains lure the other half of her soul, now known as Cheryl, back to the town of Silent Hill (it was revealed that Harry went on holiday there by his daughter's request). The demon inside Alessa senses that the other half, the key to his birth, is near, and traps Harry and Cheryl (and Cybil) inside his dimension, the Foggy Silent Hill. He then proceeds to lure her to the body of Alessa, where they will be reunited.
God's plan succeeds, with some help from Dahlia and, unfortunately, Harry. Cheryl, who has by now changed and looks exactly like Alessa, finds her way to Alessa in an attempt to help her. It turns out to be a trap - she's captured by Dahlia after the Flauros has weakened her. Dahlia brings the two together, and they are united again. Depending on your ending, Harry will either fight the new, vengeful Alessa (the girl in white, a once again complete Alessa in combination with the God's powers), or the demon that is then born (if Kaufman uses the Aglaophtis drug, the demon can no longer stay in the body of Alessa, so his physical form leaves Alessa).
As you have probably noticed, there are two different dimensions in the game.
"Must be on drugs!" Oh, how we laughed at Cybil's explanation, but in fact, she wasn't that far off. Drugs play a major part in Silent Hill. There are two kinds of drugs. First, there's the White Claudia drug, made from the seeds of the White Claudia plant, which grows on the waterside of Silent Hill's lake. This drug creates hallucinations, and because of this, it's very popular with the members of the cult, who see it as a way of getting closer to their Gods. The WC drug is transported by Kaufman and Dahlia. They sell a part of it to tourists to raise funding for the cult.
The other drug is Aglaophtis. This red liquid has the opposite effect as WC - it removes hallucinations, and all things evil in general. Little is known about the actual substance of the drug, although it may be magical. Fact is that drinking it will, at least temporarily, reduce the evil God's grip on you. In fact, you don't even have to drink it, as demonstrated by its effect against Cybil and Alessa. The fact that it works even when it only touches the skin would support the theory that it's a magical substance of sorts. Kaufman keeps a private stash of this stuff hidden, just in case something goes wrong with the whole 'giving birth to God' deal.
The protagonist of Silent Hill is innocent and oblivious. Unlike the protagonists of the other three games in the series, he isn't connected to the main plot of the game in any way - he's just some poor chap who happened to find Cheryl and adopt her. Thus, he is confused by everything he sees in the town. He desperately holds on to the one clear thing in his mind: he needs to find his daughter, and he needs to find her fast. In doing so, he actually helps Dahlia and he causes the undoing of Lisa, but if he has any feelings of guilt about this, they're overruled by his love for Cheryl, and the need to find her.
Harry is (was) a writer, although not a famous one. He was happily married with his unnamed wife, but for some reason, they couldn't have any kids. Seven years before the story takes place, the couple finds a baby - Cheryl - abandoned at the side of the road. Because they can't have any kids, and because Harry's wife is already suffering from an incurable disease, they decide to adopt Cheryl. Three years later, Harry's wife died. Still, Cheryl's youth with Harry was a happy one.
A police officer from Brahms, a town close to Silent Hill. We do not know why she was driving towards the town on the same night as Harry, though she was probably simply on patrol, much like in the movie. So, how did she end up in Silent Hill? Please recall the opening cinematics. Cybil overtakes Harry on her bike. Some time later (a matter of seconds in the movie, but it might be longer in reality), Harry sees her bike lying at the side of the road. No sign of Cybil.
There are two basic theories about Cybil's presence in Silent Hill. The first one is that she's dead. After overtaking Harry, she had some sort of accident, which kills her. She's then trapped in the Foggy Silent Hill - this would support the theory of the Foggy world being some kind of limbo where the ghosts of the deceased are trapped. One of the endings to the game seems to say that the same thing happened to Harry - after the final fight, we see a shot of a dead (?) Harry sitting in his crashed car. However, Harry was still alive at the start of Silent Hill 3. Thus, this ending can be considered to be an 'unofficial' ending, in the sense that the developers did not choose this ending when writing SH3. As such, it's safe to assume that Harry was indeed alive and well during the whole game, and following this line of thought, it's safe to assume that the same goes for Cybil, since she interacts with Harry at various points during the game.
The other theory, the more plausible one, is that she went through a portal. God senses the coming of Cheryl, the other half of his hostess's soul, and opens up a portal from the normal world to the Foggy world. In this scenario, the Foggy world isn't so much a limbo - it's more like a private dimension for God and the cult to carry out their plans in. By opening the portal, God attempts to trap Harry and Cheryl in his world. Cybil simply had the rotten luck of driving through the same portal, thus ending up in the Foggy world. This does not explain why she crashed / left her bike in a ditch. It's possible that Harry doesn't see Cybil - knocked out cold or not - because she's already in the other dimension.
How much does Cybil see of the horrors in Silent Hill? Well, for starters, we know for sure that she's not familiar with the Otherworld, the darker version of the town. This makes sense in retrospect - unlike Lisa, Harry, Kaufman and Dahlia, Cybil isn't in any way connected to Cheryl / Alessa or God. She only sees the Foggy world, a completely deserted version of the town she knows. Does she see the monsters? It's quite possible. She never actually mentions any monsters (leading many people to believe that she doesn't see them), but she does mention the dangers in the town on a couple of occasions. Big holes in the road aren't exactly life-threatening, so I think she does see the monsters. The movie seems to support this theory.
Cybil is left alone by God / Alessa for most of the game. In the end, God uses her to try to keep Harry from interfering with his plans. He uses a parasite to posses Cybil, who then tries to kill Harry. If the player chooses to save her, the red drug, the Aglaophtis, expels the parasite, proving that the drug can indeed counter God's influence.
Highly ranked doctor in the hospital, and dealer of both White Claudia and Aglaophtis, although he has kept the latter secret from Dahlia and the other cult members. Easily irritated, and considered to be a dangerous man. In both the journal in the Indian Runner and the diary in the Motel, the writer describes a 'he', who is in charge of the drug dealing. This 'he' is Kaufman, and both writers seems to be scared of him, too scared to walk away from the whole deal. In one of the journals, Kaufman is even linked to the death of the Mayor.
What role did Kaufman play in all of this? Like I said, he was the cult's drug dealer, supplying them with the hallucinary drug, White Claudia. He was not, however, involved in the cult itself - his reactions at the end of the game show that he doesn't have the same beliefs Dahlia does. He knows of Alessa and the seed inside of her, in fact, he is one of the brains behind this whole plan. He doesn't carry it out because of religious ideas, but rather because of a) a scientific interest in the whole progress, and b) a hunger for power, for which he needs God to be born.
Even though he was hungry for power, he approached the whole deal with caution. He knew of the positive effects of Aglaophtis, and he kept a bottle of the stuff hidden in a motorcycle, should this whole deal get out of control. This once again shows that he didn't really believe in the fallen angels worshipped by the cult. Is Kaufman Alessa's father? Kaufman and Dahlia are about the same age, and they're both involved in drug trafficking, but there is no evidence of a romantic relationship between the two. There is, of course, the possibility that Kaufman only impregnated Dahlia so that she would have a child capable of bearing God.
This identity of Lisa Garland is much discussed. One thing we know for sure is that she was in charge of treating the heavily burnt Alessa in the basement of the hospital. Since she was a good and caring person, taking care of someone in constant pain caused her a lot of stress. She finally decided to quit her job.
There's a theory floating around on the web that Kaufman used Lisa to test drugs on - he either tested both White Claudia and Aglaophtis on her, first inducing the hallucinations with one drug and then removing them again with the other, or he only tested Aglaophtis on her. In this last case, Lisa's hallucinations would come from Alessa. Being her nurse, Lisa was quite close to Alessa, and this developed a psychological bond between the two. Alessa, sensing that Lisa is a good and caring person, would then let her into her own private world, the Otherworld, and Lisa would need the Aglaophtis to escape it. Whether she did one or two drugs doesn't really matter. The fact is that she knew about Aglaophtis, and knew about its effects. It's then safe to assume that she has had hallucinations before.
But then, one day, Lisa decides to quit her job. This is told in her diary and on the video tape - she can't take it any longer, she wants out. This is where Kaufman comes in. He doesn't want Lisa leaving, and understandably so - after all, Lisa knows about the burnt girl in the basement that's being kept alive in order to summon an ancient demigod. Kaufman is afraid she will talk about it to other people, even though Lisa says on the tape, "I won't tell a soul, I promise". The opening cinematics even show a short scene in which Kaufman grabs Lisa by the arm as she walks away, resulting in a heated (though muted) discussion.
What happens next? When we first meet Lisa, she says that she got knocked out, and when she came to, the world had changed (into the Otherworld). This leads me to the following theory: Kaufman didn't want Lisa to leave the hospital, didn't want to risk letting her go out of fear that she would tell her story to everybody. So, after the aforementioned scene from the opening cinematics, he knocks her out, and kills her. Remember, he's a badass, and there's a good possibility he's killed before. So when Lisa threatens to undo everything he has achieved in the past seven years, he decides to get rid of her. Now, one of the following happens:
In any case, yes, Lisa is dead. She just doesn't know it yet, and she has forgotten about Alessa. At first she thinks it's just another hallucination ("Need Drug..."), but it slowly begins to dawn on her that she can't leave, because she's dead. This realisation causes her transformation. She doesn't actually mutate into a Demon Nurse - she's still got a special connection with Alessa, so she's above the common demon, but her looks change to reflect her self-image. She's not dead, and in some of the endings, she comes back to take revenge on Kaufman. Lisa was also sighted in SH3, so there's a good chance that her spirit is trapped within Alessa's Otherworld for all time.
Dahlia is the leader of the cult of the fallen angels. Her goal in life is to let her God be born into our world. Even though she honestly believes that doing so will end all suffering, even if it means she has to commit unspeakable crimes against her only daughter (like burning her alive). Even though she's the main villain of the game, there's not a whole lot to say about her - in the end, she's just another religious extremist who will do anything to satisfy her God.
Dahlia was also closely connected with the trafficking of the White Claudia drug. She used this drug with her cult, and she sold some to tourists to create a bit of profit. When Cheryl approaches the town, she knows that her long wait is over, and she enters the Foggy world (God's world) to prepare for Harry and Cheryl. I believe she also summons Kaufman to this dimension, because she feels he needs to be present to see their plan reach completion. In the end, she is killed by the demon she created - a fitting end.
Alessa is the daughter of Dahlia and quite possibly Kaufman. Dahlia has put her on this world with just one purpose - to breed the demon God. She is burnt during the ritual in which God is planted inside her body. This either happened on accident on or purpose. If it was done on purpose, Dahlia did so because the demon feeds on pain and hatred. In her burnt state, Alessa develops a hate for all living things - just like her mother hoped she would. The demon is growing.
There's still a part of Alessa that still loves her mother, though. In a desperate attempt to stop her soul from being completely devoured by darkness, she splits off this part. This good part of Alessa manifests itself in the form of an infant. The infant is found by Lisa, who leaves it at the side of the road, where it is found by Harry. In the end, Harry leads the Cheryl side of Alessa back to her real body (the thing in the wheelchair), where they reunite.
Alessa's behaviour during the game is inconsistent, to say the least. Sometimes she tries to help Harry (for example, by giving him the key to K. Gordon's house), other times she fights him. One thing to keep in mind is that, by now, Alessa's mind is heavily entwined with that of the God. The God wants to keep Harry away from Alessa in fear that he might screw things up. Alessa, on the other hand, wants Harry to reach her, possibly to kill her. You see, during these seven years, Alessa has developed the idea that it'd be better for everyone is she just died, and she looks to Harry to help her with this.
When Alessa is rejoined with Cheryl, a new being is created - the girl in the glowing nightgown. Think of it as a combination of a stronger Alessa and the God inside her. In a way, this girl is Alessa's idea of the God inside of her, while the dog-faced demon, the actual physical manifestation of God, is Dahlia's idea of it.
Lastly, there's Cheryl, the good side of Alessa. She isn't aware of her identity at first, until she is called to Silent Hill by her other side, Alessa. When she gets to Silent Hill, her looks soon changes until she looks exactly like Alessa. Cheryl as we see her at the start stops existing quite early in the game. The transformed Cheryl / Alessa attempts to get back to the burnt body of the dark Alessa, in an attempt to help her.
That's pretty much it.