Good & Evil/Black & White & Shades of Gray
What is our understanding of good and evil? What constitutes an individual being good or evil in our minds, and how do we make that determination? This is highly subjective, based upon our conditioning, moral, spiritual and social beliefs that have been instilled in us from early childhood. It is a matter of perception that is fraught with many gray areas that blur the lines of black and white.
We are a society that views things, in linear fashion. It is black or white, good or evil. However, the truth appears to exist, for the most part, in those areas, which are considered ‘gray’. Nothing epitomizes and highlights this more, than the characters in Lost. We have seen many different dimensions to them, and when we finally meet Jacob and his Nemesis, learn they are an extension of this duality of black and white.
The characters are rich in substance and have enormous depth. Throughout their journey we have seen some of them taking part in good and evil deeds alike. We have made judgements as to which we personally feel, represent good or evil, and who should be redeemed and forgiven, be it right or wrong. How do we really know for certain? How can we really make these assumptions, when we do not even know the criteria, with the exception of what our society and formalized religion has taught us. At the end of the day, are we judged by the sum toll of our actions, or, are we judged by one truly evil deed, or, one heroic act, or, weighed by a combination of both?
Many of us have already decided, that Jacob represents good and his Nemesis represents evil, black or white. Some of us are skeptical. That skepticism comes from the belief that the actions of Jacob or his Nemesis might actually represent the opposite of what we saw and heard, or, that there is some sort of subtleties hidden within the meaning, that could shake our belief system, in true ‘Lost’ style!
Not knowing what Jacob and his Nemesis are really attempting to accomplish, we are left to draw our own conclusions, which may or may not be accurate, based upon the limited information we have thus far, and our own ideals about good or evil, or black and white.
Throughout the seasons, we have been privy to evil acts perpetrated. Because we like ‘the losties’ it is difficult for us to accept that they may in fact be evil people. Having said that, we have seen these same people do things, which could be considered, good deeds, and see how they have merged their own dualistic natures towards a more acceptable, happy medium. We believe they have redeemed themselves.
We have also witnessed Benjamin Linus commit many acts that would have to fall on the side of evil, all the while stating that he was one of ‘the good guys’. The only good deed we ever saw Ben actually do was to save a young Alex from certain death and raise her as his own. However, was this more of what could be defined as a selfish and self-serving act on his part?
In the finale when Ben kills Jacob, was this an act of true evil, or, was it the act of a lonely, frightened, beaten and rejected man, who only saw himself in that moment, as the victim, and was being conned and manipulated by Jacob’s Nemesis?
This all leads us to Jacob and his Nemesis. Which one of them is right? Who is acting on behalf of the betterment of humanity, and who might be acting against it? In order to try and determine this, we must look at the duality of Jacob’s actions and words.
Jacob visited many of our ‘losties’ off of ‘the island’, and the very nature of his visits suggests a ‘duality’ in the meaning of his words/actions. We can surmise, that Jacob was nurturing his army of recruits for a very long time, to ensure they would eventually end up on #815, and that the ’06’ would eventually return to ‘the island’.
Jacob touches a young Kate, and suggests that she will never steal again. But, as we know, Kate did steal again throughout her life, and eventually steals Aaron to raise as her own child. Jacob presents a young Sawyer with a pen, which allows him to finish writing the letter to Anthony Cooper, which spawns his journey of revenge to find the man responsible for his misery, and eventually kill him. He tells Jin & Sun that their love is special and never to take it for granted, which we know they both did.
His visit to Jack, was to impart with him, the words, ‘I guess it just needed a little push’, which Jack takes quite literally. He became a man who pushed his will upon the people and situations surrounding him. It appeared that Jacob may have brought Locke back to life, and all he needed to tell a vulnerable Locke, was that he was sorry for what had happened to him. We know that Jacob knows Ilana, but we don’t know how he knows her, but she is willing to help him, without question.
We then have to consider the ‘later in life’ visits to Sayid and Hurley. Both of them were determined never to return to ‘the island’. Jacob’s visit to Sayid, either allowed for him to be saved from being struck by the same vehicle that hit Nadia, or to take Nadia away from him, so he would be more amenable for revenge, and secure his subsequent return to ‘the island’.
As for Hurley, he believed he must be crazy, and was somehow cursed and responsible for all that had happened, and he deeply missed his friends. Money didn’t make Hurley happy! Jacob was very persuasive in telling him that his supposed curse, and bad luck, and visions of the dead, were instead, a gift. He suggests, that if Hurley returns to ‘the island’, he would be happier amongst his living friends and the ‘dearly departed’.
This raises the question, was it their own ‘free will’ they were exercising, or, was their ‘free will’ being manipulated against them? There is a very fine line between the two. Free will, taken to the extreme, can be evil if it infringes/harms another to their detriment. The art of manipulation can be considered good, as long as it isn’t to selfish extreme or sole benefit.
Jacob was either grooming his army to fight the ‘good fight’ on his behalf, or, he was grooming a group of people, he could march into certain death for whatever desire. Jacob’s final words to his Nemesis were, ‘they are coming’. As Ilana, Bram and company are already present, was he referring to ‘the losties’?
As for Jacob’s Nemesis, was killing Jacob in the name of all that is ‘good’, or was it in the name of all that is ‘evil’? Or, was it a bit of both? I don’t think any of this will become clear until we examine the nature and meaning of duality, which exists in us all.
The translation of Richard’s words to Ilana, regarding ‘what lies in the shadow of the statue’ is, ‘he who shall save/protect us all’. A very dead John Locke currently ‘lies in the shadow of the statue’. Is he the one who will save/protect them all? If so, then from what or from whom, and to what end game?
Are you still certain that you know who or what represents good, evil, and black, white? Or, does the real truth and heart of the matter, actually lie in the areas that are ‘gray’?