In “Jughead,” the most potent symbol may have been the crack in the bomb; there was a lot more inside that little episode than there appeared to be, and it leaked out through one little crack—the Others speaking Latin. The Powell’s Books Lost post, SISTE VIATOR, is a bit of a headbanger that is broken up into sections; there’s a list of the sections at the beginning, and you can click on whatever section you want to hit and see the breakdown of the texts. So I’ll break this down according to those sections, and lay out the texts:
- The Subtle Reference takes up most of the post.
? Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, a Renaissance precursor to the 20th century utopian/dystopian novel. Of note is the fact that More wrote it in Latin, its name play (good place/no place) that relates to the island popping in and out of time, the narrator as a mirror twin of the author, social equality (and its failings) that are reflected in the DHARMA Initiative and the Others, and their take on war. Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning helps make the case for the narrator being Thomas More’s mirror twin.
? More’s book was also pulling from Plato’s Republic, and was on the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke’s mind when he wrote Second Treatise of Government, a text that is generally appropriate to Lost, but especially its take on slavery, war, and the episode “The Brig .” (The philosopher Locke was also a big proponent of Latin.)
- The Overinterpretation Station
? Is Locke a hunter or a farmer? Or both? Locke is playing jungle tracker again, throwing knives left and right, yet when it comes down to it, he can’t kill when necessary. The hunter-gatherer vs. the farmer is a trope that’s been mythologized throughout the ages; the trope generally is an allegory of the historical rise of the civilized agricultural man of the city over the pastoral man of the wild, and generally has a woman at the center of the action. This section looks at three of those mythic tropes and their relation to Lost, then makes the argument that Locke is neither a hunter nor a farmer, but rather an embodiment of both. This also makes it clear why Locke gets so easily spun by other people who find a use for him—because myths are generally adapted and used by a culture in whatever way they find them useful.
? The Epic of Gilgamesh shows hunter-gatherer wild man Enkidu vs. the builder and king of Uruk, the agricultural man Gilgamesh. This one ends with a partnership until the hunter is killed by a monster. Gilgamesh was already raised in Locke’s crossword clue, “Enkidu’s friend,” and there’s a bit of the Enkidu and Gilgamesh relationship reflected in Eko and Locke.
? The Set and Osiris story of Egyptian mythology, as laid out in Plutarch’s Moralia, offers another take on this mythic trope. Set is the wild desert god of chaos, and is represented by an animal. His brother Osiris is a dying-and-rising god of the harvest, the kingdom-builder who makes sure the crops grow. Out of jealousy, Set tears Osiris into pieces and them scatters them. The son of Osiris, Horus, eventually overcomes his uncle and becomes pharaoh of all Egypt, but he comes out of the fight with a vertical scar below his left eye. In this case the agricultural man is killed, but Osiris became the god of the underworld. Horus represents a little of both figures; he’s the son of the son of the civilizer who unites Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom, but is also a war god who overcomes chaos. We’ve seen the Egyptian hieroglyphs a number of times in Lost, there is an echo in Horace Goodspeed, and Locke bears a vertical scar below his right eye, the mirror twin of the left eye.
? The Cain and Abel story is the third of these hunter/farm tropes, Cain playing the role of the farmer and Abel the hunter-gatherer shepherd. Cain kills Abel after Yahweh appreciates Abel’s animal sacrifice more than Cain’s grain sacrifice, which flips the Egyptian story. Cain is banished by Yahweh to the Land of Nod (wandering) east of Eden, and puts some sort of mark on him to both show he’s cursed and to warn others from hurting him. Cain goes on to do what any farmer-civilizer figure does; he builds a city, Enoch. Juliet bears a similar mark of Cain for killing Pickett, both Locke and the island are stuck in a state of wandering (Locke even arrived at the island as a result of a walkabout), and given Locke’s luck, he certainly seems cursed.
· Other(s) Texts
? Utopia gives rise to a few books that are important to Lost, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Island, and George Orwell’s 1984. Huxley wrote the utopian Island decades after the dystopian Brave New World as a way to balance it out; a number of elements from Island are found throughout Lost, like the Pala Ferry (which is the name of Huxley’s island), and even the opening shots in the pilot episode of Jack waking up in the jungle. Huxley was a significant influence on Orwell (he was Orwell’s schoolteacher at Eton), and 1984’s Room 101, the re-education room that played on a person’s deepest fears, had a lasting literary influence. One sees that in Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, where Alex is re-educated through drugs and audio-visual simulation to make him physically revolt from violence (and thus suggest a method toward helping create a utopian society). In Lost, we get Room 23, where Karl is similarly re-educated through drugs and audio-visual stimulation in order to fall in line with Ben’s utopian vision.
· Heterotopia: Other Place
? A relatively new take on the idea of utopian and dystopian visions is the heterotopia, or other place. The idea was first laid out in a 1967 lecture by Michel Foucault (no relation to Foucault’s Pendulum), “Of Other Spaces.” You won’t find this in a book, but it was translated and published in the journal Diacritics 16:1 (available online, but library access is required.) There is a lot in the theory that relates to the themes of Lost, but maybe more significantly, it influenced some 1960’s and 1970’s science fiction writers who have already been seen. Neil Easterbrook’s essay “State, Heterotopia,” collected in the volume Political Science Fiction, gives a great overview of the idea in science fiction. Given this, Lost could arguably be read as a mass-media presentation of competing heterotopias.
? Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress; we’ve already seen Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land in the episode of the same name, and Easterbrook argues Heinlein was influenced by anarcho-capitalism and people like Ayn Rand of The Fountainhead (which Sawyer read).
? Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, subtitled “An Ambiguous Utopia,” is in part a response to Dostoevsky’s anarchist novel The Possessed. Her novel presents a more productive form of anarchism, and is closer to More’s Utopia. Her book The Lathe of Heaven has been noted as a precursor to Ben’s magic box, where thought can be manifested into reality.
? Samuel R. Delany’s Triton, subtitled “An Ambiguous Heterotopia,” is in part a response to The Dispossessed, and dislocates political action from social groups to the body itself. We see that kind of physio-techno politics in Room 23, in some of the attempts to solve the Valenzetti Equation (parapsychology), some of the Skinner experiments, and sending people back in time to try to re-engineer history.
· The Narrative Sandbox
? “Jughead” is of course a comic book character, but it was also the codename for a March 22, 1954 hydrogen bomb test in the Bikini Atoll, part of Operation Castle. The first test was codenamed “Shrimp,” and Jughead was a backup. Shrimp worked, and resulted in wide-spread fallout that poisoned islanders and Japanese fisherman. This is all documents in The Bomb: A Life, by – get this – Gerard DeGroot, a history professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. No, he’s not the missing founder of the DHARMA Initiative, but his scholarship coincides with many of the same eras and themes that sparked Gerald DeGroot to establish the DHARMA Initiative in the 1970’s.
? Doc Jensen made an interesting connection from Jughead to the quantum physicist John Archibald Wheeler, the person who coined the term black hole, wormhole. Wheeler also devised the delayed-choice experiment. It was already known that a photon would either present itself as a particle or a wave depending on what instrument the experimenter chose to use. Wheeler showed that an experimenter could choose the measuring instrument after the photon was fired, and the results would still depend on the choice of instrument; in this way, the experimenter took part in creating the past. From this, he suggested that between the start of the photon and the end of its track as a “great smoky dragon, it’s tail at the firing point and its teeth on the measuring stick. Much of this is laid out in his autobiography, Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics.
? Faraday is starting to seem a lot like Dr. Manhattan from Alan Moore’s Watchmen. We know that Faraday went back to the DHARMA Initiative sometime back in the 1970’s. If he can travel to the past, he can probably also travel to the future. Maybe this explains why he’s so cryptic about things like Charlotte’s sickness; he keeps telling her she’ll be alright, possibly because he already knows how she’ll turn out. He’s also already said that they can’t change time – whatever happened, happened. It’s all reminiscent of Dr. Manhattan, who can experience all time at once, and when asked why he didn’t stop an assassination attempt on the president, says “I can’t prevent the future. To me, it’s already happening.”
J. Wood in his own words: I’m working on my PhD in English at the University of Virginia (I’m ABD), directed the UVA Writing Center for two years, did an M.Phil in Anglo-Irish Literature at Trinity College – Dublin, and with respect to John Hodgman, my posts generally have more information that the audience requires. My first book on Lost, Living Lost was published in 2007 by the Garrett County Press, and is probably still relevant up to the third season.