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Old 02-23-2012, 08:24 AM   #1
SuperfriedFish
 
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[Spoilers] My understanding of Dear Esther + interesting points

Before I starting typing out my perspective on the meaning of Dear Esther, I thought I'd point out an interesting point.

The file names of the map:
1. The lighthouse (donelley[sic])
2. The buoy (jacobson)
3. The caves (esther)
4. The beacon (paul)

It's almost as if the names are intermeshed with each other. Starting at Jacobson, jumping one, you get Paul, i.e. Paul Jacobson. Starting at Donelly, jump one, you get Esther, i.e. Esther Donelly. Anyway, this is merely a point of interest, I'm not yet sure if it has any significance.

On to my hypothesis: it is clear that the world of Dear Esther is not entirely real -- either the main character is hallucinating, or the main character is in some sort of dream world. My own ideas lean towards the latter explanation.

I have this native urge to believe that the narrator is Esther's husband, while the person walking the beaches is Esther. My reasoning brings me to the belief that the walker is Esther in a coma, while her husband lies by her bedside, talking to her. Here are some of my reasons:

Reason 1: Note when you jump off a cliff, or fall in the water, your heart rate seems to speed up? If Esther's husband is sitting by her bed, he would notice her heart monitor speed up. Perhaps 'Come back...' is Esther's husband speaking to her, calling for her to hold on. We've all seen this in films, where a character hopes that their voice will prolong the life of their loved one.

Reason 1a: The part when the narrator says to us: 'I met Paul today', seems to highly support the aforementioned point. If you were visiting a relative in a coma, and you were holding onto the possibility they could still hear you, you would talk to them about your day-to-day life -- however, it is a mystery why the narrator uses such sophisticated language.

Reason 2: While exploring the island, there are many different sounds. While Esther is in her coma, she may be able to listen to her surroundings, most notably, the voice of her husband, but also perhaps human voices, and the noise from her life support machines.

EDIT: One of the sound files in the game is called 'heartmonitor_001'

Reason 3: If Esther had been involved in the car crash, and dived straight into a coma, she would not have had time to fully understand what had just occured. Hence, she is trying to piece together an understanding of her current state from memories prior to the accident. Many people say dreams are a way of consolidating the events of the day. Perhaps her deep sleep is allowing her to understand what has happened. This reflects in the way people play Dear Esther, they have no idea of the story at first, but they manage to grasp a general idea of what has happened as they play through it.

My conclusion is that, at the end, Esther finally slips some kind of desperate state -- i.e. she is lost, whether this is death, or just a persistent vegetative state. It is quite tragic that the last thing she hears from her partner, 'Come back' coincides with the loss of her struggle to press on.

I know that my hypothesis is very vague at the moment, and that it fails to explain the meaning of many things, such as the characters, Esther, Donnelly, Jacobson and Paul. I think it would take many more hours of considering this work of art before I can come to a better understanding of its significance.

Last edited by SuperfriedFish: 02-23-2012 at 10:18 AM. Reason: extra stuff
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Old 02-23-2012, 08:38 AM   #2
SuperfriedFish
 
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EDIT: On the beaches on the Lighthouse level, you find this:
http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w...nelley0007.jpg
This looks like one of the respirator bags that falls out of the overhead on aeroplane before a crash. My friend thought it looked like an ash-tray and some packets of cigarettes. If it were to be a respirator, wouldn't that suggest Esther is in a hospital?

http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w...nelley0011.jpg
Biblical reference: Jesus takes six(?) loaves of bread and two fish and replicates it many times for a crowd of hungry people.

http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w...nelley0008.jpg
This looks like the Japanese symbol for origin (which is essentially the Kanji symbol for 'tree', with a line drawn underneath). This relates to the motif of pre-determined destiny. Perhaps it is suggesting that protagonist, if it is Esther, is doomed to meet her fate (death?), considering as it is part of the outer section of a Fibonacci spiral.

http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w...kobson0024.jpg
The wrecked ship near the bothy. My friend pointed out that the ship looks almost liked Jacobson's ribcage, as described by the narrator. It is also evidently some kind of Scandinavian boat, with the long hull and the tall mast, almost like the longships of Viking times, referring perhaps to Jacobson's Scandinavian origin. The mast also resembles a cross, another religious reference.

It also interesting to note that Jacobson hopes to attract a wife by becoming a man of property by building a bothy, but by definition, a bothy belongs to nobody -- it is a small property free to use by any traveller.

http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w...esther0030.jpg
Close up of the coins on the hospital bed. The silver one at the top certainly bears the unmistakable face of Queen Victoria.

http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w...esther0028.jpg
Broken egg shells in the caves. Perhaps this signifies the broken bodies of the people involved in the car crash? Later we will see a nest containing three intact eggs. Hmmm.

Last edited by SuperfriedFish: 02-23-2012 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:36 AM   #3
LaLaLaLaLemon
 
 
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperfriedFish View Post
http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w...nelley0008.jpg
This looks like the Japanese symbol for origin (which is essentially the Kanji symbol for 'tree', with a line drawn underneath). This relates to the motif of pre-determined destiny. Perhaps it is suggesting that protagonist, if it is Esther, is doomed to meet her fate (death?), considering as it is part of the outer section of a Fibonacci spiral.
Great stuff This one, though, is actually the electrical symbol for a diode!
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Old 02-23-2012, 01:19 PM   #4
EDG
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperfriedFish View Post
EDIT: On the beaches on the Lighthouse level, you find this:
http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w...nelley0007.jpg
This looks like one of the respirator bags that falls out of the overhead on aeroplane before a crash. My friend thought it looked like an ash-tray and some packets of cigarettes. If it were to be a respirator, wouldn't that suggest Esther is in a hospital?
I thought this was a tupperware box with some empty cigarette box packets on it
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Old 02-23-2012, 04:15 PM   #5
Ladicuis
 
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Originally Posted by SuperfriedFish View Post

On to my hypothesis: it is clear... ...of her struggle to press on.
It could be that the one walking on the island (us players) is Esther.

My take on the letters being read, may not be from one person but actually from multiple writers.(paul/jacobson/donnely/narrator)
This I base on the contradictions in the narrating and that pieces of monolog are talking both about paul (jacobson) and donnely in the third person.

When you are going down to the caves the narrating is talking about paul trying to climb up the hill, yet he froze to dead, because he was unable to climb. A little further the narrator says something along the lines of "I broke my leg when climbing down to the caves". When I combine these two I conclude it might have been paul who broke his leg in/near the caves and died before reaching the safety of the fire in the house.

Another thing I noticed was the suitcase with the loads of books about the islands history at the bottom of the cliff. At the bottom of the books cover it says "by P. Jacobson" (guessing at the P, not really readable). Though the narrating is talking about Donnelly's book.

Anyways, fun game. Occupies my brains too much with weird theories haha.
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Old 02-24-2012, 02:20 PM   #6
OneVanilla
 
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http://img837.imageshack.us/img837/6604/esther0000.jpg

I hope everyone enjoys this
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Old 02-25-2012, 12:35 AM   #7
ioio
 
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I’m addicted to movies like The Fountain, Donnie Darko, Stay, not to mention all the Andrei Tarkovski’s movies, and so I could find lots of similarities with Dear Esther. I think the right way to look at this story is an intuitive one, rather than logical. Combine the narration and the visuals (which are well synchronized and complementary), and the meaning will seem quite obvious. I played it twice, and the last 2 chapters 3 times, just to check the theory... Well, actually because I’m addicted to virtual worlds too.

It’s easy to notice several archetypes from the very beginning – the desolated island, the journey, the water and so on. And if you don’t, given the fact that they are such powerful archetypes, subconsciously you are influenced by them and this is one reason why so many people liked the game even without being sure what’s happening there. There are so many, in fact, that I ended up by wondering where the omnipresent dog from the Tarkovski’s movies is.

From the beginning to the end, throughout the entire game the player is overwhelmed by sadness, loneliness and a sense of loss without understanding clearly why – and that’s because of the wonderful painted landscape, masterfully hiding the whole thing in plain sight. Obviously, the music is of huge aid in creating that atmosphere, too. Everything is so beautiful, that the player forgets the meanings; the visuals, the sounds work like a spell and it happens to watch something, to be overwhelmed by its obvious meaning without actually grasping it consciously. I saw parts of vehicles scattered on the island, damaged, rusty – as they belonged. But really – vehicles on a small, deserted island with no roads!? How logical is that? However, without even consciously noticing that, the feelings of loss or loneliness are already there: something reminding of a normal life, of people, of civilization lies down, vanishing slowly. You suddenly feel far, far away, in space (island, surrounded by sea) and time (the rust). There is also a rusty cargo ship, containers scattered on the beach, but again – no road, no bridge - it isn’t even abandoned, but wrecked. This is no ‘soft poetry’, but a powerful suggestion. Everything conspires to set the mood: the music, the wind, the clouds, the rotten wood, the rust and so on, and the player just forget to pay attention to those details – why cars here, why candles surrounding photos, why diagrams and words on the rocks, why, why, why... The island is not real, it’s a metaphor, and this should be the first thing to understand.

After that, everything should be a lot easier - the narration points out the meaning of each item on the island. The convoluted cave with the subterranean rivers and waterfalls – is your own feverish, tortured body (the neurons painted on the cave’s walls). You are your inner self crawling through yourself, trying to reach a conscious state. Remember, previously, on the island, those weird experiences, when sometimes you lost the path, passed out and a whisper (‘come back’) brought you back into the limbo from the darkness of the near death experience? Here, into the cave, when you dive into the water (life) you can see... things. Like two crashed cars on the highway, their red lights, the night...

Further, exiting the cave, the connection and the meanings should be more obvious – the vehicles’ red lights – the red beacon on the cliffs, the road signs – Damascus on the rocks, small personal objects mixed with car parts and memories – the objects surrounded by candles and so on. The whole reality of the island is actually a very personal one, it’s just a hallucination; you are actually dying alone in the night, on a highway, in a car crash. Or so you think. Your brain mixes bits of information – the last book about a dead colonist on a faraway island, a milk formula, photos, crash, road signs and lights, memories, and most of all regrets. And this is the part where Esther comes into the landscape.

You read about her, or maybe she was real, somebody important for you, maybe you are Donelly – it doesn’t really matter, somehow this was the thought that haunted you right before the crash or whatever happened to you and caused the whole confusion you are swimming in. In this state, between two worlds, the time perception is supposed to be altered, it doesn’t really flow as in ‘real life’. Here’s no logic, and sensations, feelings are all but normal – you may have some heightened senses, some other attenuated senses and everything is just chaotic, with only two or three very clear things: sorrow, regret, loneliness and most of all you can’t do a single thing about that, just walk amongst memories and feelings and watch powerless your sore journey toward the highest peak, when you are out of places to climb, the end of all things. Does it look like your game yet?

So, does it really matter in this entire interior journey, if Esther is real or not? Whether she was at a time part of your own life as a real person or only something you wished, reading a book and making some connections with your own life, now she’s gone forever. There is no real letter whatsoever to Esther – you collect from the bottom of your travel bag those letters you never wrote to her (since the journey is not in this world), build an armada and send it away. And so, your memories (or wishes) of Esther vanish, slowly fade surrounded (again) by candles in night, on a beach at the end of the world and time.

What would it be your last feeling, or thought, in such a dramatic event? If you are a mature dude, probably some Esther (that is if you had one) and the regrets for the things you never told her and you’ll never have a chance to tell her from now on. If you didn’t have such an Esther, especially if you are a reaaally mature guy - dude, you are utterly out of luck! - losing any chance of ever sharing love with a ‘she’, alone, could kill you!... Well... Anyway...

Your journey has an end – can’t escape death and taxes, right? So better make peace with yourself and the world and get over it. Since you probably won’t do it willingly, the game takes away the decision from your hands, and once arrived on the highest cliff you can’t do anything anymore, just fly with the wind and enjoy the scenery. And start thinking - what is a life? Really, everything is actually nothing in the grand scheme of the universe? but love is eternal, right? blah-blah? the end.

By the way – did you ever experience the peacefulness, the serenity in a cold night on some remote spot – a peak or something? I guess this is quite close to what one might experience in his/her final moments. At least, that’s what I’ve read. A flush of adrenaline or something that makes you go without a fuss so you won’t embarrass yourself or your friends who came to give you your last handshake.

Well, this is my Dear Esther experience. It isn’t the story (the 3 entangled stories, actually) the important thing in this game, but the feelings, the introspection it suggests. All the parallel stories eventually take and mix bits from each other in a resulting hypnotic alternate world, with alternate rules, and push the player to experience the sense of loss and regret when facing something final, like death. Not sure what were the developer’s intentions, possibly they were just stoned and wanted to share in a lyric fashion when made the thing, but what I played was quite unusual in the gaming world. I liked it.
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Old 02-25-2012, 03:35 AM   #8
SuperfriedFish
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ioio View Post
I’m addicted to movies like The Fountain, Donnie Darko, Stay, not to mention all the Andrei Tarkovski’s movies, and so I could find lots of similarities with Dear Esther. I think the right way to look at this story is an intuitive one, rather than logical. Combine the narration and the visuals (which are well synchronized and complementary), and the meaning will seem quite obvious. I played it twice, and the last 2 chapters 3 times, just to check the theory... Well, actually because I’m addicted to virtual worlds too.

It’s easy to notice several archetypes from the very beginning – the desolated island, the journey, the water and so on. And if you don’t, given the fact that they are such powerful archetypes, subconsciously you are influenced by them and this is one reason why so many people liked the game even without being sure what’s happening there. There are so many, in fact, that I ended up by wondering where the omnipresent dog from the Tarkovski’s movies is.

From the beginning to the end, throughout the entire game the player is overwhelmed by sadness, loneliness and a sense of loss without understanding clearly why – and that’s because of the wonderful painted landscape, masterfully hiding the whole thing in plain sight. Obviously, the music is of huge aid in creating that atmosphere, too. Everything is so beautiful, that the player forgets the meanings; the visuals, the sounds work like a spell and it happens to watch something, to be overwhelmed by its obvious meaning without actually grasping it consciously. I saw parts of vehicles scattered on the island, damaged, rusty – as they belonged. But really – vehicles on a small, deserted island with no roads!? How logical is that? However, without even consciously noticing that, the feelings of loss or loneliness are already there: something reminding of a normal life, of people, of civilization lies down, vanishing slowly. You suddenly feel far, far away, in space (island, surrounded by sea) and time (the rust). There is also a rusty cargo ship, containers scattered on the beach, but again – no road, no bridge - it isn’t even abandoned, but wrecked. This is no ‘soft poetry’, but a powerful suggestion. Everything conspires to set the mood: the music, the wind, the clouds, the rotten wood, the rust and so on, and the player just forget to pay attention to those details – why cars here, why candles surrounding photos, why diagrams and words on the rocks, why, why, why... The island is not real, it’s a metaphor, and this should be the first thing to understand.

After that, everything should be a lot easier - the narration points out the meaning of each item on the island. The convoluted cave with the subterranean rivers and waterfalls – is your own feverish, tortured body (the neurons painted on the cave’s walls). You are your inner self crawling through yourself, trying to reach a conscious state. Remember, previously, on the island, those weird experiences, when sometimes you lost the path, passed out and a whisper (‘come back’) brought you back into the limbo from the darkness of the near death experience? Here, into the cave, when you dive into the water (life) you can see... things. Like two crashed cars on the highway, their red lights, the night...

Further, exiting the cave, the connection and the meanings should be more obvious – the vehicles’ red lights – the red beacon on the cliffs, the road signs – Damascus on the rocks, small personal objects mixed with car parts and memories – the objects surrounded by candles and so on. The whole reality of the island is actually a very personal one, it’s just a hallucination; you are actually dying alone in the night, on a highway, in a car crash. Or so you think. Your brain mixes bits of information – the last book about a dead colonist on a faraway island, a milk formula, photos, crash, road signs and lights, memories, and most of all regrets. And this is the part where Esther comes into the landscape.

You read about her, or maybe she was real, somebody important for you, maybe you are Donelly – it doesn’t really matter, somehow this was the thought that haunted you right before the crash or whatever happened to you and caused the whole confusion you are swimming in. In this state, between two worlds, the time perception is supposed to be altered, it doesn’t really flow as in ‘real life’. Here’s no logic, and sensations, feelings are all but normal – you may have some heightened senses, some other attenuated senses and everything is just chaotic, with only two or three very clear things: sorrow, regret, loneliness and most of all you can’t do a single thing about that, just walk amongst memories and feelings and watch powerless your sore journey toward the highest peak, when you are out of places to climb, the end of all things. Does it look like your game yet?

So, does it really matter in this entire interior journey, if Esther is real or not? Whether she was at a time part of your own life as a real person or only something you wished, reading a book and making some connections with your own life, now she’s gone forever. There is no real letter whatsoever to Esther – you collect from the bottom of your travel bag those letters you never wrote to her (since the journey is not in this world), build an armada and send it away. And so, your memories (or wishes) of Esther vanish, slowly fade surrounded (again) by candles in night, on a beach at the end of the world and time.

What would it be your last feeling, or thought, in such a dramatic event? If you are a mature dude, probably some Esther (that is if you had one) and the regrets for the things you never told her and you’ll never have a chance to tell her from now on. If you didn’t have such an Esther, especially if you are a reaaally mature guy - dude, you are utterly out of luck! - losing any chance of ever sharing love with a ‘she’, alone, could kill you!... Well... Anyway...

Your journey has an end – can’t escape death and taxes, right? So better make peace with yourself and the world and get over it. Since you probably won’t do it willingly, the game takes away the decision from your hands, and once arrived on the highest cliff you can’t do anything anymore, just fly with the wind and enjoy the scenery. And start thinking - what is a life? Really, everything is actually nothing in the grand scheme of the universe? but love is eternal, right? blah-blah? the end.

By the way – did you ever experience the peacefulness, the serenity in a cold night on some remote spot – a peak or something? I guess this is quite close to what one might experience in his/her final moments. At least, that’s what I’ve read. A flush of adrenaline or something that makes you go without a fuss so you won’t embarrass yourself or your friends who came to give you your last handshake.

Well, this is my Dear Esther experience. It isn’t the story (the 3 entangled stories, actually) the important thing in this game, but the feelings, the introspection it suggests. All the parallel stories eventually take and mix bits from each other in a resulting hypnotic alternate world, with alternate rules, and push the player to experience the sense of loss and regret when facing something final, like death. Not sure what were the developer’s intentions, possibly they were just stoned and wanted to share in a lyric fashion when made the thing, but what I played was quite unusual in the gaming world. I liked it.
What a profound and eloquent paragraph you have written. +Rep for you, my friend. (edit: not enough posts to give rep, but I would if I could ^_^)

It seems like you drew a lot more from the experience than I did. :P I felt it was necessary to establish concrete meanings to everything I experienced -- most notably I became infatuated with the meaning of the names of the four 'characters', (Esther, Donnelly, Paul and Jakobson), and who or what they represented.
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Old 02-26-2012, 09:12 PM   #9
unicornpoop
 
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can someone post the message that was on the cliff face as you are walking up to the tower?

it'd be nice to see the message in one paragraph instead of attempting to read it up the mountain
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Old 02-26-2012, 10:51 PM   #10
chuckles41
 
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This may seem a little crass, but we haven't seen the end of the story,at all,,this is to me an open ended dream... I have wondered for years, when someone would come up with more imaginative and interesting concepts..Dear Esther is not a game, far from it.

Upon the first viewing of "2001 A Space Odyssey", I remember the mood during the intermission--the audience was almost in a state of shock, very quiet and contemplative---

isn't it sad to read an novel and realize, it has to end,,This is a clever bit of writing,and there will be more to the story--mark my words, there is more to come, with "Dear Esther"---
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Old 03-11-2012, 12:47 AM   #11
kieran450
 
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Originally Posted by SuperfriedFish View Post

I have this native urge to believe that the narrator is Esther's husband, while the person walking the beaches is Esther. My reasoning brings me to the belief that the walker is Esther in a coma, while her husband lies by her bedside, talking to her.
Just found this. Looks like wedding rings...
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Old 03-14-2012, 02:46 AM   #12
IItRueII
 
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I'm not sure if im right but this is what I took from playi9ng dear esther.

I feel he is at the hospital talking to his wife who was in an accedent. the "come back" made me realise this.

Once I figured out some1 was hurt I started to think of possible situations.

First I thought his wife was hit by a car so he over dosed (the chemical equalisons on the walls.

But near the end almost at the end I heard the come back and the flatline sound and it all just clicked for me.

Hes beside her bed and shes in limbo before she finally dies (is set free)
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Old 03-16-2012, 10:27 PM   #13
mglwd40
 
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My interpretation of the story was a bit different from most of the others here. That is one thing that I found interesting about this game, you can interpret it in many different ways and I don't really think any of them are right or wrong (unless the developers tell us they are lol). Overall I found the game fairly enjoyable, but my computer isn't very good so I lagged really really badly lol. It is an EXTREMELY nice change of pace to see a more story-driven game though, since so incredibly few games like this are made and I feel like it's really an untapped potential in the gaming world.

The way I see it, the man narrating the story is Esther's husband. From the story it sounded to me like Esther died or was badly injured in a car crash, and Paul was the driver in the other car (the 2 cars in the underground lake and some of the comments regarding Paul and alcohol led me to believe this). I think that the island is just a dream world that the narrator constructed and is traveling through. It also sounds like the narrator is actually in a hospital with some sort of infection that is causing him to go somewhat insane, hence the at times nonsensical messages and the occasional comments about being "lucid". Then at the end, there is the clear sound of a heart that stops beating, and I think that that signifies the narrator's death.
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Old 03-18-2012, 02:12 PM   #14
Sammi79
 
 
 
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Originally Posted by IItRueII View Post
I'm not sure if im right but this is what I took from playi9ng dear esther.

I feel he is at the hospital talking to his wife who was in an accedent. the "come back" made me realise this.

Once I figured out some1 was hurt I started to think of possible situations.

First I thought his wife was hit by a car so he over dosed (the chemical equalisons on the walls.

But near the end almost at the end I heard the come back and the flatline sound and it all just clicked for me.

Hes beside her bed and shes in limbo before she finally dies (is set free)
Hi,

This is close to how I see it currently, either the protagonist is close to death (in a coma/locked in syndrome) in a hospital bed, the island being a mental reconstruction of a memory of a real place from a damaged brain (snippets of history about the island in the narrative lead me to believe that it is or was a real place), and the leap off the tower is the acceptance of death as opposed to eternity on the island.

Or, it could be a kind of limbo, between life and death, the protagonist being held on the island until he/she? has made peace with their personal guilt regarding the events that delivered them there, at which point the leap off the tower is the means of transition into oblivion/heaven/whatever may be.

The thoughts and memories and indeed the island itself are fragmented I think because of either brain damage or brain death. On the other hand, possibly the leap signifies the first step to recovery (if the protagonist is not dead)

The chemical symbol that is repeated regularly is the molecular formula for ethanol alcohol (CH3CH2OH) which gives me the feeling along with the narrative that alcohol is part of the reason for whatever happened. I am unsure about the electrical diagrams in this interpretation, or the references to Damascus.

Regards, Sam.

Last edited by Sammi79: 03-18-2012 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 03-18-2012, 03:09 PM   #15
Pyrom4niac
 
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This sort of debate is exactly why I love Dear Esther <3
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