LOST Theories - DarkUFO

"This place is death" - Charlotte
"I want to live" - Ricardo Alpert
"That's the first sensible thing you've said" - Jacob (to Richard)
"Live together, die alone." - Jack Shephard

"The fateful question for the human species seems to me to be whether and to what extent their cultural development will succeed in mastering the disturbance of their communal life by the human instinct of aggression and self destruction..." - Sigmund Freud

I think Lost is a metaphorical story about our internal drives towards life and death that we struggle with every day in how we treat others and ourselves. I will cast the loose outlines of the Lost plot around Freud's "Civilization and Its Discontents" not because I believe that Lost is a literal recreation of a Freudian idea, but that these ideas generally shape the fit of narrative structure of the whole show. I think it is a useful way to think about the struggle between groups, Jacob and MiB, and within our characters via flashback as unified thematically as one story.


1. Eros is personified by Jacob. Eros is the drive towards life instincts. The desire to build, to create new life, whether metaphorically by nurturing our fellow man or the environment or by literally creating more human beings.

2. Thanatos is personified by MiB. Thanatos is our aggressive drive towards death and destruction. Humans naturally have mental systems of aggression, systems that make them aware of death, and these naturally systems lead to a sense of reward for impulsively destructive behavior.

Notice the series of requests made by Richard Alpert of Jacob in "Ab Aeterno."

Question 1. "I want to see Isabella again." Jacob says, "I can't do that."
Question 2. "I don't want to go to hell." "I can't do that either."
Question 3. "I want to live forever." "Now THAT, I can do."

Why can Jacob make someone live forever? Because he is Eros. He has domain over life and the living.

The MiB however, CAN offer Isabella to Richard, because he is death, and has dominion over the dead.

3. The pleasure principle and the reality principle:

Freud argues that human beings only seek what pleases them, but this creates problems. Doing what is ultimately going to make you happy is complicated, and you have to start understanding reality in order to have some type of control over your happiness. We have to move beyond our instincts to secure our happiness...

We have to make choices... (Jacob)

MiB tempts people with desires so immediate that they will destroy anything to have them fulfilled. Isabella for Richard. Nadia for Sayid.

One of Freud's main sources of anxiety that fuels our death drives is the "fear of loss of love" This primarily takes the form of children and parents in our early life, and the objects of physical desire in our adult lives.

"It may be that in this respect precisely the present time deserves a special interest. Men have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that with their help they would have no difficulty exterminating one another to the last man..." - Freud continued

1. Psychological conditioning. Many have pointed out that Jacob and MiB are "manipulative." They are, in fact, the forces which condition human behavior. We see people draw on these forces throughout the show. Sawyer and his long cons. Alex's boyfriend. The "skinner box"-like quality of the Swan station. Hurley's time in mental hospitals. The characters of the show are caught up in moving one another to either constructive and destructive ends in the same way that MiB and Jacob do, why? Because everyone needs training. You have to be trained to make good choices, just as you can be trained to pursue the quick fix of destructive behavior.

2. Technological calamity. Faraday and Hawking seem to be playing a high stakes game with the fabric of time. The island draws in a hydrogen bomb. Magnus Hanso's descendant is supposedly an arms dealer turned humanitarian. The Dharma initiative seems to be trying to move the technological understanding of man massively forward. Just as there seems to be a battle to keep MiB on the island, there also appears to be a battle to keep mankind from destroying itself.

3. Power and estrangement. One of the ways we cope with our anxieties is to project power so that we cover over our fears of death and loss of love. Charles Widmore, Mr. Paik, Ben Linus, all become powerful leaders who amass a lot of wealth (though we do not know precisely where Ben gets his cash from)... all are estranged from the people they love for seeking control over LIVING.

In the Lost episode titled, "The Cost of Living," we see the story of Mr. Eko come to an end. Mr. Eko's confrontation with MiB is both a renunciation of his time as a warlord, a powerful man estranged from his brother, and an affirmation of his LIFE. He says, "I ask for no forgiveness, Father, for I have not sinned. I have only done what I needed to do to SURVIVE."

"They know this, and hence comes a large part of their current unrest, their unhappiness, and their mood of anxiety."

1. "All cowboys have daddy issues." - While James Ford blames the Con Man, the truth is that his father still is the one who killed his mother and then himself. James Ford's obsession with Anthony Cooper is his way of not confronting this truth. Sawyer is in the original timeline an absentee father in his daughter's life. Jack Shephard's father told him "He doesn't have what it takes." We have seen in the Alt Timeline that Jack has a son, and we have seen him promise his son that he never has to fear losing his love. Miles' father left him in the original timeline, but they have an island reconciliation of sorts. Charlie became a drug addict to try and stay in his brother's universe and then is pushed out by his brother when he gets clean and starts a family. In the alt timeline, Charlie's brother is in the police station, seemingly concerned about his well-being. Rose and Bernard never lose faith in each others love, and they seem protected by the island. In the Al! t-Timeline, Rose is calm in the face of death. All our major players have internal struggles with loss of love. Ben and Alex. Charles Widmore and Penny (and baby Charlie). Locke and Helen.

2. Imperfect Living is still Living

"Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering." - The Brothers Karamazov

All of our major characters have done wrong and have to live with it. Their method of coping with unavenged suffering can either be corrected through some act of rebellious vengeance (Sawyer, Sayid) or some act of rebellious faith in living (Hurley, Jack). Jack fixes people. Hurley tries to help people with his money when he is cursed and when he is lucky. They are not ciphers, and they are not personifications of good (Hurley ran people down in a van!), they are human beings who react to their anxieties by striving towards their life instincts. The plane crashes, Jack tends to the sick and calms people down. Hurley takes a census, is involved in the memorial service and builds a golf course so that people can, you know, live a little.

3. The many religious symbolisms of Lost. If Lost is a metaphor for our pitched internal psychological battles, the reason that we see so many different religious imageries from various sources is because the psychological view of religion is that it is an internal manifestation of our coping with these anxieties of life and death. I am not trying to say that Lost is a secret recruitment tape for psychoanalysis, but rather, that the view of religion as the projection outward of what is inside of us allows the viewer into the story from any religious perspective. All religions deal with these drives, because all religions are human and all humans try to control these forces with in. The Egyptians see Jacob and envision Taweret. The slave ship sees the devil. When Jacob tells Richard the true meaning of the island, he says, "this place has been called many things, hell included."

EROS vs. THANATOS: A war on three fronts.

Lost carries the metaphor on three different levels. It treats our life and death drives as the reflections of forces that can literally take human form and are battling it out. It treats the battle of life and death as a struggle in how humans treat each other. And it treats the battle of life and death as a struggle inside the psyche's of each character.

HOW'S IT GOING TO END?: I Dunno. I'll leave the reason for my ambivalence to Freud...

"...And now it is to be expected that the other of the two 'Heavenly Powers,' eternal Eros, will make an effort to assert himself in the struggle with his equally immortal adversary. But who can forsee with what success and with what result?"

-Freud, the last line of "Civilization and Its Discontents"

We welcome relevant, respectful comments.
blog comments powered by Disqus