To begin, let’s analyze James’ name. The prefix Sunder is Latin for shattered or breaking, and land, is a suffix meaning reality. Literally meaning broken reality James begins his adventure outside silent hill in a rest stop bathroom. His car is parked askew, doors open and his wife’s dead body is in the backseat. This shows the chaos of a man at his breaking point. To begin the game the player must pass through an isolated forest which fosters the feelings of isolation as we enter this man’s subconscious. Not only are we in Silent Hill, but we are in James’ mind. Silent Hill is full of locked doors, blocked roads and impassible obstacles. These ‘locks’ arerepressed memories that James can’t access. Slowly we delve into the ‘otherworld’ of James mind. His otherworld is is full of old hospital sheets, dust, rust and dilapidation, as we progress these elements become stronger, until we are at the core of James mind, and we unlock his repressed memory of killing his wife Mary. These mental manifestations are James way of coping with murder and his now present Catatonia.
You see, Silent Hill doesn’t exist. It is an Astral plane projected by a man in a state of catatonia. Mary hasn’t been dead for 3 years, it’s been 3 hours and James is in the corner, clutching the pillow, catatonic. He has created Silent Hill to punish himself for his sins, but he is not alone, Angela, Eddie, and Laura are on the same Astral Plane. Similar to the theme in Mercy Falls- James is incoherent and unaware of what is going on in the real world. He has created his own purgatory, and in this private hell he has imagined monsters- which are feelings that he has guilt over- These include the sexualization of the nurses- symbolizing his lust, Pyramid head- a symbol for pain, guilt and sexual frustration from having a sick wife and so on. He can either run from these or face them head on- players choice. The more isolated and frustrated James becomes the more his psyche cracks until finally, he remembers murdering Mary. Upon realizing his sin, James makes an attempt for redemption in front of Pyramid head, he begins to realize the existence of the monsters and slowly starts to come out of Catatonia. When James kills the final “Mary” He is set free, broken from his state and able to realize and comprehend his actions. Depending on how the player plays the game, determines the actions James takes in the end- be it suicide, fleeing, rebirth, or a fresh start.
In an allusion in Silent Hill Homecoming James and Mary are represented in a monster known as Siam. When Siam is killed, the ‘shades of James’ is acquired. Siam is a distorted James with Mary tied to his back in straps and bondage with her arms above her head, and her legs move freely. This is symbolic of the burden that Mary placed on James when she was ill, and has become a distorted version of how James sees himself in the realm of Silent Hill. Throughout the game James visions distort and become more disturbed, rooms get darker, the fog gets thicker, and water rises. Fog is symbolic of James’ foggy mind, mental fatigue and the failure to obtain clarity. Water expresses the fact that James feels he is drowning in his problems and alludes to his suicide in ‘in water’ ending. It could also very well be representative of their ‘special place’. While James wears the same jacket as the protagonist from Jacob’s ladder, their stories are different yet, quite similar. When James finds himself in the chair at the apartments, it foreshadows the later events in Toluca Hotel. This is a sign that James is acutely aware of what’s manifesting in his mind. He knows he did something wrong, he just doesn’t know what. His mind is playing his own twisted version of Session 9 to try to grasp his sins, it gives him disturbing messages that seem to play with the mind like “If you want to see Mary you should just die, but you might be heading to a different place than Mary, James” This is an allusion to his subconscious becoming slowly aware of what he’s done. He begins to disregard Maria to an extent, realizing that while she is his fantasy- a younger wilder Mary, she is no replacement for his dead wife. After Maria dies James becomes more despondent, but he doesn’t stop searching for her, instead he dives deeper and deeper into his mental prison, desperate to discover the answers he’s seeking.
Why did James manifest his feelings into Silent Hill? Well, being a care taker is an extremely difficult duty, and I say this from experience. In a reverse from One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest James uses a mercy killing to set himself free, but instead he imprisons himself. Instead of being burdened with Mary, he is now burdened by something much heavier- guilt, remorse, sorrow, frustration. This is what made him despondent and made him catatonic. Silent Hill is meant to serve as an escape, but instead it’s punishment. James will never be free, everything will continue to haunt him- something he can not face, and while Silent Hill is punishment in James distorted mind, it’s better than the reality. This is a theme similar to the ending of St. Elsewhere where everything proves to be nothing more than a fantasy dreamed up by imagination. James is sick, mentally- all of it brought on by Mary’s murder. The fact that James is wearing the
same clothes as when he killed Mary fosters the idea that James is creating his own suffering whether intentional or incidental. In the hospital James finds notes from three men with J names. These represent the several personalities that James is switching between- a docile person with suicidal feelings, a man of guilt and regret, and he other one believes they should be punished for the sins, because he is violent and evil. This is also the side of James that killed Mary- a side that he represses until he puts the clues together.
If we take James out of the element of Silent Hill, he becomes a normal relatable character. There is nothing special about him, he’s a 29 year old store clerk. He is anybody, he has no distinguishing characteristics that set him aside from the norm. Relating to James is easy because he is you, or me amplified. It is our simple mentality personified. James is a simple man pushed beyond the confines of his own mentality. He is anyone that has gone through a tragedy and suffered. He is anyone that has been pushed beyond the limits and fractured their psyche. It’s relatable because it’s possible for any one of us to be pushed to that limit. Our own mental manifestations and fantasies can m
imic this world at will if we’re so inclined, and here, in Silent Hill, everyone has created their own reality.
Please be aware, that this is my personal interpretation. Comments and thoughts encouraged. what's your opinion?