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Part of my series of analyses on Silent Hill 2. To read more, check my website, the4thfloor.atwebpages.com.
The end of the hospital level introduces us to a motif which will become a staple of the end of the game: the descent downwards. The beginning of the game draws comparisons to Dante’s Inferno and walking through the gates of hell; now, we’re descending into its bowels, further and further into darkness and unreality. Once both rings have been obtained, James and Maria return to the Lady of the Door.
As I explained in the riddle section, this is a symbolic marriage for the two characters, with the exchange of rings by a holy figure. Giving the angel the rings unlocks the door, which leads to yet another staircase, much like those the player has traversed throughout the level. But this staircase takes a strange turn. After descending two levels, the final level becomes a much longer – impossibly longer – descent into darkness. At the bottom is a red door, leading to a part of the hospital that doesn’t exist.
Once again, Silent Hill has taken us into a realm of falsehoods and delusions, as James enters a long red hallway that twists and turns beneath the hospital. As soon as James and Maria enter the hallway, they are being followed. Pyramid Head makes a sudden and unannounced return, with no fanfare, no cutscene, literally no warning of his appearance. The player may not even notice him until Maria begins to cry out from being attacked. The two characters flee through the hall, to an elevator standing at the end.
A short cutscene plays showing James making it to the elevator in time, but just as Maria follows after, the doors shut. James manages to keep them partially open, enough for Maria to stick her arm through and cry for his help, but there’s nothing he can do. PH appears and runs her through, and her body goes limp as she slips away and the door closes. But before that door shuts, what do we see? The moment Maria dies there’s a telling clue to why she has died – look at her hand. The hand between the doors goes limp, and gives the player a clear view of a ring.
It is not a coincidence that Maria dies immediately after she and James are “married”. She dies as a direct consequence of their marriage. James fails to perform his duties as a husband, barreling into the elevator without hesitation. He doesn’t wait for her, he doesn’t guard her back. His first thoughts are for himself, and only after does he think of her, but by then it’s too late. This self-centered behavior is what doomed Maria and their ‘marriage’ –and that is a direct reflection upon James and his relationship with Mary. His selfish behavior killed her, and he hasn’t changed, and so Maria has died too. Only if he finally recognizes his flawed behavior and changes will he be able to protect those he loves.
Once again, Pyramid Head is forcefully moving James in the right direction, this time by literally chasing him out of the hospital. Also, by killing Maria, he is making James face the truth: one, that he hasn’t changed; and two, that Mary is dead, and Maria isn’t his wife. By taking her away, he takes away James’ way of coping and pretending Mary is still around. James, devastated by the loss, falls to the floor of the elevator.
We see how deeply he is affected by the loss of Maria – but it is the loss of her, or the loss of his wife figure? In the end, it’s not so much about Maria, but the idea of the loving, sexual wife who needs and wants him. This has unsettled him, and it’s begun to uproot his delusions. Outside the hospital James has a line where he almost admits to the truth: “Mary is this your way of…” Way of taking revenge? Way of getting back? In his heart he knows what he did, but he’s not quite ready to face it consciously.
But before he goes out of the hospital, James enters a doctor’s office. Here we find the last note of this level, written on a map:
He who is not bold enough to be stared at from across the abyss is not bold enough to stare into it himself. 'The truth can only be learned by marching forward. 'Follow the map. There's a letter and a wrench.
This note is written directly to James, which only becomes clearer when a later note actually uses his name. This is clearly written by our doctor character, that has shown up a few times but only written in the beginning and the end of the level. This doctor’s word both opens and closes the hospital level.
His words are also a clear reference to Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, specifically this famous line: He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.
The “abyss” in this case is obviously Silent Hill, the dark power at the heart of the town. But unlike the original quote, the quote from the letter says “across the abyss”. James is unable to handle being stared at from “across the abyss”, from across Silent Hill. But what is across Silent Hill? Think of where James starts his journey. He begins at the parking deck, looking out over Toluca Lake.
What is across Toluca Lake? The Lakeview Hotel, the final level of the game, where Mary is waiting. It is quite literally across the town from James - James is not bold enough to “stare across the abyss” at Mary - he cannot face her. He cannot face up to what he has done. Thus, if he can’t face Mary from across the abyss, how can he be “bold enough to stare into it himself”. If he can’t even face Mary, how could he possibly face Silent Hill? But, “the truth can only be learned by marching forward”. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually, James will make it to the truth. Then, he’ll be ready to face the abyss, and Mary.
As for the letter and the wrench, these items are part of the next small quest that will lead James to the third level of the game. After reading the note from the doctor, James looks up to see Laura leaving the building, and he chases after. Laura, along with Pyramid Head, is a driving force behind James’ quest. She is the symbol of innocence, while PH is the symbol of guilt. James is chasing after innocence - wanting it, searching for it, while he is being driven forward, or running away from, his guilt.
The letter are wrench are found on the front porch of a house. More than likely, this is the doctor’s house. The last note reads: Or perhaps you are a fool. The truth usually betrays people. 'A part of that abyss is in the old society. 'The key to the society is in the park. At the foot of the praying woman, inside of the ground, inside of a box. To open it, I need a wrench. 'My patient buried it there. I knew, but I did nothing. It made me uneasy to have such a thing near. I wasn't looking for the truth, I was looking for tranquility. 'I also saw that thing. I fled, but the museum was sealed as well. Now no one dares to approach that place. 'If you still do not wish to stop, James, I pray to the Lord to have mercy on your eternal soul.
In his first note, he tells James to march forward to the truth. Now, he’s questioning that idea. “The truth usually betrays people” - the truth turns on them, hurts them. He knows it’s going to hurt James, and maybe it’s better if the truth is left alone. He continues with that idea later, talking about how he wasn’t “looking for the truth”, but for tranquility. This doctor represents a part of James, just as the patient Joseph represented a part of him.
James is both the patient and the doctor - the victim, and the abuser. Part of him wants to find the truth and make amends, the other part wants to hide and distort the truth. The interesting thing about these two letters are, they are contradictory. The context implies that the second letter was written before the first, but the intro to the second implies that it is a continuation of the first. Which order did they come in? And why was the doctor writing them? What sins was he trying to cover up? Obviously, his sins relate to Brookhaven, and the traumas hidden there: the suicidal patient's possible murder, the abuse implied by the riddles, Joseph’s death. These would have been on this doctor’s head. It was his job to protect and to heal, and he failed - just as James failed to protect and heal his wife. So, the doctor discovered the way forward, and was too afraid to take it. But he left instructions for James, in case he wanted to continue forward. He choses to do so, taking the wrench and letter, and moving towards the statue.
To get there, James must pass through a door that has up until this point been locked. There is a message by the door reading: “The door that wakes in darkness, opening into nightmares”. Until now, James hasn’t been outside during an Otherworld transition. Obviously, the door “wakes” when the Otherworld is present. It “opens into nightmares” - an interesting juxtaposition, since waking up implies that one stops dreaming, and yet, this awoken door leads into a nightmarish dream state. Silent Hill continues to be mysterious and contradictory. The wrench is hidden behind the memorial to Jennifer Carroll.
The front of the statue reads: Victim of persecution by t________ans. Jenni___ Carroll lived with pride and honor. What happened here shall never be forgotten. An innocent woman, persecuted and killed. That’s something we’ve seen before in this story, and we’ll see it again. But up until now, Jennifer has been referred to in another way: “the praying woman”. It’s a religious, pious image that calls to mind the thought of saints (and in SH3, Jennifer will be named as a “saint” of the cult.) She could also be connected to the Lady of the Door, to the angelic symbolism that we’ve seen thus far. Jennifer is someone holy, and the way forward is found by her.
In the ground, there’s a metal box clamped shut, which can only be opened by the wrench. Why this extra step? And who put the key in the box? Presumably not the patient - where would he get the box? It must’ve already been in the box when he swiped it from the director. Furthermore, he knew it was a key, and he knew it was to the musuem, despite being in a clamped box. How? Presumably, this patient has seen the Otherworld too. It’s the only explanation for his knowledge, that he can see more than the others. It also makes sense, as he is the one with the guilty conscience, and violent tendencies. Perhaps he has a crime that the town is punishing him for. (After all, someone pushed the suicidal patient off the roof...)
Once James obtains this Old Bronze Key, he makes his way to the next level, the Silent Hill Historical Society. Why this place? The apartments related to James’ home life, the hospital to his experiences with Mary’s illness. So what is the Society? When James and Mary came to Silent Hill, they were tourists, and presumably they explored the town. It’s very likely that a place like the Historical Society, a well known tourist destination, would have been visited by them. This may be a place from James’ past. But he doesn’t stay in the society for long. It’s just a small side trip on the longer path. But before he leaves, there’s a little exploring to do.
A painting of Pyramid Head can be found here, as well as one of the very first hole James will jump into in the prison level. There’s also an item for the resurrection ending. Keep exploring, and the building holds little hints and references to the history of the town. Mentions of Brookhaven’s origins for one. But very little of it relates to James himself. Once again, to move forward, James must descend. Here, he truly leaves normal time and space, traveling under the lake and back in time to the Toluca Prison that existed in the 1820’s. As he does, the horn of the Little Baroness, the ship that was lost on the lake, rings out. Here, he will enter the third level of the game.