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Silent Hill 3 Symbolism

This is cross-posted from my website, The 4th Floor, a site that contains all my analysis and critique of the Silent Hill games series.  Thice is the beginning of a longer analysis of the entire Silent Hill 3 game.

The story begins with a dream – much like another Silent Hill title, in a way. The first game opens with a dream-like sequence as well. It involves Harry moving between consciousness and unconsciousness, never sure which is the dream or the reality. Both the first and third games deal heavily with this idea of dreaming and the gray area between being awake and asleep.

But Heather has a very unique dream. Hers is a premonition, a warning of future danger. She enters the Amusement Park to find it already transformed into the Otherworld and full of monsters. There are dangers and scares everywhere. Then, when she gets on the roller coaster track, she’s run over and killed! That is when her dream ends and she awakes.

This has two effects. For one, the player’s now very on edge. For another, Heather herself has had this experience in which she died. She saw the creatures that would later attack her, and the Otherworld that was coming to the mall. How could she have known? Obviously, her subconscious mind has experienced Silent Hill already. But this dream was specific. She will die if she goes onto the roller coaster track, unless she stops the car. How could she have known?

This dream implies a level of knowledge and power in Heather that no protagonist before or since has. She knows Silent Hill. It speaks to her, it warns her of future dangers. She has seen the future in her mind. Not only does this dream add some eerie foreshadowing to the story, but it also says a lot about Heather and her ability. 

But why the Amusement Park? The dream could of warned her of many dangers. It could have alerted her to Vincent’s mind games, or Claudia’s intentions. What is it about the park itself that merited this warning? The fact is, the park represents a larger concept in the game: youth and innocence. In the first game, Harry enters the park at the end of the game when searching for his daughter. It’s in the park that he learns the truth about Alessa and her mother. Now, Heather is all grown up and on a violent path of vengeance. The park relates to young girls who have lost their innocence, through abuse and suffering and loss.

Amusement parks are primarily places for children. They are meant to be happy, carefree places where kids can have fun. But this park is violent, oppressive and dark. It is childhood twisted into a nightmare. It is a visual representation of Heather herself, a young girl who has become twisted into a semi-adult, with dark thoughts and intentions. Her youth is being corrupted by hate.

In the park, Heather fights a dark version of herself – a representation of what she could become. Should she continue to allow her anger and hate to be what drives her, she’ll become the monster Claudia wants her to be. This is why the dream is about the park, and not something else. Because the biggest battle in this game, is Heather’s own battle for her soul, for her innocence. Should she lose, she’ll never regain her humanity.

Once Heather wakes up from the nightmare, we see where she is. She's not at home, in bed. She's in public, sitting in a restaurant at some kind. This makes little sense. Who sleeps in a restaurant? Why did the staff not awaken her? More than likely, something supernatural was at work here. Heather may have been overcome by the power of Silent Hill at the mall. When she awakens, she's already been pulled into the Fog World. There's no one else in the mall, no one at the restaurant. Her dream transported her into another reality.

She's haloed in red light pouring through the window beside her. Red is the motif of this game, a violent angry color, the color of blood. When she awakens and sits up, the camera pans in, and we see Chekov's Gun - I mean, the Agalophotis, hanging around her neck. The camera so specifically picks it out, and shows Heather tucking it under her vest, that it must be important. The fact that it's also an item listed in the inventory shows that it is important to gameplay, too. The game is dropping some massive hints that Heather's necklace will be very important.

Once Heather wakes up, she leaves the Happy Burger and enters the first level of the game: the Mall.

This game is set in 1993, so to call her dad, Heather's got to use ye olde Payphone. We hear a one-sided conversation with Harry Mason that tells us a lot about father and daughter. Heather's tone is warm and soft. She calls him "daddy", a more friendly and affectionate term than "dad" or "father". She answers a few of his questions with easy affirmatives, implying that he's asking questions about her behavior. Are you coming home, for instance. He's a caring and concerned father. Heather then informs him that she forgot to do something for him, and sounds very regretful. But by her tone and reply after, it's clear her father didn't mind. This short conversation tells us a lot about how close and loving these two are, ... which makes Heather's loss later all the more painful.

During her phone call, a man begins approaching Heather. Once she hangs up, she notices him, and then begins walking away... only for him to begin following her. Here, at the beginning, one of the major fears and motifs of the game is already present: the fear of being followed, of being stalked. Specifically, the fear that all young girls are forced to live with, that of being preyed upon by older men. The man, Douglas Cartland, has good intentions. But he clearly ignores Heather's signals and her obvious discomfort, choosing to continue following her after she had told him not to. Instead of respecting her boundaries, he continues to invade her space. It is very threatening. Even though it later becomes clear he is not a threat, at that moment, he is doing more harm than good.

So Heather retreats to the bathroom. Bathrooms are meant to be safe havens, spaces that only women can enter. Douglas doesn't follow her into the restroom. He didn't respect her boundaries, but he respects the boundaries set by society. Those boundaries will eventually be erased. Once Silent Hill takes over, there will be no safe spaces left.

Malls are a typical staple of teenage life in the United States. Teens spend quite a deal of time there, and apparently Heather does too. She mentions having been there enough times to remember specific items being in specific stores. Here we have an aspect of normal teen life, twisted into a violent and dark place. Just like how the amusement park is a staple of childhood, turned into a nightmare.

Heather meets her first monster in a clothing story in the mall. It's a Closer, an enormous, twisted beast. It towers over Heather, and stalks toward her menacingly with huge fists. The distorted body represents the feeling of being stalked and cornered by men. Young girls are be smaller and weaker than adult men, and the Closer's tall form and huge fists represents that.

But while Heather is horrified by the beast, she's not scared beyond reason. She sees a gun on the floor, grabs it, and retaliates. She clearly knows how to use a gun correctly. Someone without experience wouldn't have known how to cock it or to hold it properly. Heather does both. Obviously Harry taught her how to defend herself. (Her knife was probably also given to her by her dad.)

The first puzzle involves a little searching. Heather has to find a pair of tongs to get the key to the Bookstore. Once she's there, the first puzzle really begins. The code to the keypad leading to the rest of the mall can only be discerned by finding the correct order of the Shakespeare books on the floor. It's different on every difficulty level.

Shakespeare is part of the teenage experience in the United States. Every high school teaches it, and every high schooler reads at least one Shakespeare play. In the normal level of the puzzle, all the player must do is arrange the books so that the numbers on the side are legible. In the harder difficulty, the player has to have certain knowledge of the plays themselves to figure out the code.

It's in the hard mode that Heather makes an important comment. She mentions that a certain line in MacBeth is one of her favorites: "Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player // That struts and frets his hour upon the stage // And then is heard no more." The metaphor is comparing life itself to acting. Life is just an actor, who performs a play for his "hour upon the stage", and then is gone - they die, in a sense, because once the actor leaves the stage, they aren't that character anymore. The character exists only on the stage. In the same sense, Heather only exists on "the stage" - in the game. 

The quote is a nice reference to Shakespeare with a cool double meaning. Heather is basically hinting at her own fictionality - she is just a player on a stage.

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