I decided to sit down and try to unpack Dear Esther. Again. This time it was for a different essay to do with the symbolism of specific media. I started this process by watching a full playthrough of dear esther. At every piece of dialogue I would pause the video and try to pull all the information I could from the words the narrator says. I was working off a basic understanding that Esther, the narrator’s wife, died from a car accident, The island is not a real place but instead is a place inside the narrator’s mind, and that names were not entirely constant. I found this time round that the narrator believes everything he says in the moment but nothing can be confirmed true after he has moved on. This is intentionally done to emphasis his the narrator’s mental state.
I discovered many things about the way the narrator feels and about how he feels his spirit is infected and dying without esther. I learned this through the piece of text where the Narrator describes the parallel white lines in the cliff face, and what his lines mean for him.
He states that his lines are to keep would be rescuers at bay, his infection is not simply of the flesh. By combining an understanding that the island is a place within the narrator’s mind, with the idea of an infection being of more than flesh, I was able to determine the that the narrator’s mind is infected and this infection plagues his island/mind. So to have an infected mind he would either be mentally unstable or he is suffering spiritually. While the narrator is somewhat mentally unstable, he puts much more emphasis on religious references and the prior sentences put much more weight on this infection being a reason to die or give up all hope of living. This puts much more weight on the narrator’s infection being a spiritual one than mental. I discovered later while reading a blog post by Dan Pinchbeck that this was exactly the feeling he was hoping to convey and I had accurately deciphered it. Yay me.
I also discovered the remnants of one story that Dan Pinchbeck said he had as part of the game that was surrounding the hermit. This story described the island as always having a hermit, and the new visitors become the hermit, Donnelly having been one and the narrator becoming one. The remnants of this story exist in the portions of story where the narrator describes Paul, the hermit, and himself being woven into a blanket and stuffed into the hole in the bottom of a boat.
We learn that the Hermit took a boat without a bottom to the island when the narrator retells the legend of the hermit. Dan references this original plot in the same blog post talking about how he initially wrote that plot line and still holds it within his head however it does get conflicted in the final released version.
I also learned a lot about the narrator’s feelings towards Esther and how he is dealing with her death. He expresses a lot of this through his description of the aerial. The narrator likens the aerial to Lot’s wife, and the moment she turns to stone.
He ties it into Esther all at once describing a moment of “fatalistic calm” that both Lot’s wife and Esther had being depicted through the aerial. When the narrator describes the aerial in this way, it instantly ties everything he says about the aerial to Esther from that moment onwards. It also describes the narrator’s confusion surrounding the moment Esther died. This confusion then escalates to fear as the narrator describes his, and the bothy’s, desire to hide away from the aerials gaze. Finally the narrator expresses his desire to understand Esther’s moment of ‘fatalistic calm’ when he states that he will approach the aerial from the north shore. He is looking to gain a new perspective to then be able to empathise with Esther, which he ultimately does when he reaches the aerial and jumps from the top.
These three things were the most important and interesting things I discovered after examining the game for the umteenth time. I know there is still so much more to discover, since I still haven’t even gone into depth about the purpose of the ghosts, whether or not paul and the narrator are different people, or what the changing parts of the island mean for the narrator. There is so much held within this simple 1 hour long game and it continues to amaze me how much I learn about the characters and the Island the more that I play.