The TV show Lost is a story about a group of people who survive a plane crash and end up on a mysterious island. Beyond the premise of the show there are deeper themes that run through out the show. While the first season may have been primarily about the survivors realizing that help isn’t exactly on the way and that they must band together to survive. From the very beginning we begin to see conflicts arise when matters of trust are involved. As the survivors begin to know one another better the skeletons in the closet for everyone are eventually revealed.
Examples include when Jack Sheppard, the de facto leader of the group of survivors, found a mug shot of one of the other passengers who was being escorted by a US marshal. Kate was wanted for the murder of her father. Sayid Jarrah, another survivor, was previously a torturer for the Iraqi Republican Guard. James “Sawyer Ford” was a conman who conned couples out of their money; he also left behind a daughter whom he refused to accept in to his life. Needless to say this caused a major point of contention in the aftermath of the crash as many erroneously thought he had something to do with it.
Not all of the passengers’ past is as dark though. John Locke was paralyzed from the waist down before the crash on the island. Mr. Eko was a reformed Nigerian gangster turned priest after an accident killed his brother. One thing all these characters have in common is their general path once they get on the island and how these characters’ development portrays the larger theme of redemption. Looking first at Kate Austin’s character arc we can see how her story plays in to the main story of Lost. Kate before the crash was on the run because she killed her abusive alcoholic father.
She arranged the how to blow up while he was in it and rigged it to look like an accident so her mother could collect on the insurance money. However, even though she herself was abused, Kate’s mother still loved her husband and turned her daughter in. On the run, Kate basically endangered everyone she came in contact with, even getting her childhood sweetheart killed in the process. On the island her path seems to take a different course. She becomes one of the protectors and providers. James Ford, or “Sawyer” was a conman before and for some time on the island.
His character has evolved over the course of the show and he is one of the first major protagonists to come full circle on his path to redemption. Sawyer took his name from the conman who conned his parents, as a result of the swindle; James’ father killed his wife and then himself on James’s bed, while he was hiding underneath it. His whole existence as a conman was geared toward getting even with this man who destroyed his family. James finally got his wish on the island when the original “Sawyer” was mysteriously summoned for another slightly related reason.
James was able to express his grief to the man who ruined his life and then in a dramatic display, he hastily disposed of the old swindler. After the huge advancement we start to see his attitude shift from self-serving to more paternal and protective. He offers moral support to the general population of survivors, does altruistic deeds and tasks for the camp, and on more than one occasion stepped in to leadership roles. This was highly contrasted from the isolationist and derisive James from the beginning of the show.
The James we see now is radically opposed to the one we’ve seen, he’s settled down, has become more of a wise-leader type and basically embodies the virtues of a strong and wise leader. Sayid Jarrah was a former Iraqi Republican Guard torturer and communications error prior to, during, and after the first Gulf war. After the Iraqi military forces surrendered to US forces Sayid vowed to never torture again. However, this promise is broken after the crash survivors capture what seems to be a native of the island they crashed on. After his relapse into torture Sayid goes on a self imposed exile across the island.
However he is captured and tortured himself by a woman, Danielle, who came to the island as part of a team of scientist’s 16 years prior when her boat was sunk in a violent storm. Sayid eventually gains Danielle’s trust when they exchange intimate details about each other’s past. While he was there he was able to glean whatever knowledge Danielle had about the island, which was limited but still more than what they knew at the time. With the newfound information and a few stolen maps Sayid returned to his camp and began on his path to redemption.
Throughout the show from that point Sayid had shown himself to be a valuable asset to the survivors as an adequate protector, with his military training, and in logistical issues. Repeatedly he’s engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the islands natives who are well trained themselves. In fact, he is the one of the few protagonists who can hold his own and even best the “Others”, as they’re called, in combat situations. However, with the murder of his wife we see his recidivism to his dark craft. This relapse is short-lived as Sayid comes to his senses and drops off the grid.
Only to reappear when his fellow crash survivor and friend, Hurley, is in danger. We see Sayid reassume the role as protector as he swoops in to rescue his friend. One of the most interesting paths to redemption is John Locke’s. John was raised in foster care and never met his father until later in life. Many years later, while working in a toy store, John notices a woman who appears to be stalking him. He later realizes that this woman is his mother. She tells John that he was “immaculately conceived” however upon further investigation he realizes that his mother has a history of psychiatric problems.
The silver lining is that he also found the name on record as his biological father. This man, Anthony Cooper, is later found out to be the “Sawyer” who conned James Ford’s parents. While Cooper may be older now it doesn’t mean he’s still out of the game. When John reconnects with his biological father, he realizes that his father is a conman after having a chat with the son of the woman he’s seeing. When John goes to confront his father about the information he received, one thing leads to another and Anthony Cooper pushes John out an 8th story window, paralyzing him from the waist down.
Once John came to after the accident, he realized he could wiggle his toes, and then from there he realized he could walk again. From this point forward John is a new man. He comes the hunter of the group, volunteering to do the most strenuous work. He also helps out with Claire and her newborn son. He also manages to help Charlie kick his addiction to heroin. Just as everyone else on the island, he had his own demons to accept and move on from. Also, Locke plays heavily in to the “science vs. aith” theme of the show, as such there are some instances where his fatalism borders on insanity; one example being when another minor character, Boone, died in the process of exploring another crashed airplane on the island. Instead of taking responsibility, Locke boldly proclaimed that Boone was a sacrifice the island demanded. Locke’s personification of the island is his eventual undoing. His constant need for a purpose concludes his story. At the present time in the show the fate of John Locke is uncertain, his story unfinished.
One common thread we can see running throughout all these stories is the path of redemption and rebirth. Kate has never shown any type of love or commitment, in her life leading up to the island, to anyone but Aaron. James the conman is now playing house with his monogamous partner Juliet, and leading his own group of survivors after a split with Jack. Oddly enough, the stoic leader from the beginning of the series seems to be on a reverse path of enlightenment ever since he left the island. After the precarious rescue from the island we see Jack in a downward spiral, which can only mean his story is still unfolding.