In the last post I gave a rundown of the events of Silent Hill. For this post, I want to take a quick look at the game’s characters and what makes them tick.
The warning from the last post still applies here:
So, I think I would like to start out by talking about the character that I feel is the most important in the game: Alessa Gillespie.
It’s pretty clear, from the game itself as well as background materials from the developers, that Alessa didn’t have a particularly great life. She was largely ostracized and bullied by her classmates, who labelled her a witch because of her psychic abilities.
Life at home wasn’t great either, seeing as how her mother is basically Margaret White with magic powers. This, of course, culminates in said mother immolating her as part of a ritual, which naturally puts a bit of a damper on their relationship.
Despite all this, however, Alessa doesn’t seem to be motivated by revenge. She mostly seems to be afraid of Dahlia, and is trying to get away from her. Not only that, she actually seems to want to die, if only to end her own suffering. Interestingly enough, at first Alessa actually seems to want to help Harry; she appears to him after the game’s first boss fight to give him a key containing a clue as to how he can move forward. She doesn’t start to actually try and obstruct his path until after he meets her mother.
This brings us to Cheryl Mason
We don’t really see much of Cheryl, seeing as how she’s gone missing and the goal is to try and find her. As such, Cheryl isn’t really so much a character here as much as a motivation for Harry. However, she is actually the one who suggests going to Silent Hill in the first place (subconsciously hearing Alessa’s call). In this way, she is certainly one of the main instigators of the game’s plot.
Next we have Dahlia. To the rest of the town she’s just a woman driven a bit kooky by the death of her daughter. There’s more to it then that, however, as she is really the one that sets the whole game in motion, about 7 years before the game takes place.
Dahlia is very, very much a religious zealot, to the point where she burned her seven-year-old daughter alive in an attempt to bring about the birth of her god. It’s also implied that she was abusive towards Alessa, as a part of her religion (the 3rd and 4th games expand a bit more on how children in the cult were treated, which I will talk more about when I get around to those games. Hint: it wasn’t very well).
At the same time, however, Dahlia didn’t seem to hate her daughter; in fact, it’s implied that she thinks what she’s doing is good not just for Alessa, but for the entire world. Basically Dahlia wants to bring about a paradise, which would end all suffering.
At the same time, though, she also doesn’t really care about what Alessa wants. The flashback that we see before the final boss, for instance, indicates that Dahlia was using her daughter’s power to further her and her cult’s ends, against Alessa’s will. In fact, Dahlia doesn’t seem to get the idea to use Alessa for the ritual until after she defies her.
So, Dahlia uses Alessa for the ritual, which sort of works but also sort of doesn’t. Alessa does end up impregnated with said god, but with her soul torn, can’t birth it. Dahlia is undaunted, however, and uses her own power to keep Alessa alive and in agony, hoping that the other half of her soul will eventually return. This is successful, but ends up being a double-edged sword: it also gives Alessa the power to get out from under Dahlia’s thumb, so Dahlia ends up needing help in order to find her.
Here’s where Harry comes in. We can tell, largely from his interactions with Cybil and Lisa, that he’s generally a well-meaning character, and that he is also quite determined, since he is quite willing to go through an almost literal hell to find his daughter. However, he is also at a disadvantage, since he has no idea what’s really going on here. Dahlia manages to use these traits in order to manipulate him into doing her dirty work for her.
In fact, Dahlia actually seems to be a foil for Harry. In Harry, we have a father willing to risk everything for his adoptive daughter, while in Dahlia we have a mother who actively harms her biological child.
Then we have Lisa. Poor, poor Lisa. Lisa Garland was a nurse at Alchemilla hospital, who Kauffmann coerced into taking care of Alessa by supplying her with a drug that the cult has been spreading around town. Eventually, due to how freaked out she was by the task she was given, she decides to quit. This causes Kauffmann to cut off her supply. It’s not really clear what happens to her after that; it’s kind of implied that she then dies of either an overdose or withdrawal symptoms. There is a popular fan theory that states that Kauffman either killed her or had her killed, but there isn’t really any evidence of this beyond a short clip in the opening where the two are having a rather heated argument.
Either way, it isn’t very clear (like most things in this game) if the character Harry meets is the spirit of the real Lisa, or another construct created by Alessa. Personally, I lean more towards the latter. I think that Alessa put her there specifically to try and keep Harry away from her, since she appears after Harry has made contact with Dahlia. Also, after Alessa is captured by her mother and she starts to lose control over the otherworld, Lisa begins to deteriorate.
Then we have Michael Kauffmann. He is quite possibly the most despicable character in the game, I think more so than Dahlia. Dahlia, at least, is motivated by her faith. Kauffmann is motivated by pure, simple greed. Besides being a drug dealer, he has also made some kind of nebulous deal with the cult in order to gain some kind of power. In fact, the only reason that he tries to stop Dahlia’s plans in the two good endings has nothing to do with his conscience, but rather because he’s angry that she didn’t fulfill her end of the bargain. This makes his demise at Lisa’s hands quite satisfying.
Lastly, we have Cybil. Cybil doesn’t really seem to serve that much of a purpose to the story; she’s mostly there to give Harry his starting weapon and to serve as someone to give exposition too. Saving her in the carousel fight is essential to getting the game’s best ending, though, and does net a scene where Harry explains that Cheryl is adopted. The game does try to paint her as a competent, confident officer; I buy the confident part, but not so much the competence. This is largely due to the scene in the antiques store, where she says she’ll go ahead, but Harry says that he’ll go first because it might be dangerous. And she just lets him. The trained police officer lets the writer, who has never handled a gun before and was easily outrun by a seven-year-old earlier, go first.
Yeah, that still bugs the crap out of me.
So, that’s it for the characters of the game. Next post, I will be discussing the otherworld, the monsters that inhabit it, and the symbolism therein.