Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Protecting the Island: Narrative Continuance in Lost

Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Protecting the Island: Narrative Continuance in Lost

Article excerpt

IN THE FINAL SEASON OF THE TELEVISION SHOW LOST, THE TASK OF PROTECTING the island passes from Mother (Allison Janney) to Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) to Jack (Matthew Fox) and finally to Hurley (Jorge Garcia). (1) The protector is charged with assuring that the light of the island, "life, death, rebirth, the source," never goes out because, according to Mother, if it goes out on the island then it goes out everywhere (6.15, "Across the Sea"). Jacob has a slightly different take on the light that glows beneath the island: he sees it as malevolence trapped by the island's presence (6.9, "Ab Aeterno"). When it is released, by Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) removing a cork-shaped boulder that kept the light contained, the island begins to self-destruct (6.17/18, "The End"). Jack, ever the surgeon, repairs the island by replacing the boulder to trap once again the destructive force beneath it. This final surgery is a selfless act that sends Jack, on the brink of death, back to the bamboo field in which he woke after the crash of Oceanic flight 815. He stumbles, collapses, and finally closes his eyes exactly where he had first glimpsed the island. Jack's narrative, which began with him regaining consciousness just after the plane crash, comes full circle, with him dying just after seeing the plane carry the remaining castaways from the island. By sacrificing himself to protect the island, Jack ensures that other narratives on the island will continue, as confirmed by the "flash sideways" (a term coined by Lost viewers to describe a cut to an alternative, incompatible timeline), with Hurley as protector and Ben (Michael Emerson) as his sidekick. (2) In the final season, protecting the Lost island thus comprises both containment, in the form of the cork-shaped boulder, and the seemingly eternal presence of a protector.

Throughout the series, however, protection has also come from dissimulation. Various tricks were employed to shield the Lost island from unwanted outsiders and to prevent the castaways from discovering the island's secrets, or even leaving the island. Coming in the form of the "Others'" fake beards and costumes, the entire island's disappearing act, and literal smoke and mirrors--the smoke monster and Jacob's mirrored lighthouse--this dissimulation is a collection of tricks and lies that first bewilder the castaways and then bring them deeper into the mysteries of the Lost island. (3) Interestingly, the viewer of Lost also falls prey to visual tricks and mirror images that force her to continually reinterpret the spaces and narratives depicted in the television show.

Lost represents real, off-island spaces in tandem with the fantastic, imaginary space of the island. (4) Off-island and on-island spaces are represented as visually distinct entities; moreover, they are temporally discrete, as the off-island spaces of the flashbacks show narratives of the castaways' past and the on-island spaces contain the diegetic present. As distinct entities, off-island and on-island spaces encourage the viewer to employ different types of reading for each space. Once the distinction between the real, off-island spaces of the flashbacks and the fantastic spaces of the Lost island becomes unclear, then the viewer's perception of space and time is confused, causing her to complicate her reading of how off-island and on-island spaces, and the narratives presented in each space, are connected. Visual tricks and mirror images further obscure the distinction between real and imaginary, thus revealing Lost's unique imbrication of real and imaginary spaces, of present, past, and future narratives. This article will employ Jean-Jacques Rousseau's and Gilles Deleuze's philosophical perspectives on desert island temporality to clarify and augment host's multi-layered representation of narrative time. Passage of time on a desert island continually recurs in an enclosed system, according to Rousseau and Deleuze, and the events that occur during this non-linear progression of time amount to a sort of cyclical narrative that destabilizes causality and emphasizes the relationality of past, present, and future; both of these attributes of desert island time are essential to understanding the embedded nature of temporality in Lost. …

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