The Sunderlands, James and Mary, did not have any children. They were a young, married couple, and perhaps in the midst of planning a family. It is possible, to me, that the idea of starting a family was the reason Silent Hill was such a “special place”. But, with the onset of Mary’s mysterious and terminal illness, this dream was pushed to the wayside and forgotten. Of course, this seems like a reasonable set up to the friendship between Mary and Laura in the hospital. A young woman destined to be childless, and a child without a mother tied together by a need for happiness in decidedly dark periods of their lives. However, there are many holes in this relationship, and Laura’s existence, that, like those that James traverses in the game, I plan to delve shamelessly into.
Foremost, it was not Brookhaven Hospital that housed Mary. Silent Hill was the “special place” of James and Mary, not their home. Given that, why is Laura drawn to the town, and subsequently, Brookhaven? Many would be quick to say that she came looking for Mary in the town, and naturally would check the hospital for her terminally ill ‘mother’. This explanation, however fitting to the story Laura gives James, makes little sense. Laura is an eight-year-old child, with no known transportation. She is also an orphan, who was staying in a hospital for reasons unexplained. How, then, did she arrive in the town? With Cheryl Mason, a seven-year-old, it was pleading with her father, Harry. Did Laura, a mere child, hitchhike? This seems unlikely. It is from these questions that I produce my hypothesis that Laura is not a real child, but in fact another manifestation of the town, like Maria. As the title of this article suggests, I believe her to be a manifestation both to James and to Eddie.
To begin, I will discuss why she manifests for James.
It is not unreasonable to say that children represent innocence and peace to many people. As youngsters, we are naïve, cheerful, and ignorant. It is a blissful existence; everyone wishes, as adults, to revert back to childhood. This translates into the fact that Laura does not seem able to see Maria or the monsters. Her innocent nature prevents her from seeing the wrong in the world, or at least in James’ world. However, because James’ innocence has been robbed from him by his criminal act, she detests James. She steps on his hand, and she later tells him he “never loved Mary anyway”. It seems suspicious that she would know James so well, but he would not have any idea who she was, despite visiting his wife in the hospital numerous times. If Mary planned to adopt this child were she to get better, wouldn’t she have mentioned her existence to James? In her letter to Laura, Mary even mentions James as if the two had met previously. Even through his delusion, he remembers Mary as a person, and her hospitalization. How is it that Laura escaped this memory entirely? It would seem to me that it is because she does not exist.
James needed another drive to continue, another guiding force that did not inspire fear, unlike Red Pyramid Thing. Laura was a child that James felt was in danger, inspiring the caring and paternal nature that James displays every so often. She runs from him in very apparently deliberate directions, and then disappears. Laura makes sure that James is frustrated with his inability to reach her, and by proxy his inability to have his mental peace and innocence restored. It is something Silent Hill wants him to seek, and something that James seeks behind his delusional mindset. I have read in several places that the ‘Leave’ Ending is canonical. Although I do not agree with this, as I believe the ‘In Water’ Ending is more accurate, this same idea can be applied to the former. James, at the end of his journey, finds closure and is reunited with mental peace. He leaves with Laura, who is inexplicably at his side. The innocence is restored.
The fact that Laura never meets, or sees, Maria is a subtle feature in the game, but a gravely significant one. However, it is blaringly obvious that something of suspicious nature is going on when James reaches the bowling alley. Maria stops shorts of the door, protesting that she “hates bowling”, a strange time to be worried about that when monsters roam the streets. In truth, Maria is probably saying this because Laura will not see her if she enters, or that the two different sides of James’ psyche that they represent can never meet. Maria is a delusion of the Mary that James wishes he could have. She is Born From A Wish. She presents a barrier to the truth, giving him what he wants out of his delusion. Laura is the peace of mind that comes from the truth. As James drifts farther and farther away from Maria, Laura treats him more kindly.
The fact that Laura is nothing more than a manifestation of a part of James’ psyche comes to light especially in the Hotel. Here, she represents something more than simple peace of mind… she represents the old relationship between Mary and James. Something he can never have again. In the restaurant, James finally reads the letter Mary apparently wrote to Laura. This letter is extremely significant to Laura’s existence in Silent Hill. Though it sounds as if Mary is writing a letter to be given posthumously to Laura in the event the illness took her life, I interpret it another way. Like the first letter, written to James, which was a delusion to his guilty, grieving mind, Laura’s letter is also a delusion. This letter is addressed to Laura, but written to remind James that despite her moodiness, Mary loved him. The letter also serves as a subtle hint at motive. Though James is “surly”, or bad-tempered, he is also “sweet”. He did not kill Mary totally out of contempt, but also out of mercy. Mary was miserable, in agony, and dying. We see that in her diary on the hospital roof. The letter also mentions that Mary wanted to adopt Laura. Like most of the information given to you in Silent Hill, this cannot be taken at face value. Here, Mary tells James that if she was going to survive or get well, she was hoping they could return to the way things used to be. In short, she hoped to ‘adopt’ what Laura represented into their lives: happiness and peace.
Later in the Hotel, after the videotape finally gives James the clarity of vision he had been traversing Silent Hill to obtain, Laura makes another, final, appearance. Here she tests James as a manifestation. Will he tell her the truth, and reach his peace of mind? James admits his misdeed to Laura, who reacts violently. She screams at him that she hates him, distraught. The ties between what James once had and what he has now are broken forever. As James puts it, “The Mary that you know isn’t here”. Though he gains peace of mind, he loses all hope of getting his happiness with Mary back. Unless the ‘Leave’ Ending is achieved, Laura is not seen again. Her role as a manifestation is fulfilled, just as Maria’s was, so she vanishes.
With her role as a delusion for James explained, I will now take a look at her relationship with Eddie Dombrowski.
Eddie, as James knows him, is a troubled and mentally unstable individual. He is childish and perhaps a bit dumb, and speaks in simple sentences that are often pouty or defensive. He is a child who has been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Laura, being a complex being, represents some of the same things to him as she does to James. Eddie also subconsciously seeks peace of mind, but instead of total conscious denial of the truth, he simply lies like a child in trouble. He has a strong desire to be seen as an innocent victim of the taunting and bullying he claims has plagued him all his life. Eddie’s peace comes from this victimization of himself. He is very obviously insane, and unable to come to terms with his actions or his weight problem like an adult. Laura behaves like a brat when near him because he himself behaves the same way. For Eddie, Laura is like Maria for James. She is not there to help him see the light; she is there to keep him in the dark. In this case, peace and innocence are achieved in insanity, not in acceptance of the truth.
Eddie is at home in Silent Hill, and thus at home with himself and his past. He can kill without remorse in this town, and eat pizza afterward. He is not a person with hope for recovery. Like Angela, he is already lost. They are both here to wallow in their pasts. Like Angela’s hellish, fiery Otherworld, I suspect Eddie’s is also different than James’ dilapidated, abandoned Otherworld. I imagine his monsters take on the shapes of people, the thing he seems to fear most. Eddie is constantly surrounded by corpses, except for James and Laura, and that hardly seems to concern him.
Laura ‘s relationship with Eddie is more brief than that of hers with James. She is only seen with him once, but that is enough to establish her connection with him as a manifestation. She insults him to attempt to get a rise out of him, but when that fails she asks why he does not apologize. To apologize for one’s misdeeds is a mature and sensible thing to do. Eddie might have gotten help had he admitted to the authorities what he had done. But since Laura manifests peace of mind, she quickly corrects herself, saying that it is okay if he doesn’t because she runs away as well. Eddie is already at peace with his actions because of his unstable mental state. This is the only time she and Eddie interact, because he is forever lost in a childish, self-righteous state of mind.
Laura is not an eight-year-old child, but a manifestation of the happiness and peace that comes from a childlike, or clean, mind. Children play a big role in the town of Silent Hill, so it is no wonder that this symbol comes to us in the form of a child. I hope to have given readers some material to consider, and perhaps a new perspective on a character typically considered human and ‘real’.
Letters From Silent Heaven