Monday, January 18, 2010

5 - The Gunslinger Revealed - A Review of James "Sawyer" Ford

James Ford, aka Sawyer, aka Jim LeFleur is one of the baddest, bad ass characters in Lost.

Transformation and Atonement
No character has undergone more of a transformation, not even a paralyzed, down trodden John Locke.  And when the season five finale of the Incident ended, no character has suffered or sacrificed more then he to bring about the new beginning prophesized by Faraday and enacted by Jack.

James transforms from a selfish and completely self centered con man to an inspirational leader and a hero cut in the cloth of Han Solo and Indiana Jones. At times he resembles the wiley Odysseus or the evil trickster Loki but of all the survivors of Oceanic 815, he has most fully transformed into a hardened but morally centered hero akin to Sam Spade or Phillip Marlow.
But is he gunslinger material?

Gunslinger Qualifications: Background

Like the gunslinger Roland, James loses his entire world at a young age. His mother (like Roland's) betrays her husband and is gunned down. Like Roland, James is consumed by his obsession. But where Roland fastens onto a mythic adventure, James is fixated on the destruction of his personal world and the man he blames for his loss. He pursues the con man 'Sawyer' but becomes truely lost, as he morphs into the man he seeks. He becomes the con man who destroyed his life, even adopting his name as an alias.

So far, while there are distinct differences between Roland the gunslinger and James Ford, there are also many similarities. Roland too is morphed by the obsession of his quest and indeed even parlays with the man in black responsible for his mother's betrayal and his father's death.

The Gunslinger's character and growth as a hero

James/Sawyer's life is desolate. He has become what he had hoped to destroy. So desperate must he be to escape the life of 'Sawyer' and to rekindle the only purpose his life has ever known, that he allows himself to be 'played' by another con man, Hibbs, who has already once betrayed him once (the Tampa job). He is easily duped by Hibbs into traveling to Australia, to kill a man who Hibbs named 'Sawyer' who is in fact just a gambler running a food stand who owes Hibbs money.

James/Sawyer does receive 'critical' guidance on his quest to find and kill 'Sawyer'. After finding the fake 'Sawyer' he losses his nerve but Christian Shepard runs into James in an Australian bar and convinces him to complete his quest, urging him to take any action if it will bring him just a little peace.

And so Sawyer kills the wrong man in Australia. He is filled with self-loathing and is on a path of self-destruction.

On the island he seeks death and punishment but balks repeatedly at redemption.

He actively seeks death in his stand in front of a charging polar bear, punishment in his inviting of Sayid's torture for inhalors he does not posses, death again in his determination to be on the raft and his continual determination to have those around him hate him as much as he loathes himself.

He actively rejects any possibility of redemption (except perhaps a faint dream of it as he drifts on the raft toward his expected death when he sings Bob Marley) and cannot give up his obsession nor his self-hatred.

After returning to the Island after Walt is kidnapped and the raft destroyed, James/Sawyer begins to form strong bonds among the survivors. A spark is kindled between him and Kate  and it evolves into an off again / on again relationship.

James/Sawyer consistently rejects the respect of his fellow survivors, indeed, during the "Long Con" not only does he reject the new found respect of his fellow Losties, but his complex double dealings conspire only to gain him the hatred of his fellow Losties, apparently it is all he truely wants.
 James/Sawyer is trapped in a cage of his own making, but Hurley continually reaches out to him.

Hurley refuses to give up on him and James/Sawyer is easily conned by Hugo (like he was conned by Hibbs) into caring for his fellow survivors.

Hugo pretends that everyone is considering banishing him, and gets James make amends to gain their goodwill. He gives Claire a blanket and complements Arron "he's not as wrinkly as he was a couple weeks ago." He also helps Desmond catch a boar and prepares a feast for everyone.

Hurley thus 'cons' Sawyer into caring about his fellow survivors but it isn't until Hurley tells him why...because they need him as a leader, that James begins to 'want' to be redemmed. And when Sun scowls at him he no longer seems to desire the loathing he has wrought. He appears to now have the capacity to love others because they need him, and this transforms his view of himself enpowering him to become the leader the Losties need to survive.

In the mythological sense, Hurley sets the stage and prepares James for the challenges he is soon to face. And James/Sawyer does not have to wait long when John cons him (this con man is getting conned left and right) to follow him to kill 'Ben'. This is what brings James/Sawyer to enter down into the dark hold of the "Black Rock" to confront 'Ben' only to be brought face to face with Anthony Cooper and when Cooper refuses to read his letter, James strangles him. He slays 'Sawyer' and becomes James Ford.

James undergoes a classic trial of the hero. Decending into the depths to slay his father, in order to become his own man, and frees himself from the chains of the past.  And is not Anthony Cooper, James' true father. Whether or not he fathered James (a possibility) it was Cooper whose influece guides his entire life

James even has a methaphorical rebirth/baptism when he jumps off the helicopter to allow the others to reach the freighter. He arrives on the island without his shirt, another methaphor for having cast off his old life and starting a clean slate.
When the Losties find themselves in 1977 Dharma Town, he chooses to become Jim LaFleur, Sheriff of Dharma Town (fleur is an insignia or mark or flower on heraldry). Jim chooses to remake himself into a figure at polar opposites to the self centered con man he once was. He is now a leader, who puts others ahead of himself, he inspires loyalty and respect.

Jim finds Love...                                                                ...and suffers Loss

The gunslinger's quest
James has several very strong personal quests, to free himself from 'Sawyer', to find his life's path, to become a leader. Because of his strength, courage and eventually loyalty, he is strongly involved in directing larger events on the island. He bases his decisions and judges the actions of others from the strong moral character that ermeges within himself. He comes into conflict with John Locke after the destruction of Dharma Town when John Locke tries to force Hurley to come with him and Ben to find 'Jacob's Cabin'. But the same James Ford is loyal to John Locke when Locke risks himself going down the Well to save the losties from the time jumps.
James loyalty to Locke sacrifice, is the primary reason for him convincing Juliet, the other Losties, Richard Alpert and Horace to let them stay in 1977 Dharma Town to look for their missing friends. This may be one of the most important acts in setting the stage for a nuclear reset by Jack in the season finale "The Incident".

In many respects, his hero's quest was to become the man capable of keeping his friends in Dharma Town so they are there in 1977 when Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sayid return. At this point he has become a good man, an excellent and respected leader. A man who inspires loyalty and love. His decisions impact the very existence of the Island and it's inhabitants. Whether he has been in control over his own destiny or whether he has been a 'mark' in a very long con, remains to be seen. It is quite possible that James Ford/Sawyer/LaFleur has been transformed from a con man into a mark. Only season 6 can tell.

I started this review thinking that James Ford would be the easiest character to dismiss as the heroic gunslinger, but in the course of these ponderings, I believe his stature and heroic struggle comes clearly to light. Whether or not he is the gunslinger, he is presently the best man on the island (in any time period). A man among men. What else can I say....

he's "a complicated guy...sweetheart." Cheers

... The best chance for James Ford to emerge as the gunslinger of Lost lies in the nature of the enternal scam that is playing out between Jacob, the man in black and Fate itself. We all will have to wait for the fast approaching start to Season Six to find out the answers.

My plan is to post 3 blog posts before Feb. 2.
1.) My next post will probe the similarities between Lost and Stephen King's Dark Tower world,
2.) My second will scrutinize the prophecy given by the Man in Black to Roland Deschains in the climax of the Dark Tower's first book "Gunslinger". The Man in Black reads Roland's Fate in a deck of Tarot cards. He pulls: The Hanged Man, The Sailor, The Prisoner, The Lady of the Shadows, Death, The Tower, Life.
3.) My third and final post before the season opener will unveil a world shaking cracked pot theory to end all cracked pot theories. The name of my cracked pot theory is: Reversal: or the old switcheroo.

Well, that's all for today. Hope everyone had a great Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
take it easy, it ain't all half bad
mr badd

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