At the beginning of “S.”, our character S. has no idea who he is. As the book Ship of Theseus begins, so does S’s memory. Near the end of the book, as S. travels to the Territory, he is in search of himself.
Maelstrom objects to S‘s quest to the Territory (p337)…
Int no time f’excursin allwheres jus’ so y’can solve y’self.
And Sola says of this same excursion (p337)…
Keep going. Keep paddling and you’ll find yourself.
And yet, on the way to the Territory, S. sees the petroglyphs in the hills, and one of them is his symbol – but half of it has been destroyed. Somewhere back in time, this symbol (like S.) was whole. But now (like S.), it is broken. It is missing a part of itself. It is dis-unified.
During S‘s trip to the Territory, he sees himself in Pfeifer – he sees that he has become exactly what he hated and attempted to destroy. He has become like Vévoda (see p316).
After S’s trip to the Territory, his ship is destroyed (like S. himself). He wakes up in the Winter City until Sola rescues him. And then he goes on his greatest quest – the quest to destroy Vévoda. In the orlop of his reconstructed ship, he writes the story of what will happen. He is able to write all of the story down except for what happens when he enters Vévoda’s wine cellar. He can’t seem to write down the ending of the final chapter …
He lays down his pen, cradles his head in his hands, concentrates for what might be hours or days, but he just cannot see it, and finally he understands that he is not meant to see it, not here; he must descend into the dark maze himself, before he will find Vévoda, this man who has had more influence over S.’s life than S. himself, find him and write the ending. (p412)
And so “S.” goes – both he and Sola – to descend in the dark maze and confront his greatest enemy – Vévoda – a man that neither S. nor we have ever actually seen.
When S. does actually descend into the cellars, there are four key characters in the official 1949 release of Ship of Theseus and in the four known alternate endings: S., Sola, Vévoda, and the monkey.
Is it coincidence that our book opens with S. desperately trying to find himself and it climaxes ambiguously with four alternate versions about four characters in the fourth level of the dark maze? No, it is not. This is by design. And it is here that S. does find himself – reconnects with himself.
S. does not know who he is in the beginning of the book because he is disconnected from himself. He has no memory of his past, no understanding of his present and no clue of his future. But there are threads that connect him to these other three characters. Notice just how closely they are connected. Below is a very skeletal, preliminary sketch of how S. finds himself…
Sola once said to S (p419)….
We are we, and we have been we for a long, long time. And in that way, I am you.
S. once thought this about himself and Vévoda (p316)…
Perhaps he is a bit like Vévoda himself: a man whose physical presence is intangible but whose influence on the world.
S. and Sola once discuss the monkey (p401)…
“It’s as if the thing is following me,” S. says.
“Or you’re following it,” she says.
Wait for it. Wait for it…
Does S. find himself in the climax? Yes, he does. And the alternate versions help us see that
S. is the S. he is. S. is himself. S. is the monkey. S. is Sola S. is Vévoda. It takes all four characters, each a self-reference to “S.”, to form a unified S. – a unified self.
S. represents the intellectual side of the self.
In our modern, “progressive” society, the intellect has taken over as the supreme self. But in so doing, the self has lost its true sense of identity. The self is more than mere intellect. And to focus only on the intellect is to lose ourselves. As Carl Jung said in his book The Undiscovered Self…
Nothing estranges man more from the ground plan of his instincts than his learning capacity, which turns out to be a genuine drive towards progressive transformation of human modes of behavior. It, more than anything else, is responsible for the altered conditions of our existence and the need for new adaptations which civilization brings. It is also the source of numerous psychic disturbances and difficulties occasioned by man’s progressive alienation from his instinctual foundation, i.e., by his uprootedness and identification with his conscious knowledge of himself, by his concern with consciousness at the expense of the unconscious. The result is that modern man can know himself only in so far as he can become conscious of himself – a capacity largely dependent on environmental conditions, the drive for knowledge and control of which necessitated or suggested certain modifica- tions of his original instinctive tendencies. His consciousness therefore orients itself chiefly by observing and investigating the world around him, and it is to its peculiarities that he must adapt his psychic and technical resources. This task is so exacting, and its fulfillment so advantageous, that he forgets himself in the process, losing sight of his instinctual nature.
The monkey represents the instinctual side of the self. Follow the monkey = follow your instincts.
Each time we see the monkey, we see a metaphorical manifestation of the instinctual drives of S. Our modern, intellectual selves too often attempt to repress our instinctual desires and pretend they aren’t there – but they are there. And we must follow those instincts if we are to regain the connection with our true selves.
Sola represents the anima – the intuitive, creative female side of the male self.
Men have largely lost sight of this side of themselves. S. is learning slowly to reconnect with this part of himself by opening up to intuition. This is why Sola is always a step or two ahead of him – intuition precedes intellectual understanding.
Vévoda represents the shadow – the evil part of the self that we attempt to deny exists within us
It’s easy to point to an external source of evil, give it a name, and demand its destruction. This is why Princip assassinated the Archduke. It is why World War I began. It is why S. became an assassin – to destroy the evil named Vévoda and all the agents who follow him.
It is not so easy to confront the evil that exists within us. This is the shadow – the dark side of ourselves that we deny is even there. Its presence frightens us, and so we lash out at the external, “drifting twins” of what exists in our own souls and demand its eradication from the earth to ease the cognitive dissonance. This is why the Man in Black in LOST was never given a name. He was Jacob’s twin – a drifting twin. To name him would be to place evil “out there” for targeting. But the evil we must confront lies within.
All Four are Part of S. and Must Be Unified
The only way for S. to find himself is to unify these alienated parts. He must realize that his intellect is not all there is to himself. He must accept his instincts, his anima, and his shadow in order to truly find himself. And this can only happen when he “descends into the dark maze himself.”
What a lesson for us. We have lost our way when we see ourselves only as an intellectual beings. Our whole selves – our souls – are much more spiritual and complex than that. To discover our true selves, we must look deep within and embrace all that we find there.
You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. – Walter M. Miller
(often misattributed to C.S. Lewis)