First, some context
I want you to ponder something for me.
You are in a poetry class. You are given a poem each class, and the instructor informs you that you will be given a test at the end of the semester where you will need to fill in the missing lines to the poems on the final. You study each poem you are given, and when the final week of the semester falls upon you, you feel like you have a great grasp of the curriculum. But, when you are given the final exam, you notice something troubling. Instead of the poems you had been studying, you are asked to fill in the missing lines of poetry you have never read in your life.
You get up from your seat, you go to the professor, and you ask them what happened. They inform you that the poetry that was discussed in class was not the homework. The homework would be found on the syllabus, through email, or on the web portal. You had thought that you would be tested on the subject matter from class, but in actuality, there was separate work to be done the entire time. You have a vast knowledge of poetry from the year, but unfortunately, it’s not the poetry that you need to pass the class. The information you have in your head, while it seems important to you, given the context of the situation, becomes utterly useless.
One would ask at this junction: if you are studying poetry, and you were able to gain an understanding and appreciation of the work you were given, does that really make the information meaningless? You still showed enough gumption to memorize the work that was given in class. You still are able to recite poetry from memory. You may even appreciate the craft and the work that goes into creating poems. But, in the context of the class that you enrolled in, yes, that information is meaningless. The professor can’t come up with a different final because of one student’s blunder. That isn’t fair to the rest of the class. In essence, the information is both enlightening and meaningless. It’s two things at once, but depending on which way you look at it, you will likely only see one outcome, the positive or the negative one. The only way we are able to decipher it for ourselves is by putting it into our own context.
If this can happen to you during a class, do you think that it could happen in other aspects of life?
Here’s another example:
You have a telephone. For simplicity’s sake, this phone is a house phone, so it is only supposed to make and receive calls. But, let’s say while you are hanging it up one day, you miss the cradle it charges in and it falls to the floor. After that, you are only able to hear what the other person is saying. They are unable to hear what you say back. Technically, that phone no longer works as it’s intended. It’s no longer a telephone, it’s some sort of machine that only is able to relay someone’s voice to you. The definition of a Telephone is a communications unit where two or more users can talk with one another. A phone that simply lets you hear what others are saying is worthless. You would likely use your cellphone or replace the phone. Does that mean that the telephone is no longer a phone? We don’t refer to it as a different item entirely, we just refer to it as broken. If you were to give it to someone and tell them what was wrong with it, and asked them what the object is, I would guarantee they would call it a telephone, even though it doesn’t function as a telephone.
This is just the way humans work. Language can be tricky and it can be used against you or for you. It’s the reason why legal rhetoric is so important for law students to master. When we think back on the OJ Simpson trial, and why he was acquitted, we point to Johnny Cocrain and his “if it does not fit, you must acquit” line. If we only looked at the evidence, chances are OJ would have been convicted, but we have defense lawyers to protect us from prosecutors because the average person doesn’t know how to argue in a legal setting for oneself. There’s a reason why lawyers have to go to school and pass a bar exam. Mastering rhetoric and being able to debate their positions strongly is one reason for that.
Paul Auster recognized that words hold power, but he also was wondering about what happens to that power when you are able to change words. In his book, City of Glass, Paul uses his writing to discuss what words really mean if the definition of words can be changed. Do they still hold the same power? What if two things share the same name? Which is the real object, and which one is fake? Can two things be the same if they have the same name? Do names mean anything if we can change them at will? Is our identity tied to our name, and if they aren’t, does a name hold as much weight as we think it does?
What Paul didn’t know was that sixteen years after his book was published, it would help cause one of the biggest backlashes in the video game industry that we have ever seen.
Paul Auster is a novelist, essayist, poet, and memoirist who studied at the prestigious Columbia University. Paul came around at a great time for postmodern literature, as his first book was published in 1982. After tackling the death of his father in The Invention of Solitude, Paul published three loosely connected books from 1985 through 1986 which would be collectively known as The New York Trilogy. The first book in the trilogy was City of Glass, a detective novel about a mystery writer who begins getting random calls looking for a man by the name of Paul Auster to assist them. As the author begins his investigation, he slowly begins to lose his sanity and sense of self as the investigation continues. The trilogy gained Paul some notoriety in literary circles and to this day Paul is still regarded as one of the most distinct and talented authors of his generation.
The same is constantly said about the other man I want to discuss, one who is regarded in the video game industry as an auteur and a revolutionary director in the realm of interactive fiction. That man is Hideo Kojima.
Kojima began his career at Konami as an idea man. He knew very little when it came to programming, as he had studied economics in school before deciding to join the gaming industry. Due to a love of film that began at an early age, Kojima always envisioned himself as a director, and he took that approach to design his games. He wanted the player to feel immersed while also showing a cinematic side that games had been lacking in the mid-80s. This was before games like Final Fantasy were on the market; games where rather than just playing towards finishing the level you would play to also reveal the story that was unfolding at your fingertips. In fact, Final Fantasy would be released December of 1987, the same year that Kojima’s first big success on the MSX came about, Metal Gear, in July. Kojima recognized that playing a game was different than watching a movie, and by using gaming mechanics alongside the tropes he had learned by watching and shooting his own films in his younger days, he realized that he could make his own films inside of the medium of video games.
Paul had the same approach with City of Glass. What on the surface level looks like a detective novel is actually a deconstruction of them. A pillar of postmodernism is deconstructing and subverting expectations of the genre that you are writing in. In simpler terms, you aren’t using the tropes as you normally would, what you are doing is using those tropes to explore and analyze your message. As I said before, the 1980s was ripe with artists and writers looking to use these same techniques across the board in their work. You had Blade Runner, which many consider the seminal postmodern film, you had Don DeLillo writing White Noise, and you had the emergence of David Foster Wallace. Alongside this, you had Paul Auster writing The New York Trilogy. Kojima also saw this approach and wanted to do the same thing with one of his own projects.
One thing that always seemed to hinder Hideo was limitations. He found himself pushing every console that he worked on to its limit to attempt to squeeze out all that he could from the machines. He would also push the visual envelope with games like Snatcher and Policenauts. These two games can be described as visual novels as well as video games, as the player’s role in both is to help push along the narrative over all else. High-level voice acting and stunning cinematography were used to make the games feel alive, even though technically you are limited in the things you can do. You can’t run around freely like in a Super Mario game. Instead, you are navigating a system of menus until you reach a point in the story that dictates action on your end.
While the engine Kojima used for those two games worked, the drawbacks were enough that Kojima chose to go a different route with the game that would follow Policenauts. Originally slated for release on the 3DO, Metal Gear 3 began development while Policenauts was being finished up. There was even concept art released on the pilot version of Policenauts for the 3DO. But, the 3DO lifespan was a short one. It was seen as a failed console early, which opened the door for Kojima and Konami to switch their efforts away from developing for the 3DO and developing the next Metal Gear installment for the Playstation.
That title would be renamed Metal Gear Solid, with Solid not only nodding towards the protagonist of the series, Solid Snake, but also representing the Solid atmosphere that the game would be encased in. This was Hideo Kojima’s first 3D game, hence the SOLID title, at a time when 3D polygon games were fairly novel. With a catalog of successful titles under his belt and the blessing from Konami to make the game he always envisioned, Kojima and company set out to make Metal Gear Solid as advanced and groundbreaking as they possibly could.
There are a few things to note here: Firstly, Kojima wasn’t new to subverting expectations. Even the high-level detail he paid towards voice acting was something that wasn’t done to mainstream video games at the time. You had titles like Wing Commander for the PC that would hire big-name actors like Mark Hammil, but any gamer who played console games will tell you that wasn’t the case when it came to the Playstation. Resident Evil’s “Jill sandwich” is a perfect example of the type of dialogue and acting you would get with your games. It was hard to take them seriously when the voice-over work was terrible.
Instead of going that route, Metal Gear Solid did its best to present its story like an action movie, with a big-budget look and feel. Gone were the campy and cheesy lines from older games, replaced by a gruff-voiced protagonist and a support team that sounded alive. When booting up the game, you are greeted with the first few notes from the ending theme of Policenauts, followed by Gaeilge opera. Right away, your expectations are subverted. You hear the chimes from Kojima’s previous game, and while you are getting something cinematic, in the same vein as Policenauts and Snatcher, you are actually going to be getting a completely different experience. Hence the opera music, followed by the opening sequence where Snake is informed of the brevity of the situation at hand.
The entire game is treated like a serious issue. You are the only one who is standing between the world and nuclear winter. Serious consequences await if the terrorist group known as Foxhound is able to accomplish its mission. Foxhound in previous Metal Gear titles was the unit that Solid Snake belonged to; a clandestine special forces unit that is only brought in for the most dangerous of wet work. Metal Gear is the name of a bipedal walking tank with the ability to launch a nuclear weapon from anywhere on the globe. You playing as Solid Snake are the only person on the planet who can stop them. Foxhound has gone rogue, another expectation subverted from previous games. In fact, the entirety of the game pushes and pulls Solid Snake along as he and the player both unravel a conspiracy where you don’t realize who is the actual person pulling the strings until the end of the credits after you complete the game. All along, one of the first and easiest game bosses to defeat, Revolver Ocelot, was an agent being used by the President of the United States himself. Again, another assumption is subverted. An enemy that you thwarted toward the beginning of your adventure was actually the one who should have been dealt with. You were so busy completing your mission of deactivating Metal Gear that the real issues at hand slipped right by.
Metal Gear Solid was a massive success. It was one of the late titles on the Playstation that helped breathe new life into a console that had already been on the market for years. Hideo Kojima hit a home run. And he wasn’t finished. Immediately after the completion of Metal Gear Solid, it only made sense to continue with the story that Hideo had started to construct. Now, with the blessing of the higher-ups at Konami, Kojima began constructing a sequel that would push the subversion even further. Hideo Kojima was going to make a piece of media that would rival all of the postmodern literature and film that had come before.
Hideo Kojima was going to make Metal Gear Solid III.
The Book and The Game
Kojima immediately knew what he wanted to do with the next game. The III at the end of Metal Gear Solid wasn’t a mistake. He wanted people to look at the title and ask, “Three? What happened to Metal Gear Solid 2?”
The reason behind this was that Kojima wanted to begin to subvert and deconstruct the initial release of his game right off the bat. He wanted the first punch in the gut to his fans to happen right away because he wanted it to up the ante from what Metal Gear Solid was able to accomplish.
The first game was constructed like a novel, with a central theme and a message to take away once completed. The central theme of MGS is one word, GENES. It means that our genes predetermine much about our lives, be it our family and the way we look, as well as how we retain information and how we grow. But, genes don’t decide everything for us. We don’t walk through life on a fixed path. Even the religious and those who believe in a higher power also recognize free will, and they treat that as a gift from God. What the first Metal Gear Solid was telling us was that it’s pointless to let other factors decide your destiny. No matter what circumstances you find yourself in, it’s important to live your best life and make it one you are proud of. At the end of the game, our hero, Solid Snake, finds himself free of the shackles of being a tool for the government. He decided from that day forward that if he is going to fight for something, it will only be something that HE believes in, not what the powers that be decide for him.
Kojima also used outside influences to impact his work. Metal Gear was based on action movies that were all the rage in the 80s. Snatcher had been heavily influenced by Blade Runner, from the elements of cyborgs walking among us to the trench coat that Gillian Seed wears through the entirety of the game. Shadow Moses Island, the setting for MGS only served as an appetizer for the main course that would soon come. What Kojima wanted the next Metal Gear Solid installment to be based on would be something that no one would have guessed at that time.
That piece of media was Paul Auster’s novel, City of Glass.
There were problems with the initial planning. For one, no one wanted Kojima to skip Metal Gear Solid 2. That was asking too much. But, the other elements of the story were flexible. Konami was willing to let Kojima do what he wished because MGS had been a huge success for them. It sold millions of copies and turned into a killer app. It was regarded as one of the greatest games to ever be released on the Playstation, and with a reputation like that, it would be silly for Konami to reign in Kojima at that point. There were those in the company who had always looked at Hideo as eccentric, and if he wanted to experiment more with the new Metal Gear sequel, who were they to stop it? Metal Gear Solid 2 was given the green light to begin development using the next-generation console that Sony had lined up, the Playstation 2, a more powerful upgrade to the aging Playstation.
The initial planning hit a few snags. The first build would have the story taking place in the Middle East. It would involve Solid Snake looking to deactivate another Metal Gear aboard an aircraft carrier. The mission would have a set time limit and would involve the return of Liquid Snake, Solid Snake’s twin brother who had perished at the end of the last installment. One huge problem that arose was that tensions in the Middle East began to heat up toward the end of the decade, to the point where the team felt it necessary to abandon what they had six months into development and work on something else. They were able to use this Alpha build and incorporate it into the new game, with the aircraft carrier being replaced with an oil tanker that Snake would be tasked with infiltrating at the beginning of the sequel.
As Kojima began to add more and more ideas to the equation, it became clear that even with the incredible power of the new console, it still was too much to pack into one game. In order to supplement what the player would feel in game, Kojima began marketing his game in a specific manner in order to enhance what the player would outside of the game. As the game began to become leaner and more in line with the finished product, Kojima started the first phase of the release, which was the production of a trailer that would be released to the public.
The trailer is notable for a few things. Firstly, it showed off the power of the Playstation 2. It looked like the entire world of MGS2 would be interactive, with bottles that would shatter from gunfire as well as a destructible environment. Bodies of dead soldiers would no longer flicker away as they did in the first game. You now would be tasked with disposing of your enemies one way or another. The dialogue that accompanied the trailer also spoke of Solid Snake dying, and there possibly being two Solid Snakes. All in all, the trailer did exactly as Kojima intended. It caused excitement for the game to reach a boiling point well before it was ready for release, and it also threw off the scent of what Kojima really intended to do, which was to pull the rug out from underneath the player when they least expected it.
Elements of the game were altered specifically to deceive the consumers. Right from the jump, the public was led to believe that Solid Snake would be the protagonist throughout the entirety of the game. You were led to believe that it would take place on the tanker and possibly in New York City, and lastly, it showed Snake in intense shootouts, using a machine gun called a FAMAS from MGS, mowing down endless soldiers as they poured into a pantry he had hunkered down in. What Kojima was doing was laying the groundwork for our expectations, that way, later on when we saw what would actually transpire we would feel the shock tenfold.
This same principle is used in City of Glass. Paul Auster uses a detective novel premise to set up our expectations. Initially, while starting the book, your assumption is that Daniel Quinn will somehow use the skills he has honed in writing detective novels to assist the phantom caller who persists in finding Paul Auster.
When we are introduced to Quinn, he explains that he writes crime and detective novels because they are easy. He studied literature and writing while in school, and had been attempting to make a name as a “serious” novelist before writing crime novels, but when his wife and son pass in a tragic accident, it causes him to sink into isolation and get by with the least amount of effort given. He writes his manuscripts, sends them off to his editor, and then receives the checks in the mail and cashes them. He has very little interaction with the outside world other than following the Mets, who he is a diehard fan of.
This changes once he begins to get strange calls in the middle of the night. After the first one, Quinn has a dream of taking a gun and shooting it into a white wall. He keeps on circling back to the call, hoping every night that he gets another one just like it. When it finally comes, and the person on the other line asks for Paul Auster once again, this time Quinn tells them that is his name. He is Paul Auster. Thus begins the series of events that will eventually make Daniel Quinn question his entire reality.
Auster does an amazing job laying the groundwork for a detective novel. He starts with a question, who is Paul Auster? We as readers know that Paul Auster is the author of the book, but Daniel Quinn is unaware. He assumes he must be a detective himself, otherwise, why would someone be looking for him to help solve a mystery? Detective novels typically introduce our protagonist and show a slice of his daily life, and then, after we get familiar, the mystery begins to unfold. It reveals something relatable that we can hook onto, otherwise, we as readers may not continue on. It’s the reason why characters like Sherlock Holmes and Kogoro Akechi are eccentric and quirky.
Daniel Quinn is a writer who recently lost his family, and it was traumatic enough for him to become a recluse. He is unable to connect with his old work, but he is able to write detective novels under the name of William Wilson, who writes about a detective named Max Work. Quinn assumes that if he knows enough about detectives that he was able to create Max Work, then surely he knows enough to solve a mystery himself.
To quickly cover the first half of MGS2, we find Solid Snake infiltrating a dummy oil tanker that is reportedly carrying a new prototype of Metal Gear that is created by the Marines to combat the other Metal Gears that have been popping up due to Ocelot selling the plans of Metal Gear Rex, the model used in the first game. After gaining entry, the tanker begins to get overrun by Russian mercenaries, tasked with stealing the weapon for themselves. Revolver Ocelot returns, and though he seems to be assisting the Russians, he also ends up informing the President that Snake has arrived as they had planned. From the beginning, you are assuming that your actions will make a difference, but in actuality, the game makes it clear from the get-go that you will fail. This is the perfect inverse from the first game. In MGS, you are told that your mission is to deactivate Metal Gear Rex, but in actuality, your job is to infect the terrorists with Fox Die, a genetically engineered virus that will only attack certain individuals. You aren’t made aware of this fact until the very end. In MGS, you are under the assumption that your actions mean something up until the very end, whereas in MGS2, your actions are proven moot from the jump.
At the end of the first part of MGS2, Snake is able to upload pictures of the new prototype, Metal Gear Ray, an amphibious model, to his partner, Otacon. As soon as he accomplishes his mission, Metal Gear is hijacked by the Russians. Also, in the ensuing chaos, Revolver Ocelot reveals himself to be a double agent. He has been working for a group named the Patriots this entire time. As he activates the machine and starts his escape, he is confronted by Solid Snake. As this happens, it awakens Snake’s twin and the antagonist from Metal Gear Solid, Liquid Snake. Ocelot loses his arm while battling Solid Snake in the first game. It is cut off by a Cyborg Ninja who later reveals himself to be Grey Fox, an old ally and enemy from the first two MSX games. Ocelot uses Liquid’s arm to replace the one he lost after Liquid’s demise at the end of MGS, and it somehow causes Liquid’s consciousness to enter Ocelot. This is the first instance in the game of someone having two identities, something that is integral to the rest of the narrative. Ocelot is Liquid, and Liquid is Ocelot. They both live in the same body, but they have different names and objectives. Ocelot/Liquid escapes after tearing the oil tanker in two, and Snake is captured on camera, setting him up as a patsy for the entire ordeal. This all takes place near the George Washington Bridge, right off the coast of New York City, setting the table for the rest of the game.
Daniel Quinn also undertook two identities. He was William Wilson, and he was also Daniel Quinn. William Wilson created Max Work, who Daniel Quinn lives vicariously through. When he accepts the job over the telephone, he then becomes Paul Auster. All of these men exist, yet they all occupy the same body. This mirrors Ocelot, who was thought to be a Russian mercenary, who reveals himself to be a double agent, who then reveals that he is not only Revolver Ocelot, but Liquid Snake. Three identities rolled into one person.
I know some of you out there are thinking that there’s no way that Daniel Quinn is William Wilson and Paul Auster because he is Daniel Quinn. But, Quinn’s readers only know him as William Wilson. The person who hires him, Peter Stillman, only knows him as Paul Auster. We are the only people who know Daniel Quinn as Daniel Quinn. In a sense, he is all of those people, yet at the same time, he isn’t. It’s the same with Ocelot. In some ways, he is all of the things he portrays himself as, and at the same time, he isn’t. He isn’t a Russian mercenary, and he isn’t a government agent, he isn’t technically Liquid Snake either.
It’s at this point in City of Glass that Paul/William/Daniel comes in contact with Peter Stillman and his wife, Virginia. Peter is a very odd man, but he is the way he is due to the severe abuse he received at the hands of his father.
The Young Peter Stillman wears all white, and has white hair on top of his head, even though he is still young. He states that it was caused by the torment his father put him through. Peter was locked away inside a room with no light or sound. While inside the room, he forgot how to walk, and how to talk. He needed to relearn these skills after being recovered from his prison. He tells Paul/William/Quinn that every day is a new life because every time he goes to sleep, he feels that he is dying. He also informs the protagonist that his father is going to return to kill him. The notion of his father coming back into his life has left Peter bedridden and filled with anxiety. He is no longer able to sleep alongside Virginia, so she buys him whores to satisfy his needs. He then offers his wife to Paul/William/Quinn before passing out from exhaustion.
When Paul/William/Quinn leaves the room, he realizes that he spent all day inside listening to Peter. When he arrived it was in the morning, but as he leaves, it has become night, and he wonders how the entire day escaped him. He probes further by asking Virginia questions, who supplies him with some additional information:
Peter’s mother died years prior due to an overdose, and the father was suspected but never proven to be the killer. Also, the father was locked away for his crimes against Peter but was deemed fit to be released just prior to the meeting in the house. She provides a picture for Paul/William/Quinn to go off of, and for some reason, the picture looks familiar to him. The last bit of information she gives is that Peter’s father is also named Peter. They both comment on how there are two Peter Stillmans. After this, Virginia kisses Paul/William/Quinn before he leaves, stating she needs to know that not all of what Peter said is true, but we just witnessed Peter offering his wife to the “detective” prior to the kiss.
In MGS2, we see another transformation of the protagonist. Instead of seeing the direct result of what happened after the tanker was destroyed, we are brought back to the George Washington Bridge, but this time two years after Metal Gear was stolen. We have what sounds like Colonel Campbell from MGS speaking to “Snake”, and briefing him about an oil spill in the harbor. Right away, we are being deceived, because we know the oil tanker wasn’t carrying crude, it was carrying Metal Gear Ray. But, “Snake” agrees with the assessment, almost like he isn’t privy to what really happened that day. As the story unfolds, we realize that the “Snake” we are seeing in front of us isn’t the same Snake we were before. This one is different. He has platinum blonde hair and is slimmer than Solid Snake. He speaks with bravado until it’s revealed that he has no field experience, only VR (Virtual Reality) training. He enters a clean-up facility, otherwise known as a disposal facility, just as Shadow Moses was a nuclear storage disposal facility, but if you take a closer look at some of the things inside, it appears that everything is manufactured. The sea lice have been genetically altered so that they will feast on the crude that had spilled into the water. There are diving suits located inside the facility, but they are rusted out and appear to have never been used. It’s also then that we have Snake’s codename changed. He will no longer be known as Snake, he is to be referred to as Raiden. Then, when his data analyst is introduced, she refers to him as Jack. The analyst is Rose, Snake/Raiden/Jack’s girlfriend. Just like with our other protagonist, Raiden goes by three different names.
As you can see, both works deal with transformation early on. They also deal with the issues of our names, and the power they can hold over people. The Young Peter Stillman is so afraid of his father that the moment he hears he is released, the Old Peter Stillman occupies his mind to the point he cannot live his life freely any longer. Quinn feels uneasy about taking on the Paul persona, but he goes with the motions because he doesn’t know what else to do. Raiden is first known as Snake, but also known as Jack. When Rose calls him Jack, he freaks out, wondering why she is there in the first place. Each of them feels some uncertainty about their identity.
When Raiden hears the explanation of why the Big Shell, the name the clean-up facility goes by, is constructed, he is informed then that Solid Snake is the leader of the terrorist unit that has taken over the Big Shell. But, that’s impossible, because Solid Snake died when he blew up the tanker two years ago. That means either Snake survived, or there are two Solid Snakes.
Raiden continues on with his mission, and he encounters not just the terrorists, but a man that goes by the name of Lt. Iriquois Pliskin. Pliskin talks like Solid Snake, acts like Solid Snake, and looks like Solid Snake, but he insists that he came in with a chopper along with Seal Team Six, which is sent in to rescue the President, one of the hostages inside the facility. We as the audience watching know that Pliskin is in fact Solid Snake, but Raiden doesn’t. He has never met Snake before, and he can only go off the information he is given. Therefore, Raiden assumes that Pliskin is who he says he is. This is similar to Quinn and Stillman as well. We know that Quinn isn’t Paul Auster. But, from Peter Stillman’s perspective, he is.
Raiden eventually comes across a bomb disposal expert inside the Big Shell who will assist him in taking care of the C4 explosives that are attached to the struts below the structure. The name of the disposal expert is Peter Stillman. Stillman informs Raiden and Pliskin that one of the members of the terrorist organization, Dead Cell, is his former student. Dead Cell consists of Vamp, a Romanian “vampire”, Fortune, a woman who cannot die due to her “luck”, Fatman, Peter Stillman’s apprentice, and Solid Snake. Peter relents that he partially feels responsible for what Fatman has turned into because he taught him everything he knows, but didn’t teach him the right things to pass on. This is important to note because it also ties into the end of the game.
City of Glass spends the next portion of the book recounting other children who have gone through the same torment that Peter did. Quinn recalls four different children: Alexander Selkirk, Peter of Hanover, Victor the wild boy of Aveyron, and Kasper Hauser. These children were all “wild children”, or “feral children”. What this means is that the boys were reportedly left out in the elements where they adopted animalistic tendencies. When they were discovered, the boys were rescued and then transformed into members of society. The reason these children are discussed works twofold. One, Quinn is able to contemplate the horrors which Peter Stillman went through in regard to his father, and two, to show that these children were “changed”. What used to be wild animals, living off the land and even running on four limbs in the woods are then brought into society and taught how to communicate and live in harmony with other humans. Simply by treating the children differently society was able to transform them into something else.
Quinn also can relate to a child going through horrible circumstances. He thinks of his own child and the loss of him. Once Quinn begins to self-reflect on his life, he begins to question small things, like why he loves the Mets so much when they are typically a lousy team. He purchases a red notebook and begins to document what is happening with the Peter Stillman case. The first thing he writes in the notebook is that his name is Paul Auster, but that isn’t his real name.
The Old Peter Stillman is also a writer, and Quinn goes to the library to check out his work. Stillman had a belief that the New World was the Garden of Eden. Quinn also finds a pamphlet that backs up Stillman’s claim, which is written by Henry Dark. Dark’s main sticking point in his pamphlet is how once the Forbidden Fruit was consumed in the garden, words began to start losing their meaning. Dark references the Tower of Babel, and also ties this into his belief system. Dark has a very bleak view of the world. His writings indicate that due to the first sin, everything has been on a downhill slide ever since. He reasons that the Native Americans being slaughtered and displaced was fitting because it brought new life to the Garden of Eden.
Quinn feels himself slipping into the Paul Auster persona more and more as time slips on. Once he finds himself unable to differentiate himself from Paul Auster, he sees both Peter Stillmans out walking. Old Peter Stillman is white-haired, just like his son. Young Stillman is well put together and dressed sharply, while Old Peter Stillman is dressed in rags. The two split up, unaware of the other Stillman in their vicinity, and Paul begins to follow the Old Stillman. He finds out that the old man lives at the Harmony Hotel, which is an establishment typically associated with drunks and transients. It’s decided that he will wait for Peter to exit the hotel the next day, and he will follow him and document what he sees in his notebook.
In MGS2, Raiden is busy unfolding the dilemma that is the Big Shell. Over the next few sections of the game, it is revealed that the bombs that Raiden and Pliskin have been disabling are decoys, and once all of them are disposed of, a new bomb is activated. This goes against what the MGS Stillman has told the soldiers, and when Peter attempts to redeem himself by deactivating one of them, he ends up killing himself in the process. Regardless, Raiden is able to defuse the bomb at the bottom of his strut, saving the entire Big Shell and moving forward with his mission after defeating Stillman’s student Fatman.
During the next few hours, it is revealed that the terrorist’s Solid Snake is actually Solidus Snake, the former President of the United States, George Sears. Again, another character with three distinct names for one man. It is also here where Pliskin reveals his true identity as the legendary Solid Snake. There are in fact two Solid Snakes, the one who died at the Tanker, and the one who is leading Dead Cell. These two also go through transformations, with Sears changing from Solid Snake to Solidus Snake, and Solid Snake changing to Pliskin, then changing to Solid Snake once more. Solidus, Solid, and Liquid are all clones, made of the cells from the legendary mercenary Big Boss. Big Boss wears an eyepatch that is noticeable immediately once you see him, and when Solidus loses an eye due to a battle where Raiden downs his Harrier, he wears an eyepatch just like his father.
Raiden learns of the President’s location from a government agent named Richard Ames. After being discovered, Ames suffers something similar to a heart attack, which again mirrors an event that happened in the first MGS. When Solid Snake met with the DARPA Chief Donald Anderson, technically Decoy Octopus, and the ArmsTech President Kenneth Baker, the Fox Die program activated and killed both of them, simulating a heart attack. Then, when Raiden finally rescues the President, James Johson, he reveals that he actually was working with the terrorists, but he has his reasons for this.
Johnson states that the government is run by a group of individuals known as the 12 Wisemen’s Committee, otherwise known as the Patriots, the group that Ocelot has been working for since before the tanker incident. Johnson states that he wanted to take control and become one of the members of the Patriots, but that Solidus doesn’t want that, he wants to destroy the group himself to free the world of their control. This is when it is revealed that the Big Shell has been a front the entire time, used to hide the development of a new Metal Gear. Johnson then gives Raiden a disc that can shut down the new Metal Gear that is being developed under the Big Shell, Arsenal Gear, but he will need the help of Emma Emmerich, a computer engineer who helped develop the AI used to run Arsenal, in order to use it. After this is revealed, Johnson insists that Raiden shoots him so that the terrorists cannot activate the nuclear weapon they intend to detonate over Manhattan, causing an Electromagnetic Pulse that will destroy Wall Street and the financial district, rendering the Patriots obsolete, but at the same time, throwing the world into chaos.
As the two of them struggle over Raiden’s gun, Ocelot enters the room and shoots Johnson in the chest. He then refers to Raiden as a carrier boy and leaves him to finish the mission.
Emma Emmerich is Hal Emmerich’s younger stepsister. Hal is the scientist who assisted Solid Snake to take down Metal Gear Rex in MGS, which is another trope that is revised. Emma also has three names, E.E., which was a childhood name given to her by Hal, Emma Emmerich, and Emma Emmerich-Danzinger, a hyphenated version of her mother’s name along with her older brother’s. Emma goes through her own transformation, though that is relayed to us by codec, or radio calls, explaining that E.E. felt abandoned by her older brother Hal, who left home after an accident involving Hal’s father committing suicide in their family pool and almost pulling Emma under along with him. It’s made clear that Emma had grown up with enormous admiration for Hal, and due to his disappearance, she is never able to fully heal. This only becomes more of an issue when her mother’s new husband attempts to assault her. She blames Hal for not being there to protect her once again, and the admiration soon turns to resentment.
In 2000, Emma led a cracking group in shutting down the NSA for 72 hours. This causes the government to rethink its strategy toward data gathering. They decide it would be best to move it to an isolated location, which in turn begins the start of the Arsenal Gear program.
Emma is then recruited by the NSA after the events in the first Metal Gear Solid. The government shows Hal’s involvement, and this causes Emma to leak the location of Metal Gear Ray two years later to her brother, causing the framing of Solid Snake and the events that would go to set up the Big Shell being constructed in the first place.
The Emmerichs, much like the Stillmans, are a family at odds. They both hurt one another in different ways, with Hal hurting Emma by leaving the family and Emma hurting Hal by setting him and Snake up as patsies for the government. Much like the Old Stillman abused the Young Stillman. The Young Stillman goes through the trouble of having his father investigated, much like Emma did to her older brother. One thing to note is that Old Stillman has some pretty out-there beliefs when it comes to the Garden of Eden, and it’s clear that he in fact is as hurt by his own actions as the Young Stillman is. Emma has her own theories on science and the military’s involvement with research and development. Both families are victims of circumstance and coincidence, a theme that Paul Auster delves into not just in City of Glass, but in his other works as well.
There’s more to the Emmerichs than meets the eye, just like the Stillmans. Both of the younger members yearn to make the older ones in their family suffer. Young Peter wants to keep track of his father to hurt him, while Emma does the same. Hal’s departure and abandonment from Emma reflect the way Old Peter Stillman abandoned his young son to be raised in a dark room alone.
These events also reflect the relationship between Solid Snake and his father. In the case of Solid Snake, at this juncture of the story, we know that he was also created by the actions of Big Boss. Big Boss was the person who trained Snake and was his commanding officer in the first Metal Gear game for the MSX. Big Boss betrays Snake at the end of the game, revealing himself as the leader of Outer Heaven. He and Snake then battle to the death, with Solid Snake prevailing until the next time they meet. The same can be said about Daniel Quinn/Paul Auster. Quinn decided to become a recluse after the death of his family, in its own way showing how the actions of our loved ones, intended or not, can leave a lasting impact on one’s life. Without these incidents, the people involved may never get to this point in the story. The same will be revealed about Raiden later on.
At this stage of the novel, Quinn has fully forgotten that he isn’t a detective. He has taken on the new persona of Paul Auster, and his entire life hinges on the success of finding out what is going on with Old Peter. Through his observations, he is able to deduce that Stillman is keeping a pattern with his movements. Quinn feels reassured when he realizes this piece of information because it reveals there is meaning behind what he is doing as well. Quinn begins to force himself into the new Paul Auster persona by keeping his mind blank. Just like a white page, Quinn finds it easier to fill his new thoughts as Paul without the clutter of his old mind, the one belonging to Quinn. Paul documents everything inside his notebook and then relays this information to Virginia. Virginia tells him that the Young Peter thinks Paul is a hero, and when Paul asks Virginia her thoughts, she also agrees.
When Paul begins to map out Old Peter’s path through the city, he realizes that it is spelling something. TOWER OF BABEL can be found in Old Peter Stillman’s movements, and Paul/Quinn begins to realize that there is a deeper meaning in what is going on around him. He confronts the old man and becomes puzzled when Old Peter begins talking in circles. He states that once he knows someone’s name he no longer considers them a stranger, and because of this, he never talks to strangers. Quinn tells him his name, and the old man states there are a lot of “possibilities” with it.
The next time Quinn confronts Peter, he tells him that he is Henry Dark, and this causes Stillman to open up about his past. He tells Quinn that he created Henry Dark and that Henry Dark really stood for HD, which in turn stood for Humpty Dumpty. The reasoning behind using Humpty Dumpty is that Peter Stillman thinks that an egg is the purest form of an idea because it has not been created yet. Eggs typically are also white, which calls back to the recurring white we see in both City of Glass and Metal Gear Solid 2. Inside the book, the Stillmans both wear white, while also possessing white hair. Quinn shoots a white wall with his gun during his dream, disrupting it. Henry Dark stands for Humpty Dumpty, an egg man who falls off a wall and can’t be put back together, and an image that predominantly is shown as a large white egg with human body parts. In Metal Gear Solid, Raiden’s hair is platinum blonde, to the point where it appears white. Solidus also has white hair. When you die, before your Game Over screen can be seen, your screen turns white before transitioning to the next scene, and this also doesn’t happen until you get to the point in the game where Raiden is the playable character.
The explanation of Humpty Dumpty by Peter Stillman is the key to understanding the recurring theme of whiteness. The egg, and in turn, the white we keep seeing, represents something that has not yet formed.
“When I use the word, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less. The question is said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master–that’s all.” – Lewis Carroll from Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6
Quinn and Raiden are both still forming. Their transformations won’t be done until the very end of each piece, and they are both about to witness a change in the narrative and themselves that will shake both of them to their core, and have both questioning what they are, and how to survive with this new information in hand.