All About the Luteces

*SPOILER WARNING* Everything in this blog contains spoilers for Bioshock: Infinite.  Do not read this blog until you have completed the game.

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 “Where we went wrong was getting on a boat. We can move, of course, change direction, rattle about, but our movement is contained within a larger one that carries us along as inexorably as the wind and current…” – Rosencrantz and Guildenstem are Dead by Tom Stoppard

The two main characters in Tom Stoppard’s 1964 play Rosencrantz and Guildenstem are Dead begin their journey with a bet between each other over the results of coin flips. Each time a coin comes up heads, Rosencrantz gets to keep the coin. The coin lands on heads every single time, 92 times in a row. Rosencrantz is quite pleased, but Guildenstem is bewildered. Such results defy his understanding of probability. In the absence of chance, do they still have free will? Thus begins the two men’s struggle to understand the life they’ve found themselves in.

There are direct parallels between Rosencrantz and Guildenstem and the Robert and Rosalind Lutece in Bioshock: Infinite. While Rosencrantz and Guildenstem find themselves in an immutable universe where their lives are bound by the structure of William Shakespeare’s play, the Luteces have are in a universe of their own inadvertant design which they are attempting to modify. And the Luteces are very unsuccessful until we pick up the controller.

When I was a girl, I dreamt of standing in a room looking at a girl who was, and was not myself, who stood looking at another girl, who also was, and was not myself. My mother took this for a nightmare. I saw it as the beginning of my career in physics. –Rosalind Lutece, August the 10th, 1890

Rosalind Lutece existed in Zachary Hale Comstock’s universe as a brilliant quantum physicist. She authored the book Barriers to Trans-Dimensional Travel in 1889 and it was around that time that she met Comstock. It was through Comstock that Rosalind was able to continue her research as he provided her both finance and opportunity. In return Rosalind helped Comstock build the flying city of Columbia in time for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

I had trapped the atom in mid-air. Colleagues called my Lutece Field quantum levitation, but in fact it was nothing of the sort. Magicians levitate–my atom simply failed to fall. If an atom could be suspended indefinitely, well–why not an apple? If an apple, why not a city? –Rosalind Lutece, August the 10th, 1890

In the early 1890s, Rosalind discovered a single atom that existed between two parallel universes. It was named the Lutece Particle and paved the way for the creation of the Lutece Field, a window into another universe. But Rosalind discovered something even more important on the other side of her atom…

The Lutece Field entangled my quantum atom with waves of light, allowing for safe measurement. Sound familiar, brother? That’s because you were measuring precisely the same atom from a neighboring world. We used the universe as a telegraph. Switching the field on or off became dots and dashes. Dreadfully slow–but now, you and I could whisper through the wall. –Rosalind Lutece, October the 15th, 1893

Robert Lutece existed in Booker DeWitt’s universe and his brilliant career as quantum physicist was equal to that of Rosalind. In fact, with the exception of a single chromosome, Robert and Rosalind were exactly the same. And at the exact same time Rosalind discovered the Lutece particle, so did Robert. It was through this single atom that the two Luteces were able to communicate using morse code. In time the two were able to perfect the Lutece Field machine to allow communication between each other’s universe.

Comstock was thrilled by this development for he believed it would allow him to see into the future. This became the source of his prophecies. The Archangel of Columbia was in fact Rosalind Lutece’s machine. But what Comstock didn’t understand was that he was merely seeing the possible future by glimpsing future events in a parallel universe. What he say as certainty was merely a vision of the “probably.”

Brother, what Comstock failed to understand is that our contraption is a window not into prophecy, but probability. But, his money means the Lutece Field could become the Lutece Tear: a window between worlds. A window through which you and I might finally be together. –Rosalind Lutece, October the 15th, 1893

In order for the future Comstock has seen to come true he will need an heir. “The seed of the prophet shall sit the throne, and drown in flame the mountains of man” is meaningless otherwise. But the Luteces machine has had an unintended side effect on Comstock. His continual usage of it has led to a rapid physical deterioration and sterility. He will never be able to father a child. At least not in his universe…

Comstock seems to have been made sterile by simple exposure to our contraption. A theory: just as sexual reproduction can de-emphasize the traits of each parent, so goes the effect of multiple realities on our own. Your traits dissipate, until they become unrecognizable, or, cease to exist. –Rosalind Lutece, July the 3rd, 1893

Comstock has observed enough of Booker DeWitt’s universe to know that he has a child. Working with Rosalind they formulate a plan to obtain Booker’s daughter and bring her into Comstock’s universe as his own. Genetically she represents his only chance at carrying on his legacy. Robert, because he exists in Booker’s universe, is tasked with offering Booker a deal. Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt. If Booker gives up his daughter, Anna, then the debt who owes to some very bad men will be paid off.

And the plan works almost flawlessly. Not only was Rosalind able to open a tear for the very first time, but Booker agrees to the deal. Robert takes Anna, meets Comstock in an alley and jump through the tear back into Comstock’s universe where Rosalind is waiting. But there is a tiny little mistake. As the tear is closing, the tip of Anna’s pinkie finger on her outstretched hand is severed. This is painful for the baby and a huge metaphysical headache for the multiverse.

Robert’s transition into Rosalind’s universe was not an easy one. He experience confusion and general cognitive dissonance because that which should not be now is. This is the first observable manifestation of the condition Rosalind theorized in her book Barriers to Trans-Dimensional Travel. In it she wrote “The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist.” Robert goes through a form of this, later so does Booker and once Elizabeth starts opening tears everwhere so do many Columbian citizens.

You have been transfused, brother, into a new reality, but your body rejects the cognitive dissonance through confusion and hemorrhage. But we are together, and I will mend you. For what separates us now, but a single chromosome? –Rosalind Lutece, October the 15th, 1893

It doesn’t take long before Anna, renamed Elizabeth, begins to manifest the ability to open tears. As she ages her power grows. By the time is she is 5 years old they see her first large spike in power which probably led to the creation of the siphon and her imprisonment in the tower. Elizabeth did not need the machine the Luteces used to open tears. She was able to do it herself. This was caused when the tip of her pinkie finger was severed. For a brief moment before the tip of her finger died, she existed in two universes at the same time.

What makes the girl different? I suspect it has less to do with what she is, and rather more with what she is not. A small part of her remains from where she came. It would seem the universe does not like its peas mixed with its porridge. –Rosalind Lutece, September the 5th, 1909

Neither Robert nor Rosalind truly understood the ramifications of what they had done. To them this was all about research and scientific achievement. As long as Comstock got what he wanted he would continue to provide them near unlimited resources to continue their work. And while buying babies is generally looked down on in polite society, when you compare the drunk gambler Booker DeWitt with the wealthy leader of men Comstock you can certainly convince yourself that Anna would be better off with Comstock. Even when it requires a lot of willful naivety on the Luteces part.

So Elizabeth became another part of the Luteces research. She was monitored and studied for the nearly 20 years. To Robert and Rosalind she represented a scientific marvel as the first truly inter-dimensional being. But once they realized what would become of Elizabeth and how she would carry on Comstock’s legacy, things changed.

Our contraption shows us the girl is the flame that shall ignite the world. My brother says we must undo what we have done. But time is more an ocean than a river. Why try to bring in a tide that will only again go out? –Rosalind Lutece, September the 3rd, 1909

Robert wants to set things right, to undo what he has done. Elizabeth must be returned to Booker. Rosalind sees as a futile exercise. She may regret what was done, may want to fix it, but she doesn’t believe they can change anything. What has happened, happened and what will happen, will happen.

My brother has presented me with an ultimatum: if we do not send the girl back from where we brought her, he and I must part. Where he sees an empty page, I see King Lear. But he is my brother, so I shall play my part, knowing it shall all end in tears. –Rosalind Lutece, October the 16th, 1909

Now Rosalind has no choice. Robert is probably the only person in the world capable of standing as her intellectual equal and I’m sure she truly feels affection for him as her brother. He has become her companion for many, many years. To lose Robert would be to lose the other side of herself, to lose the other side of her particular coin.

So a plan is put into motion to restore Elizabeth to her own universe. All you have to do is open a tear, take Elizabeth and toss her in it. Should be easy enough… But at some point Comstock learns of their intentions and is not very pleased. He orders Jeremiah Fink to kill the Luteces and make it look like an accident. So he sabotages their machine to presumably make it explode. And it does.

Comstock has sabotaged our contraption. Yet, we are not dead. A theory: we are scattered amongst the possibility space. But my brother and I are together, and so, I am content. He is not. The business with the girl lies unresolved…but perhaps there is one who can finish it in our stead. –Rosalind Lutece, November the 1st, 1909

Robert and Rosalind are now one with possibility space. They can freely traverse across universes, but they have lost much of their ability to physically manipulate events as they once could. Their plan to restore Elizabeth to her universe and prevent Comstock’s “prophecy” has become much more complicated. But now that they can see across all parallel universes they understand that it always has been more complicated. Only “fixing” one Elizabeth in one universe would do very little to change anything. It is akin to dumping a pile of rocks on your carpet then cleaning it by only picking up one pebble.

The Luteces now turn to Booker and Elizabeth as their pawns in, as Rosalind describes it, their thought experiment.  And their perspective has changed significantly.  They are no longer bound by time and space.  They have all the time in the world to correct their mistake because time is no longer relevant.  So they continue their research through observation and data collection like the good scientists that they are.  They know what their desired result is, but don’t seem to know how exactly to get there.

During the game they appear and disappear with equal parts whimsy and mystique.  With this being the 123rd time they’ve run their experiment we have to assume they’ve tried a multitude of different approaches with Booker and Elizabeth.  By now they should know their subjects inside and out.  So what they are doing is creating a framework of subtle hints and slight nudges to keep their daddy/daughter team moving forward.  Each iteration of the experiment would see slight adjustments being made until ultimately they succeed.

There is a telling scene in the game towards the end when Booker and Elizabeth encounter the Luteces playing the piano.  They are attempting to play the Songbird song and we rush down to stop them.  But they manage to play the correct notes and nothing happens.  They turn to Booker and Elizabeth and explain that while the notes were correct, the instrument was not.  At a base level this is how they inform Booker and Elizabeth about the whistle they’ll need to obtain in order to control the Songbird.  But at a higher level it speaks to the experiment itself.

Every iteration of the experiment is defined by constants and variables.  The constants are unchangeable.  The coin will always come up heads, Booker will always get #77, Booker doesn’t row, etc.  But the variables of the experiment, the notes of the experiment, are the elements that can be changed.  In the Luteces case, the instrument is correct so finding the right notes is their challenge.

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The little White Injun that could

*SPOILER WARNING* Everything in this blog contains spoilers for Bioshock: Infinite.  Do not read this blog until you have completed the game.

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On April 19th, 1874 a baby boy named Ernst Rudin was born in Switzerland.  Ernst grew up to be a huge influence on the concept of racial hygenie.  Racial hygenie is the implementation of a set of policies that control who can procreate based on “desirable” characteristics.  His work ultimately inspired the racial purity iniatives of Nazi Germany.

“The significance of Rassenhygiene [racial hygiene] did not become evident to all aware Germans until the political activity of Adolf Hitler and only through his work has our 30-year long dream of translating Rassenhygiene into action finally become a reality.” – Ernst Rudin [link]

Coincidentally, on April 19th, 1874 another baby boy was born with the name Booker DeWitt.  Mr. DeWitt would eventually become Zachary Hale Comstock who we all know shared very similar views on racial purity as Ernst Rudin. I would hope my readers consider the actions and mindset of these men to be despicable.  But neither of them consider themselves to be evil men.  To them their actions are justified and for the greater good.

Now let us put our lovable racists aside for the moment and focus on the alternate universe version of Booker DeWitt who did not become Comstock.  We know that this Booker, unlike Comstock, was never able to forgive himself for his actions at the Wounded Knee Massacre.    He remained tormented by that day every single day for the next 20 years.

In-gamebooker

It is easy to label Comstock as the bad guy and Booker as the good guy.  Comstock doesn’t feel bad about his past or present while Booker does.  Afterall, a man of conscience, of integrity wouldn’t allow himself to so easily dismiss his mistakes.  But if we take a closer look at Booker DeWitt’s history, it becomes exceedingly difficult to describe him as a good guy.

Little is known about Booker before the events at Wounded Knee, but there is one very key aspect of his heritage that can be extracted from the game.

“In front of all the men, the sergeant looked at me and said, “Your family tree shelters a teepee or two, doesn’t it, son?” This…lie, this calumny, it followed me all my life. From that day, no man truly called me comrade. It was only when I burnt the teepees with the squaws inside, did they take me as one of their own. Only blood can redeem blood.” –Zachary Hale Comstock, December the 29th, 1908

Booker’s sergeant is implying that Booker is of Native American descent, or at least partially.  He denies it to be true, calling it a lie, but he also says that this lie has followed him his whole life.  His sergeant was not the first to accuse Booker of this.

“My men and I are doomed, doomed as noble Custer was at Little Big Horn. But we shall not yield to Comstock and his tin soldiers. But my scout has seen him…Booker DeWitt is coming here, to the Hall! DeWitt…we called him the White Injun of Wounded Knee, for all the grisly trophies he claimed. A man such as he…might just grant us the peace we seek.” –Captain Cornelius Slate, July the 6th, 1912

Booker is able to clear his reputation through acts of brutality at Wounded Knee.  He burned the Lakota people alive and took scalps of the ones he killed.  Booker earned the respect from his men through Lakota blood.  This is bad, but it gets worse.

“Well, Fitzroy…you…you got a lil’ cunning in ya, if nothing else. Dropped a couple grizzly traps ’round the lines up here. Idea was to…to bleed one of your couriers till he gave you up. ‘Cept, of course…you’re using kids now. Now I got this…tiny Injun boy, eyeballing me. Had to take his leg off. Damn thing’s just, lying here between us. I sure wish he’d cry or something.” –Preston E. Downs, July the 5th, 1912

“Mr. Comstock, when we next meet, it won’t be to parley. See, I went out to that Hall a’ Heroes to scalp your “False Shepherd” for you. Turns out, though–DeWitt speaks Sioux. He helped me to swap words with this crippled child I’ve been, uh…looking after. Now after hearing how the kid has fared in your city…I’m thinking when we take your pelt, I’ll let him hold the knife.” –Preston E. Downs, July the 6th, 1912

Your Booker DeWitt never stops and speaks Sioux to a little boy, but the Booker DeWitt that became the Martyr of the Revolution did.  Booker DeWitt has dealt with accusations that he is part Native American his whole life, speaks very negatively about it, claims it is a lie, yet speaks Sioux?

Booker DeWitt was 16 years old when he went to Wounded Knee.  There is no way he learned Sioux in grade school, it wasn’t a subject that was taught.  He didn’t do it through reading books.  Booker DeWitt has Native American ancestry and the generation gap is close enough that he was taught the Sioux language as a child.  That means one of his parents, grandparents or possible great grandparent was Native American.

Booker DeWitt was not merely following orders.  Booker DeWitt murdered his own people to prove a point.  To prove to his fellow soldiers that he did not have Native American blood in his veins.  After a life-long denial of his heritage, he covers himself in the blood of the Lakota people as his final act.  What he gained was an end to the accusations, what he lost was everything else.

We know the rest of the story from here.  Booker becomes a Pinkerton, a drunk, a gambler and eventually sells his own daughter.  He remains tormented by his past because he deserves to be.  There is nothing heroic or good about him at the start of the game.  This game truly is his last chance at redemption.

Real life connections for the name Booker DeWitt

  • The Scribe – Booker as a first name originates in Old English as an occupational name.  One of these occupations is that of a scribe.  This could refer to Booker’s “rewriting” of his memories after the Luteces lead him to Columbia. [link]
  • The Gambler – Booker is close to Bookie referencing his problem with paying off gambling debts.
  • The Civil Rights Leader – Booker T. Washington was born a slave, gained his freedom at the end of the Civil War and went on to be a very important and influential person on the road towards equality for african americans.  He represents everything that Comstock’s ideology rallies against. [link]
  • The White One – DeWitt is a Flemish name that means “white”.  If you are going to eventually end up being the ultimate white supremacist, DeWitt is a good name to be born with. [link]
  • The Physicist – Bryce DeWitt was a theoretical physicist that advanced the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.  [link]
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What BioShock Infinite’s Columbia Has to Say About Today’s Politics

I intended to write about about this subject myself, but as if often the case someone else has done it first and better. Check it out and give the rest of the blog a read.

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The Observer Effect

 *SPOILER WARNING* Everything in this blog contains spoilers for Bioshock: Infinite. Do not read this blog until you have completed the game.

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I bet these two are a real hit at parties

I bet these two are a real hit at parties

We know that there have been multiple Booker DeWitts. There were 122 previous incarnations of Booker DeWitt before the one you play in the game. Elizabeth, once she becomes all-knowing and all-seeing, tells you that the Songbird always stopped you before. So why was your Booker DeWitt successful?

The in-game explanation is still up in the air. And really it seemed even Rosalind didn’t have an explanation. Maybe I’ll explore it that more in another post, but today I want to explore a very intriguing idea I read on reddit in this thread. In the comments section the question of why our Booker was successful is brought up and an answer is proposed that perhaps the real difference for this Booker is that he is being observed by the player.

Now it isn’t the player’s “mad skillz” or Booker being on his best behavior because he is being watched. It is all about science. But in order to make sense of how the player could possibly be the source of Booker’s success we have to learn a bit more about quantum mechanics. It is the Quantum Observer Effect, but I’m no scientist so let us turn to our good friend Ms. Wiki Pedia…

The theoretical foundation of the concept of measurement in quantum mechanics is a contentious issue deeply connected to the many interpretations of quantum mechanics. A key topic is that of wave function collapse, for which some interpretations assert that measurement causes a discontinuous change into a non-quantum state, which no longer evolves. The superposition principle (ψ = Σanψn) of quantum physics says that for a wave function ψ, a measurement will give a state of the quantum system of one of the m possible eigenvalues fn, n=1,2…m, of the operator which is part of the eigenfunctions ψn, n=1,2,…n. Once we have measured the system, we know its current state and this stops it from being in one of its other states. This means that the type of measurement that we do on the system affects the end state of the system. An experimentally studied situation related to this is the quantum Zeno effect, in which a quantum state that would decay if left alone but does not decay because of its continuous observation. The dynamics of a quantum system under continuous observation is described by a quantum stochastic master equation known as the Belavkin equation.

A consequence of Bell’s theorem is that measurement on one of two entangled particles can appear to have a nonlocal effect on the opposite particle. Additional problems related to decoherence arise when the observer too is modeled as a quantum system.

The uncertainty principle has been frequently confused with the observer effect, evidently even by its originator, Werner Heisenberg. The uncertainty principle in its standard form actually describes how precisely we may measure the position and momentum of a particle at the same time — if we increase the precision in measuring one quantity, we are forced to lose precision in measuring the other. An alternative version of the uncertainty principle, more in the spirit of an observer effect, fully accounts for the disturbance the observer has on a system and the error incurred, although this is not how the term “uncertainty principle” is most commonly used in practice.

[See the full entry]

English: Quantum mechanics travelling wavefunc...

Random quantum mechanics graphs to make you think I’m smart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whew. I’d imagine that is the kind of story Rosalind Lutece reads her brother before bed time.  But what this is essentially saying is that what is observed is changed by the direct or in-direct interaction of the observer.  It makes getting acurate observations and measurements maddening for a quantum physicist and helps support an interesting theory about Bioshock: Infinite.

Perhaps this is the one true variable that makes your Booker so different than the other Bookers.  The player is the observer and having an effect on the experiment.  The Luteces spend a lot of the game testing constants, looking for variables.  In some cases they directly try to affect the outcome like they did with the telegram.  But they continue to get the same result over and over again.  But this time, while the constants remain constant, Booker is different.  He is successful.  The main variable that is different between all the other Bookers and your Booker is you, the player.

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Entering Columbia

*SPOILER WARNING* Everything in this blog contains spoilers for Bioshock: Infinite.  Do not read this blog until you have completed the game.

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The entrance into Columbia is an elaborately crafted, propaganda fueled adventure all in itself. When your pod first breaks through the clouds you are given a glimpse of the heavens. Columbia lies before you. Hallelujah! Then you begin to descend and the sight of heaven has been taken from you. You are not yet worthy.

As you descend you see the following on the walls outside your pod…

Why would he send his savior unto us
If we will not raise a finger for our own salvation
And though we deserved not his mercy
He has led us to this New Eden
A last chance for redemption

The key line for Booker DeWitt is the last one. Though he doesn’t realize it, this is Booker’s last chance for redemption. And redemption is something he sorely needs. Booker has not led a good life and sold his daughter to some inter-dimensional travelers. Not a good move.

Once the pod settles, Booker finds himself in a church where we are greeted by a picture of The Prophet and his family in all their manufactured glory. It is clear right away that though everything has the trappings of Christianity, God is not present. He has been replaced by The Prophet, by Comstock. Thus Bioshock: Infinite is not a condemnation of religion, of Christianity, but of zealotry. It is a condemnation of cult. Any ideology taken to an extreme level will lead to this sort of tunneling effect where those who lie outside of the “tunnel” are the enemy or an object of pity or a lesser person.

image

And the prophet shall lead the people to the New Eden

In the bible, Eden was the Garden of God. It is here that God created Man and Woman. They were given paradise, but were forbidden to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. From a Christian perspective, all that is God is good thus all that you need to know is God. To eat fruit from the tree is to invite knowledge of Evil and reject His mandate. Eating of the fruit led to the concept of original sin and resulted in one of God’s most difficult decisions, granting free will to man.

There is no forbidden tree in Comstock’s New Eden and, despite what he wants people to believe, all that is good is not represented by Comstock. But he does rely on the ignorance of his people, on providing his people with a level of glory and grandeur that disincentive any question of their beliefs. Obtaining knowledge of what is good and what is evil is certainly one of Comstock’s biggest threats. This is why his constant propaganda is so important.

In my womb shall grow the seed of the Prophet

In my womb shall grow the seed of the Prophet

The Lamb: The Future of Our City

The Lamb: The Future of Our City

The seed of The Prophet shall sit the throne and drown in flame, the mountains of man

The seed of The Prophet shall sit the throne and drown in flame, the mountains of man

This is the prophecy that Comstock places so much faith in. He has viewed Columbia’s future through a tear and has seen Elizabeth replace him and ultimately lead an attack against New York. If I had a vision of my daughter doing this I would be on the phone with Dr. Phil in a heartbeat. But to Comstock, who is not really a parent, this represents everything we would want from an heir. His legacy will live on, his work will continue. This is why Comstock faces his own death with such calm for he has foreseen it and is ready to step down and make room for Elizabeth’s rise. It is through our children that we become immortal.

We find our first voxaphone in this area. It is entitled ‘Love the Sinner’ by Lady Comstock on April 1st, 1893…

Love the Prophet, because he loves the sinner. Love the sinner, because he is you. Without the sinner, what need is there for a redeemer? Without sin, what grace has forgiveness?

If you heard this and immediately put together Prophet=sinner, sinner=you, you=Booker, Prophet=Comstock, Comstock=Booker then you are one smart cookie. On that level this voxaphone is certainly dropping a huge hint, but it isn’t a hint anyone would pick up on during their first play through. Beyond that, this voxaphone speaks to two things, Lady Comstock’s adoration of Comstock and just plain good advice for Booker DeWitt.

It is good advice because you can almost view it as being addressed to Booker. What he did in Wounded Knee has haunted and tormented him for the past 20 or so years. Booker committed a terrible sin, multiple times over. His brutality at the Wounded Knee massacre became his claim to fame among his peers, but also destroyed his soul. He never found a way to move past that day because he never found a way to forgive himself. Booker could not accept what he has done.

Without sin, what need is there for redemption? Without sin, what grace has forgiveness? Human beings are not infallible; we are in fact extremely fallible. But the light is never outside of our reach no matter how dark of a place we find ourselves. But of course, one audio recording isn’t enough to illuminate this idea for Booker.

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The Song of Constance Field

Young Elizabeth Concept Art

Young Elizabeth Concept Art

*SPOILER WARNING* Everything in this blog contains spoilers for Bioshock: Infinite.  Do not read this blog until you have completed the game.

Constance Field is a young girl who was the voice behind two different voxaphones. The first was titled “Pen Pal”, addressed to Elizabeth and dated July 20th, 1902…

“This is for the Miracle Child. Hello! I’m sorry your mother, Lady Comstock, is dead. (I think she is altogether better than mine.) Since you live there, can you tell me why the tower has been closed? People say it’s poor weather, then the pox, then a haunting. If it is a secret, I promise not to tell a soul. — Your pen friend, Constance”

The second one was titled “For I Am Lonely, Too”, was addressed to Rosalind Lutece and dated August 1st, 1902…

“Madame Lutece– I have read all of your books on the sciences. Mama says, ‘it’s not a fit occupation for a lady,’ but I think she’s jealous of our cleverness. Is it true that only you are allowed to visit the girl in the tower? If the Lamb is lonely, too, I should like to meet her, as we would have much in common. –Warmest regards, Constance”

In addition to these two voxaphones, we see a picture of young Constance on a desk at the Bank of the Prophet, though outside of indicating that her father or mother worked at the bank, it doesn’t tell us much else.

Constance Field may very well be nothing a piece of scenery that is representative of the awe and reverence that Columbia’s citizens held for Elizabeth. But there may be more to Constance than just that. One theory that I have seen posted a few times [link] [link] is that Constance Field may have become Songbird. Let’s look at what evidence we have to support this theory…
From a voxaphone titled ‘A Child Needs a Protector’ from Jeremiah Fink on October 4th, 1895…

“These holes have shown me yet another wonder, though I’ve yet to see the application for it. They illuminate a merger of machine and man that is somehow the lesser, yet the greater, of both parties. The process seems to be irreversible. Perhaps, though, Comstock will have some need of this kind of thing to keep watch in that tower of his.”

And from a voxaphone titled ‘God’s Blueprint’ from Hattie Gerst on April 19th, 1908…

” Samuel always thought that the pew on Sunday went hand in hand with the desk on Monday. “Science is the slow revelation of God’s blueprint.” After two years in the Lamb’s tower on the Monument Island, he took ill with cancer of the stomach. I prayed to the Prophet, and the Prophet delivered unto us a miracle through his servant. Fink. I do not know if I will ever get used to a husband bound in a skeleton of metal, but…better a Handyman than a dead one.”

Through a tear, Jeremiah Fink discovered a technology that merges man and machine. Based on our visit to Rapture later in the game, it is a safe assumption that he was observing Big Daddies. Fink indicated in his voxaphone that this technology could be useful in creating a guardian for Comstock’s tower. The Songbird.

Hattie’s voxaphone tells us that the ability to apply this technology to merge man and machine was successful, at least to some degree, for her husband Samuel is now a Handyman.

We have to assume that the Songbird is a combination of man and machine because we are given nothing to suggest otherwise. The Songbird is not a straight robot like the Patriot Automatons that we see in the game. The Songbird has and expresses emotion when it is around Elizabeth which comes from the human part of its essence.

When we find the first voxaphone for Constance Field it is next to a stuffed animal version of The Songbird. It may be a bit of a leap, but perhaps the developers were hinting about the connection between the girl and the Songbird.

It is safe to assume that Elizabeth never received Constance’s voxaphone message considering how important sheltering from the outside world was to Comstock and the Luteces. So both Constance’s message to Elizabeth and the one to Rosalind would have been received and heard by Rosalind and probably Comstock.

So the theory is that, in order to provide both a companion and a guardian to Elizabeth, Fink’s technology was used to create the Songbird using the essence of Constance Field. This explains how Elizabeth was able to relate and see the Songbird as a friend and companion when she was younger. The part of the Songbird that was Constance truly cared for and loved Elizabeth. This is why the Songbird expresses childlike behavior when interacting with Elizabeth in the game.

With all that said, it is the timeline of these events that call this into question…

  • Fink discovers this technology in 1895 and proposes the idea of creating the Songbird
  • Constance Field is still fully human in 1902 when she records her voxaphones
  • Elizabeth would have been about 9 years old in 1902

It isn’t unreasonable to believe that Fink spent 8 years developing the Songbird. Such a creation wouldn’t happen quickly. Still it is a very long time between idea and result. And when exactly does Elizabeth meet the Songbird? Was she already around 9 years old?

Elizabeth did not spend her entire life in the tower. As an infant up to an undetermined age she lived outside of the tower or at least outside of the captivity of the tower. It wasn’t until she demonstrated her ability to open tears that the tower as a prison, the siphon and ultimately Songbird were put into place.

So while the theory isn’t disproven by the timeline, it does make it more of a stretch to believe based on the large gaps of time. I still think it is a good theory, but I don’t we can say for sure at this point.

EDIT: After some discussion on reddit, another problem with this theory was pointed out.  Look at this image…

Drawings of Songbird

Drawings of Songbird

Are those the drawings of a 9 year old?  Possibly the drawings on the left are because of the amount of detail, but the others look like drawings of a younger child.  If you reference the chart in the tower showing her growth in power we see a spike at 5 years old.  This could have been the event that prompoted her imprisonment in the tower and the construction of the Songbird.  If this is true then the Songbird existed while Constance Field was still alive.

Well what do you think?  Do we have enough to prove or disprove this theory at this point?

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Beyond the Game – The Inspirations for Bioshock: Infinite

Campaign poster showing William McKinley holdi...

Campaign poster showing William McKinley holding U.S. flag and standing on gold coin “sound money”, held up by group of men, in front of ships “commerce” and factories “civilization”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*SPOILER WARNING* Everything in this blog contains spoilers for Bioshock: Infinite.  Do not read this blog until you have completed the game.

Once I have experienced the result of a creative work, I’ve always found it interesting to explore what inspired the artist behind it. Art never exists in a void. It is always a culmination of the experiences of the artist and ultimately the experiences of our species. What was it that inspired Ken Levine and his team create a city in the clouds with trash cans full of cotton candy and pineapples?

Levine provided the following in an interview with Wired.com…

Here is an incomplete list of the things Levine says have inspired BioShock Infinite: the presidential administration of William McKinley; the Spanish- American war; the blistering pace of technological change in the early 20th century, with the introduction of electricity, telephones, cars, airplanes, phonographs, and movies; the 1893 Columbian Exposition at the Chicago World’s Fair; Eugene V. Debs; Emma Goldman; a black-and-white photo of young boys sitting next to a dead horse on a cobblestone street in turn-of-the-century New York; The Music Man; It’s a Wonderful Life; the sequence in Back to the Future when Marty McFly first arrives in the 1955 town square; that scene in The Shining where the two little dead girls appear; Blue Velvet; the chest-bursting scene in Alien; Roman Holiday; the cover of X-Men #141; the sun reflecting off a metal mailbox during a jog on a sunny day; roller coasters; an off-Broadway play called Sleep No More; and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” performed on Glee (“It’s so embarrassing that I’m almost tempted to say this has to be off the record,” Levine says).

There are a few specific works of literature that Levine has specified as direct inspiration.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen – This book explores the events centered on the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Pay specific attention to the section about the Columbia Exposition. This is a magical time full of wonder that harbors a dark underbelly. Sound familiar?

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard – Direct inspiration for Robert and Rosalind Lutece. While the coin flip scene in Bioshock: Infinite is the most obvious connection between the two works, it is the play as a whole that offers direct parallels. The two characters explore the inevitability that their fate offers as they seek to understand what they can and cannot control. Constants and variables.

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard – Ken Levine tweeted this book a few days ago. From the book description, Arcadia takes us back and forth between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging over the nature of truth and time, the difference between the Classical and the Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on our orbits in life. Focusing on the mysteries—romantic, scientific, literary—that engages the minds and hearts of characters whose passions and lives intersect across scientific planes and centuries.

Other books I would recommend are…

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown – Understanding the Wounded Knee Massacre is important in understanding the event that so traumatized Booker DeWitt leading him to a life of drinking, gambling and baby selling.

The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene – The quantum mechanics driven story behind Bioshock: Infinite is based on real scientific theory. If you find yourself interested in the science behind the story, Brian Greene is the man to see.

The Time Ships by Stephan Baxter – This suggestion comes from toxilium on Reddit. As a sequel to H.G. Wells Time Machine, Baxter’s protagonist travels through time and across the multiverse in his quest. Being a strict science fiction book, Baxter goes into greater detail on the science behind the story than Bioshock: Infinite did.

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