Tuesday, November 3

Eyes on the Inside

          A character’s sight and relationship to vision defines their place in Bloodborne’s narrative.  We know that many characters within the narrative are seeking knowledge in the form or eyes or insight, but Bloodborne uses a more subtle language to reveal the truer nature of these characters and their ambitions.  For instance, Gehrman “is obscure, unseen in the dreaming world,” indicating that his motives are hidden, since we can’t see all of him.  Only when the dream begins to collapse at the end of the game does he occupy a single location and can always be seen there.  Or when Eileen is badly injured and lies near death, she says "My eyes grow heavy..."  There are a few different states of vision characters occupy within Bloodborne, and each informs their relationship to the world.

          Characters with unrestricted vision are true in a way others are not.  Very few characters have unadorned eyes, but those that do are honest characters who mean the player no harm.  When Adella, Alfred, and Arianna speak to you with no obstruction to their vision, they speak truthfully and provide assistance.  When there is an inkling of Adella’s jealousy, her eyes wander to Arianna while you speak with her.  Adella's eyes betray her intent.  When Alfred reveals his truer, darker nature, he does so while wearing a helm that covers his eyes.  Another character whose eyes are unadorned is the blind Oeden Chapel Dweller, who is an honest, friendly man the entirety of the game, despite having no sight at all.  An anomaly is Patches the Spider, one we know to be untrustworthy, but has the right number of unadorned eyes for a human.  But Patches is not human.  And for a Spider his eyes are somewhat lacking.  Whatever make him a spider is unclear, but he is untrustworthy because his eyes, and perhaps his form, are not what they should be.

          We also see that characters with restricted vision almost entirely restrict it of their own volition, and this is how we know they are naïve and untrustworthy.  Early characters like the Blood Minister who performs our transfusion and Father Gascoigne have their eyes shrouded by bandages, as do Vicar Amelia and the Transformed Man found in the Forbidden Woods.  The bandages imply an attempt at healing, but we know that the symptoms of the beast plague affect the eyes.  Our “beastly idiocy” is counteracted by insight, represented as eyes.  So these characters shut their eyes to the truth, and become beasts for it.  Alfred restricts his sight when he commits his most beast-like act.  In fact, the item description of the Gold Ardeo tells us that Logarius taught “acts of good are not always wise.”  Since his band of executioners wear this helm, it connects a lack of wisdom to a lack of (in)sight.  Similarly, the Bigoted Old Man hides his eyes under his hat and tells you nothing but lies.  One character’s vision is restricted against their will: Annalise’s.  Even though Annalise can’t be killed, she is not fully bound to her position, she is instead placed in an iron mask.  Ignoring its clear literary reference, her punishment is not only losing her lifestyle, and castle, but her vision.  Further, she is kept in a place covered by an illusion.  She cannot see or be seen.  That is the greatest punishment that can be inflicted upon her.

          Other characters restrict their sight in the name of knowledge, thinking human eyes insufficient.  Micholash and the School of Mensis wear cages on their heads to focus their vision and attune themselves to the Great Ones, but their knowledge is fleeting, on the edge of becoming vacuous.  Their experiments result "in the stillbirth of their brains."  We know that Rom is the most advanced scholar of Byrgenwerth, but Rom is Vacuous, empty.  Rom rests within a great lake.  We know that “great volumes of water serve as a bulwark guarding sleep,” which makes sense.  It is difficult to see through water to the dream, water refracts and muddies our vision.  Rom is stuck within the water, a place between dreams, and so she cannot see in either direction.  Her colleagues assume ascension, but we know that her sight cannot penetrate the barriers of her cage.  Another place adrift between dreams is the lecture building, where the students themselves have become like water, and their looks reveal that same vacuous nature.  Their eye sockets are empty.  Master Willem attempt ascension himself, but blocks his own eyes with a blindfold the Choir also wears in reverence of his teachings.  Master Willem was “Disillusioned by the limits of human intellect” and “sought to line his brain with eyes,” but this leaves him a slowly mutating, malformed person lacking the ability to meaningfully communicate.  Even if he is the most learned of NPCs we meet, he is unable to ascend his mind, since we find him unable to even move from his position at Byrgenwerth.

          But what about you?  What does the player see?  Our vision is constantly changing the more insight we get.  Many changes show us more and more eyes in places where they were not.  But I think what’s more important is to consider how we are seen, how the game sees us.  And the strange thing is, it doesn’t.  No one describes seeing us.  Annalise says “Away from my gaze.”  But that line resembles her situation: a frail semblance of a power and position she no longer holds.  She cannot see you through the blindfold of her mask.  The one real exception is Iosefka.  She says “Once the hunt is over, we can speak face to face, and I can see what you look like.”  Iosefka will never know, since she is killed and replaced by an imposter, who like all others, describes your smell.  Annalise calls you a “Moon-scented hunter,” and Imposter Iosefka notices your infiltration by your “moonlit scents.”  Gascoigne’s daughter says “I don’t know your face, but I know that smell.”  Even the Bigoted Old Man indicates that he “Can’t stand the stench o’ your lying breath.”  The only character who should notice your scent first is the Oeden Chapel Dweller because he’s blind, but he doesn’t because “the incense must’ve masked your scent.”  Arianna notes you have “a queer scent, but one I’m not entirely unfond of.”  We might assume this to be the smell of blood, but she has an alternate to that line which ends “but I’d take it over the stench of blood and beasts any day.”  I think way we are talked about tells us that our look is our own choice, and the way we define ourselves within the game.  When killed by Gascoigne, he remarks “too proud to show your true face, eh?”  We’ve largely taken this to mean he believes our beast, but it’s an interesting topic to consider more deeply.

          What is our true face in Bloodborne?  Is it the bestial face others see when we’re attacked on the streets of Yharnam?  Is it the face we put on our character, then hide under hats and helms?  Or is it the face that stares back at us from the mirror each morning?  Or do we achieve something greater?  We have three choices for the end of our Bloodborne story.  We can keep watch over the dream, never ascending or escaping, stuck in-between like the Vacuous Rom.  We can choose to forget the dream and awake anew, but this is what gives up our sight, as we shut our eyes to all that came before.  Or we can choose to advance, to gain wondrous insight and surpass humanity becoming an infant Great One.  We should take note that our new form possesses no eyes.   What is our place in Bloodborne’s narrative?  It’s our decision.  If we awaken anew, we are accepting the vision of the world we awaken to.  If we hold onto the dream, we keep ourselves in a limbo, with our gained knowledge, but unable to see beyond our prison.  If we push on and are reborn as something new, we’ve given up what we were become something we simply cannot comprehend.  The only character who guides us with unrestricted sight is the Plain Doll.  She suggests we “find our worth in the waking world.”  She could mean the waking world within Yharnam, or she could mean the world where we put down our controller.  The world we really see.  The ending you pick says a lot about you, and how you want to be seen.

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