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Old 02-27-2011, 08:13 AM
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Default Jake, Grace, and the Spirit-Transfer (by Ashen Key and Sothis)

Hello, ToS!

This may be the first of a series, or it may be a one-shot. Basically, Ashen Key and I have been having analytical conversations about Avatar over chat, and we thought it would be nice to share some of them with the forum instead of keeping them to ourselves. Below is a cleaned-up version of a recent chat about Jake, Grace, and the spirit-transfer that they both attempt at the Tree of Souls. It is partly a character study of Jake and Grace, and partly a discussion of the "technical" aspect of the ritual, Eywa, and how it all works. There is also a brief mention of the Dream Hunt, as it pertains to Jake's psychology.

We decided to put this in the "fan articles" section due to its length, but please feel free to join in on the conversation below!


Ashen Key: Oh, this is an interesting take on Grace:

"She says that Eywa is a material presence, which (she thinks) can be quantified, because it involves a kind of planet-wide computer system, a neural network in the roots of trees that processes information rapidly. What she doesn’t understand is that Eywa cannot be understood or studied by breaking her into discrete pieces and putting her under the microscope. When Eywa is trying to save her life all Augustine can think of is “I should take samples of this” and the movie suggests this attitude, this “wound,” is ultimately the wound Eywa is unable to heal."

Sothis: Hmmm. It is interesting, but the passage has a sort of judgmental tone – as though Grace died because she failed to 'get it.'

Ashen Key: I'm not sure I agree that's why Grace died, but it's an interesting idea. The article isn't really judging, so much as looking at different ways you COULD take the film.
Avatar: A Contradictory Movie for Contradictory Times <-- The whole article is actually really interesting - as I said, it looks at different ways to look at it, and it deconstructs things, too.

Sothis: Fair, fair. I have my own interpretations for why she died. I always saw it as a combination of things.

Ashen Key: My theory as to why Grace died is two-fold - she's an older woman who has been shot in the stomach, so she was suffering from shock and bloodloss for nearly a day beforehand. Also, she didn't really WANT to come back, is how I read it.

Sothis: Yes, this. Her incentives for coming back weren't that great.

Ashen Key: Nope.

Sothis: They were fugitives on the wrong side of a war that was sure to be gruesome and heartbreaking and horrible.

Ashen Key: And she'd survived the destruction of Hometree, which had to be awful.

Sothis: Yeah. And meanwhile, I feel like she must have been so swept up in the awe of what she was experiencing that she wasn't able to focus on coming back.

Ashen Key: Yes, that's how I mostly read it.

Sothis: She was too overwhelmed with "oh my god... she's real." She'd been studying the biological network all her career.

Ashen Key: Yep. Add being out of it due to shock, and she's not going to come back.

Sothis: And with her being somewhat older and jaded, I think she was ready to go.

Ashen Key: Oh, yes.

Sothis: I feel like, for the transfer to work, you have to really want it and fight for it.

Ashen Key: Which is why it works for Jake - he's got a lot to go back to, and all of that drive. But with Grace, I get the feeling that she was running out of drive and fight. She'd seen the school unravel, and now Hometree's gone - that's well over a decade of her energy and passion just gone.

Sothis: Yeah. Meanwhile Jake is just getting started. He has a new wife, a family to raise, a clan to lead, and I think after surviving everything he did to get to that point, there's just no way he'd let this do him in.

Ashen Key: Oh, yes, he was going to fight with everything to get back.

Sothis: Although, I've also played with this idea that Jake has an element of survivor's guilt pushing him to do the transfer.

Ashen Key: Oh?

Sothis: It's secondary to his big, obvious reasons for doing it, but I think he's carrying a burden of guilt. At some level, maybe he feels like he should've died, instead of all the other people who died who didn't do anything to deserve it.

Ashen Key: Ah, yes.

Sothis: The transfer is a way of confronting that, in a way, and surrendering himself to an external power. He's putting himself in a position where he may or may not die after all, and it's all kind of up to Eywa. He may have a subconscious sense that, if he does in fact deserve to die, he will. And if he doesn't deserve to die, he won't. In both outcomes, he would have made a sort of peace with his guilt.

Ashen Key: Oh, yes. I can see that. As more of a subconscious thing, although I did get the sense he can be fatalistic. Like his attitude before doing the dream-hunt: "It's okay, Mo'at says an alien brain probably can't survive anyway."

Sothis: His mental state at that point is so interesting.

Ashen Key: It really is.

Sothis: He's really trapped between a rock and a hard place. And there's no honorable way out, except to die trying to do the dream-hunt. Because neither side would really blame him if that happened.

Ashen Key: And it gives him an out.

Sothis: Exactly. Not that I think he wanted to die, per se, but he wasn't afraid of dying either. He would've considered it an acceptable outcome. Or rather... I think everyone is afraid of dying at some level, but he wasn't averse to the possibility that it might happen.

Another dimension I've been playing with, in the whole spirit-transfer thing, is whether we know for sure that it "transferred" his consciousness to the avatar, with continuity preserved, or whether it effectively created a copy and killed the original. And to what extent does it even matter. I'm sure this is something Jake would've mused about beforehand, too.

Ashen Key: Absolutely.

Sothis: Because really, he has no idea how this would work, if it even works at all. What he has to go on is kind of vague. "Our great mother may choose to save all that she is, in this body.” Maybe that just means all his "software" gets copied over.

Ashen Key: Which he would think of, being from a high tech society. He would have grown up copying and deleting and moving files.

Sothis: Plus, he's grown up with a twin, so I'm sure that metaphor would be on the brain too.

Ashen Key: Oh, yes.

Sothis: And the kicker is that this subtlety won't make a difference from anyone's perspective but his. It won't even make a difference from post-transfer Jake's perspective, because post-transfer Jake would have all of pre-transfer Jake's memories. So here's pre-transfer Jake, looking in the mirror, right before he leaves to go do it, thinking "I could die today and nobody would even know it."

Ashen Key: ...that would be so, so fascinating to explore.

Sothis: It's so lonely. :-( Not even Neytiri would know. And she'd have no reason to mourn him, because from her perspective, he's still alive. Still, I feel like he would be thinking through all this, and decide that it doesn't actually matter.

Ashen Key: Yep.

Sothis: Even if he is effectively giving up his life for a doppelganger, the doppelganger deserves it more, he'd think. I can sort of imagine that he's started to almost see himself as two different people: human-Jake and avatar-Jake. And all his regrets and guilt – everything he's ashamed of—was committed by human-Jake.

Ashen Key: ...oh, INTERESTING.

Sothis: And everything noble about himself in the last 3 months, the things that redeem him, was done by avatar-Jake. So I can definitely see human-Jake contemplating all this and having a sort of Sidney Carton moment.
All Avatar writings
Selected writings:

You came back
How do you make up after you've done the unforgivable? Jake and Neytiri have a conversation in the wake of Hometree's destruction, during their first real moment alone following his return as Toruk Makto.

The Last Train Home
Fourteen years after the war, a lone spaceship appears in the sky. The former members of the Avatar program watch its approach – expecting the worst, fearing for their adopted home. Then the ship lands. And suddenly, nothing makes sense anymore.

Five seconds too late
This is a different kind of Jake/Neytiri romance, the story that would've unfolded had she been delayed for just five seconds while trying to reach him following the fight with Quaritch.
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