Metal Gear Solid 2 Story, Ending, Symbolism Analysis

MEMES

When watching the new MGS3 trailer, the very beginning flashes some interesting words. MGS1 appears near the word "Gene," MGS3 appears near the word "Scene," and MGS2 appears near the word "Meme." Not too many people know what memes are, or how they relate to MGS2, so I'll try to explain.

Memes, which were theorized by Richard Dawkins in the 1970's, are the societal counterpart to "genes." Genes make up our physical identity, and memes make up our societal identity. Just like genes are passed down on the genetic level, so are memes passed down by society. For instance, the alphabet is a meme. A method to bake a cake is a meme. Anything you ever learned, traditions, little songs that people hum while jogging; all these things are memes.

That's how The S3 Plan created Raiden. Just as genes shaped Solid Snake into "Big Boss," memes shaped Raiden into both. All of the events of Shadow Moses were passed down, and emulated for him to experience. His VR Training, too was a method to use memes to shape his destiny. Think about it--Raiden went through Shadow Moses in VR. After he learned what to do from the VR, he then went through a re-creation of Shadow Moses in real life (unbeknownst to him), and suceeded--without even realizing that was what he just did. The S3 Plan suceeded in integrating that mission into Raiden so deeply that when it came time to do the same thing in real life, he couldn't even recognize where he got that from. A meme has been successfully transplanted. Just like when you hum a tune and forgot where it came from.

Therefore, the memes he was supplied created him into the "greatest soldier," completing a similar mission to Solid Snake and therefore Big Boss as well.

RAIDEN

By the time you finish the game, Raiden has more or less become another "Big Boss." Metaphorically, Raiden is supposed to be Solid Snake, in a sense. Solid Snake, also in a metaphorical sense, is supposed to be Big Boss. It all comes back to Big Boss.

Big Boss was the greatest soldier of the 20th century. Solid Snake was a genetic clone of this soldier, created for the sole purpose of living up to, and eventually defeating the legend--Big Boss. So, through genetic engineering, Solid Snake surpassed Big Boss. Now, we have Raiden, a soldier who emulated Solid Snake through informational engineering (The S3 Plan). Raiden emulates Solid Snake who emulates Big Boss, again, it goes 'back to the origin.'

And what was Raiden's final challenge? Fight Solidus. And who was Solidus masquerading himself as in the beginning of the Plant Chapter? Solid Snake. And who, after the Harrier fight, was Solidus the spitting image of? Big Boss. And of course, Solidus is a triplet, directly related to Solid Snake, and at the same time, a clone of Big Boss. If you look at it that way, metaphorically Raiden has surpassed both Big Boss and Solid Snake in a sense. But not literally of course.

Also, the very popular literary "son surpassing the father" theme is ever present in MGS2. Although Solidus isn't Raiden's actual father, he is his "father figure" in a way, considering how he raised and named Raiden. Also, this is meant to be similar to Solid Snake's struggle against Big Boss ("Solidus, you and the boy were selected because your relationship resembles the one between Snake and Big Boss." - Ocelot) which is yet another father/son relationship in the series.

Also, there is some very interesting symbolism in Raiden that relates directly to you and I. Basically, Raiden is you. Yes, I said it. As much as some people wouldn't like to be compared to the big "sissy" of the MGS franchise, that's who he is meant to be. Think about it. Raiden went through VR training of Shadow Moses, and the Tanker mission, right? Well, you and I have (presumably) played MGS1 and the Tanker mission of MGS2. So, just like Raiden "simulated" these events, so have we. Raiden also assumes that The Colonel is the same Colonel Campbell from Shadow Moses, even though he has never met him, just like you and I did. Even the Colonel directly tells Raiden to "turn off the game console," is he not speaking directly to you and I? This all comes to a head at the very end of the game. Raiden takes the dogtag from around his neck. Now, everyone knows that a dog tag is nothing more than bits of personal information of the soldier who carries it.

[Snake notices a dogtag on Raiden]

Snake
By the way, what is that?

Raiden
Dog tags?

[The dog tag reads whatever information you input during the Plant chapter, presumably your personal information]

Snake
Anyone you know?

Raiden
No, never heard the name before. I'll pick my own name...and my own life. I'll find something worth passing on.

So, Raiden takes off his own dog tags (which reads your name), throws it away, and says he wants to pick his own name, his own life, and something worth passing on. So what is he saying? What does that have to do with us? I like to think it's a little moral message from Kojima, saying that we should basically live our own lives, and not be chained down by the names our lives we've been given. To choose our own paths in life.

SOLIDUS SNAKE

Solidus Snake is an interesting character. For one, he is a terrorist. He uses extreme means to attain his goals, including murder, hijacking, etc. His two main goals are revealed towards the game's end. For one, he wants to detonate a nuclear device in the atmosphere, and "liberate" Manhattan Island. Secondly, he wants "...a list of names... of the Patriots." This is where (although Creep Cramp will beg to differ ) Solidus becomes a very gray character. Like the Sons of Liberty in American history, Solidus says wanted to fight for democracy for the people of America, and he does so through violent means. The interesting thing about the point of view of the story is that it illustrates him as an "evil" character. Well, let's assume for a second that we are playing a game about the Revolutionary War through the eyes of a British soldier. Would not the Americans be portrayed as the antagonists as well? It's all about the point of view.

One of the biggest symbolic references that is made in the game is the comparison of Solidus Snake to George Washington. The two have so much in common; they were both military leaders who eventually attained the United States Presidency, they were both the leaders of a very violent revolution against the political powers in America, hell, both of their first names are 'George.' Watch Solidus' very symbolic death--falling onto a statue of Washington, while reaching his arm to the sky, in a very similar pose to the statue itself. But aside from Solidus' resemblances to Washington, references to the first President of the United States are made all over the course of the story. The very first scene in the game takes place on the George Washington Bridge, the Arsenal AI that controls Raiden's nanomachines is "GW," the final scene of the game takes place on the anniversary of the day Washington was inaugurated, on top of the very building in which he presided over the country. And, one of the very last images of the game is the statue of George Washington.

Of course, the big difference between Solidus and Washington is that Solidus failed. If you want a more detailed analysis of my opinions on Solidus Snake, please mosey on over to this thread.

SOLID SNAKE

Solid Snake is sort of the "wild card" in MGS2, much like Gray Fox's role in MGS1. At first, the Colonel tells you that Solid Snake is your enemy and the leader of the terrorists. Then it seems he is your friend, up until he allows Olga to knock you out with her sword. But fear not, he only did it to get access to Arsenal Gear (whatever that means ). Even so, he still is a "wild card" of sorts.

Fortune
All orchestrated...?

Ocelot
Except for the appearance of the real Solid Snake. I wonder now, who sent for you...?

Of course, the legendary-yet-cryptic final conversation of the game suggest that The Patriots themselves, or at least one member of them, is a supporter of Philathropy.

Snake
Did you find the Patriots' list?

Otacon
Of course. It contains the personal data of twelve people. There was a name on it -- Snake, it was one of our biggest contributors.

Cryptic indeed, and it goes against the entire premise of what The Patriots were trying to accomplish. The Colonel repeatedly said that Solid Snake was "never a factor in the simulation." Since The Patriots were trying to create the ultimate simulation to test the crisis management capabilites of GW and the S3 Plan, then why would they throw an unknown factor into the simulation? Perhaps Solid Snake was the "control" for the experiment? Maybe the lone Patriot who funded Philathropy was a "rogue" member of The Patriots? And how could he do so if he was dead?

Of course, that storyline is probably the one that makes the least sense, but it's classic Kojima to throw in the most absurd thing possible in the end of the game as a cliffhanger. Maybe he does so to challenge himself when it comes time to write the story for the next game.

LIQUID SNAKE/REVOLVER OCELOT

Well, this is certainly... um, odd. Well, after getting past the fact that Liquid Snake lives on through his arm, which is now attached to Revolver Ocelot, there are some very interesting story bits that lie within Liquid/Ocelot.

First off, Liquid claims that he chose Ocelot as his host. Interesting, if cryptic and completely nonsensical. How could a dead man choose what body to inhabit? What if, he knew that Ocelot was a spy all along, and arranged for his arm to be transplanted into Ocelot's body in case he died at Shadow Moses, as some kind of "insurance?"

Otacon
That was Liquid's body. He and Snake are identical on the genetic level.

Raiden
Liquid.

Otacon
A deception -- for our own protection. We stole his frozen body from some organization. Kind of a hassle though...

"Some organization?" Perhaps it's possible that this organization was under some kid of employ of Liquid, and he arranged for the arm to be transplanted into Ocelot's body before his death? It's an interesting question.

But, Solidus suggests in a scene that he personally was responsible for getting the arm attached to Ocelot. But that raises an interesting question, too. Why, of all the dead bodies on earth, would he choose Liquid Snake's body? Maybe there is something that Liquid and Ocelot have in common, say, on the genetic level that would only make this arm transplant possible? Heh, I have my own theories on that, but it's not really relevant so I won't get into it.

Another interesting tidbit is how Liquid professes that he was the one who leaked the information about Arsenal Gear to Solid Snake and Otacon. Well, while Liquid's motives are unclear (other than the fact that he wants to succeed Big Boss), you might ask yourself, "What does Liquid have to gain by making sure Solid Snake is present at the Big Shell?" It's actually pretty interesting. Let's say that Liquid's goal all along was to hijack the Metal Gear RAY while on top of Arsenal Gear. As you may have noticed throughout the game, the only time Liquid Snake is able to take over Ocelot's body is when Solid Snake is in close proximity. That is evident when Ocelot says this:

Ocelot
There's something going on. The incidents are becoming more frequent. Maybe that man's presence...

I'd venture a guess and say "that man" is none other than Solid Snake. Hence, why Liquid made sure Solid Snake was on top of Arsenal Gear at that very moment.

SONS OF LIBERTY

As the game's subtitle and the name of the "coup" that Solidus organizes, the "Sons of Liberty" hold a very profound meaning in the context of the game. While the "Sons of Liberty" in American history are known mostly for the violent revolution they conducted in opposition to the Stamp Act, there is a very interesting similarity between Solidus's "SOL" and American history's "SOL." Here is an exerpt from a website on the historical SOL.

The success of these movements in undermining the Stamp Act cannot be attributed to violence alone. Their most effective work was performed in newsprint. A great many of the Sons were printers and publishers themselves & even those who were not, were sympathetic to the cause. It was they who would pay the most in duties, after all. Nearly every newspaper in the colonies carried daily reports of the activities of the Sons. Accounts of the most dramatic escapades spread throughout the colonies. In one most remarkable incident, an account of the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions was printed far & wide. It is not certain how many of the editors who reprinted it were aware of the status of the resolutions, but seven were printed, while only five actually passed (the fifth was in fact rescinded the day after adoption.) The ultimate effect of such propaganda was to embolden both citizens and Legislatures in every colony. When the Stamp Act became effective on the 1st of November, 1765, nearly all of these papers went right on publishing without the required Stamp.

This has a very interesting relevance to MGS2. According to the above passage, the historical SOL truly suceeded by spreading their message via newspaper. Now, let's take a look at MGS2. The Patriots, through the digital censorship of the GW system, would effectively eliminate free speech. Theoretically, this would not enable MGS2's SOL to spread their message or propaganda. Hence, why the first duty of Solidus and the SOL was to destroy the GW system, the one thing that stood in their path of spreading their anti-Patriots message.

GW AND THE PATRIOTS

First, let's get the facts out of the way. One of the most asked questions is at what points Rose is real. Well, there's nothing official on that, but it seems that she is real up until the point she tells Raiden that she's pregnant. This is evident because after that, you don't hear the whiny, boring, "Do you know what day it is, Jack?" Rose anymore. Her attitude has completely changed, she sides with the Colonel on everything, she preaches to Raiden about how he is an insignificant pawn. Obviously, she, at this point, is part of the GW (or JFK, if you want to get technical [see: Document of MGS2]) AI.

Also, another frequently pondered question is--who or what is The Colonel? Well according to Otacon....

Otacon
GW was most likely stimulating cortical activity in the dormant part of your brain through signal manipulation of your own nanomachines. The Colonel is in part Ayour own creation, cobbled together from expectations and experience.

The Colonel is a subsystem of GW. My theory is that this AI was programmed with the tasks Raiden needs to accomplish, but Raiden's own nanomachines were creating a human persona of the Colonel. This is evident when the virus was administered to GW causes the Colonel to go haywire. The Colonel starts to say some really outlandish things, but Raiden's nanomachines (which are stil 100% intact) still create the illusion that he is human (aside from the bizarre skeletal images of the Colonel that show up, but since we don't know exactly how the codec works, I won't try to delve into that).

Now, the Colonel makes it clear that the main goal of Raiden's mission was to test the effectiveness of the S3 Plan. Well, why? What do the Patriots have to gain? As you'll read below, Raiden's mission was the S3 in full force. But how exactly will it affect how they govern American society? Think about it this way. By eliminating the danger that is posed to them by the digital flow of information and implementing the S3 into the daily lives of American citizens, they can get people to do whatever they want, whenever they want. That is more or less the ultimate mind control, and when the time comes, the full support and compliance of the American public is indeed a powerful force.

Now, here's a good question that doesn't have an answer--who the hell are The Patriots?

President Johnson
The Patriots -- even I don't know who the actual members are. Are they financial, political, or military leaders? No one knows who the Patriots really are. Even my instructions come from a cut-out. All I've been told is that every key decision is made by a group of twelve men known as the Wisemen's Committee.

Okay, while that isn't very helpful, it is a start. They are the ones who make the decisions. They are, more or less, the "kings" of America. According to Otacon, they have been dead for 100 years. Okay, so if they're dead, then what purpose does it serve for them to make sure their power extends through the grave? Are they really that egotistical, or are they looking out for the interest of Americans? I really don't have a clue, and I think this is probably the most lingering question in the minds of every gamer who has played MGS2. Who are these people?

THE S3 PLAN

This is probably where the most confusion regarding MGS2's ending lies. Although the S3 Plan stands for "Selection for Societal Sanity," it does relate back to what Solidus thought it meant (he believed it was "Solid Snake Simulation"). The Selection for Societal Sanity is basically a means of controlling people, forcing them to serve the will of the Patriots. It's main goal is to "train" people to adhere to certain situations. Raiden's mission is the first ever implementation of the S3 Plan.

Emma
It still lacks the necessary factors for judging situations. I heard they were planning a major experiment in the next few days, to provide complex data for GW to study. And suddenly all this happens.

Now, although the S3 Plan does not stand for "Solid Snake Simulation," Raiden's journey basically is just that. The Patriots decided it was time to test the S3 Plan, and chose the most extreme situation they could think of to test the new system. It's kind of like those TV infomercials for the Ginsu knife... yeah, the knife can cut through a shoe, but of course you'll never need to do that. They're just testing the extent of it's power, just in case. Now, here is a quote to back up my crappy analogy.

GW
We chose that backdrop because of its extreme circumstances. It was an optimal test for S3's crisis management capacity. If the model could trigger, control and solve this, it would be ready for any contingency. And now, we have our proof.

Basically, the S3 Plan is an attempt on the part of The Patriots to control the memes that are transmitted throughout society on a regular basis. I believe that GW and the S3 Plan are two tools The Patriots want to use to create a "martial law" type system within the social structure of Americans. This would serve two purposes--it would stop the spread of free speech that the digital age has brought about, and would, according to GW, "stimulate" cultural evolution. GW believes that the digital age's increased stressing of the individual will fracture society--which in theory, could prevent our culture from evolving. It's a very complicated subject that is very hard to explain, but if this topic interests you, I suggest giving this article a read, if you haven't already.

ALL A DREAM?

That's an interesting question some people ask on the message boards a lot. Was MGS2 all a dream? Technically, no. But it certainly does resemble one.

This Tim Rogers article makes a very strong case for MGS2's references to dreaming. For face value, just look at the story. You play as Raiden, someone who is supposed to represent yourself. The mission you play in is vaguely similar to Shadow Moses, even the hero of Shadow Moses is present in the game. It's a very interesting story of military espionage that, for some reason, includes a vampire, and the twin brother of the hero who lives on through... an arm. Even your girlfriend has come along for the ride, and won't stop nagging you about your anniversary. Sounds like something that could only be concocted in a dream, right? Or through heavy use of acid, whichever (maybe the upcoming PSP game was named after Kojima's favorite drug ). Even Raiden talks about his dreams in the game. I didn't come up with all this information, so I won't continue on as if I did. So, if you're interested in the "dream" aspects of MGS2, head over the the article I linked in the beginning of this paragraph.

-- Article by Chris Zimbaldi, 31.07.2004

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