Interpreting the Meaning of Lost

Interpreting the Meaning of LostThe late ABC series LOST was, beyond any doubt, a great success during its run by creating its own compelling mythology. Yet it’s a take that heavily borrows ideas from the existing mythologies of the world, and the eternal battle between good and evil. Fans engaged in heated speculation over what it all meant, all the way up to the long-awaited finale, which was aptly titled “The End.”

Before continuing, keep in mind that this assumes you have seen the complete series. Otherwise, there will be spoilers.

It’s not necessary to summarize the six seasons of LOST. There exist already many a plot analysis out there. Instead, I would like to help those who stopped being a fan better understand the meaning of the story. Yes, it was sometimes a frustrating series to watch, when many questions always remained unanswered. Yet the actual meaning of the story was clearly revealed. Everyone became so involved with the fantastical elements that they overlooked the human moments.

From the beginning, it was never about finding out what the black smoke was, or why there were polar bears on a tropical island, but about much more profound subjects such as loss, redemption, and purpose. The ultimate message was about letting go, and accepting the right moment to finally move on.

Early on in season one, John Locke says that he looked into the eye of the island, and what he saw was beautiful. What he meant was metaphorical — an allusion to how much better their lives had become. They were freed of their past sins, but some of them were haunted by the past even on this special island. John Locke believed, and eventually died for it, that on this island his life had a purpose, and that maybe he could be happy. Yet he was a tragic character, one who never had a chance to understand that he was just a pawn. In the end though, all of the characters received much-deserved closure.

In the very last scene of LOST, Jack has a conversation with his father. It’s then that the audience gets the confirmation that all of season six was practically two tales in one. The flashbacks were really a completely different timeline, happening many years after Jack’s death on the island. It was the visual metaphor for letting go and moving on, something Jack always had great difficulty with. His character was always trying to fix something when he, himself, needed fixing.

In the very first episode, there’s an important moment between John Locke and Walt, when he explains to Walt the rules of backgammon. While there’s certainly much more happening in the six seasons, it’s this moment that explains the very essence of the show. Good versus evil exist in many interpretations beyond the traditional power struggle; on LOST, they’re respectively personified by the characters of Jacob and his nameless twin brother (known only as the Man in Black). Even they, near divine beings, have dealt with issues of forgiveness, purpose, and brotherly love over a history spanning thousands of years. The Man in Black wanted to leave, while Jacob used all means to keep them both on the island. In retrospect, it’s hard not to have the feeling that the true evil was Jacob himself, even though he always propagated the power of goodness. Notwithstanding his intentions, Jacob was truly selfish.

LOST is not about smoke monsters, Dharma initiatives, polar bears on a tropical island, or weird scientific experiments. This show was always about how the characters had a chance to overcome their fears, and forgive themselves. All of them had troubled pasts, and made grave mistakes in their lives prior to crashing on the island. Everything that transpired on the island was like a series of tests — a final judgment before allowing the survivors to die with peace in their hearts. In the end, LOST is probably one of the greatest shows ever produced; it’s epic in scope and with consistently great acting. I hope that some people might reconsider their opinion about the often-reviled religious denouement of LOST. It’s never been about science fiction, but rather about psychology and redemption.

Image: ABC

Article Written by

He's a writer and photographer living in Sweden. Technology, philosophy, and films are some of his other interests. In 2008, Maximilian completed a BA in creative writing in London. So, being a writer has been important to him for a long time -- although he prefers to be called a "storyteller."

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrussUT Jason Russell

    Not a bad analysis. I was disappointed in the way season 6 left so much “unsolved,” but I can mostly look beyond that because the character resolution was what always mattered and that was handled very well.

    • Micah Mungal

      it was not unsolved – it was left up to the audience to interpret what the show meant to them

      • Joe Naylor

        Right. The show meant to me that they wrote a story centered around an island that made absolutely no sense, and dodged having to explain it by saying the island really didn’t matter and it was always only about the characters.

  • i3e5l4

    Well, I like the review but I still don’t think that that overall motif is enough to completely dismiss the fact that the island did have some mystery to it that was worth discussing and worth getting a closure to which in fact we sorta did. But good review either way.

  • i3e5l4

    Well, I like the review but I still don’t think that that overall motif is enough to completely dismiss the fact that the island did have some mystery to it that was worth discussing and worth getting a closure to which in fact we sorta did. But good review either way.

  • i3e5l4

    Well, I like the review but I still don’t think that that overall motif is enough to completely dismiss the fact that the island did have some mystery to it that was worth discussing and worth getting a closure to which in fact we sorta did. But good review either way.

  • i3e5l4

    Well, I like the review but I still don’t think that that overall motif is enough to completely dismiss the fact that the island did have some mystery to it that was worth discussing and worth getting a closure to which in fact we sorta did. But good review either way.