Lost: The Smoke Monster

Here Comes the Man in Black

The most talked about "thing" on the Island was one of the most talked about aspects of the hit television show Lost. It is an entity, a man have you, but it is also more than just a monster. The "Man in Black" was always referred to as the monster but was also one of the longest inhabitants of the island. In the sixth season, we are shown a glimpse of him before being the weird sounding black smoke. We see him at first being a boy growing up on the Island with his brother, Jacob, and their transformation into men. We see that their relationship deteriorates over time when at first he tries to steal the Light of the Island in order to leave, but is stopped by his adoptive mother as she thwarts his plans and kills everyone in his village. This sends him into a rage that leads him to murder her and Jacob get his revenge by sending his brother into the heart of the Island which turns him into the smoke monster. The two spent centuries together on the island in a constant pissing contest as they would draw people to the island to test their nature. The two could not directly hurt each other because of their adoptive mother, it isn't exactly said as to how she did this, but she did. The Man in Black promised Jacob that he would eventually find a loophole so that he could kill him.

The Man in Black eventually did find his loophole as he deceived Benjamin Linus into killing Jacob. This effectively caused everything to go to Hell, literally. The Island was without a leader to keep him from reaching the Light of the Island which would allow him to leave. Jacob explains it best in a scene with Richard Alpert in episode nine of the sixth season when he uses a wine bottle as a metaphor. He says the wine in the bottle is that of the Man in Black, evil, and malevolence while the bottle contains it and he and the Island are the cork keeping him from getting out. There always needs to be a protector of the Island to keep the Man in Black contained to the Island as if he were to get out, it would be the end of everything good.

Symbolism - Light vs Dark

The Man in Black is the clear representation of evil throughout the series, and frequently appears to the survivors of Oceanic 815 as people from their past. The show often used symbolism to show case representations of evil and good. For one, when Locke talked to Walt about the game backgammon and held up two pieces from the game. A black piece, and a white piece, which is symbolic of light and dark. Another example of this symbolic notion, was when the Man in Black took Sawyer into the cave and saw a black rock and a white rock on a pendulum. He took the white rock and nonchalantly threw it into the ocean telling Sawyer, "It's an inside joke." The Man in Black, well, just look at his name and his clothes. He often pokes and prods at the survivors to bend them to his will and tries to get them to be corrupted as he truly believes deep down everyone is bad. Their mother even explains to them that for the most part that humans are more naturally evil. Jacob would frequently bring people to the Island to prove him wrong, and to show the good that exists in people. The two are equivalent to that of God and the Devil in many aspects. Their relationship reflects it and even how they view humans.

The Man in Black could take the form of any dead person, and when Locke was killed by Ben he took it as the best person to take the form of. It was a way for him to get back at Jacob as well as Locke was a candidate to take over his duties if anything were to happen to him. Throughout the series, most frequently in the beginning the survivors would see dead people like Christian Shepard, Ana Lucia and Boone. In these visions, the survivors were told to do something that would benefit the Man in Black. Ultimately, the Man in Black is one of the most intriguing characters of the series and for the most part one of the most straight forward characters when it is all said and done.

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Comments 6 comments

rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 5 years ago from Irvine

You have provided a coherent explanation for elements of "Lost" that were not provided directly to the audience. Your interpretation makes as much sense to me (probably more) than any other I've heard. I felt the show started to go downhil once the supernatural elements began to be exposed. "Lost" didn't start out as a sci-fi type film, and I think the writers forced themselves to turn in this direction because they couldn't explain anything through natural causes. Still, it remained an entertaining show to watch. Thanks for your analysis.

Nickalooch profile image

Nickalooch 5 years ago from Columbia, MD Author

I thought the show got better in season five, it got a little out there but this is quite honestly the most serialized television show ever. I've watched the entire series maybe three times now, and because of it, I've picked up on a lot of things. Still, I found it incredibly difficult to write anything on the show because of how connected so many things are. Thanks for stopping by though and I'm glad you enjoyed.

rednickle profile image

rednickle 5 years ago from New Brunswick Canada

wow i cant believe yo have gone so far. Frankly speaking, i believe the directors simply didn't know what they were doing and simply started mixing up plots and featuring dead people in the show. Even the smoke monster turned out to be really weird. Though i enjoyed hub, i don't see myself going back to Lost


Nickalooch profile image

Nickalooch 5 years ago from Columbia, MD Author

respectfully not at all. Seeing the show three times now, no they did not just start mixing up plots. The dead people, or whispers for that matter were the people that died on the island and in their time on the Island killed someone. For instance, Michael was one of the people that was revealed to be the whispers. The other dead people, that meant something to the survivors, where forms that the monster took to bend people to do his bidding. For instance in the episode "White Rabbit" in the first season we see Jack haunted by seeing his father on the Island.

rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 5 years ago from Irvine

Nickalooch: I don't think the writers or anyone else connected with the series' production EVER imagined the show would last seven seasons. I've watched the series twice and I noticed certain plot holes. The first season or two were the best -- what was that thing roaring in the trees -- why were some people simply vanishing -- and the bits of back-story on the main characters helped make them seem more real but also more mysterious. Jack had all sorts of issues with his dad, so suddenly seeing him on the island was a kind of "Hamlet" moment. Again, for me the show started to take steps that required bigger and bigger leaps in imagination. Once I realized that the supernatural was involved, I felt like anything could happen (time travel being one example). Overall, the series was the best out there at the time, but I thought the conclusion was like a self-congratulatory party and not worthy of all the rough and tumble cliffhangers that they (and we as an audience) endured from week to week.

Nickalooch profile image

Nickalooch 5 years ago from Columbia, MD Author

It went six season but the thing roaring in the trees was the smoke monster. The people vanishing I think your talking about people being taken in the beginning of the series, that was the Others taken people, notice how you saw the stewardess from the plane as one of the Others later on in the series. Jack seeing his father was a ploy by the smoke monster to capitalize on the issues he has with Christian in an attempt to get him to go off the rails.

I think it is one of the most well written television series I have seen. It does have it's flaws but I am very satisfied with the final product. It is very hard to get everything if you are casually watching however if you watch the series episode by episode in a shortened time, then you generally pick up on things quickly. I watched the entire series a second time with my brother when we were snowed in for like a week or two, we just streamed it from Netflix. I thought it was fascinating all the things I picked up on since I already saw the end of the series. I recently did the same thing again with a friend of mine who has never watched an episode of the series, and still I noticed more things. It is a deep show but I also understand the gripes people may have with the show as it can be a bit to convoluted at times. My biggest problem with it is a minor one, what was the big deal with Walt? He was a special child, yes, but why. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse explained that his story arc was scratched mostly because of the writer's strike. After season 3, they said the series would end after season 6 and the writers strike delayed season 4 for quite some time which is when the show lost a lot of their fans.

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