No matter the medium, there have always been dominant themes in literature. Whether it be the theme of adulthood in About a Boy or the exploration of childhood in Calvin and Hobbes, writers have long voiced their opinions in their work, stating their viewpoints on universal experience. This can clearly be seen in the real time strategy game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and the novel The Poisonwood Bible. Though [literally] worlds apart in format and subject matter, the two are bound together beneath the overarching theme of guilt.
Wings of Liberty‘s Jim Raynor is a man haunted by the ghosts of his past. The sector’s current tyrant, Emperor Mengsk, rules with an iron fist and sits proudly upon his throne due to the former-marshal’s aid in the first war. This despot betrayed Raynor’s love, Sarah Kerrigan, by ordering her to place a device on the capital planet which would lure in the voracious Zerg like moths to a flame, and then abandoning her to them. The Zerg would later transform Kerrigan into a creature known far and wide as the Queen of Blades, a malicious killing machine who would later terrorize the sector and kill Raynor’s closest Protoss ally and friend.
Four years later Raynor is taking steps to topple the government he helped establish. His band of rebels is working to right the wrong that is the Terran Dominion, but even in spite of this the loss of Kerrigan and his guilt over her abandonment remain. These feelings are exacerbated when his old friend Tychus Findlay walks back into his life. Years earlier Tychus took the blame for both of them and was incarcerated for nine years. His reappearance in Raynor’s life brings back countless memories of the good ol’ days, and Raynor is forced to constantly defend his friend against the suspicions and accusations of his crew.
As victories accumulate an opportunity arises, a chance to reclaim the Queen of Blades and restore Sarah Kerrigan to her former self arises. However, the source of the offer is Mengsk’s son, bringing him dangerously close to the man he wants dead. The gripping conclusion of the first chapter of the StarCraft II trilogy involves Raynor having to choose between two regrets, two immense sources of guilt, and his decision holds the fate of their world in its hands.
The Poisonwood Bible is the story of the Prices, a Baptist family who moves from Georgia to the unfamiliar wilds of the Congo. Narrated by the five women of the family, the tale is seen and told through the eyes of Orleanna, wife of preacher Nathan Price, and their daughters, Rachel, the eldest, Leah and Adah, the diametric twins, and Ruth May, the youngest. Originally planning on only staying for a year, their missionary tenure in the village of Kilanga is set awry by political upsets, many of which are caused by their own government.
The Prices do not adjust well to life in Africa, and the strain of life in an unfamiliar land is evident in their interactions with one another. While guilt is not present in their lives from the get-go, things take a sharp downhill turn once Nathan Price begins to force Christianity upon the villagers in a manner which borders on antagonistic. Their lives are placed in danger when political unrest begins to encroach on the borders of their existence in Kilanga and natural disasters such as a drought and the resulting famine cause many of them to wish they had never travelled to the Congo in the first place. Guilt’s immense weight finally falls, however, at the death of one of the Price daughters. None of the narrators are exempt from this event, and all are bowed beneath its burden as they move on with their lives, never quite leaving the past behind them.
The second wave of guilt is felt only by some, and it directly involves the once-hopeful nation of the Congo. America’s desire for cheap diamonds and cobalt leads to a scheme that will put the leader they want in charge of the country, a plan which will overthrow the newly-elected Patrice Lumumba, voice of the Congolese. Western guilt lies leaden on the shoulders of most (but not all) of the Price women, the actions of the Belgians in the colonial era and the actions of their own American countrymen in the post-colonial. Lives and hopes lost at the hands of their Western brethren force them to reconsider who they are as people, and to try their best to come to some sort of reconciliation.
Jim Raynor and Orleanna Price both have lines which, while appearing simple on the surface, speak volumes about who they are and what they’ve done with their lives. Facing his final decision Raynor says, “We are who we choose to be,” a line almost stupidly simple at first glance. In it, however, these seven words manage to encompass his decision to turn away from a life of crime to become a marshal, and then a rebel freedom fighter, a path Tychus looks upon scornfully. These words contain within them his choice to set aside revenge for closure, to save lives instead of sit back, and, finally, his decision to choose between what appears just and what could be redemption.
Orleanna, in the first few pages of the book, tells the reader, “One has only a life of one’s own.” This straightforward statement means more and more as the narrative progresses, yet from the beginning it reveals that she does not really feel needed or loved, and thus has only herself as company. As the novel goes on Orleanna makes her own pivotal decision, one that directly affects her remaining daughters and their lives to come. Opting to set aside her weak-willed self and to put on strength and intensity, she becomes a woman motivated by the eventual safety of what family she has left.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and The Poisonwood Bible both feature protagonists who are riddled with guilt and yet seek freedom from it, who are forced to face it and move on, and who make their largest decisions in the midst of disaster, panic, and betrayal. Both have lived lives full of regrets, yet firmly choose to make one less mistake, for the sake of others and not for themselves.
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. New York: Harper Flamingo, 1998. Print.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. V 22.214.171.12495. 31 July 2010. Blizzard Entertainment. 31 July 2010.