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Hostile Indigenous Protectors of the Island (a.k.a. The Others)
"They're not the 'Others' to me, they're my people. We protected the Island peacefully for more than three decades." --Charles Widmore
In my previous blog entry, I began analyzing the lifestyle and history of the Others by focusing on the particular period of their history that I called the Linus Regime. Now that I've gotten that distinction out of the way, I'd like to take a deeper look at who the Others really are, outside of Ben Linus's influence. For the most part, they are still a huge mystery, even after five seasons, but I've gathered some ideas with what little we've observed about them.
What is their main purpose?
The best explanation of the Others' purpose on the Island that I can think of is Charles Widmore's quote: "We protected the Island peacefully for more than three decades." Okay, so they're protecting the Island. But what is it about the Island that they need to protect, and from whom are they protecting it? I believe they're protecting the Island's secrets, most of which haven't been revealed to us yet. As Eloise Hawking stated, "We're not in the habit of telling our secrets to strangers, then just letting them saunter off." This could very possibly explain why they never refer to themselves or the Island by any sort of official name, but instead refer to themselves as "us" or "our people" or "my people", and the Island as simply "the Island". Perhaps they and the Island do have names, but they are part of the Island's secrets that they must protect, and they therefore cannot mention these names in front of any outsiders.
What other secrets are they protecting? The "Temple" is apparently a really major one. We have yet to see this Temple beyond the outer wall and the underground cavern where Ben was "judged" by the Monster. Ben says to Sun, "We built this wall to keep people like you from ever seeing it." And what "secrets" did Kate learn about the Others in 1977 that warranted preventing her from leaving? The location of their camp? Their lifestyle? The lake that leads to the underground tunnels? None of these really sound like a big deal, but it's possible that knowledge of these things, especially in the hands of the DHARMA Initiative, might lead to more critical secrets being breached. Why did Widmore order Ben to kill Rousseau? Perhaps she was interfering too much, setting traps that killed some Others, or perhaps she saw an Island secret that outsiders aren't supposed to see, such as the Smoke Monster pulling her teammates under the Temple. It's also possible that the Purge may have been initiated for a similar reason -- the DHARMA Initiative may have seen too much.
Of course, protecting the Island's secrets isn't necessarily a full-time job. Whenever there's no threat to the Island, the Others can live whatever type of lifestyle that their leader wants them to live, as long as they ultimately fulfill their primary goal.
What is the appeal of being an Other?
How and why does one even become an Other? At one point, Ben says that he brought most of them there, but this was right after he stated he was born on the Island, which we now know is a lie. But even if what he said was true, we don't know if it was always common practice for the Others to recruit new members from the outside world, or if this was unique to the Linus Regime. If most Others are born on the Island, then that serves as an easy explanation for membership, but if many are recruited, then there has to be some form of incentive for becoming an Other, especially for those who didn't have the luxurious perks of the Linus Regime (the Barracks).
Just before Juliet chugs down her orange juice to get on the sub, Richard Alpert says a couple of things to her about the Island that I think apply to any person about to join the Others: "deep down a part of you knows that the place we're taking you to is special", "You have a gift. And don't you think you're meant to do something significant with it? Where we're going, you can do just that," and "you'll see things there that you never imagined." While these particular statements wouldn't entice me, personally, I can understand how some people in certain life situations might be persuaded by this type of lure. In the real world, many cults (religious or otherwise) throughout history have demonstrated it. The result is that you have a bunch of people with an unquestioning loyalty toward their leaders. Bonnie's quote is a prime example: "I trust him. And I trust Jacob. And the minute I start questioning orders, this whole thing, everything that we're doing here falls apart." Another similarity between the Others and common cults is that a few younger members appear undisciplined and reckless, such as the 17-year-old Widmore and the two guys who killed Amy's husband Paul. These young reckless Others may have simply come from broken homes and joined the Others because they were desperate for some purpose in their lives.
What happens to ex-Others?
If the Others are there to protect the Island's secrets, then you might expect that they wouldn't allow any of their members to break ties with them and leave the Island with their knowledge. But if that's the case, then it raises the question, how was Widmore allowed to live his own life, and an extremely wealthy one at that, after being exiled from the Island? Possibly he acquired resources over time while still the leader of the Others, during his frequent trips off the Island, so that he was able to protect himself once he left. Most of his history is still unknown.
What about Juliet? She defected from the Others and joined the Losties, and yet nobody came after her. Maybe they already knew that she would never leave the Island, because they knew she died in 1977. Or maybe they knew there was nothing they could do to stop her from travelling back in time, because they know that whatever happened happened.
What about Eloise? Since her circumstances around leaving the Island are completely unknown, there's not much we can speculate about her terms of resignation, if she even did resign from the Others.
Of course, even after analyzing all of this evidence, these are all still just theories, and I could be completely wrong about who the Others are and what their purpose is on the Island. The fact is, the Others still remain one of the biggest mysteries on LOST, and one of the top mysteries I'm looking forward to seeing answered in the final season.