In some of my many musings about "The Incident", I came to the conclusion that we were looking at Jacob and his nemesis (whom I will refer to as Esau) the wrong way. I don’t think it will come down to a clear cut right vs. wrong, or an obvious hero vs. villain. The better parallel for me is the struggle between free will, or choice, and fate, or destiny.
From this view, I think it is clear that Jacob represents free will or choice, which means that his counterpart represents destiny.
Here are some of the facts that I believe support this theory: Right at the beginning of "The Incident" Jacob and Esau have a very intriguing conversation. I actually watched just this part over again to try to catch it all.
There’s been a lot of discussion over what Jacob means when he says "It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress." I think what it means is that there is a definite end to the Island that will come at, well, the end. Each of the groups that come to the Island is in a way being tested. Are they the ones that can carry it out to the proper conclusion? Jacob believes that each group can make their own choices. They can choose to destroy, kill and die or, eventually, a group will come that will make the right choices and bring everything to a conclusion.
Esau believes that it’s always going to end the same way. None of the groups are capable of making the right choice. They are all destined to repeat the same types of mistakes as those who came before.
As Jacob comes into contact with the various people, he emphasizes many times that they have a choice.
Kate: Yes, Jacob pays for the lunch box, but he tells her not to steal anymore. She isn’t branded as a thief, the police aren’t involved. Kate has the opportunity to make the choice and turn her life in another direction.
Sawyer: Jacob gives him a pen. At first, I was thinking that he was helping Sawyer to write the letter that would eat him up. But on further consideration I think he was actually giving Sawyer a choice. Without the pen Sawyer would just continue to stew over the letter, writing and rewriting it in his head. With the pen he has a choice – he can finish the letter and hold onto the bitterness, or he can let it go and follow the advice of his relative (or whoever that man was at the funeral).
Jin and Sun: He tells them that their love is special and that they need to remember that. They have a choice. They can work through the difficulties that come, remembering how special their love is, or they can allow other things to come between them.
Hurley: Right before Jacob gets out of the car, he touches Hurley and says, "It’s your choice, Hurley. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to."
Ben: Jacob tells him that he has a choice. That he doesn’t have to listen to NotLocke. Jacob even believes in giving his counterpart the freedom of choice. He doesn't deny that Esau can find a loophole, doesn't protest, doesn't argue. Instead he simply says, "Well when you do I'll be right here." And that's where he is. Esau made his choice, Jacob made his.
Unfortunately I can't think of many examples to prove that Esau falls on the destiny side of things (mainly because we see so little of him as Esau and it's hard to tell how much is Locke and how much isn't), but I think it is very important that he chooses Locke to inhabit. From season 1, Locke has been a huge supporter of the destiny idea. Whether he believes it is his destiny to crash on the Island, to push the button or to be the leader of the Others, he dives in with his whole heart. I don't think that it is any coincidence that Esau chooses Locke as his host.
Add to that the fact that he disagrees with Jacob that things will ever change, and I believe it's a pretty strong case that MaybEsau represents the destiny side of the equation.
So which will win out? Destiny or free will? Or is the balance of the two what truly matters?