What Remains of Edith Finch – Literary Analysis

The game is “What Remains of Edith Finch”,
an adventure title published in 2017 by Annapurna Pictures, and developed by Giant Sparrow,
most known for the The Unfinished Swan, a PlayStation exclusive game that won 2 BAFTA
awards. We play as Edith Finch, the last living member
of America’s most unfortunate family – the Finches. The action takes place in the odd
house where the Finches lived. Edith’s mom didn’t like the house but she left her daughter
a secret key, which prompts Edith to go back and explore. Why should you care about this game? For starters,
if you value the story in a game, and want to try some innovative mechanics, you should
give this game a try. More importantly, this title discusses something that became taboo
in our modern society – death. Before the first world war, death was discussed as a
standard topic for conversation, today we avoid talking about death as much as possible.
By the end of the video you will learn why discussing death is important, and how this
game promotes the discussion. The video will be divided in the following
fashion: – Plot
– Setting – Game mechanics
– Author’s style – The theme(s)
– Real life impact – Unresolved topics The plot is a huge flashback showing us Edith
finding memories from her ancestors through more flashbacks. It doesn’t take long to
realise that the Finch family is full of mystery, weird stories and tragic deaths, which are
all worth exploring. To understand these stories, first we need to look at the house. It mirrors
the personality of each of the family members, as almost all of them had a room for each
of their own. After passing away, their rooms were kept untouched, which is why they kept
building new rooms in a tower above the house. The place is presented as being mysterious
and scary. As Edith approaches the house, this line comes up. This really sets the mood.
Without this internal thought from Edith, I would only see the house as a cosy and weird
one, I wouldn’t think of it as scary. As this is not a horror game, we are intrigued
and naturally inclined to find out what is going on. This is the first technique the
developers used to build suspense. The second technique is built throughout the game by
a mystery introduced by this line. As Edith learns more, it is implied that there is a
curse afflicting the family, causing them to suffer traffic deaths, such as being hit
by a train or falling off a high place. What’s interesting about this game is that
you play the flashbacks of the stories, which are told by the characters themselves. The
developers here took the liberty to experiment unique mechanics for each flashback, making
the stories more relatable and the characters more believable. For example, we can play the hallucinations of a child. Or look through the lens at the story of a photo enthusiast. Prompting the player to play two games at the same time in order to show how the mind
of a psychologically distressed person works The voice acting and writing style also played
important roles in giving authenticity to the characters, specially Edith. Her voice
is mostly sad and resigned, and uses lots of similes to convey different meanings to
what we are seeing on screen. These similes confer the house an aura of
surreal and mystery. But death is treated as something very real and clear. In the next
segment, we’ll look at the game developers’ attitude towards the subject of death. After we played all the flashbacks, the message
of the game seems to be “getting involved in crazy stories gets you killed”. Specially
during Walter’s flashback. He lived hiding in the basement for years, and no harm came
to him. He didn’t get involved in anything abnormal, he followed routine and he was safe.
The moment he decides to step outside and enjoy life, he is ran over by a train. But
notice Walter’s line of thought. The message of the game is subverted here. Yes, getting involved in crazy stories gets you killed, but so what? Walter knows there is a curse,
and hiding from it just makes him miserable. Edith’s grandmother also believed that it
was best to enjoy life as it is since they can’t run away from the curse. As you play the game there are other elements that foreshadow the theme of “not being able to escape from
a problem”: The cages mean captivity
and not being able to run away Candles near the memorials
of the ones who passed away. The fact that Edith’s grandmother always had candles means
that she was used to people dying because of the curse. She even kept a photograph of
her husband falling to death, which shows that she was not stressed by having death
around her. Finally, and probably the
most interesting one, we have tentacles. The figurative meaning of tentacles is not being
able to escape a problem. We seem them during Gus flashback, during Molly’s flashback, where the tentacle is coming to eat her, on Molly’s bed and Edith’s room.
It is only confirmed near the ending of the game that the theme is indeed to enjoy life
despite all the weird stuff going on. I think Edith’s mother was torn between enjoying
life and running away from the curse. So, she decided to leave the secret key for Edith
to explore the house and make her own conclusions. Another element that reinforces the theme
of ignoring the curse is birds. They are heavily referenced in the game. Birds are a symbol
of freedom. Edith’s grandmother wanted the family to live their stories and ignore the
curse. To be free as birds. Edith also wanted this, but as the last living member of the
Finches, she was living a different type of conflict – whether to preserve the stories
or bury the past. If she decided to hide the house from her future son, he would never
know about the curse, and would live a normal life. If she left the stories behind for him
to read, the memories of the family would live on, and the ghost of the curse would
come to haunt him. In the end she was unsure if it was the right thing to do, but she still
leaves a journal for her son. While we are used to the rhetoric of enjoying
life, we are not used to talking about death. We fear death,
we don’t want to talk about it. In the late 19th century, where the average life expectancy
was around 48, death was widely discussed. Back in the day, the family would take care
of all arrangements after a relative’s passing. The funeral would take place in-home, the
family would clean and prepare the body. Children were involved in this process as well. Today
there are people who don’t bring children to funerals and don’t talk to them about
death. The result is that children grow up not understanding and accepting death as being
part of life. This game won’t open people’s eyes, but
it’s important that more communication media start approaching this topic. It’s important
to understand that our days in this world are counted since we are born, and that we
shouldn’t postpone our happiness or goals. Multiple times this game tells you that you
will only realize this on your deathbed if you live fearing death. And if you think that
people are taking death seriously, try asking couples if they know what each other wants
when they die. Does their significant other want to be buried or cremated? How do they
want to be dressed? Where should the funeral take place? You will probably notice that
they may have talked about it and don’t really remember the outcome of the conversation.
Edith’s family was aware of this, and every family should too. Why didn’t Edith visit the library? In one
of the flashbacks, we see Edith entering the library through a secret passage. When we
go back to the house, we can’t use the secret passage, and it’s not sealed. It’s odd
that Edith wouldn’t go back to the library What secrets are there to explore in the old
house? What are the things Edith’s grandmother can’t explain? I’m hoping that the developer
adds a DLC for exploring the old house. I hope you enjoyed watching this video, and
until next time!

16 Replies to “What Remains of Edith Finch – Literary Analysis

  1. thank you for video. i finished game and searching game's theory. nothing found remarkable theory or let's play. except this video. nobody discussed 'death term' everyone focus 'curse'. the story cleary doesn't care about curse, the story gives us an invaluable experience.

  2. as a person who doesnt give a fk about death or curses and Wants to be Thrown in the trash when i die, this game makes 0 sense to me lol

  3. That isn't a picture of Edie's husband falling to his death. It's her son, Sam. Her actual husband was crushed by a dragon shaped slide he was building, and so she told everyone he was killed by a dragon. Edie is Edith's great grandmother.

  4. I still wish I could understand why and how Edith died while being pregnant and how the child was born? And I don't really understand how Molly died, was a monster supposed to eat her, is that the truth or was she "swallowed" by something else

  5. If (somehow) you haven't watched Joseph Anderson's breakdown of "What Remains", please do. With no insult intended to Mike, it is a far more detailed and in-depth analysis, and in my opinion, it gets to the heart of the narrative more effectively.
    Here are some of my thoughts, having seen that video:

    “What Remains of Edith Finch” is a tale of tragic, twisted irony.

    In the case of the Finch family, a real, natural misfortune, and a tendency towards accidental death, have been inflated and perverted into a noxious fantasy. In her inability to deal healthily with the loss of her father and daughter, Edith Sr. has retreated to a preferred world of her own creation: a world in which her family is not simply unfortunate, but cursed. By assigning meaning to the arbitrary, by ceding control to the supernatural, she simultaneously finds the understanding she craves, and escapes from her own crippling guilt. After all, it couldn’t be neglect that had killed little Molly; it couldn’t be Edith. It was the curse that had taken her daughter.

    The insidious danger of this fantasy is that it resigns the family to apathy, or worse, to self-destruction, in the face of their inexorable mortality. In a twist of tragic irony, it is the belief in the curse, and only this belief, which dooms the Finches.

    Decades of commitment to the Finch mythos only strengthen Edith’s dependence. Her thirst for drama grows, until it poisons the memory of her children, hardens her against empathy, breaks her relationship with her remaining family members, and traps her inside a literal, and metaphorical, tomb of her own construction. She enshrines each new dead member of her family, almost as a sickening rite of passage, and forces the living to climb an ever-more precarious tower in a reckless charge towards the death which must surely be waiting.

    If “What Remains” can be considered to have a “message”, in the traditional sense, it seems to be that tragedy is an inescapable part of life, and that its effects can be both enduring and debilitating. Retreating into an imagined reality and creating a supernatural scapegoat to shelter oneself from the weight of guilt and pain can be powerfully tempting, but is a road only to morbid obsession and greater suffering. If Dawn and Edith Finch, respectively, are to be believed, the correct reaction to loss should be to work hard to avoid it wherever possible, and to find solace in the transient beauty of life while we are able.

  6. Edith wears arm coverings and ediths son also has one arm covered by bandages. Many people who have attempted suicide by cutting their wrists will cover up the scars. In some scenes like where Edith grabs her mothers hand when she is dying you can see bandage material under her arm covers. I think mental illness plagues the family.

  7. I was disappointed it was so short with such little gameplay though I did enjoy it I wanted to explore the old sunken house

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