The most recent episode Lost, 316, was considerably more revealing and rewarding than any of the other episodes of Season 5 to date. It also was packed with numerous literary references, some glaring and some subtle, all of which are useful to understanding the themes of Lost and the general direction of the final two seasons.
Episode 316 contained two biblical references, the first of which is the name of the episode itself as well as the plane that returns the majority of the oceanic six to the island. 316 is a reference to the bible citation John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Faith is one of the central themes of Lost and was certainly the central focus of this episode. Although Jack’s character has had some wooden moments over the years, anyone who has struggled with issues of faith could relate to Jack’s difficulty in believing something he can’t see with his eyes.
The clearest literary reference was the direct comparison that Ben made between Jack and the apostle Thomas. Standing in front of a series of shimmering candles and a shadowy painting Thomas touching the resurrected Christ’s wounds, Ben explained that Thomas was one of the bravest of the apostles but is largely remembered for his inability to believe the resurrection when presented with the evidence to his own to eyes. Given that Jack is one of the braver of the remaining characters and was the least capable of grasping that there is something special going on, the similarities were striking. The scenes with Jack dealing with his father’s shoes and John’s note, as well as his return to the island were are the more potent thanks to this metaphor. John’s suicide went further to bring these two biblical references home.
Ben’s choice for some light reading on a doomed air plane set for the unkown was James Joyce’s tome Ulysses, a work which makes the many complications on Lost look pretty simplistic. Both works are also famous for referring to multiple information sources outside of the text itself for a full understanding of the work (for instance, all of the literary references in Lost). One interesting fact about Joyce’s Ulysses is that no one has actually read the book, and many scholars wonder whether the novel even exists at all. To see for myself, I sat down with the book in an area library, only to find that all of the pages were blank.
Another possible literary reference may have pointed to Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. The pendulum located in The Lamppost Dharma station is very similar to a real world pendulum named a Foucault’s pendulum. Like Ulysses and Lost, Umberto Eco’s novel named after the devise follows the story of characters caught up in an elaborate and intentionally befuddling story, and all three of the stories are famous for baffling readers and viewers. However, it’s been well over a decade since I picked up Eco’s book, and I can’t recall any other clear parallels.
Some other literary allusions included the name of the new dharma station, The Lamppost, which appears to be a reference to the Narnia books (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe) and Hurley’s comic book, Y: The Last Man, which was written by a Lost writer. One more thing: remind me never to join Ben’s book club.