Thanks to all those who left kind words on my post last week, this week I have a slightly shorter but hopefully no less interesting amalgamation of Portal 2 trivia and interpretations for your consumption, so let’s get right to it.
The Promethean Legend
One particular turret in the game has earned a name for itself among fans. Known as the ‘Prometheus Turret’, ‘Oracle Turret’, or ‘Different Turret’, you may very well have rescued this little guy from “redemption” and noted his uncanny references to events passed in the Portal universe, but what exactly did this little guy mean by "Prometheus was punished by the gods for giving the gift of knowledge to man. He was cast to the bowels of the Earth and pecked by birds"?
The turret is actually comparing the story of Portal to Greek mythology. Just as Prometheus gave fire to humans and was punished for it, likewise GLaDOS gave Chell the Portal Gun and it ended up being her eventual downfall. Atlas, P-Body and Wheatley are thought to represent the brothers of Prometheus; Atlas, Menoetius, and Epimetheus respectively. Wheatley certainly fits the bill, being like Epimetheus, a foolish character compared to the genius Prometheus. Just as Prometheus and Epimetheus created man, GLaDOS cloned Aperture employees and Wheatley was in charge of keeping test participants alive in storage. Chell is thought to represent Pandora, who delivers Epimetheus great power, only to unleash hell on Earth. Likewise, Chell delivered Wheatley to the Aperture mainframe only to cause disaster within the research facility, including a near nuclear meltdown.
Just as the titans were punished by being thrown into the pit below the underworld known as Tartarus, Chell and GLaDOS were thrown down into old Aperture, where an area can be seen (image by TRUNK_SLAMCHEST) marked ‘Tartaros 09’, and just as Prometheus was punished by having his liver eternally pecked out by an eagle, GLaDOS endured being repeatedly pecked at by a bird while in her potato form and seemed to develop a fear of birds from it. The heaven-like surface at the end is also thought to represent the beautiful area of the Greek underworld known as Elysium. Now that’s one heck of a nod to mythology.
The hidden portrait of Cave Johnson and Caroline is a great easter egg, largely because it provides us with a look at an otherwise entirely unseen character, but there are a couple of less obvious aspects of this painting you may not have noticed. Firstly, while it may only be viewable by increasing the brightness on your monitor/TV, a figure can be clearly seen in the background of the painting on the far left. It has been hypothesised by many that this figure is or at least represents Aeschylus, a greek writer who is often credited with writing the interpretation of Greek legend, ‘Prometheus Bound’.
Another rather interesting thing about this portrait is that upon first seeing it an achievement is unlocked called ‘Portrait of a Lady’. This could be a possible reference to a famous painting of the same name, or the T.S. Elliot poem of the same name. It also shares its name with ‘ The Portrait of a Lady’, a book by Henry James about a young American woman who becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming. This would be rather fitting considering Wheatley’s later reference to author Machiavelli, while trying to kill Chell.
Again, a small but a wonderful easter egg. Looking up the etymology of the name Caroline you’ll probably find that Caroline is the feminine form of Charles, but what does the name Charles mean? ‘Free man’. Remind you of anyone we know?
The turret opera at the end was an emotional and unexpected feature in the game’s conclusion, as well as a great opportunity for Ellen McLain to flaunt her talents as a professional opera singer, but what exactly were those turrets singing about? Well, the entirety of the opera was actually in Italian, the full lyrics can be found here, and they reveal something interesting. While it seems as though GLaDOS carries a considerable disdain for Chell by the end of Portal 2, the words of the opera reveal that she may feel affection towards Chell she is ashamed to admit.
The exact correct translation of the opera is a little debated, but within the opera the turrets seem to refer to Chell as “My beautiful dear”, “My darling beauty”, “My dear, dear baby” and “My little girl” among other things. If that doesn’t give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside I don’t know what will. Oh, and the fact that Chell’s name is similar to the Italian ‘ciel’, meaning sky or heaven only further supports the whole Elysium theory.
The Johnson's Daughter Theory
There is one rather crazy-sounding but none the less plausible theory that many of these secrets combined seem to suggest though. With the potato experiment proving Chell was the daughter of an Aperture worker, the turrets at the end expressing their love for Chell and calling her their child, and GLaDOS even mentioning once that there were two people on record in Aperture with Chell’s second name, some theorise that Chell is actually the adopted daughter of Cave Johnson and Caroline.
It’s been speculated before that GLaDOS never really deleted Caroline, but people like this man take it one step further, claiming that the reason GLaDOS kept Chell away from the facility and feigned a dislike of her was because the ‘Caroline’ part of her recognised Chell as her daughter, but wanted to let her free and may also have tried to keep her away so that she didn’t succumb to the urge of conducting more dangerous tests using Chell. The end song of the game, ‘Want You Gone’ even seems to suggest that Caroline was never deleted through the lines “Now little Caroline is in here too” and “Maybe when I delete you I’ll stop feeling so bad”, a line which GLaDOS actually redacts in the text she usually outputs. If we assume this theory to be true Cara Mia is not simply an expression of GLaDOS’ hidden appreciation for Chell but a touching goodbye from a mother who has to push her daughter away, but wants to leave one last, hidden expression of her love.
End of Part Two
That concludes part two of this crazy collection of Portal 2 analyses but there’s still the final and arguably most insane instalment of this blog to come next week. Thank you for reading, good luck, and have cube tricks.