Far From a Simpleton: Will TurnerAuthor: veronica_richCharacter:
Pirates of the CaribbeanSpoilers:
All three moviesAuthor's Note:
It's all metalkatt
's fault - she convinced me four years ago to like Will, and the rest flowed from there. She betaed this essay, and some of the points are things we’ve cussed and discussed over and over and OVER again. I’ve also picked up ideas from meta of other Will fans (and even from those who don’t like him so much), but I can honestly say everything here is something I’ve deliberated myself.A/N 2:
As of August 2007, I have added an UPDATE to the bottom of this essay, incorporating thoughts and spoilers from AWE, titled "Will at World's End."( Collapse )Will at World’s End (August 2007 update to above essay)
Above, I made the following observation, only able to speculate on AWE: It’s probably safe to say he puts both of these lessons to use and becomes a protagonist rather than a reactionary character in AWE, setting events in motion for the other characters. I foresee him double-crossing both the pirates and the EITC, always with the primary purpose of saving those he loves: Ostensibly, Elizabeth and his father, but I believe he could end up doing the same for friends such as Jack and the Pearl’s crew.
In AWE, Will Turner definitely became proactive and learned to double-cross and scheme to his own ends. Compared to the likes of Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa – and even Elizabeth Swann – though, his “betrayals” have a different flavor than to the actions of those characters, in my opinion. For one, he keeps them secret only as long as need be to achieve his ends, then readily admits what he’s done (witness his admission during the “parlay” scene on the sandbar just before the big ship battle, and stepping forward to admit his part in taking over the Black Pearl
, in order to free Elizabeth. He’s not really good at it – he gets caught and thwarted – but he’s a relative neophyte at it, and that’s to be expected.)
Rescuing his father is clearly what drives Will’s actions in most of AWE – he’s not out to preserve himself (like Jack), get something for his own use (Barbossa), or even keep a devastating secret (Elizabeth). But he is conflicted again once he realizes he’s misunderstood Elizabeth’s motives regarding Jack (“You thought I loved him”). I believe it’s fairly clear that he comes to his decision during Elizabeth’s “What shall we die for?” speech, that he will leave the stabbing of the heart to Jack, who has made the offer and taken steps to get nearer to the chest, and instead concentrate on following Elizabeth’s command and making certain she still wishes to marry him.
By this point, the unspoken communication between Will and Jack is nearly perfect, as is Will’s transformation into a more Jack-like planner. Even Elizabeth (and, it can be argued, Barbossa) in the “parlay” scene sees something fly between them and discerns a course of action that plays into Jack’s and Will’s plans without having to ask.
In CotBP, Will tells Jack, “I’d die for her” to save Elizabeth. In AWE, Davy Jones finally takes him up on that offer, robbing Will of his defense (his sword) in the act of Will saving Elizabeth from him, then fatally stabbing him. It is at this moment we understand just how much Will – and possibly both Will and Elizabeth – mean to Jack. Here the pirate captain holds immortality in his hand, literally, and hesitates for his own gain. He’s been dead; he knows how lonely and terrible and painful it is, and doesn’t want to face that again. All through DMC and AWE he’s been set up as a man who will do almost anything to ensure his own safety and continued existence – but now, at the moment of truth, we finally see what, in Jack’s own words, “a man can’t do,” which apparently is sacrifice the life of a friend for even his greatest desire of immortality.
We don’t see much of Will as captain of the Flying Dutchman
, but it seems enough to assess that a change has indeed taken place. Gone is any uncertainty, any division of his soul between two opposite goals, now that he has a clear task and a clear goal at the end of it: Rejoining his family. Will began the series as a naïve apprentice seemingly with no hope of obtaining his own identity, serving an incompetent master (Mr. Brown) who took the credit for Will’s work. At the end of AWE, he has replaced an incompetent master of the Dutchman
and has yet to prove and establish his own identity – but the opportunity is there, and his name will be known far wider than it ever would have been as even a master craftsman in mortality. (There is also the tangible symbol of “immortality” in the form of a son to carry on his name.)
I mentioned earlier that I see Will as the series’ moral center. That has not changed; if anything, I am more convinced, since I see him as the only character selfless and compassionate enough to comfort and escort the dead to their final resting place. This does not mean I think he’s a saint, or immune to common human emotions such as desire, anger, regret, satisfaction, and jealousy. While I think being made captain of the Dutchman
will give him a wider perspective on what’s really important, the fact is that I think he will continue to be subject to his human emotions. I believe it’s important that he retain this quality to do the best job he can, and also to prove that by trying to divorce himself from his emotions, Jones made a grave error that condemned himself, his crew, and the dead he was supposed to serve. Will’s heart was only carved out to keep him breathing, not at his own choice; this is an important distinction between him and Jones. (This is made more interesting by Will’s observation to Jones earlier, wondering what made Jones cut out his heart – the fact that Calypso hadn’t been true to him, or the fact that he hadn’t been true to her and to himself, by turning her over to the Brethren Court for imprisonment. The fact that Will can recognize the distinction goes a long way toward proving he understands what’s really important in relationships.)
Fandom on LiveJournal, at least, continues to be divided about Will. In the months leading up to AWE’s release, much of the fandom seemed to be convinced the plot twist would involve who Elizabeth would pick – Will or Jack. This was proven to be either a mistaken assumption, or a smokescreen deliberately courted by the filmmakers (mostly the screenwriters, in direct dealings with the fans) to cover the real plot twist of the third movie. Only a few people who were Will fans prior to AWE seem to be disenchanted with his decision to engage in double-crossing and scheming; most seem glad he took charge of his own path and were impressed with his handling of schemers more experienced than himself.
Fans of the J/E pairing – who have proven to be Will’s harshest critics in the year leading up to AWE, and perhaps even before then – seem evenly split on their opinion of the character post-AWE. Some regard him unfavorably for mutinying to take Jack’s ship (even given Jack’s past unfavorable treatment of Will); others believe he’s a jerk for holding Elizabeth to be faithful to a marriage in which he cannot participate. Some in this camp believe he forced her into the marriage.
Other J/E fans who had contempt and dislike for Will have changed their minds, either because the character changed their minds during AWE or because they feel that being gone at sea for years at a time, this leaves Elizabeth the freedom to take up with Jack – or any man of her choice – in his absence. This is due largely to what the screenwriters say was poor editing that cut out the explanation that Will could return to land permanently after only 10 years of service – provided Elizabeth was faithful to him, in the way Calypso was NOT faithful to Jones – instead of getting only one day on land for every 10 years of service and being bound to the Dutchman
for eternity. It is unknown how much of this J/E “change of heart” about Will would have taken place had it been clear he could return to stay after 10 years; as it is, most interpret canon strictly that Will no longer has a future as a mortal.
Finally, an observation on Will as Death (or at least Death's ferryman): Tia Dalma's comments when she first meets Will in DMC, in hindsight, would suggest his becoming captain of the Dutchman
was no random accident. Much of what happens around him seems to support the notion that he has been "groomed" for a role as Death for a long time, if not his entire life. Nearly every ship on which he sets foot sinks, beginning with the ship he's on as a young boy and ending with the Dutchman
itself, sinking down into the maelstrom with him on board (it matters not that the ship is unsinkable - it's more metaphor than anything, I believe). The only ones of which we are not certain is whatever ship Will took to Tortuga to find Jack, and the ship with the traders who take him to "Cannibal Island," since we don't see them sink right away. It's often observed in fandom that any man Elizabeth kisses ends up dead, but she shares no such kisses until after she's already kissed Will at the end of CotBP - thus reinforcing the notion that perhaps he's passed the "kiss of death" on to her, and she is a worthy mate for Death because instead of dying herself, she passes it along to others. Even the sword Will forged for Norrington at the beginning of CotBP, as it travels through the series, seems tinged with death - every person who touches it ends up dead, either at its point or by some other means ... including Will, nearly, himself.( Collapse )