What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of short stories that comes together to form an intriguing yet heartbreaking family drama.
In each short story that the game presents, we’re able to take on the perspective of the Finch family members. This helps establish empathy for this family’s tragedies and for each family member’s story. Edith Finch feels like a movie you are a part of. Film critic Roger Ebert once said:
“We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.” – Roger Ebert in “Life Itself”
What Remains of Edith Finch is such a storytelling masterpiece that it digs itself right into the gears of that machine. Well-made movies allow us as humans to understand each other a little more — they are like a machine that generates empathy.
An idea that was drilled into this family was this idea of a Finch curse, due to each family member dying, many of them still so young. Each and every person has their own story to tell. Yet, these people can’t tell you their stories, since the family curse took them long ago. Instead, we’re shown their stories.
What Remains of Edith Finch manages to convey each and every one of the Finch’s stories without handing you any of the resolutions to these stories. At the very most, they’re implied, and you, the player, have to piece it all together. You’re the one who has to walk through these stories, placed in their shoes and their perspective, and understand their thoughts, emotions, events, and how the curtains closed.
Yet, you’re not alone, are you?
We explore these mysteries with Edith Finch, the last of her family name. We empathize with Edith’s character throughout the game, since she is the one exploring the house in all of its detail and unlocking the secrets of the Finch Curse that has plagued her family. She is just as clueless as she is familiar with her old home, and that really helps with keeping the player close and connected. This is a journey we’re taking together, but Edith actually means something to this story and this house; she isn’t just a cookie cutter protagonist.
This also goes for Edith’s gameplay which involves simple tasks like opening doors and picking up letters. They may seem trivial or mundane, but they significantly contribute to understanding Edith’s perspective simply through interaction. We both open doors, we both flip the pages of a book, we both peep through a hole in a door, we both discover secrets throughout the house, and we even venture into unknown territory together.
I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?
Let’s start from the beginning.
Edith’s Story Begins
Our story begins with Edith Finch. Her mother had just passed and left her a key with no explanation, so she ventures back to her childhood home to find answers.
The way that the house and Edith sets up the narrative, the setting, and even the family members is impressive:
“I lived here until I was eleven but I wasn’t allowed inside half the rooms”
Edith sets up the mystery and curiosity — a reason to be here, with a strange tower-looking house in the distance, which frames the scene perfectly.
We learn how Edith hasn’t been back here for 7 years and left after her brother Lewis passed away. We also establish why Edith hasn’t been back before now, during those 7 years. The secrets of her own family tree has been kept under lock and key.
Once inside, it’s clear that this place, past the piles of books, is a home that was left in disarray.
“But instead of a family, there were just memories of one.”
Dishes, unpacked and packed boxes, and a messy dinner table from the night they left.
A nursing home brochure tells us that Edie was her great-grandmother. We see Edie’s wheelchair and oxygen tank next to it, which is a detail that sprouts its purpose at the very end of the game.
We find out that her brother Lewis worked at a cannery, and that her cat was named after Edie’s daughter, Molly, although we don’t know this yet.
On the fridge, we find a picture of the family that lived here while Lewis was alive, juxtaposed by the death of Lewis right next to it.
We find out that Milton went missing at some point, and afterward Edith’s mother sealed the rooms shut.
There are pictures displayed throughout the house that captures entire generations of memories, although the game doesn’t focus on these, but instead allows these details to be appreciated on their own once you’ve completed the game and know the people in them.
So far the game has managed to introduce Edith’s immediate family. Edith has mentioned her mother, her great-grandma Edie, and her two brothers Lewis and Milton, both whom we can assume to have impacted Edith’s mother significantly with their passing. Again, this all comes together toward the end of the game, where we see the last of the Finches.
We climb up the stairs, and the game directs us toward the end of a hallway with the text itself, something else that’s unique about this game that we’ve seen a smidge of in the beginning where the words fell onto the ground when you opened the gate.
We make our way through these peepholes, glancing into memories, and wondering why Edith’s mother sealed these doors. Why did Edie drill peepholes to retaliate? What’s with all of these books?!
We get a strange mixture of this mystery that both the player and Edith share and this familiarity that only adds context to the stories and answers we find together throughout this house and these rooms that are completely sealed. It’s just enough familiarity to feel engrossed in the mystery as much as Edith is without feeling lost or out of place.
This mystery begins in Walter’s aquatic room, using the key your mother left you to open a hidden passage.
Molly was Edie’s firstborn, and also the first of Edie’s children to die. Molly loved animals. She was also a very bright kid, hence her desk and even her calendar with the scientific names of animals. She loved bugs, some in jars in her room, some hung up throughout the house. We see the chair facing the window where Edie sat before the doors were sealed. The animals we see in Molly’s story are also in her room — the cat and owl masks, the cat ears, the rabbit stuffed animals, the shark plushie, the jellyfish that she imagined as a monster, and my personal favorite, the owl whistle and the owl feather in her diary.
Molly writes that she’s going to be gone soon, which is just the beginning of the kid’s mixture of imagination and hallucinations. Coincidentally enough, she was, in fact, going to be gone soon. It’s eerie, even uncanny.
Molly was sent to bed without food. She ended up eating gerbil food, toothpaste, and holly berries. Holly berries aren’t poisonous enough to kill you, but they can make you vomit and hallucinate. We see her about to sleep at the end of her diary. She died choking on her own vomit while she slept.
Yet this is told from a child’s perspective; nothing about the holly berry’s affects or how she died is given to us in this story. She’s hungry and can’t get food, so it turns from her eating dangerous items into crawling out her window as a cat, then an owl who even chokes on her prey, then a shark that rips a seal apart, then a monster that eats humans, and then a shocking conclusion of the monster crawling under her bed, followed by Molly seemingly waking from her hallucinations.
The monster under the bed trope is a common child’s fear, yet personified in a such a way that’s not only relatable, but takes such a turn for the sake of symbolism and the encroaching death that is about to take her while she sleeps. Compare this to the child’s mind, like how she isn’t serious when she says the monster under her bed will take her while she sleeps and when she says that she’s going to be gone soon. She’s simply hungry enough for it to manifest in her imagination and, due to the holly berries, the hallucinations, hence why she says, “And suddenly I was me again.”
It all meshes together so well. Molly is playing on basic fears with the monster under her bed, while we, as the player, think of it as more hauntingly coincidental and symbolic, yet both Molly and the player think of the monster as something real, affecting Molly and the player alike but in different ways.
We crawl into Edie’s room, from the window we passed as a cat. We find out about Odin, and how Odin, Edie, Edie’s husband Sven, and baby Molly sailed with their house. The house sunk next to Orcas Island, and Odin died with the house. A monument was created in his honor.
We also find Sven’s shrine, where we find out that he was killed by a dragon slide he was building for Walter’s 12th birthday. We find out about some kind of mole man, many animal shrines, and newspaper folded to make a shark.
For now, these details don’t mean much to us, beyond Odin and Sven’s cause of death. It’ll rear itself back into the picture later on.
Calvin is the embodiment of every child who has swung on a swing. He was simply a child who wanted to fly and imagined swinging around that tree branch. The game emulates this experience by utilizing both of the control sticks, one for each leg.
Calvin wanted to be an astronaut. From his perspective, he was actually flying, he actually swung around that tree branch, no matter how mundane and ordinary his death actually was — simply jumping from the swing off a cliff to his death.
Yet, his death is painted as him finally achieving his dreams. Sam and Calvin, who are twin brothers that share the same room, made a promise at Barbara’s funeral that they would never be afraid again. While Sam put this passion and promise toward photography, Calvin’s bravery sent him to an early grave due to childhood carelessness. But who can really blame him? He’s not the one that put a swing on a tree branch right next to a sharp fence and a steep cliff…
“Whenever people ask me about my family, the first thing they always want to know about is Barbara.”
Barbara Finch’s story allows for an unexpected tonal shift with its comic book “story within a story”. Its funny and light-hearted despite the sinister subject matter of murder. While the game typically takes on a more somber tone, it isn’t afraid to twist your expectations and put a smile on your face with its versatile presentation. The way she says “oh dear” when her boyfriend Rick was trying to help bring her famous scream back out was hilarious.
Although this unique presentation comes at a cost.
Barbara is the archetype of a washed up celebrity — a forgotten child star — who wanted what wouldn’t sustain in her life — the fame. Similar to other members of the Finch family, she wanted what she couldn’t have.
Because of her child star fame, her story is told through dramatization, exaggeration, and even fabrication. Edith said it herself, she’s surprised that Edie kept this comic book. So this story is by far the most ambiguous. While all fingers point to murder, we can only guess how.
There’s only one possibility that makes sense to me, however.
And that would be that she was killed by a gang of hoodlums. This gang is wearing halloween masks, the leader being a man with a hook hand.
We see the hook man, who Barbara sends over the bannister. We see that same bannister repaired in the house. We also see a bunch of halloween mask strangers that the comic book calls her “fans” who, for some reason, showed up to surprise her. This sounds like flat out fabrication and is most likely just the halloween mask gang about to tear her apart. Another detail worth noting is how the only remaining body part found of Barbara is her ear, and the gang’s leader hook man ate his family 10 years ago tonight. However, the details about the ear and the hook man eating his family could have very well been fabricated. I would like to think her body was present at the funeral that we already know happened from Calvin’s story.
“A gang of hoodlums in halloween mask have been terrorizing orcas island tonight!”
“…The Gang’s leader is the infamous Hookman Killer, Dr. Karl Hamel, who impaled and then ate his family ten years ago tonight.”
However, it’s also entirely possible that Rick killed her, given how many of these details could have been fabricated.
There’s another possibility, although unlikely, and that would be how she was killed by her fans. Fans killing celebrities was not an uncommon way for celebrities to die at the time. There’s also an odd detail when the comic book introduces Rick: ““Her biggest fan (and current boyfriend) Rick…” And you know how crazy these “biggest fans” can get. Although he has a pretty good alibi of being with Barbara when the radio events were happening, unless the radio events and the halloween hoodlum gang was all fabricated, then it very well could have been Rick that killed her. The fact that Rick was never found after Barbara’s murder doesn’t exactly help with this mystery.
What I did find to be a disconnect, however, was how the comic book shows you how to unlock the basement door to the next area, which is a wonderful way of conveying secrets to the player, but then Rick unlocks the door and heads down there only for 20 minutes to pass before you, playing as Barbara, have to wind the music box and unlock the door again. It feels like a forced tutorial. The game is basically saying that Rick unlocked the door, put the key back into the music box, closed and locked the door behind him, and then proceeded into the basement. It makes absolutely no sense.
Which also begs the question: How did the comic book writers know about the music box key and the exact layout of the house, despite the family room being modernized? Well, we’ll come back to that later on.
“Edie told me all Barbara wanted was to be remembered.
“As absurd as that comic was, maybe what Edie saw was a happy ending.”
Transition to Walter
When Barbara was trying to find Walter in her room, we get a little hint when the camera is positioned under the bed, and at the end of the story, our suspicions are only confirmed.
Now that we know how to unlock the basement door, we proceed to make our way back to the main floor, noticing how less light is shining through the windows. Edith mentions how she now knows why her mom stopped her from playing with the music box as a kid. The game realizes how it’s a terrible place to hide a key, especially with how kids like to wind stuff up as much as they can. At least the game is self-aware in that regard.
So we walk down to the basement, soon discovering, again, how strangely accurate the basement is compared to the comic book.
Open the fridge and… holy crap… are you kidding me?
While Edith Finch has already established how Sven loved building hidden passages into the house, we are now not only discovering the depth of Sven’s design, but what happened to Walter after Barbara’s brutal murder.
The family members in this house frequently intertwine. In Molly’s story, we hear her mother Edie from the other side of the door, and we see Edie and her father Sven through the window. In Calvin’s story, we hear Edie, we see Sam, and Barbara is mentioned. In Barbara’s story, we see Edie, Sven, and Walter. And now in Walter’s story, we hear Edith talking about how she saw Edie bringing packages down once.
That’s what makes this game such a storytelling masterpiece, rather than disjointed, isolated stories. Yes, the uniqueness of each story’s gameplay is one of its core selling points, but how the entire family interacts is why the overarching story comes together in the end and it flows like the bathtub Gregory drowned in.
Walter was completely torn apart from Barbara’s death. Whatever he saw that day, paralyzed him with fear and forced him into isolation, with no one there to help pick him back up.
He says it best himself, “Even a monster on the other side of the door starts to feel normal. Almost friendly.”
For thirty years, he followed the same routine — the same, mundane routine of twisting open a peach can with the radio on, each day passing by before the blink of an eye. He heard a monster below him daily that shook his home. He was deeply afraid of the Finch family curse, and how it took Barbara, Molly, and Calvin.
Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He had to get out of this hole. He had to escape, to live life.
Yet he confronted life unprepared, literally hit by a train, symbolizing life ramming him hard after 30 years without any sunlight.
Once the rumbling monster below him stopped for a week straight, he smashed a hole into the wall and crawled through. He falls out into a tunnel where a train proceeds to hit him. The detail of falling out can be heard from when you, as Edith, crawl through the hole.
However, there is one odd detail. The landscape we see for ourselves as Edith is… entirely gone… instead we’re left with a steep drop into the rocky waters below. Walter died in 2005 while Edith is exploring this house in 2016, only 11 years later. I don’t see how an entire piece of the island can be gone during that time.
Not to mention, the extra symbolism of a train track leading off a cliff.
However, considering he died the same day he left the bunker, as indicated by his calendar and his tombstone, this odd detail can be chalked up as some event that we simply aren’t aware of.
Edith’s grandpa Sam lived longer than most, dying at 33.
We’ve heard about him before, mainly in Calvin and Sam’s room. He enlisted in the Marines when he turned 18 and never set foot in his old bedroom again.
Sam’s story is told through photographs.
Imagine if they gave you free-reign of the camera from the get-go. It would be quite jarring, considering how unexpected this narration is. So instead, the story is told from the beginning with simple pictures of each other, Dawn progressively enjoying this trip with her father more and more, despite being so negative about it in the beginning.
Eventually, it gives you free-reign of the camera and the environment around you. Sam has plenty to tell you as you look around at the campsite. The rifle, the fish they caught, the tent that was set up, all interesting mementos for you to capture until you find the true winning snapshot — the deer.
The deer was just difficult enough to find after everything else and actually felt like you had a keen eye, just like Sam commends Dawn for having.
The camera is then used as Dawn’s rifle aim. Snapping the photo pulled the trigger. This has to be the most original camera use I’ve seen in a game. Well… I suppose Fatal Frame has that stage, but I haven’t played it so my opinion still stands.
Remember when I said that Sam and Calvin made a promise at Barbara’s funeral that they would never be afraid again and Sam put this passion toward photography? In the end, this was true, but he also became a Death Seeker. He enlisted in the Marines and brought his passion for photography with him. He also mixed his passions for hunting and photography, to the point where his photography even took precedent over caring for his own daughter and resulted in complete situational neglect. Which, of course, led to his death. Right in front of his own daughter.
I’m sure the fact that he hasn’t been at Odin Finch National Park in 20 years didn’t help.
“Dear Kay, do you remember the way Gregory used to laugh when he thought he was alone? Like something funny was happening but only he could see it.”
Gregory was Sam’s and his ex-wife Kay’s infant. His story starts in a bathtub. He had an active imagination, typical of a child — he saw his toy frog leaping, his ducks circling, and heard the music playing as he moved the frog in his hand.
Kay took the phone to another room when Sam called, neglected her child, and he drowned.
However, it’s never told that plainly. Gregory’s toys bounced around, knocking down a whale, then knocking down the soap, and finally turning on the faucet after Kay turned it off and received another phone call from Sam.
As he drowned, he imagined himself as a frog with joyful and happy music in the background. Until finally, we see Kay pulling the plug, trying to save Gregory, but he ends up following the light that beckoned him at the end of the tunnel, or in this case, the drain. She was too late.
Gregory’s story completely focused on perspective. The game managed to give us this infant’s view on what was unfolding, rather than, “Oh, this infant drowned himself.” While Sam and Kay mourned, we’re ought to believe that Gregory died happy, unaware even.
The most interesting detail to me, however, is what Sam says, “He reminded me so much of Calvin. Lost in his imagination. […] but I felt him slipping away.”
Sam “felt” Gregory slipping away because this is exactly what happened to his brother Calvin as a child. Calvin’s overactive imagination killed him, so Sam can’t help but make that connection, despite the imagination that ended Calvin and Gregory’s lives being quite normal for infants and children alike.
We don’t know much about Kay herself.
We know Sam and Kay divorced soon after Gregory’s death, and that Kay blamed herself.
We know her maiden name from the divorce contract — Carlyle.
We also know the only mark she left on the house was the pink bathroom, the same bathroom where Gregory drowned. You can even see the same soap sitting on the tub, and a green frog sitting on the bathroom counter.
Gus is presented to us as a poem written by Edith’s mother.
The kite begins its rampage with the words in the sky. I’m surprised that the game lets you mess with the words before the narration finishes, since you might not catch everything that was said. I would say that’s one of the game’s few insignificant flaws.
Gus was mad about his father, Sam, remarrying, and these benighted people in his sight.
He didn’t want a step-mom, it just didn’t feel right.
So he stayed outside away from the others and his kite took flight.
But the storm crept its way in, and blew with all its might.
The chairs and tents and words all swept away alike,
And in one final swoop, snuffed his flame out, goodnight.
“I wish that I could truly say I thought about you on that day.
“Out there on the beach alone, just you, the wind, the sea, and foam.
“But I didn’t, until we found you.”
The last lines of the poem admits that they didn’t really care what he was doing, that he was a stubborn fool for staying out in the storm.
Remnants from the storm can be seen after Walter’s story, with chairs in the trees and totems knocked over. Again, these details can tie the stories together and with the house, or in this case, the surrounding land.
Soon afterward, we find that Dawn had moved into the loft, as far away from her brothers’ empty beds as possible at the time. We find out here, without a doubt, that Edith’s mother is indeed Dawn.
This is something you could’ve figured out right from the beginning with the family photo on the fridge, or the fact that Edith calls Sam grandpa and we see his daughter Dawn in his story, or the fact that Edith said Sam’s story is the story that she wished her mom would have told her, or the fact that Dawn is one of Sam’s three children next to Gregory and Gus and Edith’s mother is the one who wrote Gus’ poem.
This game heavily rewards observation.
We find out that Dawn had found her love in India while spending a summer there building houses in Calcutta, an Evacuation Specialist named Sanjay. She ended up moving to India and had three children — Lewis, Milton, and Edith.
However, the Finch curse never spreads itself too thin, and eventually, Sanjay passes away. We find out how he passed through a newspaper clipping on a wall. Again, What Remains of Edith Finch heavily rewards observation. Most of these Sanjay details can easily be missed.
So Dawn and her three children move back to Edie’s house. All was well… for some time.
While Barbara is the most ambiguous, Milton is the most mysterious. He was a painter. He lived in a castle that Edie gave him for his 10th birthday.
We find Milton’s flipbook of him painting a sneezing man, the flipbook that he was currently making, and a door that he opened and walked through.
And… well… that’s it. What happened to him then? In the context of the game, we only know that he disappeared and was never found. We see Missing flyers inside and outside the house. Dawn spent months searching for him, then she sealed the doors, as we already know from the beginning of the game. Followed by two very important details:
- “Whatever Milton had found in the house, Mom didn’t want it getting out.” We see Milton’s drawings in the secret passages, so we know Milton found the rooms with the stories. However, these bedrooms haven’t been sealed off yet. Anyone could’ve just walked into these rooms, so the fact that Milton found these secret passages means absolutely nothing. So, we can assume that Milton walked into these bedrooms and indulged himself in these stories, thus triggering the Finch curse yet again, at least in Dawn’s eyes. That’s why she sealed the doors. The stories were dangerous.
- The second detail is: “Mom definitely blamed Edie, but I think Lewis blamed himself.” This only confirms my suspicions about the stories, whether Milton found them or Edie herself told him, doesn’t matter. The part about Lewis blaming himself is something we see waaaaay back at the beginning of the game. “Lewis told me there were secret passages but I never believed him.” So we can assume Lewis discovered them and told Milton about them as well. What’s interesting enough to point out, is that Molly had known about the secret passage as well. Not that it’s difficult to see that obvious entrance in her closet. However, as I’ve said before, these secret passages were not even a means to an end. These details simply make no sense, and I think that really shows how the developers shoehorned in this idea that Milton was The King in their previous game The Unfinished Swan.
The Unfinished Swan was Giant Sparrow’s first game. An excellent game, by the way. I hate to have to directly correlate What Remains of Edith Finch with The Unfinished Swan, but all roads lead to Milton being “The King.” There’s a model boat with two balloons as well as paintings that resemble structures we see in The Unfinished Swan. The music that plays is also the Unfinished Swan’s main theme.
While I hate to think that Milton’s story continues in a different game, as if by some supernatural bullcrap that really just doesn’t fit What Remains of Edith Finch, there’s no doubt that there are obvious connections, and would explain the loopholes in his story. Milton’s story just isn’t well thought out.
Again, in the context of What Remains of Edith Finch itself, we know that Milton disappeared, and.. really, I guess that’s enough. Not only is this not an uncommon situation, but we also know that this is the catalyst that the Finch curse needed to grab hold of the remaining family. Or so it seemed to Dawn.
Lewis’ story is by far one of the most well-executed in terms of storytelling through gameplay.
Lewis was recovering from substance abuse. He was able to take on the monotony of his job as a cannery worker because of the drugs. We see marijuana and cigars in his room, as well as a marijuana poster, probably bordering on hippie with this psychedelic crap.
As Lewis started to notice the monotony of his daily life chopping fish over and over, his mind began to wander. He explored a labyrinth, and came out in a new isometric perspective, as he became more serious and more in-depth with his creations. We see this perspective becoming more and more personal as we continue on.
Lewis built Lewistopia brick by brick, but then he realized, everything was his imagination, so he ran for mayor and won. He wasn’t satisfied, however, and soon began wandering off toward new lands, never staying in one place for too long, conquering and moving on.
Up until this point, we’ve had to chop fish to proceed several times, and we will do so again later on. The game makes sure that you’d never get completely lost in Lewis’ imagination, at least not yet. There’s that constant, looming reminder that you are a cannery worker, that you’re living a monotonous, mundane life. There’s also subtle reminders baked into the world. The blue, chopped festival fish, the giant, floating fish balloons, and even the color palette.
Back to conquering: New Lewisville, St. Lewis, Minneapolewis (I love that one), each place he sailed to and conquered, the further he sailed away from reality, until one day he forgot to go home from the cannery. But, you know, even though his mother cares for him, screw that garbage; why would you want to go home?
After sailing through the waters, the screen is now completely covered by his imagination and the perspective changes to an over-the-shoulder view.
Throughout Lewis’ journey thus far, his imagination had taken over the screen further and further, as his imagination grew, as he regarded this world he had created as more and more real, as day by day he would prefer his daydreaming over his mundane and pointless job and life.
Yet, Lewis kept on chopping and chopping.
Until… Lewis became so lost within his world that, at one point, he completely stopped. We walk through the cannery to find out that Lewis had completely and truly lost himself. Not only that, but this is directly reflected through gameplay. You’re now in first-person, completely immersed in your own world, going through the motions even though there’s no fish to chop. This is further reflected through gameplay just by the fact that, as you proceed, this world has now become your reality with no fish. You’re no longer multitasking. You simply want to climb the steps of your golden palace and to be crowned king of your own realm, of your own imagination, of your own creations that you’re so proud of. You have become something greater than a king, which soon becomes overwhelming, followed by the realization that the real you was not the one chopping fish, but the one climbing the steps of a golden palace. It pains you to remember yourself as the cannery worker. You start to despise yourself with a royal contempt.
“And the rest I think you know.”
The Red King’s Dream
We see a book on Lewis’ desk titled The Red King’s Dream, which is an ingenious reference to Lewis Carroll’s 1871 book “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There”, which is the sequel to his famous 1865 book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
In Through the Looking-Glass, the Red King is sleeping under a nearby tree. Tweedledum and Tweedledee pokes at Alice with how she exists only as an imaginary figure in the Red King’s dreams, thereby implying that she will cease to exist if he wakes up, saying she’d go out just like a candle. In the end, that’s exactly what happened: When the Red King woke, Alice wakes up in her armchair.
In the same way, Lewis was so depressed with who he was, he was so pained with the thought of Lewis, the cannery worker, that when he did “wake up” from his golden palace, he did, in fact, cease to exist.
Edie and the Finch Family Curse
Edith Senior, better known as Edie, is now an old woman who traveled with Sven and her father Odin to this island. She appears as such a nice lady, the only one who isn’t trying to hide these stories. This is further instilled into us in the beginning of the game by the simple mention of Dawn and how she sealed the door to every room. And then, later on, you might start to realize that every single one of these Finches, despite seeing this in the beginning, are memorialized in their bedrooms with these shrines, so much so that Edie expands the house when Dawn comes back from India instead of offering any of the other rooms occupied by nothing but memories.
“Edie’s side was always easier for me to understand, but the older I get, the more I can see where my mom was coming from.”
And that’s the genius of this game. Even the barebones of the house in the very beginning of the game can all be pieced back to the very last Finches to die out — Edie and Dawn.
Let’s start with Edie and how she relates to the family curse.
Edie dramatizes and exaggerates every death, almost encouraging this so-called Finch Curse.
The genius of Edie’s role in these stories is finally revealed in the end with a story Edie wrote for Edith. Edie walks the ocean floor after a major earthquake, gets trapped in fog, sees animals, and ends with Odin’s house about to be explored and a window lighting up.
As a side-note: It is entirely possible that a major earthquake did happen and is what caused the side of the mountain with the train track to collapse, as discussed during Walter’s story.
Edie’s story for Edith is mystical, is captivating, is… well… deeply exaggerated and fake. Which all ends up tying back to Dawn as she pulls the story away from Edith.
This is our first-hand experience for how Edie encouraged this Finch Curse, how each and every death can be clearly explained through normal means, yet Edie wanted nothing more than for simple deaths to be beyond surface level.
How Edie quite literally memorialized each and every room, and then later each and every door once Dawn sealed them shut.
How Edie had already started memorializing Lewis immediately after his death.
How Edie said that her husband Sven was killed by a dragon, when it was actually a dragon slide that he was building, and then she created an entire display in her room, including a picture of him falling. Who does that?
How Edie, instead of helping her son Walter, who lived in the basement for 30 years paralyzed by fear, sent out a story about a mole man living in their basement. Instead of helping her own son, she perpetuated this idea of a family curse that he personified as a monster. Walter smashed a hole in the wall and crawled through rather than walk through the house. If that doesn’t speak volumes about Edie, I don’t know what does.
How Edie glamorized Barbara’s death by feeding this exaggerated scene to whoever made this comic and then placing it directly on the shrine despite its misrepresentation of what actually happened. Edie is the one who gave out the information about the house’s layout and the secret music box key.
How Edie lost her 10 year old daughter out of neglect — locking Molly inside her room without food so she was starving and ate poison, which, as we know, ended with her dying in her sleep.
Notice how the last story was all too real and ended up being Edie’s fault. This moment, arguably, spurred Edie’s desire for this idea of a Finch Curse now more than ever, as she often spent time mourning in Molly’s room.
Even though Odin, Edie, and Sven originally set sail to get away from whatever Finch Curse plagued their family, it always seemed to follow, because this idea of a family curse never left Edie’s sight. The graveyard was built before construction of the house was ever started on, which was 100% Edie’s idea. Again, who does that?
And I believe this stemmed from Odin as well. We know this idea of a family curse existed in Norway before they set sail with their house. And take a look at the books he had written: “The Mysteries of Death and Thereafter” and “Joining the Great Majority.” I’m willing to bet this “great majority” is referring to the dead.
And that’s exactly what Dawn was afraid of. Not the so-called family curse itself, but rather the idea and perpetuation of this so-called family curse.
The last conversation between Dawn and Edie is key.
“The thing you’re afraid of isn’t going to end when you leave the house.
“Edith has a right to know these stories!”
“My children are dead because of your stories!”
Edie is saying that the family curse will always follow Dawn and Edith. Edie is so stooped in the whole idea of death, that these stories are everything to her. Dawn isn’t necessarily wrong here when she says that her children are dead because of these stories. Edie loves to plant this idea of unavoidable death into every family member’s head, and Walter is the extreme example of what happens when Edie sprouts inside of you.
That’s why Dawn said enough is enough of living in the past and sealed the doors shut. In the beginning of the game, we thought Dawn was the crazy one and Edie was innocent, when in fact, it’s the other way around. Of course, Edie then drilled peep holes and then put plaques on each door, which, again, shows just how much Edie can’t let go.
Let’s take a closer look at Edie’s room. She has a chair facing dead animal shrines with an entire binder of Shrine Sketches. She has binders of Molly and Barbara Concepts, probably designs for their rooms, not their shrines.
Edie refused to evacuate for the sake of publicity. Again, the mole man and dragon business, all for publicity.
She has three sources of death around her at all times in her bedroom — Odin, animals, and Sven. She also temporarily has Lewis there as well.
She’s been reading Norwegian Folktales, how fitting. She also has a second copy.
If Edie does happen to sprout inside of you, each death looks so ugly, so scary. But as I’ve said before, each and every death can be clearly explained through normal means, despite Edie wanting nothing more than for simple deaths to be beyond surface level. When you discover how each family member’s death can really be that simple, it changes your perspective.
Molly died due to child neglect. Edie locked her own child in her room and was stupid enough to put something poisonous in there.
Presumably Sven was stupid enough to put a swing facing a sharp fence and a steep cliff.
Barbara was murdered by a home invader.
Walter was another child Edie ended up neglecting and suffered from social isolation, therefore confronting life unprepared.
Sam cared more for taking a picture than caring for his own daughter, so much so that he ignored common sense and didn’t make sure the deer was dead.
Gregory was child neglect. You never leave a child in the bathtub alone. Kay was right to blame herself.
Gus was also child neglect. His father should have cared enough for his well-being to drag him inside.
We don’t know much about Milton, but we can just assume he was kidnapped or abducted, even though the Finch house appears to be isolated.
And Lewis… drug withdrawal, depression, and suicide.
Each and every death is simple, common, normal, there’s no family curse, yet Edie spreads her disease like the cancer that killed Dawn.
“My mom was always trying to move on, but for Edie the past never went away”
The End of Edie, Dawn, and Edith
Finally, after all is said and done, after experiencing Lewis’ story, we find Dawn’s room, and then we climb up to Edith’s room, where we find another amazing detail — folded newspaper, like the one we saw in Edie’s room. Edith sits on the bed and starts to write in the same journal we say in the beginning of the game. Now it’s time for her to write out what happened to the last three Finches.
Once Lewis passed away, Dawn had enough. Edith was the only child Dawn had left. Dawn decided they were leaving. Edie refused to leave with them. The past never went away for her. Not now, not ever. But Edie also knew that the last of her family was leaving, so she was mixing alcohol with her medications.
Edith was excused from the table. Edie and Dawn fought. Edith found the story that Edie wrote for her. Dawn pulled it away and they left that very night without their belongings.
Now how the house was in complete disarray makes sense. All of those boxes were there because they left in a hurry.
As Dawn and Edith drove away, we see, truly, how much she cared to see them leave her, so much so that she ditched her oxygen tank. Family meant everything to Edie, whether dead or alive.
She died that very night at the ripe age of 93 from a mixture of the alcohol and medications, and the fact that old people dying from loneliness is not uncommon. Often times when old couples are still living together, when one dies, the other soon follows. It’s only natural.
Dawn died from cancer. “She got better for a while, then she didn’t.”
Edith is a significant milestone as a character. She’s the transition the family needed away from this idea of a family curse; her last words being that she doesn’t want her son to feel bad that she’s gone and that she wants him to be amazed that any of us had a chance to be here at all.
In the end, Edith died from childbirth, leaving her son to travel on boat with her journal to discover everything for himself, as we saw in the beginning of the game with his cast. These details start from the moment you load up the game; it’s truly impressive.
After all was said and done, her son placed flowers at her grave, hopefully to start a new life and legacy for the Finch family name. I’m glad Giant Sparrow left it a bit open-ended in that regard. If Edith had a daughter instead of a son, the family name would have reached its end, and Edie and her family curse would have won.
Books Can Speak a Thousand Words
Books are scattered eeeverywhereeere in Edith Finch. Surprisingly, there’s meaning behind these dusty novels. Even though some of them are impossible to read…
Let’s start with the books in the house. There’s a lot of short story collections, even some more Lewis Carroll references, although nothing will beat that Red King’s Dream reference we saw in Lewis’ story.
First, let’s talk about The Aleph, a short story written by poet Jorge Luis Borges in 1949.
This reference seems to allude at how the house is the focal point. The Aleph is a point in space that contains all other spaces at once. Imagine if you had a marble that allowed you to see everything in the universe from every angle simultaneously, without distortion, overlapping, or confusion. Now replace the universe with the Finch house, and bam you got Finch curse symbolism.
The Book of Sand
We see another one of Jorge’s works here: “The Book of Sand.”
The theme delves itself back into infinity, as we’ve already seen with The Aleph. In this story, The Book of Sand is infinite, more pages seemed to grow out of the front and back covers as the pages were turned. It’s called The Book of Sand because, and I quote, “neither the book nor the sand has any beginning or end.” That’s exactly how Edie thinks of the Finch curse.
Lord Dunsany’s Works
Three of Lord Dunsany’s works are worth mentioning, even though more are referenced: A Dreamer’s Tales, Time and the Gods, and The Curse and the Wise Woman.
A Dreamer’s Tales is centered around that mystical, whimsical feeling and stories gained from writing down your dreams within your waking hours, something that could be related to Edie, most prominently her story for Edith.
Time and the Gods is where Lord Dunsany created a new mythology full of childish wonder, simple yet beautiful. The same way these Finch’s stories are intriguing and captivating.
The Curse and the Wise Woman holds an interesting character — an old witch who believes herself to be a “wise woman”. Hello Edie.
The Sorrows of Young Werther
The Sorrows of Young Werther was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 1774 novel, presented as a collection of letters written by Werther.
Basically a love triangle ensues between Werther, Charlotte, and Albert. Charlotte and Albert got married, and Werther thought that one member of the love triangle had to die to resolve the situation, so he shot himself.
Of course, this is a dangerous train of thought, and thus how fitting would it be that this caused one of the first known examples of copycat suicides. It’s a phenomenon that this game clearly draws from with the Finch curse.
The Metamorphosis, written by Franz Kafka in 1915, is about a traveling salesman who becomes some kind of vermin or insect and instead of being helped, is cast into his room, which could be paralleled to Edie’s children — Molly and Walter.
House of Leaves
House of Leaves is an unconventional novel arranged in unusual ways, such as pages that contained only a few words or lines, or multiple narrators that are rather disorienting. I reckon House of Leaves reflects the state of the house both inside and outside with its tower-like shape.
The King in Yellow
The King in Yellow is a book of short stories, four of the ten stories mention The King in Yellow, a forbidden play which induces despair or madness in those who read it. Sound familiar? Just like the Finch stories that plague the house. Poor Walter.
Molly has a clear animal and princess theme. The Call of the Wild, Monsters of the Deep, The Jungle Book, Nine Lives, The Little Glass Slipper, A Tale of Tales, and so on.
There’s a book titled The Illusion of Life. I assume it’s referring to the famous Disney Animation book that is still used today as a reference and source of inspiration for character animation. However, I imagine the developers was using this title more literally.
The same thing happens with Shadows of a Fleeting World. The full title is Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and the Seattle Camera Club. I imagine Shadows of a Fleeting World symbolizing Molly’s reality and her fleeting existence.
Magical Realist Fiction is a genre of narrative fiction, primarily expressing a realistic view of the real world while also adding magical elements, which is exactly what we see with Molly’s story.
In Search of Lost Time
The most interesting book title for me has to be In Search of Lost Time.
In Search of Lost Time is considered to be Marcel Proust’s most prominent work, known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory.
Involuntary memory occurs when cues encountered in everyday life evoke recollections of the past without conscious effort. So basically, remembering events, people, or memories without meaning to, hence involuntary.
The most famous example from the book is the “episode of the madeleine,” which is a small shell-shaped cake, where his madeleine and tea triggered memories of his Aunt Léonie doing the same for him.
How does this relate to Edith Finch you may ask? Well… I can imagine every time Edie ate, she thought about her dead daughter Molly, whether she wanted to or not. It’s a very clever reference, and one of my favorites.
Calvin (and Sam)
Calvin and Sam’s room has a lot of military, photography, and space references.
There are also strange references, such as The Wreath and Oryx and Crake.
In Water Black is most likely referring to the riddle, what goes in the water black and comes out red, in this case, the answer is Calvin.
My favorite from Calvin’s room has to be The Finches: A Falling Flock. I bet you don’t know why the last name Finch was chosen for this family. Finches are a type of bird that especially hides their symptoms if they catch anything. By the time you notice a Finch is sick, they’re most likely not moving on the bottom of your cage. Finches seem completely fine until the very end.
Barbara is trying to cope with the real world after her child star fame wore off. She’s trying to become better, to maybe break into the scene once again.
The Hollywood Workout, You’re a Star, The Camera’s Touch, The Hollywood Handbook, A Better You, The Red Carpet, Secrets to a New You, Nailing the Interview, The Art of Acting, Masters of Cinema, Breaking In, it’s all here.
Oliver Twist is a social novel that includes themes such as child labour, the recruitment of children as criminals, and the presence of street children. In regards to Edith Finch, it’s most likely commentary on how children can be chewed up and spit out.
Some of these books also feature children as the main or highly prominent characters. The Railway Children, Mansfield Park, and Alice in Wonderland.
And you got the spiritual journey books, such as Siddhartha and Walden.
Walter is pretty straight forward. Most of the books have to do with spirits and ghosts. There’s even a book titled The Finch Curse.
He has Barbara’s book, which is most definitely fitting as he tries to piece everything together.
Isolation Syndrome, to confirm my suspicions of social isolation.
Cover-up: Area-51, Homemade Weaponry, The Dark Defense, it’s all here.
Sam’s books are everywhere. In his room, in his children’s room, even underneath Dawn’s desk after she moves up there. That doesn’t even make sense, these are all duplicates.
Whatever.. so Sam shows a theme here. After running off to war, he came back home and became a parent, so many of these books reflect this. Beginner’s Barracks, Returning Home, From Private to Parent, Fortress (as in his home), a Soldier’s Quarters, the Constitution for Kids, The Little Soldier, Hunker Down, Red Flag Warning, these are all fitting, some of them parenting, some of them safety, some of them about responsibility, what you would expect from a veteran.
Dawn doesn’t really have any books to speak of. She has a book she wrote herself, and a bunch of teaching books.
What’s really important, however, is this Odin board that Edith put together. The “curse” and how it’s all a myth. Perhaps she may even be saying that them sailing on a house is a myth, just by looking at the pictures, but who can say. I think that’s an interesting and potentially important theory. What we can truly draw from this, however, is how Edith is woke.
We already covered The Red King’s Dream, but Lewis does have some other books here.
Wuthering Heights is just… a lot of death, mostly centered around a farmhouse called Wuthering Heights, relatively comparable to the Finch house’s deaths.
We the Media says how media corporations cannot control the news we get any longer, due to the Internet.
The Trial starts with a man who is arrested by unidentified agents from an unspecified agency for an unspecified crime.
Faust centers around surrendering moral integrity to achieve power and success, which we can see fragments of in his story.
So all of these books kind of paint a picture of what Lewis was like, if the hippie stuff wasn’t enough.
The takeaway from What Remains of Edith Finch is… there is no curse. There will never be any curse. You make of your life what you want to make of it. If you want your children to kill themselves, well, this game gives you plenty of options. But.. but the point, I’m probably trying to make is, there’s no use blaming unfortunate circumstances or mistakes on something else. Not everything is as complicated as it’s made out to be. Everything happens for a reason. Everything has a purpose. It’s not our place to know what these reasons are, otherwise life would be too easy. So don’t go spreading some kind of make-believe curse to suite your sick, twisted needs. Instead, let’s be amazed that any of us had a chance to be here at all.
Alright, before I talk about my Patreon, I want to talk about someone else’s. You know Boundary Break? You know one of the reasons why he’s able to make his videos? Deep Game Research, or Nekorun, so go support his Patreon if you can. I would like to see him get his Internet back.
And speaking of Internet, I’m able to make these in-depth analysis videos because of my Patrons. Even a dollar is more than enough. Every dollar is exciting. Very exciting.
Speaking of exciting, check out these exciting videos:
BoukenJima released an hour-long retrospective on the entire Legacy of Kain series. I’ve never heard of those games, but he does an amazing job expressing what these games execute well and what fell flat, and the differences between them.
Core Ideas’ Stranger Things video did well, but I still think his Dragon Ball GT video is very underrated, and I’ve never seen Dragon Ball in my life. His focus on musical importance is definitely spot on. Oh, and Mass Effect. You should watch that.
Whitelight has a smooth voice and covered the Crysis games among other videos I’ll suggest at a later date. For now, Crysis 2 is definitely underrated. Definitely go play it first, ‘cause he discusses the entire story.
PostMesmeric discusses the power fantasy in Saints Row IV. Does it work? Find out!
Breadsword discusses Disney’s biggest mistake and how they screwed over one of their best movies. It’s great watch.
Remember my Cuphead video? Well, someone else talked about every boss, so that’s something worth checking out.
Hepyrian tried Cuphead’s hand-drawn animation style for himself. It’s a very unique and well-made Cuphead video, so definitely worth the watch.
Which game am I currently working on? What’s the next analysis to be released? Only Patrons know.