Unhitched chapter notes …
So this chapter has a lot going on. We open with Hopper cynically ruminating on feeling optionless all his life, even though he makes a ton of decisions all the time. He is also denigrating his father, calling himself unloved and yet he can’t quite get a grip on the reality of this situation, which is understandable. He freaks out and temporarily fluctuates between denial and blameshifting, and feels like Butcher is trying to control him. The many various stages of grief are represented: denial, anger, even self-harm, but I won’t bore you with those details. We’ve all felt the clutches of grief.
I have written Hopper as an unreliable narrator to this story. There are several types of character voices to choose from when writing, but this fits the way he is portrayed in the show. From S1E1 we have no clue what Will’s doing. Some of the telltale signs of unreliable narration are having the narrator contradict himself, having gaps in his memory, or lying to other characters. Will does all of these things, just like Hopper does in Unhitched. I mean Will literally say this is S2E2.
Unreliable narration can also be achieved by contradicting the reader’s general world knowledge or pushing impossibilities (within logical boundaries). I especially did this in the last chapter when he contradicts himself and reimagines his own childhood. Now that chapter was logically explained and concluded, but it makes you wonder what else he is choosing to overexaggerate or recreate in his head. What else is he lying to the reader about?
He is also testing boundaries by challenging the reader’s literary competence. He’s questioning his own villainy in this story. He will NOT call himself the bad guy. He refuses to acknowledge his atrocities outside of his own head, though those walls will eventually crumble.
He knows he’s falling apart, but still thinks he’s the good guy in all this. He’s even referred to a known murderer a “hero” because he’s so delusional that he feels it is a strange justification to himself (yes it began as a joke, but there are no jokes in this story that aren’t almost 100% truth). The archetypical good and bad are thrown out the window when we watch Hopper slowly start justifying his own criminal activity despite his strong desire to not be a criminal. I tried to overlap all this with the show though it is difficult since Hopper has no formal police training, didn’t study forensics or psychology, and grew up in a decade that didn’t consider any mental illnesses to be legitimate problems. Neither he nor his father would have sought help for depression – no one did in the 50s and 60s. This was a hard truth to research because I have mental illness in my family and my grandmother was born the same year as Hopper, 1937. It was disturbing to hear about what they did to people suffering from depression and mental breakdowns. You were either whisked away to an asylum or drugged up and left to your own devices. If you didn’t like those options, you suffered through it alone. Both Hopper and his father suffered in silence.
Sometimes I feel like an idiot when I type all this out … Is this even interesting? Stop me if it’s not, but I’ll continue for now …
Hopper’s guilt and empathy for his father really blossom at this bit:
It’s a lie that you fall in love with your children the day they’re born. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to mask the truth – that our children are born to us as strangers, having the inherent capacity for unmitigated cruelty. We don’t like the thought of birthing the next murderer, the next psychopath, or the next Hitler, so we pretend that it’s impossible. We tell ourselves this lie for one simple, but very important reason: so we don’t grow so fearful of the unknown that we slaughter our children at birth. There is another name for this lie – a more flowery and sickeningly sweet term. It’s been coined unconditional love, though it is very conditional, and has nothing to do with love.
It kills me every time I read it. This, to me, is a prime example of Hopper’s unadulterated cynicism and also the flaw of pure empathy. He has to draw conclusions from his own bank of experiences which, in Hopper’s case – is limited. He can research and observe all he wants, but you cannot fully appreciate another point of view unless you live that experience yourself. Will finally does murder someone in Hannibal and it changes him forever. He can truly empathize with a killer and it disturbs him because he does feel a certain appreciation for killing. This happens to Hopper too and he struggles like Will, though his lack of FBI backing and there being no secrecy needed on Butcher’s side, the transition a little more rapid and open.
But as far as empathy goes, Hopper has never had a child. He’s never been a father and his father’s own guilt and cynicism is a perspective that he applies to all aspects of his own life. We are seeing that good old “unreliable narrator” here again when he calls unconditional love a lie, despite having claimed many chapters ago that he feels compelled to protect innocent children. He will flop again and again between feeling that life is simultaneously precious and also dispensable, which is, of course, an element of the show that Will also struggles with. Hopper has been so inundated with the bad parts of life that there are simply no good parts left.
Goddamn it, Butch, show him some good parts! Show him your good parts … all the parts need to be shown!
So Hop spins the wheel in his head, and this is where we get to see, in plain English, how much control Hopper has over his own life. Which road does he take? Which choices are good and which are bad? Which lead him somewhere safe and which to certain death? And how does Butcher react to each of Hopper’s decision? Does he help Hopper cope? Does he encourage particular behavior? Does he see a weakness and look to strengthen it or exploit it?
And this is where everything is up in the air, waiting to come crashing down.