My Choice: Gone Home
Uncle Oscar – Pedophile or Closeted Homosexual?
Although Sam and Lonnie’s romance dominates the majority of the game, there is a darker narrative that goes under the radar. That’s understandable, because it is told with such subtlety that it never becomes the main focus. It’s the story about the relationship between Sam’s father, Terry, and his Uncle Oscar, the previous owner of the “Psycho house.”
Below are the two arguments I’ve set up using my own interpretation and the interpretation found on online sources explaining their relationship.
Theory: Oscar the Monster
In one of the hidden passages, there is a wall covered in markings that recorded Terry’s height as he grew up. Terry’s height stops being recorded when he reaches the age of twelve in 1963. In 1963, Oscar hosted a family Thanksgiving part in his home like he does every year. This year, however, was extremely significant because some unknown evil occurs.
Decades later, you enter Oscar’s old house and go exploring. There is a hidden safe in one of the secret passage ways next to a wall with markings that recorded your Dad’s height growing up.
The safe can only be opened if the code 1-9-6-3 is entered. Inside of the safe, amongst syringes and bottles of morphine, is a letter from Oscar to Terry’s mother expressing remorse, transgression, and a plea for forgiveness. Forgiveness for what?
In the cellar of the house, the light is broken. There in the bleak room, a child’s wooden toy horse can be found. It is the only object hidden in the dark alluding to a sinister childhood memory.
According to Austin Walker’s “Transgressions – You Can Do Better,” Terry grows up to become obsessed with the year 1963. “His book’s protagonist travels back to that time to prevent a tragedy. The Kennedy assassination occurred just days before Terry was coerced into the basement on Thanksgiving Day. It became the analogue for the abuse. Terry’s mother found out on that day and the torment ceased, but the repercussions hadn’t yet begun to take hold.”
Did Terry’s mother walk in on her brother abusing her son that fateful night? If so, a lot of pieces may fall into place. For one, it would explain the tension between Oscar and his distant father – who probably did not know how to deal with the situation. It would also explain the letter of remorse written to Terry’s mother that was found in the safe. Finally, it would explain why Terry became estranged from his own wife. Perhaps he still had not dealt with the past. Perhaps this is why he was so obsessed with going back in time and stopping it from happening. Maybe he was JFK.
Theory: Oscar the Cross-Dresser
The reason Sam tried to reach Oscar is because he was a closeted homosexual, much like herself, and she needed advice. Why would she try to hard to reach out to someone who hurt her father? Wouldn’t it make more sense that she reached out to someone who went through a similar experience and could give her advice?
The house has a sewing room filled with women’s clothing – perhaps Oscar cross dressed from time to time and Terry discovered his secret at the Thanksgiving party and revealed it to his parents. The 60s were a conservative period, and homosexuality was not seen in a positive light. Thus, Oscar was rejected by the family and labeled a “psycho.”
As an adult, Terry has a difficult time coming to terms with Sam’s sexuality. Is this because he was still attached to the negative stigmas of the 60s? Is it because he saw how sad Oscar’s life turned out in the end? Maybe his obsession with going back in time has to do with finding a way to stop his younger self from ruining his Uncle’s life? Was Oscar the real JFK and Terry the young spy who could save him? One could only speculate.
According to Steve Gaynor, Walker’s reconstruction of the story events “100% matches my blueprint. As far as I’m concerned it’s totally accurate to what I meant to put in the game, but other interpretations are completely valid.”
So… Oscar did abuse Terry? Oscar was a monster?
I actually had to stop and put this blog away for a few days, because this made me rethink everything for one moment.
Why is something as serious as trauma, child abuse, and sexual abuse open to interpretation? If a writer intends on using this as a way to shape the narrative, then it must be clearly defined and shown. The fact that it is hidden and “open to interpretation” is problematic because it supports the idea that physical or sexual abuse is just a matter of interpretation. Terry’s perspective is completely left out of the picture, and we’re left with fragments of what might have happened or what could have happened. If it did happen, why not just be clear about it? I understand that this is a subtle storyline and that memories are hard to recreate, but this was an intentional piece of the game. Keeping it hidden does a huge disservice to people who have actually experienced abuse. Unfortunately, real-life survivors are often told that their misfortune is the result of a misunderstanding or that they merely remembered the event wrongly. The ambiguity surrounding the event that allegedly took place only serves to reassert the belief that abuse is a matter of interpretation.