Of Treasure and the Meaning of Family – An Analysis of Uncharted
By now we have all heard his story. We are well aware of his fortune and his fame. But do we truly know him? Nathan Drake, as he is known, is not who he first appears to be and–as such–neither are his motivations. This editorial will focus on exploring why Nate chose the life of a treasure hunter/thief beyond what the games displayed. A disclaimer, I have not played Golden Abyss or read the comics, so my analysis solely focuses on the four games exclusive to PlayStation consoles.
The answer lies in his past; a single event that would trigger young Nathan to become the man we know today, shaping his motives and personality. If you have finished the fourth and final installment, A Thief’s End, you know what event I am talking about. The game brushes on this topic, assuming its respective players understand the gravity of what happened, but it’s something much more psychological than it portrays.
We see a youthful Nate spending his budding years at St. Francis’ Boys’ home, where his unnamed, mysterious father left he and brother Sam after their mother committed suicide. Further than that, father relinquishes custody of both boys to the state. After a series of fistfights and other criminal activity, Nate’s closest father figure–Sam–was expelled from the home, leaving little Nate to fend for himself.
I think anyone can see the ramifications of a childhood as loveless and directionless as Nate’s. However, the psychosis behind such events is not explained in depth. In contrast, however, it deals with this issue with such subtlety, one only crosses its path when tearing it apart.
The subconscious is a wonderful mystery. It will fill negative memories with positive ones, change sequences of events to promote a more positive outcome, or sometimes erase events completely. In Nate’s case, he would spend the rest of his adult life, filling the void his non-existent family left. One would say, well that’s obvious. And that wouldn’t be incorrect. The key is what happens after Sam returns for his little brother.Sam would soon motion Nathan to investigate their late mother’s affects after unearthing to whom they were sold. As the law would have it, breaking and entering is a felony and while the owner of the manor was more than forgiving, the police had already caught up with the boys.
Having resisted arrest and fled the cops, the boys become fugitives and have a light bulb moment. Why don’t they change their identities, and continue their mother’s work searching for the legend of Sir Francis Drake? Thus, Samuel and Nathan Morgan become the brother’s Drake. If Nate was of sound mind, would he have went along with such a rouse? If Nate was of sound mind, would he have fallen into the ways of his delinquent brother?
I don’t believe he would. He was so desperate for a family, a TRUE family, that he would have done anything Sam told him. In a way, we owe Sam for everything Nate is. That being said, we fast-forward to Sam’s alleged death inside the Panamanian jail. Nate’s subconscious starts that age-old process of covering up gaping emotional trauma and he delves into the life of a treasure hunter once more, even deeper into the Drake persona than before.
Nate spends the rest of his life searching for a family never had and filling the void with historical wealth in honor of his mother. This is only a facade and eventually would crumble when the adventuring stopped helping ease the pain.
At fifteen, Nate meets Sully, who is ultimately of the same ilk. Sully is very much a father figure for the budding teen, but unfortunately we do not see many adventures from the two between that time and Drake’s Fortune. Still, having Sully doesn’t seem enough. Nate needs to have a complete family. This is where Elena comes in.
He sees her capable and strong, with an avid lust for knowledge, truth–and whether she admits it, or not–adventure. She reminds him of his mother, or at least, whatever knowledge and little memory he has of her. Nevertheless, this creates a bond between them.She is a bulwark for Nate. Not in the literal sense of a defensive wall, but more a bolstering love. A love for which he had been searching all his life. Between Drake’s Fortune and Among Thieves, we were not told directly what occurred with their relationship, but it is implied that she did not want that life, always in denial, while Nate could not leave it, for the reasons mentioned earlier.However, that special bond…she was his rock. He needed her in order to leave his current life. Nevertheless, as we saw in Drake’s Deception, Nate remained unfulfilled. It’s this specific adventure where he begins to see how much she means to him, how she’s part of the family he always needed. The time between then and A Thief’s End, sees the two finally settling down. But, old habits die hard, especially for Nate.
Especially when, once again, Sam comes back into his life. Assumed dead, Nate’s quiet life is derailed when Sam requests little brother’s help and now reunited, Nate forgoes everything he built to have one last chance at a real family.
Nate always had a problem with self-sabotage, but fortunately this time payed off. His brother, pseudo-father, and wife remained with him, allowing him to finally put all those demons to rest. All those years of searching. Neither Avery’s gold, nor the Chintamani Stone, nor El Dorado, nor Atlantis of the Sands would have ever been enough to fill the void. Sully, Elena, and Sam–all together–that was Nate’s true treasure. A family is more important than gold. More important than fame. A family is what gives us identity, and soul. Ultimately though, a family is what gives us a home.