Symbology and the Village
The Prisoner is a series that abounds with symbolism, with many complex meanings attributed to a variety of objects, people and numbers. Le us explore just a few of these, to see how rich in meaning the series was.
Perhaps the first area would be the meaning of the numbers 1, 2, and 6 in numerology. This is one area often quoted in articles, yet never really explained. According to some people, numbers can be related to behavior patterns and internal qualities of individuals. Various tables assign values for the letters of the alphabet, and with some simple computing one arrives at a single digit number that is then checked against a variety of tables to determine its significance.
When one examines numerology, the similarity to the belief in astrology is quite evident, along with various problems in the system itself. Nature existed long before humans and their series of numbers. Numbers themselves are artificial means to explain, classify, and control the environment. being artificial, they do not really "exist" as concrete entities in nature.
Nevertheless, for fun, let us see where numerology takes us. The enigmatic #1 stands for a leader which, in the series, would fit. #2 stands for a follower, which also fits. However, each number in numerology has both positive and negative aspects, so the picture becomes cloudier. Let's take one item, the Inner Self number. This is related to our personality, our inner qualities, and is "what we want to do and be."The inner self number for Number One ends up as 5. Using John Drake, we arrive at the number 3. The number for Number Six ends up being 8. Number One plus John Drake equals Number Six and, in the series, we find that Number Six, who many feel was John Drake, really is #1.
What does #1 mean? Number One is the first; the top, the leader. Number One is in charge of the Village, and as such represents the shadowy, never-seen people really in charge of Society. #1 is also the Prisoner, and as such shows that any of us can somehow achieve the positive of #1, controller, but that if we do there is the danger that we will become as "evil" as Number 1, that humankind does not really have control over our own darker drives and urges.
We are #1; #1 is us, a reflection of ourselves, what we could become. #1 is seemingly defeated by the Prisoner in Fall Out, which represents our possible victory over ourselves and over those who wish to control us, but there is also left open in Fall out the question of what happened to #1 who was in a rocket and presumably would have come down somewhere and been rescued by his associates.#1 remains hidden in the entire television series right up to the last part of Fall out. Those who control our lives via regulations, laws, unfair and unequal enforcement of same prefer to remain in the shadows themselves, because what you cannot identify and pinpoint you can rarely defeat.
How about the various #2s? A Number Two is an individual who carries out the orders of his unseen boss #1. They represent the "up-front" politicians, those we see in the papers and the media. They are out in front to take the flack from the people, but are themselves little better off than those they seek to control. Each week there is a new Number 2, showing that the men and women serving the "hidden powers" of Society are readily expendable. With the exception of one #2 (Leo McKern in Chimes of Big Ben, Once Upon a Time, and Fall out) they all disappear apparently permanently. They are all defeated by the Prisoner, who refuses to give in to the system, to become just another face in the crowd, another blind sheep following the leader. At times it seems that the Number2 is not really defeated, but they are inevitably replaced.
In the final episode Leo McKern's Number 2 breaks free himself of the Village. He was a member of the establishment who rebelled, who decided no longer to be a controller and a manipulator. He represents the desires of at least a few of the "up-front" politicians to stop playing games and to start working for the true benefit of all humankind. He is an individual who was always aware that what he was doing was being untrue to himself, but it took a long time for him to realize that and rise to his own liberation. in Fall out, it appears that Number 2 rose from the dead, literally, since in Once Upon a Time we assume he is killed by some form of poison in his drink. The Prisoner had also soundly defeated Number 2 in the psychological battle they had been waging.
The character of #48, the "unbridled youth" in Fall Out is also significant. He represents the youth of society, always in rebellion, rarely knowing specifically what they are rebelling against. He also represents the energy necessary to rebel, an energy all-too-often lost as adults grow up. It seems that those who are still able to act like children at times (in a positive manner) are those adults who are the happiest, most energetic. The Prisoner, in a way, is an older version of #48.
There seem to be basically four facets of Number Six's personality.
1. The potential negative "controller" aspect, what he could become if he chose to use his abilities for negative purposes. Hence, #6 finds out that the real #1 is his own negative self.
2. The part of the prisoner that will follow orders. He was a secret agent, with all that entails on being an order-follower and also a controller and, at times, an executioner. Thus, in the "outside" world, he played a part very similar to the part played by the various Number Twos of the Village.
3. The adult in rebellion against the dark, unseen negative controlling forces of society that wish to make everybody mediocre, bland and controlled. This is represented by the adult Number Six.
4. The younger version of the prisoner, rebelling with enthusiasm but without the maturity of experience to make that rebellion really effective.
What does the Village itself represent? It represents the Society around us, the government, businesses, institutions, controllers and the people who blandly accept whatever is happening, who never bother to try to do any original thinking, who are almost members of a clone society. It can be physically pretty, but such a society hides an appalling psychological evil. It seeks to provide for our physical needs while attempting to destroy our psychological independence. It is monitored by a wide variety of electronic devices, feeding information into centralized computers to break each individual down into a series of numbers ( zeroes and ones), to determine what that person wants, thinks, can be led to buy and so on.
One of the most discussed symbols in the Village is that of the Penny-Farthing bicycle. Does it have symbolic meaning, or is it simply another of the props of a television series?
It would seem that, considered in light of the tremendous philosophical/symbolic significance of nearly everything else in the Village, the Penny-Farthing bicycle must have some form of major meaning.
There are, of course, many different interpretations possible. For one thing, the large wheel could be the symbol for the Village itself, and the small wheel could be the symbol for #6. We would see that #6 is attached to the Village whether he might like it or not, yet he is still a fairly separate entity on his own right. The small wheel could also stand for any single person in the Village, an individual in their own right but still part of the Village, still following #2's "orders" in order to make the Village work correctly.
Still another interpretation is that the spokes of the large wheel represent all the people in the Village bound together in one project. The large wheel turns slowly, and events in the Village usually seem to be at a slow pace. The small wheel, again #6, turns very fast, representing his frantic pace of activity.
The seat could represent the position of Number 2, in basic control of the Village. On the other hand, the seat could represent the position of #1, and #2 could be represented by the center of the large wheel.
The bicycle, with its canopy attached, would be rather difficult to control, which could show how it is difficult for #1 or #2 to control the Village totally.
While dealing with symbology, how about Rover? Rover is white, which is the opposite color normally given to the "bad guy." As a sphere, it would represent perfection, perhaps the perfection of the Village (in theory) with emphasis on control? Rover seems to be everywhere, unstoppable, and engulfs its victims, like death itself. It appears to be controlled by #2 and the Village and could represent by that the tremendous control government has over the life and death of the people in a nation.
How about the final ending of Fall Out? Does the Prisoner eventually win? Or is the entire cycle starting all over again? It seems to me that the Prisoner does manage to escape, but temporarily. The Number Ones and Number Twos of Society are always there, waiting, ready, planning. The Village was abandoned, but not destroyed. Number One was sent into space in a rocket, but a rocket that could be recovered in order to free Number One and return him to dominance.
As long as we hold true to our desire to be an individual, we can carve a small sphere of independence for ourselves, but all around us will still be the Society, the Village, waiting for us to give in, to become another faceless number, placidly controlled in the very beautiful but very deadly Village of live.
It is always interesting to speculate on the symbology of the Village. It is also quite pleasant to have a series that has enough intelligence within it to demand intensive thought on its contents.
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