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James Sunderland is the main protagonist of Silent Hill 2. Although he commited terrible actions, he isn't a bad person. According to the player's choices the protagonist can redeem himself.

Background

James met his wife, Mary, at a house party held by a mutual friend. Their affection evolved from a blazing passion to a peaceful and stable relationship. Before Mary and James were married, James would listen to Mary play the piano. Mary liked to play the piano and even though she wasn't very good at it, James still loved to hear her play.

Prior to the events of Silent Hill 2, Mary and James decided to take a vacation in Silent Hill after reading a brochure for the town. They stayed in the Lakeview Hotel, where James recorded a videotape of Mary. Mary said in the videotape that she heard that Silent Hill used to be a "sacred place" and that loved the town and would love to go to Silent Hill again one day. She asked James to promise her to take her to Silent Hill again some day, but the video tape ends before James replies. While leaving the town, James accidentally forgot the videotape in the hotel and the couple left Silent Hill.

Three years prior to the game, Mary was struck with a terminal disease, and she deteriorated to the point of having violent mood swings, lashing out at James in anger. Her doctor predicted she would have less than three years left to live and told James that there was no effective treatment for her condition. James questioned Mary's doctors about her illness, and could not believe they would just let Mary die. He searched through medical books for information about Mary's illness, but never found anything useful. Later in her illness, James visited Mary less frequently because she was emotionally volatile. Her mood swings left him bewildered about what was "right" to do. James began to "drink a fair bit" to escape his pain and loneliness, but it never changed anything. He felt sexual frustration, but felt prevented from pursuing it by his marriage to Mary. She became a burden on James and he slowly began to resent her; yet simultaneously, seeing the one he loved in such pain tormented him. The emotional trauma and emptiness left James in a constant state of mourning. Mary eventually succumbed to the disease, leaving James alone and sad for the rest of his life.

Silent Hill 2

A letter from silent heaven

Three years following the death of Mary, James received a posthumous letter from her saying that she is waiting in Silent Hill in their "special place". James wondered if the letter was a prank by one of his neighbors or one of his coworkers, but regardless drives to the city.

James discovers the main road to Silent Hill is blocked and breaks briefly in the Observation Deck's restroom. He takes a moment to stare deeply at his own reflection in a mirror. He exits the restroom, reminds himself of Mary, and then enters the town via a hiker's path. On the way, he meets a young woman named Angela Orosco, who has also just arrived in Silent Hill. James disregards Angela’s warnings about the town and reaches the main roads only to discover that the entire area is covered in fog and infested with grotesque monsters. He tries to find the "special place" mentioned in Mary's letter, where she is waiting for him.

James's first guess as to Mary's "special place" happens to be his first destination, Rosewater Park. Because all direct routes are destroyed or barricaded, he must cross through an abandoned apartment complex, where he meets Eddie Dombrowski. The apartments are also the scene of James's first encounter with Pyramid Head, a relentless persecutor who hunts down and attacks him at several points in the game. James also repeatedly runs into a mysterious little girl named Laura who knows of Mary's name, leaving James curious as to what else she knows.

Maria

When James reaches Rosewater Park's lakeside observation deck, he thinks he sees his wife, but is mistaken when the woman introduces herself as Maria. James agrees to let Maria accompany him for safety's sake. He remembers his other "special place", the Lakeview Hotel. He visits Pete's Bowl-O-Rama and encounters Eddie and Laura again. Concerned for Laura's safety, James and Maria pass through Heaven's Night and follow Laura into Brookhaven Hospital.

In the hospital, Maria stops to rest in a patient's room, claiming to have a mild hangover. James eventually finds Laura, who then convinces him to get a letter from Mary in a room. She then locks the door, trapping James in the room with creatures called Flesh Lip. After defeating the monsters, James finds that the hospital has been transformed into the horrific Otherworld. He finds Maria and they try to find a way out of the hospital. In the basement, Pyramid Head reappears behind both of them, and Maria is killed by the creature's spear while James is helpless to save her. James is saddened by her sudden death and refocuses on finding Mary.

After leaving the hospital and exploring the town, he finds a key that lets him into the Silent Hill Historical Society, which according to the map is also a port to get to the Lakeview Hotel. However, he soon finds a series of disturbing secret entrances and bizarre holes that lead him into Toluca Prison. Eddie resurfaces again in the cafeteria, now armed with a revolver and once more sitting in close proximity to a human corpse. James attempts to reason with Eddie, but his reasoning has no effect on him.

As James explores the empty prison facility, he finds himself within a maze. James finds Maria, locked inside a cell, alive and unscathed following her death in Brookhaven Hospital. Maria comes onto James and beckons him to find a way into her cell. She undergoes a change in personality, switching between Mary and Maria's personalities at random. Maria also drops clues regarding Mary's "special place" and a videotape she and James made together. James soon relocates Angela, who is about to be attacked by the Abstract Daddy, a creature representing Angela's abusive father. After injuring the monster, Angela finishes it off in a series of violent attacks and has a tense confrontation with James about how he didn't want Mary around anymore.

Eventually, James locates an alternate route to Maria's cell, but upon entering, finds her lying dead on the bed. James exits the cell, and jumps through a hole representing his future grave. He finds Eddie surrounded by bullet-ridden corpses. Eddie gleefully admits the solution to his problems is killing anyone who bullies him. When James protests, Eddie perceives James to be ridiculing him too and attacks him. Eddie reveals that both he and James were summoned to the town for a similar reason. James is then forced to kill Eddie in a gun battle inside a meat locker. After this, Mary's letter becomes blank.

Emerging at an old pier at the edge of Toluca Lake, James sees a bright light that is visible from the northern shore; he boards a rowboat and makes the journey to the opposite side. The light is emanating from the Lakeview Hotel, which looks exactly the same as when he stayed there with Mary. James finds Laura there and she hands him a letter that was written by Mary. It states that Mary and Laura became friends one year ago. Since Mary gives Laura congratulations for the 8th birthday, and Laura turned eight in the lasted week, James realizes that Mary couldn't have died three years ago. Laura then leaves him again to find another letter.

The revelation

James locates the old videotape mentioned earlier by Maria and finds his way to Room 312, where he and Mary had stayed on their vacation. Inserting the tape into a player, James watches a static-ridden video of himself. The tape reveals that in order to end Mary's suffering, he walked to Mary's bed and kissed her on her forehead before suffocating her with a pillow, killing her. For a few moments, James silently sits, realizing the truth and facing his own psychological guilt. Laura enters the room and asks James if he has found Mary yet and James tells her the truth, causing Laura to yell at him and run out of the room. James sits in silence for a few more moments until he receives a radio transmission from Mary, calling for him. After watching the video, the letter from Mary vanishes completely, leaving only an empty envelope.

Facing the truth

Entering what was once the lobby, James finds Maria, alive and tied down, screaming for James as she is flanked by two Pyramid Heads. For a third time, Maria is killed and James finally understands what Pyramid Head and Maria are. The Pyramid Heads are a part of James himself, created subconsciously to punish him for his sins. Refusing to flee from his opponents, he turns and attacks the Pyramid Heads. With James now seeking vengeance as opposed to punishment, the Pyramid Heads cease to function and they deliberately impale themselves on their spears.

James is led to a hallway in which the player hears a previous conversation that he and Mary had while she was still alive. In this conversation, James offers Mary flowers he has brought her. She immediately rejects them, lashing out at him and protesting that she is too disgusting and ugly to receive flowers. Shortly after this, she experiences another mood swing and begs James to forgive her, pleading for him to stay with her and assure her that she is not going to die.

James finally meets a woman who resembles Mary before the final boss fight. The outcome of this encounter is determined by the player's actions during the game.

James Sunderland's Redemption

  • Leave - The woman is Maria. James rebuffs her because he doesn't need her anymore. She states that he "deserves to die too" (relating to Mary) and transforms into the final boss. After killing her, James meets with Mary. She forgives him for killing her and gives him the letter, telling him to go on with his life. In the next scene, James is seen leaving Silent Hill through the graveyard with Laura ahead of him, possibly intending to carry out Mary's wishes to adopt the girl.
  • In Water - The woman is Maria. James rebuffs her because she's not Mary and won't be able to replace her. She states that James will never have Mary back and transforms into the final boss. After killing her, James meets with Mary. She tells James that he has suffered enough for killing her and gives him the letter. Mary dies before James can make peace with her. James is then seeing carrying Mary's corpse out of the room. According to the novelization, Mary's corpse was already in James's trunk and he takes her out and places her in the passenger seat. James arrives at the conclusion that he's unable to live without Mary and realizes that he came to Silent Hill to take his own life in a place of memories. James is heard driving his car into Toluca Lake, killing himself to be together with his wife in death. A view from under the lake with bubbles rising to the surface is seen. This ending is ironic, because James told Angela that he would never kill himself.
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