During the episode Cabin Fever we were shown how Locke was given up for adoption. His mother, Emily, was hit by a car, rushed to hospital and John Locke was born prematurely. As far as the hospital was concerned, John Locke ought to have never survived - but survive he did. However, by the time he was strong enough for Emily to hold in her arms she had decided that she could not do it, and Emily's mother made enquiries about adoption.
The obvious question: Why did Emily give Locke up for adoption?
I am inclined to take the matter at face-value. Emily Locke was a young girl facing the prospect of being a single mother in a time and place that was not accepting of such things. If the father - Anthony Cooper - wanted nothing to do with the child, and Emily's mother was pushing her to get rid of the child, it's understandable why she did so.
As adults, Emily and Locke have two conversations. Bearing in mind the above apparent history, I want to look at these two key moments and discuss some points of interest. So the first conversation is after Emily has met John in the car park of the toy store he was working at, where she has announced that she is his mother. After this they go to a diner.
LOCKE: "Look, miss, I don't know why you think I'm your son, or how you found me, but..."
EMILY: "You're adopted, aren't you?"
LOCKE: "No. No, I was raised in a foster home. Well, several foster homes, actually. Look, I don't mean to be rude—what do you want from me?"
EMILY: "I want to tell you that you're special, very special. You're part of a design. You do realize that, don't you? That our meeting — me finding you — this is a sign of things to come. Great things."
LOCKE: "My father, is he still alive?"
EMILY: "Still alive? Oh, John, don't you understand? You don't have a father. You were immaculately conceived."
With dialogue like this, with all of its talk of grand designs and immaculate conceptions, it's easy to get giddy and reach wild ideas. I'm going to keep my feet on the ground and first of all ask: Does the above dialogue contradict anything we know about John's birth and subsequent adoption?
Bearing in mind that Emily is having this conversation as part of an elaborate con under the instruction of Anthony Cooper, her saying Locke is "part of a design" is kind of twisted. Talk about rubbing his nose in it! It appears Emily didn't follow the progress of Locke's life closely; she’s unaware that he was never adopted by anyone and went through the foster care system.
The immaculate conception business is certainly ripe. It's also certainly wrong. We know young Emily had a man in her life. Who that man was has been widely debated but, until I learn otherwise, I'll stick with it being Anthony Cooper. Monstrous father-figures loom large in Lost, and there was all that business with Ben insisting that Locke kill his own father on the Island. . . If Anthony turns out not to be Locke's dad I feel that will be more for shock value than logical plot progression.
COOPER: "I didn't know you existed until a year after you were born. She [Emily] told me she wasn't even going to have a baby — you — at all. Then she drops off the face of the planet. When she turns up again, she's asking for money, telling me she put you up for adoption."
It's hard to know if Anthony is telling the truth. Weirdly, I think he is, but that's purely my opinion. In the meantime we should not forget that the private investigator Locke hired turned up evidence that showed Emily Locke had spent time in the Santa Rosa mental institute for schizophrenia. Whatever happens, wherever we go, we can't just overlook the fact we're dealing with a crazy woman here! Which brings us to the second conversation Locke has with his mother; he is in the hospital, his dad has gone and so has his kidney!
EMILY: "It was his idea. I'm sorry, John."
LOCKE: "What are you doing here?"
EMILY: "I needed some money. He's always been good that way. Your father's always been generous."
LOCKE: "You told me I didn't have a father."
EMILY: "Well, he said that was the only way you would give it to him. It had to be your idea. He told me where to find you. He asked me to go see you. I wanted to see you."
LOCKE: "This can't be happening. This is a misunderstanding. This can't happen to me. He wouldn't do this to me. He wouldn't do this to me!"
Again, looked at on face-value then this is a confession scene. The moment the writers have Emily come back to deliver the point that Locke has been conned, and that she did it for money. Was all that talk of "immaculate conception" purely a ploy to convince Locke that Emily had no connection to Anthony whatsoever? Makes sense to me.
So I guess what I am establishing here, amidst the half-truths and inferred meanings, is that the face-value interpretation appears correct. Emily Locke gave up John, went crazy (perhaps Cooper, generous with his money, funded her stay in Santa Rosa?) and then returned purely to aid in a con for more money.
But here's a punchline. Look at Emily's last statement to Locke. "I wanted to see you." Locke didn't pay any attention to it as, typically Locke, his mind fixated in the wrong direction. But it does bring me back to my first question. Why did Emily give Locke up for adoption? If you believe she regrets the decision purely the way a lot of people grow old and regret some of the major decisions they have made in their lives then the matter can rest here.
Conspiracy theorists, if you believe there was deeper, underlying rationale to Emily's allowing Locke to be given up for adoption, well, there's scope to theorise away. “Our meeting — me finding you — this is a sign of things to come. Great things. . . I wanted to see you. . .”
It’s mighty tempting to look past the face-value explanation. To consider a longer con taking place – that Emily was part of the process of engineering Locke for “great things” on the Island, isn’t it? And, as part of a vision, Emily Locke actually appeared on the Island! And Richard Alpert was present at the moment Emily turned away from her son! And Emily shares the same name as Ben’s mother! And. . .
I’m keeping my feet on the ground. I’m taking things at face-value. For now.