*SPOILER WARNING* Everything in this blog contains spoilers for Bioshock: Infinite. Do not read this blog until you have completed the game.
On April 19th, 1874 a baby boy named Ernst Rudin was born in Switzerland. Ernst grew up to be a huge influence on the concept of racial hygenie. Racial hygenie is the implementation of a set of policies that control who can procreate based on “desirable” characteristics. His work ultimately inspired the racial purity iniatives of Nazi Germany.
“The significance of Rassenhygiene [racial hygiene] did not become evident to all aware Germans until the political activity of Adolf Hitler and only through his work has our 30-year long dream of translating Rassenhygiene into action finally become a reality.” – Ernst Rudin [link]
Coincidentally, on April 19th, 1874 another baby boy was born with the name Booker DeWitt. Mr. DeWitt would eventually become Zachary Hale Comstock who we all know shared very similar views on racial purity as Ernst Rudin. I would hope my readers consider the actions and mindset of these men to be despicable. But neither of them consider themselves to be evil men. To them their actions are justified and for the greater good.
Now let us put our lovable racists aside for the moment and focus on the alternate universe version of Booker DeWitt who did not become Comstock. We know that this Booker, unlike Comstock, was never able to forgive himself for his actions at the Wounded Knee Massacre. He remained tormented by that day every single day for the next 20 years.
It is easy to label Comstock as the bad guy and Booker as the good guy. Comstock doesn’t feel bad about his past or present while Booker does. Afterall, a man of conscience, of integrity wouldn’t allow himself to so easily dismiss his mistakes. But if we take a closer look at Booker DeWitt’s history, it becomes exceedingly difficult to describe him as a good guy.
Little is known about Booker before the events at Wounded Knee, but there is one very key aspect of his heritage that can be extracted from the game.
“In front of all the men, the sergeant looked at me and said, “Your family tree shelters a teepee or two, doesn’t it, son?” This…lie, this calumny, it followed me all my life. From that day, no man truly called me comrade. It was only when I burnt the teepees with the squaws inside, did they take me as one of their own. Only blood can redeem blood.” –Zachary Hale Comstock, December the 29th, 1908
Booker’s sergeant is implying that Booker is of Native American descent, or at least partially. He denies it to be true, calling it a lie, but he also says that this lie has followed him his whole life. His sergeant was not the first to accuse Booker of this.
“My men and I are doomed, doomed as noble Custer was at Little Big Horn. But we shall not yield to Comstock and his tin soldiers. But my scout has seen him…Booker DeWitt is coming here, to the Hall! DeWitt…we called him the White Injun of Wounded Knee, for all the grisly trophies he claimed. A man such as he…might just grant us the peace we seek.” –Captain Cornelius Slate, July the 6th, 1912
Booker is able to clear his reputation through acts of brutality at Wounded Knee. He burned the Lakota people alive and took scalps of the ones he killed. Booker earned the respect from his men through Lakota blood. This is bad, but it gets worse.
“Well, Fitzroy…you…you got a lil’ cunning in ya, if nothing else. Dropped a couple grizzly traps ’round the lines up here. Idea was to…to bleed one of your couriers till he gave you up. ‘Cept, of course…you’re using kids now. Now I got this…tiny Injun boy, eyeballing me. Had to take his leg off. Damn thing’s just, lying here between us. I sure wish he’d cry or something.” –Preston E. Downs, July the 5th, 1912
“Mr. Comstock, when we next meet, it won’t be to parley. See, I went out to that Hall a’ Heroes to scalp your “False Shepherd” for you. Turns out, though–DeWitt speaks Sioux. He helped me to swap words with this crippled child I’ve been, uh…looking after. Now after hearing how the kid has fared in your city…I’m thinking when we take your pelt, I’ll let him hold the knife.” –Preston E. Downs, July the 6th, 1912
Your Booker DeWitt never stops and speaks Sioux to a little boy, but the Booker DeWitt that became the Martyr of the Revolution did. Booker DeWitt has dealt with accusations that he is part Native American his whole life, speaks very negatively about it, claims it is a lie, yet speaks Sioux?
Booker DeWitt was 16 years old when he went to Wounded Knee. There is no way he learned Sioux in grade school, it wasn’t a subject that was taught. He didn’t do it through reading books. Booker DeWitt has Native American ancestry and the generation gap is close enough that he was taught the Sioux language as a child. That means one of his parents, grandparents or possible great grandparent was Native American.
Booker DeWitt was not merely following orders. Booker DeWitt murdered his own people to prove a point. To prove to his fellow soldiers that he did not have Native American blood in his veins. After a life-long denial of his heritage, he covers himself in the blood of the Lakota people as his final act. What he gained was an end to the accusations, what he lost was everything else.
We know the rest of the story from here. Booker becomes a Pinkerton, a drunk, a gambler and eventually sells his own daughter. He remains tormented by his past because he deserves to be. There is nothing heroic or good about him at the start of the game. This game truly is his last chance at redemption.
Real life connections for the name Booker DeWitt
- The Scribe - Booker as a first name originates in Old English as an occupational name. One of these occupations is that of a scribe. This could refer to Booker’s “rewriting” of his memories after the Luteces lead him to Columbia. [link]
- The Gambler - Booker is close to Bookie referencing his problem with paying off gambling debts.
- The Civil Rights Leader - Booker T. Washington was born a slave, gained his freedom at the end of the Civil War and went on to be a very important and influential person on the road towards equality for african americans. He represents everything that Comstock’s ideology rallies against. [link]
- The White One - DeWitt is a Flemish name that means “white”. If you are going to eventually end up being the ultimate white supremacist, DeWitt is a good name to be born with. [link]
- The Physicist - Bryce DeWitt was a theoretical physicist that advanced the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. [link]