Elizabeth as a character in Bioshock Infinite is pretty interesting. At first she comes across as a typical damsel in distress. There is even some worry that the whole game will be a huge escort quest, which did not look appealing. Then you meet Elizabeth and there is so much more to her. As you progress some of the initial things is that you are not escorting Elizabeth, you need her just as much as she needs you. Her abilities and the fact that the game itself does not give her a health bar gives her a unique position. At the same time she is a vital element in the story.
Her characterization is also interesting through out the game. She starts out seemingly naive because she has been so sheltered from the world. She wants to escape, but at the same time she knows that the Songbird will never truly let that happen. As the story progresses we see her personality change and grow. As she sees more of the world she becomes hardened by the situation around her. The progression that they take Elizabeth on definitely ties with the various story reveals throughout the game. (Spoilers for Bioshock Infinite after the jump)
One of the great things about Elizabeth from a game play perspective is that she is not a typical escort. She has abilities that she can use and simply her presence allows her to find items of potential need. My favorite ability is the idea that Elizabeth can use the tear to bring forth items from a different universe. This can be guns, health kits, turrets, or even mechanized warriors to help you fight. All of these items are useful in some way. The other piece is that there are points in the story where Elizabeth is a necessary element to progress the story forward. There are points where you basically end up trapped and if it was not for Elizabeth using her ability to transport you to a different universe you would basically stay trapped. It can simply seem like story progression, but I think it has to do with the journey that the story takes Elizabeth on.
Naive Girl in a Tower
From the time Elizabeth was very young she has been trapped in a tower and experimented upon. At the same time somehow she has not lost her innocence. She seems to have accepted her fate to a degree, but tries to make the best of it. This does not mean that she does not dream of seeing other locations, but she also does not know anything beyond the rooms allowed to her. As she gets out into the world she is so excited with everything around her and everything to see. She has never really gotten to experience a day outside, always trapped in the tower. At the same time we can see at the beginning of the game that her spirit has not been broken yet by the isolation inflicted upon her.
Elizabeth’s Possible Future
Through the story of the game we get to see a glimpse of what becomes of Elizabeth if she does not get away from Comstock. Booker is transported to a desolate world where Columbia is raining fire down on the world below. He then discovers that the woman leading them is none other than Elizabeth, but much older. Over time her spirit is broken and she follows the word of the prophet. She becomes a cruel and unfeeling woman, but she brings Booker to the future to try and change the past. Even though this is the future in which she has given in, her ability allows her to see the possibility of a different future. So it is Elizabeth who gives you the melody needed to tame the songbird and be free from Columbia. In a lot of ways this just shows what Comstock has in mind for Elizabeth and the power that she will get if left in her situation.
In the end when Elizabeth’s power is fully released, due to the destruction of the tower that was being used to suppress her power, she can suddenly see all paths before her. She sees all versions of herself and knows how she can prevent the whole mess from happening. I think opening up her power and seeing what was and what will be, finalizes a hardening that has been happening throughout the game. As more and more is discovered about Comstock, Daisy Fitzroy, Booker, and Elizabeth, she sees that the world is not as wonderful a place as she used to think. By seeing all possible paths and universes she sees the way to stop all of it from happening. When she takes Booker to the baptism there is a matter of fact tone in her voice; not cold, but simply this is the way it has to be. The fact that it is all the different Elizabeth’s who kill Booker just shows how much she wants Comstock to die and for Comstock to die, Booker must die before the baptism.
In the DLC Burial at Sea we get to see Elizabeth go one step further. She knows that one of the Comstock’s escaped from his own universe and is existing outside of time. She cannot just let him keep living his life, instead she decides to hunt him down because she cannot allow him to live. She is so consumed with hatred and revenge that she cannot even really see what she has become. Part I of the DLC ends with the death of Comstock, but Elizabeth in that version dies as well. It is here that she learns that revenge does not heal especially when you think about what might be happening to collateral damage. I have not finished the DLC, but Elizabeth was so torn up about leaving a little girl to potential death that she basically risks losing everything to try and save her. Again, I am not sure how it ends, but I think it is looking at Elizabeth hitting rock bottom and trying to find her way again.
Elizabeth is an amazing character in the Bioshock Infinite series. She could be just shrugged off as a damsel in distress, but she is so much more than that. The story is so intertwined with the relationship between Elizabeth and Booker, not just in the present, but the past and the future as well. Their lives are deeply connected because they are family and Elizabeth would not exist if it was not for Booker, but neither would Comstock. The relational dynamic between the two of them is part of what makes the story so fascinating. This relationship would not work if Elizabeth did not have her own dynamic personality.