Understanding Chloe: Life is Strange (Part 1)
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Personally, I think Chloe Price is one of the most misunderstood characters in gaming. I have seen people making fun of how she is so incompetent and keeps getting on the verge of death, depict her as an awful character when they just wish to say an awful friend, and in a few cases, apparently just not even trying to connect to a deeper level. I will be talking mostly about the Before the Storm and the bonus Farewell episode in this article.
Starting with the farewell episode, the writers established something pretty interesting through a pretty simple plot line. We find out that the school is chastising Chloe for sabotaging another girl's burner as revenge for marginalising her for being from a poorer household. As we move around the house, we hear about how Chloe did something in her class and needs to explain it. Chloe was defensive about this and refused to explain it to her parents.
Now, we see an email stating that William was strongly defending Chloe without even knowing about the situation completely. This means that there was a point after Chloe refused to explain where William decided to blindly defend his daughter. William didn't know why she would do such a thing, but knew that Chloe would not harm anyone else. This means that there was a strong sense of trust between the two, something Chloe did not have with her mother.
Chloe's relationship with William has always been interesting. Chloe didn't only love her dad, she depended on him to be able to survive without losing her identity. Her dad was the only "out" she had from Arcadia Bay and Blackwell. We also know that William taught Chloe how to work with cars, he protected her time capsule in a better cover, and did not let her feel lost in the complications of Blackwell. Chloe started facing problems at an early age, but was only able to ever rely on her dad and her friend.
Before writing a backstory or a "wound", it is best if you give us a slice of what happened before the wound. A premise is set that Chloe caused problems in her school and felt insecure about elaborating them. We are given the resolution that William defended Chloe despite everything stacked against her. This is a really simple example that gives great insight to their dynamic. In the simplest way put, William was a good father.
The other important dynamic is that of Chloe and Max. The beauty of the farewell episode is that it establishes both these essential relationships in extremely simple ways. For Max, it was confronting Chloe about the hoodie she was about to throw away because it marked her as poor in Blackwell. Unlike with William, Chloe was willing to open up to Max. In return, Max ensured that this mark of poverty on her will never cause her to abandon her. With Max and William, Chloe did not have to defend herself. William will always defend her and Max will always let her feel accepted.
Then, something happened. Particularly, a really bad day for Chloe. In about a single time frame, Chloe lost everything. When she was accepting the fact that Max was going to move away, her dad died in a car accident. Their dynamic didn't change, it was demolished. Now, no one is there to defend Chloe, nor anyone who can make her feel accepted. Her mother was unable to fill this dynamic, despite her efforts. These set of circumstances allowed her to devolve slowly into what she is described as over and over again.
While everyone discusses this period being defined as her lacking any parental guidance, I would say that this was marked by her insecurities being left untreated and her treating those herself, believing that extermination is the only solution. All of this leads to the version of Chloe we see at the start of Before the Storm.
This is where we get to the next two major dynamics in her life: David and Rachel. Now, these two characters are there to replace Chloe's previous dynamics, and even if you have not played the original game, you can tell that this is not a perfect replacement. Where William would defend Chloe when she was unwilling to communicate her insecurities, David would berate her even if she is openly honest. This created a downwards spiral for Chloe, where she felt more empowered every time she becomes more unbearable for Joyce and David. Now that it has been established that David is the total opposite of her dad, the further she is from him, the closer she is to her dad.
The second person to consider here is Rachel Amber. Now, unlike David, who was the opposite of what Chloe needed, she was exactly the person Chloe needed. On the first day the two spent, Chloe connected with her on such a level, that her leaving pushed her into a cathartic breakdown where destroying everything is the only way for her to feel powerful again.
This is a good segway into the fact that Chloe is facing depression and exhibits many signs of it, from showing frequent nightmares about her dad, to writing letters to Max and never posting them, to even trying to reach out to her mother and not getting a response. To Joyce, it seemed like her disdain for David was just a teenager thing, but it was much deeper. For her other behaviours, Chloe actively made it seem that she was a simple nihilist, and unlike before, Max could not break this illusion of disinterest that she puts up.
Well, here is someone who she can let into her experiences, mostly because she is someone who wouldn't judge her, who won't try and "fix" her by dumping their own morality on her.
Now, Rachel can be seen as a bad influence on Chloe, and it was even explored in the DA's office. Eliot says that she is an actor and is using deception on Chloe, but he doesn't understand the complexity of interdependence these two have. Rachel does not need to act around Chloe, since Chloe is not as vapid and hollow as rest of Blackwell Academy.
One important thing to understand about the games is that the Chloe at the end of Before the Storm is not the same one as in Life is Strange, whom I wish to discuss at length. Chloe in that game is bitter and not willing to empathise with others, and there is a good reason for it: She had lost Rachel as well.