Guest Post! Stranger Things: Hopper's Cabin

December 4, 2017
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Hopper’s Cabin: Inside the Heart of a Hero

“It’s a work-in-progress, you know, It’s uh… It takes a little imagination, but uh…you know, once we fix it up, it’s gonna be nice…real nice. This is your new home.”
                                                                                       –Jim Hopper, Stranger Things, S2, Episode 3

In Season 2 of Stranger Things, we become reunited with Eleven at Jim Hopper’s secret cabin. This location, serving as a haven—at times a prison for Eleven— is much more than a roof and four walls. More interestingly, this simple old cabin is an allegory for the heart of Chief Hopper, and the profound changes it undergoes throughout the season.

When Hopper first brings Eleven to the cabin, it is an utter mess in need of serious cleaning and repairs. It is dusty, cluttered, broken down, and filled with broken, unwanted things. In ways, Jim Hopper’s heart was once in this very state: damaged and filled with unwanted feelings and memories, most of which came from a past in which he was a hopeful father. His hopes of knowing the woman his daughter, Sara, would become were torn from his heart and stored away. 

Clearly, the cabin was not being taken care of, neglected and forgotten. When we first meet Hopper, it was evident that he was not taking care of himself (i.e. drinking and meaningless affairs) and was living a life that served to suppress and avoid his feelings. By Season 2, Hopper begins reconnecting with his own emotions, finding a new purpose in life: to protect Eleven. Hopper makes a place for Eleven, and our hero’s heart, as well as Hopper’s cabin, is revived.

Hopper not only creates a warm home for Eleven inside, he sets up an outside perimeter with trip-wires to alarm them of intruders. He also makes sure that the windows are covered to prevent people from seeing inside. Similarly, Hopper would also maintain a sense of emotional boundaries, careful not to share about his past, or to be open about his feelings. He does not want people to peer into the windows of his heart. And why would he? Such a thing would leave him vulnerable. More important than guarding his emotions, he is protecting his deep wish of becoming a father again, which is embodied by Eleven.

Within the cabin, you also witness a very different (and shocking in my opinion) side to Hopper. He becomes enraged with Eleven for breaking his three cardinal rules for survival. He yells, curses, and becomes petty in his punishment of Eleven, pushing her to telekinetically push back and shatter the windows of the cabin. This incident is symbolic of Hopper’s self-punishment and self-blame. His treatment of Eleven and her subsequent loss of control represents the destructive power of his fear of losing another daughter and of the guilt for being unable to protect his first one. At this point in the season, you witness Hopper’s true vulnerability. 

The cabin, like Hopper’s heart, also keeps secrets and repressed memories. Later in the season, Eleven uncovers the secret hatch to a basement containing the files of the Hawkins’ Lab Experiments and of her mother. You would also assume that the box labeled “Sara” was also among those boxes. The basement becomes symbolic of how Hopper tries to bury these secrets and memories deep down, but to no avail, as they eventually resurface. By the last episode of season two, Hopper is forced to confront these secrets and memories when he finds out that Eleven had discovered the files.

By the finale, the cabin is abandoned, and Hopper goes with Eleven to close the portal to the Upside-Down Dimension. On the drive to what very well could be their doom, Hopper tells Eleven that he feels like a “black hole,” destroying everything in his life. He shares how much he cares for Eleven and apologizes for not being the best guardian. He also shares about his daughter Sara for the first time and says out loud what the loss meant to him, and how he fears the same thing will happen to Eleven. 

“The black hole. It got her…and somehow…I’ve just been scared, you know? I’ve just been scared that it would take you, too.” –Jim Hopper, Stranger Things, S2, Episode 9

This is truly a healing admission for Hopper. Eleven accepts Hopper at his most vulnerable in this moment and all is right in the world (well, except for the portal they ultimately close).  At this moment, Hopper becomes the man he once was before the death of Sara. You see the real Hopper, a parent unafraid to hope again. The abandonment of the cabin to go to the portal is symbolic of Hopper’s successful breakthrough, as he risks vulnerability to communicate his feelings to Eleven.

At the end of the season, Hopper and Eleven (now officially Jane Hopper) remain in the cabin, but it is not the same. Instead of being a secret fortress apart from the world, it truly becomes a home within it. Hopper no longer hides his emotions, but embraces them in a world of monsters and mouth breathers. Such is the heart of a hero.

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About the author

Isaiah O. is a long-time geek and loves psychology. He is currently involved in graduate studies. His interests include statistics, bowling, and fishing. 

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