Lost and Myers-Briggs Typology
My wife and I recently binge watched Lost on Netflix, the popular television show that follows the exploits of a group of plane crash survivors on a mystical island. Neither of us have watched the show in its entirety before now. She had only seen the first two seasons. I watched the first three seasons religiously before becoming frustrated with the show’s lack of answers and plot holes. I dropped out for two seasons before hate-watching large portions of season 6. I find I enjoy the show much more the second time around. I realize the writers never had a grand plan from the beginning.
Having a general idea of the end, I can gloss over the mysteries the story raises and focus on the overwhelming strength of the show: the character development. Lost always does an excellent job of juggling a variety of complex characters and their dynamic relationships. Lost never pigeonholes a character in the main cast. They all possess great capacity for sin and redemption, for selfishness and selflessness. Naturally, I began to wonder about the personality types of these characters. Their realistic development offers a rich tapestry from which we can divine their internal patterns and basic social and psychological natures.
Any fictional character poses unique problems for the typer. We only see them in the heightened state of the epic story, the exceptional crisis. We do not see their off stage personas. That said, I feel fairly comfortable with the assumptions I have made in typing these characters. I chose to type only the characters that played in at least sixty one episodes, or more than half of Lost‘s total run. Characters that appeared in fewer episodes like Juliet and Michael, Miles and Desmond, appear as more static roles, supporting actors meant to reflect certain aspects of the main cast’s personalities. The roles, in order of appearance:
Jack Sheppard (played by Matthew Fox) – ESTJ
Jack takes up the mantle of leadership on the island very early. While he may not seek such a position, he possesses talents that make him a good choice for the role. Jack feels compelled to order and organize and do everything in his power to lead his small band of survivors off the island. A purposeful determination drives him to stand at the front of every expedition. Jack clearly shows extroverted thinking (Te) as his dominant trait. Always outspoken, Jack shows no fear in leadership.
Two types show this dominant Te: ENTJ and ESTJ. Does Jack pull the information for his decisions from the forward thinking vision of introverted intuition (Ni) or the sharp memory of introverted sensing(Si)? I vote for the latter. Jack’s drive and peerless ambition derives from a desire to prove his father wrong, to stand up to the school bullies of his past, or to win a longstanding argument with Locke or Ben. When Jack’s marriage falls apart, he can’t stand to think he erred. He plays the scenarios in his mind over and over and holds on way too long. When he regrets his decision to leave the island, it eats away at him from the inside out until his Te has a chance to rectify the situation. Jack is an ESTJ.
Kate Austen (Evangeline Lily) – ISTP
Like the heroic drifter, ISTPs would rather keep to themselves, more comfortable with their tools and their abilities than in the presence of others. Their combination of introverted thinking (Ti) and extroverted sensing (Se) creates an adeptness with tools unmatched by the other personality types. From the start, Kate demonstrates her ability with the sewing needle and the firearm. She can quietly track as well as anyone in the group. She repeatedly escapes police custody with her adaptiveness and sharp wit. I have no doubt she would have made an excellent mechanic had she spent any length of time with the Dharma Initiative.
Her distance from others and devotion to her own internal logic, that Ti, makes her more than capable of killing her mother’s husband. Logic dictated that she serve justice to the abusive man and a relatively weak feeling function left her feeling little connection to him or to mankind in general. Kate follows her own counsel. Kate does adopt Aaron for a period of time, and I have no doubt she cares for the boy, but even she admits she kept him more out her own sense of need. Kate is an ISTP.
Hugo “Hurley” Reyes (Jorge Garcia) – ENFP
Throughout the show, Hurley demonstrates the optimism and diplomacy of the NF. He goes out of his way to learn the names and stories of all of the planes survivors, even the ones that never warrant screen time. He builds a golf course and jump starts the van as ways of improving team morale. He often strives for accord among the survivors, even acting as a messenger and peacemaker. When the mantle of protection for the island finally passes to Hurley, I have no doubt he serves as a healer and reconciler in the wake of the war-driven reigns of Jacob and Jack.
I believe it would take a more people-energized person to interview so many survivors. While I have known INFs to show a great deal of people skills at the cost of their own exhaustion, I believe Hurley enjoys these E interactions. I can also speculate that Hurley’s overeating and mental problems tie strongly to a shaken introverted feeling (Fi). With so much anomie and psychological dissonance following the deadly balcony collapse, this strange form of self-flagellation may help Hurley resolve the deep sense of guilt that weighs on him. From these clues, I think Hurley is an ENFP.
James “Sawyer” Ford (Josh Holloway) – ESTP
With his ability to charm the socks off anyone, Sawyer demonstrates all the hallmark traits of the ESTP. His driving desire for pleasure, action, and excitement stem from his dominant extroverted sensing (Se). He makes love to Kate, Anna-Lucia, and the many women he cons with reckless abandon. He often finds himself traipsing off into the jungle on whatever foolish journey the group chooses next. He positions himself in the center of the action by seizing key resources like the stock of firearms. He mouths off and picks fights with the others both because he loves the rush of a good fight and because he works best when he keeps his opponent talking.
That wit also marks him as an ESTP. It comes from his secondary function, introverted thinking (Ti). His shrewd control of the black market, his insightful quips and insults, and his love of a good book all proceed from a well developed logic. This logic processes the many details observed by his sensing function and formulates a strategy by which he can con and manipulate his opponents.
Even his ability to lie and exaggerate marks him as an ESTP. His ability to lie and con shows the SP strength for acting and sleight of hand combined with the least empathy of the four temperaments. For the most part, he is incapable of guilt. Guilt would require an examination of the past, something SPs do not particularly care to do.
John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) – ISTJ
Before Locke’s untimely death, he proved the perfect foil for Jack not because of their differences but because they had so many similarities. They both desired to lead and instruct the survivors. They fight for the spiritual direction of the group, Locke’s unrelenting faith against Jack’s pure reason. They both seek the prestige and respect of the group at large, Locke as a Hunter and Jack as the Doctor. They both struggle to forget the memories and failures of their past. Locke can never quite get over his father’s betrayal, being raised in foster care, losing the woman he loved, and his father ultimately trying to kill and paralyze him. Locke is every bit the STJ that Jack is.
Yet Jack succeeds in winning the trust of the other survivors and Locke does not. Jack became the clear leader of the group. Why? Locke is an introvert. Aside from the charm and social skills advantage this gives Jack, by placing his introverted sensing (Si) ahead of his extroverted thinking (Te) function, Locke places the message, his search for justice and faith, ahead of the day to day operations of organizing the survivors. While Jack tries to acquire the next resource needed for survival, Locke leaves in search of the next missive from the island. The people notice.
Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews) – INTP
As my favorite character, I always felt a stronger connection to Sayid than anyone else on the show. I am an ENTP. It makes sense then that Sayid, as an INTP, is my more introverted brother.
With dominant introverted thinking (Ti), Sayid shows many of the same traits as Kate. He has weapon and hand to hand combat proficiency. He prefers to work as a lone wolf, stalking and observing his prey before making a decision to strike. He has a certain moral flexibility that makes him capable of actions, like outright torture, that most people could never do.
Unlike Kate, Sayid prefers a more abstract interaction with the outside world. He seeks meaning more than pleasure and holds the notion of a one true love. He grasps for long term achievements, like finding said one true love, over the easy action of the moment. The most telling sign of his extroverted intuition (Ne) lies in the way he approaches the tools he uses. Sayid possesses a fundamental understanding of the way many things work. The survivors often seek him out to repair communications equipment and other electronics devices. He doesn’t just observe two wheels grinding, he can tell you why the designer required them in that precise location. This understanding of theory allows him to seek novel and complex solutions like setting up multiple antennas in an attempt to boost the power of a survival radio. As an INTP, Sayid offers his sharp intellect and unusual skills for the benefit of the survivors.
Jin-Soo Kwan (Daniel Dae Kim) – ISFJ
Sun-Hwa Kwan (Yunjin Kim) – ESTP
I combine the Kwans because I simply couldn’t tear them apart again and because I had so much difficulty trying to wrap my mind around their respective personality types. Cultural differences always throw a wrench into one’s ability to type another. I believe the Jungian types remain constant across all cultures, but our type, like a piece of computer hardware, only tells part of the story. We place a multitude of experiences on top of our type like so much software. Different cultures often produce different experiences and can produce varied manifestations of the same type. That said, I can defend both of my assertions of type in this case.
Jin exudes a great sense of duty and strong desire to improve his family name, to achieve a high level of prestige. He submits to his father-in-law so he can uphold his duty to protect and provide for Sun even at his own displeasure. He leaves the country side to seek upward mobility in the city and quits his plush hotel job when his manager discriminates against his kind. Jin has a fierce pride. Such values remain very common among east asian cultures, but I find nothing in Jin’s personality that rebels against these ideals. This leads me to believe that he is an SJ.
Unlike Jack and Locke, he does not follow a cool logic, but rather his own feelings. He can show warm affection to Sun, but he also pouts when he does not get his way. Jin also possesses a mean jealous streak. He nearly kills Michael when he finds the man talking to his wife.
The language barrier might pose a problem to Jin, but he doesn’t talk much even when he achieves fluency in English. This suggests introversion in Jin. All of this lead me to conclude that Jin is an ISFJ.
While separated by class, sex, and culture, Sun exhibits the same ESTP traits as Sawyer. She follows her heart in spite of convention with both the poor fisherman’s son in Jin and the forbidden hotelier’s son. Sun speaks her mind with a sharp wit and stands out as one of the few people who can give it right back to Sawyer when he runs his mouth. Like Sawyer, she will also bend the truth if it serves her interest. She gets a maid fired as a child to defend her own accidental vandalism and as an adult she struggles to hide her affair from Jin.
Jin and Sun’s personality types also validate one another. Keirsey considers the pairing of an ISFJ and ESTP ideal for both. From my own experiences, I agree that such a pairing rests among the three best possibilities for either.
Claire Littleton (Emilie de Ravin) – INFP
I find its easiest to determine Claire’s type just by going the old fashioned way of letter by letter. She does not go out of her way to interact with others and she seems to draw energy from sitting on the beach alone, much like most introverts. Her alternative/goth phase as a teenager while working in a body modification shop and her relationship with a (flaky) artist indicate an openness to ideas and an attraction to the counterculture common in intuitive types. Like many feeling types, she show great compassion for her son and dotes on him constantly. Thinkers can also have great affection for their children, but they don’t always emote as easily as Claire. Claire appears completely unfazed by the details of their situation, the gravity of their plane crash on a strange island. Like other perceivers, she adapts to any situation thrown her way. This spells out INFP.
Her overwhelming devotion to Aaron also confirms my hypothesis. She fiercely defends her values like other INFPs I have met. Such ethics have a sacred place for them. Defending their loved ones sits at the top of the list. The NFPs I know would go berserker on someone if they threatened to harm the NF’s loved ones. Pacifists by nature, all bets are off when you threaten their family. It makes perfect sense then that an INFP would seek to protect the one or two people they’re closest to, especially a child. Even Charlie invokes her wrath when she believes he poses a danger to Aaron. It also creates sympathy for her descent into madness once she gets separated from her son. No matter her mistakes, she always believes she does the best for Aaron.
Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan) – ISFP
An introverted feeling (Fi) dominant like Claire, Charlie also seeks to defend the people he loves, namely Claire and Aaron. However, as a more grounded sensing type, Charlie aims to provide more of the basic needs like blankets and shelter. Sometimes to his own detriment, Charlie actively seeks to prevent any present danger or conspiracy against the mother and son. He even goes so far as to kill Ethan in revenge for the harm the doctor did to all three. Charlie shows this devotion to family from the start, using his musical talents to try to elevate his family from poverty into something better. Charlie goes so far as to give his life in an attempt to get Claire and Aaron rescued.
Unfortunately, that combination of Fi and extroverted sensing (Se) also makes the SFPs the most aware of their environments, the textures and colors, the smells and tastes. The SFP’s predisposition to hedonism makes them among the types most prone to addiction. As a rock star, Charlie succumbs to a heroin addiction that plagues him when he arrives on the island. He eventually kicks the habit, but not before it threatens his relationships with his closest friends and family.
On a brighter note, that connection with the real world makes Charlie and other ISFPs incredible artists. They have a special ability to translate that beauty better than most other types. Thus the ISFP often earns labels like the composer or poet. Charlie is a true musician and ISFP.
Though Ben didn’t make his first appearance on the show until half way into season 2, he made a huge impact on the show. I wouldn’t accept anything less from the brilliant mind of an INTJ.
Ben derives his power from the INTJ’s dominant introverted intuition (Ni). Ni provides the foresight Ben uses to perceive the available outcomes. With this skill bordering on prescience, he can then subtly manipulate the people around him until he achieves the desired outcome. When he initially has Michael bring Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley into the ambush, he does so with a plan for each one. He needs Jack to operate on his spine. Kate and Sawyer will ensure he does it while also creating a lack of leadership among the survivors. He wisely sends Hurly back as a most able messenger to prevent a rash reaction from this now leaderless group. Ben deciphers and plans for every scenario so he never gets caught off guard.
Ben achieves his ends through extroverted thinking (Te). He knows how to give concise, logical orders that subordinates follow without questions. When Ben asks Goodwin and Ethan to run to the crash sites and blend in with the survivors, they obey. Like Jack and Locke, Te exudes leadership. However, with Te as a supportive function, Ben never feels it necessary to use his leadership in an overpowering way like an ENTJ might. Rather, he attempts to lead the subordinate to make the decision on their own as if they had a choice all along. Keirsey accurately described the the INTJ as a “Mastermind.” Ben is a textbook mastermind.