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Laura Palmer is a perfect example of the idea that as long as a person doesn’t hurt other people, there is nothing he/she can do that makes him/her a bad person. Regardless of all she is doing (taking drugs, drinking, working as a prostitute, sleeping around), it still doesn’t make her a bad person . Everything she does, she does only to herself because she is trying to protect herself from BOB. All her actions are just reaction of a lonely, scared, little girl lost who does not understand what is happening to her or who she can ask for help. She is so innocent and pure, that she is unable to comprehend the situation she found herself in or its origin. As she cannot accept the reality surrounding her, her mind subconsciously creates a new one – one in which she cannot even see her father as her abuser, but instead of him creates BOB. Laura’s denial takes such a direction that she cannot see (let alone accept) that her abuser is actually her own father who, in each single moment, treats her like his princess (except in the dinner scene). Instead of that, she visualizes BOB as her molester, who she considers to be a part of the reality. This is not so much a result of her inability to accept and face the incredibly cruel reality which is thrust open her, as much as it is of her kindness and love towards her father. This is the reason why she cannot acknowledge the truth, which clearly imposes itself on a few occasions during the last few days of her life.
In the scene with Harold (Thursday), Laura says to him: “ You are not BOB, are you, Harold? If you are, you can kill me right now. Kill me right now if you are.” Laura is still not aware of BOB’s identity, but she can no longer put up with physical and especially mental abuse. It is becoming harder and harder for her to maintain the image of a perfect all-American homecoming queen. That is the first time Laura seems to suspect that BOB is not a real person (because if he was, how could he be Harold?).
She fights to preserve the purity of the people she loves and tries to protect them (James and Harold from physical and Donna from spiritual harm). That can be seen in two very important scenes: the aforementioned scene with Harold and the scene in which Laura sees James for the last time. She hurts the people she loves, but only in order to protect them from BOB, who must not find out about her relationship with Harold and especially her relationship with James. In both scenes, Laura chants: “The trees… the trees…” and from that we could conclude that in some way the trees symbolize protection or shelter to her.
She faces the truth for the first time when she comes back home (Friday) and finds BOB in her room and then right afterwards sees Leland leaving the house (NOTE: we should bear in mind that all the while Leland thinks that Laura knows that it is him, but that she enjoys being molested because she feels dirty). Instead of accepting the truth, she seeks shelter with Donna, who of course cannot help her.
The second instance when she faces the truth is in the family dinner scene when, for a moment, Leland takes off his mask by harassing Laura to wash her hands. His insisting does not make any sense, since he was the one who asked her to join him at the table as soon as she entered the house (of course he knows she did not wash her hands, since he did not give a chance to do so). She even says she is not hungry, but she is forced to sit at the table. The obvious irony lies in the fact that as the morally dirtiest characters he is obsessed with cleanliness.
That same evening he goes to her and admits his love for her (and by doing so, he fulfills the expectations of reestablishing the shattered illusion of a perfect family). She is confused again (she asks the Angel: “Is it true?”) and once again she cannot recognize the actual state of things, because her love for her father is awakened again. If we look at it this way, we most pose a question how frequent were the indications of the true identity of her abuser and did they become more frequent in time? Did they appear for the first time during the last week or did they just reach their peak at that point?
Her doubts are further reinforced when, in “Partyland” (Saturday), Jacques connects her father to the murder of Teresa Banks’s (NOTE: we should bear in mind that never before did Laura associated Teresa’s death with Leland or BOB), and especially when Leland and Laura meet Mike in the traffic jam scene (Sunday). Leland and Laura are full of distrust to each other: Laura because she is having doubts about BOB’s true identity, and Leland because he is starting to realize that Laura does not really know that it was him all along. In that scene, the two of them are miles away from the illusion of a perfect relationship between a successful lawyer and his precious daughter. All the while their hysterical behavior is in utter discord with the thing they are saying, it looks as though they are saying the wrong lines. This comes from the fact that although the pretense of their relationship has been smashed to bits, they are still trying to maintain it and they keep playing their parts, which turns the whole situation into a farce (NOTE: another Leland’s comment, ironic from our point of view: “Guy just pulls out of the blue… I mean… What is this world coming to?”).
At that point even Leland himself admits to Laura he was home on Friday when she saw him, but even then Laura still refuses the see the reality. That same night in her room, she is still wondering: “Who are you? Who are you REALLY?”. As an answer to that question, Leland fills the frame, remembering how he murdered Teresa.
The key scene of the film is Wednesday night (22nd February), when Leland rapes Laura for the last time. What Mike said comes true: “ The thread will be torn.” Laura reaches the point when she can take no more, when she is not able to straight for a single moment or to control her denial of reality. And since she cannot handle the truth, she is forced to make herself numb (the script says: “SLOWLY WHAT SHE ALWAYS KNEW DEEP INSIDE OF HER, BECOMES CLEAR“). Although in her vision BOB is dressed, in reality Leland is naked, for the first time he is completely stripped in front of her and all of his masks come off.
While having breakfast the following morning “the perfect family” finally breaks at the seams. Laura cannot take her father’s presence, Leland realizes that it was only last night that Laura saw his true face, and Sarah grasps that Laura has found out the truth. Still Sarah remains passive and continues to do nothing to answer her daughter’s cries for help. That day comes the final choice since it is far too late for everything else.
Laura cannot and does not want to disclose everything, because she would gain nothing by doing so. Her family is destroyed, she is in drugs and prostitution up to her neck, as far as she can remember she has been abused by her own father and her mother on the edge of madness. In the murder scene, LAURA DOES NOT FIGHT AT ALL. She literally gives in to her father, because that is the only way for her to keep her purity and innocence. Even if Leland hadn’t killed her, but was, say, arrested – HOW COULD SHE EVER RETURN TO NORMAL LIFE, ESPECIALLY SINCE SHE NEVER HAD ONE?!?!
Forced to experience life’s darkest side too early, Laura becomes bitter and cynical and knows too much for her age; on the other hand, she has to pretend she is a good, model, naive little girl. Almost everyone in town knows something bad about her, but they all keep silent and play dumb, using her for their own needs (or is she using them?) – e.g. Benjamin Horne, Josie Packard, Dr. Jacoby, Bobby Briggs, Leo Johnson and Jacques Renault etc. She only manipulates negative characters, while she treats positive characters with kindness and even tries to protect them.
Laura tries to free herself from BOB by becoming even worse than he is. Since she is a strong individual, she chooses to fight. Otherwise, she would’ve gone crazy or killed herself a long time ago – and that would have been the easy way out. However, not even she herself knows that her actions cannot kill the goodness within. Her actions are only self – defense and deep inside she remains kind and pure and fights to preserve the purity of her loved ones. In the scene with James, Laura finally shows him her true self and her life as it is and not as he would want to see it (NOTE: Laura’s distorted face on the rearview mirror of James’s bike): “Open your eyes, James. You don’t even know me. There are some things about me. Even Donna doesn’t know me. YOUR LAURA DISAPPEARED. IT’S JUST ME NOW.” The darkness and light inside her are fighting, one moment she kisses him, lets herself go, and the next she gives him the finger, when she realizes that Leland could find out about their relationship and kill James. All she wants is to get lost together, but it is impossible to get away from BOB, from the darkness he brought into her life, or the darkness she pushed herself into. “There is no place left to go. Is there, James?” James was her last opportunity for a normal life, but of course he could not help her. Realizing who BOB truly is, she puts on another mask and pushes James away from herself, in order to protect him from Leland. Consequently, the end as it is inevitable. Laura would rather sacrifice her own life than give in to her dark side, the BOB inside her. In a way, she has been in the Waiting Room ever since she was 12, since she is constantly in a state of fear even for her life, and in contact with suffering and temptation. This is exactly why she is the MOST POSITIVE AND THE STRONGEST CHARACTER. The others were either unable to endure the ordeal (i.e. they let their dark side prevail, e.g. Cooper) or they were never tempted in the first place (i.e. they did not have to face their dark side, e.g. Donna).
In the murder scene, in which the fan can be heard in the traincar (and that stands for the presence of the evil from the house), Laura’s hands are tied up at first, and then they come undone for her to take the ring. This action is actually a symbol of her final decision, her ultimate choice. Instead of giving in to forces of evil, she would rather die. She faces her dark side with perfect bravery and thanks to her pure heart and soul, she is saved from hell and all her sins are redeemed. Her angel comes back for her to light her way to the White Lodge and we are left with the feeling that she will continue to fight against the darkness, but FROM ANOTHER PLACE. The world is still in chaos, but Laura is finally safe with Cooper, as her protector, by her side. She has finally found her peace, the shelter she has been searching for her whole life.