Little Hope: The Andover Witch Trials and story analysis

Little Hope: The Andover Witch Trials and story analysis

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope might take place in modern-day New England, but it also tells the tale of a town steeped in a dark past. That’s because the game is inspired by the events of the Andover Witch Trials which happened late in the 17th century. Here’s our story analysis.

Note: For more information about The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope, check out our full Theatrical Cut walkthrough, finale and endings guide, as well as our guides and features hub. Please be reminded that this article contains major spoilers.

 

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope – Story analysis

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope shares a similar concept with the previous game in the series, Man of Medan. The interactive game might take place in the present day, but it’s presaged by a horrifying myth or legend from the past. In Man of Medan, this was the tale of the SS Ourang Medan. The freighter was discovered to have countless dead corpses with only shocked and pained expressions on their lifeless faces.

In Little Hope, most of the game takes place in modern times. A bus carrying four students, Andrew, Taylor, Daniel, and Angela, and their professor, John, crashes. The five wake up, realizing that the bus driver is gone. You have to guide them as they make their way through a dreary, fog-covered town. But, there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

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The Clarke residence

Little Hope‘s prologue shows you the dysfunctional Clarke family. We don’t really get into the details of their problems, but it’s safe to say that the marriage of James and Anne was falling apart. The children are, likewise, introduced. Tanya is out and about dating, and Dennis seems to be more interested in vinyl records.

Meanwhile, the youngest, Megan, tends to be considered “trouble” she annoys her siblings and she worries her parents due to her failing grades. Lastly, Anthony, the main character played by Will Poulter, seems to be the glue that holds their relationships together.

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Things come to a head one night when Anthony decides to boil some water. Going outside to the yard, he sees the kitchen burning after Megan accidentally places her toy next to the fire. The flames spread and eventually engulf the entire home.

Anthony watches in horror as his family members die one by one. The ceiling collapses on James, crushing him to death. Anne is trapped in the bathroom and asphyxiates. Dennis attempts to escape via the rooftop, but he slips and gets impaled on the fence. As for Tanya, Anthony can choose how she could save herself, but either method still leads to her doom (either by hanging or due to a backdraft’s explosion). Lastly, Megan is seen consumed by fires.

Anthony rushes inside; his fate unknown. You then see Tanya’s funeral where her boyfriend mourns her passing.

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The town of Little Hope

We jump back to the present day where the fog-covered town of Little Hope slowly fills each character with visions of the past. Given that the town is somewhere in New England, it’s steeped in the lore surrounding the witch trials that happened centuries ago. There are hints of pagan rituals, poppets (straw dolls), and effigies. We even see a Museum of Witchcraft and a hiking trail through execution sites.

Indeed, characters start seeing oddly-dressed people with strange accents. Then, they’re provided a glimpse of accusations that brought people to trial followed by their subsequent execution. These occur while the fog continues to disorient them, pushing them ever closer to the town’s center. It’s reminiscent of classic horror titles like the Silent Hill games.

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The Andover Witch Trials

As mentioned earlier, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is inspired by real-life events from history The Andover Witch Trials which occurred in 1692. These incidents caused by religious fervor, malicious accusations, and mass hysteria resulted in the deaths, imprisonment, and suffering of many inhabitants in New England.

While the Salem Witch Trials became the most well-known among these, the vast majority of accusations of witchcraft and devil worship actually happened in other towns such as Andover. In 1692, over 50 citizens of Andover, a town with a population of 600 people, were accused and brought to trial.

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We know of a few major cases:

  • In May 1692, Martha Carrier was accused of witchcraft. When she and her family had recently moved to Andover, they had smallpox (back then, diseases were thought of as brought upon by the wrath of God). Martha was also known as someone who was very outspoken, earning the ire of the conservative Puritan townsfolk. Martha was hanged in August 1692, but accusations of witchcraft continued to hound her family.
  • Next, William Barker was accused by girls in Andover. He ended up confessing and was made to serve a prison sentence. This became the catalyst for even more paranoia that followed. As additional people were accused and brought to trial, confession and the naming of their neighbors (probably someone who wasn’t even guilty) became the means of salvation. The refusal to confess led to harsher punishments and cruel execution methods.
  • The third and final wave of witchcraft accusations was started by Joseph Ballard. He brought girls from Salem those who were thought of as afflicted or bewitched to Andover so they can point out townsfolk who might be guilty.

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Little Hope‘s depiction

In The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope, the story of the Andover Witch Trials is depicted in numerous scenes, locations, and flashes of visions. It starts when they see a girl named Mary who seems to be under the influence of the devil. However, she starts pointing fingers at various townsfolk.

First, a woman named Amy is chained and drowned in the river. Next, a younger woman named Tabitha is either burned at the stake or hanged. Then, her brother David is falsely accused. He falls to his death from a church’s bell tower and is impaled on the fence below. Lastly, Amy’s husband Joseph is seen crushed by large rocks, another brutal method of execution.

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As you may have guessed by now, the names of the townsfolk, their appearance, and their method of execution mirror those of the Clarke family’s:

  • James (1972) and Joseph (1692) were both crushed by heavy objects.
  • Anne (1972) and Amy (1692) were suffocated and asphyxiated. The former while in the bathroom, and the other via drowning in the river.
  • Dennis (1972) and David (1692) both fell from a great height only to get impaled.
  • As for Tanya (1972), her death in the Clarke family home will coincide with how Tabitha (1692) is executed in Little Hope.

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Meanwhile, Andrew has a double named Abraham who ends up caring for Mary with her family gone. Mary herself is a stand-in for Megan, the youngest child in the Clarke family.

Note: In Little Hope, the attempts of present-day characters to interact with or help those from 1692 actually exacerbate the situation, making the priest, Carver, think that the devil is in their midst.

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The demons

In the present-day arc of Little Hope, your characters are chased by demons. These are embodiments of the cursed inhabitants from 1692, essentially their dead doppelgangers attempting to murder them.

The design of these creatures is reminiscent of their execution methods: a drowned woman in chains, a victim covered in spikes, a broken man all twisted and bent, and either a burned lady attached to a stake or a hanged lady who uses her tongue to grasp at victims.

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While the demons scare off all other characters with you in a particular scene, they’ll only go for a specific person their double.

This is why Angela can only be killed by the drowned woman, but the demon with spikes will never be after her. What is their purpose? Well, I’ll mention it in a while.

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The Curator’s role

While progressing through Little Hope‘s story, you’ll learn a bit from the Curator, the omnipresent watcher in The Dark Pictures Anthology. In a previous Man of Medan article, I mentioned that the character (played by Pip Torrens) is the personification of death. Indeed, you’ll even see him from time to time in case someone died or is about to die.

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Likewise, he provides you with hints regarding the plot. In his first hint, he recites a line from William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale:

Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil;

With them forgive yourself.

Later, he mentions a passage from Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance:

Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

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Little Hope‘s character dilemmas

Both passages signify remorse, redemption, and forgiveness. At first, you might think that they’re about Megan/Mary. After all, she accidentally started the fire and was the one who accused the townspeople. However, these passages also pertain to Andrew and the other characters. The journey in Little Hope is more about their redemption.

The demons of past executions in the town represent the metaphorical demons of the characters, their flaws and fallibilities made manifest. What this simply means is that you’re not just attempting to survive QTEs and fight scenes, but you’re also expected to make the right decisions that would present that character’s “bearing” in a more positive light.

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Here are some examples:

  • John, the “Authority Figure,” needs to take on a leadership role and avoid being indecisive.
  • Angela needs “A Deeper Understanding.” She can’t be too mean-spirited or callous.
  • Daniel, the “Homegrown Hero,” has to show his bravery and selflessness.
  • Lastly, “Team Taylor” means that she can’t be too headstrong all the time. She has to get along with others.

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This is why, if a character dies, their worst traits flash in the demon’s eyes. It’s a way of showing that they’re judged upon death.

Exploring the town of Little Hope is their redemption, a means of changing for the better. Meanwhile, the demons that hound them represent their failure to do so.

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Andrew and Vince

To tie up Little Hope‘s narrative, the ending scenes show you what happened to Vince, the lonely drunk you met earlier in a bar. It’s revealed that Vince was actually Tanya Clarke’s boyfriend, the same man who was mourning at her funeral. His journey in town, now a shell of its former self due to the closure of businesses, also mirrors his regrets as he reminisces about his lost love.

Likewise, it’s revealed that the demons don’t exist, at least in the physical sense. In fact, the other four characters don’t exist at all. Andrew was all alone as he was exploring Little Hope.

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Andrew is Anthony Clarke, the same teen who survived the house fire that killed his entire family in 1972. He’s also the bus driver at the start of the game, crashing the vehicle after seeing an appaition of Megan. He’s concussed, wandering, and trying to make sense of it all.

The death of Anthony’s family filled him with guilt, remorse, and trauma. That’s why he doesn’t have a demon chasing him the entire time. The tragic events of the past, and his failure to save his family (personified by the other playable characters surrounding him in Little Hope), were the very demons that haunted him throughout his life.

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Furthermore, if you look closer, Andrew is shown rescuing every other playable character from certain doom. He could save Angela in “The Crossing,” then Daniel in “Low Point.” At the end of “Surrounded,” he’s the one who grabs Taylor’s hand when she gets lost in the fog. Then, at the end of “Heavy Burden,” he bashes the demon that pounced on John.

Your entire playthrough of The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is Andrew’s/Anthony’s attempt to come to terms with his guilt. He seeks forgiveness and the aptly named town is essentially his way of finding a “little hope,” too. Perhaps the survival of his classmates and professor or family members, rather was a means of atoning for his mistakes and regrets.

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What about Mary/Megan, the devil, and the Andover Witch Trials?

In Little Hope‘s finale, you can decide whether to save Mary or condemn her for witchcraft. As for the devil, I believe the good ending requires you to consider that Mary is innocent and that it’s the priest, Carver, who’s evil. Throughout the game, Carver decries the alleged occult practices of townsfolk, leading to subsequent executions. It falls in line with what happened historically during the Salem and Andover Witch Trials towns in the grips of a sinister witch hunt and mass hysteria all in the name of religion

Likewise, you see his name crossed out in the chapel’s list in “Surrounded.” Meanwhile, there’s also another “Carver,” a politician with a campaign poster in “Ruined.” The poster itself is vandalized with devil horns implying that Carver is the source of Little Hope‘s woes (i.e., factory closure and the area becoming a ghost town).

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As for Megan, her arc is related to Anthony’s dilemma. It also makes sense considering that Anthony saw that Megan’s toy caused the fire to spread. The constant blame put on Megan by the Clarke family, along with the tragic fire, makes Megan the target of scrutiny. That’s also why, in the witch trials of 1692, you have options to “blame the child” or say that “the child is evil” given what Megan had accidentally done.

As for why the witch trials became the backdrop of Little Hope‘s present-day narrative arc, I believe it’s due to Anthony’s hobby. In a couple of scenes, it’s shown that Anthony (as the bus driver) has a book about occult rituals. Then, in the 1972 prologue, teenage Anthony mentions that reading horror books and others about black magic became his “escape” from his troubles. Worrying about revisiting a town that filled him with dread, concussed after the accident, and still living with regrets, Anthony’s means of escape was his imagination that the witch trials from the distant past were still occurring. All the while, he attempts to save mirror images of his family members to assuage his guilt.

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Can you change the past?

Those who’ve played Man of Medan might feel that Little Hope had yet another “it’s all in his head” plot twist. That’s true. However, I do think the story is a lot deeper and richer given that it deals with Anthony’s trauma and remorse as opposed to just something that’s supposed to spook you.

I’ll leave you with a few things to ponder on. First, in the prologue, Megan is shown holding a key (implying that she locked her mother in the bathroom). Then, a shadowy hand of a demon is seen right behind her. Fast forward to Little Hope‘s finale, you’ll notice that the same key is hidden in the grandfather clock.

I did a few replays to check out if the prologue’s events can be changed after finishing the game. The Curator did say that the events may not have come to pass (yet), and, in the good ending, Mary says that you saved her and that she’ll remember you. I kept wondering if there was a way for Anthony to find that key, save his family, and discover an entirely different ending. But, alas, I don’t even think that’s possible.

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The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is available via Steam. For more information, check out our guides and features hub.

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