Looook look at the trailer for the DLC it has a few seconds of Cave Johnson talking vaguely about his father
It’s on my blog if you can’t find it
First thought: “Eeeeeee, hello Mr. Johnson!”
Second thought: “Farmer? Professor of farming? Shit this changes things.”
Third thought: “Wait a minute. Cave is almost as unreliable a narrator as GLaDOS. It’s entirely possibly that he is lying.”
Let’s see, what are the possibilities here…
1. A rural farmer. Not a fancy professor of farming, but a farmer who worked hard in the fields to feed his wife and son. He probably lost everything after the stock market crash because prices were driven so low. He certainly never went to college — either he never cared to send his son, making Cave get the money himself, or he worked himself to the bone trying to afford it and was furious when Cave dropped out to found Aperture. And he either died young or always disapproved of Cave’s interests in business and science. Cave, in turn, was ashamed of his humble beginnings, hence the professor story. (In this case Cave clearly didn’t grow up in Upper Michigan, since the climate is bad for agriculture, and probably only moved there to buy the salt mine. Unless his dad was a really shitty farmer, which is possible. I mean, Cave did manage to buy a salt mine in an area that chiefly produces copper.)
2. An actual professor of farming. Could have tendencies that fostered his son’s love of experimental agriculture. Plenty of knowledge of theory, but not much of practice. He encouraged his son’s interest in science, but again was furious when he dropped out of school. This possibility would give the actual rural farmer a bit of Real America glamor, making Cave romanticize that lifestyle while still regarding it as inferior to the life of an intellectual.
3. He made it all up, and his dad had nothing to do with farming. From this, though, we still get that being a professor of farming is better than being a farmer, though farming still has that Real America reputation that sells. And that whatever his father actually did either doesn’t sell or isn’t something Cave wants to talk about.
Which is best? The second one gives the most solid reasons for Cave’s interest in science and his methods of going about it, but it feels somehow easy. I see Cave as coming from humble beginnings — unless his image as a self-made man is fabricated. He could have been more ambitious than his easygoing father, while sharing his preference for brainwork over physical labor and relying on him for extra cash. He could have gotten into college on Daddy’s coattails and dropped out against his wishes.
At the same time I really like the idea that he’s lying. I don’t hear it in his tone of voice, though. Even though lying would be the interesting choice. Urgh, Valve, why are your characterizations so hard?
EDIT: Hold on a second. He wouldn’t be a professor of farming, he’d be a professor of agriculture. Either Cave’s trying to be clever or he’s bullshitting. HMMMMM…
My initial read on it was that he was making shit up as he went. Started out with the all-American “farmer” story, realized that sounded kind of uneducated, stuck a “professor of” on there, then rambled a bit to prove he knew what he was talking about.
But I love all of your theories and any one of them works beautifully for me!
Clearly Papa Johnson was a wheat farmer… :D
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