What is the meaning of life? For different inmates in Litchfield penitentiary, life’s purpose holds many meanings. Depending on one’s relationship with themselves and others, life may or may not hold a higher purpose. Some live their lives dedicated to a religion or spirituality; others seek to enrich their lives and relationships with others. While some believe that life has no purpose if you are not successful or rich, others simply believe that their purpose is to find love. The season three finale gives us an exclusive look into what makes many of these inmates tick.
The Spiritual or Religious Life
Let’s begin inside the walls of Litchfield. Norma’s spiritual (and later cult-like) following drew the lost, hopeless, and people who were searching for a greater meaning. This group of people maintain their faith and purpose through a series of miracles and signs, beginning with a faith healing-type touch from Norma and then later transitioning to Angie’s brief release from prison and Toast Norma. For Norma’s group, life is about searching for spiritual signs that help them know that they are not alone in this life.
“Look, people love a sign, you know? We’re all looking for a clue that there’s a reason for things, that everything’s not all random and lonely, you know?” – Leanne Taylor to Norma Romano
For others, such as Janae Watson’s Muslim father and “Black” Cindy Hayes’ Christian father, life is about following a strict coda as dictated by a religious institution and established religious texts. For these individuals, life is lived either on the path to righteousness or the path to damnation.
This pattern of living is too harsh for some, as we learn through Cindy’s troubled upbringing in the church. For her, life is about being true to herself and wrestling with these higher purposes through the Jewish faith.
The Communal and Altruistic Life
For Brook Soso, life was once about bringing justice to a wholly unjust world. She lands herself in jail because of her protesting and caused quite a riot in Litchfield in season two when she felt that prisoners’ rights were being violated by the limited food choice offered to the prisoners. She fights for the community.
Similarly, Sister Ingalls has reformed her ways since being a self-centered egotistical nun who used a protest to bolster her own book career. She now spends her time behind bars hearing others out and being a friend to talk to when there is nowhere else people can turn.
Lately, life in Litchfield for Gloria Mendoza has been about overcoming her humanity and tendency toward revenge to do the right thing. While Sophia Burset might have revoked her right to see her son, she tried very hard to move past it and be civil toward her. When Sophia is thrown into the SHU “for her own protection,” Gloria seeks Sister Ingalls’ advice in how to deal with her conscience because she knows she could have prevented this fate for Sophia.
The Materialistic and/or Ambitious Life
Some people and cultures are focused on the material things that life can provide them with. Brook Soso’s mother emphasized to her young child that what counts is her time spent here on Earth. She states, “There is no Heaven. There is no Hell. When we die, all that remains are the memories of our achievements. And cheaters are very quickly forgotten.”
Similarly, for Danny Pearson’s father, his single goal in life is to make as much money as possible in the time allotted to him without much regard for the people upon which his career and bank account are built.
Aleida Diaz has been trying to convince her daughter, Dayanara Diaz, all season that what counts in life is how many opportunities you have to be successful and have all of the material items necessary to live comfortably. She was even willing to sell off Daya’s baby to Delia Mendez Powell to ensure that life for her granddaughter as well as lessen her own family’s financial strain.
The Romantic Life
While Counselor Sam Healy has not been ideal in any sense of the word, he is coming to understand the importance of love and deep relationships in his own life. While Galina “Red” Reznikov believes that “love is a lie we tell ourselves so we don’t go extinct,” she still believes that there is a soul mate out in the world waiting for her, regardless of whether or not they will ever be able to consummate their emotional relationship.
To others like Lorna Morello, love and marriage are the only things that she has ever looked forward to. She was thrown into jail simply because she was in love with the idea of an infatuating, forbidden love. Lucky for her, her marriage to Vincent Muccio will help her to carry out what she believes to be life’s only purpose.
Poussey Washington has always been a romantic at heart. When the German officer on the American army base pulled strings to have her father transferred back to America to prevent a relationship from continuing between her and his own daughter, Poussey was simply shattered. Ever since then, she has been searching for someone to complete her and make her less lonely.
The Meaning of Litchfield: Jenji Kohan’s Message
While we are provided with several models of the way in which life could be conducted, Cindy’s mikvah in the lake at the end of this episode suggests that Orange creator Jenji Kohan wishes to say that life is only worth living when you are being entirely true to yourself and when you act in your own best interest. Much like how Big Boo lives her entire life fighting for her right to dress, act, and love whatever and whoever she desires, Kohan puts forward that happiness can only be found when you are in touch with who you truly are and, most importantly, when you have come to accept that you are human.