Is Ye Wenjie Dead Or Alive In ‘3 Body Problem’? Why Did Vera Ye Kill Herself?


For some people, the 3 Body Problem is an interstellar science fiction. But for those who have read the book, it acts as an exploration of human behavior. In much simpler words, the narrative explores how one person’s action can lead to a chain reaction that might eventually end the world. Ye Wenjie, the protagonist of the first book, had a pretty simple life until the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution hit the country in early 1966. Her father was publicly executed by the Red Army just for the “crime” of teaching Einstein’s relativity theory in college. The question here is: What was Wenjie’s fault in that? Why was she branded as a traitor in her own country when she had nothing to do with her father’s actions? Wenjie had always been a simple woman, which was why she didn’t ask any such questions and soon left the city behind to live a life in the mountains. But it’s a tragedy that life is never simple for some people, no matter how hard they try to make it.

At the labor camp in the Khingan Mountains, Wenjie got a copy of Silent Spring from a journalist named Bai Mulin, who, according to Netflix’s series, had a crush on her. But what’s important here is the fact that a copy of Silent Spring changed Wenjie’s perspective on life. The weak and helpless woman now wanted to change the world, even though she didn’t have the means to do so. She was inspired by the book’s author, Rachel Carson, who fought against the industrial Goliath and brought it down to its knees. Wenjie wanted to be that hero, but how?

Wenjie’s hatred for humanity stemmed from her own childhood horror. These incidents eventually became the reason why she contacted the San-Ti, even after their initial warning to not do so. She might not have wanted the total annihilation of the human race, but she was definitely angry with a few miscreants in society. The Red Guards, Political Commissar Lei Zhicheng, Bai Mulin, and her own mother, to name a few. Being a young revolutionary, Wenjie yearned for change. The question was, “How?” Going against her senior’s order and contacting the aliens in secrecy was Wenjie’s revolt against the established authority. She wanted foreign power to intervene in Earth’s power dynamics and liberate the free-thinkers of the society who believed in pacifism. Sadly, Rome wasn’t built in a day. As the Cultural Revolution came to an end, many facilities, including the Red Coast Base, were shut down, and Wenjie left Radar Peak with her infant daughter.

The birth of a child was a turning point in Wenjie’s life. After becoming a mother, Wenjie stepped down from the revenge bus and wanted to live a peaceful life. I didn’t really like the fact that Netflix’s show turned Wenjie into a villain by changing this small detail. Wenjie never pursued Mike Evans. Instead, she was influenced by the industrialist’s beliefs and his faith in Buddhism, which was why she informed him about the aliens. Just like Wenjie, Evans too wanted to save the world from humans. He spent a lifetime trying to save endangered species but finally realized that the core issue was humans. A human couldn’t save the world from another human, which was why a foreign invasion seemed like the only viable solution.

Both Wenjie and Evans compared alien invasion with Western colonization, where they believed the conquerors from Europe civilized the Aztecs, Indians, and Africans. In the book, the entire thing was discussed among the new members of ETO, and Evans elected members based on this discussion only. He only selected people who were in favor of an invasion or colonization, as these people would remain loyal to the San-Ti in the future.

Wenjie, too, remained loyal to the alien lord until her blind faith took the life of her own daughter. As mentioned earlier, Vera Ye’s birth was a turning point in Wenjie’s life. She didn’t want her daughter to end up like her or her late father, but perhaps fate had something else in store for her. Vera was working on a project that could revolutionize atomic science. But the aliens deemed the prospect a threat and didn’t want it to happen. They sabotaged Vera’s project and pushed her to her death. Wenjie knew the truth about her daughter’s murder but still lived in denial. The irony here is that Wenjie feels that she is making a sacrifice for the greater good. But killing a person, no matter what the reason may be, is always evil. How does Wenjie’s action make her any different from the Red Guards?

It was Da Shi who underscored the truth for Wenjie. Her daughter, Vera, had found some secret files on Wenjie’s computer, which pointed to her involvement in the alien invasion. Vera struggled with the fact that her own mother was a traitor to humanity who would lead to the death and destruction of so many innocent lives. She couldn’t make peace with the facts and, therefore, ended her own life to escape misery. Now, let’s speculate that an alien invasion takes place some 400 years later, and San-Ti, instead of civilizing humanity, ends up erasing its very existence. I am aware of the fact that they want to occupy our planet because theirs isn’t habitable. In such a scenario, can we say Wenjie was responsible for human extinction?

During 3 Body Problem‘s ending, Wenjie finally realized that, in her foolishness, she had doomed the entire world, and no one could save it now except for Saul Durand. Wenjie’s last meeting with Saul in the graveyard has a symbolic meaning of its own, but one cannot explain it without discussing the concept of cosmic sociology from the second book. So, I won’t go in there. But just to mention, Saul would one day understand the meaning of Wenjie’s last words and use them to save humanity. It is through humor that he will save the planet. 

As far as Wenjie is concerned, she bid a final goodbye to her daughter’s grave and went straight to Radar Peak, the same location where she started the chain reaction. Now, looking back, Wenjie realized her mistake, and even though she couldn’t change the past, she could hope for a better future. I really hated the fact that the creators of Netflix’s show introduced Tatiana in the scene just to make Wenjie’s death comfortable. It was one of the worst creative decisions in the entire series. Wenjie’s death was meant to be painful. It was meant to be poetic. She wanted to die during the sunset because it meant something in history. Metaphorically, it meant the sunset of a civilization that had destroyed her entire life. But because of her revenge, she would be blamed for the deaths of so many innocent individuals, and therefore, she needed to repent for her sins by giving herself a painful death. It was something that Wenjie deserved in the end.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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