Louise Banks

Louise Banks

Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Living... quietly. Louise works as a linguist professor at a university, but her personal life is an isolated one.

Visiting... a military base in Montana. When 12 mystery alien pods land at various points around the globe, humanity is sent into a panic. So the American military enlists Louise’s help to try to communicate with the extraterrestrial “heptapods” onboard the alien ship. 

Profession... linguist. Before the aliens’ arrival, Louise worked as a college professor. But she’s called in for a much more high-stakes job. Along with physicist Ian Donnelly, she’s tasked with figuring out just want the heptapods want from humanity. 

Interests... language and culture. Louise takes a holistic approach to her work. Rather than merely offer direct translations, she looks at the context around certain words. For instance, she knows that the Sanskrit word for “war” literally translates to “a desire for more cows.”

Relationship Status... single. Although married at one point, her daughter’s death from cancer drives the relationship apart. As she puts it, “You can understand communication and still end up single.” 

Challenge... figuring out how to communicate with the heptapods. Specifically, the military wants Louise to ask the aliens why they have come to Earth. But as she explains, that’s far more difficult than it sounds. Before she can ask them a question, she must learn the basics of their vocabulary and grammar. And she’s fearful of her message getting lost in translation. As Louise explains, We need to make sure that they understand the difference between a weapon and a tool. Language is messy and sometimes one can be both.”Unfortunately, the pressure is on. Trigger-happy nations around the global – including her own – are eager to attack if the aliens prove to be a threat.

Personality... determined, intelligent, and patient. While those around her are quick to leap to conclusions about the heptapods, Louise takes a more measured approach. She tries to examine things objectively and make choices based on logic, not fear. She’s often overwhelmed by the unprecedented challenge in front of her, but she never allows herself more than a moment of panic before she gets back to work.


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