Trinity: “You know the question, just as I did.”
Neo: “What is the Matrix?”
Trinity: “The answer is out there, Neo. It’s looking for you. And it will find you if you want it to.”
This exchange takes place in a techno Goth club near the beginning of The Matrix, before Neo understands what the Matrix is and before he ever meets Morpheus. These lines set Neo’s adventure in motion. Not long after this exchange takes place, Neo will decide to let the Matrix find him, and he will discover that more than one person has been counting on him to find and understand an important answer to a cryptic question. From the very beginning, the film suggests that more than one real world exists, if we can just open our minds to it. Trinity suggests that Neo can’t avoid this other world, and that it’s open for him if he knows how to look for it. Trinity’s final sentence foreshadows the tension that will arise between fate and choice, a tension that will reappear throughout the trilogy.
This exchange reveals the true extent of Neo’s double life. As the everyman Thomas Anderson, he holds a day job as a respectable computer programmer and works at night as a renegade hacker, nicknamed Neo. Now he is also a chosen one, someone selected to find the cryptic answer to which Trinity refers. Though Neo is thrust into this strange world with no explanation, he doesn’t seem entirely surprised—when Trinity refers to the question, Neo knows instantly what question she means. On some level, Neo may have expected to one day be taken to task for his suspicions and speculations about reality. That an everyman like Thomas Anderson could be plucked from ordinary life and chosen to search for an answer suggests that anyone in the audience might one day be chosen to be a messiah as well.
Morpheus: “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Neo meets the enigmatic and imposing Morpheus for the first time in an empty room in an abandoned building in the Matrix, when he still has no idea what’s happening to him. With little time available, Morpheus gives Neo the famous choice between the red and blue pills. The blue pill will let Neo keep control over his story, but his story will have no basis in truth. The red pill will throw Neo headlong into a world he has no basis for understanding. Neo takes the red pill, of course, setting the trilogy in motion, and this moment with Morpheus marks a clear before and after in both the film and Neo’s life. Nothing, after this decision, will ever be the same.
The “wonderland” and “rabbit hole” references come from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. At the beginning of the story, young Alice follows a white rabbit into a deep rabbit hole. By entering the rabbit hole, she leaves the real world behind and enters a strange new world where the usual physical laws don’t apply. In this new world, for example, she can change the size of her body, from abnormally big to unusually small. During her adventure she bends and breaks the rules of reality just as Neo will when he enters the Matrix. The rabbit hole for Alice, like the mirror for Neo, marks the transition from one world to the next.
Young Monk: “Do not try and bend the spoon—that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.”
Neo: “What truth?”
Young Monk: “There is no spoon.”
When Neo visits the Oracle in The Matrix, he sees a young boy in the Oracle’s living room who is bending a spoon in mid-air. The boy, dressed as a Buddhist monk, bends the spoon just by looking at it. When Neo approaches him to learn the secret, the boy tells him that in order to bend the spoon, Neo must bend only his mind. In the Matrix, the spoon doesn’t exist—it’s just a code or a program that tells Neo’s brain that he’s looking at a spoon. Neo’s mind, on the other hand, does exist. What he sees before him is not a spoon, but rather an idea his brain has created of a spoon—his own perception. He can change reality by changing his perception.
Neo remembers this exchange as he becomes more confident in his ability to break the rules of the Matrix. All he has to do is remember that the rules he breaks aren’t actual rules. Just as there is no spoon, there is no gravity, there is no time—all these things are lies the machines tell his brain. Neo can fly, for example, because he can see gravity is a false construct. Once Neo understands that “there is no spoon,” he gains more power in the Matrix.
Seraph: “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”
—The Matrix Reloaded
In the second film of the trilogy, the Oracle calls Neo away from Zion to give him crucial guidance about the path of the future. When Neo arrives at the address the Oracle gives, he encounters the Oracle’s guardian, Seraph, who proceeds to fight him as a way of certifying that Neo is who he says he is. Seraph then delivers this cryptic comment to explain his unprovoked physical attack. His words suggest a philosophical theme of sorts that runs throughout the trilogy: fighting is not only a combat but also an almost spiritual process of discovery. Therefore, the fighting in the film is elevated to a more spiritual plane. Seraph’s tone makes his proclamation seem profound, even divine. In a way, by giving the line such weight, Seraph justifies the exorbitant glut of action sequences that occur in the Matrix films. Instead of fight scenes simply being par for the action-movie course, Seraph suggests that they have a more noble purpose, an idea that sheds a different light on Neo's many battles with Smith.
Agent Smith: “You can’t win, it’s pointless to keep fighting! Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you persist?”
Neo: “Because I choose to.”
—The Matrix Revolutions
This exchange between Neo and Agent Smith takes place during their final battle in The Matrix Revolutions. Smith has replicated himself onto the entire Matrix, populating it completely with copies of himself, and the Smith that is battling Neo was once the Oracle. Smith and Neo have beaten each other nearly to a bloody pulp, and they’re in a crater created by the impact of their bodies hitting the ground. Smith thinks he has beaten Neo, but Neo has once again summoned the strength to keep fighting. Though Smith absorbed some of Neo’s powers when Neo almost destroyed him in The Matrix, he has never absorbed the ability to fully understand what it means to be human. He doesn’t understand love, freedom, or truth, and so he dismisses them as something humans made up to help them endure their short, pointless lives. Smith has ruined the Matrix, and he’s made everyone in it into himself. Smith knows that Trinity is dead, and that Zion is under attack. He can’t understand why Neo won’t just give up, and Neo’s answer infuriates him.
When Neo and Morpheus first discuss fate, Neo says he doesn’t believe in it and that he likes to be in control of his own life. Here, when Neo says that despite the destruction of everything he loves he’ll continue fighting because he chooses to, he means he fights for the right to continue making choices. Neo understands that freedom and the ability to make choices are better than the blissful ignorance that comes from being plugged into the Matrix. His initial choice in The Matrix—between the red and blue pills—was Neo’s first experience with true free will, and this final choice, to keep fighting, suggests that Neo has come full circle. When he chose the red pill, he chose to discover free will, and here, he actually embraces and uses that free will to fulfill his mission.