“What do you make of that?" he asked.


“What was the context in which this recording was made?”

"I’m not at liberty to say.”

“It would help me interpret those sounds. Could you see the alien while it was speaking? Was it doing anything at the time?”

“The recording is all I can offer.” […] Colonel Weber wasn’t budging. “Do you have any opinion about its linguistic properties?” he asked.

This exchange between Louise and Colonel Weber occurs during their first meeting. The passage is an example of Weber’s rigid and defensive posture. Weber’s character is a foil for Louise, acting as an example of how not to make any progress with the aliens. To learn about the aliens, humans will necessarily have to reveal something about themselves. In his defensive mindset, Weber is reluctant to engage in this kind of free exchange of ideas between the two species and this threatens to impede the process.

The colonel clearly found this interesting; evidently his philosophy was, the less the aliens knew, the better. Gary Donnelly read the colonel’s expression too and rolled his eyes. I suppressed a smile.

Then Colonel Weber asked, “Suppose you were learning a new language by talking to its speakers; could you do it without teaching them English?”

Colonel Weber continues to maintain a defensive posture regarding the aliens during his first meeting with Louise. Gary and Louise’s reactions to Weber create a contrast with the military man which highlights Weber’s inability to think collaboratively and creatively. Weber’s behavior suggests he is a goal-oriented, linear thinker. There is clearly something he wants from the aliens, and he wants to get it without having to give anything in return.