George Lucas’s “Star Wars” saga centers around the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker and his legacy. An epic science fiction battle between good and evil that, since the late 1970s, managed to captivate fans of sci-fi and become a pop culture icon of its own. Through series, movies, and books, we learn of the adventures of heroes and villains a long, long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away. The story of Anakin Skywalker is one worthy of exploration, as it tells us many things about the nature of the hero in the classical sense and how what Anakin experienced along the way shaped him into what he became.
You see, Anakin Skywalker’s journey from being a humble slave on Tatooine to becoming the feared Sith Lord, Darth Vader, right hand to Emperor Palpatine, is a tale of love, loss, and betrayal. Throughout the Star Wars saga, we witness Anakin’s transformation from the prophesied “Chosen One” into the embodiment of the Dark Side of the Force. How did he get there? What were the events, themes, Anakin’s personal struggles in his character development arc, and external influences that contributed to this iconic character’s tragic descent?
Anakin’s Early Years and The Prophecy
Anakin’s unique background as a slave with his mother, Shmi, in Tatooine plays a pivotal role in molding his identity; his mother was his first authority figure and the first woman he ever loved when a certain set of events made Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan land on that planet.
The destiny of the galaxy was forever changed in unimaginable ways as they discovered that Anakin, the little tinkerer with a knack for doing pod races, was more than met the eye. The force was strong in him from the get-go! Qui-Gon sensed that Anakin might be the one who would fulfill the Jedi prophecy of bringing balance back to the force.
With an extraordinarily high midi-chlorian count, Anakin grabs the attention of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan. They pull strings to free Anakin from his slavemaster, Watto, and enroll him in a pod racing event to earn his freedom. These events eventually lead to Anakin being taken from Tatooine by the Jedi Order, marking the beginning of his journey that would bring either balance or chaos to the galaxy. That freedom came with a price; his beloved Shmi had to be left as a slave in Tatooine, and that deeply disturbed young Anakin, who eventually started to follow and admire authority figures elsewhere, seeking love and approval from those other than his family, sending him on an eventual quest for self-discovery with terrible consequences for the entire universe.
The Jedi Path and Personal Struggles
Anakin’s rapid rise as a skilled pilot, his daring adventures as Padawan under Obi-Wan, and his eventual Jedi Knight status stand in stark contrast to his internal emotional turmoil. Anakin was separated from his mother, a profound psychological trauma that chased him, creating an inner demon that would forever haunt him and make him covet approval, love, and admiration from the wrong sources.
Despite the Jedi Order’s strict code against emotional attachment, Anakin’s love for Princess Padmé Amidala grew, persisted, and they secretly married. This forbidden love, along with the tragic, brutal death of his mother, inflicts deep emotional wounds on Anakin, setting the stage for his later susceptibility to the dark side of the Force.
The Seduction of Power
Closeted Sith Lord Palpatine, then a Senator at the Old Republic, was a master manipulator hiding his true identity as Darth Sidious. He recognizes Anakin’s potential when he discovers that he’s impulsive, brash, and sometimes power-hungry. But more than that, he discovers that Anakin is in dire need of an authority figure to look up to, as the Jedi Order is too strict for him and exploits these emotional vulnerabilities.
By promising to help save Padmé from a potential demise, Palpatine tempts Anakin with knowledge of the dark side, including the ability to manipulate life itself. Palpatine subtly manipulates Anakin with a constant stream of insidious advice, eventually convincing him that the Republic is falling apart and that the Jedi are enemies of peace.
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The Turning Point
Anakin’s tipping point comes when he intervenes in a confrontation between Jedi Master Mace Windu and Senator Palpatine. Despite being explicitly ordered not to, Anakin’s desperation to save Padmé drives him to defy Windu’s command and save Palpatine. After helping Palpatine fry Windu alive and send him falling down into an abyss, Anakin regrets his life choice but realizes there’s no way back. He bends the knee to his new master, pledges allegiance to the Sith, and raises as Darth Vader.
This moment marks the completion of Anakin’s fall from grace, and he begins to commit heinous acts; he goes to Tatooine and kills those who tortured his mom to death (a huge no-no in the Jedi code), then he goes to act in the name of the newly formed Galactic Empire, to the slaughter of innocent Padawan children at the Jedi Academy.
Beyond Anakin’s Control
While Anakin’s personal struggles and traumas undoubtedly contribute to his downward spiral, external factors also play a significant role in shaping his character arc. Firstly, Palpatine’s relentless and manipulative influence certainly pushes Anakin closer to the edge. But we need to cover how the Jedi Order’s limitations, stubbornness with traditionality, and incapacity to recognize Anakin’s emotional turmoil further fuel his discontent.
The Jedi Order was too uptight, too concentrated in rigidity, and extremely dogmatic in its approach to emotional attachment. Those Jedi codes prevented Anakin from seeking the support and understanding he desperately needed, making him an easy target for Palpatine’s machinations.
Redemption and Beyond
Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader was a gradual and devastating process filled with heartache, betrayal, and tragedy. Despite the turmoil he faces, Anakin is still capable of redemption, and his journey to reclaim balance within himself is a powerful reminder of the classical aspects of the hero. It’s not when he faces his own son, Luke, in a duel to the death and realizes how Palpatine had played him like a fiddle all along that he’s redeemed. In his physical shape, it was too late, but the ethos of Star Wars tells us that there’s life beyond that, and he goes on to fulfill his destiny.
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