I have spent a good amount of time blasting Lucas for all the terrible things he’s done to Star Wars ever since the release of the Special Editions in 1997. I can’t deny however, the images and symbols he created over 25 years ago. Granted, most of those images and symbols came from Joseph Campbell and his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, but that does not take away from their meaning. One of the trilogies primary symbols being the hero journey of Luke Skywalker. Most viewers come away with the simple images of Luke growing from the archetypical pig farmer to great hero who restores the order of the Jedi. Luke, to most viewers, falls under the “warrior hero” archetype. To a point this is true, however; Luke performs an even greater task, that of the “healing hero” when he restores his father to the man he once was. I know, most of you don’t need to Star Wars plot recap, but it helps to lay the foundation of this installment.
Like many kids, Luke has an image in his mind as to the kind of man his father was. Although most kids see their parents on a daily basis, that doesn’t prevent us from creating a mental image as to what kind of a person our parents were. Luke believes his father was a merchant on a space cruise and died before he was born. He even grows somewhat angry when Obi Wan suggests otherwise. Such is the case for many young people when they are told by outside sources that their parent is not what they behold them to be. Luke finally learns that his father was a more important figure then he was lead to believe, and although most of us will never have a parent who lead great armies into battle we are still shocked when we truly discover what out father does. This isn’t necessarily shocked in a good way mind you, but still a shock to our mental image of the person.
All kids grow up, and like Luke, we begin our hero journey. We don’t all raid Death Stars, rescue a princess, or save a rebellion in the process, but as Campbell states, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” What is bigger then life? Eventually Luke confronts the truth regarding his father. He learns that the man who killed his father stands before him, calming to be his father. Luke faces the first major challenge that all young people face. He must decide to follow in the path of his father, or carry on with his own destiny regardless of the repercussions. No child can move on until they make that choice, luckily (for the majority of us) this does not require us to plummet to our deaths in a floating city.
Luke is stronger in his determination that he will no become his father. Most children are content with this position in their lives. They stand tall and proclaim that they are their own person, no longer in the shadow of their parent. Most of us stay there our entire lives. Our mission in life becomes one of never becoming out parents. We even go so far as to be aware of and change mannerisms that are similar to our parents. Unfortunately, like Luke in the Emperor’s chamber, we are confronted with a terrible fact. In our desire, our quest, our obsession, to not be like the people who reared us, we have become them in every detail. Most of us spend years standing over our parents, lightsaber in hand, trying to decide whether to strike and become the parent or to toss our weapon aside and extend our hand in friendship. Luke is able to save his father, spiritually if not physically and in turn become his own man. Luke will never make the same mistakes his father made. Not because he destroyed his father, but because he decided, the cycle would end. He would risk his own body and soul in an attempt to make his father a better person again. That is the true message of Luke’s hero journey, and why he is the healer saving the fallen warrior.
What does any of this have to do with your friendly neighborhood Geek? Well, I could tell you…but I’d have to Force choke you.