1. Luke: “How did my father die?”
Ben: “A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father.”
In Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke asks Ben Kenobi this question in Ben’s home, just after Ben gives Luke his father’s lightsaber. Ben’s careful reply is technically accurate in all that it says, but it omits the crucial detail, which is that Ben’s pupil and the good Jedi, Luke’s father, that the pupil “betrayed and murdered” are one and the same. One of Luke’s greatest desires is to know his father, and Ben fears that if Luke knew the truth, he would either despair or, even worse, seek to become just like him. Instead, Ben hopes to encourage Luke to emulate the good side of his father’s legacy, the side that Anakin betrayed when he turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader. Ben takes a great chance here, risking the loss of Luke’s trust should he discover the full truth. And, indeed, Luke is greatly hurt by the revelation when it comes, calling out to Ben in anguish as he speeds away from Bespin aboard the Millennium Falcon.
Later, back on Dagobah, Ben explains that what he told Luke was indeed true, if only from a “certain point of view.” Luke is frustrated by this response, but Ben maintains that many of the things we believe are true in this sense alone. In part, Ben confesses, he hid the truth out of guilt and shame, since Anakin Skywalker was Obi-Wan Kenobi’s greatest failure. Ben, back when he was Obi-Wan, had been in charge of training Anakin but lost him to the Emperor and the dark side. Ben tells Luke that his greatest fear is of losing Luke the way he lost his father. Luke was always meant to know the full truth, but Ben and Yoda had hoped that Luke’s deepening understanding of the Force would lead him to see the truth on his own. Luke’s anguished resentment of Vader’s revelation only shows how unready he was for the truth. Evidence of how much Luke has grown at this point comes when he instantly understands that Leia is his sister, as soon as Ben hints at it.
2. Luke: “You don’t believe in the Force, do you?”
Han: “Kid, I’ve flown from one side of the galaxy to the other, I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny!”
In Episode IV: A New Hope, Han and Luke have this exchange as the Millennium Falcon cruises through hyperspace toward Alderaan. Luke is practicing his lightsaber under Ben’s tutelage, and Han is amused at Luke’s clumsy mistakes. Han claims that a good blaster is worth more than an old-fashioned weapon and a “hokey religion.” Han’s claim of never having seen evidence of the Force in his travels is clearly self-serving. That is, Han sees no evidence of the Force affecting his life precisely because he does not wish to see such a force affect his life. Han wants to shape his own destiny apart from others, which requires that he be cut off from the Force, which, as we have been told by Ben, penetrates us all and binds us together. Even after Luke is able to defeat the remote with his eyes shielded, Han would much rather trust in his own skill, and even in “luck,” than accept that his own fate is contingent on anyone or anything outside of himself.
Han begins to change after Ben sacrifices himself so that the others can escape the Death Star. The clearest sign that the change has begun is when Han calls Luke back in order to say, “May the Force be with you.” Still later, Han finds himself in a situation he can’t blast his way out of, when he is encased in carbonite and delivered to Jabba the Hutt. Han is rescued by his friends but is still temporarily without his sight. Like Luke aboard the Falcon, Han must fight blind, trusting his friends and accepting that he is forced to rely on others. Though he will never be a Jedi Knight, Han develops from a selfish, mercenary loner into a loyal friend and a committed leader of the Rebel Alliance.
3. Yoda: “[M]y ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force flow around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, yes, even between the land and the ship.”
This quote appears in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This is Yoda’s most impassioned exposition of the nature of the Force, and he delivers it just as Luke is doubting his own gifts. When Luke’s X-Wing fighter sinks further into the mire of Dagobah, Yoda encourages Luke to use his levitation skills to salvage the ship. Luke is daunted by the task, so much so that when he does try to move the ship, he fails. Yoda then explains that Luke is going about the problem the wrong way: “Size matters not,” he tells Luke. Rather than focusing on the relative differential in size between himself and the ship, Luke should open up himself to the Force as it flows around and through him. Once he does so, says Yoda, he will feel connected to the ship in such a way that the relative size of it will not matter. He encourages Luke here to see himself, others, and indeed the entire world in terms of spirit, life, and energy, not “crude” matter. However, Luke becomes frustrated and angrily turns away.
To prove his point, Yoda then extends his arm and, using the force, rather easily lifts the ship completely up out of the swamp and levitates it over to dry land. Stunned by this awesome display of skill and power, Luke stammers, “I don’t believe it.” “That,” Yoda replies, “is why you fail.” Yoda’s point is that when it comes to mental powers and the horizon of the mind, the only limits we have are those we choose for ourselves. Luke told himself that it was impossible to move the ship, and so it was impossible—for him. Once Luke begins to set aside his ingrained notions of what is possible and impossible, once he begins to “unlearn” what he knows (as Yoda puts it), his powers begin to grow. Eventually the young trainee who fails to move the ship will become a Jedi strong enough to defeat Vader without giving in to hatred and anger.
4. Darth Vader: “Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy! . . . If you only knew the power of the dark side! Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father. . .”
Luke: “He told me enough! He told me you killed him!”
Darth Vader: “No, I am your father!”
This exchange, which occurs in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back on the catwalk within Cloud City after Vader has thoroughly beaten Luke, is one of the central moments of the trilogy. The most important thing we learn along with Luke is the Vader’s true identity and his relation to Luke. The loss that Luke experiences in this scene is profound and multifaceted. He has lost, for one thing, the narrative that has given his life meaning up to this point: that his father was killed by Vader and that he, Luke, will someday avenge his death. Instead, Luke now finds he has a villain, not a hero, for a father. At the same time, he has, in a way, lost another father in Ben, who not only was struck down by Luke’s real father but now stands revealed as having been less than honest with Luke. This is the very moment, the very realization, that Ben had tried to spare Luke, until he was ready to handle it. As it is, Luke would rather die than face the reality of the situation. He throws himself over the side and is saved from death only by luck—or perhaps destiny.
At the same time, Vader’s statement here sheds a bit of light on his own motivations and reveals some of the seductiveness of the dark side. Vader offers Luke a chance to belong, a chance to seize power, and a chance to know his father all at once. Vader claims here to be motivated by a desire for peace, stability, and order, which certainly doesn’t sound all that evil. In truth, however, the only order offered by the dark side is the order of absolute submission to the will of the Emperor, and the only peace the peace of surrender, or death. A Jedi, Luke learns, fights so that others may be free, not to subordinate others to a specious “order” or “stability.”
5. Emperor: “Now fulfill your destiny, and take your father’s place at my side.”
Luke: “Never. I’ll never turn to the dark side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”
Emperor: “So be it, Jedi.”
This quote appears in Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi. This moment, which occurs aboard the new Death Star even as the final assault begins, is the climax of Luke’s journey toward heroism. Luke has just finished beating Vader into submission, having attacked him furiously in response to Vader’s threat to turn Leia to the dark side. Luke has even severed Vader’s right hand, paying him back for the similar injury Vader had dealt to Luke. Now, the Emperor descends the steps of his dais toward Luke, encouraging him to kill Vader and take his position as chief enforcer of the Emperor’s will. In a sense, it is the goal Luke has been working toward all along: taking the position his father once held. Originally, Luke thought this meant becoming a Jedi, but now a different, sinister possibility is unfolding before him. Luke could indeed step into his father’s place, but as a Sith, not a Jedi. As Yoda and Ben warned him, Luke finds the path to the dark side to be easy, quick, and brutally efficient.
However, the Emperor has misjudged Luke’s righteous fury in defense of his sister. Luke has defeated Vader not out of some personal, revenge-driven desire, but in order to protect someone he loves. As Luke glances from the shattered hulk of Vader to his own cybernetically grafted hand, he feels pity and understanding for his father, not hatred. Luke will take his father’s place, but it will by following the path of his true father figures, Ben and Yoda, and it will be Anakin Skywalker he turns to, not Vader. When Luke faces the Emperor, then, he does so as a true Jedi, one who has faced his own demons and defeated them, making it impossible for the Emperor to prey on his weaknesses. The Emperor himself acknowledges his defeat when he addresses Luke for the first time as “Jedi,” rather than “Young Skywalker” or something similar.
Take a Study Break!