In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I thought I would take a look at the most memorable father and son relationship in the trilogy: Anakin and Luke.
People say “like father, like son,” because there are undoubtedly, certain traits and personality quirks that are passed down from genetically from father to son. I know we could argue nature vs. nurture right now – but I do believe that there are certain innate qualities that don’t come from your environment and only come from your genetics.
For instance, personality-wise, I am very similar to my late grandfather. He had a clock in every room (sometimes more than one!), always had his watch on, was never late to any engagement, and had a strict schedule around everything in his life. The thing is, I barely knew my grandfather. He lived in Australia while I lived here in America. I have never spent a lot of time with him yet my mother and father tell me that I am so similar to him that it’s eerie. Now they call me the “Dalai Grandpa”.
The hardest part about looking at Luke and Anakin was trying to find how they are similar. A quick analysis in my head sees that though they are both strong with the Force, the similarities seemed to end there. Luke = good/light side and Anakin = bad/dark side. But on closer thought, I realized that there were some father/son qualities, it was just how they chose to use those qualities that drove them down different paths.
1. Anakin and Luke both want to serve the greater good and do what is right.
This is especially obvious with Luke as he made all the right choices within the OT. It was a close call because he originally wanted to enter the Imperial Academy, but you can also look at that choice from the view that he thought he was doing the right thing. A moisture vapor farmer in an outlying territory probably only hears fringes of what is going on politically and all Luke really wanted to do was to become a pilot. What better way than joining the Imperial Academy and fighting for the good of the government? Thankfully his views were changed after the Empire brutally murdered his Aunt and Uncle. Just learning that his father was actually a Jedi, not a “navigator on a spice freighter”, Luke made the quick and right decision that he too would become a Jedi. There is no greater good than that. Like father, like son. On the way, he joined the Rebellion, helped blow up the first Death Star, make valuable friends and take down the entire Empire. Luke’s view of serving the greater good and doing what was right was focused away from himself and on helping others.
Anakin also wanted to serve the greater good and do what was right, but the difference between the father and the son was that the father’s intentions were more focused inwards. He believed that he was serving the greater good in the galaxy by being a Jedi, but his actions were often focused more inward by doing what was right by his own terms such as saving Padmé and trying to save his mother.
Which leads me to my second point…
2. Anakin and Luke both had a strong attachment to their family.
When Anakin was doing right by his own terms, it often revolved around one of his family members. In the case of both father and son, they did not have much of a family life. Anakin was a boy born of the midi-chlorians and therefore had no father. His only familial attachment for 9 years of his life was his mother. Making close friends was not as easy since he was a slave and because of his situation as a slave, his mother was all he had. After leaving to become a Jedi, thoughts of his mother still plagued him and he never forgot her. Padmé became his second family and Anakin turned to the dark side in order to keep her alive. He believed he was doing the right thing by finding a way to keep her alive, and instead his actions tipped the galaxy under Sith rule.
I could argue that Luke had a strong attachment to Beru and Lars and it would make sense given that he grew up with them. However, the movies show him upset, but not excessively aggrieved over their deaths. Instead, I believe that Luke has a strong attachment to his father. First, it is to the idea of him since as soon as he finds out that his father was a Jedi, his father becomes the ultimate hero in his mind. He builds him up on this pedestal and wants to be just like him, as most young boys look up to their fathers and want to emulate them. However, when he finds out that Vader is actually his father, Luke still refuses to believe that Anakin is completely won over by the dark side. In ROTJ we learn that Leia is Luke’s sister, providing another family member that he did not know he had. The attachment Luke has for her is revealed when Vader senses that Luke has a sister and incites Luke to a rage when he says, “So, you have a twin sister. Your feelings have now betrayed her, too. Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the Dark Side, then perhaps she will.”
Which leads me to my third and final observation and ties everything together…
3. Anakin and Luke both let emotions lead them, not rules.
When Luke heard Vader say that he would attempt to draw Leia to the Dark Side of the Force, Luke just went bananas. His protective attachment to his sibling made him lose his composure and give in to his anger and attack Vader mercilessly. It was a side of Luke we had never seen before. Or had we? Luke’s emotions were always seeping out of him and he did not always follow the rules. We see it in ANH when Obi-Wan tells Luke to stay in the Command Office of the Death Star with Han, Chewie, and the droids. As soon as Luke hears that Princess Leia is in a detention block to be terminated, he decides to go rescue her, acting on his emotions of empathy and fearing for her safety. Twice in ESB he lets his emotions take control. Once as he tries to lift his X-Wing out of the swamp and he gets frustrated at Yoda and ends up sulking. “Do. Or Do not. There is no try.” Though a seemingly minor incident when he lets emotions get the best of him, it speaks loudly to his character of cracking under pressure. The second time was when he saw the vision of Han and Leia in pain. Yoda specifically told him not to go and help them, but he disobeyed the old Jedi Master, and ran off to Bespin. He really didn’t do any good out there and just caused more trouble, almost endangering Leia and gang when they had to come back and rescue him. Luke seems to get a bit of it under control in ROTJ and does a pretty good job until the scene mentioned earlier in ROTJ. His loose hold on his emotions almost causes him to turn to the Dark Side and make the same mistake Vader does.
As soon as Anakin is taken from his mother because he is the “chosen one”, his hold on his emotions is immediately pointed out by the Jedi Council in TPM. His fear of losing her, as Yoda says, leads to anger, hate, suffering, and ultimately – the Dark Side. Whoa, Yoda, a little dramatic! Oh, wait, it actually ends up happening. He massacres an entire village of Tusken Raiders when he loses his mother. His fear of losing her came true and his anger bubbles over. When he develops feelings for Padmé, his emotions drive him to develop an extreme attachment to her and do what is right by her. Unfortunately, that too ends up with a massacre – this time of the entire Jedi Order.
Thankfully, we can see that though there are similarities between Anakin and Luke, Luke’s actions lead him to the light side of the Force whereas Anakin’s leads to destruction, anger, and loss. An argument can be made that your family history does not define your destiny and you can choose your fate with your own actions. But the underlying causes may be what propels the choices you make.
Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there. Have a Star Wars fun-filled day full of warmth and children telling you that you’re a better dad than Vader.