Recently, Selena Illyria was talking about killing off a character in her blog. It reminded me of a blog topic I had written on but had never posted– that of redemption. It’s an important topic for me personally, and it’s one that I find happens in my stories- either to the main characters or somewhere in the secondary characters. The theme of redemption is simply important to me. But it never became so clear to me how important until….Star Wars. *grins*
It’s not a secret, but somehow, not everyone knows I’m a Luke Skywalker fan. Yes, there’s the rogue Han Solo, but as much as I enjoyed him, there was an elemental call from Luke to me that profoundly affected me for many years. It wasn’t until I heard a speech given by a mythology professor that I realized on why Luke attracted me so much. He’s a hero not only defeating evil, but also redeeming it.
I spent much of my teen years in major angst over the whole Light side and Dark side of the Force. But more than that, I completely sympathized with Luke’s reluctant yet willing role as a hero. I wanted to be at his side as he helped the Rebellion fight the Empire as he became the last of the Jedi Order.
At the end of A New Hope, I was very much anti-Darth Vader. If I had a lightsaber, that villain would have been toast! The one thing I knew was that even though he escaped via Tie Fighter at the end of the movie, I knew one day he and Luke would face off and it’d be the kiss of death for the evil one. In fact, I was counting on that one point- in all major stories, good always triumphs over evil. Then I watched The Empire Strikes Back and my heart stopped dead in my chest as the most gods awful truth was revealed- the villainous Darth Vader was none other than Luke’s father, Anakin Skywalker.
My core belief about good conquering evil was shaken. A Jedi Knight had gone to the Dark side! At this point, I had learned more about the Emperor and I was ready to unleash my fury because everyone knows that evil can’t be allowed to exist or even to win. There was a part of me that mourned the fact that Anakin Skywalker, called Darth Vader, was the reason for the wholesale destruction of the Jedi Knights. I didn’t know how anyone could do it to those he knew. How could Luke reconcile that one day he’d have to kill his father.
I impatiently waited until Return of the Jedi came out. Then the scene that foreshadowed exactly how Luke would handle that very question arrived. It was when he stood before Jabba the Hutt, demanding his friends to be released and let bygones be gone. His quiet faith, his calm demeanor was new, humbling and foretelling. By giving this galactic gangster a chance to do what was right, by embracing the truth of the Jedi way, I knew what would come when he faced Darth Vader for the final time. Luke had become the last Jedi and tried to emulate both Yoda and Obi-Wan Ben Kenobi.
Quietly came the confrontation on Endor. It became subtly, with comments from him to his father about sensing the good within him. Then we saw the true evil- the Emperor Palpatine. Their confrontation was in a way the true confrontation though it came down to Darth Vader and Luke fighting. Even as they fought physically, Luke spent the time talking to his father, trying to make him see reason and turn from Dark side. Each point he made was to remind Darth of the fact he wasn’t always Darth Vader, scourge of the universe, but also Anakin Skywalker, someone who was a Jedi Knight.
Yet in the end, it was Darth Vader who physically saved his son, when the Emperor attacked Luke. We can see Darth look from his son to the Emperor and back. You can almost see the moment when all of Luke’s actions and words have connected to push him into throwing the Emperor over the railing. In the end, we see a dying Darth Vader who has done what none of us considered possible- he’s redeemed himself in the eyes of his son and of the audience.
Heroes can not only learn and grow, but they can also redeem the bad guy. What amazed me is that in turn, I started thinking more and more about how bad guys aren’t always the bad guys in the long term. They can start off good or even start bad, but they can redeem themselves when things show to be in a new paradigm, requiring them to act for a bigger payoff- one that evil can’t top. Which is why for me, Luke Skywalker is my favourite hero and one I’ll never give up; he taught me the value of redemption.