Anakin is one of the most misunderstood characters in the Star Wars universe.
I believe this solely because of all the canon that has been released alongside the prequels such as novelizations of the first three episodes, the Clone Wars animated series and the Darth Vader books as well as the very facts that Anakin grew up a slave and was a direct product of the Force.
Yes, Anakin had been manipulated into turning against the Jedi Order by the chancellor, but if you really consider Anakin’s experience with the Order, his perception of the Jedi being evil was not too far from the truth, as they had been incredibly corrupted. As a slave, Anakin learned to be obedient, so when he was freed, he had high expectations for a life as a free boy. What he didn’t realize was that he was trading one life for another. He was already 9 years old when he was taken into the order, so he grew up a normal (slave) child’s life alongside other children and especially his mother, free of emotional, physical and mental restrictions. Upon joining the Jedi, he had to forget those connections; he was taught that they were “not the jedi way,” that they were wrong, that they would cloud his thoughts, that he must not ever feel that way; this must have been especially hard to do-living your entire life one way and and then being told you had to forget it. On top of that, Anakin had over 20,000 midichlorians- the minimum amount to be considered a Jedi was 5,000 (yeah, I know, I know, midichlorians are just some prequel bullsh*t, but they’re canon), but seriously though: this was more than Master Yoda. Anakin was born of the Force. He was nearly 2 to 4 times more powerful than all of the forcefuls in the temple. Where most people took months of meditations to learn proper telekinesis, Anakin probably struggled not to throw objects; when he was taught to warm something with the Force, he set it on fire, burning himself trying to raise the temperature. I imagine meditation was difficult for him because he probably heard so much; he was probably overwhelmed and easily distracted by what he felt but didn’t know how to control or channel it. Maybe it scared him (italics a product of wingletblackbird).
His entire life as a Jedi, Anakin had been told that he was the Chosen One, prophesied to bring balance to the Force. You can imagine how frustrating it must have been for him to constantly be reminded of this, to be 2 to 4 times more powerful than anyone else in the temple, and to be so restricted, not trusted and held back by the council. This was one of the reasons he viewed the council as self-serving and corrupt, especially when they asked him, a mere Jedi Knight, not master, to spy on the chancellor when they were getting their rights stripped away. Had Anakin been given the rank of Jedi Master, he would have given into the self-serving and narrow-minded views of the Order, and probably never turned to the Dark side, as he later realizes as Darth Vader.
In the novelizations, the reader gets a better and more detailed explanation of the characters and their thoughts and actions; some even include some scenes that were not shown in the movies themselves. For example, when Anakin was killing the remaining jedi in the temple, we find out that he didn’t really want to; Pre-suit Darth Vader still had Anakin Skywalker fresh inside him, and being very conflicted with all the memories he had growing up in the temple, he called upon the Dark Side to help him do what he believed was necessary because he knew he wasn’t strong enough to do it alone.
The Clone Wars animated series offers an even more in-depth understanding of Anakin and his connections to everyone around him; here we get to see the hero of the Republic at his prime, the ballsy and unorthodox Jedi who was cocky and humble all at once, the skilled pilot and most cunning warrior; and along with this heroic reputation he has, we still get to see his intense love for his comrades, especially his Master, his padawan and his wife. The audience also got to see how these connections in turn influenced some dark decisions, thus demonstrating how it was not only the chancellor that had turned him, but his fear of losing his loved ones. Yet as much as the animated series makes Anakin’s fall to the Dark so much more heartbreaking after experiencing the Clone Wars by his, Obi Wan’s, Padme’s and Ahsoka’s side, it can also serve to undermine the surprise element of his fall that the prequels portray; TCW turned Anakin into more of an edgy character with an inherent darkness, cheapening the good-hearted and conflicted prequels Anakin. The entire point of prequels Anakin was that his fall didn’t make sense, that it was out of nowhere, that there weren’t many warning signs, that he was manipulated by others into an impossible situation, that if one or two circumstances had been just slightly different he wouldn’t have fallen (italics a product of anakinskydala). But Prequels and Clone Wars Anakin both present the fact that his fall didn’t have to happen, that it could have been so easily avoided, and that is what makes it so much more tragic.
In the Darth Vader books, we get a peek into the tempest of thoughts raging behind the stone-cold mask. I never really considered the person behind the mask until hearing about the tragic memories and internal battles clashing within; Vader is really depressed and in constant, agonizing pain. The books reveal his constant internal battle with his former self, how he relives parts of his life and imagines how they could have went differently, how he immensely misses his love and the love between them, their child, how he hates Darth Sidious, how he hates himself, how he hates his suit, how uncomfortable everything is, how he misses his body, how he realizes he was never really free from being a slave, how he only feels human in his bacta-tank and meditation chamber, how he dreads putting his suit on, how he can’t sleep, how he channels all his anger and pain to become more powerful through his connection the Dark Side, how he blames Obi Wan and the Jedi Council for everything… It is in these books that we understand Anakin, the Chosen One’s true intentions for betraying the Jedi. When being visited by Padme on Mustafar in Episode III, the newly-knighted Darth Vader confronts his frantic wife; he is excited to tell her about how he plans to learn all that he can from Palpatine, how he plans to use that knowledge to overthrow him and end his regime once and for all, how he is doing this all for her and their child, for the entire galaxy, so that they may live as a family in peace. It is in these novels that we understand that there was still so much good in him, that he wasn’t completely consumed by the dark side, that he was going to fulfill his prophecy. But his wife was so worked into a frenzy that she wasn’t listening to his words, he had to make her understand, he had to. He would. He would make her understand that this was all for them. But then Obi Wan emerged from her ship. And here Anakin’s Dark Side gripped him, his anger, his hatred, his pain at the very thought of his wife betraying him consumed his entire being and he lashed out, grasping her neck with the force, not thinking, only feeling. “YOU BROUGHT HIM HERE TO KILL ME?!”
This is in no way a justification for his horrific actions, but it definitely explains and gives a little more insight on what was going on in Anakin’s head, allowing for a better understanding of who he was without being completely apologetic towards him.
Anyone with a more in-depth understanding of the novelizations of the movies and/or the Darth Vader books OR ANAKIN IN GENERAL, please share some insight!
(I wrote this for my speech class lol)