I’m starting to really get into Star Wars and god do I love how Luke’s clothes shift from white to black as he slips closer to the Dark Side throughout the movies. I love that overt morality symbolism. It’s so interesting, especially because Luke’s moments of slippage aren’t always obvious.
ANH opens with farm boy Luke Skywalker dressed in pure white, having had a relatively stable upbringing. He’s an orphan and that kind of sucks, but he hasn’t been through any traumatic experiences or gone through any big losses yet. Sure he’s impatient and reckless and a little temperamental (like his dad), but he’s a good kid. Not long after we meet him, he’s told his father was murdered by Darth Vader. His aunt and uncle are killed by Imperial forces. Later he witnesses his friend Obi-Wan die at Vader’s hand.
The beginning of the trilogy establishes Luke’s scared and angry and has more than enough incentive to want revenge. It’s involuntary, but because Luke is Force sensitive this is the start of the Dark Side’s corruption. Temptation comes from the inside. You don’t necessarily have to act on those feelings–though if you do I think that speeds the process up–but once the feelings are there, festering, you’re already in danger of having them take over.
That’s why the Jedi are so against attachments and prefer to train people when they’re very young, before they can form major attachments. If they’re not attached to anything, they have nothing to fear losing. But by that logic, anyone trained when they’re older is likely to succumb to the Dark Side. Both Anakin and Luke are pretty much doomed from the start then, which Yoda does point out. Remembering Anakin, Yoda’s reluctant to train Luke at all in fact.
But he does, or at least starts to, which brings us to ESB. Luke’s impatient and kinda short with Yoda before Yoda even reveals who he is, which already doesn’t bode well. Luke fails two of his major Jedi lessons: he’s told to face his fear in the cave without a weapon, but brings his lightsaber anyway, effectively beheading Vader without hesitation; he’s told not to abandon his teachings in fear of his friends, but does so anyway. Anger and fear perfectly laid out, and he falls prey to both of them.
So its only fitting Luke’s dressed in murky grey when he tries to save his friends and face Vader in Bespin. He fails, miserably. The Dark Side’s corruption is growing. His father senses it, takes advantage of it to slice Luke’s hand off, and then drops the truth bomb of being his father, which turns Luke’s world upside down.
As a kid, I guess I never really considered the emotional impact this would have on Luke beyond obvious confusion and horror, fear and anger. But discovering his father’s alive and a Sith Lord and that his supposed “friend” Obi-Wan lied to him about it, that would throw all of Luke’s beliefs into question: Why would Obi-Wan, a Jedi, a ‘good’ guy, lie to him? Are the Jedi really ‘good’? Is he right to trust them? How could his once heroic Jedi father become this twisted monster? Everyone’s wary Luke has too much of his father in him. Are they right to be wary? Is there Darkness in him too? Is he really destined to be like his father?
If Luke was already subconsciously afraid of becoming like Vader as the cave vision in Dagobah suggests, discovering Vader’s his father amplifies that fear tenfold. Luke’s good, he knows he’s good; he risks falling to his death over surrendering to Vader. But the doubt is still there, and its the doubt that makes the Dark Side stronger.
ESB ends with Luke in this shaken state. He’s doubting himself and his beliefs and he’s afraid and really angry. It’s a snowball effect: The more upset he is, the more the Dark Side grows, and the more the Dark Side grows, the more upset he is. In the time between ESB and ROTJ, I imagine he’s sort of like Anakin, in which he has this immense rapidly growing power and all these emotions he can’t help but feel, with no one to help him deal with it. Anakin couldn’t ask for help, and Luke has no one to ask for help. There’s no one teaching him, no one guiding him. There’s no one preventing him from turning to the Dark Side, except for himself, his own belief in the Light.
That’s one thing I didn’t consider until now: the extent of which Vader revealing he’s Luke’s father damages Luke. The ground is ripped out from under his feet, and all that’s left below is Darkness. He doesn’t trust Obi-Wan. Yoda eventually dies. His friends aren’t Jedi. The only family he has left who can maybe understand him is evil, and it doesn’t help that part of him really longs to be his father’s son, despite everything. Luke’s in absolute emotional turmoil. He’s all alone with the Darkness growing inside.
And next time we see him in ROTJ he’s clad in black, with an ominous hood hiding his face. He Force Chokes guards, threatens Jabba, and slays Jabba’s guards above the sarlacc to rescue his friends; very un-Jedi like actions with very un-Jedi like motivations.
After surrendering to Vader in an attempt to bring Vader back to the Light, Luke’s brought to the throne room, where Palpatine instantly recognizes Luke’s growing hatred and rage and power. Palpatine tries to provoke him, taunting him mercilessly–Luke’s fate is inevitable, his friends are headed for a deadly trap which he’s powerless to stop, he wants to kill Palpatine, wants to strike him down so bad–and Luke snaps. He summons his lightsaber and swings at the Emperor and would’ve honestly killed him right there had Vader not intercepted Luke’s lightsaber with his own.
That’s another thing I didn’t realize: Luke’s big moment is generally considered to be when he has the choice to strike his father down or not, but he gives into the Darkness before that when he tries to kill Palpatine. He doesn’t succeed, but it isn’t himself, isn’t his own moral conscious, that stops him. It’s someone else blocking the way.
Fighting Vader is different at first. Luke doesn’t want to fight his father, and that kind of brings his rage back down to a controllable level. Luke’s still angry, but he feels the Light in his father and refuses to let go of that. He’s trying to be diplomatic, trying to be compassionate. Until Vader threatens to turn Leia, to put her through the emotional hell Luke’s trapped in. Then Luke flies off the handle. “NEVER!” He uses the Dark Side to attack Vader, beats him to the ground, chops Vader’s hand off (an eye for an eye, I suppose), and in the end has his lightsaber hovering at Vader’s throat not unlike how Vader pinned him down on Bespin.
Breathing heavily, shaking with rage, Luke is blind to the Light, blind to his father’s good, as the Dark Side swells within him, screaming for him to kill. Kill his father. Kill him. The Darkness knows you want to, Luke, and the Darkness feels good; unstoppable, intoxicating power…And, once more, Luke might’ve done it, had he not been interrupted.
He’s hesitating a little before that of course, but he doesn’t actually snap out of his rage-induced breakdown until Palpatinelaughs. Only then does Luke glance at his mechanical hand and realize his fear of becoming like Vader is coming true. The rest is history: Luke tosses his lightsaber aside and declares himself a Jedi like Anakin. Part of his black robe falls open to reveal the white beneath; no matter how Dark he seemed Luke always had Light within him, the same Light he brings back in Anakin. By yielding, Luke saves himself and his father.
As much as Luke declares himself a Jedi though, he’s really….not. He’s not a Jedi or a Sith, he’s not one extreme or the other. He’s kind and selfless, but he’s also passionate and troubled. Luke loves and feels so much. Being an unorthodox kind of Force User, he exists in the middle, something entirely new, a big thing I failed to realize and what I think some other people still don’t realize: Luke’s in the grey zone. Not to say he isn’t kind and compassionate and forgiving and all, but that isn’t all he is. He isn’t all Light. He can’t be.
The Dark Side’s a corrupting force and it nearly took him. Yes, Luke pulls away at the last second, but the Dark Side, and the damage it did to him, doesn’t go away just because Luke denounces it. Once its there, its there. Luke may’ve proven the Dark Side doesn’t have to dominate your destiny unless you let it, but the threat that it can will always be there. Luke will always have to struggle with that duality. He will always have to work to keep the Dark from extinguishing the Light inside him.
Which is, in all honesty, a solid representation of the struggle between Light and Dark that exists within us all. Luke having the Light and the Dark is what makes him human. Luke choosing to act primarily on the Light is what makes him a good human.
i think it’s time for me to uhh archive this &. start all new again . but this time ? a lot more private &. plot based . i’ll also be going by a new alias bc i don’t feel right with the one i’m using now . so be on the lookout for a post with more information in the future .