Forum Debate: Anakin Skywalker, tragic hero or cowardly traitor?

Discussion in 'Revenge of the Sith (Non-Spoilers)' started by Obi-Wan McCartney, Oct 10, 2000.

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  1. Obi-Wan McCartney Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 5
    I for one think Anakin is a coward and a traitor. I feel that he bumbled up his destiny, and that his actions as Vader are indefensible. Anyone care to disagree?
  2. ami-padme Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 1999
    star 4
    Doubt there are too many who would "defend" Vader's actions...

    And I'm not sure your categories are as mutually exclusive as you think. Tragic heroes, by definition, undergo a fall at their own hands. They do things that are bad, or that straight-out heroes wouldn't do. Does Anakin betray the Jedi? Yes. Are his actions wrong? Yes. Does that mean he's not a "tragic hero"? I don't think so.
  3. Obi-Wan McCartney Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 5
    I view Obi-wan as a tragic hero, I in fact don't believe Anakin is a hero at all, at least as far as ep. III is concerned. I think that a tragic hero would do the right thing and things would go wrong through no fault or intention of their own. Anakin turns dark, and evil, by his own choice, and I feel it is his cowardice, (which leads to darkness) that leads to it.
  4. hew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 8, 1999
    star 4
    True. I think's it possible for him to be both.
  5. ami-padme Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 1999
    star 4
    Then I suppose we're using rather different definitions of tragic hero, no?

    I mean it in the classical sense, in the Greek tragic sense. It is not a "regular" hero. A tragic hero is inherently flawed (usually in the way of hubris or pride). This flaw usually brings about a catastrophic downfall for the hero. In that sense, Anakin fits fine.

    I don't mean it as "a good person/hero who suffers tragic events" as you seem to be applying it to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan is much more a regular sort-of hero, and a straight out good guy. Of course Anakin doesn't fit into this category. He does, I think, fit into the former.

    If your question is, is Anakin a flat-out "good guy" or your regular kind of hero, obviously not. There's too much else that goes on for that. I guess I misunderstood your question.
  6. emilsson Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    I consider Anakin to be a tragic hero, in the Greek sense of the term.
  7. jbmin00 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 2000
    star 1
    According to the classical definition, I believe Anakin is a tragic hero. And we haven't seen E3 yet. Maybe Anakin honestly thinks he's doing the right thing, at least in the beginning of his turning.
  8. Obi-Wan McCartney Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 5
    Damn, I'm convinced too. Anakin is a tragic hero.
  9. Son of the Suns Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    May 6, 1999
    star 6
    I agree with the majority here.
  10. hew Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 8, 1999
    star 4
    Does anyone else find it hard to define their feelings towards Anakin/Vader? As the only "grey" character in a "black and white", "good and evil" story, he's extremely hard to pin down.
  11. jamesdrax Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 30, 2000
    star 6
    Well I think that AS ANAKIN, he was a hero to some extent, but he couldn't hack what was going on around him (and inside him), and it was unfortunate that he knew that he was the Chosen One because he undeniably (to himself) knew that he was stronger (with the force) than any other Jedi, which built up his uncontrolalble over-confidence, which I don't think was his own fault, only what he knew about himself.

    Plus, if it were Qui-Gon teaching him, I just wonder how things would have turned out, would he still have failed as a Jedi, would he have still committed the same (or similar) actions.

    All these turning points we will never know about.
  12. yodaman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 1999
    star 5
    Well, there is a lot of ambiguity with Anakin, mainly because we know he's going to do very terrible things and we also know he's a pretty nice guy. This makes him a very difficult character to grasp, but here is the way I see it. The OT was mainly about seeing the consequences of evil and seeing the destruction and pain that it inevitably causes. That certainly is an important lesson to understand. What seems even more prevalent is the issue of why people choose to side with evil, which is the very issue that the PT is attempting to tackle.

    I believe that in the end, we're supposed to empathize with Anakin. Now that doesn't mean we're supposed to condone what he eventually does. The fact is, we're not supposed to look at Anakin and just think, "Oh he's evil. Shame on him." In reality it goes much, much deeper than that. I personally think it would be a cop out if we're just supposed to hate him and cast him aside. What do we really learn from that? When someone does something wrong, are we just supposed to toss them aside and essentially spit in their face?

    Shmi says that Anakin is a good person, one who knows nothing of reward or greed. He probably never believes he is truly capable of evil. Does anyone really believe that they are capable of evil? I bet most people see themselves as being good in their own special way. It's not an easy prospect to see and examine your own faults. There is a great impact on ourselves if we do empathize with Anakin. We see and understand him, and even see why he does the things he does. In the end, we might come to understand why he chooses evil. He believes what he is doing is right, but he is not aware of the true consequences of his actions.

    The very fact that we empathize with Anakin is a scary one to our own selves, because if we understand why he chooses evil, it is because we understand that we ourselves are capable of making the same decision, that we are not unlike him and can make the same mistake. That is not an easy thing to swallow, and in fact is a very hard thing to believe. But if we understand our own capabilities to do evil, and we're fully aware of its consequences, we can make a choice against it. I think that's the lesson we're supposed to learn from Anakin. It is tragic that we know the consequences, and he does not. In ROTJ, Luke is also on the verge of going to the darkside, but once he strikes down his father, he sees Vader's hand and looks at his own hand. He suddenly understands why someone would choose evil, but even more, he can look down on his father and see the pain and suffering that he went through. Now he also understands the consequence of evil and can make the decision against it.

    That is the story of Anakin Skywalker and his failures can be viewed as our own. Sure we can cast him aside and raise our noses and wonder how could anyone be capable of such things, or we can be frightened by the prospect that we are Anakin Skywalker, and we can find such a fate. People choose between good and evil on a daily basis. We are no exception. I suppose what we are really supposed to learn is that although we see ourselves as good and do what is right day in and day out, we must be aware that each day we face these choices and one day we may choose evil as we may often or occasionally already do. What we also redeemingly learn is that even if day in and day out we decide choose to side with evil, we are always faced with the choices between good and evil and can side with good if we wish, as Anakin eventually learned. We are not destined between good or evil. It is our choice.
  13. Obi-Wan McCartney Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 5
    Wait, wait, if you want to have THIS argument Yodaman, I will take you on. The point of Anakin, in my opinion does not represent all that you say. It's not like how people point out that the Nazi's turned good men into hardened evil. Anakin was at the top of that chain, he is responsible. He is was a good man, yes. But whatever good he did, he made the choice to turn to darkness, and Obi-wan says he was seduced. So the dark side tempted Anakin, and Anakin accepted. I believe this is sprung from Anakin's own weakness, his cowardice. That is why I changed my mind and viewed Anakin as a tragic hero, because I believe he is inherently flawed in his lack of courage.

    I believe that this is the fundamental difference between Anakin and Luke. Anakin is a gutless traitor. He finds it easier to use the dark side to mask his fear with hate and anger rather than to calm himself and use the light for courage. That is the difference between Luke and Anakin. So if anything is proven, it is that you cannot be afraid to face your fears, or to try and hide them as Anakin did. You must confront them. However, you must confront them with reason and sensibility. Maybe Luke is a greek tragic hero too because he wanted to nail his sister, but I suppose that belongs in another thread.

    Basically, I could empathize with Anakin if for a second I felt that his fear or whatever lead him to do the wrong thing and act in reprehensible ways, if it was shown that Anakin was trying to be good. However, even if you believe Anakin was tricked into evil, you can see that he did seem to struggle with it in the first two films. He clearly enjoyed torturing and killing people. He liked being evil, and he wanted to do what he did. It isn't like Lando in ESB, who betrayed his friends and aided evil, Lando was forced, and he did what he thought was the best thing to save his friends and his city. Lando did not enjoy any of it, and we knew Lando was hero. However, ANakin was not a hero, he is a villain. He should be glorified or loved, (unless you love him for being such a cool bad guy!)
  14. Valiowk Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2000
    star 6
    The point is, I think in the end you yourself are responsible for your own destiny, whatever happens. I'm sure there's a part in you that wants to do good no matter how much evil you do.

    So that part of him I feel sorry for, because it must have torn at that part of his conscience, even though it might have been buried real deep.

    But the part of him that turned... I can't really feel sorry for that side of him.
  15. yodaman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 1999
    star 5
    "He clearly enjoyed torturing and killing people. He liked being evil, and he wanted to do what he did."---Obi Wan McCartney

    Errrr...I'm not sure where you get this idea from. Anyways, I never said he didn't willingly choose to go to the darkside. Was he tricked? No. Go back and read carefully what I was trying to say and you'll understand better what my position on this is.
  16. Obi-Wan McCartney Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 5
    right, those last two paragraphs I did agree with yodaman, but not exactly how you put it, more from me later...
  17. bright sith Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 27, 1999
    star 5
    I really don't see him as a tragic hero, though he is a tragic character. See, I give the words such as "destiny" and "balance of the force" very little importance, and I don't believe that it is all because of him that the empire fell.
  18. thxDARTH Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 13, 2000
    star 4
    Anakin is a pitiful character: plain and simple
  19. Duckman Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 21, 2000
    star 4
    Why is everyone so down on Vader? You can't judge him by what you THINK he'll get up to in Episode III.
    If you look at the OT, the only truly evil thing Vader does in all the films is strangle that Captain at the beginning of ANH. It actually seems out of character - maybe he was in a bad mood that day and the Captain cussed him.
    Everything else Vader does is, I feel, justified by being either self-defence (Obi-Wan), an act of war (torture) or only harming his fellow Imperials (ESB). So is Vader really evil? Only time will tell.
  20. ami-padme Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 1999
    star 4
    Very well put yodaman. :)

    OWM, no one's saying Anakin didn't willingly choose his path (or that he was "tricked" into evil). Or that Anakin didn't have weaknesses that led him to make that choice. Or that what he did wasn't wrong. You *can* say all that and still empathize with the character, for all the reasons yodaman stated. Empathizing doesn't immediately and always equal condoning.


    Your point about Lando is interesting. His motivation, as far as we know it, was 100% selfish, in maintaining his business (and saving his own skin, because no one wants to tick off Vader). Yet Lando is a hero because his conscience kicked in after Vader changed the deal for the 100th time? Because he did the right thing at the very end, *after* his friends had been arrested, tortured, and put in carbonite? If Vader had altered his original deal a bit less drastically (remember, Lando didn't think Vader was interested in H/L at all, beyond holding them until Luke arrived), do you think Lando's conscience would have come into play?

    To be clear, I don't actually have a problem with Lando at all -- I accepted his turn around and do consider him one of the good guys. I just find your argument about how he's so different from Anakin interesting...
  21. jamesdrax Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 30, 2000
    star 6
    I've always thought that Anakin, due to his late training was weak minded, kind hearted but weak minded, both of which did not mix and were his greatest weak spots.

    Jedi are meant to be closed off, not to be too attached to what they see and know around them (clouded judgment). Which is what happens to Anakin, he becomes so attached to the people he loves, he's willing to kill for them, but not die for them (cowardice?).

    Eventually he questions his morality and asks himself, "why? was it worth it?".

    As Vader, he still has a tiny speck of morality from his actions in the OT (killing Palpy to save Luke, blocking Boba Fett's shot, etc)but thats it until the end of course.

    Back to the weak minded subject, apparently from what we know, Anakin was SEDUCED by the dark side of the force, and someone here said that he willingly gave in, well if you're weak minded and it's not your fault, thats a big motsa ball hangin out there, because he might not have had any choice, I don't know what for, but Palpy must have offered Anakin something in return for his turn to the dark side, a way out? a way to save Padme from something or other? You tell me.

    But Anakin doesn't seem to stand up to Palpy, he's not enough of a Smart Arse, like father, like son.
  22. ami-padme Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 1999
    star 4
    I'd have to disagree with your characterization of Anakin as "weak-minded." His late training may have meant that he wasn't fully grounded in the Jedi ways or something...he has weaknesses, but I don't think it's of understanding at all. I don't see anything to points to that as Anakin or Vader.

    And "seduced" certainly doesn't need to mean that the person didn't know what they were doing, or weren't of sound mind, or that they can't be held responsible, or whatever.
  23. thereisnotry Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2000
    star 1
    This is one of the more interesting recent threads. It really makes you think.

    Anyway, I'm sure after Ep. III, we'll all have less to discuss on this issue. But for now, I think cowardice is a good way to describe his actions. He is fully aware that he is the "chosen one". In theory, he should have been the most powerful Jedi ever. Yet, somehow Palpy was able to not only turn this powerful Jedi, but also dominate him. Vader completely submits to the Emperor. Palpy says "kill", Vader says "how many". He does embrace the dark side completely. I think that the submission is a big factor in the power of the dark side. I don't buy that he wasn't that evil in the OT. People feared him and if they didn't, he made sure they didn't live. I don't see his actions any different than Darth Maul's actions in TPM. In Ep. IV, the Emperor sent him to find the data tapes, and do what it takes to get them back. In Ep. I, Palpy sent Darth Maul to find the queen and force her to sign the treaty, no matter what the consequences were.

    As I see it, in the OT, you have a Darth Vader who is completely walking down the dark path. He's not looking for a way out, but he probably wouldn't believe he could if he did want out. (he lacks the courage or strength) It is only when he sees his son willing to sacrifice himself for good, and sees the faith his son has in his goodness that he gains the strength to overcome the "power of the dark side".

    On the other hand, in the PT, you have Anakin Skywalker who has the greatest prospects for success. He has skill, ability, & talent. He is giving, not greedy or selfish. He goes on to be a hero, an amazing pilot, and a powerful Jedi. Yet for some reason, or because of certain events, he is slowly corrupted (possibly by greed and selfishness) until he decides to embrace the dark side fully. And I think this has to be HIS choice. He may be seduced into believing it is the better path, but eventually he does come to embrace it. In the OT, he believes that the dark side is stronger, more powerful, and you will be most successful if you follow it.

    I like some of the suggestions in this thread, but mostly, I get real excited when I think of discovering in Ep. III, how he is seduced into believing the dark side is the best side.

    I agree with yodaman when he said that the PT should make you a little nervous that you would possibly make the same choices he did. In the PT, Anakin is named to "balance the force" and in the end completely embraces evil. Just like the message of Greek tragedy - if it can happen to him, the most righteous of men, it can happen to me too.
  24. Obi-Wan McCartney Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 5
    Yes, but I don't think it could happen to you, if you have courage. I think if anything, we will see that Anakin's darkness comes from his intolerable fear.

    I feel Anakin's inability to deal with fear, his own fear, in a constructive way is what leads him to the darkside. There was a cut scene where he talks about how he tries to be less afraid to make his enemies fear him. I think this speaks volumes about his early attempts to deal with fear. I am pretty sure the Emperor shows him a quick and easy way to lose fear, to mask it with hate and violence.

    Ami-padme, come on, Lando is not even on the same page as Vader when right and wrong are concerned. Lando was strong-armed by Vader, but Lando was never loyal to him. He tried to stand up to Vader. I mean, bumbling Lando talking to the Dark Lord of the Sith as if he were another hustler? Lando had balls. He was scheming to get Vader out of there, and when he saw he was totally screwed, the first chance he got he took the princess and saved the day. (Sort of.) Lando at no point, NO POINT, wanted anything but to help himself and his people. Yeah, he betrayed Han, but if he didn't, Vader could have killed him and taken over the city, and then just as easily he could lure the falcon over to Cloud City and capture them. So Lando, in my opinion, was being a good guy trying to work around Vader, not being greedy and siding with evil.
  25. yodaman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 1999
    star 5
    Ladies and gentlemen, the point I originally tried to make was not about what faults does Anakin have, but rather how we ought to view those faults. We are talking about the human condition here which is not an easy subject to grasp in any light. Even Lucas is struggling with this idea. Here's an interview of him with Bill Moyer:

    LUCAS: It's essentially the same, just in a different kind of way. Darth Vader was half machine, half man, and that's where he lost a lot of his humanity. He has mechanical legs. He has mechanical arms. He's hooked up to a breathing machine. This one is all human. I wanted him to be an alien, but I wanted him to be human enough that we could identify with him.

    MOYERS: He's us?

    LUCAS: Yes, he's the evil within us.

    MOYERS: Do you know yet what, in a future episode, is going to transform Anakin Skywalker to the dark side?

    LUCAS: Yes, I know what that is. The groundwork has been laid in this episode. The film is ultimately about the dark side and the light side, and those sides are designed around compassion and greed. The issue of greed, of getting things and owning things and having things and not being able to let go of things, is the opposite of compassion--of not thinking of yourself all the time. These are the two sides--the good force and the bad force. They're the simplest parts of a complex cosmic construction.

    MOYERS: I think it's going to be very hard for the audience to accept that this innocent boy, Anakin Skywalker, can ever be capable of the things that we know happen later on. I think about Hitler and wonder what he looked like at nine years old.

    LUCAS: There are a lot of people like that. And that's what I wonder. What is it in the human brain that gives us the capacity to be as evil as human beings have been in the past and are right now?

    MOYERS: You've been probing that for a while now. Have you come to any conclusion?

    LUCAS: I haven't. I think it comes out of a rationale of doing certain things and denying to yourself that you're actually doing them. If people were really to sit down and honestly look at themselves and the consequences of their actions, they would try to live their lives a lot differently. One of the main themes in The Phantom Menace is of organisms having to realize they must live for their mutual advantage.

    This is a great question that Lucas is trying to answer. Why do some people, even good and dear people, sometimes do bad things? Why did once half the population of the United States lock up another race into bondage? Why does an entire nation follow a man who would want the extermination of an entire race? Why would a man beat his wife and children? Why do people cheer on talk shows when they see another person being torn down? Why does a little child bully another child and try to tear that person down himself? From the most outrageous of actions, to the smallest and most innocent of bad decisions, are they derived in the same manner? Is there not much difference between them? I for one am completely fascinated in how Lucas plans on interpreting this issue, because I myself am not completely sure of the answer. I'm not sure anyone truly is, that is unless perhaps one takes a careful look at their ownselves. Were all these people just born with a seed of evil? Should we look down on these people and say, "Ha! I would never do such a thing." Is it too easy just to say that they are bad people, completely and utterly different from ourselves?

    To do so is a dangerous prospect in its own right. I don't mean to pick on you Obi Wan McCartney, but obviously you're to most visibly one for this exercise. You said, "Yes, but I don't think it could happen to you, if you have courage." The fact is, Anakin was probably thinking the same thing. Anakin doesn't see himself of committing evil actions, as do you McCartney. Anakin probably sees those who choose against good as being weaklings, as do you. Anakin sees himself as one without greed or need for reward, as do you. You are Anakin Skywalker, Obi Wan McCartney
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