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Saga Symbolism in the Saga

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by Vialco, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 6, 2007
    I created this thread to discuss the symbolism of certain events in the Saga as a whole.

    One scene I thought particularly poignant is the Confrontation in Palpatine's Office.

    Mace raises his blade to strike down the ultimate evil, the one being responsible for the Clone Wars. That lightsaber symbolizes all the hopes and dreams of the Jedi Order, it is their best chance to strike down this evil once and for all.

    Then Anakin betrays them and slashes Mace's hand off, sending the lightsaber tumbling out the window. And that is one of the most pivotal scenes in the Saga.

    When that lightsaber falls out the window and into the dark depths of Coruscant, the Jedi Order's last chance at victory goes with it. The fall of Mace's lightsaber is the fall of the Jedi Order. Without it, he's defenseless against Palpatine and dies quickly and his death is the death of the Jedi Order.

    As soon as Mace dies, Anakin joins Palpatine and Darth Vader marches on the Temple while Order 66 is issued across the galaxy. Mace Windu dies and the Jedi Order dies with him.

    Not all the Jedi die, but the Order as a whole is shattered. By the time Yoda faces off against the Emperor, he's already lost. The most he can hope for is to kill Palpatine and hopefully escape the clones and try to rebuild the Republic.

    The Emperor has already won and all Yoda can do is try to correct a fatal mistake and even then, he fails. The moment Anakin chose to betray Mace Windu was the moment that Palpatine's victory was sealed and the Sith had their Revenge.
  2. StarWarsVerses

    StarWarsVerses Jedi Knight star 1

    Feb 14, 2013
    "Those analysis droids you've got over there only focus on symbols. I should think that you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge and wisdom."
  3. HevyDevy

    HevyDevy Jedi Master star 4

    Apr 13, 2011
    Cool idea for a thread.
    I wholeheartedly agree on the symbolism of that confrontation, the moment the saber goes out the window I've gotten chills on some occasions, for basically the reasons you stated. It's just so significant, the music also adds to the impact, and the build up to the moment Anakin strikes (I need him!) is one of my favourite things about the turn generally.

    There are also repeated examples of similar moments in the movie that can re-enforce this, such as as Yoda losing his saber versing Palpatine. (Plus the loss of his cloak shortly after, Yoda really looks frail and defeated without it). Also, Obi-Wan takes Anakin's saber after his defeat on Mustafar, carrying away Anakin's link to his past identity, to then be passed onto Luke, the next carrier of the torch. Luke then carries this reminder, until he ironically loses the saber when Vader dismembers him and reveals his true connection to Luke. He only becomes a Jedi when he makes his own saber, and he throws off the (metaphorical) shackles of his father's path and throws the saber away, refusing to turn. This climax to the saga of course inverts the death of Dooku in ROTS, where Anakin supersticiously dooms himself by taking the Sith's own saber, (a red and a blue saber for his dual path represented by this decision) and kills Dooku in cold blood. Also, perhaps coincidentally, Anakin is killing his Master's master's master, where Luke spares his father's life. Stuff like this I just wish were more appreciated by the casual viewer. There is so much going on in these movies that can at times be completely missed.
    Cryogenic likes this.
  4. Ingram_I

    Ingram_I Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 7, 2012
    Well, Star Wars drifts back and forth between full blown symbolisms and simple but effective cognitive imagery deeply rooted in the psyche--the stuff of universal human nature: our hopes, dreams, nightmares, familial bonds and even some sexual latency.

    It’s all very Freudian, or Jungian, or whatever. The point is, not only was Lucas inspired when crafting these films for the big screen but likewise academically informed. Far more than most people realize, methinks. You almost have to ask, what premise or scene or image or graphic doesn’t strike some chord amidst our intellects or somewhere deep within our subconscious? But I’m only beating around the bush of your initial question. Give me some time to actually think about it for a while, as there are plenty of examples that are well known and probably a tad too obvious for this crowd.
    StarWarsVerses and Cryogenic like this.
  5. Cryogenic

    Cryogenic Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 20, 2005
    I make a different -- if somewhat connected -- reading of that final reckoning between Mace and Palpatine. To me, the purple blade evokes something of the underworld (bright, electric purples were used with insinuating brilliance in the opening chase sequence of AOTC), as if Mace actually wields something exotic and unholy: the blindfolded bearer of a Dionysiac flame. A key resonance with an earlier passage of ROTS must obviously be the opera discussion between Palpatine and Anakin: each presiding over and vacantly gazing at a strange opera, washing over their balcony and bathing them in eerie velvet tones of purple and blue: gauche and artistic both. This peculiar colouring is almost enough to put Anakin into some kind of trance at every turn: when he fell through the Coruscant night in hot pursuit of Zam, he seemed to be experiencing a moment of "flow"; when he converses with Palpatine in his private box, he is seemingly intoxicated at both the prospect of hearing "The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise" and the implications -- the poisoned chalice -- of what Palpatine lays out; and in the office, in a moment of almost zombie-like indignation, he starchily declares to Mace, "He must live", as if issuing a divine command like some demented puppet, then reacts by executing a move which simultaneously removes Mace's hand, shuts off the purple glow (when its effects are already insuperable), and spins round almost a full-360-degrees, dangerously close to cracking and completely losing his balance, which is basically what has already happened internally in this young Jedi's soul. "Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor." Do not underestimate the power of purple. Naturally, Roman Emperors also signed legal documents in purple ink, and Palpatine, as the demonic Darth Sidious, is later shown to dwell at the base of the Senate Rotunda in a purple-walled office. Anyway, this esoteric reading aside...

    I think the following blog entry -- from the now-defunct user blog space -- makes a pretty good case, using the power of prose alone (PURPLE prose?), to argue that Mace really doomed the Jedi Order when he swung at Palpatine, literally betraying his institution, the Galactic Republic, and the still-present, naive hope of a young Jedi supplicant in one fell (foul) swoop:

    Attempting to execute Palpatine -- the incumbent ruler, democratically elected -- is no better than what Mace did; it is, in fact, an exact repeat (attack of the clones).

    When Yoda falls into Bail Organa's hovering car (the power of two people working together, rather than fighting each other to the death: this escape being the apex of the Yoda-Palpatine duel and the demarcation point for the beginning of the end of the duel on Mustafar between Anakin and Obi-Wan), a viewer is asked to mull over the onion-like layers of meaning in Yoda's powerful line, "Failed, I have" (a purer version of what Obi-Wan then says to Anakin: "I have failed you, Anakin, I have failed you."). Yoda failed to best the Emperor mano-a-mano, yes; but he also failed in confronting the Emperor to begin with by using violence as his method; he was in that office in the first place because he failed in stopping the Sith from seizing control; which also means he failed implicitly in some of his teachings within the Jedi Order; and in so doing, he let the galaxy fall under oppression, and indirectly caused the deaths of his own Jedi children (who we saw he took pride in instructing -- nay, gained peace and prosperity, drew warmth and happiness from, and perhaps owed something of his long life to, from being around); and most damnably of all, failed himself, failed the Force ... because while he contented himself in his ivory tower, things were afoot, and his pride at all that he had helped construct and keep prestigious -- pride is sometimes considered the worst of the "Seven Deadly Sins" -- was his ultimate undoing (he even seemed AMUSED by the idea that he and the older Jedi were just as afflicted by arrogance in AOTC; before the bludgeoning impact of the Clone Wars hit, at least).

    That's a heavy definition of failure to take on. No wonder Yoda is so weak and frail (but pretending to still be strong) in the OT. Hell, one could even view that lamp he swipes from Luke's survival kit -- its small point of light much shorter and dimmer than his former lightsaber ("This weapon is your life"; from a certain POV, that's true) -- as a measure of his remaining life energy. He's hanging on as penitence; to train Luke just enough ("Already know you that which you need") to make the smallest difference for the greater good ... and then, finally, his last energy spent, he vanishes. I find it poignant, actually, that Yoda is still having to make concessions and clear up a mess he partially created in his final seconds: on his death bed! "Your father he is." The fight against Sidious, and the painful realization of his own ineptitude, layered on top of a genocide that collapsed his heart and very nearly killed him flat, probably took him to the brink of death. What little energy he still has left -- like Anakin/Vader, Yoda is really a wrecked, ruined being (yet with hints of his greatest potential -- again, like Anakin/Vader, yet to come) -- he must steal away and preserve "until the time is right" (he seems to literally advise disappearing in the interim). Because timing in life is really everything, isn't it? If Yoda learns anything in his final prequel moments, he learns that. And, indeed, this prequel trilogy's Obi-Wan and Yoda do disappear, for centuries, eons, until they, like a certain smuggler with a love for Wookiees and blasters and a no-nonsense Alderaanian princess, are unfrozen at a viewer's discretion, in either direction: OT or PT. Then they are like new, ready to journey and learn -- rise and fall, fall and rise -- once more.

    There are no analysis droids here... unless you've brought them with you.


    I like Mace giving Anakin the Evil Eye -- a glare that Anakin repeats to no one in particular in Mustafar, overlooking the lava -- and the tight editing involved. It's really neat to see Mace hesitate for a second; and for a slight ambiguity to be introduced as to whether he really swings to kill Palpatine/Sidious or is intending to deliberately swing and miss for intimidation, in frustration and anger. We'll never know because Anakin always chops off his hand before Mace can fully express his impulse either way. Mace crying like a baby adds to the scene; which is another thing Anakin repeats, wailing away after being brutalized by Obi-Wan, on the lava bank of Mustafar. (The fact that they're both bald in these specific moments, and it's a dome-headed robot who sets hairless super battle droids on fire in the film's opening act, and Obi-Wan also exterminates a hairless droid general with fire, is perhaps significant, especially when the hair-coated Wookiees, guest-starring in ROTS, and a similar bald-people/hairy-"savages" narrative in Lucas' first feature, the pointed-but-elusive "THX-1138", are taken into account).

    In ROTS, several sabers go over a precipice:

    - Obi-Wan's, Mace's, Yoda's.

    - Anakin also drops his saber after Sidious kills Mace. He drops the same saber again on Mustafar after being mutilated by Obi-Wan.

    - Grievous' wheel bike -- another grey, metallic, machinic totem ("bones" and "wheels": 2001?) -- is also focused on for a second flying into a sink hole (water/watering hole) below.

    - I think we could also include Boga and Obi-Wan plummeting into another sink hole on Utapau/Utopia (another saber loss might also occur here).

    Yoda losing his cape is sorta like waving a white flag of surrender. It also renders him naked: like Threepio (there are thick cables/wires, too, as Yoda crawls through a tight space), like Anakin (flash forward), like a baby. He even crawls away and drops through a small portal. Is this through the base of the Senate? It would seem to be a rhyme of Luke at the base of Cloud City dropping into a flying vehicle; and also a reversal because Luke enters the vehicle by passing through a similar-sized portal while Yoda EXITS a building through such a portal in order to be able to do this (Luke does too, sorta).

    I could be here all night with lightsaber symbolism. Good work, though. Dooku's saber has a curved hilt. You could call it snake-like: serpentine. "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you, it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice." Does Yoda FEEL Anakin's turn in a specific way? (Consider the intercutting at the end of AOTC and when a newly-knighted Anakin rises on Sidious' orders later in ROTS). Could we consider this further reptilian side of Palpatine/Sidious ("SSSidioUSSSS") as significant? Note what Palpatine is wearing in the opening sequence: a scaly black costume. Maybe Anakin truly got corrupted in an all-encompassing way. The impenetrable lock on the prison door of Vader is broken -- perhaps by the Millennium Falcon's portentous penetration through the membrane of the Death Star -- as the second half of ANH begins: the anaconda is loosened. There is a "dead zone": business as usual. And then there is a kink in the system: the cosmic meeting the decayed. This seems like a Lucasian theme going back to his earliest student films.

    I definitely like that Luke one a whole lot! Losing Anakin's saber right before Vader tells him of his true parentage. In this way, the films are stuck in a sort of enchanted grove until Luke becomes his own man in ROTJ. ANH and TESB, in some ways, are less connected to the reality of the prequels, if you like, and more the "myth" of them: a fabricated (simplified/homogeneous) backstory. This is amusing because it seems to exemplify a "(ig)noble lie" Palpatine tells to Anakin in ROTS: "You must break through the fog of lies the Jedi have created around you." Technically, there are no (obvious) lies the Jedi have told Anakin: just degraded (self-interested) half-truths. Though, I could create another topic for this, but Palpatine is "correct" in a sense (when isn't he?), if you read "lies" in a deeper metaphysical sense as the "lie" of "attachments are bad", or "if you're full of fear, you will turn evil", or "being a Jedi is by far the best use of your abilities", etc.: moral/pragmatic positions implied by the restrictive injunctions of the Jedi Order. Obi-Wan and Yoda come closer to outright lying to Luke, however. Or at least being extremely conservative with the truth. Yet that is clearly a tension within the films: what is "truth"; and what are the pros/cons of trying to discover, or not uncovering, it?

    The "master's master's master" bit is interesting. Luke himself focuses inordinately on redeeming the father but totally blanks the possibility that the Emperor is his "grandfather": one is appealed to at all costs and eventually turned back to the light; the other is effectively shunned and left to his fate. I guess the Emperor is just too evil -- or too clumsy -- for Luke. "You were banished because you were clumsy?" Well, that's a curious disparity, at any rate, I think.
  6. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 6, 2007
    So many good points, thanks guys for contributing to this humble thread. I don't know if I can touch on so many points but there was another point on Yoda's arrogance and his role in the eyes of the audience.

    Yoda was always viewed as the wise, powerful Jedi Master who was immensely strong in the Force. Yoda lifted the X-wing when Luke couldn't, Yoda knew everything before the audience.

    Yoda always seems untouchable, he even seems to choose to die, declaring that it is his time and slipping into the Force. In his duel against Dooku in AOTC, we see Yoda fight for the first time ever.

    And he does not disappoint, in fact Yoda is the saviour in AOTC.

    When the droids have the Jedi surrounded, their situation seems hopeless. The Jedi stand their ground, ready to die fighting with no hope for survival. And then Padme sees the gunships and cries out to the Jedi and as they look up, you can feel the sense of relief and hope that surges through the Jedi.

    In their most desperate hour, Master Yoda has come like an angel from heaven. Yoda flies into the arena with the clone army and saves the Jedi from death. He is the saviour, and the audience can relax as the heroes are rescued.

    And when Anakin and Obi-Wan fall to Count Dooku's dark powers and are lying helpless on the ground, we hear the tapping of a cane and see the Master in the doorway. Yoda has come to save the heroes again.

    Yoda is shown to be mighty and wise, and Count Dooku, who has seemed invincible so far, has to flee in defeat. Yoda is shown to be more powerful than a Sith Lord.

    That's why when he goes to face Palpatine, we allow ourselves a spark of hope. Yoda was able to defeat the Sith when no one else could. He will destroy Sidious and save the galaxy. And our hopes are promptly crushed as Sidious casually blasts Yoda into the wall. It shows us that Sidious is the ultimate evil, that even Yoda cannot win against him. Yoda tries his best, but he can't prevail.

    This scene shows the audience that the Emperor is all-powerful. Not even the mightiest of the Jedi can defeat him.

    The only thing that can defeat the Emperor and the Dark Side of the Force is the strongest force in the galaxy.


    A father's love for his son is so powerful that even the greatest evil the galaxy has ever seen is unable to defeat it. Love truly does conquer all.
    Ananta Chetan, minnishe and Cryogenic like this.
  7. ezekiel22x

    ezekiel22x Force Ghost star 5

    Aug 9, 2002
    On saber symbolism I've been intrigued by the "this weapon is your life" idea. Interestingly, Anakin catches an accidental first glimpse of a saber in the series only after he offers a Jedi a piece of fruit. So in essence Anakin knows he is seeing a Jedi not because Qui-Gon is openly declaring himself as one ("we didn't come here to free slaves"), but rather because Anakin has taken it upon himself to show a small kindness. And in the next film Anakin is chided for losing the weapon that is supposedly his life, and yet is threatened with outright banishment for his potential relationship with Padme, a relationship that was beautifully blossoming in the scene where Anakin uses his Jedi power to offer Padme a piece of fruit. Perhaps Anakin was unconsciously trying to anoint a new symbol for what a Jedi's life should be defined as. Obviously his efforts didn't quite work out, as Obi-Wan still hangs on to old ideas by retrieving Anakin's saber as a final memento of his fallen friend's life, and of course it won't be until much later on that we finally see a Jedi willingly saying no the idea of his life being defined by a weapon.
    minnishe likes this.
  8. Kev Snowmane

    Kev Snowmane Jedi Knight star 3

    Jan 1, 2013
    I disagree with the idea that Mace's death is the symbolic death of the Jedi. At that point in time, Yoda has not yet confronted Palpatine, and there is still hope. When Palp curb-stomps him, symbolically divesting him of the two most distinctive symbols of the Jedi (the lightsaber and the brown robe), THAT is the symbolic fall of the Jedi, capped off by the empty robe falling to drape like a tattered flag over a piece of wreckage.

    By the way, am I the only one to notice the visual similarity between that moment and the "Death of Superman" cover image?

    minnishe likes this.