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Saga The Theme of Slavery and Anakin

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by ewoksimon, Aug 30, 2014.

  1. ewoksimon

    ewoksimon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Oct 26, 2009
    I believe one of the most underrated and seldom discussed elements of the Star Wars Saga is that of slavery, specifically as it pertains both literally and metaphorically to the arc of Anakin Skywalker.

    Up until TPM, all Anakin knew was a life of slavery, as he had been under the ownership of Watto and other masters in the past. As he's brought into the Jedi Order, he's been literally freed, yes, but he's also imprisoned by the Jedi ways and forced to submerge his true emotions. He clearly resists this system, and feels increasingly manipulated as he grows in strength. His turn to the Dark Side is ostensibly meant to bring him the ultimate freedom by the belief that he will control the galaxy, but in truth he loses everything meaningful to him in the process. All he has is Palpatine, whose bidding he is all too willing to execute for over two decades.

    All told, in one form or another, Anakin was enslaved his entire life. It is only in his dying moments that he finds genuine freedom, in death.
  2. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Jun 22, 2006
    Well, I think absolute freedom is heavily overrated ;)
    As a matter of fact, there were some thoughts expressed on this topic recently in another thread. (When I mentioned self-delusion about freedom in my post quoted below, I had Anakin specifically in mind.)

    Cryogenic likes this.
  3. Seagoat

    Seagoat PT and Music Section Dictator star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jan 25, 2013
    One could argue that his entire life was spent as a slave of the Force, right until his death, which brought balance
    Figures. He's only free as a ghost
  4. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Jun 22, 2006
    But if you really think the Force (or the circumstances of his life as arranged by the Force) had that much control over his choices and actions, the concept of "freedom" becomes pretty meaningless -- in the sense that it's so absolute that nobody can have it, at least in this life.

    And it becomes hard to see why the other characters aren't "slaves of the Force" or their circumstances either. Yoda was "enslaved" by his age and conservatism. Obi-Wan was "enslaved" by his promise to his dying Master and consequent emotional investment in the truth of Qui-Gon's interpretation of the Prophecy, which caused him to overlook or brush over Anakin's flaws. Padmé was "enslaved" by destiny into falling in love with Anakin. Luke was "enslaved", by the destruction of everything he'd known and had, into becoming a Jedi. Etc.

    I dunno, I just think Anakin's story becomes less compelling if he wasn't as free in his fateful choices as any other character was in theirs.
  5. Seagoat

    Seagoat PT and Music Section Dictator star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jan 25, 2013
    Well I think the key difference between being a slave of the Force and destiny/fate here is that, no matter what, the Force drove Anakin to its ultimate goal, no matter how much Anakin had to suffer. I guess it's like being tied to a loose rope. You'll get there, but there are a lot of ways to get there
  6. Samnz

    Samnz Jedi Master star 3

    Sep 4, 2012
    Interesting thoughts, Jedi_Ford_Prefect , Cryogenic and Cael-Fenton

    Well, I definitely agree that Anakin's slavery and the effect on him is greatly underrated among viewers and fans. I'd even say Anakin complete character arc is underrated and simplified by many fans and viewers, but that just btw.

    Lots of people find it hard to make a connection between TPM Anakin and AOTC Anakin, although the element of real slavery and perceived slavery is a big anchor between the two. It's all there. He was slave, forced to to the things his masters wanted him to do. Of course that makes him quite anti-authoritarian, constantly questioning his new master and authority (Obi-Wan) later, now havinfg the power and the confidence to do that. He simply doesn't want to be bossed around given his background as a slave, although that's just part of the deal of being a Junior Jedi. Now I'm not trying to say his life as a Jedi was "bad" or that he didn't have the opportunity to leave (which he had), but it explains his unbalanced and "perky" character in AOTC.
    He didn't have control over his own life in TPM, he experienced his lack of control over other lifes (Shmi) in AOTC and later seeks the ultimate power over life and death (ROTS). He learnt to love his mother, then left and lost her which made him extremely possesive. He thought (in his idealized child's view) being a Jedi finally makes him free to do the things he wants to do, yet he finds himself heavily restricted by the Jedi in AOTC and couldn't even save his mother, even though all it would have needed to free her was a fly to Tatooine in due time. The Jedi didn't allow him to do that, though, because they peach detachment.

    The aspect of slavery, being restricted and as a result his wish to control his own life and other things in life certainly drives his entire character arc over the three films, imo.
    One could say Lucas should have stressed that point further in TPM. However, I do think that Anakin's pretty riled and angry reaction at Padmé's somehow clumsy "Are you a slave?" question alone was sufficient to make clear that Anakin was anything but happy with his current life as a slave. He is a nice kid, but when someone mentions his status as a slave he's not amused at all.

    So yes, I do think it's an aspect that is often overlooked when Anakin's character is discussed and it's a big point that connects TPM Anakin, AOTC Anakin and ROTS Anakin.
    Slavery is a scar.
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  7. Cael-Fenton

    Cael-Fenton Jedi Master star 3

    Jun 22, 2006
    Samnz Thank you, and you make lots of good points too, but .... well, I feel like maybe I didn't express myself as clearly as I should have in the post quoted.

    People speak of Anakin still being "enslaved" by the Order and then by Palpatine (or even the will of the Force) until the end of his life. Because he wasn't free to do as he pleased -- "freedom" being conceived as the absence of external constraint both on the will and on the power to give effect to that will. What I was trying to suggest is that this sort of "freedom", which is what he sought all his life, is something illusory. Rejecting the discipline, self-control and self-denial (ie submission to the will of the Force) taught by the Jedi, Anakin turned to the Dark Side in pursuit of this "freedom", but that only ended up enslaving him more fundamentally than the Jedi or Watto or Gardulla ever did. And not only because of Palpatine -- if Palpatine had dropped dead at the end of RotS, I'd still say Anakin was enslaved -- see below.

    The hard truth we learn from the Saga is that there is no such thing as absolute "freedom", if we think of it in that way. When Anakin throws off the "shackles" of self-denial and submission to something bigger than himself, he becomes enslaved by his desires, his need to hold on to the objects of his love whatever the cost. And because he refuses to put himself and his desires in second place, in the end himself is all he's left with, and he is enslaved by his desires as surely as any heroin addict is. Palpatine still acts as an external constraint on his will, but Anakin's more fundamental enslavement is harder to escape because it is internal.

    It is only at the end that he does gain freedom in a way, but not the illusory "absence of constraint on myself" freedom he had been looking for. Rather (paradoxically), this freedom consists in willingly subordinating one's self to something else, something you recognise as more important than yourself, and therefore will serve -- ie, you constrain your will and your actions according to it. It might be as simple and everyday as someone else's well-being (but it has to be really their well-being which you submit yourself to, not your desire to keep them with you). Or the public good. Or one's art. For the Jedi, it's the will of the Force.

    We usually think of this idea in the more palatable terms of having principles or goals in life, rather than in terms of servitude. Whatever we call it, we can't be "absolutely free", and if we think about what "absolute freedom" really is, I'm not sure we would even want it. We have to choose something bigger to submit ourselves to, or we end up enslaved to our impulses. Personally I'd find my self and immediate desires a much narrower prison to be confined in than some grand ideal.
  8. darth-sinister

    darth-sinister Manager Emeritus star 10 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jun 28, 2001
    "Luke is therefore urging Stoic wisdom upon Vader when he tells him to let go of his hate. Unfortunately, hatred has had such a vise like hold on Vader for so long that he tells Luke: "It is too late for me son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now." For servants of the dark side, the true nature of the Force is servitude to evil, enslavement to hate. Like virtues, vices tend to control one's behavior. Vader has used fear and hatred to achieve his ends for so long that now the superior hatred and aggression of the Emperor use him. That is how Vader's mastery of the dark side is at the same time servitude to it."

    --Star Wars and Philosophy, page 27.

    The two Star Wars trilogies share many characters but have different structures. Instead of telling another heroic coming-of-age story, Lucas has crafted the prequels a historical drama, at whose center is Anakin Skywalker. His story is tragic; that of the Republic-turned-Empire, uncomfortably familiar. Anakin begins as a nine-year-old boy who is physically enslaved. He ends the prequel saga a spiritual and mental slave to the Emperor, who is his metaphorical if not biological father....

    --George Lucas, The Making Of Revenge Of The Sith; page 221
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  9. VadersLaMent

    VadersLaMent Chosen One star 10

    Apr 3, 2002
    Star Wars does have a theme of dystopia in its bones. Quite a bit of that comes from THX-1138. Vader himself is a part of The Machine. In the film Brazil the former paper pusher finds he is just another cog in the machine and his only escape is a dreamworld of his own mind. This is mirrored a bit when Anakin appears as a ghost finally free of the machine.
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  10. Cryogenic

    Cryogenic Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 20, 2005
    This is really great.

    I did see your response in the other thread -- but thanks for reposting it (and my original comments) here.

    I'd just like to correct one thing I wrote before:

    That's a bit of a fudge because no-one precisely recognizes that Anakin is a slave in TPM. Qui-Gon later tells Shmi that he didn't come to Tatooine to free slaves, but the only one who questions him about his status to his face is Padme, who only picks up on it after she infers Anakin's status based on what he tells her about being sold to Gardulla the Hutt. "You're a slave?" Padme is totally incredulous to the notion that someone could be in bondage yet not have any visible chains; or so it would appear. That's a very salient choice on the artist's part IMO. Not least because Padme fails to recognize her own bondage. We see her bound to ritual, bound to political servitude, bound to an identity crisis, and bound, for the time being, to her own cultural isolation and ignorance. Perhaps her own reconciliation -- "I am Queen Amidala" (echoing Anakin's former declaration, "I'm a person and my name is Anakin"; as well as foreshadowing his machine identity's declaration to their son, "I am your father") -- comes about, in part, owed to the time she spends on Tatooine, which gives her some means to perceive her own personage anew, and rewrite the rulebook on who and what she can be.

    Padme is, in fact, as her name suggests, something like a budding flower, rising for a time from the mud of confusion, from the miasma of her own doubts, her own fears, to a more affirmative state -- even if the hands of fate have other ideas.

    I love this saga because it's so poetic and so medicinal. You can see new layers and connections between things all the time. It keeps the films fresh; and revitalizes the mind, too.

    Or, at least, the capacity is there.

    * * * *

    As for the broader topic...

    Well, it really depends what you mean by "slavery". I notice people are batting it about but leaving it undefined.

    Is slavery the presence of something or the absence? What is really -- well and truly -- meant by the word when it is used?

    In the meantime, I'm going to consider Cael-Fenton 's posts cogent. Being free is to precisely not be free. It's a contingent state.

    Total freedom of form and thought is something of a delusion; possibly a grand delusion. It is maybe the chief paradox of existence.

    I find much to agree with in your ruminations, C-F. Such a realization about the trap and ultimate contradiction of completely satisfying the ego is -- ironically -- in itself quite liberating.

    Perhaps we do have to accept "slavery" (again, whatever that is) in one form or another in order to be sane, happy, and free.

    Or as Oscar Wilde might have aptly put it: "There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."
  11. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn

    Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 23, 1999
    There are also very similar 'fighting the external symbol of one's internal darkness, only to defeat it and then realize that it is you' vision/scenes in Brazil and Empire.
    Subtext Mining likes this.
  12. Cryogenic

    Cryogenic Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 20, 2005
    Take a look here:

    And yes -- this is related to the former: