Study Guide

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)

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Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)

In case you haven't already met our good pal Luke Skywalker, then go ahead and check out his character analysis section in A New Hope and get back to us.

The story goes like this: A small-town boy finds out that his long-dead father was a mystical warrior known as a Jedi, gets caught up in an intergalactic war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, and ends up destroying a super-powerful Imperial weapon called the Death Star.

Sounds simple, right? That's because it was—in A New Hope, at least. In the second installment of Luke's story, we see his entire world turned upside-down, forcing him to question his own place in this massive conflict.

In the Trenches

When we catch up to Luke, he's not exactly doing anything exciting—just routine reconnaissance as a part of his duties as a Rebel soldier. Fortunately for our entertainment (and unfortunately for Luke's health), however, he's attacked by a beast called a wampa and is forced to use his telekinetic Force powers and lightsaber to survive. In another silver lining to this near-death experience, Luke is then told by the ghost of his former teacher Obi-Wan (long story) to go to Dagobah and learn from his former teacher, Yoda.

This is the moment that we—and Luke—have been waiting for, but it's kind of a bust. For one thing, Yoda's kind of meek-looking, and Luke's a little shallow:

LUKE: I'm looking for a great warrior.

YODA: Ah, a great warrior. War does not make one great.

Yoda is a very strange teacher, and Luke often finds his frustrations building to the point that he can't even continue his lessons.

This culminates in Luke's bizarre, hallucinatory experience in the cave, in which he kills a false Vader who is revealed to be none other than himself beneath the helmet. This represents Luke realizing that his anger towards Vader might end up leading him down the same twisted path.

Jedi Powers for Dummies

Despite making progress in his training, Luke decides to leave Dagobah early because he has a premonition of his friends in danger:

LUKE: I can't keep the vision out of my head. They're my friends. I've got to help them.

YODA: You must not go!

LUKE: But Han and Leia will die if I don't.

Yoda vehemently opposes this, saying that this decision will likely lead Luke to the dark side.

Actually, just listen to the muppet himself:

YODA: Stopped they must be. On this all depends. Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.

Here, it's important to note the distinction between the light and dark side of the Force. It's not necessarily about good and bad: It's about attachment and detachment. Let's put it this way—to Yoda, a good Jedi is one who is completely passive, free of all emotions and completely at peace.

A dark side Sith, however, is driven entirely by his or her emotions—you know, emotions like fear for your friends' safety. In other words, Luke's love for his pals, no matter how pure-hearted, could cause him to turn to the dark side

Daddy Issues

In fact, that's pretty much Vader's plan—to set a trap that ends with his son turning to evil. Oh yeah, did we not mention that Vader is Luke's father?

VADER: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.

LUKE: He told me enough. It was you who killed him.

VADER: No. I am your father.

He drops that little nugget after slicing Luke's hand clean off. This a crazy twist—after all, Luke only decided to become a Jedi in the first place because he had heard stories of his old man's heroic exploits. How is he supposed to deal with the fact that his father is a villain?

As Yoda predicted, Luke is indeed tempted to join the dark side by Vader:

VADER: Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.

Luckily, Luke turns down his offer—for now, at least. Although we know that Luke doesn't turn to the dark side in Return of the Jedi, it's worth noting how many times The Empire Strikes Back foreshadows this plot point.

Luke is rescued after telepathically contacting Leia (more on that in Return of the Jedi) and, although he gets a brand new artificial hand, he seems shaken by recent events. Who wouldn't be? Still, with his friend Han Solo (a friend who has saved his butt many times) caught in the clutches of the crime-lord Jabba the Hutt, he doesn't have the luxury to get all emo and cry about his daddy issues. Now it's his turn to strike back.

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