Study Guide

Star Wars: A New Hope Cast

  • Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)

    If you don't know who Luke Skywalker is, then you must have been living under a rock for the last fifty years.

    However, for all you rock people: a) welcome outside; the weather's great and b) we'll give you the lowdown of everyone's favorite Tatooine farm-boy-turned-Jedi.

    Luke Skywalker is the protagonist of Star Wars. You might be a Han fan or a Leia lover, but Luke is the hero—no argument. He was based on the cinema's earlier adventure heroes, daring-doers such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Luke is young, inexperienced, and a bit impatient, but when push comes to shove, he's got the moxie and bravery to fight the largest military force in the galaxy: the evil Empire.

    One of a Thousand Faces

    Don't think for a moment that Lucas just happened upon the idea of a young hero named Luke. Nope. He did some serious research.

    While drafting Star Wars, George Lucas researched the works of Joseph Campbell. Specifically, Lucas read Campbell's The Hero of a Thousand Faces and even corresponded with Campbell about his ideas.

    Campbell's idea—which was influenced by Carl Jung's conception of archetypes and Sigmund Freud's idea of the subconscious—was that all of the heroic myths, spread across time and throughout culture, shared a single core structure.

    He called this core the monomyth mono - as in "one" or "singular" and myth as in, well, myth. Think of it this way: every myth starts out using the same script but then different cultures act like film directors and production teams and put their own stylistic and visual spin on the telling.

    It took Campbell an entire book to lay out his theory, but for our purposes here, we can use the handy-dandy summary of the hero's monomyth he provided in the third chapter:

    A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder (x): fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won (y): the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man (z).

    Sound familiar? Yep, it's Luke's story. He lives in the "common day" world of a Tatooine moisture farm. Here, he does chores, has family dinners, and squabbles with Uncle Owen. Yawn.

    After his uncle and aunt's death, he is thrust into "a region of supernatural wonder" with aliens, space ships, adventure, and a magical energy "force" called… the Force. He has fabulous encounters, gains skills and equipment, and fights the forces of evil in a "decisive victory" that sees the Death Star destroyed. He returns from his adventure a hero in the Rebel alliance. As for those "bestowed boons," well, the Rebel alliance gets to not die by planetary explosion. Seems a pretty kick-butt boon.

    (Of course, you can expand Luke's hero's journey to include the entire Star Wars trilogy with Luke's quest ending in the defeat of the Emperor and his attaining the title of Jedi knight.)

    A Portrait of the Jedi As A Young Man

    At the film's outset, Luke is a young man who must grow into adulthood. His youth is evident not only in his boyish looks but his first bit of spoken dialogue:

    OWEN: Luke! Take these two over to the garage, will you? I want them cleaned up before dinner.

    LUKE: But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters.

    OWN: You can waste time with your friends when your chores are done. Now come on. Get to it.

    LUKE: All right. Come on.

    Just listen to the way Luke says those lines. So much whine. We can instantly tell that this is a person who needs to grow up because power converters can't be that important. It's just a fancy name for batteries, right?

    Like any normal young guy, Luke has hopes and dreams for the future, but his inexperience and lack of worldly knowledge make him feel powerless. As he tells Obi-Wan:

    OBI-WAN: I need your help, Luke. She needs your help. I'm getting too old for this sort of thing.

    LUKE: I can't get involved. I've got work to do. It's not that I like the Empire. I hate it, but there's nothing I can do about it right now. It's all such a long way from here.

    OBI-WAN: That's your uncle talking.

    Luke's feelings of powerlessness and a false belief in his inability to effect change are pronounced here. He doesn't think he can effect any change given his position in the universe, and as Obi-Wan points out, he is following the path laid out for him by his yawn-worthy uncle.

    Luke doesn't (yet) have a sense of self-motivation—or, at least, not one powerful enough to stand up to his uncle and decide his own path in life. One of the major differences between a juvenile and adult mindset is making your own decisions… and Luke is clearly stuck in the juvenile "Oh, no! Decisions are scary!" mindset.

    This, of course, will change as the story progresses.

    The Blank Slate

    There's one major advantage to Luke's youthful inexperience. Not for Luke, obviously, but for the audience. Mark Hamill notes:

    "The character of Luke Skywalker is the one sounding board you have, and like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz or Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island, there's that one character that people look to see the reactions to everything else. He's very simple, very naïve, very straightforward."

    Dorothy needs Glenda to explain how Oz works, because it's insane (especially compared to boring ol' Kansas). Jim needs someone to explain life aboard a ship because he lacks worldly know-how.

    Like these characters, Luke finds himself in a strange world when he ventures beyond the moisture farm and he has to have it explained to him in user-friendly terms. Take this scene when Obi-Wan hands Luke his father's lightsaber:

    LUKE: What is it?

    OBI-WAN: It's your father's lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.

    This scene is as useful for us as it is for Luke. After all, no one had even heard of a lightsaber before 1977. Later in the same scene, Obi-Wan will explain the Force to Luke. And, by the time Luke says, "I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father," we've been given the details and have a sense of what that sentence means.

    Thanks for being so naïve, Luke.

    Growing Pains

    As the movie progresses, Luke grows and begins to find his place in the world. First, Obi-Wan trains his young padawan:

    OBI-WAN: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.

    LUKE: You mean it controls your actions?

    OBI-WAN: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.

    […]

    OBI-WAN: I suggest you try it again, Luke. This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct.

    LUKE: With the blast shield down, I can't even see. How am I supposed to fight?

    OBI-WAN: Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them. Stretch out with your feelings.

    Through this training Luke learns about the Force and how to control it. As we would expect from a novice, he has to fail a few times before becoming any good at it. This Luke is still a student; he's a boy just trying to figure things out.

    When we get to the Death Star, Obi-Wan goes on his own to shut off the tractor beam's power control, leaving Luke behind. For the first time in the story, Luke's left without an authority figure to tell him what to do. When he decides to hatch a plan to break Princess Leia out of jail, Luke's acting on his own and taking charge of his decisions for the first time in the film. Get 'em, Luke.

    During the Death Star escape, Luke grows and learns through his experiences rather than from a teacher. He learns about the odds the Rebels face, he learns he has the strength to stand up to the Empire, and he discovers that garbage chutes do not make the best escape routes.

    When Obi-Wan dies (sob!), Luke has to continue drawing lessons from his experiences rather than falling back into the student-mode he operated in when Obi-Wan was still alive and kicking.

    Luke eventually takes the lead of the final trench run to destroy the Death Star. As he plummets through the trench, he turns on his targeting computer—as every other pilot has before him—but hears Obi-Wan's voice:

    OBI-WAN: Use the Force, Luke. Let go, Luke.

    DARTH VADER: The Force is strong with this one.

    OBI-WAN: Luke, trust me.

    REBEL: His computer's off. Luke, you switched off your targeting computer! What's wrong?

    LUKE: Nothing. I'm all right.

    Mirroring the training scene from earlier, Obi-Wan "tells" Luke to trust his instincts. It's unclear whether Obi-Wan is actually speaking, or if Luke just remembers his guidance. Noting this scene in his analysis of the film, James F. Iaccion says,

    For Luke, to recognize Ben's presence and, most important, to act upon it suggests that he has found the inner "parental" strength to continue. No longer does Luke feel abandoned or alone; now he has his space-father to help him become a true Jedi knight.

    No longer a student, Luke must use what he's learned to overcome the situation. By doing so, he destroys the Death Star and saves the days for the Rebels. The final scene shows Luke—like the hero of a thousand faces before him—returning to the Rebellion triumphant. He's grown through his adventures, and he's found the place in the world he so desperately wanted.

  • Han Solo (Harrison Ford)

    Who doesn't love Han Solo? Seriously: We'd like to know who you are so we can strap you down and make you watch a compilation of Han's most charismatic moments—which would be a really, really long compilation, because Han is the most charismatic dude we can conceive of.

    Han Solo is the captain of the Millennium Falcon. Roguish and handsome, Han can be a smuggler, swindler, and mercenary depending on the situation. He is uncontested for the coolest man in that galaxy far, far away… at least until Lando Calrissian shows up.

    Foiled Again

    Han Solo's main task in the story is to provide a foil for Luke. A foil is designed to provide contrast for another character, usually the protagonist.

    Both Luke and Han are courageous guys who aren't afraid of a fight (and neither have much love for the Empire). Han accepts Luke and Obi-Wan's request to go to Alderaan despite knowing that they are being pursued by the Imperials. On the Death Star, Han charges a group of stormtroopers to open the way for Luke and Leia to get to the ship, causing Leia, who doesn't have the best opinion of Han at this point, to remark, "He certainly has courage."

    However, unlike the green Jedi to be, Han is more experienced and worldlier. He's flown from one side of the galaxy to the other. Because of this, he's more practical than the gung-ho Luke and tends to tackle problems in an efficient (if underhanded) manner.

    We see this throughout the film, but two examples stick out. First, when Han meets with Greedo in the cantina, he secretly draws his weapon from its holster beneath the table. The intent is clear: Han isn't going to risk his own neck in a fair duel. He is going to get the jump on Greedo and ensure he survives the encounter. In the original cut of Star Wars, this is even more pronounced: Han doesn't give Greedo the chance to shoot—he just blasts him from under the table without warning.

    We see Han's practical nature again when Luke is training aboard the Millennium Falcon:

    HAN: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

    LUKE: You don't believe in the Force, do you?

    HAN: Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful force controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field controls my destiny. It's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

    Due to his experiences, Han is unwilling to believe in anything he can't see or touch, and this includes the Force and all magical qualities. Also, why use a lightsaber when you can use a blaster to defeat your opponent from twenty feet away instead of three? Han is all about no muss, no fuss, and no honor among thieves.

    Quite A Mercenary

    Han's main concern in life is Han. He looks out for his own interests and everybody else's wellbeing comes second, or third.

    For example, he owes Jabba the Hutt big-time for a shipment he dropped after being boarded by an imperial cruiser, and his main motivation throughout the film is to secure the money necessary to get the price off his head. This completely contrasts with Luke's motivations, which are driven by his desire to be a Jedi and a moral compass that implicitly points to doing good.

    The follow exchange sums up the difference between the two nicely:

    HAN: I'm not going anywhere.

    LUKE: They're going to execute her. Look, a few minutes ago, you said you didn't want to just wait here to be captured. Now all you want to do is stay?

    HAN: Marching into the detention area is not what I had in mind.

    LUKE: But they're going to kill her!

    HAN: Better her than me.

    LUKE: She's rich.

    HAN: Rich?

    LUKE: Mm-hmm. Rich, powerful. Listen if you were to rescue her, the reward would be—

    HAN: What?

    LUKE: Well, more wealth than you can imagine.

    HAN: I don't know. I can imagine quite a bit.

    LUKE: You'll get it.

    HAN: I'd better.

    Luke isn't driven to save Princess Leia because he thinks he'll gain wealth, influence, or Light Side experience points. He wants to save her because she's going to be executed unjustly and that's just not cool.

    Han's self-directed moral compass tells him such a risk isn't worth the effort because he might be killed during the attack, and it isn't until the reward is offered that Han is swayed to give heroism a go.

    Raiders Of The Character Arc

    Luke and Han begin to rub off on one another, assuming the other's character traits. Luke gains experience during his adventures, becoming worldlier, like Han, in the process. Han turns into a total softie, sort of—Han begins to care for Luke as they spend time together, leading him to take on Luke's more empathetic qualities.

    As a result, Han's character arc—i.e. the transformation a character undergoes during the story—takes him from a self-centered loner to an unselfish member of a group. Let's take a look at how Han's character arc progresses in Star Wars.

    When Luke and Han first begin their adventures together, Han is annoyed by Luke's naivety and his lack of know-how:

    HAN: It'll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navicomputer.

    LUKE: Are you kidding? At the rate they're gaining?

    HAN: Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dustin' crops, boy! Without precise calculations, we'd fly through a star or bounce too close to a supernova, and that would end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?

    LUKE: What's that flashing?

    HAN: We're losing a deflector shield. Go strap yourselves in. I'm going to make the jump to light speed.

    The irritated tone in Han's voice (and the way he slaps Luke's hand away from the control panels) perfectly illustrates how annoying he finds Luke. We have to admit, Luke's "Hey, what's that? What's that?" attitude can be a tad grating.

    However, as their adventures continue, Luke begins to grow on Han like a fungus. Han still maintains a big brother mentality and doesn't view them as equals, but a respect for this know-nothing kid from the boonies of space does develop. Consider this exchange during their escape from the Death Star:

    LUKE: Got him! I got him!

    HAN: Great, kid! Don't get cocky.

    Han's encouragement is sincere, and he is proud of Luke's skill, but like any big brother, there's a sense of competition in telling him not to get cocky. The final score hasn't been tallied; there's still time for Han to catch up. The fact that both score the same number of TIE fighter kills shows the gap between them closing.

    After receiving his reward, Han decides to leave to pay back Jabba, but he feels the tension between his old ways and his expanding sphere of friends and new loyalties:

    LUKE: Come on. Why don't you take a look around? You know what's about to happen, what they're up against. They could use a good pilot like you. You're turning your back on them.

    HAN: What good's a reward if you ain't around to use it? Besides, attacking that battle station ain't my idea of courage. It's more like… suicide.

    LUKE: All right. Take care of yourself, Han. I guess that's what you're best at, isn't it?

    HAN: Hey, Luke. May the Force be with you.

    CHEWIE: Argh.

    HAN: What are you looking at? I know what I'm doing.

    Luke's sense of right and wrong influences Han's worldview. Han's original moral code would state that serving his own immediate need is the best course of action. While it appears that Han has decided to stick with his old code, the way he delivers that last line suggests that internal conflict is a-brewing.

    Of course, Han's character arc has changed him, and he appears at the last minute to save Luke during the Death Star assault, shouting, "Great shot, kid! That was one in a million!" Han acquires Luke's heroic and selfless characteristics, and the two stand as equals during the medal ceremony as heroes of the rebellion.

  • Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher)

    Leia Organa is a princess, revolutionary leader, and trendsetter of the universe's most stylish Cinnabon-influenced hairdo. Although a princess of the Royal Family of Alderaan by birth, Leia served on the Imperial Senate before it was disbanded.

    Leia's character exhibits an interesting duality. On the one hand, her role in the story is the classic damsel-in-distress; on the other hand, her character is a strong, independent woman who takes charge when necessary. Considering how badly Han and Luke bungled that prison escape, her leadership is necessary.

    Damsel in Distress

    Leia's role in the first half of the movie is to be the damsel in distress. True to the trope, she's kidnapped by a villainous villain and locked away in the Death Star, which is basically a space fortress. Unless you count the Dianoga (that's the worm-thingy) in the trash compactor, she isn't guarded by a dragon or monster… but her plight does move the heroes to action and unites them under a common cause. Alright, her money is what moves Han Solo into action, but we're counting it as part of the Leia package deal.

    Leia joins a long tradition of distressed maidens going all the way back to tales of myth and chivalric romance. To name a few classic examples, we have: Brunhilde from the Icelandic and Germanic myth of Siegfried, the princess in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon, and the many abductions of Queen Guinevere in the Arthurian Legends.

    Of course, the damsel in distress trope survived antiquity and lives in modern storytelling, too. We have Buttercup from The Princess Bride and Bella from Twilight . Disney made this trope its wheelhouse in its earlier animated efforts, and even video game yarns burst scared princesses, including the Nintendo's famous captive duo of Peach and Zelda.

    Given that so much of Star Wars is drawn from mythology and classic story structure, it isn't surprising that Leia's role in the story should be the damsel in distress. With that said, she doesn't play it straight.

    Gonna Hear Her Roar

    To be fair, it is kind of difficult to be an independent woman when you're captured, locked up, and any means of retaliation are taken away from you. Yet Leia doesn't cower from the villain, nor does she pine for a hero to rescue her. Despite her damsel-y circumstances, Leia shows her strength of character and fights the Empire any way she can.

    She stands up to both Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin when facing them. Her willpower allows her to resist the mind probe and its menacing syringe. Even Tarkin's mention of her upcoming execution doesn't phase her poise; "I'm surprised you had the courage to take the responsibility yourself," she retorts.

    However, the prime example of Leia's courage comes when Tarkin threatens to destroy her home planet, Alderaan:

    TARKIN: Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the rebel base, I have chosen to test this station's destructive power on your home planet of Alderaan.

    LEIA: No! Alderaan is peaceful. We have no weapons. You can't possible—

    TARKIN: You would prefer another target? A military target? Then name the system. I grow tired of asking this, so it will be the last time. Where is the rebel base?

    LEIA: Dantooine. They're on Dantooine.

    Sure, her gambit doesn't pay off and Tarkin destroys Alderaan anyway. What's important is she lied to him knowing she would be caught. It isn't long before scout ships determine the Dantooine base has been deserted and Tarkin orders her to be terminated immediately.

    Knowing this would happen, Leia was prepared to sacrifice herself to save her people. They were going to kill her anyway, but think of how much more painful and drawn out the Empire could have made her execution if she upset them. After all, look what Vader does to that Imperial commander who gets mouthy with him.

    Completely at the Empire's mercy—or lack thereof—she still finds ways to fight and undermine its efforts. Unlike Han, she's not in it for the money, and unlike Luke, she isn't trying to fulfill a youthful urge for adventure. As far as we can tell, she's doing it simply because it is the moral thing to do.

    … which makes Leia a boss.

    Leia's Got a Gun

    Step aside, Janie: Leia's got some shooting to do.

    Once freed from her captivity, Leia's courage rackets up to eleven, and she takes the fight to the Empire. Despite Han's chagrin, she assumes leadership of the little group:

    LEIA: Listen, I don't know who you are or where you came from, but from now on, you do as I tell you, okay?

    HAN: Look, your worshipfulness, let's get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person—me.

    LEIA: It's a wonder you're still alive.

    She also fights alongside Luke. When they are cut off at the bridge, she takes Luke's gun and covers him while he prepares the grappling hook to swing them across.

    Leia's role is minimized during the movie's climax as the focus shifts to Luke's struggles during the Death Star assault, but Leia's position in the command center makes it clear she has embraced her role as a Rebel leader.

  • Darth Vader (David Prowse)

    We all know who Darth Vader is. A cultural icon, this world famous villain has been in novels, video games, and comic books. He's been a toy, re-imagined as pop art, and even had his mug slapped on a cereal box. The three prequel Star Wars movies are dedicated to telling how Anakin Skywalker became the most feared cyborg in the galaxy. Darth even has his footprints immortalized on the Hollywood walk of fame.

    However, our purpose here is to analysis Darth Vader as he appeared in the original Star Wars film. We're focusing on this character as presented in his original film appearance. Since we don't learn about his relation to Luke until The Empire Strikes Back, we won't be dissecting those daddy issues. Likewise, although we know that he and Obi-Wan have history, we'll only cover the history as detailed in this film, meaning the motives elaborated don't count here.

    Original Villain

    Darth Vader is a much simpler character in the original film. Despite his later growth in Star Wars mythos, in the first film he's a cold-hearted villain.

    Consider his first appearance. Before we even know his name, we see a man dressed in all black entering the aftermath of the battle aboard the rebel cruiser. His faced is covered with an expressionless mask, and his mechanical breathing can be heard in the silence. He looks briefly at the dead bodies littering his path before stepping over them and entering the ship.

    We know that guy isn't entirely human, and everything about the scene tells us this. His mechanical breathing and the control panel on his chest let us know he's some sort of man/machine hybrid, and the way he nonchalantly observes the death and destruction around him tell us he's a sociopath.

    Later, Obi-Wan will tell Luke,

    "A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knight. He betrayed and murdered your father."
     
    We've already figured out what kind of character he is well before this, though. This line just provides some history for why he is evil and gives us a red herring for the reveal in the sequel.

    For the rest of the film, Vader acts like the Empire's goon:

    LEIA: Darth Vader, only you could be so bold. The Imperial Senate will not sit still for this. When they hear you've attacked a diplomatic—

    VADER: Don't act so surprised, your highness. You weren't on any mercy mission this time. Several transmissions were beamed to this ship by rebel spies. I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you.

    The implication of Leia's line is that Vader stepped outside the law when he attacked and boarded her ship. Vader's own speech lets us know that he doesn't care. His goal is to get the plans by any means, and those means include, but are not limited to, murdering people, torturing Leia, and even Force-choking a fellow Imperial Officer for getting sassy with him.

    Finally, when the Rebels begin their offensive on the Death Star, Darth Vader takes the fight to them, personally shooting down more Rebels than any other fighter.

    He's just a jerk.

    Black Knight Crossing

    Vader is a science fiction reboot of a character type called the Black Knight. The black knight is a classic character that has its origin in chivalric romances, such as various characters from the Arthurian legends, perhaps the most famous of whom is a big baddie named Mordred.

    What is a black knight, exactly? He's a) dressed all in black, to show how evil he is b) totally powerful and in control c) always carries his weapon and d) acts as the central villain in the hero's tale.

    Sound familiar? Darth Vader is the archetypal Black Knight put in a rocket and launched into space. He checks every box on that list, and in some ways, ups the ante—his sword is, after all, a laser sword.

    Usually, these Black Knight characters are master-less, too, having dishonored themselves for unchivalrous conduct before being kicked out of their order.

    Although we don't get much about Vader's history in this film, Obi-Wan confirms that this is true about Vader when he tells Luke about Darth turning to the Dark Side. Also, a short exchange between Obi-Wan and Vader further confirms Vader's disgrace from the Jedi order:

    DARTH VADER: I've been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.

    BEN: Only a master of evil, Darth.

    VADER: Your powers are weak, old man.

    Ol' Vader clearly views himself as having supplanted Obi-Wan as the master. However, unlike Obi-Wan, he has no student to teach. While Vader was once a part of a group, the Jedi, he has now become a lone wolf. Obi-Wan's response that he is "[o]nly a master of evil" points to his moral alignment but also suggests that Vader's mastery is meaningless because it brought him suffering, disgrace, and—maybe most importantly—no companionship.

    The information provided does what is necessary for us to enjoy Darth Vader in this film: he's a villain. We want to see him defeated at the end, and we get just that. After almost killing Luke in the Death Star trench, Vader's TIE fighter is launched into space. Defeated, Vader flies into space, remaining the mysterious figure of a true Black Knight.

  • Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness)

    Obi-Wan: the uncle we all wish we had. He's cool, drily hilarious, and more than willing to teach the fine art of lightsaber-ing and Force-mastery. Oh yeah: and he can also manipulate the minds of pretty much anyone he wants to.

    Obi-Wan Kenobi was once a master in the order of the Jedi Knights where he fought in the Clone Wars. After the Jedi were hunted to near extinction by Darth Vader, he went into hiding for twenty years, living in the boondocks of a secluded desert planet. He comes out of hiding to teach young Luke Skywalker the ways of the Force—only to be killed.

    This guy has had a rough life, but since he's another in a long line of the old mentor-type characters, that's to be expected.

    Old Man, Look at My Life

    Obi-Wan is perhaps the best known of the old mentor type characters, although he's far from the original.

    The archetype goes all the way back to Merlin from the Arthurian Legends but also includes Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series, and Ged in the later Earthsea novels.

    Broadly speaking, these characters are old men who teach young heroes about their powers and push them toward the quest they will have to undertake to complete their destinies. Old man mentors have special powers they use to help the hero, and sometimes they pass these powers on. They ultimately die before the hero can complete the quest, forcing the hero to face his final challenge on his own. Typically—but not always—they live in nature. They also sport amazing thinking beards… all that thinking they do must help the beards grow.

    As you can see, Obi-Wan passes the old man mentor test like a pro. He lives as a hermit in the Dune Seas before being pulled out of retirement by Luke. He gives Luke a lightsaber, teaches him the ways of the Force, and sets him on the path to his destiny. Finally, Obi-Wan perishes at the hands of Darth Vader, leaving Luke to continue on his own.

    Oh yeah: his beard is just glorious.

    The Force 101

    Obi-Wan's main task in Star Wars is to teach Luke about the Force. He doesn't get much time to teach his young padawan, but he makes use of the time he has. First he instructs Luke as to what the Force is:

    "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together."

    Later, he instructs Luke on how to actually use it:

    OBI-WAN: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.

    LUKE: You mean it controls your actions?

    OBI-WAN: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.

    […]

    OBI-WAN: I suggest you try it again, Luke. This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct.

    Obi-Wan's not around long enough to impart all the info there is about the Force, but we can see that it does reach Luke. During the film's final battle in the Death Star trench, Luke remembers Obi-Wan's words and trusts the Force. Whether Luke is simply remembering Obi-Wan's teachings or Obi-Wan is communicating beyond the grave is a little ambiguous in this film, but either way, it shows that Luke is using what Obi-Wan taught him. This allows Luke to destroy the Death Star and save the day.

    As a result of Obi-Wan's teachings, Luke is able to set out on the path toward his destiny of becoming a Jedi Knight.

    Sacrifice

    Ultimately, Obi-Wan is defeated at the business end of Darth Vader's lightsaber. Well, defeated is probably a bit strong. As he tells Vader:

    VADER: Your powers are weak, old man.

    OBI-WAN: You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

    VADER: You should not have come back.

    At the conclusion of their fateful duel, Obi-Wan lifts his lightsaber in a stance of submission and lets Vader strike him down. Whether his increase in power is Luke taking his place or his ability to communicate after death (both?) is left ambiguous.

    James F. Iaccino notes the importance of this sacrificial act. He states,

    Old hermit Ben knew that as long as he was physically present, the boy would never develop on his own or embrace the ways of the Force. Ben's sacrifice was, therefore, a necessary one to help Luke find himself (and his destiny).

    As long as Luke continued to rely on Obi-Wan, he would never be able to fully embrace his path to being a Jedi. Knowing this, Obi-Wan trained Luke with the knowledge he would need in a Jedi crash course and accepted his death. Like many old man mentors before him, Obi-Wan chooses to perish so that his student might succeed.

  • R2-D2 and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker)

    R2-D2 and C-3PO are the odd couple of the Star Wars universe. One is a neurotic, prissy coward designed for etiquette and protocol. The other is a droid that looks like a garbage can with a penchant for adventure. If these two would only stop jet-setting across the galaxy and move in together, we'd have a hit sitcom on our hands.

    Unfortunately for a galaxy far, far away, R2 and 3PO are too busy playing their part in the galactic war to settle down for primetime television.

    Prime Movers

    R2-D2 and C-3PO are the prime movers of the Star Wars saga. They are the film's focus for the first twenty minutes, and we get to know them well before Luke, Han, or any other character. During that time, their actions—more R2 than 3PO really—get the story moving.

    R2 receives his mission to deliver a message to Obi-Wan Kenobi from Leia. Through courage and perseverance, he manages to do just that. He uses the escape pod, an act C-3PO notes is "not permitted" and will "get him deactivated for sure." He travels the wastes of Tatooine, tricks Luke into removing his restraining bolt, and then heads into the Sand People's territory. When Luke says, "I've never seen such devotion in a droid before," he doesn't know the half of it.

    All of R2's actions serve to bring the necessary elements of the hero story together. He brings the plight of the princess to the hero, introducing the hero to the quest he will undertake. He later brings the hero out of his safe home and into the wilderness where he will meet his wizard mentor. Later, R2 will provide the trick necessary to let the hero defeat the dragon (read: Death Star).

    It's like the little droid knows how these stories are supposed to go, so he just spends the movie making sure all the plot points are checked off.

    Comic Relief

    After getting the plot going, R2 and 3PO mainly serve as comic relief. Star Wars brims with some heavy-duty subject matter like war, murder, sacrifice, and genocide. Given that list of awful, the film needs some levity. To provide this, R2-D2 and C-3PO tap into a comic tradition known as the double act.

    In the double act, you have two comedians. There's the straight man, who is serious, intelligent and reasonable; then there's the other guy, who is more eccentric and not too bright. The straight man sets up the joke—called "feeding"—and the other guy provides the punch line.

    There have been many famous double acts throughout history, such as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and William Abbott & Lou Costello.

    Bah-doom Ching!

    While the droids are certainly a double act, they don't quite play the straight man straight. Consider this example:

    C-3PO: I would much rather have gone with Master Luke than stay here with you. I don't know what all this trouble is about, but I'm sure it must be your fault.

    R2-D2: Bleep, blip, bloop.

    C-3PO: You watch your language.

    C-3PO has a personality type associated with the straight man: He's serious-minded and intelligent. (It makes sense he'd be uptight though. If it weren't for the fact that everyone in Star Wars is a superhero, the situations they find themselves in would be traumatic, and C-3PO is the only one who seems to recognize this fact. When you look at it this way, he might be the most relatable character in the film.)

    Yet C-3PO not only the straight man, but also the one who lands the punchlines. Since R2-D2 speaks in only beeps, blips, and whistles, he can only feed C-3PO and the humor needs to be derived from C-3PO's reactions. To add to the comic effect, we can't understand what R2 says, leaving our imaginations to fill in the blank, and as a conversation with anyone who has ever played Mad Libs can attest, people are more than able to fill a blank with all manner of silly worthy nonsense.

    Of course, the other characters get in on the act, too. For example:

    C-3PO: Master Luke, sir, pardon me for asking, but what should R2 and I do if we're discovered here?

    LUKE: Lock the door.

    HAN: And hope they don't have blasters.

    C-3PO: That isn't very reassuring.

    Again, C-3PO is both the straight man—he asks an intelligent question given the situation—and the one who lands the joke.

  • Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew)

    Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk… and it's weird how completely natural that sentence feels to us. We must be watching too much Star Wars.

    Chewbacca is Han Solo's trusted companion and first mate aboard the Millennium Falcon. Although he doesn't say much—at least, we can't understand much of what he says—it is clear that Chewbacca has two character traits that make him a soon-to-be hero among the Rebels. First, he loves freedom; second, he is fiercely loyal.

    Freedom!

    As one would expect from Han's best buddy, Chewie enjoys his freedom. This is pretty evident on the Death Star when Luke is hatching his plan to rescue Princess Leia:

    HAN: What's your plan?

    LUKE: Uh, 3PO, hand me those binders there, will you? Okay.

    LUKE (to Chewie): Now… I'm gonna put these on you.

    CHEWIE: Grawh!

    LUKE: Okay. Han, you-you put those on.

    HAN: Don't worry, Chewie. I think I know what he has in mind.

    From this exchange, we can learn two things about Chewie. First, he has never seen a Scooby-Doo episode, or he too would have known what Luke was up to. Second, the idea of being bound is so reprehensible to Chewbacca that he instantly, loudly, violently rebels against the idea. It takes Han, perhaps the only man Chewie trusts, to get him in the binders even for an act.

    Loyal to a Fault

    Chewbacca is also extremely loyal. This trait seems foundational to his character in a way. As George Lucas said about writing the character:

    "The Wookiee actually came from my dog, Indiana, who is a big malamute, a very large, furry dog."

    Like a dog, Chewie is written as man's best friend… or in this case, one man's best friend. That man is Han.

    It seems there is nothing Chewie won't do for Han. He'll take on a couple of unwanted passengers, march into an Imperial detention center, and fight outnumbered against stormtroopers to keep his friend safe. Just the fact that he sticks by Han despite Jabba the Hutt putting a price on his head is a true sign of loyalty.

    By the end of the film, Chewie's sphere of loyalty has widened to include Luke, Leia, and maybe the droids. The following exchange clues us into this fact:

    LUKE: All right. Take care of yourself, Han. I guess that's what you're best at, isn't it?

    HAN: Hey, Luke. May the Force be with you.

    CHEWIE: Arrugh.

    HAN: What are you looking at? I know what I'm doing.

    Chewie's forlorn growl lets us know he feels torn between helping Luke and Leia fight the Death Star or staying with Han, who, despite his statement to the contrary, realizes his own budding loyalty to the others. Unlike Han, Chewie realizes he has extended his loyalty to the others and can't turn his back on them now.

    Of course, when Han comes to realize this truth himself, the two rush back to help Luke save the day, and Chewie stands triumphantly with the rest of the heroes at the film's conclusion.

  • Tarkin (Peter Cushing)

    We have no idea what a Grand Moff is, but we assume it is the highest honorary title the Villain Order of Discontent may bestow on its members. Because Grand Moff Tarkin is one bad guy.

    Tarkin is not the supreme leader of the Empire—that dishonor goes to the Emperor—but he is the commander of the Imperial military. He is so high up the chain of command that he can order Darth Vader around. He tells Vader to release that Imperial Officer from the Force choke and Vader obeys right away.

    Tarkin's main goal is to expand fear of the Empire throughout the galaxy. As he puts it: "Fear will keep the local systems in line—fear of this battle station." By making leaders and their constituents afraid of the Empire, Tarkin ensures they will step in line with the Empire's demands.

    This is why he chooses Alderaan for the test run of the Death Star's laser. He doesn't want a planet that is "too remote to make an effective demonstration"; he wants the galaxy to see what he and the Death Star are capable of.

    This does lead to one problem for him: the Rebellion. It's kind of difficult to sow the seeds of fear when a small group of ragtag warriors keep not doing what you tell them to. Not that he thinks they are a true threat; he thinks they're more of a nuisance.

    As he puts it, the Death Star will allow them to "crush the rebellion with one swift stroke" (Star Wars). Even during the Death Star assault, when the rebel's attack is shown to be exploiting a potential weakness, Tarkin's pride doesn't allow him to take the safety precaution and evacuate. "Evacuate in our moment of triumph?" he scoffs. "I think you overestimate their chances."

    Tarkin pays the ultimate price for his pride though and is killed when Luke destroys the Death Star.

  • The Lars (Phil Brown and Shelagh Fraser)

    Owen and Beru Lars are Luke's uncle and aunt. Owen is a moisture farmer on Tatooine. We're not totally up on the details of moisture farming, but he lives on a desert planet, and people and creatures need water to survive.

    Owen and Beru's home represents a place of safety for Luke. Before we come to the Lars' farm, every other setting has been dangerous in some fashion. The spaceships were locked in battle, the desert was harsh and unforgiving, and the Jawa Sandcrawler was a horror house—the droid equivalent of one anyway.

    The Lars' farm provides the first setting where the viewer can breathe. We see families eating dinner (and drinking blue milk), old men complaining about their work, and young men whining about power converters. In the Star Wars universe, it's as close to our ordinary world as we get and it provides a place of respite from the insanity of the harsh world we've previously been witnessing.

    These people are doomed.

    Father Figure

    Searching for Jungian symbols in Star Wars, James F. Iaccino notes,

    "Luke's uncle resembles the father archetype in that he needs to keep things the way they are, with himself in charge. The individuality which Luke is showing cannot be tolerated because it threatens the entire structure Owen has imposed over his family."

    This read of the character makes sense. A no-nonsense surrogate father, Owen is stern with Luke in all of their scenes together. Consider this telling exchange at the Lars family dinner table:

    LUKE: But what if this Obi-Wan comes looking for him?

    OWEN: He won't. I don't think he exists anymore. He died about the same time as your father.

    LUKE: He knew my father?

    OWEN: I told you to forget it. Your only concern is to prepare those new droids for tomorrow. In the morning, I want them up there on the south ridge working on those condensers.

    They're talking about Luke's deceased father (whom he's never known), and Uncle Owen's response is, "Forget about it and get back to work."

    Owen is clearly trying to keep Luke's family history hidden, perhaps knowing that Luke's discovering the truth will jeopardize any chance Owen has of keeping him under fatherly command. Of course, Owen's unwillingness to deal with the world beyond moisture farming leads him to be unprepared when the universe comes a'knocking in the form of blaster wielding stormtroopers.

    However, we do have a question about Iaccino's reading of Owen: is Luke's individuality threatening to Owen because it might subvert the family structure—supplanting Owen as head honcho—or because it might ultimately harm Luke? Put another way, is Owen trying to harness Luke's individuality for himself or for Luke's wellbeing?

    BERU: Owen, he can't stay here forever. Most of his friends have gone. It means so much to him.

    LARS: I'll make it up to him next year. I promise.

    BERU: Luke's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.

    OWEN: That's what I'm afraid of.

    If Owen is trying to reign in Luke's individuality for the boy's own sake, then he's already lost that fight, and Beru knows it.

    Bringing Down the House

    As required by the classic hero story, Luke's home must be either be destroyed or threatened as a catalyst for the hero to accept the quest. You can see examples of this wide-ranging trope in the Shire of The Lord of the Rings and in the warren in Watership Down . Even Superman's origin story riffs on this trope, only instead of a little super village it's the entire planet of Krypton that gets hit with the proverbial hammer.

    After learning that the Empire has picked up the droid's spoor, Luke realizes that will lead them to the farm, but he arrives too late. The farm is a smoldering ruin and the charred remains of his uncle and aunt have been unceremoniously left to rot.

    Before Luke had decided not to join Obi-Wan, but the sight of the Empire's handiwork changes something in him. He returns to Obi-Wan and confesses:

    "I want to come with you to Alderaan. There's nothing for me here now. I want to lean the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father."

    True to the trope, Owen and Beru's death lifts the barrier for Luke to leave home and the hero to be finds his path to his destiny.