Study Guide

Star Wars: A New Hope Han Solo (Harrison Ford)

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.


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.

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