Study Guide

Star Wars: A New Hope Themes

  • Good vs. Evil

    Star Wars built its tale on a classic good versus evil theme. The bad guys are cold-hearted villains, the good guys are ragtag but good-natured heroes, and the only quality they have in common is that they enjoy shooting lasers at each other.

    True, the sequels will muddy the waters by introducing Darth Vader's true backstory and showing Luke tempted by the Dark Side of the Force, but in this original entry, you can root for good guys, cheer when the bad guys are dealt defeat, and not have to consider any moral shading. It is pure escapism.

    Questions About Good vs. Evil

    1. Would you say Star Wars's approach to the concepts of good and evil is simplistic or complicated? Why? Also, what are the advantages and disadvantages to such an approach?
    2. Do you think any characters exist somewhere between good and evil? If so who, and how does that affect your reading of the film? If not, then why is this important to the theme?
    3. In the original Star Wars cut, Han Solo shoots Greedo first. In the Special Editions, Greedo shoots first and Han defends himself. Do you see this changing the good vs. evil dynamic in the film? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Although the film attempts to cater toward a universal idea of good versus evil, it ultimately relies on modern Western ideals of both concepts.

    In Star Wars, killing is justified as long as it's done for good reasons. This is why Luke is seen as the hero of the film rather than Vader, despite both scoring similar kill counts by the film's conclusion.

  • Courage

    With the exception of C-3PO, the heroes of Star Wars display a tremendous amount of courage. Everyone else has the temperament of a rip-roaring adventurer. Luke pines for adventures in the galaxy. Han Solo will go up against incredible odds, even if his courage needs to be bolstered with the promise of a paycheck. (Hey, he earns it.) Obi-Wan Kenobi has the courage to sacrifice himself for the greater good. The vast amount of courage on display in the film guarantees the trait's inclusion on this themes list. Of course, it's easy to be courageous when you're sporting some of the shiniest plot armor in the business.

    Questions About Courage

    1. Who would you say is the most courageous character in the film? Why is this character's courage important to the film's story and themes?
    2. In a film overstuffed with courageous heroes, what purpose does the cowardly C-3PO serve in the story? Do you see this role as necessary or not?
    3. Would you say any of the villainous characters display courage? If so, who? How does your answer affect your reading of this theme?

    Chew on This

    Connected with the theme of coming of age, Luke's courage matures from a youthful, brazen adventurousness to a more mature courage.

    In Star Wars, courage leads to action and action results in the greater good. Uncle Owen lacks courage, leading to his inaction, for which he pays the price.

  • Coming of Age

    Luke's evolution from youth to adulthood provides a major theme in Star Wars. When we first meet Luke, he's a whiny nerf-herder who complains about his chores. But when his family is murdered by the Empire, Luke has no choice but to grow and join the larger universe, something he is not prepared for.

    To be fair, when your doorway into the adult world is the Mos Eisley Cantina, there is no way to prepare. Throughout his journey, Luke has victories, suffers more lose, but ultimately finds his place among the Rebels and as a Jedi in training.

    Questions About Coming of Age

    1. Although the story focuses on Luke's coming of age, our hero to be doesn't appear until twenty minutes into the film. How do these first twenty influence our understanding of Luke's coming of age? Do you think they're important to that story or not?
    2. We focus extensively on Luke in this section, but do you see any other characters coming of age in Star Wars? If so, who? How does you answer affect your reading of this theme?
    3. What role do you see Obi-Wan playing in Luke's coming of age? Specifically, what does Obi-Wan choose to tell Luke about the universe and the Force and how does that alter Luke's course to adulthood?

    Chew on This

    Luke's coming of age story follows the classic hero archetype from Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

    For characters to come of age in Star Wars, their parental figures must first day. Luke's father figures—Owen and Obi-Wan—both perish. And although we never meet them, Leia's parents are also killed to clear her path to becoming a rebel leader

  • Power

    When thinking about power in Star Wars, the first thing that likely pops into people's heads is the Death Star. It's gigantic, foreboding, and it destroys planets with the same effort it takes to boot up a laptop. The Death Star represents the power of state and technology gone awry, but it is also only one kind of power presented in the film.

    The other power is the Force, which balances the power to the Death Star as it represents the individual and the power of nature. In Darth Vader, we see an interesting contradiction as both powers—technology and nature; the state and an individual—within one character.

    Questions About Power

    1. What character would you say is the most powerful character on the side of good in the film? Explain your answer.
    2. Next, what character do you think is the most powerful on the side of evil?
    3. Finally, compare and contrast these two characters and their respective forms of power. What does this tell you about the film's use of this theme?

    Chew on This

    Luke learns to use the Force by the film's end, but his uses of that power is more akin to Darth Vader's destructive ways than Obi-Wan's passive power.

    The Force is natural power and the Empire uses a more technological power. To show this, the Rebels and heroes are seen in more natural settings like deserts and forests while the Empire is seen in large technological settings

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Dreams, hopes, and plans are the driving force behind Star Wars' story. Every character has a simple goal. As they try to accomplish that goal, their plans conflict with another character's, and that's when the drama and action of the story picks up.

    Luke wants to leave Tatooine and become a Jedi, but Uncle Own isn't too keen on the notion. Leia wants to protect the Rebels, but Grand Moff Tarkin wants to destroy them. Han Solo would enjoy not having a price on his head. Even the droids have hopes they wish to fulfill… even if C-3PO's dream is to not be shot at. Ultimately, all of the characters with worthy dreams manage to accomplish them, while the characters with more odious desires are defeated.

    Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    1. Does any character not achieve their dream in the film? If so, who and how does this affect your reading of the theme? If not, why not?
    2. Does Luke really achieve his dreams and goals by the film's ending? Why or why not?
    3. Does the film suggest the character's dreams are achieved by personal struggle or inevitable destiny? Based on your answer, how does this change your reading of the theme?

    Chew on This

    Han Solo is the only character to have his goal in the film change. For the other characters, their original motivation is the one they stick with throughout.

    Connecting with the theme of Good vs. Evil, Star Wars's hero characters are granted their dreams while the villains are not. Like in morality play or Saturday morning cartoon, the lesson is clear: do good things to receive your karmic reward.