Study Guide

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Themes

  • Good vs. Evil

    Star Wars has always been about sorting the good guys from the bad guys. In a film series with color-coded lightsabers, there's not a whole lot of room for moral ambiguity. And The Force Awakens isn't any different, though it leaves the final destiny of some of its characters up in the air.

    Kylo Ren, for instance, may find himself slipping back to Team Good Guy, while Finn seems to be permanently terrified that his former colleagues in the First Order are going to find him. Either way, this galaxy far, far away has never been shy about the defining lines of its conflict.

    Questions About Good vs. Evil

    1. Which characters start out as neither good nor evil but end up choosing a side? What prompts them to make that choice?
    2. How do costumes and physical appearances tell us which side the characters have chosen? Why use those particular details?
    3. What kinds of emotions are associated with good and evil?
    4. How does the film show us that doing good is harder than doing evil?

    Chew on This

    The film shows us ways that good characters can do evil, and evil characters can do good.

    There's no real "crossing over" between good and evil. They both tend to be pretty straightforward.

  • Fate vs. Free Will

    The Force is a big stand-in for fate in The Force Awakens (along with God, the universe, and any other grand cosmic concept you can think of). As such, there's always been a question about whether the Force has destined these characters for a specific path or whether they get to make their own choices along the way.

    We suspect it's a little of both: the Force lays out the options and the characters choose, with the future of the universe hinging on the consequences of those choices. It's fate and free will working together to make the Force do its thing.

    So, you know, no pressure, guys.

    Questions About Fate vs. Free Will

    1. At what points do you think events are guided solely by the Force? Why or why not?
    2. When do characters make bad choices of their own free will? What makes them bad choices, and how are the characters punished for them?
    3. Why is it important that the characters have to make choices, instead of the Force simply calling all of the shots?
    4. How does fate determine free will and free will determine fate in the film?

    Chew on This

    The universe here is driven by a combination of fate (the Force) and free will (the choices the characters make).

    There is no real free will here. The Force is pretty much behind the wheel the whole time.

  • Friendship

    Neither Finn nor Rey have any friends when we first meet them in The Force Awakens. Cue sad trombone.

    The good news is, they find each other in the middle of it all. Friendship holds this galaxy together, and the lengths these characters will go to for their friends—both good and bad—will pretty much define how the galaxy turns out.

    Questions About Friendship

    1. Is anything different in the relationships between old friends like Han and Chewie and those between just-met friends like Finn and Rey?
    2. Are the droids friends to their owners? How and why?
    3. Could friendship be considered something that divides good from evil here? Do any of the villains have friends?
    4. Where do we see signs of the friendship between Han and Luke? How can we see what good friends they are, even though they're never actually onscreen together?

    Chew on This

    Friendship is fostered by the Force for its own reasons.

    Friendship stems from individual choices, and the Force picks these characters for great destinies because of their capacity for friendship.

  • Coming of Age

    The Hero's Journey is always about coming of age: a young person enters the world and is tested in order to find out who he or she is. Star Wars has always embraced that idea, first with Luke, and then with Anakin during Episodes I-III.

    In The Force Awakens, we have two characters coming of age: Rey and Finn, both of whom are running from different things and taking the bit in their teeth when adulthood rears its ugly head. Their comings of age won't stop with this movie, but we'd say they have a pretty good running start at it.

    Questions About Coming of Age

    1. At what point do Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren each come of age here?
    2. Can BB-8 be said to come of age? Why or why not?
    3. What are the similarities between these young characters coming of age and Luke and Leia doing so in the original Star Wars? What are the differences?

    Chew on This

    Coming of age for these characters is closely tied with the destiny of the galaxy.

    Coming of age is a side effect of their adventures, not the actual purpose.

  • Spirituality

    The Force is God. Or Allah. Or Yahweh. Or fate. Or the grand cosmic hum.

    Whatever you want to call it, it's a way of talking about spiritual issues without invoking any specific religions. And, bonus, it lets you move things with your mind.

    But strip away the Force magic, and what you're looking at is human meditation with the universe. That helps us connect to the story in The Force Awakens in a very powerful way as well as allows the film to explore spiritual questions.

    Questions About Spirituality

    1. Why is the Force divided between the light side and the dark? What does that say about the presence of evil as well as good?
    2. What is the significance of Han's conversion from a skeptic to a true believer? Does it make a difference that he has seen the effects of the Force directly?
    3. How do the heroes embody the interconnected nature of the Force? How do the villains represent the opposite of that unification?
    4. Why does the Force allow terrible things to happen in this universe? What is the purpose of suffering here?

    Chew on This

    The heroes embrace the true nature of the Force while the villains only accept one side.

    The dark side of the Force is part of the light. One cannot exist without the other.

  • Family

    Han had a kid, messed him up, and split. Luke compounded the messing up of said kid and split. Said kid is extra super mad at both of them, and he's going to show them who's boss. Leia gets to be the grown-up and deal with the fallout.

    Sounds like a typical sitcom family to us.

    Seriously, family has always informed relations in the Star Wars saga (remember the oft-misquoted "I am your father" or that creepy Luke-Leia kiss?), and The Force Awakens is no different. We see the fallout that comes in the next generation as the heirs of Anakin Skywalker struggle over his legacy and who will have the final word on the whole light side/dark side thing.

    Questions About Family

    1. How does family bind the characters in both good and bad ways?
    2. Are families solely biological here or are friends considered family in The Force Awakens universe?
    3. How does family obligate the characters to do things they might not want to do?

    Chew on This

    The characters here are defined by their blood and can't escape family.

    Family means what the characters want it to mean, and it applies to whom they choose instead of to whom they're related.