Who is your favourite character?
I have come to realize that I have two ways of answering this question whenever someone asks it. Sometimes, it will have the same answer. In this case, it does not.
The answer I give most people is the character with whom I identify the most or the one who inspires me the most. Depending on the story itself, the ultimate reason changes if I do not identify with anyone or if I am not inspired. In the Star Wars universe, my answer would be Rey or Leia.
This is the easy answer. It is the one most people want to hear when they ask this question. However, it is not always the one I revel in the most.
I studied English for four years in university and I have been interested in reading for as long as I can possibly remember. Given this, I also have an interest in the complicated characters. I am fascinated with the “broken” ones, those who have interesting backgrounds. In other words, I love the ones in shades of grey, as they make for a more enthralling examination. In many cases, this ends up being a villain. Most people do not want that answer. It is complicated, messy, and requires a lot of explaining on my end.
However, my answer for Star Wars with this in mind? Anakin Skywalker.
It is very rare for me to find a character so conflicted and polarizing as Anakin. The prequel trilogy—the movies and their accompanying novelizations—is truly Anakin’s story. It is his downfall from the seemingly innocent nine-year-old slave on Tatooine. Revenge of the Sith takes it the furthest it could possibly go. This book is, so far, my favourite of the novelizations. The way in which it is written is not without flaws, as no one is truly perfect, but it expands where necessary and the skill of the author is clear. One of the most amazing things, in a technical sense at least, is the transition between voices. Often the novel is in third person limited, in the past tense, but it occasionally switches to second person in the present tense. This is quite possible one of the hardest voices to pull off and honestly I felt this was the best I have seen it done, so much so that I know I never really registered when there was a change. It all just felt natural.
Looking back through Revenge of the Sith and taking into account the hints from Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace, it is easy to pick out the moments marking Anakin’s spiral into darkness. He appears to be a pliable individual to begin with, and will believe anything if it will help him. Or, at least, if he believes it will help him.
Chancellor Palpatine made a friend in Anakin very early on. He provided a listening ear and made sure he appeared to be understanding and non-judgmental to Anakin and his needs. Although it is not said in the novelization (or the movie, to my knowledge), I can tell Palpatine had his spies everywhere. He knew how deeply Anakin felt for Padmé. He knew what the two of them had done (marriage). I also think Palpatine knew about Anakin’s dream of Padmé’s death for a very long time before him and Anakin really spoke openly about everything. In fact, I would not be surprised if Palpatine somehow used the darkness in the Force to somehow plant the terrifying vision of Padmé dying in childbirth in Anakin’s mind. Even if that were not the case, I think there was really only one outcome after he saw that vision. I think Padmé would have died either way. If Anakin had not become a Sith Lord, she may have still died in childbirth. We really have no way of knowing if any complications could have been prevented. With his shift into Darth Vader, however, I think many may argue her death was a broken heart. It is also possible that Darth Sidious—Chancellor Palpatine—may have had a hand in it in order to truly solidfy Anakin’s fall.
In Revenge of the Sith we learn just how deeply Anakin’s loyalty runs. He love Padmé and when he realizes that he lost her and the child (not knowing that there were two and they lived) you can just feel that despair. However, even before then you can see the lengths he will go to in order to save Padmé from a terrible fate. Anakin is in training to become a Jedi Master. Even with his shift to the Dark Side, I do not believe there was no loyalty in him, no values, instilled during that training. You can see he struggles with the idea of shifting into a Sith Lord and yet, he is promised the world. The galaxy. He is promised love.
That is what this is all about: love.
The Sith did everything right from start to finish in order to bring Anakin over to their side.
The Jedi did everything wrong.
Then again, the Jedi were faced with an impossible task. There was nothing they could have done to prevent this.
They could have brought Anakin up the ranks to appease his wants. If Anakin told them about what was wrong with Padmé, they may have been able to open the knowledge only accessible to Jedi Masters to him. I suspect, however, ceding to Anakin’s wishes would have only delayed the inevitable.
Throughout the prequels, you get hints about Anakin’s volatile nature. They really remain hints until he react to his mother’s death, which I believe is one of the catapulting moments in Anakin’s progression. I believe that had the Jedi given Anakin the power he desired, at some point it would have corrupted hi. So, in essence, by keeping him where he was at, without that power, they were doing everything they knew to be right.
It was still wrong, in more ways than just with Anakin.
The Sith tugged on Anakin’s emotions. The Sith knew Anakin was volatile and they knew he was malleable. He wanted power to save Padmé, so Palpatine fed him a story about a power that would save her. I doubt it was true, unless Palpatine or another individual loyal to the Sith did something to put Padmé in danger in the first place.
The Dark Side of anything often has the upper hand because they are not afraid to cross lines. They are not afraid to give people they are attempting to persuade into joining them whatever that person desires, regardless of the effect that will have on the individual.
The “Light” Side does not do this. There are lines they will not cross. They do not wish to twist people. This, unfortunately, puts them at a disadvantage with someone like Anakin.
In the end, love was the driving force behind Anakin.
It drove this poor man to insanity…to commit heinous acts of violence, even against those who had nothing to do with this conflict. In the end, the nature of his character combined with the Darth Sidious’ influence brought him to his knees.
Anakin never stood a chance.
Title: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Author: Matthew Stover
Publisher: Del Rey