Analysis of The Force Awakens — Rey: A Hero’s Awakening

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While Rey is in many ways an obvious reflection of Luke and Anakin, she also has a unique twist to her starting point. Unlike Luke, and even Anakin, Rey has no family to support her in her struggle to survive in the harsh environment of Jakku. There is no wasting time with friends or picking up power converters in her future. Rey also seems more self-sufficient and capable at survival than Luke. I doubt Rey would lose in a fight against a single Tusken Raider. Her skills at using her staff for self-defense are also a necessary setup to explain her ability to fight against Kylo Ren in single combat, something Luke never had to face in his first adventure.

While Rey is very capable and self-reliant, she is also lonely and longs for adventure, as seen in the adorable and poignant moment where she wears an old Rebel pilot helmet, and in her excited reaction to Finn’s claim to be a Resistance fighter. However, she is also trapped on Jakku by the fear that her family won’t be able to find her when they return. While she tries to maintain an unshakable belief that her family will come back, Rey also has moments of realization that she may be stuck on Jakku her entire life, beautifully shown through her melancholy gaze at the old woman at the cleaning stations of Niima Outpost.

Though she is isolated and without family, Rey still shows compassion, as seen in her immediate reaction to BB-8’s distress. Rey treats BB-8 as if he is a person, telling him that his would-be captor “has no respect for anyone.” This connection to droids is another link to Anakin and Luke, who treated their droid companions with similar respect.

Rey’s adventure truly begins when Finn enters the picture. She is forced to flee from the First Order when she is seen with Finn, though she would have been confronted by them anyway because of BB-8. Her excited reaction to Finn as a Resistance fighter shows that she is drawn to adventure, though, like Luke, she needs external pressure to push her on her way. As a symbol of this adventure, our new hero is forced to flee in the Millennium Falcon.

For some, Rey’s piloting skills in the Falcon seemed a little too remarkable. The anthology novel Before the Awakening explains that she learned to fly numerous types of ships by way of a salvaged flight simulator. And Rey is already familiar with the Falcon as she not only knows about the modifications Unkar made, but also disagrees with them. Even without this background, Rey’s exceptional piloting skills and instincts connect her to Anakin and Luke.

Rey’s relationship with Han was wonderfully constructed and very touching. I may be reading into things, but I get the sense that Han may know, or guess, who Rey really is. In any case, Han becomes a mentor and father figure to her, though she again runs from this connection due to her belief that her real family will return for her back on Jakku.

Rey’s strongest call towards adventure comes with the vision in Maz’s castle. It is at her darkest moment – Finn’s refusal to actively join the fight – that she hears the voice of a young girl crying out from deep within Maz’s castle.

When Rey touches the saber she is transported to an eerie hallway as we hear the breathing of Darth Vader and the voice of Yoda echoing the word “energy,” confirmed as dialogue pulled from Empire. This is actually the hallway in Cloud City where Luke and Vader fought. In the novel, Rey sees a vision of a young boy in the hall. I believe this is a young Kylo Ren – one of several hints in the novel that they knew each other before the events of the film. Originally, Rey was to have seen Vader and Luke fighting in the distance. In the film, she hears Luke crying out in denial of Vader’s revelation and the hallway collapses.

Rey then sees a vision of Luke kneeling before a fire with R2 at his side. This has been revealed to be Luke discovering the massacre of his Jedi students, the fire being described in the novelization as a burning temple. We faintly hear Yoda saying “Its energy surrounds us and binds us.”

Through a transition of rain, she is then transported to another time and place. This has been confirmed by Pablo Hidalgo to be a different location than the Luke scene. From Rey’s perspective, we see a warrior swinging a club towards her just before he is impaled by Kylo Ren’s saber. The identity of this character is a mystery, though he was officially identified as “clan leader.” I speculate that this is a vision of the past where this man was going to kill Rey, but she was saved by Kylo Ren.

It is possible that Kylo was the one responsible for leaving Rey on Jakku, which explains why someone she considers family would leave her in the hands of the vile Unkar. My theory is that they are cousins and that he couldn’t bring himself to kill her or bring her to Snoke, possibly out of jealousy, but also a remnant of the light side. Snoke even senses in the novelization that Kylo has compassion for Rey.

That Kylo knew Rey before the events of the film is also hinted at in the novelization. While probing her mind, Kylo sees something he finds “interesting” just before he hits a barrier and she turns the tables on him. Later, after she pulls the saber to herself, he says “it is you.” Rey is unsettled by this comment, thinking he knows more about her than she does.

The vision then transitions to a young Rey on Jakku, crying out to the ones who left her to come back. We see Unkar’s arm dragging her away as he says “quiet, girl.” Rey sees the ship that dropped her off flying away as the Jakku sun transitions to the diminishing sun of Starkiller Base.

We then get a final vision where Rey foresees Kylo hunting her in the snowy woods of Starkiller. Rey hears a voice calling her name. This was revealed, in an Entertainment Weekly article, to be the voice of Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan (taken from a piece of dialogue from A New Hope where he says the word “afraid”). As she falls back and out of the vision, we hear Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan saying “these are your first steps.”

J. J. Abrams said of the voices, “The idea of the voices was, we wanted the audience to feel – but not necessarily be presented right in your face — this idea that familiar, Force-strong voices were connecting with her. At least as well as they could.”

Maz reveals to Rey that the lightsaber belonged to Anakin and Luke and is now calling to her. Maz tells Rey that she already knows the truth, that whoever left her on Jakku isn’t coming back, but that Luke still can. Rey refuses her destiny and runs away. It isn’t until there is a direct threat to her friends that she turns back, though she is soon subdued by the power of Kylo Ren.

While probing Rey’s mind, Kylo actually triggers the Force within her and she is able not only to resist him, but to enter his mind and find his deepest fear. To me, this suggests that she could have had some prior training that is only now reemerging, albeit subconsciously. It was my belief prior to seeing the film that Rey may have had Force induced amnesia in order to hide her from Kylo and Snoke. As we see in the film, they are quickly able to sense her awakening to the Force.

When Kylo leaves Rey, she is able to explore her Force power even more, attempting to use a mind trick on her guard. In the novel, she extrapolates that she may be able to influence the minds of others, something that was not explained in the film. Again, Rey shows more skill in her use of the Force than we saw in either Luke or Anakin at the beginning of their journeys.

Rey’s reunion with Finn, Han, and Chewie is a touching moment where she realizes that for the first time in her life someone has come back for her. She is beginning to realize that her new friends are also her new family. But soon after, in a reflection of the death of Obi-Wan, Rey loses her mentor and father figure to Kylo Ren. It is this, and the defeat of Finn, that drives her to confront Kylo and embrace her destiny. In the novel, Rey comes dangerously close to the dark side, being tempted to kill Kylo in anger. But she recognizes what is happening and refuses to give in. It is then that the ground splits between them.

Rey’s parentage remains the biggest question that I am looking forward to being answered. There are many theories, but the one I believe, and very much hope for, is that Luke is her father. If she is Luke’s daughter, then there is an extremely important story point beyond simply having a new Skywalker to follow. It would be an acknowledgment that Luke transcended the old ways of the Jedi. I believe strongly that the old Jedi Order of the prequel era was very flawed, and that the original trilogy shows that Luke is moving beyond these flaws, something I will go deeper into in my Luke article.

Rey ends the film as the new pilot of the Falcon, with Chewie at her side, both inherited from her mentor and father figure. In fact, her new outfit, including the low slung holster, was consciously designed to reflect Han’s style, as revealed in The Art of The Force Awakens.

Rey’s journey to Luke is the culmination of her dreams, quite literally as Kylo saw the Jedi island when probing her mind. Yet there is great ambiguity and mystery surrounding this scene. The look on Luke’s face suggests that he is struggling with what he sees. The script for The Force Awakens has an intriguing line that could suggest Luke knows who Rey is: “He looks at Rey. A kindness in his eyes, but there’s something tortured, too. He doesn’t need to ask her who she is, or what she is doing here. His look says it all.” Rey tearfully offers the saber to Luke, but he does not take it. Unlike the end of A New Hope, with which The Force Awakens is usually compared, the resolution of the final scene is left very much open.

Until next time: May the Force be with you. Always.

Chris “Darth Hound” Miller

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  • Zarm

    “It would be an acknowledgment that Luke transcended the old ways of the
    Jedi. I believe strongly that the old Jedi Order of the prequel era was
    very flawed, and that the original trilogy shows that Luke is moving
    beyond these flaws, something I will go deeper into in my Luke article.”

    Bravo, sir. Bravo, bravo. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said there.

    I must admit, I don’t hold the same affection for Kylo or Rey that you do (actually, I’d place them last; Maz and Poe would be my tied top two, followed very closely by Finn)- but in rey’s case, it’s primarily because I feel like I don’t know her yet. While we get plenty of plot from her, plenty of mystery, and backstory, and action… I feel like there was an emotional distance in the film; like I still haven’t seen what her character is, the way I have with the others. Maybe that’s just me. Either way, I look forward to finding out in the forthcoming films; I just can’t forge a connection until I can see ‘who she is’ more clearly.

  • Corina Borsuk

    I liked Rey. She was a bright spot in TFA both while I watched the movie initially and later when I mourned what had been done to Han and Leia. Regardless of Rey’s actual parentage, I thought she was the child that Han and Leia deserved, and I was glad that, however briefly, Han was able to create a connection with Rey. I think Han’s brief interactions with Rey showed what kind of father he was/would have been, and it put to lie Kylo’s characterization of Han as a bad father.

    If we compare the New Three with the Big Three, the initial assumption for many has been to equate Rey and Luke. I think that’s a mistake. I think Rey is more like Han. If you ignore the Force sensitivity, we’ve got two characters who are orphans (unless the new canon changes that for Han). They both had to learn to fend for themselves, living in poverty and using whatever skills they had to survive, even if that means scavenging or stealing. They are both good pilots and mechanics, something that seems more innate than learned. Both Rey and Han are brave, willing to run headlong into danger. Han may have been a bit more jaded and put on more of a disinterested front, but we all learn that’s not his true character. Both Rey and Han initially run away, but they turn back, not able to abandon their new friends. And, both Rey and Han realize they can’t go back to the lives they had and that they don’t want to because they’ve found a new family. I imagine the way Rey felt when she realized Han, Chewie, and Finn came to rescue her was much the same way Han felt when he realized that Luke, Leia, and Lando were willing to rescue him from Jabba.

    I only wish that Rey had been Leia and Han’s child.

  • Michael David Mills

    I LIKE STAR WARS EPISODE VII THE FORCE AWAKENS VERY MUCH IT IS A WONDERFUL NEW ADDITION OF THE STAR WARS SAGA AND WITH A ENTIRE ARRAY OF EXCITING NEW CHARACTERS-PRETTY MUCH MY ONLY COMPLAINT ABOUT THE FORCE AWAKENS IS THE SECRECY THAT SURROUNDS THE CHARACTERS AS CERTAIN TYPES OF CHARACTERS ARE SO DIFFICULT DISCOVERING THE NAMES

    WHILE THE FORCE AWAKENS VISUAL DICTIONARY BY PABLO HIDALGO IS A GREAT BOOK IT IS’NT COMPLETE AS THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE CHARACTERS ARE SO EXCLUDED,OF DQAR RESISTANCE MEMBERS HOSNIAN PRIME CHARACTERS AND ALSO JAKKU TUANUL VILLAGE THOSE RUNNING AROUND REY AND FINN & STARKILLER BASE CHARACTERS EVERYONE AND TAKADONA CHARACTERS OF MAZ KANATA’S PATRONS

    IT WOULD BE SO GREAT IF THERE WERE A COMPLETE EXTENSIVE LIST OF EVERY NAME.

    MICHAEL DAVID MILLS

    mdm2380@yahoo.com