Analysis of The Force Awakens — Luke Skywalker: The Resolving of Gray

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The premise that Luke has vanished is immediately intriguing. Like most people, I assumed when Episode 7 was first announced that Luke would be a central mentor figure from the beginning, having reestablished some form of Jedi Order. His absence raises many questions: Why is he missing? How long has he been gone? What could have driven him into hiding and kept him there all this time?

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Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, co-writer Michael Arndt revealed that he originally planned for Rey to meet up with Luke early in the film. However, he found that Luke’s presence immediately took the focus away from Rey.

One early rumor regarding Arndt’s plot was that Han and Leia were being held prisoner by an Imperial remnant. Their two children were then going to search for Luke in order to break them out. If this was indeed the early plot, it seems that it was flipped so that Han became the guide and mentor for the young heroes and finding the location of Luke became their goal. Luke became the drive of the entire plot, rather than a character simply moving through it. While some found the lack of Luke disappointing, I believe it made for a better film, and a greater mystery for the other films to explore.

Why did Luke leave? Does he believe that he can find something at the first Jedi temple that can help bring balance back to the galaxy, or has he given up hope? The turn of his nephew to the dark side and the slaughter of his apprentices no doubt had a great impact on Luke. He would have seen himself as a failure, unable to keep his own family in the light. One possibility is that rather than simply running from his problems, this act of betrayal drove Luke to seek out the origins of the Jedi in order to find a solution to his mistakes. It is also a strategic move as he is one Jedi against at least eight dark side users and the entire might of the First Order.

One clue to where Luke might be headed in his knowledge of the Force comes from a quote at the beginning of the novelization. It is a poem from the Journal of the Whills (the first canon reference to the Journal).

First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of gray
Through refined Jedi sight.
—Journal of the Whills, 7:477

The meaning seems to be that balance is achieved by resolving the light and dark sides through a balanced “gray” view, which comes through the refining of Jedi understanding.

George Lucas has maintained that Anakin’s balancing of the Force involved the destruction of the Sith, rather than both Jedi and Sith existing in equal measure. However, he also said in behind the scenes material for the Mortis episodes of The Clone Wars that balance requires both aspects of the Force, the selfless light side and the selfish dark side, to be kept in check. I believe this is what the poem is referring to and is perhaps something that Luke is still learning. This may be part of the reason he sought out the first Jedi temple after the betrayal of Kylo Ren. Rather than simply running from his problems, maybe Luke is searching for a refined knowledge by starting at the source.

It is clear that Luke left the key piece of the map with R2, so he must have planned on someone eventually finding him. However, the look he gives Rey is not one of immediate acceptance; he is clearly conflicted. Perhaps he doesn’t feel he is ready to teach again. It could be a fascinating twist to see Rey acting in the temporary role of “mentor” to a hesitant Luke.

One shocking discovery I made on my second viewing is what appears to be a grave beside Luke. It looks like he is meditating over this grave when Rey arrives. The stone is possibly an actual gravestone from the ancient monastery of Skellig Michael where those scenes were filmed. My theory is that it is a marker placed by Luke for his wife, Rey’s mother. How fitting that Rey would return to him while he is standing by the grave.

As I said in the section on Rey, the script says Luke “doesn’t have to ask Rey who she is or what she is doing there.” There seems to be a recognition in his eyes. The tearful look that Rey gives him could also suggest that she is suddenly remembering him.

Luke does not take the saber from Rey and we are left wondering what his next move will be. What kind of person will Luke be in Episode 8? Will Rey have to convince him to return, to even train her?

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE FORCE AWAKENS

For me, The Force Awakens is ranked third, behind The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Its position may change over time, but I feel that it more than lived up to my expectations and delivered an emotional and thrilling ride that fit perfectly into the established saga while propelling it strongly into an unpredictable future.

While I understand the need for Episode 7 to lean somewhat heavily on the original trilogy’s designs and plotting (which I don’t believe was to its detriment at all), my desire for Episode 8 is for more innovative ship and planet designs, and for plotting that is less predictable to Star Wars fans, while still maintaining the rhyming nature that the saga has always incorporated. And I have no doubt that this is the direction we are headed.

With Episode 7 we have been given, as the final description of the script says, “the promise of an adventure, just beginning…”

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

Chris “Darth Hound” Miller

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  • Studious Raven

    I really hope it’s not a grave. Especially not for that person. DON’T FRIDGE MOMMA!
    Seriously, I’d rather her being a secret shadow agent for Snoke over her being dead. Hell, she can be the true recruiter of Ben. ANYTHING other than her being dead to give Luke emo feels.

    Otherwise, I like these thoughts. It’s also interesting the idea of grey. Since it’s noted in the V.D that Snoke like Ben cause of his ability to linger between Light and Dark, which spins the idea of being a “Grey Jedi” into a kinda torture as your being torn apart resisting one side or another. Never finding true peace in the middle aka ‘don’t walk down the middle of the road, or you’ll end up smashed just like a grape’.

  • Zarm

    For me, this is ranked 4th- below the OT and above the PT; perfectly in the middle. If it hadn’t been for the emotional fumble of the post-Han moments for me, it probably would have made third for me as well.

    I have greatly enjoyed (belatedly) reading through this analysis. As you could clearly see, I didn’t always agree- but I always enjoyed it, and was always inspired to think. Thanks so much for a fantastic article series!

    • Darth Hound

      Thanks, Zarm! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Daniel Smith

    1) kung fu panda 2 prophecy about warrior of light and black
    2) Abrams said Kylo born equal light & dark
    3) TFA visual dictionary. Snoke sees Kylo as the ideal embodiment of a combination of light and dark side abilities
    4) Leia in novelization said Kylo was equal light & dark
    5) There are 19 reasons Kylos light side
    6) The poem about the gray
    7) In the trailer Kylo is holding a green saber & a red one.