Reading through the hundreds of years of English Literature, it’s no surprise you will often come across echoes and inspiration of stories that have come before. One such story that comes up time and time again is the story of the “Fall of Man.” From the Bible to Milton to Star Wars itself, man’s temptation and subsequent fall from grace is a tale that continues to grip us through the ages.
As English Literature evolved, so did our treatment of this story, the most famous rendition probably being John Milton’s Paradise Lost, where the character of Satan is considered far more interesting over the characters of Adam and Eve. Where Adam and Eve’s story deals with their life in paradise followed by their temptation and fall, Satan has already fallen at this point. As post-Garden beings ourselves, we immediately have more in common with the villain than with the perfect ‘heroes’. Satan is reprehensible, he manipulates,commits rape, and yet the very sight of Eve causes him to doubt in his own rebellion against God. In this way, Satan and Adam’s struggle with temptation revolve around Eve. Satan gets a glimpse of redemption, the promise by God that he can be forgiven and Adam, so in love with Eve, follows her from Paradise. Satan’s choice to remain fallen, however, is his own worst enemy as he knows that upon asking forgiveness means he will have to bow before God. This he can’t bring himself to do and resolves to stay fallen.
“Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”
Anakin as a representation of temptation also parallels Eve and Adam as Palpatine slithers into the role of the serpent. Eve is amazed by the serpent who speaks of their gifts being bestowed upon them by tasting the fruit from the tree of knowledge. The serpent further gains Eve’s trust by flattering her beauty.
Palpatine gains Anakin’s trust by constant flattery, encouraging him to take pride in his exceptional skills and convincing him that despite his youth he deserves a spot on the Jedi Council. When fear begins to take hold of Anakin, Palpatine offers his own fruit to the falling Jedi: salvation from death. Anakin’s pride and fear feed into each other as his pride and arrogance don’t allow him to concede to the possibility that he might not save Padme. When Eve goes to wander Paradise alone, Adam fears for her.
“His fraud is, then, thy fear; which plain infers
Thy equal fear that my firm faith and love
Can by his fraud be shaken or seduced.”
Palpatine has spent years feeding Anakin’s pride and now his fear of losing Padme has given Palpatine a catalyst with which to strike.
Even on Naboo at the Lake Retreat, Anakin and Padme spend blissful, peaceful days together untouched by the war beginning to boil out in the galaxy. It is their taste of Eden. In Paradise Lost, the angel Raphael warns, “Dream not of other worlds.”Anakin, during his nightmare vision of his mother, does exactly this. Anakin’s vision pulls him from his piece of paradise and back to turmoil and uncertainty. Anakin’s ignorant bliss about his mother’s life in the 10 years he has been gone from Tatooine is shattered by the knowledge that something has happened to her. Despite the fact that Padme goes with him, he expresses his intent initially to leave her behind, essentially disobeying the “word of God” from his Jedi superiors to stay with her and protect her.
The original Star Wars trilogy is perhaps the most perfect rendition of the hero’s journey, so much so that media and literature classes will use it as an example. For the prequels, George Lucas needed to go in an entirely different direction. More Shakespearean tragedy and the descent into darkness. Anakin, filled with anger and doubt, clutching greedily at his wife, succumbs to darkness.
Milton in Paradise Lost, describes Adam before the fall as
That what she wills to do or say,
Seems wisest, virtuosest, discreetest, best;
All higher knowledge in her presence falls / Degraded.
Adam, above all else, loves Eve. He chooses to fall and he falls for Eve. Anakin Skywalker, from Jedi Hero to Lord of the Sith, echoes Satan, the world’s greatest monster who was once Lucifer, the most beautiful of all angels. Like Adam and Eve, Anakin’s fall was brought on by so many factors, from his flaws as a man to the machinations of a greater evil. However, beneath his twisted exterior and buried under the ashes of his previous life, Anakin Skywalker the man still lives. There is good in him still and hope for redemption. All he needs is sacrifice and forgiveness.
Was Anakin not suppose to fall? Was it truly the work of evil and his own flaws that brought about Darth Vader? Or was it something more?
The Jedi were unable to see the rise of Palpatine and the return of the Sith. The Jedi as a force of good were unable to see and know evil. Adam and Eve were unable to know good and evil until they had fallen and taken on the burden of knowledge. Perhaps Anakin was destined to fall and return the tangibility of evil to the galaxy. But perhaps not.
The Jedi, for all their criticism of Anakin, had their own flaws and blindness. They too, had been seduced to become immovable, unquestioning and unchanging. Yoda seems to recognize this lesson as he ushers Luke into the darkside tree to set him face to face with darkness. To let him see and recognize it. To let him learn that dark an light exitst together, and must in order for life to thrive.
If one does not understand evil, one cannot know good. If one does not know good, one cannot understand evil. Such is the circle of life, of redemption and fall, of highs and lows
Of light and dark. Of life and death. Of forever.