anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (anakin)
[personal profile] anghraine
aka, I’ve talked about this a million times, but I wanted to stick all my thoughts in one place. Also, specifically kicked off by @steinbecks’ fascinating take on him here.

Warning: I am aggressively indifferent to non-film material apart from novelizations and scripts. EU material, past and present, does not enter into my interpretations.

Okay. I think that how we understand Anakin’s identity as Darth Vader is … often flawed. Vader’s sense of his identity seems to get subsumed into Yoda’s, Obi-Wan’s, and Palpatine’s sense of his identity. But the whole idea of Anakin-in-the-past and Darth-Vader-in-the-present as ontologically separate is not an idea that Anakin himself ever subscribes to.

Consider, in ANH:

VADER: I was but the learner; now, I am the master.

OBI-WAN: Only a master of evil, Darth.

In the conversation between Palpatine and Vader in ESB, Palpatine alone speaks of Anakin in the third person:

EMPEROR: I have no doubt that this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.

VADER: How is that possible?

EMPEROR: Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.

VADER: He’s just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

EMPEROR: The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

VADER: If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.

Both the times that Anakin is spoken of as if he’s not there, it’s Palpatine speaking. Not Anakin himself. Vader is damn careful about how he words his responses here. He doesn’t contradict Palpatine, but he does skirt around the disassociation Palpatine is trying to impose on him.

With Luke himself, Vader refers to his old self as, simply, “your father.” And famously, there’s no disassociation there at all:

VADER: I am your father.

Meanwhile, his various ways of referring to Luke are, well, various. When he’s talking to other people, he pretty much always uses “Skywalker.” In person, however, he addresses Luke no less than four different ways:

VADER: The Force is with you, young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi yet.

VADER: You have learned much, young one.

VADER: Luke. You can destroy the Emperor.

VADER: Luke.

LUKE: Father.

VADER: Son, come with me.

VADER: Luke, it is your destiny.

From then on, he habitually refers to Luke as his son, or by his given name. “Son” and “my son” can be anything from an insistence on a relationship to an endearment; with Vader, it seems to be something of both. Palpatine calls Luke Skywalker, but I can’t think of any time that Vader does after ESB. Given names, on the other hand—

Well, it might seem that what Vader calls Luke is tangential to how Vader regards himself. If given names operated in the GFFA the way that they do throughout much of North America, it would be a tangent. But they don’t.

First names are deeply important in Star Wars. The choice to use them, or not to use them, is incredibly loaded. Just off the top of my head:

—Padmé Naberrie enters politics as a child and takes the regnal name Amidala. She becomes overwhelmingly identified as Amidala for the rest of her life, to the point that she can use her own name as a pseudonym in her Matt-the-radar-technician shenanigans.

Obi-Wan refers to her as “my lady” or “Queen/Senator Amidala” throughout much of the PT. So does virtually everyone else. The crawl calls her Amidala. Her bedroom is “AMIDALA’S APARTMENT.” Padmé’s bedroom is the childhood room at her parents’ house. She literally does not have one of her own. She’s Padmé to her sister, her nieces, her parents, her husband—the people who relate to her personally. And part of her tragedy is that she’s never able to be Padmé except in stolen fits and snatches.

—When baby Leia Skywalker is adopted, nobody considers changing the given name from her mother. But it’s rare for people to actually use it except as a piece of her formal name, “Princess Leia.” She’s very frequently just “Princess.” And like her mother, she simply uses her own name when she wants to fly under the radar.

When Han stops parodying her title in various ways and uses her name alone, it’s as loaded as it would be in an Austen novel. And the fact that she and Luke address each other by name from the moment they meet is indicative in its own way.

(By TFA, she’s “General” or “General Organa” to just about everyone. Not General Leia, either. The only people who call her by name are dead or estranged; she’s alone.)

—It’s not just royalty. Han is almost as overwhelmingly referred to by his surname alone, or as Captain/Captain Solo, and Leia flipping between “Han” and “Captain” reflects her ambivalent feelings towards him.

—Luke, friendly and quick to bond with just about anyone, refers to virtually everyone by their given names. To him the rogueish space pirate is “Han,” the princess-senator is “Leia,” the eccentric neighbour-turned-space wizard mentor is “Ben,” the 900-year-old Jedi grandmaster is “Yoda,” and his fellow squadron members are Wedge and Hobbie and Dak. And he’s Luke to almost everyone he knows: he tells droids to use his given name. He wants to be on friendly terms with everyone.

How characters refer to each other indicates how they relate to each other. So Vader coming to refer to Luke entirely by name or quasi-affectionately by family tie tells us not just how he regards Luke, but how he regards himself in relation to Luke: his father, in more than blood.

And what about his name?

Well, the line that provides the (weak) basis for the idea of Vader disassociating from Anakin is all about that.

LUKE: I know, Father.

VADER: So you have accepted the truth.

LUKE: I’ve accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father.

VADER: That name no longer has any meaning for me.

Again, the person suggesting some essential distinction between his Anakin-self and his Vader-self is not Vader. Luke’s identification of Vader as his father is bound up with the good inside him. When Vader rejects that, Luke rejects him as his father.

LUKE: Then my father is truly dead.

Temporarily, anyway. He only accepts Vader’s denial for a moment. The restoration of his belief in Anakin’s goodness brings with it the restoration of his identification of him as his father.

LUKE: Your thoughts betray you, Father. I feel the good in you … the conflict.

But that is what Luke thinks, not Vader. While repeating his denials (what light???? there’s no light!!), Vader continues to emphatically identify himself as Luke’s father:

VADER: It is pointless to resist, my son.

The only thing he says on the Anakin vs Vader front is that calling himself “Anakin Skywalker” has lost meaning for him. And that’s its own kind of fuckery–he’s lost his own name, from his mother, the very ability to say I am a person and my name is Anakin. The only name that has meaning is the one imposed on him when he knelt in subjection to Palpatine.

But it isn’t quite the same as saying that he’s not the same person as Anakin Skywalker. The matter of names is a matter of autonomy, not ontology, and is immediately followed by:

VADER: It is too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.


So. All indication is that he does regard himself as the same person, the whole time, and particularly as Luke’s father. It’s certainly how he speaks of himself, from beginning to end.


Not to Palpatine.

Palpatine was pushing the “that other man sired this kid” angle pretty damn hard in ESB. And while Vader was not about to take up that bullshit game, he danced very carefully around saying so. Self-preservation (and scheming!) took precedence over his usual directness.

But in ROTJ, Vader has given up on any hope of dethroning the Emperor. While he wants to go after Luke, he’s apathetically doing whatever Palpatine tells him to do.

EMPEROR: And now I sense you wish to continue your search for young Skywalker.

VADER: Yes, my master.

EMPEROR: Patience, my friend. In time he will seek you out. And when he does, you must bring him before me. He has grown strong. Only together can we turn him to the Dark Side of the Force.

VADER: As you wish.

It’s not even clear that Vader particularly cares about Luke turning to the Dark Side, except insofar as he doesn’t want to kill him.

But nevertheless, Vader is starting to insist on certain things. It’s Palpatine who refers to “young Skywalker” now–all three times the phrase is used in ROTJ, it’s Palpatine speaking. It’s Palpatine who calls Vader his friend, here. But Vader refuses to play those games, even in passive silence.

Palpatine can call Vader whatever he damn well wants. Vader’s not going to call him anything but what he is: “my master.” The furthest he strays from that is “the Emperor”—never his name. And he’s just as done with Palpatine defining his relationship to Luke. He can Skywalker-this and Skywalker-that all he wants. Vader is flatly unambiguous about where he stands.

VADER: A small Rebel force has penetrated the shield and landed on Endor.

EMPEROR: Yes, I know.

VADER: My son is with them.

EMPEROR (very cool): Are you sure?

VADER: I have felt him, my master.

EMPEROR: Strange, that I have not. I wonder if your feelings on this matter are clear, Lord Vader.

VADER: They are clear, my master.
(suuuure, Anakin)

I don’t think Vader himself sees any real insubordination in what he’s doing. He’s just not pretending. But Palpatine sees that incremental reclamation and knows it’s dangerous.

His fatal error, of course, is thinking that Vader staying in line means the threat is gone, instead of boiling under the surface. Perhaps that’s the true self that Luke urges him to reclaim, the kindled light in him—a determination to be, openly, the one defining who he is, what his relationships are, what his life is. Palpatine is master. Luke is son. He is—

Well, he’s alive. He may not have it in him, any more, to announce an autonomous personhood. But he can insist that he’s the same person as the one who did. And that’s not so far away, in the end.

on 2016-07-23 12:48 pm (UTC)
Posted by [personal profile] skywalker_saga
This is one of those times when I really want to say something insightful because the post is so good that it deserves a response, but I can’t say anything insightful because the post is so good that it pretty much already said everything I could have wanted to say. I mean, this is just really lovely.

I totally agree that Anakin doesn’t see him and Vader as separate people. Other people do, but they have their own reasons for it - for example, for Obi-Wan I think separating Anakin from Vader is very much a coping mechanism. And Palpatine, I think, wants Vader to feel disconnected from his identity as Anakin Skywalker, so that Vader has nothing but the Emperor and the Empire and serving them is the only thing he has to live for. Trying to destroy Vader’s sense of identity is one of Palpatine’s ways of moulding Vader into a weapon he can completely control, imo.

Oh, and this part:
The only thing he says on the Anakin vs Vader front is that calling himself “Anakin Skywalker” has lost meaning for him. And that’s its own kind of fuckery–he’s lost his own name, from his mother, the very ability to say I am a person and my name is Anakin. The only name that has meaning is the one imposed on him when he knelt in subjection to Palpatine.

breaks my heart. Because it’s just so sad to think of that line and the line in TPM - ”I’m a person and my name is Anakin”. Anakin was the name of a person and it no longer has any meaning for him. :( What does that say about Vader’s sense of his personhood and autonomy?


anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (Default)

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