With the popular Star Wars series, George Lucas created one of the best Tragic Heros since Oedipus, the King of Thebes. If you read my article “Sophocles: The Tragedy and Triumph of Oedipus the King” you already know the basics of a tragic hero. Two of the main characteristics are great power and a great downfall. Who could fit this better then Anakin Skywalker?
Anakin came from relatively humble beginnings and dreamed of making something out of himself one day. He was kind hearted and very eager to learn everything he could to become a Jedi. As a small child, he got the chance to do just that when the Jedis came to his home world and took him under their wing. He was the Chosen One and they wanted to train him to work alongside their ranks. The hope was that he would eventually lead them to great things. That wasn’t the case, however.
Like all tragic heros who are destined for greatness, Anakin worked hard and quickly excelled at everything he did. He was soon more powerful then most of the people who were above him and he knew it. This is where the next major part of a tragic hero comes in: hubris. He was so full of pride that he was unwilling to imagine he could learn anything more from the Jedi Council. He, in fact, believed he was better then any of them and deserved to be counted among their ranks. Obviously, he became furious when he discovered that he was not going to be named a Jedi Master. He believed they had made a huge mistake and from that time on, he refused to listen to any of them, stubbornly holding on to the belief that he knew best.
Eventually, his anger at the Jedi (and fear for the safety of Queen Amidala) led him to join up with the Dark Side. He was convinced that his great destiny could only be achieved with them because they saw his greatness and did not try to hold back his increasing powers, as the Jedi did. He stepped further and further into the Dark Side’s world, all the while slowly destroying the one thing he wanted to protect more then anything: his relationship with Amidala.
Eventually, he became so full of conceit and of his own power, he stopped caring about what it was doing to his relationship with her. If she did not go along, she was holding him back as well. All that mattered was quickly securing the great destiny that he was convinced awaited him no matter what it cost. Now fully entrenched in the evil of the Dark Side, he found himself at war with Obi-Wan, who was once his teacher and friend. Having almost killed Amidala, Anakin fought his old teacher with an anger and intensity that showed just how far his hubris had gone. Despite a warning from Obi-Wan, Anakin makes a jump he is convinced in nothing for him, only to land face down in a landscape of molten lava. He has now finally had his downfall: he has lost everyone he cared about and is now permanently disfigured. He was hurt so badly, he had to be essentially turned into a machine by the Dark Side.
Anakin Skywalker is one of the best modern-day examples of the tragic hero perfected by the Greeks, most importantly Sophocles. Watching his progression from an idealistic and eager to help kid to a twisted, angry man consumed by his own greatness is something that can touch an audience. His story leaves the audience with the same mixed emotions of those watching Oedipus thousands of years before: pride in the character’s good points, and pity and helplessness as they watch the inevitable fall that is unfolding before them.