Can Darth Vader Be Forgiven?

So.  The new trailer for the new Star Wars is out.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Episode 7.  If you haven’t watched it yet, here you go:

Okay, did you watch it?  As you saw, the entire thing is set to a monologue by Luke Skywalker, talking about the Force and his family.

The one aspect of it that I find most notable is that, when referring to having a strong gift for the Force, Luke does not say my father had it, but my father has it.  This suggests that, in Luke’s opinion, Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader, should be referred to in the present tense and not the past.  (Yes, the dialogue is based on a very similar monologue in Return of the Jedi, but that doesn’t explain why he is speaking as if his father is still alive.)

Of course, he does say this while we also see Darth Vader’s burned helmet, reminding us that, yes, Darth Vader’s body was burned by Luke during a funeral ceremony at the end of Return of the Jedi.

This is right before Luke climbs onto the pyre and then wakes up in the morning with Ewoks clinging to him.
This is right before Luke climbs onto the pyre and then wakes up in the morning with Ewoks clinging to him.

Remember that Darth Vader, in his final moments, achieved a redemption, when he killed Emperor Palpatine and saved his son Luke.  That final act is why the story of Anakin Skywalker is a redemption story, the tale of someone going from good to bad to good again.

But here’s what bothers me: is this just something that Luke does, referring to his father in the present tense out of a spiritual Jedi thing?   Or is Darth Anakin somehow a physical presence in these films?  Is he going to be force-ghosting a la his little hangout at the end of ROTJ, as his friend Kenobi did throughout the trilogy?

And here’s the real question: can we forgive Darth Vader?

The reason I ask this is because the original Star Wars trilogy shows us nothing but Mr. Vader doing terrible things, up until the very last moment.  And the prequel trilogy actually makes him look worse.  In the prequels, there’s a scene where he single-handedly murders a room of kindergartners because his robed master told him to.

This awful scene.
This awful scene.

It’s easily the most upsetting scene in any of the six Star Wars films so far, and it’s hard to really forgive Anakin for this.

Combine the child-murdering with Anakin assisting with the murder of Samuel L. Jackson, arbitrarily killing whomever he wantsin Episodes IV through VI, cutting off his son’s arm at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, and basically being a space enforcer for the Emperor, who himself is more-or-less Space Hitler.

So we are supposed to forgive this guy because he doesn’t let his son get electrocuted to death?  Which, also, maybe wasn’t a selfless act at all, considering that by that point The Emperor had basically cast Darth Vader aside.  And they were on a space station that was going to explode at any moment.

I’m not saying that Darth Vader cannot be forgiven.  But I’m also not saying that he definitely deserves forgiveness. I don’t know whether the answer is yes or no, which is why I phrased the title of this blog post as a question.

I guess he's forgivable.  I mean, look at that sweet face.
I guess he’s forgivable. I mean, look at that sweet face.

Perhaps this is going to be a question throughout the new Star Wars films, which could make it very interesting.  Are we going to see Luke trying to understand his own complicated relationship with the Force, his father, and his sister?  Are we going to move beyond the arbitrary concepts of good and evil that had governed the world of Star Wars thus far?  I do know that it will be very difficult to swallow the tale of Vader’s redemption if he is an actual character in these new films and we are supposed to accept him as one of the good guys.  It’s okay now because he redeems himself and then immediately ceases to exist.  But if he’s there, lurking in the background, giving advice to Luke and others, will we be able to forgive and forget his appalling crimes?

Either way, I’m excited that Han Solo and Chewie are back.

Enjoy this?  Check out What Ever Happened to Bruce Wayne.


  1. I think Darth Vader can not be forgiven. I am just interested in the original Trilogy and there he is the cause of all evil. Despite the above mentioned things he did this: His men killed his step brother Owen and his wife Beru and made Luke bekome an orphan, he supported the destruction of Alderaan and the death of millions or even billions of people and made Leia loose her family, he tortured his daughter and planned to execute her, he murdered Obi Wan Kenobi, he put Han Solo into carbonite and handed him over to Jabba the Hut, he ruined Bespin, he tried to kill his son Luke at least three times. May be for Luke and Leia it was good that he changed side in the end so they could better cope with the fact that this monster was their father but I can not understand that Yoda and Obi Wan accept him as one of them in the end. For me he stays the most evil vilian of space history.

    1. Your argument makes sense, and perhaps I should’ve limited it to the original trilogy. But I think there is an argument on both sides. It’s not Yoda and Obi Wan who are forgiving him. It’s The Force.

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