How a Story Becomes a Story
Good vs. evil, hero vs. shadow, antagonist vs. protagonist. All great stories have them, but why? Most of these ideas were best explained by Carl Jung. His constant research about the human psyche led to a great explanation as to why certain archetypes are exposed. He believed that there are archetypes that are resting inside each of us and, when recognized, can lead us to our full potential. These archetypes are unique to characterizing every individual. There are many archetypes, however, the main ones are ego, hero, shadow, anima/animus, and persona. “All these parts are the regulating center or archetype of wholeness, which Jung called the Self” (Eenwyk 34). Carl Jung elaborates that these archetypes work together to make a story. He believed that the “consciousness and the unconscious balance each other” (26). It is like the Yin and the Yang, one can not balance without the other. Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, dove into how the hero described in most cultures has the same quest. In this quest, the hero seeks to separate him or herself from reality or place, performs an initiation of trials and obstacles, then finally returns home to tell the story. It may seem like a stretch that all great stories or myths have these archetypes, themes, and journeys, but when you dig deep enough into every great story, there are all these components that make it unforgettable. For making a modern film, Star Wars director George Lucas wanted to make sure that it was done correctly. He even “consulted Campbell and had him review the films to make sure his use of mythic archetypes was correct” (Neal 17). In the great classic Star Wars: A New Hope, the hero’s journey and archetype develops together to form a dramatic and enticing story.
While the hero’s journey begins, so does the characters egos develop. As Carl Jung states that “‘as the ego is only the center of my field of consciousness, it is not identical with the totality of my psyche… I therefore distinguish between the ego and the self, since the ego is only the subject of my consciousness, while the self is the subject of my total psyche, which also includes the unconscious’” (Cloosterman). The Ego therefore is the king of consciousness. In the beginning of A New Hope, the droid known as R2-D2 carries the mission plans with how to take down the Death Star, and nothing will stop R2-D2. Even with his companion, C3PO, wanting to take the easier path, R2 decides to take a different route to find Obi-Wan Kenobi. They both get captured and end up in the hands of Luke. This home of Luke’s is considered the ordinary world in the hero’s journey. When Luke is cleaning R2-D2, a hologram message from Princess Leia appears and says “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope” (Bayer). Luke seems curious but does not try to resolve or seek more information. Luke also wants R2 to stay on the farm and do work, however, this does not fly with R2, so he escapes at night. “R2-D2 acts as the herald, drawing Luke into the Jundland Waste and ultimately into the quest that will define him” (Brode and Deyneka 33). This is the call to adventure and Luke must find him. R2-D2 leads to Luke old Ben Kenobi. This was a shock to Luke when he found out that Ben was Obi-Wan Kenobi, the one that R2 was searching so desperately to find. Obi-Wan Kenobi becomes the mentor and provides an eye opener to “his own heritage, dismissing the well-cultivated lies that Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru have told the youth in order to keep him from the Dark Side of the Force and perhaps his own nature” (Brode and Deyneka 33-34). Obi-Wan introduces Luke to a “new whole world of possibilities and attempts to entreat him to cross the threshold into adventure” (34). The Death Star plans are hidden with R2-D2 and must be brought to “Alderann where they will be used to defeat the Empire, but as with most heroes, Luke is reluctant to answer this call” (34). Luke refuses to the call of adventure, and he returns home only to find that his foster parents were killed by Imperial troops. With this news, Luke returns to Obi-Wan and accepts the call to adventure. It can be realized that R2 is just as essential of a hero because Luke would have never received the message from Leia, met Obi-Wan Kenobi, or delivered the plans to destroy the Death Star. While Luke is the protagonist and essential to the story, it is agreeable that R2-D2 is a more essential ego character in A New Hope, since R2 is firm on his mission, even more so than Luke at times. Revealing that it is in fact the ego that drove the separation part of the hero’s journey, which initiated the quest.
The shadow is the unconscious mind that often relates to the antagonist or the conflict in the hero’s journey. “The shadow is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts” (Cloosterman). The shadow is the denier of the ego, the antagonist. When Leia gives the plans to destroy the Death Star to R2-D2, Darth Vader emerges as the conflict, tearing up the ship trying to find the plans. “Classically the labyrinth includes a monster and a maiden; in Star Wars the ‘dragon’ is the Death Star, the black knight, Darth Vader, and the maiden (although not a typical damsel in distress by any means) is Princess Leia” (Brode and Deyneka 36). Darth Vader is the main antagonist, the shadow, and represents the dark side of the Force. The ego character would never even comprehend building a Death Star, being a stormtrooper, being with the Empire, or joining the dark side of the Force. These all fall under the umbrella of the shadow. As a shadow there is darkness, and it is interesting that the dark side of the Force is within the shadow. All the shadows are working against the protagonists and his associates. The shadow causes the conflict, the trials, and obstacles on the hero’s journey. However, without the shadow there would be no conflict, no quest, and no adventure for the hero to go on. Therefore, the antagonist and protagonist are like the Yin and the Yang, they complete each other. “Archetypal shadow consists of the psyche’s ability to counterbalance consciousness through positing the opposite” (Eenwyk 98). Darth Vader, the shadow, counter balances the ego, which is Luke. This why Luke had to learn the ways of the Force to rise against Vader and take down the Death Star. This started his initiation process on his hero’s journey with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Vader is the main shadow and main antagonist, as he causes the conflict and initiation process for the hero, Luke.
The self is the archetype that leads or helps teach the hero, in this case it is Obi-Wan Kenobi that helps teach Luke the ways of the Force so that he can take on the challenges ahead of him, created by the shadow. The self is often described as the “totality of the whole psyche” and represented typically as the “Wise Old Man or Woman” (Jeffrey). In this story is Obi-Wan the Jedi Master, the old wise one, and the one that Leia describes as her “only hope”. Leia does not realize that Obi-Wan is not her only hope. In fact, he will be training a new hope, Luke. Obi-Wan helps guide Luke towards many achievements, one of course in discovering and learning to become a Jedi. Obi-Wan also knows about Luke’s father, but only explains the good things to Luke, like his father also being a Jedi. He gives Luke a light saber which introduces him to the Jedi arts. Obi-Wan also tells Luke about how before the dark side of the Force took over, but there were once more Jedi fighting on the light side, which gave Luke hope. This hope drives not only Luke, but the entire rebellion against the empire. On the Millennium Falcon he begins training and Obi-Wan explains to Luke that the “‘Force is what gives the Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together’” (Brode and Deyneka 34). With this knowledge, he begins his journey to become a Jedi, which becomes a new hope for everyone. “Luke’s path is one of spirituality, he must accept the doctrines of the Force to clear his mind of fear and doubt and embrace the calm intuitive faith of the teachings” (Brode and Deyneka 35). Obi-Wan Kenobi also mentions to Luke that Vader killed his father and all the Jedi, which makes Vader the ultimate antagonist. Since Obi-Wan is the old wise one, he is too old to be able to take on this journey, which makes him the leader of knowledge for the hero. Obi-Wan takes him to rescue Leia, but in this “Obi-Wan sacrifices himself so that Luke and the others can escape, but he is also aware that he has taken Luke as far as he can as a mentor; he has brought him across the threshold, given him a talisman to aid him on his quest and taught him the ways of the Force” (36-37). Obi-Wan knows that when he will be able to “influence Luke and become a part of his subconscious; ‘You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine’” (37). All this leads to a new hope, a new journey, and ultimately guides the hero’s journey.
During the journey, there are many personas displayed amongst most characters which helps prevent or cause the characters to get into trouble. “The persona is also the mask or appearance one presents to the world” (Cloosterman). The Persona communicates through the mask and there are many masks when it comes to the hero. Luke changes hats from being a farmer to becoming a Jedi, and accepting the role of being on the side of the Rebel Alliance. While he is a farmer, he is living a mundane lifestyle, Luke fears to join Obi-Wan Kenobi on his journey, but as soon as he does he becomes a rebel and begins his Jedi training, which evokes danger upon himself. Even Obi-Wan was only known as Old Ben to Luke and many others, however, changes his persona to a more dangerous one as a Jedi of the light side of the Force, inevitably leading to his own death. Also, R2-D2 is recognized to most as just a droid, however, he is quite strict about the information he carries and only communicates with the rebel alliance and those he can trust. With his responsibilities as a rebel droid, R2 puts himself in danger. Another is Han Solo, except in this case Han Solo is a smuggler and wanted for debt. “Han Solo, whose name itself means out for himself, is a pirate and smuggler, more western outlaw than hero” (Brode and Deyneka 35). However, his character develops as a liked character, he helps Obi-Wan and Luke on the fly to save the princess with his ship, the Millennium Falcon. Towards the end he becomes known as a rebel pilot. “Han is described as ‘loner who realizes the importance of being part of a group and helping for the common good’” (35). His personas take him into danger, but his character seems to live in danger and likes it that way. He transforms “from outsider to important member of the Alliance and will come to fit the archetype of the warrior/lover in the Star Wars Universe” (35). Lastly, Princess Leia, she strives between princess, prisoner, and rebel. Her persona leads her to becoming a captive of the Empire. “According to Lucas, ‘I wanted to have a princess but I didn’t want her to be a passive damsel in distress’; without a doubt Princess Leia is tough, resourceful, courageous, and assertive” (35). Overall, there are many personas displayed across the characters and when they change in their persona, it often leads to more danger, however all the characters are ready to face it.
Throughout the journey there is a presence of the anima and animus with Leia and Han Solo in which they both aid Luke on completing his mission. “In the unconscious of the male, it finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female, it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus” (Cloosterman). Often the anima and animus are seen from the female and male perspectives, mostly found in “all male/female relationships in film are representations of the animus/anima archetype” (Dobson). For instance, Leia has more of the feminine character so she plays into the role of being a princess with her beauty and elegance. Softened with the color white representing purity, when found as a damsel in distress laying down helpless. However, she tends to outweigh her feminity with a quirky take charge and masculine-like personality, taking charge when needed to. She shows the surface quality of being feminine, but she has an inner quality being a bit masculine, which would be animus. She shows her masculine side of her personality when she “instantly takes control of her own jail break and blast the heroes an escape route that actually plummets them into a trash compact, further into the belly of the whale” (Brode and Deyneka 35). As Joseph Campbell would say, “within the belly of the whale ‘the hero, instead of conquering, or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died” (36). Luckily C3PO magically comes to the rescue and aids in getting them all out of the labyrinth, in this case the trash compacter. Her counterpart would be Han Solo. He is a masculine rough character that shot a man that came to collect his debt. He is sarcastic, ruthless, and witty. However, he is always apprehensive when following plans, showing a bit of a feminine side to his personality. He pretends to care more about money than saving the princess and the galaxy. This aspect of his personality would be defined as anima. Another interesting dynamic would be that both characters that feature anima and animus personality start to show interest in each other. Han Solo and Princess Leia are often found in a quarrel, which is funny, but also adds the anima/animus relation to the story which is very entertaining. Han often pretends like he doesn’t care about Leia, as if like a little kid on a playground teasing a girl, but too scared to show affection. Han even says “wonderful girl. Either I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her” (“Han Solo (Character)”). A demonstration of his devotion to her would be when “he and Chewbacca charge after a group of stormtroopers so that Luke and Leia can escape; this is Han’s first truly selfless act and Princess Leia certainly takes note” (Brode and Deyneka 36). This dynamic between the anima/animus characters causes a bit of tension and additional interest among the person that is listening to the story. Both Princess Leia and Han Solo are strong characters that help Luke in becoming a rebel and aid him on his mission.
Luke’s mission became complete when he chose humanity over technology. “After rescuing Princess Leia, escaping the Death Star, and destroying the pursuing Imperial forces, the heroes must focus on the main task of annihilating the ‘dragon’ and freeing the galaxy of the Empire’s most heinous weapon” (Brode and Deyneka 37). When Luke chose to stick to his faith, he heard Obi-Wan Kenobi through the subconscious. Obi-Wan told him to trust the Force and Luke listens to his intuition, not relying on technology, and slays the Death Star. “Likewise, Han Solo must trust in the importance of the Rebellion and sacrifices his personal safety in order to sweep in at the last minute and save Luke during the climatic final attack run on the Death Star” (37). Luke was tested and faced many trials throughout his journey. He fended off the sand people, flew many dangerous missions, and took down the Death Star (Neal 107). During his journey he learned the ways of the Force and could use it against the dark side, which lead to the destruction of the Death Star.
In the end, Luke and Han Solo are awarded with medals from Princess Leia amongst the Rebel Alliance. The medal represents victory over the shadow of the Galactic Empire, Death Star, Darth Vader, and stormtroopers. Thus, being the completion of the hero’s journey and returning home. This would be the only difference for the hero’s journey since it is not a physical home for Luke, it is home as a state of mind, and the home of the rebel alliance. Though like the Yin and the Yang, the shadow is still lurking and was not fully defeated, but the rebels still can celebrate with a small victory. With the shadow not being fully conquered, it allows for more story, more conquest, and more to the series. The dark side of the Force will never truly be defeated, only balance can be achieved. It allows the spectator to wonder what is the next adventure and how do we defeat the ever-looming dark side? These questions and wonderment are ones that should be left at every great tale, because it engages the audience. It lets the writer know that they have done their job, allowing the viewer to self-reflect and ponder. Luke Skywalker may have completed this mission, this hero’s journey, but as Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is coming out this December, it is not the last of his adventures. He will retire from being the hero, as the ego, and become the self, the old wise one like Obi-Wan Kenobi, passing his torch of knowledge to the new generation, Rey. Overall, it is seen that an array of archetypes helped shape the hero’s journey for Star Wars: A New Hope, which makes it an unforgettable classic.
Bayer, Kristin. “25 Great Star Wars: A New Hope Quotes.” StarWars.com, TM & Lucas Film, 6 June 2017, www.starwars.com/news/25-great-star-wars-a-new-hope-quotes.
Brode, Douglas, and Leah Deyneka, editors. Myth, Media, and Culture in Star wars: an Anthology. Scarecrow Press, 2012.
Cloosterman, Annemieke. “Carl Jung: Individuation Process.” Mindstructures, 15 July 2015, www.mindstructures.com/carl-jung-individuation-process/
Eenwyk, Van. John. Archetypes & Strange Attractors: The Chaotic World of Symbols. Inner City Books, 1997.
“Han Solo (Character)” IMDb, IMDb.com, 2017, www.imdb.com/character/ch0000002/quotes
Jeffrey, Scott. “Individuation Process: A Beginner’s Guide to Jungian Psychology.” Scott Jeffrey, 17 Aug. 2017, scottjeffrey.com/individuation-process-jungian-psychology/
Neal, Connie W. Wizards, Wardrobes and Wookiees: Navigating Good and Evil in Harry Potter, Narnia and Star Wars. IVP Books, 2007.