Stuart Bienenstock Scholarship Essay

In a cinematic narrative, having the protagonist face off against an antagonist is a mandatory rule to tell a complete story, however to make a story interesting, one must give the protagonist a choice that affects the story and their character arc.

In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, a young and gifted member of an organization called “The Jedi” named “Anakin Skywalker” is having petrifying visions of him murdering his lover Padme. Desperate and confused, he goes to Jedi master Yoda for guidance on how to stop these visions, or as he calls them, nightmares. Knowing that Jedi cannot dream, Yoda explains to Anakin that he must learn to let go of his attachment to find the peace he is looking for. Anakin walks out of Yoda’s quarters disappointed. As the story progresses, Anakin is tasked with spying on a senator named Palpatine, who is suspected of knowing the dark side of the force; the powers gifted to the Jedi. Though he is hesitant as they have grown quite close, Anakin accepts the mission. He later learns that Palpatine was a Sith Lord, a high ranking member of an organization of dark side force users and the man Anakin was tasked to arrest. Igniting his lightsaber, Anakin points it at Palpatine, asking for reasons as to why he should not arrest him, to which Palpatine replies with “You can use my knowledge to save your wife from certain death”. Palpatine knew about Anakin’s visions and wanted him to use his potential to be significantly more powerful. Angered, Anakin swears that he will turn him in to the Jedi council all while Palpatine still attempts to intrigue Anakin with the dark side of the force. After storming off to the Jedi master who tasked him with spying on the senator, Anakin tells him of his findings. The Jedi master named “Mace Windu”, thanks Anakin and tells him to stay behind while he and other Jedi go and arrest the senator. Anakin reluctantly agrees and stays behind. As the Jedi masters go and attempt to arrest the senator, Anakin ponders on Palpatine’s words and eventually abandons his orders of staying behind and goes to check on the arrest. When he arrives, Anakin sees a heavily wounded Palpatine and Mace Windu with nothing but a vengeance in his eyes. Even after trying to convince Mace to spare Palpatine’s life, Mace Windu goes to deliver a final blow to Palpatine. Before that could happen, Anakin quickly ignites his lightsaber and cuts off Mace’s hand, the Palpatine shoots lightning out of his hands, putting an end to the Jedi master. Anakin quickly regrets what he has done, but Palpatine reassures him that this was the only way and that the Jedi are his enemies. Anakin then accepted Palpatine’s words on the dark side and does so to protect his wife.

In the narrative, Anakin has a need to believe in what Palpatine is saying as he is desperate to save his wife, even to the point of abandoning all his previous teachings of the Jedi way and betraying the Jedi council to do so. As viewers, we could easily say that we would never fall into Anakin’s shoes as it is later revealed that Palpatine has lied to him about saving his wife, however we need to see it from the perspective of Anakin Skywalker. What we see is a man so desperate and afraid of losing the most important person that he is willing to sacrifice anything and everything for her to be safe. Extreme desperation can cause even the most iron minded person to bend to another’s will at a whim and willing to do whatever it takes to relieve that paranoia. Palpatine in this case was a very close friend to Anakin and even after being put off at first, he eventually cracked as he heard what he wanted to hear. “I can save your wife”.

However even after looking at Anakin’s choice from his perspective, I am afraid I cannot agree with his choice as I agree with Master Yoda. He had to learn to let go of loss and accept what would happen to reach peace. Though it is very tragic and I can sympathize with his feelings, he feared the inevitable and tried to change it, eventually fulfilling his self-made prophecy of killing his wife. Learning to accept loss and even more so the inevitable day of loss is a heartbreaking and draining feeling, but is also a very important conversation to have with yourself as it may help you in the long run of attaining inner-peace.

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