Star Wars Debate: Who Is the Main Character, a Brief Reflection

With the upcoming release of the latest Star Wars movie, I was reminded of an old debate that arose perhaps largely as a response to the limp writing of Episodes I-III: who is the main character of Star Wars?

The answer for the original trilogy seems straight forward. Luke Skywalker. For some reason this is not universally accepted, but I feel any debating of this point can be resolved by a clear definition of the term “antagonist." However, things in Episodes I-II are hazier. The plot of The Phantom Menace is so fractured between a large number of characters that no one protagonist emerges. Episodes II and III highlight Anikan Skywalker, but he falls into his role as antagonist early in Revenge of the Sith, leaving  perhaps Obi-wan in the place of main character.

I have heard it suggested that the Skywalker family are the central characters of Star Wars. The original trilogy is about Luke (and Leia); Episodes I-III are about Anikan; and The Force Awakens includes the children of Leia and Luke. However, how then to account for the numerous books and video games which contribute to the larger world from the perspectives of other characters and which many consider to be of vital importance to the Star Wars saga?

In the end, I had to conclude that Star Wars is not (or is no longer, and hasn’t been for a while now) about any individual main character. Each story from the world George Lukas designed must be taken on its own merit, its own main character (or lack thereof) belonging to the larger story, which is not dominated by any one character, but by the conflict
between the dark and light sides of the force.

As Frodo tells Sam Gamgee in LotR, the great tales never end, “but the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended” (Two Towers 697). While Lukas’s world is not as succinct as Tolkien’s is, most fans return to Star Wars this Christmas eager for more from the world he has built.


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