In the six Star Wars movies the father-son relationship seems to garner most of the focus when compared to other relationships. Whether it is Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s relationships with Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chancellor Palpatine or Luke Skywalker, there is always a father figure involved at some point. Clearly fathers are very important in a child’s life and with me being a father I like to think we are very important. But in Star Wars and in most families, mothers don’t get their due credit. Star Wars could be a case study for the important role moms play in their kids’ lives.
According to many studies, mothers tend to emphasize emotional security and physical safety, while fathers emphasize challenge and risk-taking. They seem to balance each other. Lacking one parent doesn’t mean that a person will not have the other attributes of the absent parent or that they won’t be successful in life. I was raised by a divorced single mom and I think by most accounts I turned out ok. But Anakin Skywalker went from being raised by a loving, compassionate mother in his first decade of life to being raised by a caring yet impatient and demanding Jedi Knight in his second.
I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for Anakin to leave his mother, Shmi, when he was only nine years old. I have a son near that same age and I would hate to think of the emotional distress he may have if he lost his mom. Anakin had a difficult life as a slave on Tatooine, but he always had his mom to rely on and comfort him and it was a stable situation for him. Anakin has never known any other way of life. He’s always had his mom. Now he is leaving her to go with Qui-Gon, Padme, Obi-Wan and the others who he had only met recently. And in my opinion there is no scene more emotional than when Anakin walks away from Shmi and doesn’t look back. When I was that age I didn’t really like leaving my family overnight, let alone leave and not know if I was ever coming back.
When Anakin first arrives on Coruscant he is taken before the Jedi Council. In the Jedi Council room, Yoda and Mace Windu are very hesitant to accept him for Jedi training. As we all know Qui-Gon defies the Council and takes Anakin as his padawan, effectively accepting a fatherly role in Anakin’s life. In just a short time Anakin has gone from having a mom that is emotionally, physically, and mentally supportive to adoptive father who is going to challenge and push him to be the best Jedi he can be.
After Qui-Gon is killed by Darth Maul, Anakin is left without any parent, and at Qui-Gon’s funeral he is clearly distraught and worried about what will happen to him. He is 9 years old and should be in third or fourth grade. He has been forced to grow up quickly. Obi-Wan explains that he will now train Anakin, but Obi-Wan has never had a Padawan. He is a newly knighted Jedi and probably isn’t prepared to take on a child.
It’s true that most Jedi younglings and padawans have been without parents during their training and it seems like most grow up to be emotionally stable, but they have never known what it is like to grow up with any parents. Anakin has. He was used to going to his mom for advice and reassurance. Younglings and padawans were most likely used to going to their instructors and/or masters. No matter how invested and involved the master was in their padawan’s life, it likely wouldn’t equal the feelings a mom has for their child. At least not how Shmi felt about Anakin. He was her life.
When we see Anakin in Attack of the Clones he has become a teenager with teenage angst, and Obi-Wan doesn’t cut him much slack. Obi-Wan has assumed the role of a father who expects near perfection from Anakin. He may know that Anakin will make mistakes, but he still pushes Anakin to control his feelings, emotions, and actions. Difficult things for any teenager. In ten years Anakin has gone from having only a mother who gives him freedom and room to grow (she hates his podracing, but doesn’t tell him not to do it, though she fears for his safety; she lets him make most of his own decisions and mistakes) to only having a slightly over-bearing and condescending father figure in Obi-Wan.
The Jedi want Anakin to have no connections and be almost emotionless. I can only imagine how I would feel if I was in Anakin’s situation. I may be looking for someone like Chancellor Palpatine who builds my confidence and encourages me. Palpatine made him feel good about himself and the Jedi rarely did.
Is it possible Anakin would have been better off if he had never known his mother, like the other Jedi? Would he have turned to the Dark Side? Or would it have at least been a good idea for the Jedi to let him remain in contact with his mother? When he was chastised and “torn down” by Obi-Wan wouldn’t it have been helpful for him to talk to his mom to be “built back up”? It also may have eliminated his dreams about his mom.
I hate to think about how I would have turned out without my mom or how my kids would turn out without my wife. Many people can and have successfully dealt with this, but I’m not sure I could have. So for me it is understandable why Anakin made some of the decisions (good and bad) he did.
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