Anakin Skywalker, also known as Darth Vader, is a character in George Lukas’s Star Wars space opera. His path from a benevolent Jedi to a Dark Side leader is a great example of the personality development. Anakin was born to Schmi Skywalker, a solo-living woman who claimed that she had never interacted with a man. The boy and his mother worked as slaves, and Anakin demonstrated his mechanic skills since childhood. The character’s personality development will be explained using two contrasting perspectives: Maslow’s humanistic perspective and Freud’s psychoanalytic perspective.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory
Every person has primary and secondary needs, and the fulfillment of these needs motivates them to grow. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, there are five categories of human needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization (Schmidt & Birt, 2020). If the basic needs, such as food, sleep, safety, health, and family, are not met, a person will never think about their esteem and self-actualization. To become a self-reliant and confident personality, one should satisfy all five categories of needs.
When Anakin was a child, he dreamed of becoming a famous pod racer, but he did not try to run away from slavery because of the fear of death. The boy’s primary needs were to be fed and secure with his mother, even if he had to work for junk dealer Watto. As the boy grows older, he fulfills his dream, winning the pod race, and begins to travel with Qui-Gon and his fellows to the planet Coruscant. Anakin is trying to satisfy his safety needs, so he applies to “Star Wars” Hogwarts, which he believes will be a safe place to live and study. Anakin faces some difficulties during the waiting period and suffers from doubts, but when the Council permits Obi-Wan Kenobi to teach him, the safety need is satisfied.
The next stage in Anakin’s personality development is love and belonging needs. This stage is crucial for the boy’s personality because it approaches him to the Dark Side. In Episode II, the teenage Padawan Anakin fights against his romantic feelings toward Padme because the Jedi Order forbids any intimate relationships. The boy has a strong desire to belong, and the following words confirm this desire: “Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So, you might say, that we are encouraged to love” (Lukas, 2002). Anakin’s attempt to save his mother from the Tusken Raiders is a demonstration of his love and sense of belonging, which leads him too close to the Dark Side.
In the next two stages of the hierarchy of needs, Anakin becomes Darth Vader, and his new personality helps him satisfy his esteem and self-actualization needs. His final duel with his teacher, Obi-Wan, increases Darth’s self-respect and confidence, making him the Master instead of the learner. Finally, Darth’s self-actualization needs are satisfied when he saves his son and reveals his Anakin persona to him. All these stages demonstrate the process of personality development of the chosen character.
Sigmund Freud’s Theory of Personality
Sigmund Freud based his theory of personality on different levels of awareness and motivation. According to the theorist, the main “parts of the human personality are the id, ego, and superego” (Sibi, 2020, p. 77). The id is the main energy source that operates under the principle that one should seek pleasure and avoid pain. Darth Vader is controlled by his id because his selfish desires drive his actions. Moreover, the character tries to avoid pain more than seek pleasure, which can be seen in the scenes where he is fighting for his mother’s and wife’s lives.
The ego directs the id and helps a person control their desires and impulses. Freud called this part the “second-process thought” (Zhang, 2020, p. 229). In Vader’s case, his ego did not help him control his id impulses, and he invented his reality based on the evil code. Although Darth’s origin was humble, and his first goal was to become a Jedi, the dark side of his personality overweighed his moral side. The superego is responsible for the representation of moral rules and beliefs a person developed in childhood. Darth Vader’s moral rules and beliefs misguided him because he was sure that dark forces would make him more powerful and confident in life.
Each of these personality parts motivated the character or made him use defense mechanisms. For example, Anakin uses the defense mechanism of denial when he kills the entire tribe, believing that he could save his mother from death. The protagonist tries to substitute his fear with anger, and his behavior becomes more violent eventually. A strong death instinct motivates Anakin/Darth to engage in murderous rampages throughout the film.
Discussion and Conclusion
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality provide different perspectives on the development of Anakin Skywalker’s character in Star Wars. Maslow’s theory demonstrates various stages of Anakin’s life through the satisfaction of his primary and secondary needs. Freud’s theory allows one to better understand the character’s growth through his conscious and unconscious desires. If Anakin’s ego and superego were better developed in childhood, he could continue his life as a slave or become a true Jedi. However, his ego misguided him, and the dark traits overwhelmed his persona. Basing on this analysis, one could recommend that Anakin pay more attention to his romantic emotions and sense of belonging to improve his mental and emotional health.
Lukas, G. (Director). (2002). Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones [Film]. Lukasfilm Ltd.
Schmidt, J., & Birt, A.M. (2020). Plot development: An outlining method for fiction [Kindle edition]. Indy Pub. Web.
Sibi, K.J. (2020). Sigmund Freud and psychoanalytic theory. LangLit: An International Peer-Reviewed Open Access Journal, 75-79. Web.
Zhang, S. (2020). Psychoanalysis: The influence of Freud’s theory in personality psychology. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, 433, 229-232. Web.