One of the most memorable moments for many students in the class of 1999 will occur when they see "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," the first part of a prequel trilogy to the beloved Star Wars trilogy. The original three films Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi have embedded themselves in current culture. The Force, composer John William's famous soundtrack, and lines such as "Luke, I am your father"(which is never said in any of the movies) have become common in present day culture. But, the Star Wars trilogy also contains a deeper theme that is not unique to the current time period. In George Lucas's Star Wars Trilogy as well in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the contrast between good and evil is conveyed through the optical, symbolic differences of black and white.
The planet Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back and the Congo in Heart of Darkness are very symbolically similar. The Rebel Alliance has a base on the ice planet of Hoth. The Rebel Alliance stands for good as do the snow and ice that cover Hoth; hence, a society of good stationed on a good planet. But, the Galactic Empire, or pure evil, soon attacks and overtakes Hoth. This situation on Hoth is similar to the white assimilationist techniques used in the dark, African Congo. The white man, "evil", attempts to assimilate the Congo, or goodness. Thus, both Hoth and the Congo and their assimilations, however successful, typify the conquests of evil over good.
The clothing of Luke Skywalker across the whole Star Wars Trilogy and of Marlow across his trek into the jungle symbolize man's journey of self-realization. In the very beginning of Star Wars, Luke wears a robe of white. For practical purposes the robe should be white because then it will reflect the most sunlight away on the planet of Tatooine; but the white color of the robe also stands for Luke's pure goodness at that point in time. But as time progresses, namely in the latter portion of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, Luke begins to wear the garb of a Jedi-a black tunic and matching pants. These dark outfits symbolize the fact that Luke contains an element of evil within him that he can never destroy, namely that he is the son of Anakin Skywalker-the man who would become Darth Vader. In Heart of Darkness, once Marlow realizes that he was produced by an evil white society he throws away his dark, blood stained shoe. Casting off this dark article of clothing symbolizes Marlow's rejection of evil society. A change in the personalities of these two characters can be seen through the change in their clothing
The characters of Darth Vader and Kurtz both symbolically represent the hidden good or evil in a person that is primarily evil or good. Darth Vader is evil. No doubt can be had that this is true; not only does he wear an black, mechanical suit which looks menacing, but he also has no qualms about killing other people, even his own family. However, a shred of decency does remain within Darth Vader as is seen in The Return of the Jedi. As Emperor Palpatine is destroying Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader attacks the emperor in order to save his son. Once the emperor, Darth Vader tells Luke to take off his black mask to reveal a pure, white face although this means his certain death. At this point, Darth Vader has reverted back into Anakin Skywalker and has revealed to his son that he really had good inside of him before he died. In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz is similar to Darth Vader. Kurtz's life has turned to evil. He exploits a group of people, similar to what the Empire does to its inhabitants. Not until the very end, when Marlow and the audience meet Kurtz and his ghostly white face doe Kurtz repent crying out, "The horror! The horror!"(p.123) These two men who had lived similar lives of naivete, correspondingly end their lives with attempts to redeem themselves by realizing the folly of their former ways and make final, feeble tries at repenting. The people around them also realize that both have purity, however minute, within their souls.
Two works of art separated not only by the passage of time, but also by the changing of society, use the contrast of black, no color, and white, all colors. These colors which can symbolize good and evil within the same work of art represent the struggle between the good and evil parts of man's soul. Hoth and the Congo are symbols of the attack that evil takes against the soul of man and that it may win in the case of Darth Vader or Kurtz. Luke Skywalker and Marlow represent not only the repel of such an attack made by evil, but also the means by which Darth Vader and Kurtz may redeem themselves. Generally, art can be viewed two ways-objectively or subjectively. Literature is read most times subjectively, then analyzed objectively for a desire to find a deeper message in this piece of art. Movies, however, are watched and produced for a subjective audience. The majority of the people in audiences do not take the time out to analyze the movie; they get their quick emotional fix and do not attempt to find within it a deeper meaning. Even Star Wars, one of the most popular films of all time, contains subtle themes which probabilistically the majority of adult viewers do not ever realize. If all people only did realize the messages hidden in some of their favorite movies, the world would be a much better place.
This paper was written for my AP ENglish Lit class. I received an A- minus on it due to some grammatical errors. It was very
fun to write and research. Enjoy!
Samuel L. Nitz