Luke Skywalker: The Loss of Innocence

Frantic to return to his homestead to warn his family about an impending Imperial raid, Luke arrives too late. Slowing down in his landspeeder, the young man leaps out and calls to his uncle Owen and aunt Beru as black smoke billows from his burning home. Scanning the destruction, Luke locks eyes on the smoldering carcasses of his guardians. Not only was he too late, but the extermination was absolute. Luke may have expected, as he sped closer to home and could see the smoke on the distant horizon, that he would find the limp bodies of Owen and Beru. But he surely did not expect such an abhorrent scene – the grotesque, distorted skeletons of his loving uncle and aunt. One cannot help but wonder -and certainly the thought must go through Luke’s mind – if his uncle and aunt suffered in their final moments of life, tortured by the pain of being burned alive.

Grotesque
The grotesque corpses of Owen and Beru.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

This short but disturbing moment in A New Hope is one that never fails to move and pain me. Admittedly, the event is a narrative necessity, albeit a disturbing one, a way of jettisoning Luke from the confines of his childhood connections into a larger world. Seeking adventure and desiring to leave home, even petitioning his defiant Uncle at dinner the night before to allow him to leave, Luke’s adolescent dreams can not be fulfilled. There is no longer any resistance standing in his way and he can join Obi-Wan Kenobi on his valiant quest to defeat the Empire.

And yet, as the scene concludes with Luke standing there in the quiet desolation of his childhood as the smoke billows and the carcasses continue to smolder, I have always wondered: what did Luke do next?

Skywalker Alone
What did Luke do after this moment?

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

This is not a question that demands a definitive answer. In fact, I would be furious if the Lucasfilm Story Group was to provide an “official” or “canonical” account regarding Luke’s actions (or his thoughts/feelings) when the scene concludes. On one level, this is because this scene in A New Hope, which we can link with Luke’s sad return to Obi-Wan and his admission that he can now join the Jedi Master’s journey, work with seamless fluidity even though they are separated. We do not need to be told what Luke did in the interval because the narrative intention in A New Hope is to move Luke from one stage of life to the next. The innocence of his childhood is literally destroyed and he will now venture forth into the responsibilities of adulthood.

On another level, any “official” explanation would usurp the imaginative faculties of fans, taking away the opportunity for one to insert their own thoughts and feelings into the heart-wrenching moments before, during, and after Luke arrives. Not knowing what Luke does, or the emotional turmoil he experiences, is in many respects what makes the death of Owen and Beru so powerful. Without explanation, other than the pained look on young Skywalker’s face as he views the carnage of his familiar surroundings, we are left to fill in the gaps, all of which enables our own, individualized connections with Luke, and the film, to flourish.

And so, the question – what did Luke do next? – percolates in my mind precisely because my imaginative faculties, aided by the emotion which the scene evokes inside of me, consistently arrives at a number of possible explanations. Just as I can believe Luke simply turned around, walked back to his speeder and left his home, I can just as easily imagine that Luke feel to the ground and broke down in tears. Or maybe Luke dropped to his knees and screamed, bellowing out the agony and guilt of not being there to protect his loving family.

Perhaps Luke sprung into stoic action, choosing to carefully bury the bodies as he internally contemplated the loss of his innocent and simple life. Digging graves next to those of his great uncle Cliegg and great aunt Shmi, Luke placed the wrapped bodies of uncle Owen and aunt Beru in graves he methodically dug. The burial complete, Luke returned to his land speeder and drove off into the Tatooine desert, taking nothing but the memories of his family, his home, and his youth with him.

9 comments

  1. This is very interesting! My sister and I always joke about how flat Mark Hamill’s acting was in that scene. (But it’s not THAT bad, really.) In the novel adaptation by George Lucas, it says that Luke lay in the sand and cried for awhile. Something like that, which seems pretty reasonable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always felt like his acting in the scene was spot on. Interesting how different people interpret scenes.

      I recall that scene from the novel, I just tend to take the adaptations with a grain of salt. They don’t do much for me other than present the story in a different medium. Still, the thought of Luke laying in the sand and crying is certainly a possibility I am open to.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always thought the movie should have shown him grieving more, as they had raised him. The Aunt Beru short story in the collection From A Certain Point of View brought me to tears because it fleshed out her story and showed her deep love for Luke.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read From A Certain Point of View yet. Don’t even own it. But, I did hear that the Beru story was good, and I am glad to hear you echoing that sentiment. I actually think that story is a far better addition than any concrete explanation regarding what Luke did after the scene in question. Establishing the love Beru had for Luke is a great way of highlighting the emotion and agony that Luke must have felt when he saw her body.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I find a decently priced copy, and I have time to get into it, I will give it a read. Between a baby, other adult stuff, and a stack of books I already need to read, it might be a while before I have the chance.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve honestly never thought about this. I think I just assumed he got into his speeder and left… But now that I *am* thinking about it, that doesn’t seem right. I think I would take the storyline of him crying in the sand as most plausible. But I never thought of burial either… That also seems logical. So much food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi IT,

    Those moments we don’t see are the gaps I think we all use as refection time. I think those areas are where fan-fiction fonfs its fodder. Good moments to ruminate, right?

    Gary

    On Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 7:00 AM The Imperial Talker wrote:

    > Imperial Talker posted: “Frantic to return to his homestead to warn his > family about an impending Imperial raid, Luke arrives too late. Slowing > down in his landspeeder, the young man leaps out and calls to his uncle > Owen and aunt Beru as black smoke billows from his burning home.” >

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s