This essay is from Eric Koch
Published on November 22, 2002
Star Wars as a Modern Myth
Every generation has a saga.
Told over a thousand days and numerous adventures, Homer was able to chronicle one man's struggle to return home in an epic which has stood the test of time in the Odyssey. In Elizabethan times the plays of William Shakespeare gripped a nation's interest. With his tragically flawed characters Shakespeare captured the imagination of not only England but of humanity for rest of time.
That leaves us with today. In many respects today is a myth less society, with no saga to represent out culture. This changed in 1977 when a young filmmaker named George Lucas set out to create "a myth for our generation,1" and Star Wars was born. Whether the critics will agree or not in 20 years Star Wars has become the fairy tale myth of an entire generation. Star Wars, despite its trashing by the critics, has withstood the test of time. Indeed the force is with the Skywalker saga. The Star Wars films contain themes from all of the classic literature from before to create the perfect myth.
Examining a movie on the strength of classical themes might seem ridiculous, especially science fiction movies. But it's not as ridiculous as it seems. Joseph Campbell's thesis in "The Hero with A Thousand Faces" states that a hero an epic myth is a dream figure who stands in for an entire culture. 2 Campbell believes the hero in myth always searches for divine power only to find that he had the power within himself the entire time. Furthermore there is often an Oedipal nature of the conflict often involving the characters origins. With this knowledge and using Campbell as a guide I will trace the action of the Skywalker saga to see how closely corresponds to the classical model.
1 "The Force is Behind George Lucas," Interview with George Lucas by Paul Scanlon, Rolling Stone, 25 August 1977.
2 Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. New York: World 1956.