Anakin Skywalker was a pivotal character in the Star Wars universe. He was destined to bring balance to the Force and destroy the Sith, but would eventually become one of the most powerful Sith Lords in the history of the Dark Side of the Force. In this article, we are going to explain why Darth Vader, Anakin’s later alter ego, refers to Anakin Skywalker as a completely different person and how that reflects the change in his role in the larger Star Wars universe.
Darth Vader, of course, knows he is Anakin Skywalker (this was already confirmed when he told Luke he was his father, back in the Original Trilogy). The reason he refers to Anakin as a different person is that he considered himself Vader at the time, and Anakin was a former version of him that ceased – in a moral and psychological sense – to exist when he turned on the Jedi. Anakin was a representation of a weak Vader to Vader himself.
The rest of this article is going to focus on Darth Vader’s personality and his personal relationship with his former Anakin persona. The whole story is going to be explained and presented to you in this article so that you know the whole background. If you haven’t seen all the Star Wars movies, we have to warn you about a lot of spoilers ahead.
Does Darth Vader know he is Anakin Skywalker?
In order to give you a proper answer to this question, we first have to explain how Anakin became Darth Vader in the first place. After Obi-Wan was able to locate Grievous on the planet Utapau and engage in combat with him, Mace Windu assigned Anakin to deliver the message to the Chancellor, noting his reaction.
The Korun Master was certain that the hidden Sith Lord would soon have to reveal himself in the clone troopers in view of an imminent Republic victory. Palpatine barely responded to this message, however, and instead engaged Anakin in another conversation that only added to the young Jedi’s confusion.
Palpatine stated with certainty that the Jedi Council was poised to remove the Chancellor from office, take over the Senate, and usurp control of the Republic. He also accused all supporters of the “Petition of the Two Thousand” as traitors who worked with the Jedi Council to bring about an overthrow. He urged Anakin to recognize the betrayal and remember his loyalty to the Republic.
To Anakin’s incredulous reaction, Palpatine responded with his revelation that he was in fact the wanted Sith Lord, Darth Sidious. Palpatine explained that he was once a student of Darth Plagueis until he taught him everything he knew, after which he murdered his Master in his sleep. Thus, he would be able to save Padmé from death, which decisively stopped Anakins from killing the Sith Lord on the spot with his lightsaber.
Anakin was full of doubts anyway, since upon closer inspection he could see no malevolence in Palpatine’s actions. He was also for peace and justice in the galaxy, he would be willing to save Padmé, and last but not least he was a friend of many years who he never had to pretend – the Jedi would only want to kill Palpatine because of philosophical differences.
However, unable to make a decision, Anakin handed Palpatine over to the Jedi Council. While Mace Windu, Saesee Tiin, Kit Fisto, and Agen Kolar—the only Council members remaining on Coruscant, along with Shaak Ti, who guarded the Jedi Temple with Gate Master Jurokk—visited Palpatine to place him under arrest, Anakin was not allowed to accompany them.
Instead, he went to the Council Chamber to process his impressions, as Mace Windu instructed him to do. As he pondered Palpatine’s words, he simultaneously formed a telepathic connection with Padmé. Fearing that Palpatine and his knowledge of the ability to stop death would be wiped out by the Jedi Masters, he rushed to the Chancellor’s office.
When he arrived, Palpatine was already disarmed and Mace was threatening to kill the Chancellor. Anakin saw Mace’s actions as confirming Palpatine’s fears that the Jedi were overthrowing the Chancellor – not to punish him for a crime, but simply because he was a Sith. Anakin suggested arresting Palpatine and putting him on trial, but Mace flatly refused.
As the Korun Master swung in a killing blow, Anakin reached out with his ignited lightsaber, cutting off Mace’s wrist and weapon. Palpatine, completely deformed from the exertions of his struggle and the effects of his own Force bolts, jumped up and threw Mace out of his office window with more bolts.
While Anakin immediately began to ruefully doubt his actions, Palpatine explained that he had merely stopped the Jedi betrayal and acknowledged his loyalty to the Republic. The Chancellor then declared all Jedi to be enemies of the state, who had to be hunted down and destroyed.
Although Anakin still struggled to reconcile this development with his conscience, Palpatine’s offer to become his apprentice and work with him to discover the secret of saving Padmé from death seemed acceptable to him. No longer convinced of the Jedi’s will for justice, Anakin saw no malicious motives from the Sith, for Palpatine still wanted to end the war and restore peace. So he accepted his new identity as “Darth Vader”, Palpatine’s Sith disciple.
As you can see, there was no radical transformation involved. Anakin simply opted to betray the Jedi and join Palpatine, that’s about it. He knew he was Anakin Skywalker, he did not suffer any trauma that would result in him not remembering his real identity, he simply opted to be called Darth Vader from that point, as was expected of a Sith Lord. We have plenty of evidence to support the fact that Vader knew he was Anakin Skywalker, with him telling Luke he was his father being the most prominent one, but also the fact that Vader reappeared as a Force Ghost as Anakin Skywalker after his death.
Why does Darth Vader refer to Anakin as a different person?
The fact that Vader actually refers to Anakin as someone completely different is a psychological one. Namely, when Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, his former life remained solely as a symbol of something that was bad about him. Namely, Palpatine manipulated Anakin so strongly that the young Jedi believed that his former allies were treacherous insurgents who wanted to take over the Galaxy. He considered them to be weak, narrow-minded, and evil, despite being close to a lot of them.
Vader saw in Anakin all that he loathed after Palpatine’s manipulations. According to that point of view, Anakin was weak and naive, and he trusted the wrong people. His ego had exploded and he considered the Jedi to be below his abilities and capabilities; the Sith could offer him more. That is why Vader dissociated himself from the Anakin persona and although they were one and the same, Vader would keep on referring to Anakin as a person that does not exist anymore.