Falling to the dark side of the Force in Star Wars eventually turned Anakin Skywalker into a tragic figure called Darth Vader as he enforced the law of the Empire during the reign of his master, Emperor Palpatine. But while that may be true, we did see Vader coming back to the side of the light at the very last moment when he saved his son, Luke Skywalker, from Palpatine’s Force Lightning onslaught and killed his former master before dying. So, why did Darth Vader save Luke?
Darth Vader saved Luke because he was overcome by his parental instincts, especially because he understood that his own son believed that he still had some good left in him. And the fact that Anakin always wanted to stop his loved ones from dying triggered his instincts to save Luke from certain death.
The thing about Darth Vader is that he wasn’t evil for the sake of evil, as he only fell to the dark side when he realized that this was the only way for him to save his loved ones and keep the galaxy from falling apart. Of course, the dark side corrupted him and turned him into the murderous cyborg he was known to be. Nevertheless, he redeemed himself at the very last moment. Now, let’s talk more about why Darth Vader saved Luke.
Why Did Darth Vader Switch Sides?
Darth Vader is one of the most tragic characters ever created in the world of fiction because he wasn’t always the evil Sith Lord he was known to be. Instead, he was once Anakin Skywalker, who had the highest potential in the Force in the galaxy’s history and was the Chosen One that was supposed to bring balance to the Force. Anakin was as powerful of a Jedi Knight as anyone can be, and he was a hero during the events of the Clone Wars.
Nevertheless, Anakin had fears holding him down and steadily pushing him over to the dark side. He was a man that loved to form attachments with different people and was afraid of losing those attachments or letting go of the ones that he loved. While attachments were never bad, the Jedi feared attachments because the fear of losing people that they were attached to was one of the gateways to the dark side of the Force. Anakin feared losing his beloved Padmé Amidala, whose death he had foreseen in his dreams, and that was when Sheev Palpatine took advantage of his fears to pull him over to the dark side.
It is needless to say that Anakin chose to become a Sith Lord because he no longer wanted to be too weak to prevent his loved ones from dying. He chose this path because he thought it would give him the power to save the people he loved. And the dark side corrupted him instead because he killed more people than he saved while playing the role of the Imperial enforcer Darth Vader during the reign of the Empire.
But Luke Skywalker, the son Vader never knew he had, had trained to become a Jedi two decades after Anakin fell to the dark side. Luke learned from Vader himself that he was his real father, and that was when the younger Skywalker thought that there was still some good left in him despite all of the evil deeds that he committed.
In their final confrontation during the events of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke used his anger as fuel to defeat Darth Vader in a duel. He was about to finish him off as Palpatine, who was watching over them, was egging him to kill his father and replace him as the emperor’s new apprentice. But Luke realized that he wasn’t going to go down the same path that his father did, and that was when he said that he wasn’t going to kill Vader and join the Empire because he was a Jedi, the same as his father before him.
Furious, the emperor struck Luke with a barrage of Force Lightning that was about to kill him. A defenseless Luke was pleading with his father to help him because he had already sensed the growing conflict within Darth Vader. As such, Vader decided to be a father by saving Luke when he lifted the emperor and threw him down the Death Star II’s reactor shaft, killing him in the process.
Many would think Vader’s fatherly instincts kicked in when he helped Luke in that final moment. But while that may be true, as Anakin was certainly overcome by his nature as a father when he saved his son, there is a deeper level to this.
When he was still Anakin, the only thing that he wanted to do in life was to save his loved ones and keep them from dying. After all, that mindset pushed him to the dark side in the first place. But the point is that he promised never to let his loved ones die as long as he could do something about it. And that was when he made good on that promise.
Anakin finally had a chance to save a loved one from certain death when he saw that he could make a difference when Palpatine was blasting Luke with his powers. He remembered the promise that he made a long time ago, as he made sure to never again see a loved one dying in front of him ever again. And that was why he returned to the light and saved his son from the wrath of a man that never truly cared about him.
Did Darth Vader Sacrifice Himself for Luke?
One of the things that Darth Vader also knew when he saw that Palpatine was blasting Luke with Force Lightning was that he would have to sacrifice his life if he wanted to save his son. That’s because Vader’s suit is keeping him alive due to the life-threatening injuries he received more than 20 years ago when he lost a duel to Obi-Wan Kenobi. And it is the fact that the emperor could use Force Lightning kept Vader in check, as he knew that his master could kill him at any given moment.
In that regard, Darth Vader knew what would happen to him if he stood up to save Luke from the emperor. But he decided to throw away his own personal well-being to save his son from death. As such, Vader knew that he would die in the act of helping his son because the emperor’s Force Lightning was redirected toward him while he was lifting him up to throw him down the reactor shaft.
But at that very moment, Anakin’s promise of saving the people he loved as long as this was within his power ultimately overcame his natural instincts of self-preservation. He saved Luke instead of keeping himself safe from the emperor’s wrath. And that was why he understood that he had to sacrifice himself to save his son from death.