Luke Skywalker is one of Star Wars’ most important and beloved characters. So it’s no wonder that fans are heavily invested in seeing him portrayed in a way that rings true for his personality. But what is the “right way” to portray Luke’s personality? Or, to put it in a way that reflects this blog’s theme, what is his personality type in the Original Trilogy and is his portrayal consistent with that type in the Sequel Trilogy?
Some fictional characters are quintessential examples of a personality type. Tony Stark is an ENTP. Samwise Gamgee is the perfect ISFJ. And this is what Luke Skywalker does for INFPs. He’s one of the best examples of this Myers-Briggs type in fiction.
I think Rian Johnson did give us a version of Luke Skywalker that is consistent with Luke’s INFP personality type. This also makes Luke a great example of how much variation we can see within a single type. People don’t change personality type, but they do grow and change within that type. And if they’re under a lot of stress they can seem very much unlike themselves, even though they’re still reacting in a way that’s “normal” for their personality type.
What’s Right For Me?
INFP types lead with a mental process that Personality Hacker nicknames Authenticity. Its technical name is Introverted Feeling (Fi). Basically, this means INFPs make decisions by asking the question, “What feels right to me?” They place a high value on being true to themselves. (Click here for a quick introduction to function stacks in Myers-Briggs types.)
While Kevin Hearne’s Heir To The Jedi isn’t my favorite in-canon Star Wars books, he does an excelent job of capturing this aspect of Luke’s character. The book is written first-person from Luke’s perspective and shows his inner struggle to make sure his actions line up with his personal convictions. For example, Luke is concerned about an order to “take care of” some guards not only because it’s murder, but also because he believes “killing someone is the opposite of caring for them” (p. 96).
We see him using Authenticity in the films as well, though it’s more indirect because we’re not in Luke’s head and Fi is an introverted function. All Luke’s major decisions are based on what feels right and lines up with his view of self. He convinces Han to rescue Princess Leia on the Death Star because, “We gotta help her.” He leaves Yoda (an INFJ) in the middle of his training because he can’t “sacrifice Han and Leia.” He turns himself over to the Emperor because, as he tells Leia, “I have to try” to save their father. Even when his choices don’t make sense to the people around him, and often in the face of strong opposition, Luke stands firm to his own core Authenticity.
Resisting The Darkness
FP types, which all use Fi as their dominant or co-pilot process, aren’t immune to dark side influences. They can become villainous and do nasty, evil things just as easily as another type. But I would guess that a good FP type is harder to turn simply because it’s nearly impossible to reason them out of a deeply held belief or peer-pressure them into doing something they think is wrong.
If you’re tempting a Thinking type like Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side, the pitch usually includes an instruction to give into your feelings and let the hate flow through you. It’s an invitation to ignore their most stable way of making decisions. We also saw Palpatine using twisted logic to reason Anakin into a perspective that the Jedi were evil.
Twisting an FJ type like Ben Solo to the darkness involves a different strategy. FJ types are tuned-in to the people around them and highly value interpersonal harmony. So instead of telling Ben to give into his feelings, Snoke taught him to mistrust the people who would have been a good influence on him, offered him belonging in the darkness, then tried to disconnect him from his feelings.
Neither strategy would work on Luke Skywalker. INFPs are used to checking in with their finely honed Fi side to make decisions based on what feels right to them. A logic argument won’t move them from a core belief and pressure to conform to outside influences just makes them resist more strongly. In the climactic scene of Return of the Jedi, Luke does let his aggressive feelings take over for a while. He nearly kills Darth Vader. But when the Emperor pushes him to take that last step and commit to the Dark Side Luke steps back, analyzes how he feels, and turns-down the invitation. It doesn’t line up with who he is.
An INFP’s co-pilot process is Extroverted Intuition (Ne), which is also called Exploration. It’s a pattern-recognition system that learns new information from the outer world. Ne types are really good at learning new information quickly and aren’t hesitant to try new things. This is the part of Luke that’s quick to join Obi-Wan (an ISFJ), leave Tatooine, and decide to “learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.”
This mental function also helps explain how Luke learns to use the Force so quickly. Personality types with strong intuition are comfortable taking leaps that aren’t well-supported by either their past experiences or the sort of logic that makes sense to other people. So Luke’s comfortable with soaking-in Obi-Wan’s teachings about the Force, and then relying on it right away. He switches off his targeting computer and uses the Force to fire the shot that blows up the Death Star. The only experience he’d had with the Force before that was blocking a few shots from a training sphere on the Falcon. He didn’t even have the sort of combat and piloting experience that Rey (an ISTJ) had before she first used the Force. But that doesn’t bother him because his Ne process is used to trying things out and seeing if they work.
Ne is also a mental process that asks “What if?” questions. This is what Yoda notices when he says, “All his life has he looked away to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.” Staying in-the-moment can be hard for types with strong Extroverted Intuition. But thinking up things no one else believes in yet can be a good thing. For example, Luke asks, “What if there’s still good in Darth Vader?” No one else thinks that’s a possibility. But it’s such a strong idea in Luke’s mind that he risks everything to bring his father back to the Light. And in this case, his gamble pays off. He stays true to who he is, tries out his “What if?” in the real world, and we get our happy ending for the original trilogy.
Hero As An Identity
Things don’t turn out so well the next time Luke tries to keep a member of his family on the Light Side of the Force. In The Last Jedi, Luke blames himself for Ben turning to the Dark Side. He claims that it was his hubris that led him to think he could fight the Darkness rising in Ben. He tells Rey, “I failed because I was Luke Skywalker. Jedi Master. A legend.”
He’s talking about himself in the third-person because he’s wrestling with Luke Skywalker as an identity. After turning Vader and saving the galaxy, Luke didn’t just get to be himself anymore. He also had to be the heroic Luke Skywalker figure that everyone expected. This was fine as long as his image lined-up with his authentic sense of self. But when something challenged that view of self, it all comes crashing down.
When Luke looked into Ben’s mind, he saw, “destruction and pain and death and the end of everything I love because of what he will become and for the briefest moment of pure instinct I thought I could stop it.” This is the same instinct that prompted Luke to cut off Vader’s hand and nearly kill him in their final battle. It’s an impulsive, fear-driven anger. He doesn’t give into this impulse and is “left with shame” because it doesn’t line-up with either his core values or his hero image. But it’s too late. Ben caught Luke in this shameful moment and it set him off on the destructive, Dark Side path that Luke feared.
An INFP’s “Dark Side”
Every personality type has four mental processes that they can access. The first two are usually the ones we develop first and which we’re the most comfortable using. For an INFP, that’s Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Intution. We often use our tertiary process quite a lot as well. Because it has the same orientation (introverted or extroverted) as our primary function we might try to by-pass our co-pilot and use this instead. Depending on the individual, it might be well-developed or act as a blind-spot.
Luke’s tertiary Introverted Sensing (Si) isn’t very well developed. In INFPs, Si can show up as a desire for comfort and safety. It also wants reliable information and is tied to building on past experiences. For Luke, I think this is the mental process that we’re seeing when he reacts with fear to a new and alarming situation that threatens people he loves. His past tells him that if he’s not there for people, they’ll die like Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. And his fear prompts him to do things he wouldn’t otherwise do, like Force-choke the guards at the entrance to Jabba’s palace or reach for his lightsaber when he realizes how many people his nephew could hurt.
An INFP’s inferior function is Extroverted Thinking (Te). It’s poorly developed and not always under our conscious control. When triggered by a stressful event and “in the grip” of inferior Te, and INFP can become hyper-critical of incompetence (real and perceived, such as in himself and the Jedi) and aggressively critical of others (such as Ben and Rey). Stressed INFPs are also more likely than usual to take “precipitous action.” They become overwhelmed by the urge to take action — any action — to try and make things better. Unfortunately, they often make things worse because they’re so stressed they’re ignoring what the more mature aspects of their personality have to say.
Running Away From Himself
According to Personality Hacker, one of the biggest challenges you could face as an INFP type is feeling “out of control in your outer surroundings, and instead of addressing it, you feel overwhelmed, powerless, and withdraw into what others might call ‘procrastination mode.'” Luke takes this to a whole new level after Kylo Ren destroys his Jedi academy and either turns or kills all his students.
Luke went to “the most unfindable place” he could think of for a two stated reasons: to die and to find the oldest Jedi records. It’s here that he decides “it’s time for the Jedi to end.” He sneers at Rey’s description of him as a hero, as the man who single-handedly faces and defeats darkness. He’s running way not only from what happened, but from what others expect of him and his old identity.
It takes a lot to shake an Fi-users deepest convictions and sense of self, but once that happens it’s very hard for them to cope with the inner fallout. His whole life has been based on doing what he felt was right and what lined up with his core self. For the past 31 years, since he first started training with Yoda, that core identity has been tied to being a Jedi. So when Luke runs away, one of the things that he focuses on is reassessing the entire Jedi philosophy. The new identity that he finds to explain himself has to do with a legacy of failure and hubris that he sees in himself as well as the Jedi. That’s why it’s time for them both to end.
The Last Jedi
For all the backlash Luke’s portrayal in The Last Jedi received, it’s actually perfectly in-character for an INFP. Luke in this film is a classic example of an INFP who’s stuck in a Fi-Si loop and also lashes out with underdeveloped Te. He’s stuck telling himself that there’s something wrong with who and what he is and that his past mistakes will keep repeating themselves. These ideas both come from an unhealthily preoccupied blend of Fi and Ti.
In her book Was That Really Me? Naomi Quenk writes that INFPs often find equilibrium after a stressful experience when something draws them outside of their heads and offers “new learning or awareness.” In other words, they need something that engages their external, learning process of Ne. Rey starts this process by showing up on Ahch-To, but it’s Yoda who finally gives Luke the nudge he needs to put his own failures in a proper perspective. Talking with Yoda helps Luke find a way to integrate everything that has happened into his authentic sense of self and find the strength to embrace his role as a true Jedi.
Luke Skywalker’s final act was to halt an army dead in its tracks by using The Force in a way that’s ultimately revealed to be pacifistic and non-violent. That’s arguably the most Jedi thing any character has ever done in any of these movies, and probably the truest realization of Yoda’s teachings we’ve ever seen. (unknown source, shared by Star Wars Underworld)
Luke’s character arc and story come full-circle in The Last Jedi. He goes from hero, to seeing himself as a failure, and back to hero. But more importantly, he gets through a crisis that shakes him to his core and ends up embracing his authentic self once again. It’s a story of character growth that’s heroic on a personal level and which also puts the galaxy back on the right path. He dies with peace and purpose in his heart, having stayed true to himself and leaving the galaxy a better place than it could have been without him. What INFP (or the rest of us for that matter) could ask for more?
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