Rey’s story is simple enough, a classic hero’s journey akin to the origins of Luke Skywalker. An orphaned scavenger who went on to become the last living Jedi, and helped to save the galaxy. Rey is a divisive figure in the Star Wars fandom, but today we are going to dive into her character in our ongoing series profiling the women of Star Wars.
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From Scavenger to Jedi
Rey was abandoned on the desert planet Jakku as a young child. Unlike Luke, she was not left in the care of loving parents. Instead Rey was left to survive on a hostile planet completely on her own. She became a scavenger, searching old ruins of starships for parts to sell for food. When we first meet Rey, she is isolated and lonely. She befriends the droid BB-8, but not after trying to chase him away several times. We see that her home is decorated with memorabilia from the ships, including an old X-Wing helmet that she puts on in The Force Awakens. Rey is quiet and introspective, but clearly dreaming of something bigger for her life.
According to Rey’s Survival Guide, Rey made her home in an abandoned AT-AT after finding a small flower growing in the sand inside. The idea that something so delicate and beautiful could survive in such a harsh climate madea profound impact on her. Indeed this concept could apply to Rey herself. She survived the harsh climate of Jakku with the ability to see beauty and hope in the ugly universe.
Jakku Shaped Rey’s Identity
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From a young age Rey is instilled with the idea that she must remain on Jakku to await her parent’s return. This feeling is so strong that she insists several times throughout The Force Awakens that she must return to Jakku. It almost seems as though this was a Force command that was laid upon her character. This was a theory of mine that unfortunately never proved to be true (but is still within the realm of possibility). However as Rey begins to see more of the universe, and discovers her innate Force abilities she comes to accept that she is part of a battle far older than she.
From her early days of scavenging and struggling to survive on Jakku, Rey learned how to be resourceful and quick. A skilled mechanic, she also learned the languages of droids in order to better trade with off-worlders. She saw firsthand how systems of power corrupt, and endured its abuses. She also learned to trust her instincts, long before she learned that the Force was behind them. The skills that Rey learned on Jakku carries her throughout the entire sequel trilogy.
Rey’s isolation on Jakku ends abruptly when she encounters first BB-8 and then Finn on Jakku. Running for their lives, they escape the planet on the Millenium Falcon. Rey pilots the ship with natural skill. This is a testament to her knowledge of starships gleaned from scavenging, as well as her innate Force abilities. She quickly meets up with Han Solo and Chewbacca, who want their ship back. She forms a bond with Han and Chewbacca, quickly overcoming her awe of their legendary status. And despite her reluctance to leave Jakku, she quickly becomes a valued member of the Resistance.
The Evolution of Rey’s Force Ability
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On a trip to see Maz Kanata is where Rey’s Force abilities begin to manifest. She discovers Luke’s old lightsaber hidden away in the castle, and it triggers a Force vision. We have seen many Force visions in Star Wars, but none that compare to the one Rey has in this film. This vision gives us clues to Rey’s true identity, as well as the challenges she will eventually face as a Jedi.
When captured by The First Order, Rey is tortured by Kylo Ren and her Force abilities emerge once more. She successfully repels Ren’s attempt to probe her mind, once again demonstrating her innate Force abilities that she is starting to become aware of. Ren recognizes her strength in the Force and argues for turning her. But Rey is not so easily tempted. She uses the Force to persuade a stormtrooper to release her from bondage. It is here that the bond between Rey and Ren is established, a psychic link that will affect both of them throughout the rest of the trilogy.
The climactic fight scene between Rey and Kylo Ren at the end of The Force Awakens shows Rey coming into full possession of her Force powers. The moment where she calls Luke’s lightsaber to her hand is an echo of Empire Strikes Back, when Luke does the same thing in the Wampa cave. This is the moment that Rey consciously uses the Force for the first time. It also sets her down the path to become a Jedi.
The Training of a New Jedi
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The Last Jedi finds Rey on the watery ocean planet of her dreams/visions trying to convince Luke to train her. She is persistent and stubborn, refusing to give up. We see here Rey’s loneliness and vulnerability, as she discovers her Force connection with Kylo Ren is growing stronger. She sees a kindred spirit in Ren. And she becomes convinced that she can turn him back to the light side of the Force. In classic Star Wars tradition, Rey seeks to redeem her greatest enemy. But her own darkness is becoming evident to her, as her anger and frustration often wreak havoc on the small village. Even Luke is afraid of her power, refusing to train her further once her strength in the Force becomes apparent.
Rey has another vision in The Last Jedi. She seeks to understand her identity, and the truth of her parentage. Instead she sees only her own reflection, stretching out endlessly behind her and before her. After an argument with Luke about the nature of the Jedi, and the truth behind what happened to Ben Solo, Rey leaves the planet. She takes the ancient Jedi texts with her. Although we never see her studying them it is likely that some of her future Force abilities were gleaned from these texts. The end of The Last Jedi finds Rey at full strength as she uses the Force to lift massive boulders in order to help Leia and the Resistance make their escape. Although her training is incomplete, Luke dubs her the last Jedi in his final moments.
The Reveal of Rey’s Heritage And Strength In The Force
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The final film of the Star Wars Skywalker saga brings Rey back to who she was at the beginning. Strong-willed and stubborn with a fiercely independent spirit. She cares for her friends, but is determined to carve her path alone. We see that she completed her Jedi training at the hands of Leia, who had trained with her brother years earlier, but turned away from becoming a full Jedi.
The third film of the trilogy also gives us Rey’s third vision. It is notable that Rey’s Force visions come to her quickly and strongly. They are usually triggered by a powerful artifact such as Luke’s lightsaber or the dagger that killed her parents. This is rare for Jedi, as canonically most Jedi only receive visions through meditation or under extreme duress.
In Rise of Skywalker, there are numerous rare Force abilities that manifest in Rey. She uses the Force to heal Ben after seemingly fatally injuring him. In return, he also heals her from death at the climax of the film. It is unclear if these powers are related to their powerful connection, or if they are just examples of how strong they both are in the Force.
Rise of Skywalker also finally gave fans the reveal that had been teased since The Force Awakens. It turns out that Rey’s parents were less important than the identity of her grandfather – Emperor Palpatine. Fan reaction to this plot twist was not very positive. But it does give an origin for her powerful Force abilities. We also discover that Rey and Ren are a rare dyad in the Force, as an explanation for their powerful psychic connections.
The Redemption of Ren and Rey
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In the end, Rey’s persistence pays off as she finally helps Kylo Ren find redemption and a path back to being Ben Solo. Her Force healing of him after their duel impacted him dramatically. Together they fight the resurrected Palpatine, and the remaining Knights of Ren. Rey sacrifices her own life to stop the Emperor, but is saved by Ben healing her and giving up his own life force to do so. This underscores another theme throughout the prequel trilogy, that of self-sacrifice for the greater good. In all of Star Wars, no one demonstrates this better than Rey.
Throughout the sequel trilogy, Rey constantly exhibited generosity, kindness, curiosity, and humor. Although naturally reserved and introspective, she was often the glue that held others together. Despite all of the cruelty inflicted upon her, and the senseless tragedy that she witnessed, Rey never gave up hope. It was this hope that caused Snoke to call her a ‘true Jedi’ and demand her destruction. And perhaps it is hope that makes a Jedi, keeps them from falling to darkness and despair. Hope for a better galaxy and a brighter future. Rey held onto hope that Kylo Ren could be redeemed, despite the fact that his own family had given up on him years earlier. It was that hope transformed into action that allowed him to be brought back into the light before his death.
The Future of the Force
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Kylo Ren also helped Rey to better understand her own innate darkness. There are many moments throughout the trilogy where we see Rey’s anger fueling her actions. But this doesn’t make her any less of a Jedi. There is something to be said for looking at the nuances of the Force, drawing from passions as well as peace in order to find strength. The binary black and white of light and dark, Jedi and Sith was clearly not serving the galaxy very well.
At the end of the film, Rey finally claims her own identity when she names herself Rey Skywalker. To claim this name is not only to honor Luke (and Leia) but also to acknowledge Anakin Skywalker and his notorious fall into darkness. To be a Skywalker is to be aware of both the light and the darkness and navigate a path through both. With her generosity of spirit, her hopeful nature, and her identity forged in fire, Rey is the best person to lead the Jedi and Star Wars into a new era.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.