Fictional Typing: Darth Vader & Anakin Skywalker
Is Darth Vader the greatest villain of all time? If we look at the pantheon of villainy, Darth Vader has an involuntary place of honor in most people’s rendition. But why is Darth Vader such an iconic villain? Looking beyond the story craft of his part in the Star Wars saga, his mysterious backstory, and the cinematic skill with how he is presented tactfully in the films — and not to mention the evocative music theme of The Imperial March — do they point to something more about Vader?
There are many reasons why a character becomes imbued in the Hall of Fame of villainy. Vader, a “pinnacle” of evil, is by no means one-dimensional. In the original films alone, Vader is both complex and conflicted — a theme only deepened in the prequels. We feel the hints of this complexity starting in A New Hope where we witness an element of sophistication in him. Vader is no mindless brute — though he enjoys causing pain and fright to those who “fail” him — but possesses a strong intellect, an ironic wit, and a taste for sweet revenge. All of which are fully on display as he destroys his old master, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Vader’s inner conflict is only hinted at in A New Hope, but is explored more deeply in Empire and Jedi. We aim to reveal and extract the conflict that ultimately turned him to the Dark Side. and the grace that permitted his redemption. We will find it all first through unlocking his psychology.
The Challenge of Typing Darth Vader
Is Vader an ESTP? Is Anakin an ESTP? Is Anakin an ESTP and Vader an ISTJ? Are they both an INTJ or perhaps ENTJ? While they are the same character, the places we find Anakin in the story often feel distinct from Vader. We only see Vader in the flesh Anakin for a brief period in Revenge of the Sith, before he is de-limbed by Obi-Wan.
The apparent difference in Anakin and Vader’s behavior can be explained by time and pressure. The nearly twenty-year gap between Episodes III and IV gives us the opportunity to be more flexible with Vader’s psychology. Twenty years into his new role as a leader in the Empire, in addition to living with the constant physical pain and imprinted misery, gives the information to determine where his cognitive preference resides — and specifically his cognitive focus.
But Anakin and Vader are the same type. And this reality should give us pause and we realize just how malleable the human mind is — especially under the weight of a story like Anakin’s. But the seeds of darkness are always present in Anakin, even when he’s about 10 years old in The Phantom Menace. And these seeds, carefully nurtured by Emperor Palpatine, grow young Anakin from an innocent boy into one of the most feared, powerful, and brutal beings in the entire galaxy.
We’re going to track Anakin’s story as he transforms to Vader, and how it correlates to his type, once we discover what that is.
Sorry, internet. Better luck next time.
Anakin/Vader is NOT an:
These are the five most common types attached to Vader’s and Anakin’s type. In fact, it was held as a belief in the CSJ community for a while that Anakin was a shadow-focused ESTP. But upon further investigation, and Chase’s own reflection, we realized this was not the case.
I won’t waste time showing why Darth Vader is not one of these four types. Instead I will show you what he is.
Anakin at a glance
In Episode I we are introduced to young Anakin, a boy of nine or ten years old. We learn that Anakin was conceived under mysterious circumstances. When Qui Gon asks his mother who the father was, she simply responds, “There was no father … I can’t explain what happened.”
Though an event worthy of exploration in itself, Anakin’s messianic-like conception leaves more questions than answers. But it does reveal why he has such a strong force sensitivity within him. Anakin is canonized as one of the most naturally gifted force-wielders to ever walk the Star Wars plains. He is supremely talented, resourceful, combat-effective, and powerful. These characteristics are often used in defense of Anakin being an Extraverted Sensing (Se) user.
Chase has long attributed natural talent as being more common amongst Se users, who more easily adopt a skill in the moment. And Anakin displays a depth of talent and a characteristic trait of simply “having it” when it comes to the force. And the pod racing … Anakin was the only human capable of competing at the lethal speeds of the pod races. That reaction time must be irrefutable evidence that Anakin is an Se user, right? Right?!
From the outside in, Anakin looks like an Extraverted Sensor. He looks like he’s reacting in an instant during the pod races or later in his lightsaber duels. He even looks like an Extraverted Sensor with all of his mechanical abilities in repairing engines and even building a droid. And, while Anakin was supremely talented, the realm of “talent” is not exclusive to Se users.
The most important quote to dispel the myth that Anakin is an Se user comes again in The Phantom Menace. Qui Gon, captivated by Anakin’s natural ability and force sensitivity, carefully explains why Anakin is capable of podracing. Qui Gon speaks to Anakin’s mother.
“He can see things before they happen. That’s why he appears to have such quick reflexes. It’s a Jedi trait.”
It’s not just a “Jedi” trait, though, is it? It’s also a trait of Extraverted Intuition.
He “appears to have such quick reflexes” — appears to be an Se user — because he sees what’s to come. Anakin is not reacting in the moment but perceiving the course of events and consequences ahead of time. Despite some bursts of impulsivity — ”No, I’m taking him now,” as he charges into Dooku in Episode II — Anakin is oriented toward the consequences of said actions.
And though Anakin is naturally talented, he is raw. As Anakin quips openly to Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones, “I am a slow learner.”
As we discussed at the end of the Obi-Wan article, Obi-Wan consistently tries to impart knowledge and skills on Anakin. But Anakin doesn’t learn that way. In this light, he’s a “slow learner” because, in terms of experiential knowledge, he learns primarily through his mistakes, not others. Sound familiar?
And his mechanical aptitude? Take note that Anakin’s proclivity to fix things — ”I’m good at fixing things.” — is overshadowed by his capabilities as an engineer. In fact, not just an engineer, but an inventor. Would an ESTP go out of their way to produce an original schematic and complex droid (which became C3PO), just for the heck of it?
Anakin is an Introverted Sensing (Si) and Extraverted Intuition (Ne) user.
Narrowing Down Anakin’s Type
Next, we must determine if Anakin is an Ti/Fe user or an Fi/Te user.
With Qui Gon and others stranded on Tatooine in The Phantom Menace, Anakin offers his help consistently to provide safety and resources to Qui Gon and his party. With a sandstorm making travel impossible, Anakin offers up his place to stay.
“You’ll never reach the outskirts in time. Sandstorms are very dangerous. Come on, I’ll take you to my place.”
This quote reveals Extraverted Intuition — seeing that the sandstorm will be upon Qui Gon before they reach his ship — and a preference for Informative communication. Anakin gave additional information — “Sandstorms are very dangerous.” — and he never directly told them to come to his house. The generosity of providing his house is something both Fi and Fe users could easily do, so we can’t commit to one just yet.
Later, however, as Anakin discovers that Watto will not accept Qui Gon’s credits for a part of a ship they need, Anakin offers his services. He tells Qui Gon he will enter the podrace and that if he wins, Qui Gon can keep all the credits to buy the part for the ship.
“The prize money would more than pay for the parts they need.”
Anakin’s selflessness reveals a preference for Extraverted Feeling. Anakin was immediately willing to put his safety on the line so that Qui Gon could get the part he wanted. Anakin asked for nothing in return and gave without any expectation for reward — not even wanting a cent of the prize money.
And when Qui Gon takes Anakin to be trained as a Jedi, Anakin makes a promise to his mother. “I will come back and free you, mom. I promise.” Anakin takes it as his Si duty and Fe compassion to come back for his mother, and rescue her.
Anakin is an Introverted Thinking (Ti) and Extraverted Feeling (Fe) user.
Knowing that Anakin is an Si/Ne + Ti/Fe user, we automatically know he’s one of the Crusader types — ENTP, INTP, ESFJ, or ISFJ. Let’s look again, as we did with Kenobi, at the Temples to find Anakin’s true type.
Anakin Can’t Live Without …
The hint of Anakin’s deal-breaker need starts in Episode I.
“Are you an angel?” are his first words to his future love and the love whose death will haunt him all his days. Even as a little boy, Anakin’s infatuation with Padme sparks at first sight.
At the beginning of Episode II, Anakin hasn’t seen Padme in a decade, and he sweats at the thought of seeing her again. Also in Episode II, Anakin continues to push the Jedi’s boundaries when it comes to love. In a telling conversation over a meal, Padme insinuates that Jedi are not supposed to love.
“Are you allowed to love? I thought that was forbidden for a Jedi.” Padme is flirting and testing his resolve simultaneously here.
Anakin notices and responds, “Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love… is central to a Jedi’s life. So, you might say that we are encouraged to love.”
We see here the seeds of Anakin’s ability to comfortably push through traditional rules and bend the narrative of what is expected of him to what he actually wants. Over the rest of Attack of the Clones, Anakin’s passion for Padme moves closer to intimacy. Their forbidden love culminates with matrimony over the Naboo shoreline.
Anakin, more than willing to keep his love a secret, shows us what is most essential to him.
Later, in Revenge of the Sith, the ever-conniving Palpatine knows exactly where to leverage Anakin’s anxiety. Anakin is “seduced” to the Dark Side not through power, status, or material gain, but by the promise of Padme’s safety. Anakin is haunted by the brutal death of his mother, and he receives visions of Padme meeting a similar fate. His awareness of his own past and its influence on the future is further confirmation that he is an Si user.
Palpatine subtly pushes the needle of Anakin’s anxiety further into his mind. Anakin’s willingness — despite being at first reluctant — to engage in the dark side is entirely built around his love for Padme. Anakin’s motivation is what allows Palpatine to warp him so easily. This “warping” consumes him, and his power in the Dark Side is made evident when he murders innocent children and unarmed politicians in service of his new master. But the path to his own personal hell was paved with his love for his lover.
The entire collapse of the Galactic Republic is leveraged on Palpatine’s careful manipulation of what Anakin cannot live without: passion. Many of the other Jedi can live comfortably within the light side because they do not need passion. This is something Obi-Wan, a staunch member of the Mind Temple, can never quite identity with in Anakin. Obi-Wan is satisfied with following the “sensible” way of doing things. This bias is one of the reasons Obi-Wan is blindsided by Anakin’s betrayal.
Though the Jedi can live without passion, Anakin must have it. And to those who have been following the content in Seasons 7 & 18, you will know that the need for passion means that Anakin Skywalker belongs to the Heart Temple (ENTP, ISFJ, ESFP, INTJ). The manipulation of that passion pushed Anakin to Dark Side and imbued him with the fire to become Darth Vader.
Consider the Sith Code:
Peace is a lie. There is only Passion.
Through Passion, I gain Strength.
Through Strength, I gain Power.
Through Power, I gain Victory.
Through Victory my chains are Broken.
The Force shall free me.
There is only passion and Darth Vader belongs to the Heart Temple.
Anakin’s Deadly Sins
While Padme is the main fulcrum Palpatine uses to turn Anakin, Palpatine utilized other deep drives in Anakin to turn him. In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine seduces Anakin into executing Count Dooku. He steers straight into Anakin’s Crusader-like desire for justice and revenge. Anakin desires to even the playing field.
“It is only natural. He [Dooku] cut off your arm, and you wanted revenge. It wasn’t the first time, Anakin. Remember what you told me about your mother and the Sand People?” Palpatine enables Anakin’s darker side.
Anakin’s Se Demon is evident for the first time in Episode II when he exacts vengeance from the Sand People, slaughtering an entire village in blind fury over the death of his mother.
But Palpatine not only accepts these darker aspects of Anakin, he welcomes them. And this is one of the subtle ways that Palpatine buys Anakin’s loyalty. Palpatine tests that loyalty occasionally, seeing just how far he can go. With an unconscious Obi-Wan passed out on a separatist ship, Palpatine urges Anakin: “Leave him or we’ll never make it.”
Anakin, still strongly loyal to his master, responds: “His fate will be the same as ours.”
Do you not think part of Palpatine was endeared by this? Imagine Palpatine envisioning his own Se Inferior producing unshakable loyalty once Anakin could be turned to the Dark Side. Palpatine invested in Anakin more than any other prospect, in part, because of their natural compatibility.
Palpatine runs a monopoly on managing Anakin’s darker impulses, and passions, as well as steering into the Deadly Sins of the Heart Temple: Envy & Vainglory.
As Anakin Says in Revenge of the Sith, “I’m not the Jedi I should be. I want more. And I know I shouldn’t.” There is a vein of Envy that festers in Anakin’s soul, which Palpatine indulges consistently. Part of Anakin always knew he was destined to be great, and the Jedi’s constant resistance to developing his potential left Anakin with no one but Palpatine to fulfill his envious longings.
Palpatine constantly tells Anakin how unfair it is that the Jedi don’t give him more opportunities or a higher rank — while also telling Anakin how great and capable he is. Whether Anakin knew it or not, his Deadly Sins were being wildly enabled and employed by Palpatine to produce greater loyalty to him.
And not to mention, Vader insisting on being called “Lord Vader” … it’s a bit vainglorious, isn’t it? Vader’s Deadly Sins of Envy and Vainglory serve as further as evidence that he belongs to the Heart Temple and that either an ENTP or an ISFJ.
NT Crusader Incoming
To drive home the point that Anakin is not affiliative (which there are mountains of evidence for) and belongs to the NT Temperament, observe the following conversation he has with Padme, in Attack of the Clones. As Padme and Anakin talk about how to create a functional political system, Anakin shares his perspective.
“How would you have it work?” Padme asks.
“We need a system where the politicians sit down and discuss the problem, agree what’s in the best interest of all the people, and then do it,” Anakin says.
“That’s exactly what we do. The trouble is that people don’t always agree.”
“Well, then they should be made to.”
“By whom? Who’s going to make them?”
“I don’t know. Someone.”
“Of course not me.”
“Sounds an awful lot like a dictatorship to me.”
“Well … if it works,” Anakin remarks, with a smug expression.
“Well, if it works,” is the epitome of the Pragmatic perspective. Pragmatism is evident in Anakin’s every move. In this conversation we also see strong evidence for Anakin being Systematic and Abstract. Anakin belongs to the NT Temperament and Anakin Skywalker is an ENTP.
The Suffering of Darth Vader
One of the central themes in the Star Wars saga is Anakin and Vader’s suffering. Vader becomes malevolent and conniving. Placing ourselves in his shoes — or boots — can we expect that Vader’s pain subsided after his technological enhancements? It’s canon that that is not so. Surviving Obi-Wan’s marring of his body was just the beginning of Vader’s suffering.
In Chapter 3 of the new Kenobi show, Vader holds Obi-Wan in a force choke as he sparks a fire on the ground. He throws Obi-Wan into the fire says, “Now you will suffer, Obi-Wan … your pain has just begun.”
Vader’s ESFP Superego is ever-present in order for him to cope with the intense suffering — the constant pain of his body as well as the weight of his guilt — brought about by his Si Inferior. ESFP Superego is why Vader has a reputation for “Toying” with his opponents. Vader toys with opponents simply because he can. It brings him satisfaction to know just how much pain, fear, and panic he is causing in his opponent. And Vader’s malevolence only pays further dividends to bolster his reputation as a brutal, unforgiving Dark Lord of the Sith.
And doesn’t Vainglory love a “good” reputation?
Vader’s unpredictability and quickness in punishing others makes him intensely feared by those around him. And for those who do not fear him, he will make it so. In this respect he is also Joker-esque.
Observe Vader’s “conversation” with Admiral Motti in A New Hope:
“Any attack made by the Rebels against this station would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they have obtained. This station is now the ultimate power in the universe! I suggest we use it!”
“Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet, or even a whole system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”
“Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Rebels’ hidden fort…”
Vader reaches out his hand and begins to choke Motti. After a moment, he says —
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
What screams “Se Demon” more than force choking someone for their lack of faith? “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” is Se Demon and ESFP Superego incarnate. Vader makes others suffer because he has suffered. His torture — physical and mental — of others provides him with the pleasure that he needs to cope with the burdens of his past. And his despair mixed with dialogue that is often direct points to a strong presence of his INTJ shadow.
Darth Vader is a Shadow Focused ENTP.
Vader’s Path to Redemption
“If you think about it, Vader has nothing to live for. He’s fine waiting a long time and toying with Kenobi. To just kill Kenobi would in effect make Vader even more depressed, perhaps suicidal. His vengeance is to create shared suffering, it’s the only reason he just doesn’t kill himself. Vader’s purpose post Jedi purge was to hunt them down and exact vengeance. And perhaps find a way to bring Padme back to life. But he has resolved to give up on the second one, which we learn in the Vader VR game. Therefore, exacting Vengeance against Kenobi and Yoda is what he lives for, until his children.” — CS Joseph
Many types deal with despair, perhaps none more than the ENTP. Vader’s lifestyle of revenge supplies him with enough sense of purpose to continue living. Just as the Joker viewed his purpose as burning down what he viewed as a fundamentally corrupted society, Vader’s purpose is found in vengeance and extracting pain in those around him. But it’s because of this hopelessness that gave him the possible path to redemption.
It is the knowledge of his children that awakened a long-dead spark that he thought had been extinguished. Up until the very end, when he saves Luke and chooses the loyalty and purpose of his children over the loyalty to his master, Vader believes, “It is too late me for, son.”
But in all of Vader’s interactions with Luke, the viewer witnesses an absence of harshness. When Vader felt the presence of his son — and eventually daughter — do you not think that some of his despair was alleviated? Do you not think that the spark of a new purpose burned within him, however briefly?
In the end, it was Luke’s desire for his father, and the conviction that there was still good in him, that opened the path for Vader to break free from the chains bound to his very soul. And Luke, a likely member of the Soul Temple, was best suited to see the little piece of Anakin Skywalker that was still there, even if Vader himself could not. And in his last moments, when Luke says, “I’ll not leave you here. I’ve got to save you,” and Anakin responds, “You already have, Luke. You were right. You were right about me,” we know, that for the first time in a long time, Anakin has found himself again.