Studying Skywalkers: Kanan’s Blindness

The cowboy Jedi's shocking injuries and how he deals with them serve a great thematic purpose.

Studying Skywalkers is an exclusive column that investigates the characters, themes, and lessons of Star Wars from an educational, literary perspective. In this installment, looks at Kanan Jarrus’ newfound blindness in the Star Wars Rebels Season Two finale.

Some time has passed since the premiere of the Star Wars Rebels Season Two finale, but the impact of the episode most definitely has not. While there are many plot points that are ripe for discussion and analysis, Kanan’s fate is of particular interest. After being sucker-sabered in the eyes, Kanan finds himself blinded by Maul, who had been posing as…something of an ally up to that point.

Star Wars Rebels - Kanan

Often in literature, blindness is physical in name only. For instance, the blind prophet, Tiresias, from The Odyssey is able to guide Odysseus home to Ithaca. Tiresias may not be able to see outwardly, but his ability to reflect on the right path for the Greek hero, and focus inward to find this truth, is a metaphor for true wisdom and illumination. It is this knowledge that is paramount to success for Odysseus. Kanan’s victory in the Season Two finale harkens back to this classic tradition.

Facing this former Sith without the ability to see would be fatal for just about anyone in the galaxy. Maul is hard enough to defeat without one’s full use of their faculties, and Kanan appears to be in serious jeopardy.

It’s ironic. Or is it? Kanan must now rely on his faith in the Force — and the wisdom he’s gained from it through training. He looks inward to defeat Maul, and is present in the moment, much like Tiresias. He newfound disability must become strength. To coin a phrase, he must let go of his conscious self, and act on instinct.

Two telling moments occur in rapid succession. First, Kanan kneels to center himself, a reflective pose that reveals he is meditative and centered. It’s not a posture a warrior would assume in battle. Second, he puts on the mask of an old Jedi Temple Guard, holds himself aloft, and waits. He doesn’t attack with a lightsaber. Instead, he evades Maul’s strikes, and easily hurls the Zabrak into a chasm.

This seemingly improbable victory is not altogether surprising when looking at the design of the Jedi Temple Guard mask, and what it tell us thematically. Essentially, it speaks to Kanan’s new state. It features two eye slits, but no mouth; this is emblematic of where Kanan needs to be from this moment on. The design of the eyes is narrow and focused, which is exactly the single-mindedness Kanan needs to absorb. He must be about concentration and focus. The symbolism here is fascinating. If he achieves a state matching what the mask represents, he’ll be as formidable a Jedi as he ever was. And as someone who has struggled with confidence and commitment to his Jedi identity, the trust he must now place in the Force is also meaningful.

Kanan will be different from this point forward and, as we get closer to the premiere of Season Three of Star Wars Rebels, it will be interesting to see how he deals with this situation. The physical long-term ramifications of this are yet to be revealed, but the spiritual aspect is the stuff of literary legend.

Dan Zehr is a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning, and runs Coffee With Kenobi (with co-host Cory Clubb), a Star Wars podcast that analyzes the saga through critical thinking, analysis, interviews, and discussion. He is also a member of the Rogues (as Blue Leader), a network of teachers that incorporate Star Wars in the Classroom.

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