1. Ignoring the prequels (as you have to in terms of looking at Star Wars as an exercise in storytelling), Owen is using every emotionally manipulative dirty trick in the book to keep Luke on the farm and away from becoming his own person. You’ve got a man who’s got a kid of the appropriate age, a healthy supply of slave labor, and a robust and competent partner (Beru), but he insists on keeping the kid under his thumb. This is a classic emotionally abusive setup, with the father figure manipulating an adult child to keep the child dependent and under the father’s control, because the father is unwilling to surrender the power that he has become used to.

      So, yeah, Owen’s an abusive uncle. Not a batterer or a molester, but certainly someone who is more interested in his own power than he is in the growth and autonomy of the young man for whom he is responsible (which, granted, is a very common dynamic, particularly in agricultural societies that are bordering urban civilizations).


      1. I wouldn’t label a scenario where an emissary from an order of god like warrior monks, a rogue member of their group very recently being responsible for killing thousands of souls in the span of a couple of days while the solar system and others in the galaxy are a midst a chaotic war that will shift the balance of power in the universe, dropping off the last vestige of those warrior monks for you to hide and keep safe within your meager family a “Classic Setup”. I don’t think Owen’s intent matches your description at all.

        1. From a story setup perspective (our character in a situation with a problem), what matters is how the POV character perceives the problem. It matters a lot more than what the problem really is. From Luke’s POV, his initial problem is that his uncle’s controlling behavior make it impossible for him to have a life. That problem sets everything else in motion.

          Owen is a classic early 20th century American archetype–he wants to keep the kid on the farm, and he’s doing whatever he can to pull that off. It’s a fight that got fought in households all across the continent from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th, at which point the notion of a family farm became largely an anachronism. This is one of the reasons the tale of Owen and Luke resonated so well with young adults in the late 70s.

          Digging a little deeper, the unselfish component of Owen’s intent (again, ignoring the prequels) is to keep his nephew out of trouble as long as he can–the scene between him and Beru make it very clear that Owen is very, very worried that as soon as Luke gets out on his own, he’s going to get into the kind of trouble that got his father killed. That makes Owen’s manipulative behavior understandable and forgivable for the audience, and it makes him a relate-able character.

          On your other point, the classic setup diagnosis does work from both ends.
          Ignoring the prequels and sequels (which you have to, since Lucas’s concept changed so much over the years he wrote and produced), you have a pedestrian (peasant or merchant class) POV character without prospects who answers a call to adventure in a distant land, in the process discovering that he has a more noble family history than he had hereto been led to believe (and is aided along the way by a mentor who dies, allowing the protoge to come into his own). That’s a setup that goes all the way back to the ancient world–Oedipus Rex, Perseus, and some versions of the Krishna story leap readily to mind.

          If you include the prequels and sequels in consideration, you introduce elements of the young prince hidden from the eyes of the enemy, the child (or in Luke’s case, grandchild) of a god, the compulsion of destiny to set the world to rights, the aid along the way by more powerful beings who are not allowed to get directly involved for one reason or another, the death and resurrection motif (the fall from Cloud City in Luke’s case, the volcano duel in Anakin’s case), the list goes on. Lucas himself is on record, repeatedly, discussing how he set out to conform his story to the Hero’s Journey, and Luke is very much an embodiment of the Mythic Hero Archetype (though the saga as a whole is much more an American Monomyth, but that’ll take us too far afield).

          You’re right insofar as that most classic stories don’t have galactic wars and genocides, but those are the features that make Star Wars Star Wars, and not some other story. In terms of understanding how a story gets going, and how it works, the parts about it that are universal are the ones worth calling out, because they’re a good common touchstone, and they can thus illustrate different points about storytelling in general (which is, after all, the only thing I’m after here).

          Thanks for the great conversation 🙂

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