Is there a deeper meaning in Vader's (artificial) right hand?

Consider this: Anakin Skywalker lost his right hand in duel against Dooku while he was still a Padawan. He got an artificial prosthetic hand, and because of his loss held deep hate for Dooku which led him to the path of Dark Side. Years later he killed his defenseless foe, choked his wife with that same hand, killed younglings etc .. After his duel against Kenobi on Mustafar, he was left only with that same artificial hand and his burning hate. Again, he used the Dark Side and the aforementioned prosthetic limb to keep himself alive.

In now non-canon Clone Wars (2003) series, Anakin is shown to be "bitten" by the Dark Side, which took his right hand but gave him a new more powerful one. With that new hand he smashed his foes, but eventually succumbed to darkness.

Finally, in their duel on Death Star 2, Luke sliced off Vader's right hand. Look at it horrified him, since he too lost the same limb and had to use a replacement. He then decided not to embrace darkness and threw away his lightsaber. But something also changed inside Vader. Without the hand, and seeing his son tortured by Palpatine, suddenly he was no longer Sith. In a final sacrificial act, using his left hand and stump of a right arm, he overthrew the Emperor.

My question is, could Vader's/Anakin's prosthetic right hand all along represent Dark Side and its influence on him ?

EDIT: This question is not a duplicate. I'm not interested in trivia like how many arms have been cut off. I'm interested in the symbolism of having a prosthetic right hand, especially concerning Anakin/Vader .

  • 3
    This seems very opinion-based. Erm yes? Probably? Lucas mentioned that when you play with lightsabers, you're likely to get limbs chopped off.
    – Valorum
    Oct 1, 2017 at 9:49
  • @Valorum Well if someone has some information from movies,novels or even interviews, it would be appreciated.
    – rs.29
    Oct 1, 2017 at 10:31
  • 1
    You may wish to note that his hand (pre-Vader suit) is not the same prosthetic hand that he's using in the prequel series, nor does he use said hand to choke Padmé.
    – Valorum
    Oct 1, 2017 at 10:34
  • @Valorum I'm not sure is it the same piece of metal (or whatever they were using) but this is of secondary concern. I'm more interested in "spiritual" significance of having prosthetic hand in SW universe, i.e. does it symbolize Dark Side.
    – rs.29
    Oct 1, 2017 at 16:25
  • 4
    I would say absolutely. Artifice in SW is a sign of evil. If we're going by the original trilogy, you need to look no further than Obi-wan's iconic quote: "He's more machine now, than man. Twisted and evil." The two statements go together. Being in part machine is part of the reason why Vader is evil: he's sacrificed his humanity. We see it again in the redemption: "Just for once, let me look on you with my own eyes". He wants to escape the technological prison he's made for himself. After all: a technological terror is nothing compared to the power of the Force.
    – Daniel B
    Oct 1, 2017 at 17:45

2 Answers 2


Since @rs.29 requested I turn my comment into an answer.

I would argue that there is absolutely a deeper meaning behind the mechanical hand, and technology in general. The original trilogy constantly sets up a contrast between 'life' and 'artifice', where life represents good, and artifice or technology represents evil. We see this in many places:

1) The Death Star. The Death Star is, as Vader rightfully calls it, a "technological terror". It is a planet-kiler. It destroys Alderaan (which in the script is described as the small green planet of Alderaan) and later threatens Yavin IV, another verdant setting, brimming with life (in the script: [The Millenium Falcon] soars over the dense jungle...). The Death Star is utterly devoid of 'life' beyond people. There are no plants, no flowerpots. In this way, we as viewers are meant to identify such a monolith of technology as being inherently opposed to life, and also, of course, evil.

2) Vader himself. The technology that augments and sustains Vader is meant to be evil. His mechanical breathing, his helmet ( script: ...his face is obscured by his flowing black robes and grotesque breath mask... ) are both marks of this. As Obi-wan says, "He's more machine now, than man, twisted and evil." Those aren't separate clauses: him being part-machine is part and parcel with his evil.

Vader continues to exemplify this in death. As he lies mortally wounded from his fight with Luke and his betrayal of the Emperor, he begs Luke to strip away that menacing breath mask, and let him see his son with 'his own eyes'.

3) Aesthetics in general. Compare the hard lines of the Star Destroyers with the Rebel transport ships that evacuated Hoth, or the Nebulon B frigates, or the Mon Cal cruisers, with their curved, organic lines. Compare how the Rebel troopers in the beginning of ANH look against the surgical whiteness of the Stormtroopers. Look at the way that the Ewoks are contrasted against the imperial invading presence on Endor. The struggle against the Empire is a struggle of life against technology.

A key part of Vader's arc is his loss of humanity and his return to it. Part of that comes from the technology that is grafted to his body. Whether his specifically mechanical right hand is significant to this is muddled by Lucas's changing vision in the prequels.

As an additional detail, compare Luke's mechanical hand at the end of ESB, as 'natural' looking as possible, with Vader's gloved fist in ESB, or even with Luke's own hand at the end of RoTJ, where he's the closest he gets to the Dark Side, and his bare, real hand is contrasted with his black-gloved mechanical hand. When he pulls his lightsaber to him, ready to strike down the Emperor, it comes to his mechanical right hand, ready to kill in anger.

After he cuts off Vader's hand, he looks at his own mechanical one in horror, glancing at the stump and back at his fist, before deactivating his saber and refusing to kill Vader. The parallels are pretty clear.

  • Good answer, thanks.
    – rs.29
    Oct 3, 2017 at 6:13

It has been theorized that the artificial hand's initial appearance and subsequent role has been complicated by Lucas changing his mind about things between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

It was established at the end of Return of the Jedi that Vader had an artificial hand. This served two narrative purposes at the time. First, it was a clear demonstration of Vader's partially mechanical nature. Obi-Wan (wrongly) claimed that this was part of what made Vader irredeemably evil. Second, it demonstrated a commonality between Luke and his father. Luke looks back and forth between his own mechanical hand and the wreck of Vader's, and the realization of how close Luke has come to following his father's path is what allows him to regain himself and toss his weapon aside, making him a full-fledged Jedi (and thus, as Yoda had predicted, capable of bringing about the emperor's downfall).

So Vader's mechanical right hand was a significant plot element, that it made sense to set up in the prequels. It appears likely that Lucas originally intended Anakin/Vader to have only lost his hand once, during the fighting on Geonosis. So the events of Attack of the Clones would have explained how Vader came to have an artificial hand. However (so the theory goes), Lucas changed his mind and decided to have the loss of Vader's hand(s) become part of the character's ultimate disfigurement that occurred in the next movie. So Vader lost another right hand, because Lucas changed his mind.

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