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At approximately 1:23:55 in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda is trying to convince Luke to stay and continue his training, and then implores Luke to

Remember your failure at the cave!

The exact script quote is here. Which failure is he referring to?

From my understanding, Luke killed a "fake" Vader in the cave, and then sees his own face behind Vader's helmet. The fact that he missed that this Vader was not the real one could be interpreted as a failure for a Jedi as he did not stay calm enough to detect the real danger. Is this correct?

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    His failure was to attack Vader first, aggressively striking him down. Seeing his own face under the helmet was a reflection of this, marking his eventual destiny should he succumb to the Dark Side. – Omegacron Dec 24 '16 at 21:38
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Before Luke went into the cave, Yoda told him not to take any weapons into the cave. He wanted to teach Luke not to trust in his weapons. However, Luke feared what might be in the cave and he took the weapons anyways. The "fake" Vader was a representation of what would happen if Luke continued on the path of fear and distrust (i.e., the dark side).

  • Now that you remind me of this comment from Yoda, it seems so obvious. Thanks a lot :). – Jean-François Savard Apr 11 '15 at 3:34
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    “He wanted to teach Luke not to trust in his weapons.” Minor nit pick, but I don’t think it was an issue of trust his weapons as much as not rely so much on them and hide behind them. Luke’s desire to bring the weapons along were a reflection of his fear of the unknown. The cave was simply a mirror realm that would reflect what he brought with him. By bringing his weapons along he was bringing fear… And fear is what leads one to the dark side. – JakeGould Apr 11 '15 at 4:11
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    Is this a side reason for why Luke didn't kill real Vader when he could? – neverendingqs Apr 12 '15 at 2:32
  • You mean in Episode VI? I think it was the completion of a journey for Luke, but I don't think it was the primary reason. Vader being his dad was probably a bigger reason. – Ryan K Apr 12 '15 at 2:34
  • Yep and the fact that Luke never really wanted to kill Vader, he wanted to bring him back from the dark side. At many time Luke say that he feel the good in Vader. – Jean-François Savard Apr 12 '15 at 2:44
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In brief, by ignoring Yoda's admonitions and going in armed and fearful, Luke had failed to demonstrate the emotional mastery that was needed to inoculate against the temptations of the Dark Side.

Luke had already demonstrated throughout much of his life high tension, anxiety and impatience. These qualities were alive and well when he first encountered Yoda in the flesh, and Yoda well understood that Luke would have to learn to control his emotions, to discipline his impulses and to face his fears with a cool head. Failure to do so would mean as sure a danger of falling into the Dark Side as exists.

Yoda made it clear that the cave contained only what Luke "took with him" and that he would not need his weapons. Luke refused to take a coolheaded approach to his fears, refused to listen to Yoda: convinced that mortal peril awaited him in the cave, he took his weapons.

The only mortal danger to Luke was himself - his own lack of self-control and his inability to temper his negative emotions - as his face beneath the Vader mask proved, insinuating that with this baggage he was in line to become an agent of evil, and lose his life.

You'll notice also that just before entering the cave, Luke was admonished that a Jedi should use his powers for defense only, never to attack. Yet in his brush with Cave Vader, who drew the lightsaber first? Luke.

This led to Yoda not fully trusting Luke: he was unprepared emotionally to deal with the physical and psychological nightmare of a confrontation with such a powerful enemy. Luke once again refused the advice and plunged in, convinced his gut instinct was right. So what happened? Luke was able to contribute precisely nothing to the initial rescue of his friends and indeed may have put them in further danger by giving them another rescue task before they left. He once again drew his lightsaber first against Vader, and despite his skillfulness in combat he could not stay focused enough to avoid suffering a traumatic injury. Indeed the only positive aspect of Luke's botched intervention was that it taught him once and for all just how much peril he was in because of his impulsiveness and served as catalyst the much-needed process of calming him down.

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Luke failed because he destroyed himself out of hatred. As evidenced by his refusal to leave his weapons behind, he was afraid. Fear is a major theme in Star Wars, as you undoubtedly know. "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred...." It is quite ironic that a person who kept an enemies list and was known for hating so many people, said it best when his inability to control his anger destroyed him. Per the 37th President of the U.S: "Always remember others may hate you but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself." MTFBWY

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