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You know, in the bit where he's in the cave on Dagobah.

I can't find the movie on my HDD at the moment, but I'm sure it's there!

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    This was answered on Movies & TV. Jan 24, 2012 at 12:16
  • @LoïcWolff - I flagged it as a dupe of that one - good catch! Jan 24, 2012 at 12:34
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    Per meta this doesn't qualify as a cross posted duplicate. There's no reason to assume it was intentional, and it's fully on topic in both sites. Jun 27, 2012 at 4:08
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    It means the real battle... *points to chest*... is in here. Nov 4, 2013 at 15:24

6 Answers 6

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From the novel:

He wondered if he were really fighting himself, or if he had fallen prey to the temptations of the dark side of the Force. He might himself become a figure as evil as Darth Vader. And he wondered if there might be some even darker meaning behind the unsettling vision.

Essentially, it's the Force showing Luke a possible future, in which he has fallen to the dark side and become like Vader. My suspicion is that Luke brings it on himself by taking his lightsaber with him

"Your weapon," Yoda reproved, "you won't need it"

which means you could speculate over what would have happened had he not gone in armed.

In Heir To The Empire he returns to the tree, and it shows him a possible past instead of future, in which Mara Jade was at the Pit of Carkoon and prevented Luke from retrieving his lightsaber from R2-D2.

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    He should have said "Your weapon, need it you will not"
    – The Fallen
    Jun 22, 2012 at 16:27
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It is also important to note that when Luke asked: "What is in there?" Yoda replied: "Only what you take with you."

As Yoda would later (earlier?) note in one of the prequels: "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." Luke went into the tree-cave carrying his lightsaber, which symbolically represented his fear. So he was confronted by Vader, who also embodied his fear. He lashed out in anger against the fear, which was another step on the path to the Dark Side.

So Luke's face in Vader's helmet symbolizes his succumbing to fear, and from there, to the Dark Side.

Meta-textually speaking, it is also foreshadowing the Vader/Luke father/son connection revealed later in the film.

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    "It is also important to note that when Luke asked: "What is in there?" Yoda replied: "Only what you take with you." Maybe Luke brought his Darth Vader action figure into the cave with him.
    – RobertF
    Nov 6, 2013 at 20:56
  • Didn't he say the "Fear leads to anger" quote in the original trilogy as well? Or at least a variant of it?
    – RSmith
    Sep 17, 2015 at 14:07
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It can be summarized in three points:

  • Hatred leads to self-destruction.

  • "I am your father."

  • Luke feels Vader still human.

First: Strong dark force in the misty cave, Luke enters alone. When he suddenly meets his arch-enemy, he feels like he is strong enough to defeat him. The hatred gives him power, the hatred felt over the loss of his family, 'master' and friends, and over his pitiful life spent in the shadow of the Empire. Luke now feeling stronger overpowers Vader. The narcisstic sensation of his own magnificence in battle grows in him with the hatred, he is enjoying punishing a weaker creature (his enemy) why escpaing responsibility in the name of Good. At the end he shows no mercy and kills of "the beast", only to find his own face beneath the alienating mask.

By the time he defeated his enemy he was no better than him. Tricked to think it's real, he did the wrong choices, he felt himself authorized to make the same bad choices that led his enemy to become whom he is. All in the name of destroying him for good. Luke was on the path of any other Sith and basically betrayed himself, his friends, his values and his ideals. Luke became the very enemy he seeked to destroy.

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."
Friedrich Nietzsche, "Beyond Good and Evil", 1886.

Thus the long face!

The second point's meaning is one more personal to him. The shadowy cave is a place that makes your inner senses very sensitive. He is linked to Vader and subconsciously he feels that by the Force (in a similar way how she guessed about his sister later). He was far from accepting or even realizing the connection, but he already started to feel it. By looking for revenge on his enemy, he is actually seeking another family tragedy. The Force then gave him a warning. The face resembles his own, the Force is trying to hint the relation to him.

A third important thing (should be combined with the above)
was to realize that even Vader is still a human and so he has feelings.

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    Without explanatory text, I do not find this a useful answer. Jun 27, 2012 at 12:06
  • okay, let me see...
    – n611x007
    Jun 27, 2012 at 15:47
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    Are you kidding? This is one of the best answers! Makes it very clear how Episode V is the best episode: one scene has all that baggage in it, and it challenges people to understand it instead of spitting action after action.
    – Apollo
    Dec 13, 2016 at 23:53
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He tries to kill Vader in that cave (he manages to chop off his head, so I'd say he succeeded). To me, his face in the helmet is a warning to him, saying: Watch out, if you continue on the path that is indicated by your very last action (chopping Vader's head off) you will become the very same you are fighting.

The thing about Jedi is, that they should not act on hate. But reading Luke's expression right (before striking Vader), his action in the cave was not at all governed by pure self defence.

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It's really more simple then the responses above: This was simply a test by Yoda to see how far or how much Luke has learned. Yoda stated that a Jedi will/does not attack. Luke failed the test by activating his saber prior to Vader; then engaging and killing Vader.

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  • I don't think this is right at all. do you have any sources for this?
    – The Fallen
    Nov 4, 2013 at 14:32
-1

Well, this is a great question! Luke sensed something was up and asked Yoda about it. Luke was drawn away from Yoda, towards the cave. Yoda seemed to have an idea already what was going on. Yoda told Luke that he would not need his weapon. You see, Yoda already knows what is going on. Luke, like always, acts off whatever he thinks is right and takes his weapons with him. Luke goes into the cave. What is happening here is that Luke is FACING HIS FEAR. That is the test. This is the same test that can be found in "The Never Ending Story". When Atrau faces the mirror. Bastian (The kid reading the book) merges with Atrau. Here, in the cave, Luke cannot face his fear and draws his weapon and cuts off Vadar's head, only to see himself underneath it. Here is another merging between characters. If you were Luke, how would you interpret what you just saw? You see something that makes you afraid (Vadar) and you go and kill it! That is not the way of the jedi...........he is "Tip-Toeing" towards the path of the sith. And in so doing, he see's that he is no better than Vadar. In fact, that is what Vadar would do. So, his head inside the mask is a representation that he is very close to wearing "The Skin Of Evil"! Don't forget, Luke leaves dagobah and Obi-one comes out to talk with Yoda. They were definitely training Luke to kill Vadar, but, not to become a sith. So.....................

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    You may want to edit this down a little. At the moment it's a wall of text with some relevant points and a lot of filler.
    – Valorum
    Sep 18, 2014 at 19:19

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