Han Solo and Pathos in the Star Wars Films

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Photo Credit: Lucasfilm

Pathos and how Han Solo emerges from it:

They’re not gonna get me without a fight!

–Han Solo

In order to discuss the concept of pathos and how it relates to Han as a character, we will, of course, be required to define it. Luckily we have the dictionary (yes, those still exist) to lend aid in that objective. Merriam-Webster defines Pathos thusly:

A) an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion.

B) an emotion of sympathetic pity.

We first encounter a young Solo on the harsh metropolis of Corellia working for a seedy and exploitative crime syndicate known as the White Worms. While it is mentioned later in the film that Han has a father, and has some recollection of him, we do not know if his father passed away leaving Han orphaned, or if the situation with his father was bad enough to warrant Han’s escape and eventual estrangement. In either eventuality, we know that Han is essentially without family.

It’s no secret that Kasdan’s father and son referenced Charles Dickens liberally when crafting the milieu from which Han springs. Dickens, of course, is noted for crafting stories that deal in the grotesque injustices visited upon orphans and urchins struggling to survive in an indifferent world. A ripe source from which to base a childhood in the Star Wars universe.

Han, alone save for his first love Qi’ra, is relying on all the pluck and skill he can muster to keep himself and his lover alive. Despite what are clearly overwhelming odds, his faith in their attachment is what keeps him going. That Han is able to maintain the childlike innocence and belief in first love amidst the dregs of society is endearing, puckish, and hopelessly naive. That his first love is doomed and his naiveté costly is a forgone conclusion.

It is this initial juxtaposition of innocent love under dire circumstances that show how Han as a character was cut from the cloth of pathos. We experience the weight of the society crushing down on him, and we feel an emotion of sympathetic pity towards his plight. That feeling is Pathos.