Just for fun, I thought I’d share this essay that I wrote several years ago for a school assignment. I thought about editing it and improving it a bit, but finally decided to share it as I originally wrote it. The assignment was to choose a character from a novel of our choice that is perceived as “evil” and write a literary analysis about why they aren’t evil. It was perfect because at the time I had just finished reading Allegiance and was about halfway through Choices of One, so naturally I chose to write about Mara Jade. Here is the essay:
Mara Jade: Emperor’s Hand
Most Star Wars fans consider the Empire to be evil. Emperor Palpatine is a Sith Lord, and keeps the galaxy in line with fear. Therefore most people draw the conclusion that Mara Jade, as the Emperor’s Hand, must also be evil. She does his bidding, going on secret missions to spy on, punish, or assassinate his enemies. She kills those guilty of treason against the Empire. But in Allegiance and Choices of One, both books by Timothy Zahn, it is revealed through some of her thoughts and actions that Mara is only doing what she thinks is right. We see that Mara Jade is not evil, but is idealistic and believes that she is helping the Empire bring order and justice to the galaxy.
One of Mara’s main jobs as Emperor’s Hand is to kill the Emperor’s enemies and anyone guilty of treason. But she only kills once she has gathered evidence that proves without a doubt that the person is guilty. Timothy Zahn emphasizes this by saying “She hadn’t proved Ferrouz’s guilt. Not yet. All she’d proved was that someone high up in the palace was cooperating with the Rebels…No, Mara couldn’t be absolutely sure Ferrous was the traitor until she’d gotten into the palace’s own records…She would pretend that Ferrouz was still loyal, and this was some serious misreading of the evidence on her part. Tomorrow, once she proved his treason beyond a glimmer of a doubt, she would do her job” (Choices of One, 153). Someone that is truly evil would not take the time to make sure of the person’s guilt. They would simply kill the person and sort it out later. Even after someone’s guilt has been proven, Mara isn’t happy or pleased about it. She feels regret. “With a sigh, Mara closed down the last of the files and shut down her borrowed computer. She’d hoped, she really had, that Ferrouz would prove innocent of the charges the Emperor had leveled against him. She’d wanted to believe that such a rising political figure had simply been duped, that the resources of the palace had been manipulated by someone else for their own advantage. But the records were clear” (Choices of One, 191). When she goes to do her job, she gives the person time to defend themselves, and seriously considers that they might still be innocent, or at least not completely guilty. “Treason was still treason…but if Ferrouz was really being coerced, it was worth holding off on his death sentence until she looked into it” (Choices of One, 197). In one case, Mara thought she was wrong about a person’s guilt, and did everything in her power to stop the sentence from being carried out. “But if Caaldra was telling the truth, then Choard could very well be a completely innocent man. An innocent man whom she’d just sent five stormtrooper deserters to kill. She clenched her teeth. She had to get out of here, and she had to get out now….If Brightwater had been right about the governor having guests, the ballroom might be a good place to start looking for him. She only hoped she could get to him before LaRone did” (Allegiance, 375, 379). Mara does not kill in anger or revenge. She believes that she is helping the galaxy “…she would do her job. And the Empire would be a better place for it” (Choices of One, 153). She also does not kill when it is not necessary, as shown by another character’s thoughts: “LaRone nodded. Jade was ruthless enough with the traitors she’d been sent to deal with, but he’d seen her go out of her way to keep the innocent and the loyal out of her line of fire” (Choices of One, 172). Mara’s job might be to assassinate enemies of the Empire, but she does not take her job lightly, and she doesn’t do it carelessly.
Mara shows a level of compassion to people that is highly unusual for agents of the Empire. One example of this is “‘If I don’t make it,’ he rasped, his eyes half closed as he gazed into her face, ‘bury me in space. You hear me?’ ‘You’re going to make it,’ Mara said, the lie coming automatically to her lips even as a surge of frustration ran through her. She’d been taught a dozen Force-techniques for self-healing, but nothing that could be used on others” (Allegiance, 278). She is sympathetic to a criminal that she only just recently met. Someone truly evil would not care when someone she barely knows dies, and she certainly would not feel guilty about or even think about the fact that she only knows how to heal herself, and not other people. Later in the book, Mara even takes the time to honor the criminal’s last request, even though she knows the Emperor would not approve. “An hour later she dropped the ship back out of hyperspace to carry out Tannis’s last request. The Emperor had little patience with memorials, Mara knew, with extra contempt for the practice of saying words over the fallen. Mara said a few words anyway, half remembered ones from her childhood, before consigning Tannis’s body to the emptiness of space” (Allegiance, 287-288). In another situation, Mara saved the life of someone she didn’t know, even though she really didn’t have the time to do it. “Mara grimaced. She had no idea who he was, or how it was LaRone knew him. But he’d been helpful, whether he’d really planned to be or not, and he’d played his own small part in saving the governor’s family. She couldn’t just stand here and let him die” (Choices of One, 404). If Mara was evil, she would not care if someone else died, no matter how helpful they’d been to her. Zahn also shows that Mara has values unlike other Imperials. At one point she thinks “besides, there was something to be said for a man who would deliberately put himself into deadly danger to help those he loved” (Choices of One, 335) Most Imperial agents would consider compassion and love for others a weakness, but Mara actually admires these traits.
Mara is idealistic. She was taken by the Emperor from her home as a child and raised to think that the Empire is the only way to bring stability to the galaxy, and that it does an excellent job doing so. She believes the Empire protects the innocent, even though most of the time the exact opposite is true. “‘Yes, and be assured that I’m going to look into that,’ Jade promised ominously. ‘Ordering the slaughter of civilians is against everything the Empire stands for. If it’s true, I promise you that someone’s going to suffer for it.’ LaRone looked sideways at Marcross. The other grimaced in silent agreement. For all her strength and competence, the Emperor’s Hand had an awfully naïve view of what the Empire actually stood for. But she would learn” (Allegiance, 395). Even though she didn’t see the problem with the Empire as a whole, and couldn’t see the Emperor’s evil, she did see flaws in other areas of the Empire. Zahn points this out by saying “Mara felt her stomach tighten. So this was the legacy of the ISB and men like Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin. Not the rule of law or justice, but of fear” (Choices of One, 247). Mara didn’t seek to intimidate or scare people. She only wanted justice to be dealt. And years (and many books) later, Mara realized her mistakes. After the Emperor died, she was able to see what the Empire had really been, and how wrong she had been to serve it. Many years after that, she became a Jedi Knight and served the light side of the Force. Someone truly evil would not be able to let go of their old ways or be willing to admit their mistakes.
Mara Jade is not evil—she believes that she is helping the galaxy and doing what is right. Someone who is evil wouldn’t feel regret over killing someone. They would kill in anger, and for no reason. But Mara only kills when she knows for sure that the person is guilty of treason, and even then she doesn’t enjoy it. She sees it as a sad but necessary act. Unlike most Imperials, Mara is sympathetic to people and actually tries to help people in need. The Emperor made sure that Mara was blind to the Empire’s true nature. She thought that she was serving the galaxy and doing good things. She was idealistic and thought the Empire brought justice to the galaxy. Years later, she realized that she was wrong. Mara Jade did a lot of bad things during her life, and made a lot of mistakes, but she was never evil.