By Christian Corah
Almost everyone familiar with Star Wars knows that compassion is a central theme for the Jedi.
Compassion is essentially feeling sympathy for those who are less fortunate than you and the motivation to help them out. Because attachment is also frowned upon for Jedi, this means that they must be compassionate for everyone they meet, even though there is no pre-existing attachment to them.
No easy task, but this is the purpose of the Jedi. They put everyone’s needs before their own in an attempt to make the galaxy a better place — even if it means they must sacrifice something to do so. Because many Jedi are taken at such a young age, they can be taught, or nurtured, to be compassionate.
However, Rey did not need to be taught compassion. Even though she probably struggled to even take care of herself at times — because she was left to fend for herself on Jakku at a very young age — she is still able to look at those who have less than her and feel compassion for them. It is a part of her very nature and personality.
This is not the case with most characters in Star Wars, and it is something that makes Rey truly special. We see this first through her meeting of our beloved droid BB-8.
Rey had never met BB-8 before, but as soon as she heard his distressed beeps, she grabbed her staff and hurried to rescue him. There was absolutely no hesitation. While Teedo just wanted BB-8 for parts- which could seem logical for a scavenger like Rey-, Rey saw BB-8 as something else.
Not all characters in Star Wars see droids as equals (for example, Anakin did and Obi-Wan seemed to not), but Rey seems like one of the exceptions. After freeing him and reluctantly letting him follow her, Rey had an opportunity to sell BB-8 for 60 portions- literally for food that she was desperately working for.
Those around her certainly expected her to take this deal, especially because she just got a lousy offer for the parts that she was trading. She had no logical reason not to take the deal, except for her own compassion for BB-8. She knew what it felt like to be sold to Unkar Plutt, and she didn’t want that same fate for BB-8.
Most scavengers would have taken that offer, but Rey is something more than most scavengers. By turning down that offer to sell BB-8 and accepting the meager half portion for her parts, Rey showed that she had the makings of a true Jedi. And this was before she even had any Jedi training!
While her experience with BB-8 was special, it wasn’t as powerful as her compassion for the snake in The Rise of Skywalker. BB-8 certainly deserved to be rescued by Rey and didn’t deserve to be sold to Unkar Plutt. He was completely innocent and Rey didn’t put herself at any risk to save him. But to the eyes of Rey and her crew, this snake was fairly dangerous. It posed a real threat to their mission- a mission that held the galaxy at stake. So no one would have argued if Rey decided to attack and kill it. Poe was certainly encouraging it. It seemed like too much of a risk to try anything else. But Rey had a different mindset. Instead of feeling fear and hatred toward the snake, she felt its pain.
By Force-healing the snake’s wound, it retreated and allowed a path for them to get out. Compassion may be the path less followed for most in this situation, but it was the right choice to make.
These examples with BB-8 and the snake display Rey’s compassion well and they set up her most significant compassionate act well — with Ben.
While the snake may have actually been innocent like BB-8, Ben, on the other hand, has to be held responsible for his actions. Even though much of his behavior stems from his traumatic childhood, we can’t ignore his actions as Kylo Ren. Most aren’t able to look past his mask to see that there is goodness left in him. Only his parents are left thinking this way. So he wasn’t innocent and deserving of a second chance in the eyes of the galaxy.
But Rey’s compassion for him allowed her to look past his evil deeds and see the good person that was still present within him. Rey kept this mindset even after Ben killed Han Solo: a new presence in Rey’s life that she viewed as a father figure.
Most would have hated Ben for this, and a significant part of Rey did, but it didn’t completely drown out her compassion.
When it came time to have a final showdown with him, Rey had an opportunity to kill him once and for all. And the part of her that hated him made that decision momentarily — when she stabbed him — but she felt regret almost immediately.
Never before has a lightsaber duel ended with one of the fighters healing the other. Since much is at stake over who wins the duel, lightsaber battles are supposed to be to the death. So what she did next was unheralded. Like with the snake, Rey Force healed Ben- preventing him from dying.
This, and the combination of Leia and Han, is what redeemed Ben. Of course, if he had died, redemption would not have been an option. It is at this point in the movie that I believe the tide turned toward the Resistance and the light.
One of Palpatine’s goals was to turn Rey and Ben against each other, and this act of compassion by Rey was in open defiance to Palpatine’s plan. Ben thus became redeemed and together they were able to defeat Palpatine. Although she didn’t do it by herself, her compassion had a large role in saving the galaxy. Rose Tico said it best: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.”
I’m not even necessarily suggesting that Rey loved Ben in a romantic way. She simply has so much love for everyone around her that I have no doubt she loved Ben in some way (it may have been romantic love, but that’s a debate that is well outside the realms of this article).
Rey’s compassion made her one of my favorite characters in Star Wars. It continuously got tested and time and time again Rey showed compassion even when it didn’t make sense and was undeserving. There are certainly other examples of her compassion in the Sequel Trilogy, but I thought these three occasions represented it the best. Even without lengthy training and advanced lightsaber technique, this is what made Rey an extraordinary Jedi.
Hopefully, by reading this, you have even more appreciation for this awesome character.