The Force Awakens introduced millions of Star Wars fans to Rey, a young scavenger from Jakku and the first in a new generation of Jedi. Online discussion about The Force Awakens has fixated on Rey’s many attributes and abilities while seemingly ignoring how similar she is to Luke Skywalker, the main protagonist of the original trilogy of Star Wars films. To call Rey the “Luke Skywalker of a new generation” isn’t much of a stretch, since Rey’s journey in The Force Awakens deliberately parallels Luke’s adventures in A New Hope. Rey’s character arc not only establishes her as the protagonist of The Force Awakens (and presumably the next few Star Wars films) but also directly sets her up as Skywalker’s successor and heir to the Star Wars franchise.
The parallels between Luke and Rey are evident from Rey’s first appearance. Just like Luke, Rey is a “nobody” from a backwater desert planet, largely forgotten by the rest of the galaxy. In fact, Rey only gets dragged into the battle between the Resistance and the First Order after a mission to find a missing Jedi goes awry and Rey saves a droid with information critical to the Resistance from scavengers in the desert. That sounds awfully familiar to how Luke first got involved with the Rebel Alliance and came into possession of R2-D2. Both also enlist the help of Han Solo, who begrudgingly gets them from their home planet to the Rebel/Resistance bases (although not without a few detours on the way). Even Rey's clothes evoke a similar aesthetic to Luke's initial outfit in A New Hope.
Luke and Rey also share a similar set of skills. Both Rey and Luke are natural pilots and mechanics, coming from years of fiddling with scraps of machinery and secondhand vehicles. Rey and Luke are also both Force-sensitive, although their gifts with the Force seem to manifest in different ways. While Rey uses several Jedi tricks and handles a lightsaber with skill on her first try, Luke uses his gifts with the Force to blow up the Death Star with his eyes closed.
The Force Awakens also subverts the natural parallels between Luke and Rey in several ways. While Luke can’t wait to get off Tattooine, Rey wants nothing more than to stay on Jakku, presumably to wait for the parents who abandoned her on the planet as a child. And while Luke eagerly accepts his father’s lightsaber from Obi-Wan, Rey initially wants nothing to do with the weapon and only uses the weapon when her friend’s life in danger. Rey’s resistance to adventure and her supposed “destiny” seems to be the one major characteristic separating her from Luke.
Luke and Rey aren’t the only ways that The Force Awakens parallels A New Hope. From the threat of Starkiller Base to a fateful meeting in backwater cantina, much of The Force Awakens deliberately mimics A New Hope, providing an experience that feels fresh and familiar at the same time. We’ll see if Rey continues to follow Luke’s character arc in Episode VIII, which is only a short 18 months away.