How does Terry Brooks, the author of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, use color in this book to make the reading experience easier?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Hello! Many novelists and authors use color as a tool to engage the reader. Specific colors evoke certain emotions. Authors aim to inspire an emotional attachment and personal interest in the welfare of specific characters; to this end, color is a very powerful tool.

The Star Wars series of novels by Terry Brooks is no exception. I will list some of the colors that crop up in Episode 1 and explain how Brooks uses color to make the reading experience easier:

1) red

We often equate red with murder, blood, conflict and even death. However, in the Star Wars series, red is also the color of "ambassadorial neutrality" (p24). Queen Amidala and her hand-maidens are cloaked in red, the color of royalty. Republic (ruling government of the galaxy) ships and space cruisers are red in color. This color is significant in another way: as you progress through Brook's story, you will see that the Republic is in big trouble. Its rule is being challenged by the Sith Lords on one hand, and corporations like the Trade Federation on the other. In The Phantom Menace, the Sith Lords have actually joined forces with the cowardly Trade Federation leaders. Due to the Republic's increasingly corrupt leadership, the Jedi are forced to step in to preserve some semblance of order in the Republic. Red is also the color of conflict, and the Republic does not disappoint. For readers, the color red jumps out at us every time the Republic ships appear on the printed page; it trains us to expect the addicting rhythm of strife and war associated with the Republic.

2) black or a combination of black and red

In the novel, we read that Nute Gunray, the Viceroy of the Trade Federation, is actually afraid of Darth Sidious (a powerful Sith Lord). He is described as a "vague and shadowy presence." If you have watched the movie, you know that Darth Sidious is hooded. He also murdered his own mentor, Darth Plagueis, and appointed his own apprentices, among them the greatly feared Darth Maul. It is Darth Sidious who turns Anakin Skywalker to the dark side, crowning him Darth Vader. Although Darth Vader does not appear in this book, you get the idea that black or a combination of black and red is the color of great evil, sinister mystery and treacherous secrecy in Brook's book. On page 98, we are told that Darth Maul "was truly terrifying to look upon. His face was a mask of jagged red and black patterns, the design etched into his skin..." This is one scary Sith Lord: he even has a skull studded with horns.  His eyes, however, are yellow. Yellow can signify both cowardice and treachery. Indeed, Darth Maul is well acquainted with betrayal: Darth Sidious abandoned Maul's mother (he had promised to make her his apprentice) to train Darth Maul instead. However, his main color of red and black tells us that the Siths are significant antagonists in the Star Wars series. Brooks gives the Siths the traditional black or black/red colors to solidify in our minds who the enemies are. As a result, our responses are very visceral: without question, we want this evil Order to be defeated.

3) white

This is the color of innocence, goodness, and purity. Brooks uses it to describe the Queen. On page 81, Brooks contrasts her "white-painted face" with her black feathered head-dress. Queen Amidala personifies wisdom and goodness: she is Naboo's royal ruler. She is as beautiful as she is intelligent. She is also young, and Nute Gunray is amazed that such a young woman has been chosen as supreme leader of Naboo. Brooks uses the color white to draw out our sympathy towards her. We are indignant on her behalf when we realize that her peaceful realm has been besieged by the Trade Federation. We are further incensed on her behalf when she stands before the Senate, a lone Queen, fighting for her planet's sovereignty. Yet we applaud her courage.

"I was not elected Queen to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in committee. If the chancellor is not capable of action, I suggest new leadership is needed."

So, you can see that Brooks skillfully uses color to make the reading experience easier. He also uses color to describe the planets which figure prominently in The Phantom Menace. Brooks tells us about the "lush greenness" of Naboo and how the "rush of waterfalls and bubble of fountains formed a soft, distant backdrop to the strange silence created by the absence of the populace."  We are appalled that the Trade Federation would target such a peaceful planet. Brooks uses color to engage the reader's senses and to elicit the reader's sympathy for major characters in his fantastic world. This is what makes The Phantom Menace such an addictive read.

Hope this helps. Thanks for the question.

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