Monday Musings: Rogue One Novelization (Or, Jyn Part 2)

Star Wars : Rogue One

I just finished reading the Rogue One novelization by Alexander Freed, and I have to say, though I enjoyed it, I’m not sure if “book Jyn” is the same person as “movie Jyn.”

Here’s what I mean. The same events happen to her as in the movie, the same origins, and the same end. Everything’s the same on the outside. On the inside of Jyn’s mind and heart, however, I saw a different person than I saw onscreen.

In the movie, Jyn is an emotionally distant criminal with no allegiances. She’s hurt and bewildered by her mother’s death and her father’s and Saw’s abandonment. It makes her bitter and hardened, distrustful.

A mother’s gift

In the book, Jyn is not merely bitter–she’s a raging inferno of hate. She hates everyone and everything, but especially her father, Galen Erso. Seriously, if Jyn was a Force user, she’d have turned to the Dark Side almost immediately. She spits anger and hatred and distrust almost constantly, a tensed animal ready to spring into violence.

I was a little unsettled by this version of Jyn. While I perfectly understood it, it was at odds with the Jyn I saw portrayed by Felicity Jones onscreen. Maybe it’s Jones’ lovely face that made me feel there was more hurt and loneliness behind her heart than hatred. A silly tendency, maybe; but Jones is a wonderful actress, and I seriously doubt she misunderstood the character.

That means the author decided to go deep into Jyn’s psyche to tell the story, and what he apparently found there caused him to create a character that constantly wanted to blow things up. Kind of like an unhinged, female Poe Dameron.

I’m not saying Alexander Freed is a bad writer, or did the wrong thing. On the contrary, he created a pretty convincing psychology of Jyn based on what he knew of the character. In the book, Jyn is not only damaged by her past experiences, but traumatized. He thought about a sweet 8-year-old girl who watched her mother get murdered, her father leave with the Imperials, and who was then delivered into the hands of a violent guerilla extremist who had no interest in coddling her, despite his love for her–or even because of it. What kind of person does that create?

Someone who compartmentalizes her pain to survive, and stuffs all her emotions into a “dark cave” that she rarely explores. It’s the cave she hid inside as a child, waiting for someone to find her. Over the course of the book, that cave keeps opening up to her little by little, a bit of light here and there to illuminate everything she’s trying to deny or forget. When she sees the holographic message from her father, it puts her into a tailspin; she doesn’t know what to think of her father anymore:

My father is alive. My father is a traitor. My father is building a weapon to destroy worlds. My father is a hero. My father is a coward. My father is a bastard. Galen Erso is not my father. Galen Erso didn’t raise me…

Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso
Galen Erso: hero, coward, bastard, father

The girl’s a tad messed up. Who can blame her? However, over the course of the book, that dark cave of emotions keeps getting pried open more and more, until, at the end of the story, when she and Cassian and the Rogue One crew are on their way to get the Death Star plans come hell or high water, it’s wide open and illuminated. She’s accepted everything that’s in there, is at peace with it, and herself–she’s now a woman with a purpose, doing what she’s meant to do. When the end comes,

…The world grew brighter, emerald at first and then a clean, purifying white. In Jyn’s mind, the cave below the broken hatch was illuminated with the strength of a sun, and then the walls turned to dust and there was no longer a cave but only her spirit and heart and everything she had ever been: the daughter of Galen and Lyra and Saw, the angry fighter and the shattered prisoner and the champion and the friend.

Soon all those things, too, burned away, and Jyn Erso–finally at peace–became one with the Force.

At the end, book Jyn and movie Jyn are the same, and the differences don’t seem to matter too much.

I always enjoy reading the novelizations of the movies, because it gives us a chance to see into a character’s mind a little bit more than a movie can do. This one was more uncomfortable than most, but still worth a read.

Check out my Women of Star Wars post on Jyn Erso here.

Did you read the Rogue One novelization? What did you think? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!

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