Cloud City as Dante’s Inferno

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Fall 2014


In Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the location of Cloud City is very reminiscent of Dante’s Hell. The tortures inflicted on Han, Chewbacca, and C-3PO to lure Luke to Cloud City comprise the first hellish aspects of Cloud City. For example, Han is strapped to a machine that lowers him towards a sparking slab with sharp instruments across it. This torture device is similar to the flaming tombs in which Dante places the heretics. Meanwhile, Chewbacca’s torture is through sonic bombardment, which recalls the more annoying tortures in hell, such as the slush in the circle of the gluttonous. Finally, C-3PO is literally ripped apart in Cloud City, recalling the schismatics who are similarly dismembered. It is further significant that, like the damned souls, C-3PO cannot die. The carbon freezing chamber is probably the most hell-like of all the spaces in Cloud City. The carbon freezing pit recalls the aforementioned flaming tombs with its constant emitting of smoke and the presence of demonic aliens (Ugnaughts). Meanwhile, the freezing process itself reminds one of the traitors trapped in ice in the lowest circle of Hell. When Luke finally confronts Vader in the hellish freezing chamber, they descend lower and lower into Cloud City’s Inferno-like space, recalling Dante and Virgil’s own downward journey into Hell. Indeed, the floor upon which Luke and Vader initially fight glows orange, suggestive of magma. It is interesting that the carbonite freezing chamber also features angles resembling a spider web, symbolizing how lost souls are caught and trapped by their own sins in Hell. Finally, Darth Vader himself can be seen as the Lucifer of Cloud City’s Inferno—bat-like in appearance, torturing those in his grasp, and tempting Luke much like how the Devil tempted Christ in the wilderness.

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