Analysis Of The Breakfast Club English Literature Essay

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The Breakfast Club was directed by John Hughes and released in 1985. The film is about five students that have to spend a day together in Saturday detention. Each of these students in the beginning of the movie seemingly fits into their respective stereotypes. The movie describes them as the "Brain," the "Athlete," the "Basket-case," the "Princess," and the "Criminal." Although all five of these characters under go a great deal of growth, and realization of themselves as well as their peers, this assignment only calls for two of them. I have chosen the "Athlete"- "Andrew Clark" played by Emilio Estevez, and the "Criminal"-

"John Bender" played by Judd Nelson.

Andrew is the champion athlete. He sees himself as a tough guy, the top of the high school social order and as such, someone to be respected and/or fear especially amongst his fellow classmates. One scene that helps to illustrate this is the one in which he defends his sport against John Bender's attacks of its integrity. He sees himself as a fierce competitor, succeeding at something that he feels other people who are not like him could not. He sees himself as better than. So, at this point his self esteem seems to be pretty high. Self Awareness as defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is, "the awareness of one's own personality and individuality." Is Andrew seeing himself as the tough guy, and competitor, truly being self aware? No. Andrew is prompted to really ask "who I am" for the first time when Allison asks what he did, his answer was:

I'm here today because my coach and my father don't want me to blow my ride, you see I get treated differently because coach thinks I'm a winner, and so does my old man. I'm not a winner because I wanna be one, I'm a winner 'cause I got strength and speed, kinda like a race horse, it's about how involved I am in what's happening to me.

This statement makes it clear that he is more self aware than we realize.

John Bender is the trouble-making, smart mouthed rebel. He also sees himself as a tough guy, confident and cocky, only interested in what he's interested in and making fun of whatever he can. There are more than enough events that prompt self awareness for John. John is constantly belittled, and berated by everyone around him, both adults and peers. One thing that illustrates this is when John is mocking Andrew in the very beginning of the film, and he agitates Andrew to the point where he says, "You know Bender, you don't even count. You know if you disappear forever it wouldn't make any difference, you may as well not even exist at this school." You can somewhat see that John's feelings were a little hurt. But he almost immediately comes back with a witty remark about joining the wrestling team. He bounces back pretty easily but his constant need to try and bring others down shows that his own self esteem isn't very high at all.

There are three steps to the perception process they are, attention and selection, organization, and interpretation. The film contains many perceptions, most of which are based in inaccuracies. The scene I will discuss is the one in which we first see John and Andrew interact with one another. John is being obnoxious and loud drawing attention to himself, when his humming and air guitar fail to receive a reaction he acts as if he is going to urinate on the floor in front of his seat. Andrew turns around and threatens him. Both verbal and nonverbal gestures are needed to realize the perception process that the two of them go through. What we know about Andrew and John is that they have gone to school together for several years and know of each other, but only based on gossip heard around the school and stereotypes.

John's Perception of Andrew: We see John using intensity in the "Attention and Selection" phase of the perception process. Intensity in the perception process is described as "something that makes it stand out." John notices Andrew's letterman jacket, since Andrew's clothes are the only part of him that John has access to, so Andrew's outward appearance is what John's judgment is based on. He then moves on to the "Organization" phase of the perception process and using "simplification," labels Andrew as a jock, with Andrew labeled John quickly moves into the "interpretation" phase, based on stereotypes of someone who might wear a letterman jacket, John uses "expectations" to conclude that Andrew is Stupid, Hot Headed, making him an easy target to be manipulated for John's own entertainment. (i.e. (a) all jocks wear letterman jackets… (b)All jocks are stupid, hot headed, jerks [stereotype]. Andrew is wearing a letterman jacket therefore Andrew is a jock, and if Andrew is a jock than he is a stupid, hot-headed, jerks.) I feel that "expectations" is the driving force because at this point in the movie they don't know anything about each other. The "expectations" portion of the interpretation stage is described as an expectation of people to be a certain way.

Andrew's perception of John: Andrew also utilizes intensity in the "Attention and Selection" phase. But it is John's rude and obnoxious behavior that draws Andrew's attention rather than just John's clothes. Moving into the "Organization" phase, Andrew takes John's refusal to be quiet, and his obscene gesture of attempting to use the floor as a toilet, and using "simplification" classifies John as a trouble-maker. The "interpretation" phase starts quickly, because of stereotypes and gossip heard around the school, Andrew utilizes "expectations," to come to the conclusion that John is hard headed, and is going to do anything he can to make things as difficult as possible. I feel that "expectations" is the driving force because at this point in the movie they don't know anything about each other.

Andrew is confronted once again to ask "Who am I?" in the scene where all of them are sitting on the floor together talking, Claire asks him, "What makes him bizarre"? At first he doesn't answer, so Allison answers for him, "He can't think for himself." "She's right," Andrew says. And then Andrew reveals what he actually did to be in detention, he taped a boy's buns together. But he did it because he felt his father was disappointed in him for not cutting loose on anyone. This shows him to be a bully and a coward, but the remorse he feels afterwards for causing such humiliation shows that he does truly want to be a completely different person. Self Concept is defined as our description of our competencies and personal traits. In this scene we discover that traits that seemed to be dominant and cherished parts of Andrew's personality are actually at the source of his self loathing. Andrew is incapable of independent thought, he knows this and it is something he isn't proud of. His self esteem is revealed to actually be really low.

There are more than enough scenes in the film that prompt self-awareness for John. He is constantly berated, belittled and abused by the adults in his life. In the scene about half way through the movie John acts out some of the behavior of his parents calling him any and every foul thing but his name, when Andrew expresses his disbelief, John shows him his scare from a cigar burn he received for "spilling paint in the garage." John is the one character that doesn't really under go as much revelation as everyone else. His perception of himself doesn't change as much as his perception of his peers. By never knowing any of them before his perceptions were based in stereotype. But the events of the day reveal to John that everyone else is just as screwed up as he is. So, in all likelihood his self-concept and self esteem improved from realizing that he isn't as alone as he thought he was.

Symbolic interactionism, according to Herbert Blumer is based on three basic premises. The first is that "human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for them"(2). The second, that "the meaning of such things is derived from, … the social interactions one has with one's fellows"(2). The third premise is that these meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretive process used by the person dealing with the things he encounters"(2). There are a few events in the film where Andrew and John change their perceptions of each other. One of the first events of change is when Andrew doesn't give John up to Mr. Vernon after he takes the pin out of the door. Another event is when John has Mr. Vernon chase after him in the hallways in order to give everyone else a chance to get back to the library without getting caught.

Perception checking Andrew and John don't really seem question their perceptions of one other. The two of them don't talk to find a more accurate view they have their few moments where I'm sure that they say to themselves, "Hey maybe he's not such a bad guy after all…" but the issue is never specifically pursued in the film.

Work Cited

"Self-awareness." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010. Merriam-Webster Online. 25 March 2010


The Breakfast Club. Dir. John Hughes. Perfs. Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy. Universal Pictures.1985. DVD. 2008

Company, R.R., and Herbert Blumer. Symbolic interactionism. Univ of California Pr, 1986. Print.

Verderber, Kathleen, Rudolph Verderber, and Cynthia Berryman-Fink. Inter-Act. Oxford Univ Pr, 2009. Print.