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Breakfast Club Character Essay Prompt

Tools of Characterization

Characterization in The Breakfast Club


Throughout the movie, the different characters do things that reveal their personalities, usually in a way that conforms to set assumptions about them: For instance, Bender tears the pages out of a library book (something by Moliere), demonstrating that he's a ruthless vandal with unlimited contempt for books and learning and society and stuff. Allison eats a bizarre sandwich and uses her dandruff as snow on a landscape drawing. Claire puts lipstick on a using her cleavage to hold the lipstick—something she learned at camp. So, none of these actions violate our preconceptions about them. Instead they confirm those stereotypes.

But then, there's another dimension revealed by their actions: When Brian talks about his near-suicide-attempt, it shows us a dark and profoundly troubled side to his character. When Andrew bullies a kid by taping his butt cheeks together, that's probably a little more violent than what we would expect from him. It's not so surprising—what's surprising is the fact that he's actually reflected on it and feels really bad about it. Frequently, our perceptions of the characters are changed more by what they say than by what they do—which is partly why we can't assume that their changes will remain in place before the school week's up.


Clothing helps confirm our initial impression of these characters: Bender's dressed in vaguely high-school-bad-boy-style clothing with a jean jacket, black mesh gloves, and boots. Brian has on a dweeb-esque sweater that sort of looks like it's turned inside out, along with trousers that are a little too high and expose his socks. Claire's dressed pretty normally—pink blouse, brown pants—but her authentic diamond earrings give her rich girl status away. Allison is draped in form-concealing blacks and grays—Amish-Goth-style—while Andrew, being the jock, is wearing a Nike tank top and jeans. So the clothing doesn't really violate our expectations: It's part of the surface that we need to see through to get at the real characters.

Also, Richard Vernon wears a slick outfit that has a Miami Vice vibe. It fits with his pretty high level of self-regard. Bender tries to puncture this by taunting, "Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?"

Family Life

Everyone in The Breakfast Club has issues with their family. Bender's seem to be the most overtly serious, since his dad abuses him and has even burned him on the arm with a cigar. Showing it to Andrew, Bender says,

BENDER: Do you believe this? Huh? It's about the size of a cigar... Do I stutter? You see, this is what you get in my house when you spill paint in the garage.

But the others have problems too. The academic pressure Brian's parents put on him leads him to almost attempt suicide, and Andrew's dad puts so much pressure on him to win that he ends up doing things—taping a kid's butt cheeks together—that go against his nature. Allison's parents ignore her, and Claire's parents use her against each other.

Andrew provides a good example of how they feel about their parents, saying of his dad:

ANDREW: You know, sometimes, I wish my knee would give... and I wouldn't be able to wrestle anymore. And he could forget all about me...

Hmm. Maybe the Simple Minds' song should have been called "Forget About Me"?


The Breakfast Club uses food to demonstrate character to a surprising extent. But food, like clothing, only reveals surfaces, reinforcing what they think they know about each other.

Brian eats a well-rounded lunch, provoking Bender to mock him:

BENDER: P.B.& J. with the crusts cut off. Well, Brian, this is a very nutritious lunch; all the food groups are represented. Did your mom marry Mr. Rogers?

Bender doesn't bring any lunch, either because he's the bad boy who lives on Coca Cola and marijuana or because he's neglected and no one cares what he does (or maybe both?). Being the "basket case," Allison makes a weird sandwich—removing the lunchmeat and replacing it with sugar cereal and sugar from pixie sticks. Andrew eats a massive, athlete-sized lunch with multiple sandwiches, while Claire eats sushi—at the time, a more exotic and perhaps upper-class-appealing dish than it is today (Bender mocks her for it).


The location is Shermer, Illinois—a fictional location based on John Hughes's hometown of Northbrook, right outside Chicago (located in that great mass of suburbs and satellite cities known as Chicagoland).

In the movie, it appears to be super-normal and pretty white—at least, everyone in the movie is white. Its normalcy helps influence the characters, making us think, "Oh, this is familiar—this is average, normal, middle-America." And then it… well, it actually basically confirms this impression. Its story is supposed to be universal, like it could've happened anywhere.

Also, Shermer's location outside Chicago is alluded to once in the movie, with Brian saying to Allison, "So you're saying you'd subject yourself to the violent dangers of the Chicago streets because your home-life is unsatisfying?" The Shermer streets, apparently, aren't that mean.


Vernon's a teacher, supervising detention. He's so familiar with the school that he walks around it like he owns it. His attitude is confident, untouchable because he's on his own turf—even though Bender actually gets him into a seething rage.

Interestingly, Vernon's less aware of what the students' are going through than Carl the janitor, who seems to relate to them more. Since Carl listens to their conversations and lives among them—and is working at the same high school he used to go to—he still feels in touch, whereas Vernon is totally out-of-touch.

After Bender tries to mock him, Carl says,

CARL: Oh, really? You guys think I'm just some untouchable peasant? Peon? Huh? Maybe so, but following a broom around after shitheads like you for the past eight years I've learned a couple of things. I look through your letters, I look through your lockers. I listen to your conversations, you don't know that but I do. I am the eyes and ears of this institution my friends. By the way, that clock's twenty minutes fast!

As for the students themselves, "student" isn't necessarily an occupation—but it definitely helps condition their characters. If they weren't in high school, after all, they couldn't really claim to be high school archetypes/stereotypes with the same degree of legitimacy.

Physical Appearances

Like clothing and food, this one is directly related to the broad, blatant stereotypes the characters all represent on the outside.

Brian looks thin and frail, whereas Andrew has a sturdier, more athletic look. Claire seems well-groomed, whereas Allison has a gloomy look that suggests she views hygiene as a low priority—she uses her dandruff as snow in a picture, for instance.

But, of course, these are obstacles the characters need to overcome to better understand each other. Appearance isn't the same as reality. (Part of the reason people were mad that Allison had to change her look to win Andrew's heart at the end is because it totally undercuts that message.)

Also, Vernon has a very specific, slick kind of look. He's not some bumbling, quiet, retiring teacher. He dresses to kill—he owns this place.


Like with food and clothes, there are lots of props that beef up our superficial conceptions of these characters. Bender's the bad boy, so he carries a knife and drugs, while Claire the rich girl has diamond earrings and lipstick.

Then there are other props that, even if they don't confirm a superficial idea, don't exactly obliterate it: For instance, Brian has a nudie picture in his wallet. While this isn't something we would expect from someone who's supposed to love obeying his parents, it's not exactly shattering any illusions either.

Sex and Love

We know that at least three of the characters are virgins, although they all initially pretend not to be: Brian, Claire, and Allison. It goes to show how much more talk there is than action in high school, and consequently nothing to be embarrassed about.

After lying and pretending to be a nymphomaniac, Allison admits that she only believes in having sex when love is also involved. On the other hand, Bender seems to have a polyamorous attitude toward sex—he doesn't believe in monogamy, unlike Claire and Allison. (It makes us wonder if this will have any implications for Claire and Bender's future relationship.) Also, we don't know anything about Andrew's views on love and sex, but since he's attracted to Allison, maybe they'll fall into line with her views? Who can say?

Social Status

The characters with the most social status are Claire and Andrew, and the characters with the least are the remaining three, Bender, Allison, and Brian.

It's hard to say who's the lowest in the high school hierarchy: Depending on your perspective, any of these three might be. On the other hand, Bender's bad-boy, outsider status seems to be part of what attracts Claire to him—and Claire's popularity and wealth seem to pull on Bender, since they stand at the opposite end of the world from where he is. Allison is a total loner with no friends whatsoever, while Brian has friends in the physics club.

Initially, social status determines everyone's judgments about each other. Bender thinks Brian's a total dork, and Andrew tells Bender "You don't count." But the whole point of the movie is that judgments based on social status are inherently flawed. You can't box people into these narrow identities—they'll liberate themselves eventually.

Speech and Dialogue

Brian and Bender give us a good set of contrasts as far as their dialogue goes. When Bender says things, he usually talks in a profane and comic way, even if what he's saying has a serious or bitter edge.

For instance, he memorably captures the way his own dad yells at his mom with the line, "Shut up, bitch! Go fix me a turkey pot pie!" and he vents his own rage when he yells at the other students, "See, I don't think that I need to sit here with you fuckin' dildos anymore!"

It's a very specific insult. It's not the kind of thing Brian or Claire or even Andrew would say. When Andrew insults Bender by telling him he's someone who doesn't count, a nothing, it's not very humorous. It's more of a low blow. But when Bender calls everyone "dildos," it's funnier and not really too personal—it's more just a beset guy blowing off steam.

The way Brian talks is way, way less freewheeling. Bender's a loose cannon, whereas Brian is totally tamed and domesticated. Here's a representative example. When Bender asks Brian about the physics club, Brian says,

BRIAN: Yeah, well, I guess you could consider it a social situation. I mean there are other children in my club and uh, at the end of the year we have, um, you know, a big banquet, at the, uh, at the Hilton.

He has way more "ums" and "uhs" in his speech than Bender, for one thing—showing he's not very comfortable with himself. Brian also refers to himself and the other kids in the club as "children"—which is an unusual way for a high school kid to talk about himself and his classmates. It reinforces Brian's unusualness and his nerdiness.

Thoughts and Opinions

Everyone in this movie is bursting with opinions—some of them deeper and more revealing than others. For instance, talking about the adult world, Allison says, "When you grow up, your heart dies."

This is a highly debatable point: There are probably a good number of adults who don't have completely dead hearts out there. But it reveals something about Allison: It shows how she views her own parents and people like them who are so caught up in the world that they forget to feel.

Claire has a possibly more deluded perspective, claiming to Brian that her friends would make fun of her for hanging out with him, while, "Your friends wouldn't mind because they look up to us."

Brian thinks this is conceited, of course—his nerd friends definitely aren't fawning over Claire and her friends in private. They have other and better things to do. It shows that Claire doesn't understand their mindset at all. She thinks she and her friends are at the center of the high school universe, when, in reality, they're at the periphery of Brian's and Allison's universe.

It's a great example of how they all misread each other—and of how Claire continues to misread her perceived social inferiors until pretty late in the movie. Surprisingly or not, Bender comes out against Claire: Even though he was making fun of Brian earlier in the movie for being a dork, he says that he would never act the way Claire says her friends would make her act. So, that's another revelation—if Bender's telling the truth.

It's not just the kids who have revealing thoughts and opinions, it's Vernon and Carl, too. Vernon tells Carl:

VERNON: I'm trying to make a serious point here. I've been teaching, for twenty-two years, and each year these kids get more and more arrogant.

Carl denies this—he says Vernon's the one who's changed. The kids are the same, but Vernon can't relate to them anymore. Vernon's not buying it—he's too thickheaded to get past himself and see what's really going on.

Breakfast Club Character Evaluations Essay

1351 Words6 Pages

The Breakfast Club was a movie about five very different characters, Claire, Andrew, Brian, Allison, and John Bender. Claire was a popular girl, Andrew was a wrestler (jock), Brian was intellectually gifted, Allison was a basket case, and John Bender was a rebel. On the outside they seem like very different people, in fact they were all socially opposite, but they also shared so much.
     As the movie starts out, the five teenagers are being punished with Saturday detention; their assignment for the next eight hours was to right a paper entitled “Who Am I?” Their most probable assumption was from them to write about their achievements. Being students in America, we are all raised to excel at whatever we do,…show more content…

So, naturally, she fell in love with him. Perhaps the one quality that unites everyone is that they all have trouble with their parents. Claire’s problem is that she is used as a weapon to the other “spouse” of her parents and the only way she can escape that destiny is to be with friends as much as possible, liking going to the mall and doing other stuff that she has built up in her mind of being cool. Bender was hated by his parents and probably was an “accident.” The way his parents treated him built up this image of himself in his mind that was negative; and therefore, made him negative. Brian was pushed to over achieve by his parents and so when he finally got an “F” he thought that it was the end of the world, when in fact he most likely doesn’t care. He does not think for himself, he thinks, “What are my parents going to think?” Andrew thinks the same way. He stated openly that he does not care if he wins or loses, and that he sometimes wishes that his leg would give so that he would not have to wrestle anymore. Last, Alison was ignored by her parents; forcing her to think that everyone must ignore her.
     All of the characters in the movie show fear of rejection. Andrew, fearing rejection from his father, hurt another student mentally and physically because he believed that what his father would want. Brian shows the fear of rejection also in that he thinks that his “F” would make his family not love him anymore. His parents

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