Theme of Breaking the Rules in the Movie 'The Breakfast Club' and the Novel 'The Wave'

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Rules need to be broken at times. As both the 1985 film by John Hughes, ‘The Breakfast Club’, and the 1981 novel by Morton Rhue, ‘The Wave’, discuss why and what can happen when such acts are done. With so much desire to break the rule, there is little room left to see why they need to be disobeyed sometimes. Law break can come in many ways, and likewise, the effects can come in many ways; some extremely liberal, others shockingly. On the outside, these pieces of literature and cinematography seem to be the standard plot, with no clear deeper connection or violation of laws. What is not known publicly, however, is their discovery of a much broader concept.

Many laws need to be violated in a society with so many barriers and limitations to make social change. Through the characters of Bender and Ben Ross, both Rhue and Hughes discuss this theory. Bender, naturally, is the first person to break the rules in ‘The Breakfast Club’. He speaks in the film's first few minutes, when everything is meant to be silent. Notwithstanding the initially innocuous rule violation, it eventually leads to a slightly more serious one when the five students sneak out to get cannabis from their locker. A raw and honest conversation breaks out between the five students with the help of the medicine and leaves them more clearly and morally. All five characters are sitting in a circle during one of the final scenes, and Brian, alone in the frame, is asking, “What will happen to us on Monday?”. Claire sparks tension and discussion among the group when her honesty leads her to say that she doesn't think they're going to be friends. She continues to create a hypothetical situation where Andrew and his friends are approached by Brian. She says Andrew's going to say hi, so once Brian's gone Andrew's going to “cut him all up so [his friends] wouldn't think [Brian] really liked it”. Each of them would do similar things, she says. The blunt reaction sends Brian to tears, Bender explodes, which makes Andrew an awkward mess, but Alison's unnaturally cool through it all. The cinematography used by Hughes in this scene clearly communicates the emotions of each individual. Andrew and Claire are barely looked at by Brian, and his tears show that he is visibly upset. He responds sadly, not violently. Similarly, Andrew can't look at anyone either, for most of the climatic scenes his eyes are fixed to the ground. When he speaks, he doesn't move his body, almost as if to move as much as he needed, he'd trigger something awful a possible trait from his tense home life that he acquired. Bender overlooks any chance of a civil conversation and loses all shits. He tears at Claire and throws blatant insults at her as he tries to prove she's a horrible person to “tell the truth”. Whenever they speak, each character is in their own frame, portraying the isolation they feel in the situation. The argument eventually transforms into a truck load of confessions, initiated by Brian's reaction to Claire's insistence that he “knows no pressure”. Brian breaks down and says that his attempted suicide resulted in the pressure he and his parents put on him. With a flare-up weapon. Giggles erupted around him, and Brian laughed soon as well. The group realizes that they are born into a faulty system through the convocations and interactions and confessions made with each other. But if they want to contribute to it, it is their choice. From total strangers who would never have been caught dead talking to each other and five characters with nothing at all in common. In Saturday's detention, they certainly learned something, and Brian put it on paper in poetic ending to an insightful film. That's how breaking Bender's silence and rules ultimately leads to the social progress of five teenagers struggling.

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The violation of Mr. Ross’ rule also leads to progress when he begins an apparently innocent social experiment that breaks many ethical rules. The intention of Mr. Ross was to teach his students about the atrocities of the Second World War and, more generally, blind obedience to authority. When the innocence of it all begins to deteriorate, however, he continues to do so even though he is well aware of the dangers that might arise. Laurie, one of Mr. Ross’ students, is shocked by the actions of the Nazis at the beginning of Rhue's novel. So shocked, she's mad at anyone who fulfilled the orders of Hitler. She concludes that 'they might have fled. They might have fought back. They had eyes and minds of their own. They were able to think for themselves. No one would simply follow such an order. Laurie's enthusiasm for the subject is illustrated by the use of anaphora. Rhue uses the linguistic technique to convey her scepticism to the reader. Throughout the course of the book, situations arise where Laurie is the only one who can really understand, the Wave has brainwashed everyone. This is problematic when the movement is beginning to look more and more like the power and authority of Hitler over the Nazis. Ultimately, with the help of Mr. Ross and the school projector, Claire put a stop to it. In a desperate, well-thought-out bid to end the epidemic, the student group, and Mr. Ross, get through to the brainwashed followers, shed light on their image, and the Nazis. Claire and all the followers of the Wave are horrified by the blind obedience to authority that took them over without anyone realizing it. Claire's description of this social progress “It happened in a way [she's] pleased ... [she's] sad it had to come to that, but [she's] happy it worked out, [she] feels everybody learned a lot”. The ethical rules violated in the seemingly harmless experiment of Mr. Ross ultimately lead to a whole high school's social progress.

Following the rule is building up the character. Progress as a person is a personal accomplishment that can be triggered by ignoring the occasional restriction. Robert Billings and all five characters from ‘The Breakfast Club’, but particularly Alison, make drastic strides as individuals when they ignore the rule book. Robert Billings lives in the shadow of his most successful older brother at the start of Rhue's ‘The Wave’. There's no point in even trying to the point where he's left feeling. Thinking, his brother's going to do it better than him, and probably has already done it, so what's the point? This is evident from his lack of contribution in Mr. Ross's history class. The school had just finished watching a horrible movie about the persecution of Jews by Hitler, and Robert was just waking up from his sleep. Ben Ross “couldn't be able to see [Robert] being picked up by the other students and he was dismayed that Robert at least didn't try to participate in the class”. In this situation, Rhue uses emotional language to show Mr. Ross’ empathy. Robert's indirect characterization also leaves the reader sympathetic to the allegedly disturbed boy. Later in the novel, however, when the Wave is in full motion, Robert transforms completely from this boy who has not even answered a question when asked and the target of any bully, to a volunteer bodyguard equal to the rest. When he breaks some of his own personal rules, he makes the drastic transformation. Instead of having to project this person that he didn't care about, he broke through his shell and integrated with society, becoming equal to each of his classmates. If the Wave never came into being, Robert would likely never have had the confidence or desire to contribute to society and become his own man. Breaking the rules made him enough confident to make his own private progress.

Likewise, Alison is making progress on her own in ‘The Breakfast Club’ by bending a few rules. When she is dropped off during Saturday's arrest, Alison is first introduced to the public. When she gets out of a speeding, screaming vehicle that comes to a halt, she immediately catches the eyes of the audience. The car speeds off when she goes to the driver's window, just as fast as it showed up. Through this longshot of Alison and her car, the viewer immediately knows that she is not the most normal of men. She says the first word, it's not even a word, it's just a tone, and it takes her 33 minutes to say; it also demonstrates her social detachment. Hughes uses her lack of communication to express Alison's feelings of isolation. It's like there's something inside her that tells her she's worthless, she's worth nothing, so she's supposed to say nothing. She begins to break her confidence midway through the film. Once she starts adding what she has to say to the party, this can be seen. On the couch in front of Brian and Andrew, she is seen dumping the entire contents of her purse. Unhesitating and outwardly saying that she carries in her bag an unnatural amount of stuff because she never knows when she's going to have to “jam”. She puts herself in the party “out there” as she confesses that she is in prison because she “had done something else to do better”. Fortunately, on that Saturday, March 24, she had nothing better to do. She would never have smoked with 4 people she would never have met officially before without the Saturday in gaol. And she'd never realize she doesn't matter. She's something about it. She's nothing. Before this day, she would never have spoken to anyone. Let's start dating a jock let alone. She wanted self-confidence. And she earned it by getting high and communicating with people who would never have gotten next to her before this day. Alison made a huge amount of personal progress by breaking not just a rule, but a law.

Essentially, this rule breaking is not always a negative thing, it goes without saying. We explore the idea through the characters created by both Rhue and Hughes in the novels, that rules need to be broken at times. The weather is small, or the weather is big, with potentially heavy consequences, it's only problem if someone finds out. So, break the rules, push the boundaries, make progress. Broaden your mind. Initiate the spark that starts the flame of social progress. Do whatever desires one's heart. Go totally nuts. Ultimately, you might be in the position of Alison, Brian, Andrew, Bender, Claire and Gordon High's entire community A better person, a little enlightened, or a tiny bit dumb, dancing to 'Don't Forget About Me'.

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Theme of Breaking the Rules in the Movie ‘The Breakfast Club’ and the Novel ‘The Wave’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
“Theme of Breaking the Rules in the Movie ‘The Breakfast Club’ and the Novel ‘The Wave’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
Theme of Breaking the Rules in the Movie ‘The Breakfast Club’ and the Novel ‘The Wave’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Jul. 2024].
Theme of Breaking the Rules in the Movie ‘The Breakfast Club’ and the Novel ‘The Wave’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Jul 19]. Available from:

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