Study Guide

Aladdin Themes

  • Cunning and Cleverness

    You gotta be smart to survive: that's what our hero finds out as he's growing up on the mean streets of Agrabah in Aladdin. Dude's got no parents…and no food to eat, either, so he needs to be clever to stay on out of the hands of the law. Of course, once Aladdin finds the Genie and gets a few coins in his pocket—not to mention those 75 golden camels—he stops the quick-thinking and starts flashing his cash instead. It's not a good look for him: in the end, he's gotta go back to what works—his brains—to defeat the bad guys and save the day.

    Questions About Cunning and Cleverness

    1. Different characters are clever in different ways. Compare and contrast the cleverness of Aladdin, Jasmine, and Jafar.
    2. Why do you think the Sultan is portrayed as so emptyheaded? How did his daughter turn out so differently, even though she's never been outside the palace?
    3. Why do you think Aladdin is able to trick Jafar into wishing himself into a genie in the end? Why isn't Jafar more suspicious of Aladdin's taunts?

    Chew on This

    Aladdin grew up as a poor orphan on the streets of Agrabah. He didn't have material goods, so he had to rely on his wits and cleverness to get by in life.

    Jafar and Aladdin both rely on their intelligent animal companions—Abu and Iago—to help them come up with plans and get them out of sticky situations.

  • Freedom and Confinement

    People wanna be free, right? Heck, even genies wanna be free, according to Aladdin. This movie is all about folks breaking free from their bonds and doing things their own way. Aladdin is poor, but he hopes for a better life. Jasmine is tired of being told what to do and who to marry. And the Genie? He'd just like to be released from an eternity of servitude. Is that too much to ask?

    Questions About Freedom and Confinement

    1. Toward the beginning of the movie, Jasmine releases her birds from their cage. Can you think of any other symbols of freedom or confinement in Aladdin?
    2. What do you imagine the Genie's life has been like? What's his backstory? What will he do after being freed?
    3. Do you think the comparison between Aladdin and Jasmine is fair? Are both of them equally trapped by their circumstances? Does one of them have it worse? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    It's the Genie's side story about getting his freedom that becomes the vehicle for vanquishing the villain. 

    Jasmine is similar to other modern Disney princesses who grew up in royal households, such as Ariel and Merida, in that she's defiant and determined to make her own way in a repressive regal setting.

  • Power

    A wise man once said, "The measure of a man is what he does with power." In that case, Jafar in Aladdin is a terrible, awful, no-good guy. His only goal is to acquire as much power as possible, and as soon as he does, he uses his might to trample all over everyone.

    Aladdin, on the other hand, loves helping others and doesn't want to be in charge even when he gets the chance. Polar opposites, right? In the end, it's Jafar's thirst for power that really bites him in the butt. As another wise man said, "With great power comes great responsibility." Maybe Jafar should get himself a book of quotes next time he tries to take over Agrabah?

    Questions About Power

    1. Why do you think Jafar really wants to be sultan?
    2. How does Aladdin react to finally having some power when he finds the Genie? How is his reaction different from Jafar's?
    3. If the Sultan had the power to change the laws in Agrabah this whole time, why didn't he change them earlier when he saw Jasmine was so unhappy?

    Chew on This

    Jafar craves power at any cost, but Aladdin doesn't want to be in charge if it means he has to lie to get there.

    Aladdin tricks Jafar into becoming a genie by appealing to his thirst for power. He knows that Jafar will want to take the next step to grab more and more strength and might for himself.

  • Society and Class

    The world is made up of two kinds of people—the haves and the have nots. Aladdin falls squarely on the latter side. In fact, he's more like a have nothing. Of course he then has the bad luck to fall in love with a one-percenter. Lucky for him, Jasmine is of the mo' money, mo' problems variety of rich people, so he's got a chance with her. It takes a whole bunch of epic adventures, but eventually, they come together. In Aladdin, true love does conquer all—even the class divide.

    Questions About Society and Class

    1. Why is the poorest character—Aladdin—the only one who's able to enter the Cave of Wonders?
    2. How are Jasmine's choices limited because of her status as a woman?
    3. Why do you think Aladdin sees wealth, riches, and increased social status as a way of winning Jasmine's heart? What does he learn about her as he tries to woo her this way?

    Chew on This

    Both Aladdin and Jasmine romanticize what life must be like for people in other social classes. They eventually realize that everyone is essentially the same, in that they share the same hopes, dreams, and wishes for the future.

    Aladdin will eventually become sultan. Perhaps his background as a poor kid will help him rule the kingdom in a more humane way than other sultans.

  • Truth

    The truth shall set you free, right? Well, in Aladdin, that works in reverse, too: lies will really cage you in. When Aladdin pretends to be a prince to win over Jasmine, he finds out pretty quickly that his lies are kind of tough to live up to. Not only does he have to keep up this royal act for the rest of his life, but he can't free the Genie like he promised he would. This is a Disney movie, so of course Aladdin finally realizes he can't keep lying to the world: he's gotta be himself.

    Questions About Truth

    1. Why do you think lying comes so naturally to Aladdin?
    2. Who's better at lying—Aladdin or Jafar?
    3. Even after Jasmine calls Aladdin out on his lies, he keeps piling new ones on—why? Would admitting the truth be so horrible?
    4. Shouldn't Jasmine be more suspicious about the fact that Aladdin is alive when Jafar told her he was dead? Like, what happened? What's his explanation for that? So many more questions…

    Chew on This

    The Genie is an expert in changing reality (i.e., altering the truth), but he keeps advising Aladdin to tell the truth, anyway, because he realizes the importance of honesty.

    Real love can't be built on lies. Aladdin has to learn to be honest with Jasmine if he ever hopes to have a chance with her.