"Coming of age" basically just means growing up—and in The Breakfast Club, the main characters have to do this while dealing with a world of clueless adults who don't understand anything and are frequently hostile.
This process involves a change in perception more than anything—they need to learn how to perceive each other and their struggles in a more enlightened way. Yet, even though they need to "come of age," they're trying to avoid becoming like Richard Vernon and other adults who never make this leap in perception and still view people according to their biases and preconceptions.
Questions About Coming of Age
Do you agree or disagree with Allison's statement that "When you grow up, your heart dies"? Explain.
Are actual teachers as clueless as Richard Vernon? Or do they tend to be more enlightened? Explain.
What will these characters being doing after they've graduated high school? Imagine and describe scenarios for each of the five.
Are there other steps in maturity or "coming of age" beyond what the characters experience in the movie? If so, what else do you really need to do to become mature?
Chew on This
John Steinbeck wrote, "When a child first catches adults out—when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just—his world falls into panic desolation." You could argue that this describes the attitudes of the five main characters in The Breakfast Club.
In the 1960s a popular slogan was, "Don't trust anyone over thirty." The Breakfast Club seems to hint that this is good advice, implicitly arguing that younger people are truer of heart than older people.