This might be the big theme of The Breakfast Club, the one that knits all the other themes together. Everyone in this movie has an identity socially defined by their peers and by the adults who are supposed to know better.
Brian reads them off at the beginning of the movie: "a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal." Everything that happens in the movie involves learning that each of them has more to offer than these glib descriptions would indicate. They're all deeper, fully formed people—dynamic characters, not stock characters.
Questions About Identity
- What separates the characters in terms of their identities, making them think they're different from each other?
- What unites the characters in terms of their identities, making them think they're basically the same?
- Since Brian writes the conclusion of the essay at the end of the movie, explaining that they've realized that each one of them is "a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal," can we assume that they've all had this realization? Or is it something specific to Brian?
- What kind of essay do you think Vernon was expecting when he told them to write one on "who you think you are"? How do you think he'll react to the essay Brian turns in?
Chew on This
Our identity is something determined by society. You can see this in the way the characters all act according to social roles they've been assigned—nerd, jock, etc.
Our identity is something deeper than what society determines it is, and we have some sort of transcendent inner core. You can see this in the way the characters are able to overcome their social roles and ultimately relate to each other in a genuine form.