Plato: The Philosopher or Commoner

"Rebel Without A Cause" Character Analysis - Elizabeth Renz

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"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." ~ Plato, Greek Philosopher

Character Trait - Deranged

Plato was a very interesting character in "Rebel Without a Cause." While his role in the story was less important than, say, Jim, he still had many defining traits. One of his most defining traits was that he is very twisted. During the movie, he did many things that showed the viewers exactly how psychotic he was. Right at the beginning of the movie, Plato is being interviewed in the police station because he killed puppies. Puppies. What right-minded individual would kill puppies, especially with a gun! Later on as the story progressed, Plato took the same gun and shot at some of the cool kids, and even a police officer. Only truly mad individuals would consider shooting at a armed law enforcer. Meanwhile, while all of this is occurring, he acted as though Jim was his father, showing how because of his twisted family life, he has made unhealthy connections with his peers.

Character Trait (cont.) - Antisocial

Another character trait that defines Plato is how he is antisocial. At the beginning of the story, he is all alone, with just his maid to which to turn. However, once Jim moves to his new town and has his first day at school, Plato sees him as a friend. With just one friend in the entire school, it goes to show how alone he is. Plato is also seen lurking around the corners of different buildings; he is rarely seen with a group of individuals, which shows that he doesn't like to really be the center of attention. Finally, when Jim and Plato were at the bluff for the chicken run, Plato wasn't among the cool kids observing the race; he was alone along the side of the crowd, waiting for Jim to get done.

Character Trait (cont.) - Follower

A final trait that describes Plato is that he tends to be a follower, rather than a leader. Throughout the story, Plato is usually seen following Jim around, whether it is at the planetarium or during the chicken run. He doesn't really pave his own path until near the end of the story when he goes on a gun wielded standoff and, inevitably, gets killed by the police. He mentioned at one point to Judy how he hoped that Jim would take him fishing or hunting, which doesn't really show leadership, rather false intentions. He also "knew" that Jim would be at the mansion across from the planetarium after the chicken run, so he followed him to the mansion, which is both creepy and kind of clingy.

"Rebellion without truth is like spring in a bleak, arid desert." ~ Khalil Gibran

Rebel WITH A Cause

Plato's family life, much like Judy and Jim's, is very corrupt; however, he seems to get handed the short end of the stick. Plato doesn't really have a family to turn to during this transition of life; all he has in his life is his maid, which isn't necessarily a major influence on his actions, since she doesn't show any discipline for bad behavior. His father is not in the picture and makes child support payments to his mother, who always leaves Plato to go on vacations. Because Plato was virtually abandoned during his entire adolescence, he never knew how to act around his peers, thus doing reckless, psychotic activities, including shooting puppies and nearly shooting his peers. Plato also begins to see Jim as a father, which is a result of Plato's father abandoning him.

Did He Change or Learn?

Unfortunately, out of the three rebels, Plato was the only one that did not change. Toward the end of the movie, Plato hid out in the planetarium, with swarms of police units surrounding the building. After some persuasion from Jim, Plato was able to leave the building; however, once he got outside, he panicked and pulled out his gun (even though Jim had stolen the bullets.) The police then shot him because how were they to know if it was loaded or not? Plato then died, so he was not able to change or learn from his rebellious ways.

Symbolism - Plato's Mismatched Socks

In the eyes of Jim and Judy, Plato seemed to be a fairly normal, well-off teenager. He had a wealthy family, appeared to be happy, and seemed to be living a typical teenage life. However, when Plato fell asleep at the mansion outside of the observatory, Jim and Judy noticed how his socks were mismatched. They thought nothing much of it; however, the symbolism behind them paints an eerier story. To everyone in the community, Plato had a family with a lot of money and saw him as a happy individual. However, the mismatched socks go to show that no matter how perfect one's life seems, there can still be problems under the surface that make their lives worse.

Theme - Belonging

I think the main theme in "Rebel Without A Cause" is belonging because all of the teenagers rebelling in the film are doing so because they want to fit in or belong to someone or something. Jim wants to try and impress the popular kids at his new school, so he participates in the reckless activities (such as the knife fight and chickie run) so he can fit in. Judy, meanwhile, wants to be recognized by her father. In the one scene where she tries to kiss him and her father hits her, she only kissed him because she wanted to belong to him again as his daughter. Finally, Plato just wanted to belong to a family, so he used Jim and Judy as his "family" in order to fit in.

Discussion Question

"Why do Judy's attitude and actions change after Buzz dies?"

Buzz was one of the popular kids at their school, and Judy was rebelling in order to please him and his friends. Judy would act one way around Jim and a whole new way around Buzz. Buzz was one of Judy's main inspirations for rebelling. Once Buzz died, Judy didn't have to please the cool people anymore; her inspiration for rebelling was removed. Because she didn't have to please the cool kids anymore, she was free to act however she wanted. The death of Buzz also allowed for her to have more time to spend with Jim, who ultimately aided her in her changes at the end of the movie.