The Breakfast Club
The plot follows five students at fictional Shermer High School in the widely used John Hughes setting of Shermer, Illinois (a fictitious suburb of Chicago based on Hughes’ hometown of Northbrook, Illinois, which was originally called Shermerville; Shermer is a street in Northbrook, and the school in Northbrook, Glenbrook North High School is on Shermer), as they report for Saturday detention on March 24, 1984. While not complete strangers, the five teenagers are all from a different clique or social group: John Bender, Claire Standish, Brian Johnson, Andy Clark, and Allison Reynolds.
The students pass the hours in a variety of ways: they dance, harass each other, tell stories, fight, smoke marijuana, and speak on a variety of subjects. Gradually they open up to each other and reveal their inner secrets (for example, Allison is a compulsive liar and Brian and Claire are ashamed of their virginity). They also discover that they all have strained relationships with their parents and are afraid of making the same mistakes as the adults around them. However, despite these developing friendships, the students are afraid that once the detention is over, they will return to their very different cliques and never speak to each other again.
At the request and consensus of the students, Brian is asked to write the essay Mr. Vernon assigned earlier (the subject of which was to be a synopsis by each student detailing “who you think you are”), which challenges Mr. Vernon and his preconceived judgments about all of them. Brian does so, but instead of writing about the actual topic he writes a very motivating letter that is in essence, the main point of the story. He signs the essay as “The Breakfast Club” and leaves it at the table for Mr. Vernon to read when they leave. There are two versions of this letter, one read at the beginning and one at the end, and they are slightly different; illustrating the change in the student’s judgments of one another, and their realization that they truly have things in common. The beginning letter is as follows:
Brian Johnson (although that is unknown at this point): Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois. 60062. Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us… in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at seven o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed.
The end letter is as follows:
Brian Johnson: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…Brian Johnson …and an athlete…Andy Clark …and a basket case…Allison Reynolds …a princess…Claire Standish …and a criminal…John Bender
Does that answer your question?.. Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club