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SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 to 1991; ELA: Magical Realism;
        expository phase, setting, character development, theme;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Friendship; Disabilities;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect and Caring.
Age: 13+; MPAA Rating PG-13; Comedy-Drama; 1990; 105 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

Description: A mad inventor has created an artificial man, raising him as a son in a castle overlooking a stereotypical 1950s housing development. The inventor dies, however, before his machine, called Edward, is fitted with hands. Edward is left with large, sharp scissors for hands. After being discovered by a compassionate door-to-door cosmetic saleswoman, Edward moves into the life of a tacky suburban community where he is accepted, at least initially. In a short time, complications develop and the forces of fear, greed, gossip, and exploitation combine to drive Edward back to the castle where he will live alone but carry the memory of having loved and having been loved.

Rationale for Using the Movie: Edward Scissorhands is an example of the genre of magical realism and provides an opportunity to show irony and a serious theme in a popular movie.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will watch an example of magical realism. Discussion questions and assignments at the end of the film will provide students the opportunity to review and apply the concept of irony, to discuss or write about theme, to exercise critical thinking, and engage in values clarification.

TWM has also developed a Lesson Plan on Review of Literary Devices and Writing Exercises Using Edward Scissorhands:

Possible Problems: Minor: The film contains mild profanity, sexual images and violence.



Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Introduction to the Movie
      Discussion Questions


Lesson Plan on Review of Literary Devices and Writing Exercises

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Additional Assignments

Other Sections:
      Links to the Internet
      Selected Awards & Cast

MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project.


Discussion Questions:

After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1.  In its effort to ridicule conformity, the film stereotypes 1950s culture. What examples of stereotyping do you see in this film? Suggested Response: Stereotypes in this film include: interior and exterior decorating, clothing, suburban experiences such as barbecues and card games on Friday nights for men; the vacuous lives of both men and women; attitudes of intolerance; hypocrisy; the sexually frustrated housewife, bullies, and door-to-door saleswomen .Peg is stereotyped as a static and unflappable character.

2.  Give examples of irony in this film that illuminate meaning and also entertain. Suggested Response: Examples are: (1) On the talk show, it is mentioned that without scissors for hands, Edward would not be special. It is ironic that this special quality is the source of his loneliness and pain. (2) After the break-in attempt, a policeman asks the doctor who had apparently evaluated Edward's mental state about Edward's condition. The doctor says that Edward has been suffering from years of isolation. He cannot tell right from wrong. He has underdeveloped awareness of reality. When asked whether Edward will be OK out in the world, the doctor responds, "Oh yeah, he'll be fine." This suggests that society itself is so disturbed that the negative traits mentioned are not seen as handicaps. (3) When Edward rushes to save Kevin, it is ironic that he hurts the boy and is seen as dangerous rather than helpful. (4) It is ironic that Edward is both drawn into the community for his unique qualities and later rejected by it, ostensibly for those same unique qualities. However, in reality, Edward is rejected because he refuses to allow some townspeople to use him for their own purposes and for other selfish reasons; (5) It is ironic that the only signs of nature in town are either topiary or plastic Christmas trees and these are not natural at all. Edward, the concoction of a scientist, has more human emotions and is more like a caring human being, than the people in the community.

3.  What humorous elements in the film serve to point out something important? Suggested Response: There are many answers to this question. When the police confront Edward they tell him to drop his weapons. His scissors serve as his hands; they are not weapons and cannot be dropped. The police then say, "Cuff him," another reference to his hands. These lines show the inability of the police to actually see what is before them just as the townspeople have been unable to see the real Edward. Bursting the waterbed and trying to eat at the dinner table are but two of several examples of humorous situations based on Edward's struggle to fit into the social structure. They point to the absurdity of trying to fit in. It's funny when Edward sits on the curb and is joined by a dog with hair in its eyes. As upset as Edward has been and as decorative as he has been in the use of his dog-hair trimming skills, he neatly snips the hair so that the dog can see. It shows that Edward understands what is important.

For many additional discussion questions, click here.


Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1.  Write an essay in which you specify how intolerance progresses in the community shown in the film from early interest in Edward to a desire to exploit his unique talents and finally to fear and rejection. Address the power of gossip, innuendo, mistakes, and lies in bringing about these changes.

2.  People who are valued for their individuality or appreciated because they are different are usually not as far outside the norm as Edward. Write informally about a unique individual you know personally or through mass media. Describe the characteristics that make this person a nonconformist and explain whether or not these characteristics have led to fame or rejection.

3.  Develop definitions of magical realism and science fiction. Show your sources and use more than one source for each. Then write an essay evaluating whether Edward Scissorhands is magical realism or science fiction.

For an additional 50 assignments, see the Supplemental Materials file for this film.


Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

Setting is an important component of the film. It relates directly to the theme of the movie.

Analysis of ideas in a narrative, including theme, is at the heart of ELA curriculum. Thematic analysis requires that students think and then communicate their thoughts concisely, marshalling facts to justify their conclusions. Edward Scissorhands is direct in its presentation of ideas and students should have little difficulty in discoverying its themes.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Parenting Points: This is a touching story with ethical lessons that a family can watch together and discuss in terms of tolerance and open mindedness.

This Learning Guide was written by Mary RedClay and James Frieden and was last revised on May 27, 2013.

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