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Study Guide - Edward Scissorhands: Characters, Plot, Synopsis &Themes

A guide to assist in the study of this film by providing background information and additional resources

Edward Scissorhands : Synopsis

One evening, an elderly woman tells her granddaughter a bedtime story of where snow comes from, by telling her the story of a young man named Edward (Johnny Depp), who has scissors for hands, the creation of an old Inventor (Vincent Price). The Inventor's final result was a humanlike young boy who had everything except for hands, but the Inventor suffered a heart attack and died while in the act of giving a pair of real hands to Edward, leaving him "unfinished" forever.

Many years after Edward was created, local Avon saleswoman Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest) visits the decrepit Gothic mansion on the hill where Edward lives. There, she finds Edward alone, and upon realising he is virtually harmless, she decides to take him to her home. Edward becomes friends with Peg's young son Kevin (Robert Oliveri) and her husband Bill (Alan Arkin). He later falls in love with the Boggs' beautiful teenage daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder), despite her initial fear of him.

Peg's neighbours are impressed by Edward's adept hedge-trimming and hair-cutting skills (both of which he does with his scissor-hands), but two of the townspeople, a religious fanatic named Esmeralda (O-Lan Jones) and Kim's boyfriend, Jim (Anthony Michael Hall), are not impressed. One of the housewives in the neighbourhood, Joyce (Kathy Baker), an ageing seductress, suggests that Edward opens a hair-cutting salon with her. While examining a proposed site, she attempts to seduce him in the back room, causing Edward to leave in a state of panic.

Wanting money for a van, Jim takes advantage of Edward's ability to pick locks and uses this as an attempt to break into his parents' house. The burglar alarm sounds and everyone except Edward flee, despite Kim's angry insistence that they return for him. Edward is arrested but is released when a psychological examination reveals that his isolation allowed him to live without a sense of reality and common sense. At the same time, the arresting officer befriends him. Meanwhile, infuriated by Edward's rejection, Joyce exacts revenge by claiming that he tried to "rape" her. This, added to the "break-in", causes many of the neighbours to question his personality and, therefore, ruin his popular reputation. During the Christmas season, Edward is feared and outcasted by almost everyone around him except the Boggs family, resulting in the family becoming outcasts as well.

While the family is setting up Christmas decorations, Edward creates an angel ice sculpture. The shavings create an effect of falling snow, which Kim dances under. Jim calls out to Kim, distracting her, and Edward accidentally cuts her hand. Jim says that Edward had intentionally harmed her and attacks him. Edward runs away, tearing the clothes Peg gave him and wanders the neighbourhood in a rage. Kim, fed up with Jim's behaviour towards Edward, breaks up with him and he goes to his friend's van to get drunk. While Peg and Bill search for Edward, he returns and Kim greets him with a hug. When Kevin is almost run over by Jim's drunk friend, Edward pushes him out of the way, but cuts his face, causing witnesses to think he was attacking him. When the police arrive, Edward flees to his hilltop mansion, and the neighbours form an angry mob, led by Joyce, and follow, despite Peg and Bill's pleas. Officer Jim tries to deceive everyone by firing a few shots into the air to give the impression that Edward is dead, but the mob refuses to listen, and they continue to the mansion to see if Edward really is dead.

Kim runs to the mansion and reunites with Edward. Jim follows her, attacks Edward and angers him when Jim brutally assaults Kim. Edward stabs Jim in the stomach and pushes him out a window to his death. Kim confesses her love for Edward and shares a kiss with him as they say goodbye. Returning downstairs, Kim lies to the townspeople saying that Edward and Jim killed each other in the fight. She tells them that the roof caved in on them and shows them a disembodied scissor-hand similar to that of Edward's. Shocked and saddened over his death, the neighbours return home. At the same time, the guilty Joyce realises what her lies have done.

The elderly woman (who is revealed to be Kim in her old age) finishes telling her granddaughter the story, saying that she never saw Edward again. She chose not to visit him because she wanted him to remember her the way she was in her youth. She also mentions that Edward is still alive, seemingly immortal since he is artificial and can never age, and he "creates snow" from his ice sculptures, which falls upon the neighbourhood below. She tells her granddaughter that "Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it." While Edward creates more ice sculptures, a flashback of a young Kim is shown dancing under the snow falling from the angel ice sculpture above her. (Source: Wikipedia).


Information taken from  http://www.imdb.com

Edward Scissorhands : Plot

Edward Scissorhands (1990) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary (1990)

In a castle high on top of a hill lives an inventor's greatest creation - Edward, a near-complete person. The creator died before he could finish Edward's hands; instead, he is left with metal scissors for hands. Since then, he has lived alone, until a kind lady called Peg discovers him and welcomes him into her home. At first, everyone welcomes him into the community, but soon things begin to take a change for the worse.

Information taken from http://www.imdb.com./title/#0099487/plotsummary

The actor Johnny Depp

  "I feel a strong connection with Tim and trust him completely. It’s amazing to be invited into his world". – Johnny Depp.

Burton and Depp have worked together on numerous films and have developed a strong, trusting working relationship and friendship, which helps ensure a continuing successful screen partnership. The relationship between the actor and the director can be a tenuous one, often due to conflicting egos and the privilege of individual rather than collective visions. But this is not the case with Burton and Depp. It was fortuitous that Depp was given the role of Edward Scissorhands, as the ongoing collaboration between the two has produced some memorable screen performances. 

Source: Taken from The Fantastical Imagination of Tim Burton - Education Resource Kit 18 / 42. (2017). 1st ed. [ebook] Melbourne: ACMI, p.18. Available at: https://2015.acmi.net.au/media/428206/edkit-burton-fantastical.pdf

Edward Scissorhands : Theme chart

Character development in Edward Scissorhands

Character development is the revelation of a character's personality, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses and emotions to the audience. It also examines how characters relate to each other. The audience is introduced to the protagonist early on who then develops through the film. Often a film can track a whole characters life and maturation or can use flashback to reveal key developments

In Edward Scissorhands, the development of the main character Edward occurs firstly through flashbacks to the inventor in which reveals his upbringing and how he was created. In the present with the introduction of more characters like Joyce, Kim and Jim the audience sees Edward's character grow and then ultimately come to an end due to his futile attempts to be a good citizen.

Cause and effect is the narrative device that allows the understanding of character motivations and decisions. The narrative relies on characters and their changing circumstances. Cause and effect can consist of character motivations/decisions happening outside of their control. Often action triggers other action.

In Edward Scissorhands when Edward is framed for robbing Jim's House, this leads to him being arrested and slowly beginning his decline. Society then views him as a dangerous outsider who can not be trusted.

Information taken from http://www.mylesson.com.au/unit3/edward-scissorhands/#cameratechniques

Edward Scissorhands : Characters

Johnny Depp                  Edward Scissorhands

Winona Ryder                 Kim Boggs

Dianne Wiest                   Peg Boggs

Anthony Michael Hall       Jim Boggs

Kathy Baker                     Joyce

Vincent Price                    The Inventor

Alan Arkin                         Bill

Robert Oliveri                   Kevin Boggs

Conchata Ferrell              Helen

Caroline Aaron                 Marge

Dick Anthony Williams     Officer Allen

O-Lan Jones                    Esmeralda

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward-Scissorhands