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Thelma & Louise – Thematic Discussions


The first action of the movie is the sight of Susan Sarandon (Louise) and from the moment one sees her actions as a waitress at a dinner-style restaurant, it is clear that Thelma & Louise has two central ideas that are intertwined to govern a number of sequences and scenes. These central ideas are analysed as themes of freedom and women versus men in this essay.

Conceptualization of the theme of freedom begins with Louise and Thelma’s journey in their attempt to set the girls free. Louise says, “All he wants me to be engaged in is to hang around the compound” (Montag, 2006). While this statement meant ‘to stay’ it has been used by the character to show that women were not free from relationship, work, upsets and concerns and responsibilities. It is for this reason that characters such as Thelma (married to insensitive and abusive husband in Arkansas) have been struggling to be free and in that case escape from the torments of their husbands.

Taking another scene to contextualize the argument, Thelma must always ask for permission from the ‘insensitive’ Darryl (husband) just for a trip. As a matter of fact, this is not only the case. In doing so, she is so frightened and worried about the reaction from the husband that sometimes she fails to ask. In the first scene, Thelma politely approaches the husband saying, ‘honey…may I’ and the husband barks ‘what?’ Whenever ‘what?’ is the answer, she quickly changes the topic for something different just for the fear and fright from the husband. Apparently this marriage portrays Darryl as a warden and Thelma a prisoner.

In addition to the situation Thelma finds herself in, whenever she calls the husband, Darryl would patronize her and sometimes Thelma responds by “go fuck yourself.” Therefore the freedom is attained when she makes love to JD (a suspicious “urban cowboy” met by Louise and Thelma on the road).

Another level of freedom is introduced in the film when Louise kills Harlan. After the murder, Thelma and Louise are struggling to be free from the guilt of terminating life of a character that ideally sympathized with their situation—or at least seeking freedom from imprisonment. Lynn (2001) argues that is it the quest for this freedom that sets an important goal for the ladies for the remaining parts of the movie.

In summary, Louise is seen at some point in the moving discussing with Detective Slocumb on the best ways she thinks she would be free. She says, “There are these phrases and words that continue to drift through my memory. I feel things like cavity search to end the drama, incarceration, life in prison, committing suicide by electrocution…shit like that! know what I’m talkin’ about? So do I want to be freed? Yes but the hard way.”

Women versus Men

Regardless of how it is portrayed, this movie is about what it means to be a woman in United States of America. In particular, a working class woman who seemingly have limited options to progress. It is intertwined with scenes where women apparently realize they have potential as well as freedom that they never imagined. While this can be one way of viewing the relationship between women and men in the movie, other scenes in the movie earned it the title ‘feminist’ when it was first released (Lynn, 2001).

The first scene is the constant fight between Louise and Thelma. Whenever a fight broke out between Thelma and Darryl, the women (Thelma) was always on the wrong regardless of the facts and issues on the table for discussion. This was apparent when Thelma wants permission to go for a trip. Additionally, whenever, Thelma is seeking attention from the husband she would always be patronized. This is an indication that women are not regarded as people who deserve good treatment from men and if anything, they should always beg. The idea that women are represented as weaker sex has been discussed by Harvey (1999).

Another aspect of relationship between women and men is a list of cheaters or players from the opposite sex standing between two critical protagonists as well as hope for freedom.

  • State Trooper
  • Harlan
  • Hal
  • Truck Driver
  • Darryl
  • JD

While the list above constitute characters who have cheated on their wives and husband on different ways and for different reasons, women face more problems from men or their husbands therefore in as much as it can be argued that the movie have characters lacking respect for their marriages, it is apparent that men cause more havoc to women thus driving them to the act. Additionally, JD who Thelma sees as a good replacement for the disastrous affair she has with Darryl turns to be the hybrid of Darryl and Harlan and frustrates her more than Darryl especially when Thelma finds that he (JD) runs away with the gals. These are indications that men have no respect for women.


Harvey, D. (1999). Energy and Power in Women against societal negativities. New Reality in the representation of women in movies. Routledge.

Lynn, D. (2001), Heart of Darkness in Thelma and Darryl: Marlow’s Heroic Cry.”The Hero’   Tale. Narrators in the Early Modern Movies. London: Macmillan.

Montag, G. (2006). “Marlow Tells the Truth:” The Nature of Evil in Thelma & Louise.”            Conradiana.

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