The Last Picture Show (1971)

Brief Intro

“The Last Picture Show” is a 1971 film directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Set in a small, declining Texas town in the early 1950s, it explores the lives, loves, and losses of its residents. The movie is renowned for its poignant storytelling, strong character development, and the evocative black-and-white cinematography that accentuates its nostalgic yet somber mood.

Literary Devices Used in The Last Picture Show


Movie SceneDevice Example
The closing of the picture showThe end of an era and loss of innocence
Sam the Lion’s deathThe passing of a father figure and moral compass


Movie SceneDevice Example
Sam the Lion’s speech about the pastHints at the decline of the town and the characters’ futures
Jacy’s flirtationsPredicts her manipulative and self-destructive behavior


Movie SceneDevice Example
The dusty, deserted townRepresents the emotional desolation of the characters
The abandoned swimming poolSymbolizes wasted potential and dreams unfulfilled


Movie SceneDevice Example
Jacy’s pursuit of wealth and statusIronically leads to her unhappiness
Sonny’s search for loveFinds it in places he least expects, often with tragic outcomes


Movie SceneDevice Example
The stark, empty streetsCreates a vivid picture of loneliness and decay
The wind blowing through the townEnhances the sense of abandonment and change


Movie SceneDevice Example
Scenes of the teenagers’ reckless behavior vs. Sam’s reminiscencesHighlights the contrast between youthful impulsivity and mature reflection
Jacy’s beauty vs. the town’s uglinessEmphasizes the superficiality and hidden despair


Movie SceneDevice Example
The recurring song “Cry”Reflects the underlying sadness and longing of the characters
The use of the cinemaA motif for escapism and change


Movie SceneDevice Example
References to classic WesternsAlludes to the end of the American frontier spirit
Biblical references in dialogueAdds depth to the characters’ moral struggles


Movie SceneDevice Example
Sam recalling his youthProvides context and depth to his character and the town’s history
Lois’s memories of her past lovesExplains her current dissatisfaction and bitterness


Movie SceneDevice Example
The town itself is almost a characterRepresents the collective fate of its residents
The winds whispering through the streetsAdds an eerie, ghostly quality to the setting

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

Sonny Crawford

SymbolismSonny represents the struggling everyman, caught between dreams and harsh realities
IronyDespite his good intentions, his actions often lead to unintended pain for himself and others

Jacy Farrow

MetaphorJacy’s beauty and allure mask her inner turmoil and superficiality
JuxtapositionHer pursuit of excitement contrasts with the bleakness of her emotional landscape

Duane Jackson

ImageryHis physical strength and ruggedness contrast with his emotional vulnerability
IronyHis desire to escape the town leads him back to it, highlighting his lack of direction

Sam the Lion

FlashbackHis recollections serve to establish his role as the town’s moral anchor and historian
SymbolismHis death signifies the end of an era and the moral decline of the town

Character Dynamics

  • Sonny and Jacy: Their tumultuous relationship drives the narrative, highlighting themes of longing and the harsh realities of adulthood.
  • Sonny and Sam: The mentor-mentee dynamic between them underscores the theme of lost guidance and the search for moral grounding.
  • Jacy and Duane: Their relationship reflects the pursuit of superficial desires and the inevitable disappointment that follows.

Thematic Analysis

Alienation and Loneliness

ImageryThe empty, desolate streets of the town emphasize the characters’ isolation
SymbolismThe closing of the picture show signifies the end of communal experiences and shared dreams

Transition and Change

ForeshadowingSam’s speech about the past hints at the inevitable changes and the decline of the town
MotifThe recurring theme of movies and the picture show represents the changes in the town and its people

Unfulfilled Dreams and Regret

MetaphorThe abandoned swimming pool symbolizes the characters’ unfulfilled aspirations
FlashbackCharacters’ recollections of their past highlight their current regrets and lost opportunities

Morality and Decay

AllusionReferences to Biblical stories add a layer of moral complexity to the characters’ actions
PersonificationThe town itself, as a decaying entity, mirrors the moral decline of its inhabitants

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismBlack-and-white cinematographyEnhances the nostalgic and melancholic tone of the film
ForeshadowingUse of sound, such as the windCreates an ominous atmosphere that hints at future events
ImageryWide shots of the townEmphasize the isolation and desolation of the setting
MetaphorLighting contrastsHighlights the duality of characters’ outer appearances and inner struggles

Key Scene Analysis

  1. Sam the Lion’s Speech at the River
    • YouTube Link
    • Scene Breakdown: Sam’s reflective speech about his past love serves as a poignant moment of character development and thematic depth. The use of natural scenery and nostalgic tone enhances the emotional impact of the scene.
  2. The Closing of the Picture Show
    • YouTube Link
    • Scene Breakdown: The final closing of the picture show is a powerful symbol of the end of an era. The empty theater and the fading light create a visual metaphor for the fading dreams and communal bonds.


Interactive Quiz:

  1. Which literary device is used when the closing of the picture show symbolizes the end of an era?
  2. How does Sam the Lion’s death function symbolically in the film?
  3. What motif recurs to represent change and escapism in the film?
    • A) The wind
    • B) The picture show
    • C) The swimming pool
    • D) The dusty streets


  1. B) Symbolism
  2. C) As the end of moral guidance in the town
  3. B) The picture show