There Will Be Blood (2007)

Brief Intro

“There Will Be Blood,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is a gripping drama based on Upton Sinclair’s novel “Oil!” The film follows the ruthless oilman Daniel Plainview, whose ambition and greed lead to his moral and personal downfall. With stellar performances, especially by Daniel Day-Lewis, and a haunting score by Jonny Greenwood, this film is a modern masterpiece that explores themes of power, ambition, and corruption.

Literary Devices Used in There Will Be Blood


Movie SceneDevice Example
The opening scene of barren landscapesSymbolizes the emptiness and harshness of Plainview’s heart.
Daniel baptizing himself with oilSymbolizes his obsession with wealth and power.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Daniel’s speech about family valuesIronic as he neglects and manipulates his own son, H.W.
Eli’s fall from graceIronic as the preacher succumbs to the very greed he preaches against.


Movie SceneDevice Example
H.W. losing his hearingForeshadows his eventual separation from Daniel.
The fire at the oil rigForeshadows the destructive consequences of Daniel’s ambition.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The drilling for oilMetaphor for Daniel’s relentless pursuit of wealth.
The bowling alley sceneMetaphor for Daniel’s ultimate breakdown.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The relationship between Daniel and EliAllegory for the conflict between capitalism and religion.
The growth of the oil businessAllegory for the corruption of the American Dream.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Daniel and Eli’s first encounterJuxtaposes their contrasting characters and motives.
The serene church and chaotic oil fieldHighlights the conflicting forces of spirituality and greed.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Constant drilling soundsMotif symbolizing Daniel’s obsession and the industry’s relentless pursuit of oil.
Repeated religious imageryMotif representing the pervasive influence of religion.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The vast, desolate landscapesVivid imagery setting the tone of isolation and ambition.
The fiery explosion of the oil rigPowerful imagery depicting chaos and destruction.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Daniel’s memories of early strugglesFlashbacks reveal his motivations and hardships.
H.W. recalling his accidentFlashbacks provide insight into his trauma and relationship with Daniel.

Symbolic Character Names

Movie SceneDevice Example
Daniel PlainviewSymbolizes his straightforward and unembellished pursuit of wealth.
Eli SundaySymbolizes religious fervor and moral ambiguity.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Daniel Plainview

  • Device: SymbolismExplanationDaniel’s character is a symbol of unchecked ambition and greed. His descent into madness represents the corrupting power of wealth.
  • Device: IronyExplanationDaniel presents himself as a family man, yet he exploits and discards those closest to him, highlighting his hypocritical nature.

Eli Sunday

  • Device: AllegoryExplanationEli represents the morally dubious nature of organized religion. His manipulation and eventual downfall serve as a critique of religious hypocrisy.
  • Device: JuxtapositionExplanationEli’s pious persona is starkly contrasted with his greed and ambition, underscoring his complex and contradictory nature.

H.W. Plainview

  • Device: ForeshadowingExplanationH.W.’s hearing loss foreshadows his eventual emotional and physical separation from Daniel, symbolizing the ultimate cost of Daniel’s ambition.
  • Device: Symbolic Character NamesExplanationH.W. (initials) suggests an incomplete identity, reflecting his struggle to define himself apart from his father.

Character Dynamics

  • Daniel and H.W.ExplanationTheir relationship drives the narrative, with H.W.’s injury and subsequent estrangement highlighting Daniel’s ruthless nature and emotional void.
  • Daniel and EliExplanationThe antagonistic relationship between Daniel and Eli underscores the central conflict between capitalism and religion, each vying for dominance and moral superiority.

Thematic Analysis

Power and Corruption

  • Device: SymbolismExplanationThe oil represents power and wealth, corrupting all who seek it. Daniel’s descent into madness is a testament to this theme.
  • Device: IronyExplanationThe irony of Daniel’s quest for power is that it ultimately leads to his isolation and downfall, highlighting the corrupting influence of unchecked ambition.

Family and Betrayal

  • Device: ForeshadowingExplanationH.W.’s early injury foreshadows the eventual betrayal and abandonment by Daniel, underscoring the theme of broken family bonds.
  • Device: MetaphorExplanationThe drilling for oil serves as a metaphor for Daniel’s exploitation of his family and others, digging deeper into their lives only to discard them when they are no longer useful.

Religion and Hypocrisy

  • Device: AllegoryExplanationEli’s character serves as an allegory for religious hypocrisy, using his faith as a tool for personal gain, ultimately mirroring Daniel’s capitalist greed.
  • Device: JuxtapositionExplanationThe juxtaposition of the church and the oil field visually and thematically represents the conflict between spirituality and materialism.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismLightingDark, shadowy lighting often surrounds Daniel, symbolizing his moral ambiguity.
IronyMusicThe discordant score contrasts with serene moments, highlighting the underlying tension and irony.
ForeshadowingCamera AnglesLow-angle shots of Daniel foreshadow his eventual dominance and isolation.
MetaphorSet DesignThe barren landscapes and decaying towns metaphorically represent Daniel’s internal decay.
AllegoryCostume DesignEli’s evolving attire from humble preacher to wealthy man reflects his moral descent.
JuxtapositionEditingRapid cuts between the church and oil field emphasize the thematic contrast.
MotifSound DesignThe recurring drilling sounds serve as a constant reminder of Daniel’s obsession.
ImageryCinematographySweeping shots of the desolate landscapes create powerful imagery of isolation and ambition.
FlashbackNon-linear NarrativeFlashbacks are interspersed to provide deeper insights into characters’ motivations.
Symbolic NamesDialogueCharacter names are often revealed in conversations that hint at their deeper meanings.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

  1. The Opening Scene
    • Link: Opening Scene
    • Breakdown: The film opens with a desolate landscape and minimal dialogue, establishing the stark, unforgiving world Daniel inhabits. The symbolism of the barren land sets the tone for the themes of ambition and isolation.
  2. The Baptism Scene
    • Link: Baptism Scene
    • Breakdown: Daniel’s baptism by Eli is a pivotal moment, rich with irony and symbolism. The scene visually and thematically explores the power struggle between the two characters, using close-ups and dramatic lighting to enhance the tension.
  3. The Final Confrontation
    • Link: Final Confrontation
    • Breakdown: The film’s climax in the bowling alley is a masterclass in cinematic and literary techniques. The use of sound, setting, and performance culminates in a powerful exploration of Daniel’s complete moral and emotional breakdown.


To engage and test your understanding of the literary devices used in “There Will Be Blood,” here’s an interactive quiz:

Interactive Multiple Choice Quiz

1. What does the barren landscape symbolize in the film?

  • A) Prosperity
  • B) Isolation and ambition
  • C) Harmony
  • D) Love

2. Which literary device is used to foreshadow H.W.’s separation from Daniel?

3. How is the conflict between capitalism and religion represented in the film?

  • A) Through the characters of Daniel and H.W.
  • B) Through the juxtaposition of the church and oil field
  • C) Through the cinematography
  • D) Through the film’s score

4. What is the significance of Daniel’s name?

  • A) It symbolizes his simplicity.
  • B) It reflects his religious background.
  • C) It represents his straightforward pursuit of wealth.
  • D) It highlights his familial ties.

5. Which technique is used to enhance the motif of drilling sounds?

  • A) Lighting
  • B) Costume Design
  • C) Sound Design
  • D) Editing


  1. B
  2. B
  3. B
  4. C
  5. C