Make Way for Tomorrow

Brief Intro

“Make Way for Tomorrow” (1937) is a poignant film directed by Leo McCarey, focusing on the heartbreaking tale of an elderly couple, Barkley and Lucy Cooper, who are forced to separate due to financial difficulties. The film delves into themes of aging, family dynamics, and societal neglect, presenting a touching and, at times, starkly realistic portrayal of the twilight years.

Literary Devices Used in Make Way for Tomorrow

Let’s dive into the literary devices that give this film its emotional depth and enduring relevance.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The final scene where Barkley and Lucy part at the train station.The train symbolizes the inevitable passage of time and the journey of life.
Barkley’s broken chair.Represents his declining health and the fragility of old age.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The old family home that Barkley and Lucy must leave.Symbolizes their lost past and the disintegration of family unity.
The family photograph.Represents the fractured family relationships and lost connections.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The children promising to visit their parents often but rarely doing so.Highlights the contrast between words and actions, underscoring the theme of neglect.
The cheerful music playing during the sad parting at the train station.Enhances the emotional irony of the moment.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Early discussions about financial troubles.Foreshadows the eventual separation of Barkley and Lucy.
Barkley’s early coughs.Foreshadows his declining health and ultimate fate.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Lucy reminiscing about their early years together.Provides context for their deep bond and highlights the contrast with their current situation.
Barkley’s memories of working and providing for the family.Adds depth to his character and the sacrifices he made.


Movie SceneDevice Example
References to “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck.Alludes to the broader social issues of the Great Depression.
Mention of popular songs from their youth.Alludes to their happier times and a bygone era.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Scenes of the bustling city against the quiet, lonely lives of the elderly couple.Highlights the isolation and neglect faced by the elderly.
Happy family gatherings in flashbacks contrasted with present-day separations.Enhances the sense of loss and nostalgia.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The creaking of the old house.The house seems to mourn the departure of its residents.
The train whistle.Implies a sense of foreboding and sorrow as it parts Barkley and Lucy.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Conversations between Barkley and Lucy about their past.Reveals their deep connection and shared history.
The children’s discussions about their parents.Exposes their selfishness and lack of understanding.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Recurring mentions of time.Emphasizes the fleeting nature of life and relationships.
The recurring imagery of separation.Highlights the central theme of loss and parting.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

MetaphorBarkley’s broken chair symbolizes his declining health and the overall fragility of old age.
FlashbackLucy’s reminiscence of their early years adds depth to her character, showing the contrast with her present situation.

Character Dynamics

JuxtapositionThe stark difference between the children’s comfortable lives and their parents’ struggles highlights generational disconnect.
DialogueThe conversations among the children about their parents reveal their selfishness and lack of empathy.

Thematic Analysis

Aging and Family

SymbolismThe family home symbolizes the unity and subsequent disintegration of family bonds.
IronyThe children’s promises to visit often contrast with their actual neglect.

Societal Neglect

MetaphorThe train represents the journey of life and the passage of time, underscoring societal neglect of the elderly.
AllusionReferences to “The Grapes of Wrath” allude to the broader social issues of the time, including neglect.

Love and Sacrifice

FlashbackFlashbacks to Barkley and Lucy’s early years highlight their enduring love and sacrifices.
MotifThe recurring imagery of separation underscores the sacrifices made by the elderly couple.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
IronySound designThe cheerful music during the sad parting at the train station enhances the emotional irony.
JuxtapositionVisual contrastsThe bustling city scenes contrasted with the quiet lives of Barkley and Lucy highlight their isolation.

Key Scene Analysis

Train Station Farewell

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This scene uses a combination of visual and sound techniques to enhance the literary devices:

  • Visuals: The long, lingering shots on the couple’s faces emphasize their sorrow and resignation.
  • Sound: The contrasting cheerful music underscores the emotional irony of their parting.

Family Dinner Scene

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In this scene, the dynamics between the children and their parents are brought to life through:

  • Dialogue: The children’s conversations reveal their selfishness and lack of empathy.
  • Visuals: The camera angles highlighting the distance and disconnect between the family members.


To wrap things up, let’s engage with a fun interactive multiple-choice quiz to test your understanding of the literary devices in “Make Way for Tomorrow.”


  1. What does the train symbolize in the final scene?
    • a) Wealth
    • b) Passage of time
    • c) Happiness
    • d) Health
  2. Which literary device is highlighted by the cheerful music during the sad farewell?
  3. What does Barkley’s broken chair symbolize?
    • a) Wealth
    • b) Strength
    • c) Declining health
    • d) Happiness