Network (1976)

Brief Intro

“Network” is a 1976 satirical film directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Paddy Chayefsky. The story revolves around a fictional television network, UBS, and its struggle with falling ratings. The plot centers on news anchor Howard Beale, who, after being fired, has a mental breakdown on live television, leading to a surge in the network’s ratings and a ruthless quest for higher viewership. The film critiques the sensationalism of the media and the corporatization of news.

Literary Devices Used in Network


Movie SceneExample of Irony
Howard Beale’s “I’m mad as hell” speechHoward, initially fired for low ratings, becomes the network’s star after his on-air breakdown.
Diana’s proposal to turn Beale into a prophet-like figureIt’s ironic that the network capitalizes on Beale’s mental instability for profit.


Movie SceneExample of Satire
The “Howard Beale Show”The absurdity of turning a news program into a sensational variety show mocks the television industry’s obsession with ratings.
Diana’s ambition to create more extreme showsSatirizes the lengths to which TV executives will go to capture audience attention, highlighting moral decay.


Movie SceneExample of Metaphor
Howard’s on-air breakdownRepresents the breaking point of ethical journalism in the face of commercial pressures.
The network’s manipulation of BealeSymbolizes the dehumanizing force of corporate interests.


Movie SceneExample of Symbolism
Beale’s rain-soaked rantThe rain symbolizes cleansing and the raw truth that Beale is trying to convey.
The dimly lit boardroom meetingsReflects the dark, secretive nature of corporate decision-making.


Movie SceneExample of Foreshadowing
Beale’s first breakdown announcementHints at his future as a media spectacle and the network’s moral decline.
Discussions about ratings and profitForetells the extreme measures the network will take to stay relevant.


Movie SceneExample of Hyperbole
Beale’s declaration of being guided by GodExaggerates the extent of his mental breakdown and the network’s exploitation of it.
Diana’s outrageous programming ideasEmphasizes the absurdity and extremity of the television industry.


Movie SceneExample of Allusion
Beale’s references to societal issuesAlludes to real-world social and political problems of the 1970s.
The corporate boardroom’s discussionsAlludes to the era’s growing corporatization and loss of individual integrity.


Movie SceneExample of Paradox
Beale’s rise to fame through insanityThe paradox of finding truth and popularity through madness.
The network’s moral decay despite successThe more the network succeeds, the more it loses its ethical compass.


Movie SceneExample of Juxtaposition
Beale’s genuine anguish vs. audience applauseHighlights the disconnect between human suffering and entertainment.
Diana’s cold ambition vs. Max’s ethical concernsContrasts personal ambition with moral integrity.


Movie SceneExample of Pathos
Beale’s heartfelt speechesElicits sympathy and anger from the audience towards societal injustices.
Max’s relationship strugglesEngages the audience emotionally with his personal and ethical conflicts.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Howard Beale

IronyHoward’s madness makes him a TV star, highlighting the absurdity of media sensationalism.
MetaphorHis breakdown symbolizes the collapse of ethical journalism.

Diana Christensen

SatireDiana’s character satirizes the ruthless ambition of TV executives.
JuxtapositionHer cold pragmatism contrasts sharply with Max’s moral integrity.

Max Schumacher

PathosMax’s personal and professional dilemmas evoke audience empathy.
JuxtapositionHis ethical concerns are set against Diana’s ruthless ambition.

Character Dynamics

Howard and DianaTheir relationship symbolizes the exploitation of individuals by corporate interests.
Max and DianaTheir interactions highlight the conflict between moral integrity and ambition.
Howard and MaxTheir friendship underscores the human cost of media manipulation.

Thematic Analysis

Media Sensationalism

IronyHoward’s mental breakdown becomes a media sensation.
SatireThe network’s transformation of news into entertainment.

Corporate Greed

SymbolismBoardroom meetings symbolize the dark side of corporate decision-making.
ForeshadowingDiscussions about ratings hint at the extreme measures taken for profit.

Loss of Integrity

JuxtapositionMax’s ethical struggles vs. Diana’s ambition.
ParadoxThe network’s success comes at the cost of its integrity.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Visual and Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
IronyLighting and set designThe contrast between Beale’s chaotic rants and the polished studio setting.
SatireCamera anglesExaggerated close-ups of characters’ reactions to emphasize absurdity.
SymbolismSound designThe use of silence and ambient noise during boardroom scenes to convey the weight of corporate decisions.

Key Scene Analysis

Key Scenes and Breakdown

  1. Howard Beale’s “Mad as Hell” Speech
    • Link: YouTube
    • Breakdown: This iconic scene uses irony and pathos to critique media exploitation. Beale’s passionate speech resonates with the audience, both within the film and the viewers, highlighting the absurdity of finding truth through madness.
  2. Diana’s Programming Meeting
    • Link: YouTube
    • Breakdown: This scene satirizes the TV industry’s ruthless pursuit of ratings. Diana’s outlandish ideas and the board’s enthusiastic approval reflect the loss of moral compass in favor of profit.
  3. Beale’s Final Broadcast
    • Link: YouTube
    • Breakdown: The culmination of Beale’s journey, this scene combines metaphor and symbolism. The stark lighting and somber tone underline the tragic end of a man exploited by the very system he sought to expose.


To wrap up our exploration of “Network,” test your knowledge with this interactive quiz!


  1. What literary device is primarily used in Howard Beale’s “mad as hell” speech?
  2. Diana Christensen’s character is an example of:
  3. The network’s use of Beale’s breakdown to boost ratings is an example of:

Answer Key: 1-B, 2-C, 3-B