The Meaning of Life in Harold and Maude

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Harold and Maude - A Unique Love Story

Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude is a classic film-making of the 1970s. The film focuses on a young man, Harold Chasen that falls in love with an Old woman referred to as Maude. From the onset of the film, Harold is depicted as a person with bizarre psychological fascination with death. Despite that Maude is old and has a similar interest in death, she enjoys life to the fullest. At seventy, she is aware about the imminence of death and enjoys everything including driving cars, trucks and even finding moments of interests and pleasure in graveyards. The primary thesis of the comedy are the two primary aspects human nature. More precisely, the author suggests that life and death are inevitable and people should not struggle to oppose or invite them.

The Contrasting Characters of Harold and Maude

Harold, a twenty year old character is depicted as an introvert that evolves dramatic recluses a result of maternal neglect. In contrast, Maude is septuagenarian extrovert that lives freely, despite that she is old. The two characters represent two extremes of life. Specifically, with the two characters, the author presents the bizarre meaning of life in different ways. The two main characters are coincidentally united at the funeral because of their love for death. However, with time, Maude influences and changes the attitudes and perceptions of Harold. Despite that they are polar opposites on the basis of age, Ashby gives Maude the role of changing Harold’s life to make it fulfilling. The optimism of the message is sustained on the lyrics that strike an ironic note.

Ashby's Message about Life and Death

Ashby delivers a message that people’s lives are a path that entails time to live as well as the time to die. In light of this, with significant obsession, Harold feigns suicide attempts multiple times in front of Mrs. Chasen, his rich and overbearing mother. He pretends to hang, shoot, drown, hang, immolate himself, chop his hand off and slit his wrists. Interestingly, instead of fearing the death attempts of her son, Mrs. Chasen is infuriated. She seems to be unaffected by such incidences. In response, she arranges computer dates for Harold, which he scares away promptly. To the surprise of the audience, Harold is fond of funerals and loves driving hearse of strangers Nonetheless, does not date and even likes spending his time at yards of junk. In contrast, Maude is an expert in stealing many things including vehicles. She meets Harold at a funeral while having a solo picnic. After seeing how she is full of life, Harold learn to love, nurture and embrace life. From the lives of Maude, who is a symbol of life, and Harold, her counterpart, people understand what life actually entails. They understand the meditations that they share mutually, the two characters are brought together at the altar of marriage and separated by Maude’s suicide.

Complex Characters and Behaviors

The author weaves the characters into a unique personality and comic self-esteem with a thematic backdrop of running all through the film through a comedy. Besides, with the help of characters such as Sunshine, Edith, and Uncle Victor, as well as police, cops .priest and nurses. A variety of streams of consciousness are represented in the film. The author cinematically presents the simultaneous mental processes of people through the minds of fictional characters. With the eternal actions, the audience is capable of penetrating into their inner life to understand humanity. A diversity and character and behavior in life is presented. The author presents multiple roles and dispositions. For instance, in attempt to save Maude, the nurses fail to understand Harold when he is requesting them to treat her promptly. Similarly, Harold while presenting Maude with a reminder of “I love you” while throwing it instantly to the depths of the ocean.

The Sensitivities of Human Life

With exquisite cutting and utilization of excellent montage techniques, the film discloses the sensitivities of human life that lie deep within humanity. More specifically, the author successfully demonstrates that human feelings exhibit a particular level of inconsistency. In light of this, Maude was the only person that Harold cared about, but she opted to end her life rather than live for the sake of living. The death was a revelation that life is something that can end in a similar way that it is created. Since Harold was obsessed with death from the beginning, Maude’s suicide acts as an illustration of what he wanted, thereby improving his desire for existence. The love story between Maude and Harold act as a lesson that there is no guarantee that people that are influential in life will live forever. The scenario is a reflection of Bordwell’s statement that “The whole point of patterns is to engage the spectator in making long-term expectations that can be delayed, created or gratified” (Higgins, 2015). Harold’s experiences in his encounter, romance and departure of Maude enabled him to understand that death is inevitable and living is important. Therefore, delaying death, which was against his earlier obsession with it, was inevitable.

The Subtle Use of Satire

The subtle use of satire is evident in the masterpiece. In illustration, the saints and priests seem to live far aware from the world despite that they are part of the patterns of the mortal life. Maude points out the satire when she claims that priest and saints are expected to live happily forever. Sitting in silence, or introspection is not a scientific way of living because the contemplative nature of the mind makes is to be swayed back and forth in accordance with the currents life. Besides deaths and burying dead people, other things are happening in the world that people should have interest in. However, most critics argue against the marriage between an eighty year old woman and a young man of 20 years because it is against norms.

Every Life is Precious

In my opinion, in life everyone’ life should be considered precious. However, they are free individually but are a necessity to the entire humanity. Nonetheless, the evolve similar to the relationships that they make that incorporate compatibility, likes, emotions, soft spots, sensitivities. The elements manifest in latent inclinations. Ego and superego plays an insignificant role in life. However, it can influence other people as reflected in Mrs. Chasen whose superego pushed a feeling that people do not care in Harold. As time passed, Harold suffered deprivation of maternal care and lack of company. The speaker conveys a message about transition of human life through nature. The message ripples through all characters in the screenplay. More precisely, the author suggest that everyone is in this world to play his part and leave when time comes, and each role that a person plays is important to nature. That said, non-existence of a person in life results in a void which cannot be filled by someone else. Therefore the screenplay creates a conception of personality and the mutual relationships among different individualities.


Harold and Maude reigns supreme in depicting multiple pathways of social challenges. Major characters are full of revolt from within as demonstrated by Maude and Harold. The classical taboo of marriage between a twenty year old boy and an eighty year old woman is revealed. People must accept the attributes of life such as constant struggles, companionship, love, respecting the feelings of others, freedom, and respect. Denial of such components translates to rebellions, as indicated by Harold. Uncertainties in life are inevitable, especially in behavior and thinking. Hence, consistency in behavior are not guaranteed in human life.


Higgins, C. (2015). Harold and Maude: A novel

September 25, 2023

Art Entertainment



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