The 400 Blows (1959) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A young boy, left without attention, delves into a life of petty crime.

  • Seemingly in constant trouble at school, 14-year-old Antoine Doinel returns at the end of every day to a drab, unhappy home life. His parents have little money and he sleeps on a couch that's been pushed into the kitchen. His parents bicker constantly and he knows his mother is having an affair. He decides to skip school and begins a downward spiral of lies and theft. His parents are at their wits' end, and after he's stopped by the police, they decide the best thing would be to let Antoine face the consequences. He's sent to a juvenile detention facility where he doesn't do much better. He does manage to escape however.

  • A boy, Antoine Doinel, is often in trouble at school and doesn't get along with his parents, especially his mother. He briefly runs away from home but then returns. After a while he ups the ante and turns to petty crime.

  • 14-year-old Antoine Doinel is unfairly punished in school by his teacher in French literature. Next morning his friend René suggests that they play truant. Instead of going to school, they go to the cinema, play pinball, and visit a huge amusement rotor. The following day Antoine tells his teacher that his absence was due to his mother's death; unfortunately his parents turn up at school. Antoine loves his mother, but she dislikes him, because he is the result of an episodic intercourse in her youth before she met Antoine's stepfather. When things get worse, both in school and at home, Antoine runs away. René lives in a huge apartment with his rich parents, who won't notice if Antoine sleeps in René's room. To get money Antoine steals a typewriter from his father's office. The machine is unsellable, so he brings it back to the office, where he is caught by an office janitor. Antoine's stepfather takes him to the police, who imprison him for vagrancy and theft. A juvenile-court judge sends him to an observation centre in the countryside, from where he runs away, and doesn't stop until he reaches the sea.

  • In Paris, early-teen Antoine Doinel always seems to be in trouble. He has a short attention span and is easily distracted, which leads to him doing poorly in school. Some of his problems stem from his home life with his mother, Gilberte Doinel, and his stepfather, Julien Doinel, who is the only father he has ever known as Gilberte and Julien married when Antoine was an infant. When Julien and Gilberte aren't working, they leave Antoine alone to fend for himself. And even when they are home, they are often arguing and their parenting is inconsistent, leading to Antoine having no clear boundaries. On the most part, Antoine truly believes that his mother does not love him. Those issues for which he is blamed are not always his fault, and many of his contemporaries just don't get caught as often as Antoine seems to get caught. Even when Antoine tries to do the right thing, he often is not given credit for his efforts, or his efforts lead to a bad result. The former issue is especially prevalent at school, where his teachers just believe that his school work will not be worth a passing grade. In general, punishments have been ineffective in curbing his behavior as he just rebels more against them. Antoine is often supported and/or egged on in his activities by his best friend René, who often skips school with him. Unless something drastic changes in Antoine's life, he is destined down a path that will lead to nothing good, which is more problematic as he gets older.



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