Harold and Maude

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for Harold and Maude. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Main Character Resolve

Through Maude’s influence, Harold loses his obsession with death and destruction and embraces life—driving his hearse (without him inside of it) over a cliff.

Main Character Growth

Harold must lose his fear of change, and stop alienating those who try to get close to him by faking suicide.

Main Character Approach

Harold reacts to his mother’s domineering ways by pretending to be dead, instead of fighting her or leaving home; when Maude steals his hearse, he passively lets her drive him home; he modifies his new sports car into a hearse like his old one; etc.

Main Character Mental Sex

When Harold sees the effect his supposed death has on his mother, he causes it to happen again and again in a bid to get her attention; to avoid being drafted, he causes his uncle to think he has psychotic tendencies.

Story Driver

After the Chemistry lab explosion, Harold decided he liked being dead, and took up faking suicide; Mrs. Chasen tells Harold what she’s decided to do with his life:
MRS. CHASEN:  I only have a few minutes, Harold, but I do want to inform you of my decision.  [...]  In short, Harold, I think it is time you got married.
(Higgins, p. 11)
Mrs. Chasen decides the answers to the dating questionnaire herself; Confronting Maude in the nude, Harold starts to make his own decisions:
MAUDE:  Do you disapprove?
HAROLD:  Me!  No.  Of course not.
MAUDE:  (she wants the truth)  Really.  Do you think it’s wrong?
HAROLD:  (thinks, decides, reports his conclusion)  No.
(Higgins, p. 34)
Maude decides to end her life, bringing the story to an end.

Story Limit

Harold exhausts the potential marriage partners his mother supplies, holding out for Maude; Maude feels that she’s lived her life to the fullest, and that the options life has left for her are not worth living for, and so she finally chooses death.

Story Outcome

Mrs. Chasen, the psychiatrist, Uncle Victor, and the priest fail to persuade Harold to adopt a conventional lifestyle that they would feel comfortable with—and which he would have to pretend to enjoy.

Story Judgment

Harold learns to love and be loved—to embrace the new (playing the banjo) and to end his fascination with death—finally driving his hearse over the cliff, destroying it.

Overall Story Throughline

""Playing Dead""

Overall Story Throughline

Mrs. Chasen and her helpers are concerned with turning Harold around to their way of thinking.  Maude shows Harold her upbeat view of life, which includes embracing its end.  Harold is concerned because:
HAROLD:  I don’t think I’m getting through to mother like I used to.
PSYCHIATRIST:  Does that worry you?
HAROLD:  Yes.  It does worry me.  [...]  I put a lot of effort into these things.
(Higgins, p. 6-7)

Overall Story Concern

Everyone wants Harold to live his life in the way they recommend: Mrs. Chasen wants him to marry a nice young woman and drive a nice sports car; Uncle Victor wants him to “take on a man’s job” in the Army and die for his country “like Nathan Hale”; the priest wants Harold to marry someone who can give him children; the psychiatrist thinks Harold’s “alienation from the regular social interaction” can be isolated and coped with; Maude encourages Harold to embrace life and growth and love, like her.

Overall Story Issue

Maude is always looking for the new experience; she prefers to end her life at 80 rather than “just marking time”; Mrs. Chasen arranges dates for Harold to make his life more meaningful; Uncle Victor wants to “make a man” of Harold; Harold pretends to enjoy killing, in order to escape the draft; the psychiatrist puts down Harold’s desire for Maude as an Oedipus complex, and the priest is sickened by it; Harold wants to marry Maude.

Overall Story Counterpoint

Harold’s incapable of enjoying a date with the superficial women his mother selects for him; Harold likes playing dead, but—unlike Uncle Victor—has no talent for killing people for his country.

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Desire vs.Ability

Harold’s desire to marry Maude is stronger than his ability to satisfy the needs of Mrs. Chasen and her cronies, though he’s not skilled enough to prevent Maude from fulfilling her desire to end it all.

Overall Story Problem

Harold expects to keep on keeping on with his morbid way of life, and to continue to shock his mother with his suicides; Mrs. Chasen, Uncle Victor et al, expect Harold to adopt their value system.

Overall Story Solution

Mrs. Chasen determines that it’s time for Harold to “put away childish things and take on adult responsibilities”—and get married to a young woman of her choosing.

Overall Story Symptom

The computer dates trust Harold will be sociable like his mother, but receive a surprise; Mrs. Chasen trusts the dating service because it “screens out the fat and ugly”; Harold trusts in Maude enough to share the new experiences she recommends; the motorcycle cop trusts that Maude will act like a stereotypical “little old lady”; etc.

Overall Story Response

Harold tests people’s sense of humor and gullibility by faking suicide; Mrs. Chasen gets pre-screened dates from the dating agency for Harold; she fills in the dating questionnaire herself, to get Harold a date suitable to her; the psychiatrist examines Harold’s feelings; Harold tests Uncle Victor’s limits by “killing” Maude.

Overall Story Catalyst

Mrs. Chasen thinks it’s time for Harold to get married, so she sets up dates for him; the unconventional Maude causes Harold to re-think the conventional viewpoints he’s picked up from his mother; Harold’s exposure to Maude’s positive thoughts on life, growth, and love lead him away from thoughts of death.

Overall Story Inhibitor

Mrs. Chasen and Uncle Victor apply conventional wisdom to what they see as Harold’s problem: institutionalize him, if not in marriage then in the Army; Mrs. Chasen, the priest, the psychiatrist, and Uncle Victor subject Harold to their wise opinions of why he shouldn’t marry Maude; Explaining a bit too subtly why she’ll be leaving Harold well before the altar, Maude shares with him the wisdom of a maxim she read on the head of a pin:
MAUDE:  “And this too shall come to pass away.”  And the wise man was right - if you remember that, you can’t help but live life fully.
(Higgins, p. 61)

Overall Story Benchmark

As the story progresses, Mrs. Chasen’s efforts to change Harold’s lifestyle become more and more drastic: she enlists the help of the Psychiatrist, a dating service, a new car, and finally Uncle Victor’s military service.  Harold accelerates the staging of his fake suicide attempts to include the “murder” of Maude.

Additional Overall Story Information →
Overall Story Throughline Synopsis

“Bud Cort is Harold, a rich, suicidal introvert with a soft, unformed face—he’s 19 but looks younger.  Ruth Gordon is poor but spunky Maude, the wizened 79-year-old woman who’s like a cheerleader for Life.  She lives in a railway car, would like to change into a sunflower, frets over how to save an ailing tree, prankishly steals vehicles and drives crazily; she advises Harold to “reach out.”  ...Harold reaches out by falling in love with Maude, and their love is consummated on the eve of her 80th birthday….”
(Pauline Kael, in Cinemania)

Overall Story Backstory

At the time of the story, many of the “older generation” were troubled by the social upheaval seen in the late 60’s and the blossoming of individuality and freedom amongst the “younger generation.”  Mrs. Chasen’s questionnaire responses illustrate this problem:
MRS. CHASEN:  “Three - should sex education be taught outside the home?”  I would say No, wouldn’t you, Harold? [...]  Is the subject of sex being over-exploited by our mass media?  That would have to be “Yes,” wouldn’t it. [...]  “Seventeen - Do you believe churches have a strong influence to upgrade the general morality?” - yes, again.  [...]  “Nineteen - Can God influence our lives?”  Yes.  Absolutely yes.  [...]  “Do you think the sexual revolution has gone too far?”  It certainly seems to have.
(Higgins, p. 17-19)

Main Character Throughline

Harold — Younger man

Main Character Throughline

Because of his one-time success at making his mother believe him dead, Harold is fascinated by the world of death and decay: funerals, junkyards, house demolitions, driving a hearse, faking suicide.

Main Character Concern

Emotionally numb himself, Harold gets his kicks by provoking knee-jerk responses from others. from his bogus suicide attempts to his “offing” of Maude.

Main Character Issue

Largely ignored by his mother, Harold lacks feelings of self-worth.  When he sees his mother’s responsiveness to his untimely death in the Chemistry lab, he feels more valuable dead—and continues to re-enact his death to gain her attention.

Main Character Counterpoint

The qualities valued by the older generation around him—conformity, serving one’s country, marrying one’s own kind, etc.—hold little meaning for Harold.  He mocks their death taboo by driving a hearse, attending funerals for fun, and playing dead.

Main Character Thematic Conflict
Worth vs.Value

In Maude, Harold meets another person who disrespects traditional values, someone who favors spiritual enrichment instead.  She encourages Harold to recognize his own individuality and find self-esteem in it.

Main Character Problem

The expectations people (Mother, psychiatrist, etc.) have for Harold creates problems for him.

Main Character Solution

Harold needs to figure out, as Maude tells him in her dying words, that what he really needs is not to marry her but to embrace life and:
MAUDE:  Go - and love some more.
(Higgins, p. 100)

Main Character Symptom

Harold attends funerals, drives a hearse, visits junkyards, watches buildings come down; he repeatedly pretends to end his own life; he pleads with the dying Maude not to leave him:
HAROLD:  Maude, please.  Don’t die.  I couldn’t bear it.  Please, don’t die.
(Higgins, p. 99); prompted by Maude ending her life, he destroys the hearse.

Main Character Response

Harold endlessly stages his own suicide; though he tries, he can’t stop his mother from meddling in his affairs; etc.

Main Character Unique Ability

If Harold was able to find qualities in the young women he dates that held some personal value to him, he might well marry one of them and make everyone happy.  As his proposal to Maude shows, he’s not opposed to the institution of marriage—it’s just that her values and beliefs mean more to him than those that are generally accepted by society.

Main Character Critical Flaw

Fact as a critical flaw works two ways in the story.  The fact that Harold’s mother and her retinue cannot change Harold to be more like them, undermines their efforts to change him; the fact that Harold still lives under his mother’s roof undermines his efforts to freely be who he wants to be.

Main Character Benchmark

Initially, Harold has so little lust for life that he preoccupies himself with funerals and fake suicides; Maude awakens in him the desire to experience the joys of life and the capacity for love; At story’s end, Harold embraces life and is able to let go of Maude.

Additional Main Character Information →
Main Character Description

“HAROLD, a young man of about twenty, hangs suspended from the ceiling with the curtain rope tied about his grotesquely broken neck.”
(Higgins, p.1)

Main Character Throughline Synopsis

Harold’s social life revolves around rituals of death.  He attends funerals, visits automobile graveyards, watches buildings come down, and shocks his domineering mother with his fake suicides.  Evading eligible women his own age, he’s intrigued by Maude, who infects him with a love for life—and for her.  She helps him dodge the draft, but also dodges his plans to marry her by committing suicide.  Harold, now fascinated with life not death, carries on her spirit.

Main Character Backstory

Harold’s mother attributes his weirdness somewhat to his father:
MRS. CHASEN:  Of course, Harold’s father had a similar sense of the absurd.  I remember once in Paris he stepped out for cigarettes and the next I hear he’s arrested for floating nude down the Seine - experimenting in river currents with a pair of rubber waterwings
(Higgins, p. 3)
After smoking Maude’s pot, Harold recalls his mother learning that he died in the Chemistry lab explosion:
HAROLD:  She began to sway.  She put one hand to her forehead.  With the other she reached out, as if groping for support.  Two men rushed to her side and then - with a long, low sigh - she collapsed in their arms.  (pause)  I decided then I enjoyed being dead.
(Higgins, p. 64)

Influence Character Throughline

Maude — Older woman

Influence Character Throughline

Unlike Harold’s parents’ repressive generation, Maude lives her life freely and fully, regardless of her advanced age.  Mrs. Chasen et al regard her as decrepit and useless, but her wisdom and insight enable her to emotionally connect with Harold, bringing him out of his shell.

Influence Character Concern

Maude’s character is strongly committed to change and growth, following in the footsteps of her namesake, philosopher Teilhard de Chardin, “known for [his] theory that man is presently evolving, mentally and socially, toward a final spiritual unity.”  (Webster’s, p. 975)  As she tells Harold at a funeral:
MAUDE:  It’s all change.  All revolving.  Burials and births.  The end to the beginning and the beginning to the end - the great circle of life.
(Higgins, p. 21)

Influence Character Issue

Maude’s accentuating of the positive causes Harold to give up his staging of fake suicides; she’s such an influence on young Harold that he falls in love with her, laboring under the illusion that she’ll want to marry him just as he does her.

Influence Character Counterpoint

The one thing Maude is certain about, and which she keeps obliquely hinting at throughout the story, is that:
MAUDE:  I’ll have to be giving it all up after Saturday.
(Higgins, p. 37)

Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Fantasy vs.Fact

While Maude’s sense of reality helps Harold grow out of his “childish things,” the absoluteness of her expiration date destroys his fantasy of marriage to her.

Influence Character Problem

Though her spirit seems inexhaustible, Maude’s body is feeling the ravages of old age:
MAUDE:  Greet the dawn with the Breath of Fire!  (the demonstration leaves her a little winded)  Of course, there’s no doubt the body is giving out.  I’m well into autumn.
(Higgins, p. 37)
If only she could change into a sunflower:
MAUDE:  They grow and bloom, and fade, and die, and change into something else.  Ah, life!
(Higgins, p. 39)

Influence Character Solution

Maude has chosen her 80th birthday as the occasion upon which to end her earthly existence, and continue in the spiritual afterlife:
MAUDE:  But, Harold, we begin to die as soon as we are born.  What is so strange about death?  It’s no surprise.  It’s part of life.  It’s change.
(Higgins, p. 99)

Influence Character Symptom

Maude has great faith in the laws of nature and its cycle of life and death, and no trust in the artificial rules and laws of society, which she largely disregards.  Thus she believes she’s doing the natural, right thing by choosing her own expiration date.

Influence Character Response

Maude has endured the trials of life, including time in a concentration camp, and now tests Harold’s mettle and his senses: she queries his approval of her nudity before showing him her rape paintings; she provokes him into getting physically involved with the sculpture; she involves him in the tree-stealing caper, defying an armed cop.

Influence Character Unique Ability

By showing Harold the wonders of her fantasy-filled life and returning his love, Maude presents him with new possibilities of enjoying life—and an alternative to his imaginary suicides.

Influence Character Critical Flaw

Flouting the traditional values of law and order, Maude’s antics—“liberating” a courthouse tree, recklessly driving without a license, “borrowing” other’s cars, stealing the cop’s motorcycle, etc.—almost get her arrested.

Influence Character Benchmark

Maude rescues a tree and transplants it so that it may have a better life in the future; She has planned her own death to occur on Saturday, and moves confidently towards her date with death; Maude consigns Harold’s gift to a watery grave, so “I’ll always know where it is.”  Finally, Maude advances Harold’s appreciation of life and living so that he’ll enjoy life once she’s gone.

More Influence Character Information →
Influence Character Description

“A pixiesque old woman, somewhat eccentrically dressed is smiling at [Harold].  It is Maude again.”
(Higgins, p.12)

Influence Character Throughline Synopsis

A lively 79-year-old who’s done just about everything worth experiencing, Maude (aka Dame Marjorie Chardin) has firm plans to end her life on her 80th birthday.  Preparing for her future by visiting funerals, she takes the repressed Harold under her wing and transfers her lust for life to him before expiring.

Influence Character Backstory

Maude tells Harold of her good old days as a political activist, fighting for:
MAUDE:  Oh, Big Issues.  Liberty.  Rights.  Justice.  Kings died and kingdoms fell.  I don’t regret the kingdoms - what sense in borders and nations and patriotism - but I do miss the kings.  When I was a little girl I was taken to the palace in Vienna, to a garden party.  I can still see the sunshine, the parasols, and the flashing uniforms of the young officers.  I thought then I would marry a soldier.
(Higgins, p. 46)

Relationship Story Throughline

""If You Want to Be Free, Be Free""

Relationship Story Throughline

Harold and Maude meet at one of their mutual activities, attending funerals, though with differing motivations: he’s fascinated by death and destruction, she’s interested in change and the possibilities of rebirth.

Relationship Story Concern

Harold and Maude’s lifestyles intersect through funeral-going, which they both enjoy.  For Harold, it’s part of his milieu of death: funerals, fake suicide, junkyards, house demolitions.  For Maude however, it’s one aspect of her interest in growth: funerals, new experiences, dabbling in different artistic endeavors, nature, actual suicide.

Relationship Story Issue

Maude loves trying something new, like driving Harold’s hearse:
MAUDE:  I like to keep a variety.  I’m always looking for the new experience, like this one.
Maude regales Harold with tales of her experiences in her younger days; he seeks her help when about to be drafted:
MAUDE:  With your skill and my experience… I think we can come up with something.
(Higgins, p. 78)

Relationship Story Counterpoint

Harold’s proficiency at play-acting enables him to outwit Uncle Victor by pretending to be psychotic and killing Maude; Maude’s expertise at stealing cars amazes Harold, while he’s less impressed with her driving skills; she dazzles him with her adeptness at singing, dancing, playing music, sculpting, painting, etc.

Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Experience vs.Skill

Harold has a few well-developed skills, but little experience.  Maude has mastered many skills and gone onto others, and has accumulated a wealth of experience.  In fact, she feels that her current life is overshadowed by those past experiences, and decides to move on to another experience—whatever comes after death.

Relationship Story Problem

Having fallen in love with the lively Maude, Harold has built up his expectations of a life together with her, even though she’s never encouraged that:
“HAROLD:  And after dinner, one more surprise…
He puts a tiny ring box on the table.
HAROLD:  ... which I hope will make you very happy.”
(Higgins, p. 97)

Relationship Story Solution

Maude has determined that the best years of her life are behind her, while Harold’s are yet to come:
MAUDE:  I mean seventy-five is too early, but at eighty-five, well, you’re just marking time and you may as well look over the horizon.
(Higgins, p. 13)
Realizing that she’s not growing any more, she’s taken steps toward change:
MAUDE:  I couldn’t imagine a lovelier farewell.  [...]  I took the pills an hour ago.  I should be gone by midnight.
(Higgins, p. 98)

Relationship Story Symptom

Maude is disturbed by what she believes is Harold’s slightly inaccurate take on life :
MAUDE: . . . Harold, what flower would you like to be?
HAROLD: I don’t know.  Just one of these.  (We see a large field of daisies stretching to the hills.)
MAUDE: (a little perturbed) Why do you say that?
HAROLD: Because they’re all the same.
MAUDE: . . . Oooh, but they are not. . . . all kinds of observable differences . . . I believe much of the world’s sorrow comes from people who know they are this—(she holds out the daisy) yet let themselves be treated—(she looks out at the field) as that. (Higgins 39-40)

Relationship Story Response

Harold, influenced by Maude, is learning that life is not just about rules, but about exceptions, especially concerning individuals.  He demonstrates this new direction by presenting her with a single daisy in a vase.  This direction is further emphasized by the Cat Stevens’ lyrics that play:
“If you want to be free, be free.  Because there are a million things to be, you know that there are.”

Relationship Story Catalyst

Maude intuits that Harold probably doesn’t sing and dance, but also:
MAUDE:  I knew we were going to be good friends the moment I saw you.
(Higgins, p. 21)
Unlike his psychiatrist, Maude is able to discern the reasons behind Harold’s suicide game, and suggest an alternative:
MAUDE:  Reach out!  Take a chance!  Get hurt maybe.  But play as well as you can.
(Higgins, p. 64)

Relationship Story Inhibitor

The conventional ideas that Harold has absorbed from his mother put him in conflict with Maude’s behavior:
HAROLD:  But when you take these cars don’t you think you are wronging the owners?
(Higgins, p. 22)
When the nude Maude asks him if he disapproves, Harold has to think about it before answering; he’s reluctant to dig up the tree:
HAROLD:  But we can’t just dig it up!
MAUDE:  Why not?
HAROLD:  But this is public property.
MAUDE:  Exactly.
(Higgins, p. 43)

Relationship Story Benchmark

At their first meeting, Maude offers to give Harold a ride in the hearse she’s taken from him; later, she shows him all the things she’s collected over her life, and gives him a banjo; at story’s end, Maude takes her own life and gives Harold a new-found freedom.

Additional Relationship Story Information →
Relationship Story Throughline Synopsis

Maude “picks up” Harold at one of the funerals they both like to attend—he’s there for the death, she for the change.  She’s a youthful mind in a tired old body, he a tired old mind in a young body.  Maude sets about changing Harold, overwhelming him with the joys of life.  He’s so impressed he falls in love, but she’s already committed—to death by her own hand.

Relationship Story Backstory

Harold has led a sheltered life on the family estate, wishing he remembered his father.  His only way of getting his mother’s attention is to pretend he’s dead.  Maude understands this:
MAUDE:  A lot of people enjoy being dead.  But they are not dead really.  They’re just backing away from life.  They’re players - but they sit on the bench.
(Higgins, p. 64)
Having experienced everything from royal society to a concentration camp, Maude tries to get Harold to take a more active part in life before hers comes to the end she’s planned for.

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Overall Story Goal

Mrs. Chasen, Uncle Victor, the priest, and the psychiatrist all want Harold to live a lifestyle that’s, well, more like theirs.  If only he’d marry, preferably to someone capable of procreation, or sacrifice himself for his country—both of which are anathema to Harold.

Overall Story Consequence

Mrs. Chasen feels that unless Harold grows up and takes on a life of responsibility such as she has, she may be subject to more acting out from him; Uncle Victor suspects that Harold’s penchant for killing may get him (and the family name) into trouble.

Overall Story Cost

Uncle Victor thinks Harold goes a tad too far in his enthusiasm for killing; the psychiatrist’s dismayed at Harold’s lack of progress; Mrs. Chasen’s dating game doesn’t turn out as planned; Harold gives up his infantile preoccupation with shocking others and loses his hearse on the way to growing as a human being.

Overall Story Dividend

Mrs. Chasen has learned to control her reflexes, no longer as shocked by Harold’s suicides as she once was; by seeing Harold’s over-reaction to Maude the protester, Uncle Victor’s enthusiasm for the killing impulse is softened somewhat; Harold learns that there other ways to respond to Maude’s “crimes” than the conventional gut reactions he’s absorbed from his mother.

Overall Story Requirements

Mrs. Chasen sees marriage as a way to get Harold to change his lifestyle, employing the dating service for this purpose:
MRS. CHASEN:  It seems to me that as you do not get along with the daughters of my friends this is the best way for you to find a prospective wife.
(Higgins, p. 16)
When that fails, she likes Victor’s proposal for making a man of Harold:
UNCLE VICTOR:  I’d put him in the Army, Helen.
(Higgins, p. 76)

Overall Story Prerequisites

In order to get Harold a suitable computer date, Mrs. Chasen gives answers for him on the questionnaire; the Psychiatrist takes inventory of Harold’s friends and activities.

Overall Story Preconditions

Mrs. Chasen repeatedly tries to impress upon Harold the necessity of getting on with his life:
MRS. CHASEN:  Really, Harold, you are no longer a child.  It’s time for you to settle down and stop flitting away your talents on these amateur theatrics [...]
(Higgins, p. 9)
MRS. CHASEN:  There is no doubt that it is time for you to settle down and begin thinking about your future.  [...]  But it is time now to put away childish things and take on adult responsibilities.
(Higgins, p. 11)

Overall Story Forewarnings

Harold’s desire for death is demonstrated by his conversion of the Jaguar sports car into a mini-hearse; After Maude’s suicide, Harold drives his coffin-on-wheels recklessly along the clifftop, seemingly wanting to join Maude in death.

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Overall Story Signpost 1

Harold repeatedly changes his appearance to resemble a corpse; Mrs. Chasen tries to change his ways by sending him to the Psychiatrist for treatment.

Overall Story Journey 1 from Becoming to Conceiving

Dismayed by the Psychiatrist’s inability to change Harold’s focus on death, Mrs. Chasen thinks of other ways to make Harold grow up.

Overall Story Signpost 2

Mrs. Chasen gets the idea of marriage as a way to change Harold, and sets him up with a dating service.

Overall Story Journey 2 from Conceiving to Conceptualizing

Frustrated by Harold’s invention of new ways of committing suicide for his dates, Mrs. Chasen implements her plans to control him by replacing his hearse with a new sports car.

Overall Story Signpost 3

Uncle Victor envisions the Army as the solution to Harold’s problems; With Maude’s help, Harold puts into action their plan to avoid his being drafted.

Overall Story Journey 3 from Conceptualizing to Being

Harold and Maude spoil the plans of Mrs. Chasen and Uncle Victor by faking Maude’s death by drowning.

Overall Story Signpost 4

When Mrs. Chasen hears of Maude’s age she demands that bridegroom-to-be Harold “Be reasonable” (Higgins, p. 95); Harold acts like he really is suicidal, driving recklessly along the clifftop in the Jaguar.

Main Character

Main Character Signpost 1

Under the Psychiatrist’s probing, Harold regrets that he’s not getting through to his mother with his shocking “suicide” attempts like he used to.

Main Character Journey 1 from Memory to Preconscious

Harold continues with his self-assisted suicides, getting the knee-jerk reactions he enjoys from the dating service women.

Main Character Signpost 2

When Mrs. Chasen takes away his hearse and give him an E-type Jaguar, Harold reacts by converting it to a “sports hearse” with his welding equipment.

Main Character Journey 2 from Preconscious to Subconscious

Delighted that Maude’s more impulsive than himself, Harold gets a new view on life and finds something worth living for.

Main Character Signpost 3

Harold expresses his basic desires by buying Maude a bracelet and making love with her—and proposing marriage.

Main Character Journey 3 from Subconscious to Conscious

Mortified by Maude’s choice of death over marriage, Harold deliberates over his own future without her.

Main Character Signpost 4

Harold considers Maude’s parting words as he drives his hearse around crazily, contemplates suicide, and thinks better of it.

Influence Character

Influence Character Signpost 1

Maude looks back on her varied life, and considers that:
MAUDE:  I’ll be eighty next week.  A good time to move on, don’t you think?
(Higgins, p. 13)

influence Character Journey 1 from Past to Future

While liberating a tree, Maude fondly remembers the issues she fought for in her youth, while exhorting Harold to think of the future:
MAUDE:  As Confucius says, “Don’t simply be good.  Make good things happen.”

Influence Character Signpost 2

Maude relates to Harold the words she lives her life by:
MAUDE:  “And this too shall pass away.”  (fluttery laugh)  And the wise man was right - if you remember that, you can’t help but live life fully.  (Higgins, p. 61)

Influence Character Journey 2 from Future to Progress

Maude fakes her own drowning to help Harold avoid a future in the Army, and persuades him to love life more and more.

Influence Character Signpost 3

A happy Maude takes a fateful step into the unknown:
MAUDE:  I took the pills an hour ago.  I should be gone by midnight.

Influence Character Journey 3 from Progress to Present

Maude calmly accepts her fate as she moves toward death, but Harold desperately tries to keep her in the present by taking her to hospital.

Influence Character Signpost 4

Maude instructs Harold to seize the day:
MAUDE:  Oh!  That’s wonderful, Harold.  Go - and love some more.
(Higgins, p. 100)
Rooted in the moment, she can’t accept the nurse’s blessing:
MAUDE:  [I’m] Eighty.  It’s my birthday.
STUDENT NURSE:  Oh, many happy returns.
MAUDE:  No.  I don’t think so.
(Higgins, p. 102)

Relationship Story

Relationship Story Signpost 1

Harold meets Maude while attending funerals, and is intrigued by her fondness for collecting things—such as the priest’s car.

Relationship Story Journey 1 from Obtaining to LearningMaude is delighted to find a new friend in Harold, with whom she can share her lifetime of learning.
Relationship Story Signpost 2

Maude teaches Harold the joys of new experiences like ginger pie and oat straw tea, and the importance of being an individual.

Relationship Story Journey 2 from Learning to Doing

Harold learns about Maude’s freedom-fighting past, and enjoys fun activities like smoking pot, liberating trees, and playing the banjo.

Relationship Story Signpost 3

Maude engages Harold in freedom-related activities, encouraging him to dance, perform cartwheels, and yodel.

Relationship Story Journey 3 from Doing to Understanding

Maude helps Harold escape the clutches of Victor’s Army, and in her arms he experiences the true meaning of love.

Relationship Story Signpost 4

Harold pours his heart out to the dying Maude:
HAROLD:  Don’t you understand?  I love you.  I love you!
(Higgins, p. 100)
He drives around recklessly trying to understand the import of Maude’s final act.

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics


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