In the midst of the Great Depression, we, as the audience, are first introduced to Bonnie Parker who is a small-town girl who catches her soon-to-be partner in crime Clyde Barrow. Parker gets a thrill from Barrows antics and accompanies him along the escapades of murder and thievery. This only results in a whirlwind of struggle, violence and crime that they have to try hard to run away from.
Throughout the course of the film, director Arthur Penn consistently uses violence like guns, blood, and death to arouse the audience to expect a possible shootout or imminent danger in the fold.
After watching the movie, audiences will understand that violence seems to be the norm during this era. Looking back at history, we realize that this is a Depression-era movie which was a time when a quarter of the population was out of work. Many people couldn’t find jobs so a lot of which resorted to robbery, thus in the case of Bonnie and Clyde. People were desperate and didn’t have much choice but to steal from others to survive.
One example of violence in the film and how it portrays the economic struggle and disaster of the nation is when Clyde calmly attempts to steal from a small local grocery only to be jumped by the owner of the store in retaliation, making Clyde drop the attempted stolen groceries.
Both sides share the common themes of violence in Penn’s view. Clyde uses a weapon to procure goods that don’t belong to him, while the store manager jumps him to get his produce back from him.
This was obviously a reaction to Clyde’s stealing and thus shows how desperate both the innocent and the robbers are to keep what they own and/or take what belongs to other people. This role of violence is the result of desperation and scarcity that people in America have lived through back in that time.
Another example of how desperation breeds violence in this era, are when the police all come after Bonnie, Clyde and the rest of their gang and shoot them, attempting to corner them all. This shows how desperate the police are willing to catch the thieves, as they have robbed numerous banks around the country.
Clyde even explains it perfectly himself when he says, “The police want to make us look big in the papers so that they can look even bigger when they catch us.” The police are even more desperate to catch the criminals that they are willing to make them look more powerful and dominating so that the police will be acclaimed as heros when they finally apprehend them, and gives the robbers to steal more to make a name for themselves and not just be known as a few small-time criminals, which prompts both parties to use more guns, bullets, ammunition, grenades, i.e. violence to reach their end goal.
In conclusion, violence, in the eyes of director Arthur Penn is the result of desperation and longing for something. Violence is what made Bonnie so attracted to Clyde and what ultimately got them all killed. It could bring people together or wipe them out.