"Six Degrees of Separation" - The Central Theme

Essay by rcarmichaelHigh School, 11th grade November 2007

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What is this film, Six Degrees of Separation really about? Or moreover, who is this film about? At first glance, one might say that this film, “Six Degrees of Separation” (written by John Guare) is simply the story of a black American young man who cons his way into the lives of a rich and (over) privileged white family in the bitterly separatist world of an art immersed New York apartment block.

The film starts, indeed with this attitude towards Paul, and Flan and Ousia Kittredge – a simple, even overrated intrusion by a black con artist. Delving a little further, the idea of racism emerges perhaps.

One recurring theme in the film is the idea of “Chaos and Control”, the Kandinsky. The painting is at first displaying the “controlled” side of the canvas – it makes you wonder how often the Kittredge’s actually flip the painting to the “chaotic” side.

However, when Paul walks into their lives, the painting does get flipped, the Kittredge’s ordered, structured, controlled world turned chaotically upside down. The audience can see these changes as the film progresses – in the original play, the Kandinsky was not removed from the stage and in various scenes the painting was flipped to comply with the mood of the Kittredge's.

As the movie progresses we see a recurring theme, that of the idea of Six Degrees of Separation, the idea first put forward in 1929 by Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy. This concept states that the social distances are indeed much smaller than we think – the idea that there stands only six people between you and the rest of the world – “a friend of a friend”, six times over. Three, seemingly unrelated parents meet, brought together by Paul, and as is revealed later in...