The nameless town of Edward Scissorhands is a visible representation of the changes sweeping through the nation during the mid-twentieth century. Greater economic prosperity, increasing wages, and legislation such as the G. I. Bill led to a rise suburbanization. Conflict with the Soviet Union and the rise of McCarthyism influenced the characteristic paranoia and necessity of conformity during this era. The town exists as a homogenized, cookie-cutter “Levittown” where the relationships are just as manicured and useless as the lawns.
Burton’s criticism of this society is apparent in such scenes as the Inventor’s tutoring of Edward. Social rules and norms must be ingrained; the inventor gives a laundry list of etiquette that bores both him and his invention. Attempting to teach these norms externally emphasizes their frivolity and superficiality. Later, during a dinner conversation, Peg’s husband Bill comments that Edward must be able to see all the way to the sea. Edward’s “sometimes.” demonstrates his weak understanding of this ridiculous small talk that shirks larger issues.
For Bill, it is way to normalize Edward; unable to cope he turns to the forms of communication he knows best. Burton underlines the conversation’s superficiality and the need to avoid discomfort.
The dinner table conversations clarify other values as well. When Bill suggests that Edward charge for his services, Peg insists that he “is paid in cookies, dear”. Jim laughs and replies that “you can’t buy the necessities of life with cookies”. This epitomizes not only the expectations of men and women during this era (i.
e., the priorities of either sex) but also a fierce commitment to capitalism. Bill is unable to comprehend Edward’s motivations for performing services that do not have any direct monetary benefit.
Edward’s character works to exaggerate the meaningless lives of the citizens, their hypocrisy, and the mob mentality. “I am not finished,” Edward claims, which condemns the inhabitants more than anything else. Their fear, pity, and want are reflected onto his unfinished state. Joyce’s overt oversexualization is unmistakable through her exploitation of Edward; his presence also reveals the immense paranoia and judgement of the housewives. The scissors, then, symbolize their vast separation. Edward’s difference is actively dangerous: the people view difference like a weapon, something to be feared. Ultimately, they are unable to accept Edward’s nonconformity and must essentially banish him. While Kim recognizes the victimization of Edward and the harmful effects of her society, even as an old woman she refuses to reject it. The people’s inability to accept a reality reveals the underlying instability of the self-contained society and forces one to question whether it has the potential to contain any truth at all.