For our third installment on Good Will Hunting, I’d like to bring your attention to another well known part of the film, commonly called the “Duck Pond Scene”. It’s a short rebuttal to the somewhat douche-y behavior exhibited by Will in their previous meeting, in Sean’s office. Will seems hell bent on angering Sean to the point of violent reaction. It may have been analogous to a simmering pot, rather than a firecracker, but Will was sure to succeed in getting the water to boil over. First, he insults Sean’s amateurish (but aesthetically pleasing nonetheless) painting, describing it among other things, “a Winslow Homer rip-off”. Second, he alleges that he “married the wrong woman” (he didn’t know at the time that his beloved wife had died from cancer some years earlier). This ended with Sean physically attacking Will, followed by Will storming out of the office.
A much more collected Sean, a few days later explains he’s well aware that as far as art goes, Will could probably discuss in great depth, any of the greats, including Michaelangelo. But he also knows he has never experienced his most famed work for himself first hand. He could give him his two cents on love and war, but has never personally experienced their inimitable pain. He follows that given Will would likely not appreciate having his life summed up in a comparison with Oliver Twist (“Please, sir, can I have some more?”), it would not be unreasonable to ask that Will not attempt to simplify Sean’s life with one sophomoric (but again, aesthetically pleasing, I had to mention that twice) painting. Sean finishes that nonetheless, he knows Will is just too young and inexperienced to know better but that his potential is nonetheless unlimited. He tells him “I’m in”; he would love to know everything about who this kid really is, the life version, not the book version.
I think this scene is one great ode to the fact that crystallized knowledge, even the mental library which aggregates within the depths of Will’s cerebrum, is not synonymous with wisdom. Will here is a 20 year old who knows more about the world than your typical 60 year old in the academic sense, yet he’s never been out of Boston! In other words, he’s got access to the world’s achievements in his head without the worldliness to supplement.
“Youth is wasted on the young” they say, and I find it important to note that Will’s behaviour reflects that of a very very young man. A boy genius, mind you, but a whipper-snapper nonetheless. For example, he states that his arrest was unlawful because he was practicing his rights….by punching a cop. Only someone with that unmistakably naive, fresh outlook on life could even think of using something so asinine as a criminal defense. Ahh, but there is something to be said about the beauty of it; it overflows delightfully with the kind of glee unique only those who haven’t lived long enough to extrapolate life as so unforgiving. Yes folks, youth really is wasted on the young.
All things considered, what we really have here is Will acting just as Clark did in the last scene we analyzed. Will may may be a couple orders of magnitude more remarkable than Clark, but he’s no more immune to occasionally acting just as pompous and, frankly, just as ill informed on the game of life (as any new comer is doomed to be anyway) as Clark is intellectually lazy.
The “TL;DR” version of this is that no matter how book smart you are, you will eventually make a fool of yourself if you go without the worldly supplementation of real life. And part of such wisdom lies in knowing that you not only will make a fool of yourself at some point, you simply must.