Walter White

Walter White

    Breaking Bad
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Grew Up… in a stressed-out home. Walter was born in 1959 and was still just a boy when his father developed Huntington’s disease; Walt is still burdened by the memory of his dad’s deteriorated state. In high school, Walt proved bright enough to attend Cal Tech, but has ended up using his chemistry degree in ways his professors likely never expected.

Living… in a small house in suburban Albuquerque with his wife, Skyler, and teenage son, Walt Jr. His family often socializes with Skyler’s sister Marie Schrader and her husband Hank, who runs the Albuquerque branch of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Yes, it’s complicated.

Profession… teacher by day, drug kingpin by night. After being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, the J.P. Wynne High School chemistry teacher turned to the production and sale of methamphetamine to ensure his family’s future financial security. Walt’s knowledge of chemistry allows him to cook astoundingly pure meth, leading to a rapid – albeit tumultuous – rise in the criminal drug world.

Interests… chemistry and its many uses. Walt’s love of chemistry seems to reflect a basic interest in how things work – in the building blocks of matter and change.

Relationship Status… married to Skyler. But Walt is currently keeping both his cancer diagnosis and his meth business a secret from her, which is causing serious turmoil in the relationship. So he been spending a lot of time with Jesse Pinkman, his former student at J. P. Wynne and current partner in the drug business. Walt juggles frustration at Jesse’s chronic ineptitude with fatherly love and sympathy. For Walt, Jesse triples as friend, business partner, and surrogate son.

Challenge… surviving. But failing that, making sure his family is provided for after he dies. He calculates that he needs roughly $737,000 to care for his family – money he decides to make through the meth business. Some of his actions, though, suggest that he’s interested in a lot more than just the money or his family’s well-being. As he says to Jesse, “You asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.”

Personality… a paradox. Walter is kind, caring and timid, but also demanding, calculating, and ruthless. His invented pseudonym, Heisenberg, becomes an alter ego – a fantasy for him to live out a love of power. Beneath both sides of his dual personality, he views the world in the rarefied scientific terms of chemistry. When Jesse sees the finished product of the first batch of meth, he says, “You’re [an] artist. This is art, Mr. White.” Answers Walt, “Actually, it’s just basic chemistry. But thank you, Jesse, I’m glad it’s acceptable.”


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