After the escape, a doctor tells Ma that it’s a good thing she got Jack out while he was still "plastic".

What does he mean by plastic?

  • 2
    Based on context, I'm reasonably sure he means while the child's mind is still malleable and able to cope with change. An older child (or young adult) would have become institutionalised and coped very poorly with such a dramatic shift in circumstances.
    – user7812
    Mar 1, 2016 at 21:22
  • 2
    Plasticity in the context of psychology - which includes using the word "plastic" as an adjective - means the ability of our brains to physically adapt to changes, particularly physical damage and trauma, but also in response to experience. Brains are more "plastic" (greater plasticity) when people are younger Mar 2, 2016 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


The scene as described in the script takes place as follows:

DR. MITTAL Have you thought any more about what we discussed this morning?

MA Thanks for the offer but we’re going to go home.

DR. MITTAL You know my view. After what you’ve experienced, and to assess Jack properly. And just to soften the transition -

MA (interrupting) Nothing happened to Jack.

DR. MITTAL I understand, but even at a cognitive-sensory level - depth perception, auditory processing ...

MA But he’s OK, right?

DR. MITTAL The most important thing you did was to get him out while he’s still plastic.

JACK (whispers to Ma) I’m not plastic.

DR. MITTAL What’s that, Jack.

MA He says he’s real, not plastic. Mittal laughs.

DR. MITTAL I can’t argue with that, Jack. Real and very brave.

So it's pretty clear from the context that the doctor is using plastic to imply Jack was young enough that he could cope with leaving "Room" and deal with the world outside (as opposed to an older child or adult who may not be able to cope with this).

To quote one of the definitions of *plastic" from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

capable of being made into different shapes

That describes the Dr's view quite well.

  • Wouldn't "plasticine" have been a better word? Mar 2, 2016 at 18:57
  • @DisgruntledGoat check comment by user568458
    – Luciano
    Mar 8, 2016 at 15:48

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