Erikson's Developmental Theory Apllied to the Novel "Little Women"

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INTRODUCTION

~“The only constant thing in life is change”~, François de la Rochfoucald.(year unknown)
As we mature in age and become older we may notice changes in our personality and our perception of the world around us. Throughout our course of life we change as individuals, we develop and mature. Many psychological theories attempt to explain how and why we change and develop in the ways that we do throughout our lifetime. One such theory is Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory, which says that each stage of our lives is marked by a conflict which must be resolved to ensure proper personality development. This conflict/resolution scenario can easily be seen in the characters of the novel ‘Little Women’. Therefore in this paper, Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory will be applied to the characters of the novel ‘Little Women’ to see if it can provide some insight into the changes and developments which occurred in their lives. -------------------------------------------------

SCENARIO: Little Women (1987) Louisa M. Alcott.

‘Little Women’ is a coming of age story set in 19th century New England. The main characters of the book are the March sisters, Meg, Josephine (Jo), Beth and Amy. They each face their individual struggles and moral challenges as they enter into adulthood. The book explores the sister’s relationship with each other their mother (Marmee), the boy next door Laurie and other friends and acquaintances. The girls grow to become responsible young women though they were not wealthy and lived in financially difficult times. They are a close family despite their tragedies and disagreements. During this time they also have their first experiences with love and the opposite sex as Laurie, the boy next door becomes an integral part of their lives. It is a story of resilience, romance, family and friendship. -------------------------------------------------

THEORY: Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory.
The Psychosocial Theory of Development is based on 8 stages of development throughout life that are defined by a crisis or challenge. Each stage provides a foundation for the preceding stages. According to Erikson, if a crisis is not resolved in a particular stage it would result in problems later on in life. This theory describes the impact of social experience across the lifespan. (Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2009). Life span human development (6. ed.).

Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development are as follows:
1) Trust vs Mistrust – Infancy
2) Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt – 1 to 3 years
3) Initiative vs Guilt – 3 to 6 years
4) Industry vs Inferiority – 6 to 12 years
5) Identity vs Role confusion – 12 to 20 years
6) Intimacy vs Isolation – 20 to 40 years
7) Generativity vs stagnation – 40 to 65 years
8) Integrity vs Despair – 65 to death
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STAGE 4: Industry vs Inferiority – 6 to 12 years.
CHARACTER: Amy March.
~“We’ve been expectorating you for hours!” Amy March, Little Women.~

Stage four of the psychosocial stages is called Industry vs Inferiority. This time is marked by the importance of academic performance and relationships with teachers and friends. The child learns that recognition is achieved from parents and teachers by being proficient in their schoolwork and if they are unable to do so they develop feelings of inferiority.(Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2009). School now plays a major role during this stage. A difficulty with interaction with peers can also lead to feelings of inferiority.

This stage can easily be applied to little Amy March in the novel. In the beginning of the book she is twelve years old. Being the youngest she is somewhat spoilt. Amy obsesses over her academic performances and often tries to show off her success by using long and complicated words, quite often out of context or mispronounced. Her interest in academic performance is on par with...
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