Sociology and Nell

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The movie Nell (1994) is a perfect example of the negative impact of social behavior that isolation has on small children. Portrayed by Jodie Foster, Nell is a young girl brought up only in contact with her mother and late twin sister. Due to the isolation, Nell is not taught real life relationships, social norms or loneliness. After her mother’s death she is discovered by Dr. Jerry Lovell (Liam Neeson) and taking an interest in her well being, he and psychology student Paula Olsen (Natasha Richardson) begin to study her behavior. Due to these circumstances of isolation, Nell was not taught about real relationships, social norms and loneliness.

When examining the mother’s body, Jerry and a local police officer named Todd, soon encounter the effects of this isolation as Nell begins violently kicking and screaming at the intruders in her secluded home. Unable to speak English, Nell has trouble understanding what the men are saying and can only respond herself with guttural noises, gestures and emotions. In order to make Nell more comfortable around him, Jerry returns regularly. In doing so it allows Nell to open up enough to try and communicate with him in her own way, and own language, which the doctor begins the task of deciphering. Jerry soon gains Nell’s trust and is able to communicate with her to a small extent; Nell calls Jerry her “Ga’inja” meaning her guardian angel that came out of nowhere. She looks at Jerry and Paula as a couple, a kind of parent relationship she looked up to. In this case, Nell was not given the opportunity to go to school and make friends as a child normally will, but was kept in isolation for around twenty-five years. With only her mother and dead twin sister as company Nell was unable to learn and develop emotionally. Consequently “children need friends for emotional growth” (Haaland, & Schaefer, 2009) in being unable to obtain friends as a child, she was not able to grow emotionally and had a maturity of a...
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