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Psychological Analysis of Characters in Breakfast Club
Topics: Jean Piaget, John Hughes, The Breakfast Club / Pages: 4 (1403 words) / Published: May 25th, 2015

Tom Bergamo
AP Psychology
Mrs. Theis
9 February 2015
Breakfast Club Essay

1. The character Allison Reynolds in the film The Breakfast Club exhibits Piaget’s formal operational thinking. The formal operational begins at the age of 12 and continues into adulthood, this stage also involves abstract thinking and moral reasoning. Teenagers are able to understand concepts and ideas on a more thought provoking level, with an emotional connection. Allison exhibits abstract thinking as an artist throughout the film. Although she is depicted as being strange and different, she is truly an abstract thinker. For example, when she draws a picture of an outdoor landscape during detention, she scratches her head to create dandruff to represent snow. Yes it is pretty disgusting, it is a good example of abstract thinking. A person in concrete operational thinking would have simply drawn snow in the picture, instead of creating it as Allison did. Allison also exhibited formal operational thinking during the scene when the students were smoking pot. Allison is the only student who is not seen smoking marijuana, which shows that she was strong in her morals and was able to make the formal operational decision to not participate although the other students were smoking. And lastly Allison uses the fabricated story of her shrink to manipulate Claire into saying that she is a virgin in front of the group.

2. The Character John Bender appears to be between stage one and stage two of Kohlberg’s preconventinal level of moral reasoning. these two stages are the pre-conventional morality, and the conventional the pre-coneventional stage the child may have had an upbringing where the child would only be punished or rewarded for the behavior seen by the parents. For example if a child steals a toy on the playgrounfd, and does not get caught or introuble for doing so the child will think it is ok. Throughout the film, Bender has no sense of authority and seems to thrive on rule breaking. He appears to have no morals or reasoning behind his actions. He thinks that he can misbehave during detention so long as he is not see by Mr. Vernon. The preconventinal stages one and two state that morals do not exist and behavior is chosen only by the threat of punishment. Bender exhibits this when he shuts the doors and removes the screws so that Mr. Vernon cannot see the kids misbehaving in detention. He thinks that because he will not be seen, it is okay to break the rules. His actions are not caused by any moral reasoning or higher purpose, other than the selfish desire to misbehave.

3. Throughout the film, character Brian Johnson appears to be in the stage of role confusion as opposed to identity. Brian carries constant pain and pressure thrust upon him by his parents and this cannot determine his own identity beyond succeeding in school. He appears to be carrying baggage from the “industry vs. inferiority” stage based on his accounts of his parents’ harsh critiques and judgments whenever he fails to make the grade. Because of this, whenever Brian does poorly in school, he views it as a reflection on himself and views himself as lesser because of it. Brian Johnson found himself in detention that infamous Saturday because a gun was found in his locker. Brian was planning on using the gun to take his life. Because he failed to establish a clear sense of personal identity, he felt he had failed in his life, and therefore, the only choice he had was to end it. Luckily, as the film progresses, the bonds made with Claire, Andrew, Allison and bender show Brian that his life is worth more than the grades he receives and that taking his life would be the worst idea. Towards the end of the film, the group of teens are sitting in a circle when Brian shares his plan to end his life. The other teens begin to laugh at the stupidity of the plan, which shows Brian that ending his life would be a bad idea, and now he appears to feel more comfortable about himself.
4. The character John bender is in Marcia’s stage of “diffusion” throughout the film. Individuals in the “diffusion” stage of adolescence have no motivation or goals, and appear to float through life with no destination. Bender has no plans after high school, and appears not to care about his future. For example, towards the beginning of the film, bender begins to misbehave in detention and immediately accumulates over seven Saturday detentions for the next two months. This shows that he does not care about his future or the effect that a bad record would have on him as an adult. This also shows that bender clearly does not value his life very much, as he throws away his free time so easily behaving poorly. He is constantly angry and rebellious, especially in the face of authority figures like Mr. Vernon. It is possible that this behavior is a result of abuse at home, Bender mentions that his father put his cigarette out on his sons arm as a form of punishment. This could show that he is experiencing abuse at home, which could lead to his being in a state of diffusion.
5. The character Claire Standish can be most applied to David Elkind’s theory of adolescent egocentrism. She believes that her popularity defines her, and that the entire school is highly attentive to her behavior and her appearance. Throughout the film she has a superior attitude to the rest of the teens, except Andrew, whom she views as equal to her in terms of social rank. For example at the beginning of the film she says “Don’t you know how popular I am? I am so popular. Everyone loves me so much at this school.” She refers to her popularity as a part of her, like an extra limb, and expects to be put on a pedestal because of it. She thinks that everyone is watching her every move, or are so concerned with her, but they are not, she has created this “imaginary audience” in her head and her environment. This is classic adolescent egocentrism. Towards the end of the movie, as she develops relationships with the other members of “The breakfast Club”, the audience sees a decline in Claire’s egocentrism as she begins to have an understanding of the unimportance of social rank.
6. Brian Johnson is mostly controlled by his ego throughout the film which acts to civilize and perfect his behavior to constantly fit his parents’ and school’s expectations. The ego deals with behaviors that become for bidden due to punishments, consequences, and remorse. In Brian’s case, failing in school proves to be the action which causes punishments and remorse, as well as a feeling of worthlessness. He is dependent on grades for both motivation and happiness. Brian’s inability to deal with the demands of his parents by doing poorly in woodshop causes him severe anxiety. Because of this anxiety, Brian uses defense mechanisms such as sublimation. For example, he takes his anger and frustration out over failing woodshop by doing extremely well in all of his other classes. Brian also shows his inability to deal with anxiety when he reveals his suicide plan.
7. The character Mr. Vernon exhibits Erikson’s theory of generativity vs self-absorption because he fails to care for the students in the school and only cares for himself. He displays self- absorption when he threatens bender and locks him in the supply closet, as well as when he breaks into the student records in the basement. Rather than trying to give back to the children and the school, he choose to be bitter and try to destroy them by punishing them and attempting to exploit them in front of their peers.
The character Carl, the janitor, also displays generativity vs. self-absorption, however Carl exhibits generativity. For example when Mr. Vernon breaks into the student files, Carl follows him and threatens to reveal Vernon to the administration. Carl appears to genuinely care for the children, although he is constantly looked down on by them because of his job. Mr. Vernon, on the other hand, never shows kindness and is constantly angry towards the children and his job. This shows two sides of Erikson’s generativity vs. self-absorption theory of adult development.

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