E. L. James, author of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, created an incredibly, emotionally torn character in Christian Grey. In this paper, I will discuss the truth behind his need for control, his guarded emotions, and his lack of self-worth. I will delve into his past and link his childhood demons to his personality as an adult. Also, I will show how he reverts back to adolescence in a way that would make Freud smirk, See I told you. It all comes back to sex in the end. I will discuss the myriad of social and environmental factors in his adult life which take him from a life of debasement and depravity into the light. The major questions addressed are:
1. What archetype(s) is Christian Grey classified as?
2. What are the main influences on Christian Grey’s personality? 3. What are the main conflicts with which the character struggles and how do they affect his thoughts and actions? 4. What are the motivating factors behind Grey’s behavior, thoughts and changes?
Through analysis, the layers of Christian Grey’s aloof demeanor and public Persona will be peeled away, revealing his true demons and his struggle to control and come to grips with them. His Shadow that has kept him so closed off all his life, until the chance meeting of a beautiful college student, forces him to make some changes . The factors behind his change from an Alec D’Urberville to an Angel Clare will be evident. At the conclusion of the paper, you will be able to see how a few select social and environmental factors have a large impact on this character.
Identifying the archetypes of Christian Grey
Christian Grey has three identifiable archetypes. The first one would be the Ruler . He lives his life in control. As a powerful CEO of his large holdings company, he portrays a dictatorial presence. Everything in his life is done through a set of rules and contracts. This includes his personal life as well. Grey believes that information is control. He does background checks on all of his employees and “lovers.” Christian chooses hobbies that allow him to feel in control and powerful. He chooses flying, gliding, soaring and sails.
Christian does not have normal intimate relationships with women. He expresses his emotions and sexual needs through a sadist lifestyle. Grey is a dominate sadist that employees submissives to find his release with. He does not have friends because of trust issues that stem from his very early childhood. His early years are what make up his Shadow . For most of his life he chooses to repress the memories of his youth. He believes his past is just that, his past, and that is where it should stay.
Grey had a dark and twisted childhood. He fights to maintain control of his emotions and memories, but they creep into every aspect of his life. He has terrifying nightmares filled with snippets of dark and evil memories from his time with his birth mother. As the layers of Christian Grey’s persona are peeled away, these memories help the reader to understand his actions, thoughts, and his greed for wealth as an adult. Through the love of a young woman, he begins to realize that his past is the basis for his thought processes and actions. The Shadow is what causes him to feel haunted, lost, angry, lonely, controlling, and self-loathing. His inability to control his life and surroundings as a child feed this archetype. Grey’s Shadow encompasses two subtypes of a Sadistic personality, Explosive and Enforcing .
Being forced to confront his Shadow brings about many changes for his character. Although his Persona archetype remains the same through the story line, those close to him, see the changes and progress, he makes personally. Grey’s Persona archetype never waivers from the enigmatic, successful, in control, have- it-all, very wealthy, philanthropic, private young entrepreneur. Those on the outside of his circle have no idea of the war he wages internally with his Shadow. Grey’s Persona is always one of a polite but business oriented composure. He is someone who knows and controls every detail of his business and personal relationships.
These are traits that would classify him as a
Reputation-Defending Antisocial . Reputation-Defending Antisocial personalities also have narcissistic tendencies. They need to be seen as unflawed, unbreakable, and a formidable adversary. The antisocial aspect is used to counteract the deep internal beliefs a narcissist has of inferiority and a lack of self-esteem. Christian is a Flawed Hero as well.
He is tortured by the lengths that he has to go through to keep his family and wife safe. Grey does not accept the praise of a hero, nor does he often get it, due to the way he goes about protecting them. To his family his protection looks more to them as oppression because he maintains a security detail for each member of his family and rejects their requests to indulge in certain activities. He is faced with resistance at every turn in response to his seemingly well intended actions and rules.
Due to their disobedience, they often realize that he was right, and he is forced to save them. Throughout the trilogy, Christian remains exasperated by their actions. The final archetype that Grey possesses is the Lover . Despite his dictatorial presence, he has moments of extreme tenderness and displays of affection towards his wife, Ana. He wants nothing more but to love and be loved by her. He is consumed by his feeling for her and keeping her safe. Grey’s world begins and ends with her.
His goal is to make sure that she is happy and loved. He struggles to understand these first time feelings of love, want, need, passion, and fear, after twenty plus years of living alone, secluded in his own person castle in the sky . Although his tactics aren’t always clearly that of a Lover, if we look past the surface of the action, we can see they stem from his deep emotional connection with Ana. What are the main influences on Christian Grey’s personality? Christian’s rocky start in early childhood and adolescence is the focal point for his shortcomings and success at the same time. Seemingly full of confidence and sophistication, Christian had a bad start in life.
Born to a drug addict mother, who he refers to as ‘the crack whore,’ he was discovered, beaten, and cowed, next to her body. She overdosed, and her brutal boyfriend left her and her child alone in their squalid flat for four days before reporting her death. Grey was severely malnourished and had signs of horrific physical abuse when he was rescued.
The physical abuse and neglect that he suffered the first four years of his life left him unable to endure the touch of anyone. His body bears the scars of the physical abuse. He realizes that his preference for sexual partners and sadism stems from his relationship, or lack thereof, with biological mother, Ella. Ella was a small framed, thin, and brown haired woman. As he looks back on all the sexual partners with which he has engaged in BDSM, they all look like her.
He now understands he likes to hurt women who look like his mother. Grey felt unloved, neglected, and abused by his mother. His choice of lifestyle is a way to passively exert revenge for the pain that she caused him. His treatment as a child has left him with PTSD. This is made evident with his frequent flashbacks and night terrors of the abuse he suffered at the hand of his biological mother and her pimp. The fact that he was hungry as a child gives him a waste not, want not motto.
The experience of being left alone and hungry for days in a room with his dead mother affected him . His decision to invest in farming, his projects to help feed the poor and his constant obsessing over whether or not Ana has eaten can all be linked to this childhood trauma. Christian’s adoption by pediatrician Grace Trevelyan-Grey and her attorney husband Carrick, gives him the opportunity of a better life. Ostensibly, he grows up in a loving, normal family, but his early years have left a big impression on him. He regards Grace as his angel.
He says that she saved him from a terrible fate. Despite the love and admiration that he feels for his new mother and family, he cannot figure out how to express this love. Grey begins to fight and act out in order to gain negative attention. While his new family is willing to give him positive attention and unconditional love, Christian does not think he deserves this love. He has an extremely distorted view of self-worth. Unintentionally, his new family enabled his NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) by overindulging his every whim and praising him for his exceptional looks and musical abilities .
At the age of 15, he’s introduced to the delights of sex and bondage by a friend of his mother’s, Elena Lincoln, whom Ana christens (only half-jokingly) as Mrs. Robinson. Elena’s warped sexuality will have a strong and enduring influence on his life. Christian originally sees their relationship as a good thing. He feels that Elena gave him an outlet for his anger and raging teenage hormones . Grey is thankful to her for saving him from the path of self-destruction, he was headed down.
This relationship in his formative years affects his sexual preferences in adulthood. It’s a classic case of: I’m the way I am now because my childhood messed me up. He has difficulty in forging normal relationships. He can’t bear to be touched. And he can only have a sexual encounter if he is the dominant partner; he cannot make love with someone as an equal. Fixation has occurred at the adolescent stage of development. This is the point where a Possessive Masochistic personality is cultured and developed . He describes himself as not the hearts and flowers type . That is, until he meets college student Anastasia Steele.
What are the main conflicts that the character struggles with and how do they affect his thoughts and actions? Grey’s chance meeting with Ana during an interview for the college newspaper turns his world upside down. He begins to feel emotions that he has never felt before. This is very confusing for Grey as he does not know how to deal with his reaction to this stubborn and defiant woman. Grey slowly seduces Ana, though it’s hardly traditional. He has a very specific goal in mind: his BDSM world, his world of bondage and discipline (BD), domination and submission (DS), and sadism and masochism (SM). Gradually, Ana experiments with being a submissive, though this goes against her personality and even her ideas about relationships.
Grey acts dominant even outside of the “playroom” and his choice as dominant clearly reflect who he is and what he needs. Christian has never met anyone like Anastasia before. His previous ‘Submissives’ proved incompatible or headed for the hills. He now has to redefine his thinking based on his relationship with Anastasia. He admits to her that he is willing to try a hearts and flowers approach more. We learn that Ana isn’t like his other submissives. Even Grey himself recognizes this.
What makes Ana so different? Why is Grey even still with her, when she basically shuns the whole contract, negotiations, etc.? She frequently angers him by defying him or refusing to give him information he thinks he deserves. It’s her anti-submission that forces little cracks to begin to form in Grey’s armor. He goes against many of his own rules, and is better for it. He initiates real love-making (not BDSM) with Ana to take her virginity, which is a first for him.
He admires Ana’s debating skills, and her negotiating skills. He ends up staying the night in the same bed with her a few times and sleeps better for it. It is his personal struggle with these new feelings he is experiencing about Ana, and how to cope with them, that is the biggest conflict he faces. She pushes the boundaries that he has had his entire life. He battles with his subconscious over how to act in response to her emotional exploits and physical touch. Ana puts him in very uncomfortable situations over and over again each ending with pleasurable outcomes, effectively, applying classical conditioning to occur and alter his behavior.
What are the motivating factors behind Grey’s behavior, thoughts, and changes? Eventually, Ana has a taste of Grey’s true dominant self, and that taste is more than enough for her. Ana decides to leave Christian, forcing his whole world into darkness. Ana’s leaving makes it very evident to Grey that he is in love for the first time in his life . He realizes that he cannot control the situation or his emotions. This is a turning point for his character. The once measured and self-reliant man is now shattered, lonely, and wanton for Ana’s return. Love is something he never thought he was capable of and still does not believe he is worthy of receiving.
The abuse and neglect he suffered as a child have skewed his self-esteem and self-worth. Grey’s formative years have greatly contributed to his Narcissistic Personality. He now wrestles internally how to process these new emotions of joy, love, jealousy, and protectiveness he feels for Ana. Ana’s eventual return due to his unrelenting pursuit and her emotional emptiness without him, forces him to admit his love. Ana little by little gets him to open up emotionally. Grey’s character slowly realizes that his past isn’t his past but his present and future as well. He reluctantly learns to give up a little of the control that he thrives on. His reluctance is proven to be a valid concern. After his marriage to Ana, their life starts to spin out of control due to the actions of someone from his childhood . Ana learns that she is pregnant.
This sends Grey into a rage. Life in the raw is something he cannot regulate. He loses his composure and falls back into the company of Elena (Mrs. Robinson) for a night. It is only during a drunken conversation with Elena, crying and seething about becoming a father that he realizes what they did all those years ago, was wrong.
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