The identity theorist’s Erik Erikson and James Marcia were crucial contributors to the psychological interpretation of a person’s personality and social development. Erik Erikson is most famously known for his theories on the adolescent search for identity and his ideas regarding a person’s self-discovery. James Marcia expanded further on Erikson’s concepts through his proposal of the four identity statuses, which include moratorium, foreclosure, diffusion, and achievement, as well as the four human crises’. As psychology is becoming more and more developed in our modern society, it has become more socially acceptable to criticize or expose the issues psychology entails, particularly human identity, which often times can be the most controversial topic. In the blockbuster film, Good Will Hunting, the main character Will has natural genius capabilities but struggles to understand his place in the world due to a dramatic past and his tough exterior as an orphan from South Boston. Although it is arguable that Will appreciated his talent but preferred to live his life as it was before recognition, Will Hunting depicted the theories of identity through his relationship with Skylar and his guidance from Sean.
Even though Will enjoyed his life of literature and education behind closed doors, it was indeterminable whether Will was content with his life or eager to leave his comfort zone in Southie to challenge his intellect at the beginning of the film. For example, while working as a janitor at MIT Will solves a problem that the current students at the institute had yet to conquer, however Will would not admit to the professors that he had solved it. This shows that Will lacks aspects of self-realization because once the professors realize he is the genius, Will mocks the therapy sessions and mathematical lessons that the professors organized in order to help him reach his full potential.
In addition to that, Will’s best friends depict the epitome of “city kids” who balance blue collar jobs with nighttime bar reunions and it is evident that because this is the only life Will has ever known, he is hesitant to lead the life he is stereotypically supposed to. It takes the guidance from Will’s best friend Chuck, to finally persuade Will to take advantage of his gift, not for himself, but for his friends and every other kid with the same lack of opportunities who would give anything for Will’s intelligence. At first Will was uncomfortable with realizing his intelligence but eventually he learned he needed to take advantage of his skills.
Sean’s influence on Will proved that Will experienced the process of identity discovery proposed by James Marcia because of Sean’s ability to help Will out of his identity crisis. According to Marcia a person experiences four identity crises including future work, moral standards, religion, and political view. During the movie, Sean helps Will by guiding him past the future work crisis through therapy sessions and Sean’s real life experience recollections. In addition, Sean enables Will to overcome his moral standard crisis particularly regarding women. Throughout the movie Sean is able to overcome Will’s sarcastic defense mechanisms and on their last session when each man reveals they were abused as children, Sean sees the true person that Will is and realizes he has properly prepared him for a future job in the real world. Sean encourages Will’s relationship with Harvard Student Skylar because he wants Will to recognize his ability to have an emotional relationship with a woman without pushing them away, which ultimately proved his change in moral standard.
When Will meets Skylar she is unlike any girl he has ever known, and as their relationship grows serious, Will’s fear of commitment supports his struggle with his identity status. After Will receives Skylar’s number he is not contemplating commitment nor immediately calls her. Psychologically he is at the stage of moratorium where he delays decisions about Skylar before going out with her again as well as not disregarding his options with other woman, as he tells his psychologist Sean that he has slept with many woman. However, when Will takes Skylar to the dog track he proves his committal to her as his girlfriend, which supports the proceeding identity status of foreclosure. Next, after their relationship grows serious, Skylar asks Will to come to California with her as she attends Stanford yet Will refuses her offer and feels the need to distance himself from her.
The issue escalates further when Skylar tries to comfort Will about his tragic past, which infuriates Will even further. After their break-up Will searches for the meaning of life with help from his best friend’s who purchase him a car to help him commute to a new job which would enable him to break from his “tough city guy” image. Between the time of breakup, job interviews, and guidance from Chuck Will discovers his potential and strives to successfully use his talent through the identity status of diffusion. Finally Will reaches the achievement identity status as he leaves Boston to reunite with Skylar in California, which proves to be the greatest decision of his life.
Overall, Will did undergo the four identity statuses and experience the crises that James Marcia and Erik Erikson proposed in their theories of self-discovery. Will’s relationship with Skylar particularly proves that Will underwent the four identity statuses of moratorium, foreclosure, diffusion, and achievement because of his refusal to get emotionally attached to her at first, and then by the conclusion of the movie, ready to commit his life to her. Also, through the guidance of Sean Will overcame the identity crises of future work and moral standards. In the end, although it appeared as if Will could never behind his reputation of a South Boston rebel, through his relationships with Skylar and Sean Will was prepared to reach his full potential.
Courtney from Study Moose
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