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Steel Magnolias Essay

The movie I chose is Steel Magnolias; the character is Shelby. The movie begins on Shelby’s wedding day to Jackson Latcherie. Shelby is the only daughter of M’Lynn and Drum Eatenton; and has two younger brothers, Tommy and Jonathan. M’Lynn is very protective of Shelby because she is a diabetic and has had fragile health since childhood. Shelby appears in the movie in early adulthood; the movie does not address Shelby’s progression from stages one thru five.

She is introduced to the viewers in Erikson’s sixth stage of psycho-social development, Intimacy vs. Isolation. This stage of development focuses on forming intimate loving relationships leading to long- term commitment with someone other than a family member (McLeod, 2008). Shelby’s primary concern, after marriage, is starting a family of her own; this progresses Shelby to Erikson’s seventh stage, Generativity vs. Stagnation.

In the seventh stage, we establish our careers, settle down within a relationship, begin our own families and develop a sense of being a part of a bigger picture (McLeod, 2008). Shelby had an established nursing career and desired starting her own family. Because of health related concerns associated with diabetes and the strain on her body from child birth, Shelby had been advised against conceiving children. Although Shelby was aware of the risks of conceiving children, she was determined to start her own family.

Shelby conceived and gave birth to a son, Jackson Jr. She showed positive signs of resolution of stage six and progression thru stage seven of development as evidenced by her happy marriage, the birth of her son and her established nursing career. However, Shelby was unable to resolve stage seven and progress to stage eight, Integrity vs. Despair, due to her untimely death in young adulthood. Three challenges to the positive progression of Shelby’s psycho-social development were; first, her health. Shelby was diabetic; which created her first challenge. Shelby’s determination to accomplish Intimacy vs.

Isolation placed her health at risk because of complications related to diabetes. Second, Shelby’s mother was very controlling in her life and not supportive of Shelby’s decision of having children. She openly voiced her opinion and reluctance about Shelby having children. Shelby’s mother stated that she loved proving her wrong; possibly if her mother had been supportive they would have been able to discuss other options of having children.

The third challenge was Shelby was adamant that she was giving birth to her own child. She did not consider how self-destructive her decision was. She refused to explore other options for having children. The decision of giving birth to her own child resulted in her kidneys failing and eventually her death (Ross, 1989). I think that Shelby should have had more involvement in managing her care from childhood. It appears during childhood her mother shielded her from the knowledge, management and dangers of the disease.

As a result, Shelby didn’t develop a sense of caution in matters of her own health. If she had been more involved at a younger age, she could have developed better habits and made healthier choices while integrating her understanding of the dangers associated with diabetes; and the spiraling effect it has on the body, if not managed properly. I think with that with a different thought process about the disease, she would have been more willing to explore other options for having children.

1. Ross, H. (Director). (1989). Steel Magnolias [Motion Picture]. United States: Tri-Star Pictures Inc. 2. McLeod, S.A. (2008). Erik Erikson | Psychosocial Stages. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

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