The Stages of Life

| January 16, 2016

The Stages of Life
Think about three of the three films: UP, Toy Story, and SpiritedAway. All of them involve characters dealing with different issues that Erikson associates with the stages of life. Because Erikson’s observations seem to have broad (if not universal) applicability, and his ideas have worked their way into the media, many characters in films deal with the issues Erikson describes.

Pick a major character from one of these films, and do an Eriksonian analysis of his, her, or its stage-based conflicts, and how the character deals with or overcomes it. (If we hadn’t discussed it in class already, for example, you could write a paper about UP’s Carl, facing a loss of generativity after Ellie’s death, based on the promise he made as a child [initiative vs. guilt] to take her to Paradise Falls, that seems to have become a central part of the way they interacted over the course of their marriage [intimacy vs. isolation/identity vs. role confusion].)

Good papers will:
• Include an appropriate explanation of the stages involved, citing Erikson’s text.
• Describe the character and discuss the conflicts faced using Erikson’s language, making the connections between the stages and the story clear.
• Show how different stages play in to the development of the problem, and its resolution. (Note: not all resolutions are neat or positive; they may involve just pushing off the problem or creating new ones.)
• If it makes sense, show how different stages are interacting. (Is Woody’s industry-based role as leader interfering with his identity as the favorite toy?)
• Show thoughtful, original insights into the subject you write about.

A few suggestions: Be sure to choose a major character with a well-fleshed-out story arc to explore; otherwise, you could end up with insufficient evidence to support your claim. Although some reference to topics discussed in class might be necessary, try to avoid repeating analyses already explored in class. (This applies mostly to UP – there are still possibilities there, but we certainly talked about the short Carl-Ellie story fairly thoroughly…)

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