Erik Erikson once conducted an eight stage theory

    Erik Erikson once conducted an eight stage theory on identity and development of the person through various stages of their life. If during one stage, a negative effect takes place, it can hinder their future development. The earliest stage begins from birth to eighteen months. It argues that a child must receive basic nurturing and love from his/her mother to develop confidence, optimism, and trust. If the child is neglected, there are opposite effects that take place. There’s nothing to prove Gilbert was neglected during these times in his life. His mother was still in good health to take care of her children. This stage of development is primarily based on a child’s mother. If Gilbert was failed to look after, this could have had a negative impact on his growth. He could have, from a young age, been pessimistic, distrustful, and insecure. The next stage is eighteen months to three years. It’s the stage of autonomy or shame. It’s the earliest time a child will begin to show independence. If they’re not given this opportunity, insecurity and self-doubt can take place, especially if they’re not encouraged during learning. There’s still not much evidence to prove this was a negative stage in Gilbert’s development. If he was positively looked after by his mother and father, he could have developed a sense of individuality and confidence. During the ages of three to five, we are faced with initiative vs guilt. This is the time we want to take leadership and do things on our own, mimicking the actions or our parents or elders around us. It seems Gilbert has a severe lack of social life. He has friends, but appears to be disinterested whenever he’s around them. He isn’t emotionally honest with himself and tends to push people away for the sake of security. It’s a safe place for him. He is lonely, though surrounded by people, and chooses to distance himself. It is possible this could have developed during the stage of purpose, where we strive during those beginning stages to make connections with people other than our own parents. Six to twelve years of age is where serious psychological development may have been hindered during Gilbert’s growth. He stated that his father was “hung out to dry” during this time, meaning his psychological development was hampered with. With his father’s death at a young age, it causes him to mature faster and have to understand the realities of life. His father had also been part of his growth all his life and has been most of what he has known. With this large part of his life gone, Gilbert could become confused. This is also when his mother started eating excessively, which is further neglect toward Gilbert. If his emotional support is ruptured by sudden neglect, he could have developed a severe belief of inferiority and inadequacy. This low self esteem can also lead him to be hostile and confused. He acts in spurts of anger toward his family, seen when he hits Arnie, despite him being the person he cares for the most, he allows people to make fun of his mother and seems emotionally distant from it, despite the impact it has had on his life. He also lacks care for his sister, Ellen. He shows disdain towards her possibly because of her desire for external beauty, while Gilbert is still facing internal troubles. She’s also rough with Arnie and doesn’t appear to understand why it’s important to be patient with him. The weight is on him to take care of his brother, because he’s the one who understands. Overall, Gilbert shows undeniable disconnection toward all these people, except Arnie, because he is the only person he can seem to build a connection with. He shows moments of emotional attachment, how he knows almost everything about him (what will get him down from the water tank, what will abate his anxiety, etc.) This is, as well, the stage we strive to make deeper and stronger connections with people other than our parents. It’s where we want to be part of the community. However, Gilbert shows disinterest and contempt for the town of Endor, and would much rather leave than stay and make relationships.     The biggest stage that may have had a negative effect of Gilbert’s development is the identity vs role confusion. It is obviously shown Gilbert is having an identity crisis. He doesn’t know who he is or where he fits in, because he’s too attached to his brother and having to take care of him. Due to his mother’s obesity and incapability to care for them, he’s unable to get away from his family. They are his life. Especially Arnie, who needs supervision all hours of the day. It’s difficult to find autonomy and a role in society when you’re unable to gain independence. He knows what he wants: an escape. He wants to get out of the town of Endor, but this isn’t possible for him. This holds back his growth as an individual. Gilbert has never had the chance to worry about “fitting in” because he’s always been different from everybody else. His family has always been different, and people have looked at him that way. He develops moratorium. He distances himself from responsibilities, like planning Gilbert’s eighteenth birthday. He’s not apt to participate in these types of events because it isn’t want he wants, and he’s being held back from his inevitable growth as an adult. He is stuck being the one to repair the family. He says himself, “My father built this house, and it’s my job to do the repairs.” The house is a metaphor for the family. Gilbert has taken on his father’s position as the man of the house, and it’s his job to keep it as functional as possible. The sixth stage, the final one we see in Gilbert’s development, is intimacy and solidarity vs isolation. During this time in an adolescence life, they strive to find a companion, somebody to love. Gilbert is shown to have a rough time figuring this stage of his life out. There’s at first Mrs. Carver. Gilbert states that he will miss her when she leaves, and there’s a few reasons for this. She was the first person he was able to build an emotional relationship with outside of his family. She was also the first person that seemed to emotionally care for him. Albeit a mostly physical relationship between the two, this was an ephemeral escape for Gilbert, given the situation he was in. It helped him feel something other than the burden of having to take care for his family. However, when Becky entered the picture, he found himself leaning more toward her because he was more of an emotional escape, and cared about him as a person rather than a benefit for herself. She was also, literally, an escape. He was jealous of her ability to freely travel, her independence and autonomy. This is where we see Gilbert fluctuate between intimacy and isolation. He wants Becky because she’s an escape for him, but detaches himself from her because he knows he cannot possibly leave the town of Endor. Fulfilling this stage of life results in healthy and long term relationships. Avoiding the intimacy aspect results in the opposite: isolation and loneliness. Gilbert wavers between these two sides, pushing Becky away, perhaps because of the lack of stable relationships he’d failed to develop earlier on. After his mother dies, Gilbert finds solace in burning down the house, knowing nobody will make jokes about her this way. This shows a huge development in Gilbert’s character. He uses the beams in the basement and setting fire to the house as an outlet for his rage, to help compensate for the damage that had been done in his family life. This could have helped to redeem some emotional distress he’d been through, since the baggage of their dysfunctional family is gone. Gilbert only needs to care for his brother now, since all the siblings had become more independent. He’s able to leave the town of Endor and go his own way. 


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