There are many stages of development, and the goal here is to address them using the fictional character Landon Carter from A Walk to Remember (Shankman, 2002). The premise is that characters in fiction, as in real life, can grow and develop through their interactions with others. One of the best ways to determine how much growth a character has accomplished over the course of the novel or movie is to consider where the character started and where he or she ended. Additionally, how that character got from point A to point B. In his or her development and what took place that allowed the character to move forward on his or her journey are also significant. Characters that do not develop throughout the course of a story are generally overlooked by those who are watching or reading that story, and if that character is a main character it is very likely that the book or movie will not be well received due to the lack of development.
Addressed here will be Landon Carter and his character development in the movie. However, it is not realistic to simply write about the movie and what Landon did or did not do during his time on screen. Character development is much more than that. A brief synopsis of the movie will be provided, but the focus of the paper will be on the analysis of Landon and his personality development throughout the course of the movie. In order to analyze the character's development properly, the work of Erik Erikson will also be discussed. Then, Erikson's theory of personality will be used to take a careful look at Landon and how his ego changes over the course of the film.
A Walk to Remember
In the movie A Walk to Remember (Shankman, 2002), the main male character is Landon Carter. He is a popular boy in high school, and has many friends. He plays a prank and ends up in trouble and facing expulsion at school. Because he does not want to be expelled, he agrees to the punishment which is mandatory participation in certain school activities. One of those activities is the drama club, where he ends up working closely with fellow student Jamie Sullivan (Shankman, 2002). He knows who Jamie is, but they are not friends. She is bookish and quiet, and not one of the popular girls. Landon ends up struggling to learn his lines, and he turns to Jamie for help. They practice together after school, but it is clear that he is only using Jamie for her ability to help him learn lines for the play. Around his friends he ignores her or treats her coldly (Shankman, 2002). Jamie is a devoted Christian and is never rude to anyone, so she simply allows Landon to treat her as he will around others. She does not hold a grudge, and she continues to allow him to work with her and learn his lines properly.
The more time he spends with her the more he comes to care for her and realize that the things he values may not be so important after all. The play is beautiful, and through the course of it Landon falls in love with Jamie (Shankman, 2002). He learns of her wish list and starts to help her do all the things that are important to her. He also finds out that she has leukemia and treatments are no longer working. He is very upset, and Jamie tells him she did not want him to know because she wanted to just use the time she had left - but then she fell in love with Landon. Jamie and Landon marry and have one wonderful summer together before the leukemia claims her (Shankman, 2002). In honoring Jamie's memory, Landon makes something of himself and sets out to do all the things that matter to him, just like Jamie was doing up until the end.
Erikson's Theory of Personality
Erik Erikson was Neo-Freudian. He studied the stages of development, and many people termed him an "ego psychologist." He wanted to study people from birth to death, and see how development played out over the complete lifespan. That would help him to have a better understanding of people and what mattered to them during different developmental stages in their lives. Each stage of psychosocial development created by Erikson is marked by conflict (Wallerstein & Goldberger, 1998). As the stage is worked through, the conflict will be resolved. Resolution of the conflict, therefore, results in a successful completion of that stage of development and the ability to move forward to the next stage. Each favorable outcome is called a virtue. The research done by Erikson also indicated that each life-stage challenge had conflict and tension at both ends. A person who was working toward further personal development had to learn how to hold both of those ends at one time. When both "ends" were accepted and understood, the person was able to move on to the next stage (Wallerstein & Goldberger, 1998).
Eight stages were present for Erikson: basic trust vs. basic mistrust, autonomy vs. shame, purpose - initiative vs. guilt, competence - industry vs. inferiority, fidelity - identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and ego integrity vs. despair (Wallerstein & Goldberger, 1998). While all of these stages are meant to be traveled through beginning at birth and moving into the 65+ age group, there are times when individuals are "held up" in one stage of development for longer than average. Additionally, some people have trouble getting through certain stages and that can make it more difficult for them to move on to the next stage. In a sense, they are still holding onto the last stage, and until they can reconcile the beginning and end of one stage they are not really ready to move on to the next stage.
Analysis of Landon Carter
Landon Carter began his "life" in the film A Walk to Remember as a popular high school student. Not much is known about his childhood, but he is estranged from his father. The discussion as to why this estrangement took place is not something with which the movie deals (Shankman, 2002). The most important thing to note about Landon early on in the movie is that he knows he is popular and well-liked, and that is the part of his life that is most important and significant to him. His ego is wrapped up in who he is in relationship to other people, and in the things that he finds valuable. When he decides to play a prank, he focuses on the joy of it and how funny it will be, along with the admiration he will get from his friends for going through with it (Shankman, 2002). He does not consider the issue of what could go wrong or whether anyone could be hurt by the prank. That concern is not something that is generally on the mind of a teenage boy, but Landon is clearly focused on the idea that he can do no wrong and that he is above the law.
In looking at that from the standpoint of Erikson's stages, Landon is very concerned with himself and not so much with others. He has not yet let go of the idea that he is untouchable, and he has not yet grasped the idea that other people are significant and that their thoughts and feelings are certainly just as valid and important as his own. Erikson was highly focused on the idea of how a person's personality is shaped. Beginning at birth and developing all throughout adolescent and adult life right up until death, a personality was a significant part of life (Wallerstein & Goldberger, 1998). In other words, it was not like other areas of life, where things could be changed and adjusted at will. A personality was partly genetic and partly environmental, and that meant that it went through distinct phases that were common to each person (Wallerstein & Goldberger, 1998).
As Landon's prank backfired and he ended up in serious trouble, he realized that there were consequences for his actions. That required that he hold a stage of personality development at both ends as he came to terms with the idea that he was not infallible and that he was also not above the law in any way. It was a turning point in his life, but a reluctant turning point in that he was upset at being caught and at facing expulsion. For Erikson, the main point would be that stages can only be left and entered into when a person has made peace with a stage and is ready to move on (Wallerstein & Goldberger, 1998). Because that is the case, it was relatively clear that Landon was not ready to change and was only moved toward a new stage because he had…