The character of the move that has been chosen for this analysis of personality is Keira Knightley’s character of Elizabeth Bennet, the main female character of the movie “Pride and prejudice” (2005) directed by Joe Wright. Though this paper is aimed not at the creation of movie review, we feel the necessity of explaining the choice of the move that will help to compose more complete impression about our analysis. The choice of the move and the character is determined by the following factors: the move is based on the classical literary work by Jane Austin that has proved the quality of the plot and characters, in comparison with, for instance, modern action move that are focused not on the images of characters, but on external factors like shooting, violence, etc. Thus, the character of Elizabeth Bennet is considered to be suitable for the psychological analysis.
Elizabeth Bennet, a twenty-year-old young woman, is the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. On the whole, the family has five unmarried daughter and is characterized by rather meager income and absence of dowry, which is the cause of the mother’s anxiety and father’s estrangement. Among this continuing fuss and financial and communicational problems, the main character, Elizabeth, is presented as a person who is alien to this hypocritical and shallow society that is focused on profit and good bargains even if it involves human lives and feelings. It seems that Elizabeth belongs neither to her family nor to society of that time, because she has nothing in common with other female characters of the movie. The chief trait of her character is intelligence and quick-wittedness combined with extreme honesty, resoluteness, optimism. She is in the habit of analyzing the actions of other characters; she likes to reflect on her past experience during her long lonely walks. Elizabeth is unselfish and will never do anything against her feelings in order to get benefit. This is why she rejects two marriage proposals: one from Mr. Collins whom she had never considered a match, the second from Mr. Darcy, her soul mate, who had produced wrong impression on the heroine. However, Elizabeth’s character is not ideal. She is given to making a judgment about a person on the basis of the first impression; this is why her conclusions are often wrong and incomplete. Besides, she is very emotional and her emotions stymie the objective evidence for judgments.
First of all, let us present the analysis of Elizabeth Bennet’s character on the basis of Eric Erikson’s theory. This theory is called “post-Freudian theory”, because it is the extended variant of Freud’s classification of infantile developmental stages that includes the period of the whole life. According to Eric Erikson, a person comes through eight stages during his/her life, and the transition from one stage to another is determined by the person’s ability or inability to resolve the main conflict of the stage. As for the place of Elizabeth Bennet in the classification, let us assume she belongs to the sixth stage, which is called “early adulthood” and is marked by the conflict between “intimacy and isolation” (Weiten et al., 2008, p. 341). According to the classification, the girl’s first consideration should be the search for a perfect match for her to live happily till death separates them. In fact, the girl’s refusal to marry both candidates, Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy, may prejudice her belonging to this stage. Still, the refusals may be justified by the process of active search and the girl’s discretion, her reluctance to agree to marry the first man that comes across and it may be considered the evidence for the girl’s desire “to form close and lasting relationship” (Weiten et al., 2008, p. 341). This reasonableness is the sign of maturity, characteristic of adults.
However, the conduct of the heroine of Keira Knightley is determined not by the desire to find a true love and husband. Though this desire is present, it is not the one that is prevalent. Her actions are motivated by the offence of her feelings connected with Mr. Bingley’s departure and betrayal of Elizabeth’s sister, Jane’s, feelings. Elizabeth’s conclusions and judgments often lack thorough analysis and reflection. This is strong evidence of her immaturity (at least in the first part of the movie). J.J. Arnett (2000) states:
Erikson has distinguished – without naming – a period that is in some ways adolescence and in some way young adulthood yet not strictly either one, a period in which adult commitments and responsibilities are delayed while the role experimentations that began in adolescence continues and in fact intensifies (p. 470).
This is why the personality of Elizabeth Bennet may be defined according to Erikson’s theory as occupying the place on the boundary between the fifth and the sixth stage, because Elizabeth is not yet an adult, but not an adolescent already, because of her intelligence and strong moral qualities, which are already formed. However, as the action unfolds, the character becomes more and more mature and it may be stated that in the final scene she passes to the sixth stage completely.
For the second analysis the Holistic-Dynamic theory of Abraham Maslow has been chosen. As the psychologist stated himself, he had called it like that “to express [his] conviction about its major roots” (Cooper and Pervin, 1998, p. 189). Thus, the theory is based on the study of human motivation that is based on the hierarchy of needs, which is usually presented in the shape of a pyramid. “The pyramidal structure includes physiological safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization” (Garrison, 2008, p. 53). As self-actualization or the “realization of potential” is the highest possible motive of a person, it can be stated that Elizabeth Bennet was driven by this motive, that may be proven by her active life position, love of reading and acquiring new knowledge, her commutability, and desire to improve and develop her personality (Weiten et al., 2008, p. 53). According to Maslow’s theory, Elizabeth may be considered a “healthy personality”, because of her “commitment to continual personal growth” ( Weiten et al., 2008, p. 54). Maslow’s words “What a man can be, he must be” might well be considered Elizabeth’s motto (Weiten et al., 2008, p. 53). Many of the traits of character that the psychologist ascribed to “healthy personality” could be found in the character of Elizabeth: she was open and sincere, she was sensitive to the needs of the people who surrounded her (her sister Jane). However, she did not try to please other people if she knew that their demands were unjust, like her revolt against the mother’s desire to force her into marriage. Consequently, the girl is not “dependent on others for approval” (Weiten et al., 2008, p. 54). The characteristic of detachment and need for privacy, mentioned by Maslow, may be found in the girl’s solitary walks she liked. The girl’s friendship with her elder sister and one “ugly duckling”, Betsy, fulfills the demand of having strong friendly relationship limited in number. Finally, Maslow’s statement that healthy personalities “strike a balance between many polarities in personality” accounts for Elizabeth’s tendency to be childlike and mature at the same time (Weiten et al., 2008, p. 54).
On analyzing the character of Elizabeth Bennet, it is possible to define which theory was more useful for the analysis. Maslow’s theory suggested the scheme that reflected his vision of “healthy personality”, with definite criteria for the analysis. The character of Elizabeth met almost all the requirements set by the scientist; this is why the characterization of the girl’s personality has proved to be complete and precise. As for the theory of Erikson, it may be stated that it was useful for the analysis as well, but it was difficult to find a separate stage of development for this concrete character this suggests the idea that the theory lacks intermediate stages. However, the application of both theories has enabled us to make the analysis successfully.
In conclusion let us say that the application of the theories of personality of Maslow and Erikson on the basis of the analysis of a movie character has opened the perspectives of the application of these theories with real people. Elizabeth Bennet may be defined as “healthy personality” that is in her active search for self-actualization and a person that is moving from adolescence to early adulthood. On the whole, the analysis of personality may be useful in many fields of applied psychology. Every theory has its advantages and weak points; this justifies the choice of the combination of several theories of personality. The application of other theories, such as dispositional theories, learning theories, etc. may be used in the future research.
Arnett, J. J. (2000, May). “Emerging Adulthood. A Theory of Development From the Late Teens Through the Twenties”. American Psychologist. 55(5), 469-480.
Cooper, C.L., & Pervin L.A. (1998). Personality: Critical Concepts of Psychology. London: Routledge.
Garrison, C. (2008). “You Are Never Too Old. One Woman’s Journey to Self-Actualization”. Journal of Gerontological Nursing. 34(2), 53-56.
Weiten, W., Lloyd, M.A., Dunn, D.S., and Hammer E. (2008). Psychology Applied to Modern Life: Adjustment in the 21st Century. NY: Cengage Learning.