Personality Analysis of Andrew Clark from 'The Breakfast Club' through Erik Erikson's Psychosocial Development Theory

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Table of contents

  1. Summary
  2. Analysis
  3. Conclusion

Andrew Clark, in ‘The Breakfast Club’, seems to be the obvious movie jock, specifically a wrestler. He is a popular guy in school, so naturally, he seems to be interested in the popular girl, Claire. He is the movie’s ‘good guy’ – the opposite of bad boy, John Bender. Andrew tries to prove he is a good guy on multiple occasions of standing up to Bender. Initially, this jock acts as the voice for the other students, saying things the others may be too afraid to say to Bender. After some time, it is unclear if he really is a good guy, or he is acting to impress his peers. Either way, throughout the movie, Andrew is the loudest voice of reason against Bender.

Apart from his physical characteristics, Andrew is a bit of a pushover. He struggles thinking for himself, which may be due to his overbearing father. He mentions in the movie that he often just does what people tell him to, which is ironic since he is vocal about opposing Bender during detention. For example, when the group escaped to get drugs from Bender’s locker, he put his foot down and decided they would go a different way to get back to the library (Tanen & Hughes, 1985).

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Andrew does not seem to be the most thought provoking of the bunch, but he is the first to realize how easily life can come full circle. During one of their conversations, Andrew says, “My God, are we gonna be like our parents?”. This moment is one of real desperation from Andrew. He bullied another student to impress his father, despite knowing it was not the right thing to do. This quote from Andrew is the most important thing he says throughout the movie, as it reminds the viewer the importance of appropriate modeling for children. This essay will examine Andrew Clark and his attitude as it reflects Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, particularly the fifth stage of identity versus role confusion.

Summary

‘The Breakfast Club’ is a popular movie, set and created in 1985 that explores the complexity of life, love, and friendship. One Saturday, five students show up to Shermer High School for the only thing it seems they have in common, early morning detention. The students represent five of the main stereotypical high school students: Brian - the brainiac, Andrew - the jock, Claire - the princess, Allison - the basket case, and John Bender - the criminal. The movie opens up with the group’s response to Richard Vernon’s, the teacher, essay prompt of who they think they are.

The first half of their detention sentence consists of John Bender acting out, making Claire uncomfortable, and trying his best to irritate Vernon. After lunch, they get together and speak to each other about their home lives. The students and the audience get a deeper dive into the chaotic lives each of the students. Bender reveals he comes from an abusive home, Andrew has pushy father that guilts him into bullying students, Claire’s parents use her to get back at each other, Brian’s parents pressure him academically to the point he contemplates suicide, and Allison’s family don’t even acknowledge her (Tanen & Hughes, 1985).

After these revelations, the students begin to bond with each other, realizing they may have more in common than initially thought. Simultaneous to these conversation, John Vernon is having a cathartic conversation with Carl Reed, the school’s custodian. He reveals he acts so spitefully towards students because he believes they have changed over the years and grown more disrespectful as a generation. Carl forces Vernon to self-reflect, stating the problem isn’t the attitude of the students, but his lack of empathy that stems from disappointment with his place in life.

Ultimately, the students leave detention with the shared experience of detention and cathartic moments. Allison gets a makeover from Claire and ends up pairing with Andrew. Claire and Bender share an intimate moment in a closet, prompting her to give Bender her real diamond earring before she leaves. Brian is the one who seems to gain the least from his experience. He explores his emotions but gets laughed at anyway, ends up writing the essay for everyone, and leaves detention alone. It is unclear whether the students will remain friends come Monday morning, but the lessons they learn during their detention on Saturday morning are sure to last a lifetime.

Analysis

Andrew Clark is a prime example of what happens when parents fail to guide their child through Erikson’s stages of development. Although it is not explicitly mentioned, the audience can guess Andrew failed to pass through the fourth stage correctly. Industry versus inferiority must have been a tough stage for someone with a father that expects strength at all times. Through the ages of five and twelve, children are expected to gain a sense of competence by demonstrating certain skills (Berk, 2014). In Andrew’s case the most important skill in his life is athleticism. The constant verbal battery from his father may have left Andrew with an inferiority complex as an adolescence.

According to Erikson, adolescence is the time for a person to develop a sense of self (McLeod, 2018). Children begin thinking about their careers, future relationships, and more. This is where Andrew struggled with his father. His father pressured him into pursuing a career in wrestling, stressing the importance of winning a scholarship for college. He’s pushed Andrew so aggressively that Andrew doesn’t know how to tell his father he’s not interested in wrestling anymore. Who is Andrew Clark when he is not an athlete? Perhaps this is why he is so hesitant to reject wrestling – Andrew is afraid of what comes next.

During adolescence, we begin to develop our sense of morality (Berk, 2014). Andrew Clark is still in the childhood phase of his morality. Clair reveals that Andrew would likely ignore Allison and Brian come Monday morning, although Andrew won’t admit to it. Additionally, we learn that Andrew ended up in detention because he taped another student’s rear end together. Despite knowing it was immoral, he has that intense childish desire to indulge his father whatever the cost.

He is still stuck in his concept of who he should be and falls into what his clique expects. According to Berk (2014), “If young people’s earlier conflicts were resolved negatively… they are likely to appear shallow, directionless, and unprepared for the challenges of adulthood”. Andrew is quietly shallow in this movie with his taste in girls. As previously mentioned, he instinctively pays attention to Claire, despite not knowing her at all. Moving forward, even after getting to know Allison on a deeper level, he expresses no romantic interest in her until she is given a makeover by Claire. The movie tries to play this off as Andrew changing and becoming a better person, however it actually suggests that physical appearance still plays a more important role in his partner selection than personality. Andrew falls for her now that she looks like someone he should be with.

Andrew is now reaching the age where Erikson’s sixth stage of development takes place. Intimacy versus isolation begins at approximately eighteen years old. During this stage, our internal conflict focuses on forming intimate, loving relationships with other people (McLeod, 2018). One can predict that Andrew and Allison may struggle with their relationship as peer expectations begin to affect him. Successful completion of this stage can result in happy relationships and a sense of commitment and safety (McLeod, 2018). This may cause Andrew to leave Allison for someone that his friends accept in an effort to feel emotionally safer around his friends.

Conclusion

Andrew Clark is more than a student athlete or a ‘jock’. He is a student whose father failed to navigate him through Erikson’s stages of development. Andrew has been pushed into something he no longer enjoys and does not realize it until he attends detention on a Saturday morning. He struggles with emotional independence because his father instilled a feeling of inferiority in him unless every wrestling match was won. He leaves detention with an unexpected love interest, but only after she conformed to his standards. Andrew is an example of how easily psychosocial development can be hurt even if there is no physical abuse taking place. If not addressed, poor navigation through Erikson’s fourth and fifth stage can lead to a lifelong identity crisis.

Erikson says if stages are not successfully resolved young adults may have trouble developing and maintaining relationships with others (Friedman, 1999). ‘The Breakfast Club’ provides a valuable lesson for the viewer – taking time to speak with people that are not like oneself can lead to interesting discoveries. Developing relationships with others is the best way to grow into an adult, establish our values, and gain a sense of self.

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Personality Analysis of Andrew Clark from ‘The Breakfast Club’ through Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/personality-analysis-of-andrew-clark-from-the-breakfast-club-through-erik-eriksons-psychosocial-development-theory/
“Personality Analysis of Andrew Clark from ‘The Breakfast Club’ through Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/personality-analysis-of-andrew-clark-from-the-breakfast-club-through-erik-eriksons-psychosocial-development-theory/
Personality Analysis of Andrew Clark from ‘The Breakfast Club’ through Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/personality-analysis-of-andrew-clark-from-the-breakfast-club-through-erik-eriksons-psychosocial-development-theory/> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2024].
Personality Analysis of Andrew Clark from ‘The Breakfast Club’ through Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Jun 22]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/personality-analysis-of-andrew-clark-from-the-breakfast-club-through-erik-eriksons-psychosocial-development-theory/
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