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This paper attempts to explain the character Alvy Singer, played by Woody Allen in the film that he himself directed, Annie Hall, in terms of Erik Erikson's theory of developmental psychology. Erikson's theory would seem particularly appropriate to Singer because this character has been undergoing analysis for over a decade, is highly neurotic, and highly immature.
Erikson's Theory of Development and Singer
The following is information to include in any research paper that uses Erikson's theory:
- Erikson is classified as a neo-Freudian.
- His work retains the Freudian nomenclature of ego, superego, and id, and it postulates a theory of development that progresses through definite stages.
- Unlike Freud's, Erikson's developmental stages cover the entire adult life of a human being; they do not stop at the attainment of biological adulthood, but extend into old age.
- There are also more stages postulated-eight in all-by Erikson, than are postulated by Freud This point is interesting with respect to Singer because he is in his forties and, clearly, has not achieved any kind of psychological stasis such as we might expect in a fully developed and mature man of that age.
Alvy is a neurotic. He has a set of phobias and other assorted anxieties including hypersensitivity to any form-including imagined forms-of antisemitism. He is highly manipulative of Annie; he patronizes her intellectually. But it is Annie who grows up in the film and, escaping Alvy's tutelage, begins to fly on her own-much to Alvy's chagrin.
I believe we may say that Alvy is a case of arrested development. He is, in my opinion, trapped in stage 6 of Erikson's developmental schema. He is in the "young adult" phase when he should be farther along. The nature of his relationship to Annie is the key to this.
Alvy hasn't got the self-esteem to enter into a relationship with a woman on his own intellectual level. Annie is not as bright, sophisticated, or educated as he is. There is a mismatch in power and that mismatch, which favors Alvy until Annie begins to grow up, is just fine with him. He relishes the role of being Annie's educator. There is no equality in their partnership. A love relationship between equals is not something he can handle. He could have had such with Allison Porchnick, his first wife, who was his intellectual equal, but he seems to have deliberately botched that relationship.